The Department of Hungarian Studies at Strasbourg University is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The department is located at the Faculty of Languages that actively promotes multilingualism, for example by offering courses for lesser taught languages and cultures such as Hungarian, Danish or Dutch. 

The history of the department goes back to 1960. The defeat of the Revolution in 1956 against a socialist, Soviet-controlled regime forced a large number of people to leave their native Hungary. Many of them settled down in a France sympathetic towards these refugees, and their presence in Strasbourg generated a sudden increase of interest for the Hungarian language and culture. 

This is how the story began.

Looking back at the history of the Department (which has always consisted of one lecturer only), we see the past 60 years unfold. We see the sixties where lecturers were spied upon by the Hungarian communist regime, the eighties when the Berlin Wall came down and the 2000s when Hungary joined the European Union until the present day.

The first lecturers created the Department, those coming later kept it alive and improved its functioning. Many of them organised events and conferences, and invited famous Hungarian artists. Others were committed to improving the position of university lecturers, connected the department with life in the city or published significant scientific contributions during their time here. But they all had one thing in common: they dedicated considerable time and energy to the transmission of the Hungarian culture and language in the truly European city of Strasbourg. 

Being in France had a great impact on the lecturers’ lives. Some of them were already established scholars at the time of their arrival, others took a life-long interest in the French language and culture and made French linguistics or literature to their main research fields after the period spent in Strasbourg. 

Most lecturers stayed for the maximum length of six years and worked hard to leave the Department of Hungarian Studies more complete than it was at their arrival. It is a great honour for me to be in their place today. 

There were times in the history of the department when interest for language and culture was at its peak. Such was the case after the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Other periods knew smaller but steady student numbers. The offer of the Hungarian department has not changed much throughout the years: students can attend language classes at three levels and a one-year long course on Hungarian history and culture. Since the 1990s, it is possible to earn a “Diplôme universitaire” (university diploma issued by Strasbourg University) after completing all four courses. 

After sixty years, the Hungarian department is still there. And we, lecturers, do everything to keep it that way.

Visit the page of the virtual exhibition on the website of Strasbourg University:

I would like to thank Ms. Ildikó Józan who collected amazing documentation for the 55th anniversary of the Department, to Ms. Mária Czellér Farkas for providing me with great many photographs and information and to all lecturers and former students who contributed with materials and personal messages to the success of this virtual exhibition.

I would like to thank our Dean, Professor Anne Bandry-Scubbi and Ms. Aurore Garnier from her team for their support and for promoting this project within the Faculty of Languages. Last but not least many thanks to my student Ms. Zsófia Németh who helped me formulate the messages and has posted them on Facebook and Instagram. 

Szilvia Szita

Director of the Department of Hungarian Studies