The cultural and other representations of Hungary in Vienna take the Danube as their starting point to fill the framework of Hungary’s acting presidency of the EU council, when organising literary, musical, photo- and architecture programmes.
Vienna has always been one of the most important outposts of Hungarian culture, even after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy following the first world war, emigrants tried to settle here and live a free life in the twenties and more famously after the crushing of the Hungarian revolution in 1956. Cultural ties between the two countries and the two capitols have for decades been extensive, and have been further strengthened after Hungary joined the European Union in 2004. Publicly Austrians nowadays usually call the Empire which stood for many centuries Danube Monarchy, no wonder the Hungarian Cultural Institute in Vienna, Collegium Hungaricum joined by the Embassy have put the Danube in focus of the EU presidency programmes, what the river means in geographical and intellectual terms.
The Danube region is a much wider notion than just comprising those countries where the river flows though, as Márton Méhes, the director of Collegium Hungaricum in Vienna has pointed out in the Petőfi Museum of Literature the other day, at a round table, This interpretation includes all the countries of the catchments of the river, thereby uniting over half of all the EU member countries. Of course some capitols have even been erected right along the river, e.g. Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest have traditionally maintained really close relations. However as the Danube signifies various and highly interesting forms of culture, while also standing for political symbols, director Méhes and his colleagues have put the Danube strategy in the cultural focus of the presidency. As a cultural institution their foremost aim is that within the European Union a smaller number of countries, forming a cluster, search for the common features and intersections which bring them closer to fulfilling the original goals of the EU, in learning more about each other and intensifying their cooperation.
The round table mentioned above took place on the occasion of a finissage of the exhibition A Gown of dreams – The Vienna Experience of Hungarian writers 1873-1936 in the Museum of Literature. This was the third similar exhibition in the series of the museum Writers with travel bags, following the shows of what Hungarian writers thought of Paris and Berlin. This exhibition will be on show at the Theatermuseum in Vienna starting the 3rd of March. Another event in the programme series of Ungarn am Ruder (Hungary at the bow) does not only demonstrate what the Danube symbolically stands for, but also what it looks like. In the building of the Collegium Hungaricum photographer Péter Gyukics displays his pictures taken of bridges on the Danube. Hardly any other topic could be more apt there, as it stands along the Danube channel in Vienna, right by the Salztorbrücke. The modern building was planned by architect László Rajk, who designed a shape which uses many from elements, such as rigging, taken from ships. The contemporary intellectual definition of what the Danube means today will be attempted 10-11 March in the Leopold Museum and other venues of the Museumsquartier, at an international scientific conference, to lay down the basis for the a new cultural Danube cluster of countries.
Péter Györkös is Hungary’s Permanent Representative to the European Union. Diplomats carry their duties wherever they are ordered by his superior officers, but Péter Györkös has a “personal attachment” to his present assignment: for more than twenty years, he has been monitoring closely the process of European unification and has actively worked for it in his successive positions.