Marelyin Kiss József's Collection
The Collection of Political Transition, founded and owned by József Marelyin Kiss, contains both private and public documents. Beginning from the year 1985, the collection is unique for its enormous volume and content concerning political organizations and groups as well as the cultural opposition of the late 1980s. The main parts of the collection are documents of the Hungarian opposition parties, documents of urban and rural sociological research, and a library with 3-4,000 books.
Budapest Ludovika tér 2, Hungary 1083
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Name of collection
- József Marelyin Kiss's Collection of the Hungarian Political Transition
Provenance and cultural activities
József Marelyin Kiss and his wife, Emma Bujdosó (1950–1996), initiated the documentation of the political transition; thus, he can be called a founder of the collection that later was named after him. The establishment of the collection occurred in Debrecen – at that time they both lectured at the Institute of Marxism-Leninism at KLTE – yet the effective work started after their move to Budapest (in 1987) and after the oppositional political meeting at Lakitelek (1988–1991). While the starting date of the Collection of Political Transition is 1985, some of its documentation is linked to antecedent activities, including that of political organizations and personalities (1985–2018), and, coinciding with the life history of József Marelyin Kiss, research into the social elite and rural sociology (1983–1989). A part of the collection contains a large number of samizdat photos. The political documents and newspaper material are closely knit to the history of the Foundation for Contemporary Research. To quote Marelyin Kiss: “The name of the Foundation comes from István Márkus, while its function was invented by József Kovalcsik. The mission of the Foundation was originally the documentation of the political transition, but later the concept of the political transition was understood more broadly, including all the aspects of the transformation of the political system lasting for decades, yet still confined to its political history.” The foundation was created in 1990 by several individuals and institutions in concert, and then in 2012, the Institute for Research on the Present was founded. These two institutions, under the abbreviation of JELAL, were conducting research into the history of the political transformation and collecting documents from that era. The head of JELAL was József Marelyin Kiss, who, as the director of the foundation, played an important role in creating the collection and in allocating the documents. The concrete antecedent was the almanacs that documented the 1990 parliamentary elections. “The concrete antecedent of the Collection was the request of the publisher of the weekly HVG somewhere in mid-1988. […] A huge amount of material had been collected, the conception had been forming. The purpose was to create a formidable, if uneven, timely book, that is, to make it available to the public before the  elections. But it did not happen because the new management of the publisher (general editor Iván Lipovecz and CEO Péter Szauer) renounced the contract in a rather cynical manner. But the material was still amassing in the spacious flat in Sas Street. It took wind and attracted a number of people. Mihály Bihari [a leading figure of the left-wing opposition] personally came to have a look at ‘the collection of political transition.’” Although the planned publication of the almanacs by HVG never occurred, later (in 1992) the volume was printed and another book on the late 1940s coalition period was added. The volumes of the series have been regularly published from the 1990s onwards. These research materials of the almanacs have become one of the foundation stones of the Collection. These materials were joined together with the documents of additional political organizations and voluntary associations (including that of SzDSz - Alliance of Free Democrats – 1988–2007) as well as the archival material of the Foundation for Contemporary Research and Institute for Research on the Present (both established by József Marelyin Kiss). In 1988 young historians like Zsolt Horváth of the Historical Institute of HAS, Beáta Tari (the specialist of the history of photography at the Department of the Modern Period, Historical Museum of Budapest), and a few others joined us in documentation.
József Marelyin Kiss also lobbied politicians for the utilization and sponsorship of his collection. First, in 1989, he met Alajos Dornbach (lawyer, SzDSz) and György Szabad (historian, MDF) and they tried to find the best way to use the collected documents. At last Professor György Szabad suggested producing ‘parliamentary almanacs,’ but only after the next parliament was elected. This was how the series of ‘Parliamentary Almanacs’ (Országgyűlési Almanach) took off with a contract signed on 27 May 1991. In this work, István Vida played a major part. A specialist of the political careers of the ‘coalition period’ between 1944 and 1949, chiefly that of FKGP (Independent Party of Smallholders) and NPP (National Peasant Party), Vida also participated in the collecting of documents.
The housing of the collection was by no means a straightforward job. Originally, its several sections were stored in seven different locations. The documents on SzDSz were held in at least four places: the Office Building of the Hungarian Parliament (the proceedings of the parliamentary faction, until April 2010), the town of Lajosmizse (the house of the father-in-law of József Marelyin Kiss), and Tököl (OSA) and Dob streets in Budapest. Already in 2003, Marelyin wanted to deposit the documents in a safe place – preferably as a part of a public collection. In the spring of 2010, József Marelyin Kiss asked for the consent of the leaders of SzDSz to guarantee the safe depositing of the collection. At last a single location, the former office of the party in Dob Street, became the temporary place for storage. Then the Foundation of Contemporary History Research (JELAL) conducted negotiations with the Open Society Archives (OSA) at Central European University (CEU) concerning a fifty-year depositing of the documentation. “We needed room for storing and processing the documents as well as a few assistants and resources for research in exchange for the long-term deposit. The bulk of the documents were admitted into either the center on János Arany Street or the basement of the dormitory building of CEU at Kerepesi street.” Yet, later, the contract was annulled and the entire collection, a total of 176 archival cases that was previously processed and admitted by OSA, was was now moved from OSA – with the exception of the files of Iván Pető (the leader of the parliamentary faction of SzDSz). Thus storage still remained a problem. Eventually, the documents were again moved into the party office on Dob Street, and then finally to the National University of Public Administration (NKE).Currently, they are not available for research. The collection was bestowed to the Hungarian state in 2011 in order to make it open to public research. At the moment it is owned and operated by National University of Public Administration.
Description of content
The collection was assembled by 1985. It consists of three parts (including various types of written documents and photos) as well as a ‘supporting library’ of some 3–4,000 volumes.
Personal Records are the core of the collection, and contain files for some 8,000 people (1985–2018) with mostly public documentation (e.g., press material) and information on the careers of MPs. This part of the collection was created while the Parliamentary Almanacs were being produced: the questionnaires filled out by the MPs, their biographies and personal data, were gathered and form a significant part of the Collection of Political Transition. Records of Political History are another important unit of the collection, with documents concerning (some 600) parties and various types of political organizations. This part of the collection contains printed materials mostly for the parties in the political sphere before the political transition (such as election programs, campaign publications, rules, operative documents, and periodicals with connection to parties). It holds the records for SzDSz.In terms of relevance for cultural opposition, the most important part is Records of Public Administration. It contains sociological surveys, mostly research in villages and cities (except Homokmégy), the archival material of the two organizations established by József Marelyin Kiss (Foundation of Contemporary Research, 1990, and Institute for Research on the Present, 1998), as well as the heritage of István Márkus.
- other: 1000-
- photos: 1000-
- video recordings (including oral history recordings): 500-999
- voice recordings (including oral history recordings): 500-999
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Important events in the history of the collection
- all closed to the public
Author(s) of this page
- Káli, Anita
Marelyin Kiss, József , interview by Horváth, Sándor , Káli, Anita , February 13, 2016. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection