This chapter engages with the question how institutionalized repression
influences the nature of historical scholarship and the historian’s persona.
It does so by interrogating the work, life and self-fashioning of a leading
Hungarian historian of the communist period, Péter Hanák (1921–97), whose
achievements were significant in placing Hungarian history in a
transnational perspective and studying it with the most up-to-date research
methods. The chapter outlines Hanák’s main lines of research, including the
intellectual heritage of fin-de-siècle Austria-Hungary, and shows how he
instrumentalized that tradition for the forging of his persona. It also
reveals how Hanák’s engagement with that tradition in a somewhat nostalgic
fashion and in his role as a public intellectual served as a symbolic
warning against the dangerous nature of increasing nationalistic overtones
in the intellectual sphere during the late communist period. All in all, the
chapter reveals that historiographical production in the former ‘Eastern
bloc’ was not necessarily permeated with communist ideology, certainly not
to the extent that this undermined professional quality.