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My project follows Hungarian refugees from the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1956 through the Cold War ideological and institutional structures of the immediate postwar period. To what extent did they adopt a Cold War script, and conversely and to what extent were they conditioned by the constraints of the geopolitical order? Moreover, how did they help constitute the international meaning of the Revolution? This project is motivated by answers to these questions and uses individual Hungarian refugee trajectories to unpack new insights on the Cold War, as well as how the Cold War obscured other concerns at the time – for instance, decolonization and processing the memories of the Second World War.
My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center focused on the records of the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council. Some materials from the Nelson A. Rockefeller papers and the Rockefeller University archives were also consulted. The primary goal of my research was to identify the role of the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations in supporting collaboration across the Iron Curtain in the humanities.Upon arriving at the Archive Center and gaining an initial insight and a better overview of the potentially relevant materials, I complemented my original research agenda with an additional aspect. I realized that among the records of both the Rockefeller and the Ford Foundations, a large number of collections deal with humanitarian actions that benefited Hungarian refugees leaving their country in 1956 and 1957, after Soviet military forces defeated the Hungarian revolution and before the borders were closed and strictly controlled. While it was known that American philanthropic foundations were involved in humanitarian aid, existing scholarship in the field has not reported on the extent of their involvement. The Rockefeller and Ford Foundations gained passing mentions at best, or not at all. Considering the potential benefits for the international research community, I decided to cover these numerous records during my stay. The number of documents on Hungarian refugee aid far exceeded the amount of materials on soft cultural diplomacy in Hungary. Considering that previous researchers have already reported on Ford Foundation's Eastern European Fund, probably, the most important cultural diplomatic effort targeting the region during the early Cold War (that I covered myself to gain firsthand knowledge on the program), I will rather focus in this report on what other researchers did not.
After the first World War, Rockefeller philanthropies extended their activities to Eastern Europe, including Hungary. Their support significantly contributed to the improvement of public health in Hungary, a field which had remained backward even during the vigorous economic development of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in the latter 1800s. Indeed, the Rockefeller Foundation helped to establish various public health institutions in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia and attempted to take some initial steps to do the same in other countries in the area, like Bulgaria and Rumania. The outlines of this RF project have been given in an earlier paper by Paul Weindling. The motives of the RF, however, remained largely unknown.
The Rockefeller family created several funds for philanthropic purposes in the first twenty-five years of this century: the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research(1901; later renamed the Rockefeller University), the General Education Board (1902), the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission for the Eradication of Hookworm Disease in the South (1909), the Rockefeller Foundation (1913), the Bureau of Social Hygiene (1913), the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial (1918) and the International Education Board (1923). Though all of them have different names and goals, in the popular mind they frequently are confused and people fail to distinguish between them, often referring to the work of the different institutions as being the work of only one, the Rockefeller Foundation. Because the institutions that were active internationally - the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) and its International Health Division (IHD, 1913-1951), the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial (LSRM) and the International Education Board (IEB) - shared the same vision, goals, and, often, personnel, in the following discussion, I will not always distinguish between them either, referring to them generally as the Rockefeller philanthropies.
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