Social History of Homosexuality in 20th Century Hungary before 1990 - project description

Principal Investigator (PI): Dr. Judit Takács
Participant researchers: Dr. Tamás P.Tóth, Dr. Gábor Csiszár
Research Period: January 1, 2013—September 30, 2017 (57 months)
Funding Source: OTKA/NKFIH

Hidden in the Hungarian War Archive (Hadtörténelmi Levéltár), a 1942-document listing a thousand alleged homosexuals who could be sent to labour camps unveiled a secret state apparatus established for watching homosexual practices in Hungary. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, disguised police officers would lure homosexuals in public spaces in a trap to arrest them; state authorities would blackmail a priest to reveal compromising details about the clergy and ruin its reputation; the same destiny hundreds of others would face after being accused of homosexual practices by the state.

To shed light on these untold aspects of the country’s social history, the research team applied interdisciplinary mixed methods, including extensive archive research at the Budapest City Archive, the National Archives of Hungary, and the State Security Archive; media representation analysis of the most circulated printed media products in the first half of the 20th century, and in-depth interviews with 60 people who had personal experiences of same-sex attraction during state-socialism, who might be forced to act as state informants.  One of the archive research findings shows how the Scientific Health Council, in 1958, played a vital role in shifting the way the state and society treated homosexuality — from a legal problem to a medical issue — and further contributed to the decriminalization of consensual homosexual activities between men in 1961. These events reveal how a policy against homosexuals affected and involved society at large.

“The social history of homosexuality in 20th century Hungary before 1990” project sought to make society aware of how current attitudes toward homosexuality developed from old state practices and offered a mosaic of institutionalized homophobia in Hungary in the 20th century. The project resulted in 15 academic publications, including three international and seven Hungarian journal articles, four book chapters, and a book. The book “Meleg század. Adalékok a homoszexualitás 20. századi magyarországi társadalomtörténetéhez was published in 2018. The research team presented the research findings in 14 international and four Hungarian conferences. Aiming at societal impact, the team members discussed the findings with a non-academic audience, also involving NGOs, such as the Háttér Társaság, in five public presentations held at MTA TK and at the Corvinus University of Budapest between 2014 and 2016.


International journal articles

Takács J (2015) Disciplining gender and (homo)sexuality in state socialist Hungary in the 1970s. In: European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire, 22(1):161-175. DOI:10.1080/13507486.2014.983426

Takács J; Kurimay A (2017) Emergence of the Hungarian Homosexual Movement in Late Refrigerator Socialism. Sexualities, 20(5-6):585-603.  DOI:10.1177/1363460716665786

Takács J; Kuhar R; PTóth T (2017) Unnatural Fornication Cases under State-Socialism: A Hungarian–Slovenian Comparative Social-Historical Approach. Journal of Homosexuality, 64(14):1943-1960. DOI 10.1080/00918369.2016.1273719

Hungarian journal articles

Takács Judit – Csiszár Gábor (2014) Nemváltások és nemiszerep-áthágások reprezentációi Az Estben 1910 és 1939 között. Replika 85-86(2014/1-2): 209-225.

Takács Judit – P.Tóth Tamás (2016) Az „Idegbizottság” szerepe a homoszexualitás magyarországi dekriminalizációjában. Társadalomtudományi Szemle 6(2):207-223. DOI: 10.18030/

Takács Judit (2016) Homoszexuálisok listázása a 20. századi Magyarországon. Korall Társadalomtörténeti Folyóirat, 66: 5-31.

Takács Judit – P.Tóth Tamás (2017) Megbélyegzett kapcsolatok az államszocialista Magyarországon. Társadalomtudományi Szemle 7(3): 63-85. DOI: 10.18030/;

Takács Judit – Csiszár Gábor (2017) Homoszexuális bűnügyek Az Estben a 20. század első felében. Sic Itur ad Astra Fiatal Történészek Folyóirata 28(66):1-22.

Takács Judit (2018) Az intézményesített homofóbia állambiztonsági alkalmazása az 1960-as évek Magyarországán. Társadalomtudományi Szemle 8(1): 195-213.

Csiszár Gábor (2018) A Redl-ügy megjelenése a kor sajtójában. Korall Társadalomtörténeti Folyóirat [will be published next month]