“The Hungarians’ multiple, simultaneous links to both west and east are a huge resource”, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Deputy State Secretary for Culture Judit Hammerstein said at the annual meeting of Hungarian Institute directors in Budapest on Thursday.

“Hungary is clearly an integral part of western culture, but our linguistic relations also link us to the northern Finno-Ugric peoples, and thanks to our history the Hungarian people can also count on the friendship of the Central Asian or even Far Eastern peoples and countries. This makes establishing and maintaining a Hungarian economic and cultural presence in the countries involved much easier”, she added.

“Being a ‘ferry country’ is not necessarily a curse, and the polyphonic identity of the Hungarians can in fact be a blessing, especially if we do not regard certain elements of it as exclusive or with suspicion”, the Deputy State Secretary said, highlighting the fact that Hungary has available outstanding cultural brands such as Budapest, modern music, folk culture, sport, photography, literature, gastronomy and film, in addition to certain elements of the Hungarian higher education system.

“Hungary’s cultural aura greatly outweighs its political and economic strength, and Hungary is primarily viewed around the world as a culture-creating and culture-mediating power”, Ms. Hammerstein stressed, adding that five new cultural and education diplomats are currently preparing to occupy their new posts in Madrid, Tel-Aviv, Kiev, Baku and Sao Paolo.

“Hungary has a network and infrastructure that is outstandingly rich even by European standards for propagating and promoting Hungarian culture”, she declared.

Among the most important projects organised by the Balassi institute, the Deputy State Secretary highlighted the extremely successful Modernity X Hungary Festival held in New York, the Hungarian Cultural Season in Poland, the some 500 programmes organised to mark the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, and the fact that Hungary was guest of honour at the Shanghai International Arts Festival.

Ms. Hammerstein told reporters that a special budget had been established for organising literature programmes at foreign representations, in addition to which the Balassi Award for Literary Translation had also been established with a prize of 3500 euros. The appearance of Hungarian publications at some 70 book fairs worldwide were funded within the framework of the Publishing Hungary programme last year, while Hungary will be guest of humour at a major book fair in Slovenia in 2018 and in Bratislava in 2019, she continued.

“450 students-a-year study Hungarology in Budapest and some two thousand are studying the subject or the Hungarian language worldwide within the framework of courses organised by Hungarian Institutes”, the Deputy State Secretary said, adding that 41 Hungarian teachers are currently involved in teacher exchange programmes in 24 countries, which the Hungarian Government wold like to further expand and develop in future. According to Ms. Hammerstein, new teacher exchange posts are planned for the 2019-2020 academic year in Croatia, Romania, Egypt, India, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland, Germany and Taiwan.

The Deputy State Secretary reminded those present that the Balassi Institute has been operating ad an integral part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade since 1 September 2016, and that the integration has led to changes in the everyday life of the Institute and given rise to several practical challenges, but had not fundamentally affected the image of the Balassi Institute either at home or abroad. “Funding for the institute had remained at the previous level and in fact certain areas are receiving significantly more resources”, she added.

(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade/MTI)