Katalin Izsák-Somogyi, LLM
Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest, Hungary

After 1989/1990, with the downfall of the communist regime, the opportunity for the historical memory of the trauma of the 20th century had changed in Hungary as well. In 2004, with other Central and East European countries, Hungary became a member state of the European Union; there was another sweeping change in the Hungarian politics of the memory. Hungary’s remembrance had to be fitted in the European „Holocaust-focused” memory-politics, with its two-folded, „Holocaust- and communism-focused” past. This situation resulted a rival victim-narrative, which effected a huge change in the structure of the Hungarian memory laws. After the downfall of the communist regime, the state approach was rather self-exculpatory, due to Hungary regarding itself just as a victim of the dictatorships of the 20th century. The Hungarian politics of memory does not want to confront the self-inculpatory narrative, despite the fact that no dictatorships could function without Hungarian „perpetrators”. The paper seeks for the reason behind the change between the self-exculpatory and the self-inculpatory approaches of the Hungarian legal governance in the last three decades.

Keywords: memory law, self-exculpatory or self-inculpatory approach, historical memory.

De Baets, A. 2019a. Criminal regimes are never soft on history. Available at: (8. 8. 2022).

de Baets, A. 2019b. Self-inculpatory laws do not exist. Available at: (8. 8. 2022).

Bán, M. 2020. The Legal Governance of Historical Memory and the Rule of Law. PhD Thesis. University of Amsterdam.

Belavusau, U. 2018. Final Thoughts on Mnemonic Constitutionalism. Verfassungsblog. Available at: (19. 8. 2022).

Chandernagor, F. 2005. L’ enfer des bonnes intentions. Le Monde. Available at: (6. 3. 2022).

Halász, I. & Schweitzer, G. 2010a. Jog – emlékezet – kultusz. (Law – remembrance – cult) In: Nótári, T. (ed.) Ünnepi tanulmányok Sárközy Tamás 70. születésnapjára. Szeged: Leclum.

Halász, I. & Schweitzer, G. 2010b. Szimbolika és közjog: az állami és nemzeti jelképek helye a magyar alkotmányos rendszerben. (’Symbolism and public law: the symbols of state and national in the Hungarian constitutional sytem’). Pozsony: Kalligram. 

Heinze, E. 2019a. Self-inculpatory laws exist. Available at: (8. 8. 2022).

Heinze, E. 2019b. Should governments butt out of history? Available at: (8. 8. 2022).

Könczöl, M. 2017. Dealing with the Past in and around the Fundamental Law of Hungary. In: Belavusau, U. & Gliszczyńska-Grabias, A. (eds.), Law and Memory. Towards Legal Governance of History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 246-262.

Mälksoo, M. 2019. The Transitional Justice and Foreign Policy Nexus: The Inefficient Causation of State Ontological Security-Seeking. International Studies Review, 21(3), pp. 373-397.

Schweitzer, G. 2013. Fundamental Law – Cardinal Law – Historical Constitution: The Case of Hungary Since 2011. Journal on European History of Law, 2013(4:1), pp. 124-128.

Tamás Gáspár, M. 1996. A Nagy Imre-ügy. Beszélő, 1. évf, 5. szám. Available at: (2. 8. 2021).

Tóth, J. 2002. A jelképes jogállam. Mozgó Világ, 2002(3). Available at: (17. 11. 2021).

Zombory, M. 2011. Visszatérés Európába. Állami emlékezetpolitika és magyar hovatartozás, In: Zombory M. (ed.), Az emlékezés térképei. Budapest: L’Harmattan, pp. 85-120.

Download the article