István Rév

2018 was not a year having been taken lightly in the Blinken Open Society Archives.

The nationalist, anti-intellectual government of Hungary was granted a two-thirds majority at the spring election, and thus the artificially induced uncertainty of the status of Central European University continued. OSA is not only part of the University, but provides essential sources of research both for students and faculty. Members of the Archive’s staff teach courses at different departments; OSA offers a specialization for the students of CEU. The intention of the government to make the existence of CEU impossible in its home, to force the University to join the hundreds of thousands Hungarians who, having no other alternative, had to emigrate in the past decade, set new tasks for the Archive. We have decided not to leave, but to keep the collections connected to the recent history of Hungary, Central Europe, the Cold War, and grave violations of human rights in Budapest. We are convinced that the need to study the original documents, the primary sources, at the time of official campaigns of misinformation, whole-sale historical revisionism, and single, officially approved school textbooks intended to serve as for political propaganda, is more urgent than ever before. According to the original agreement signed with the government of the United States the former archive of the Research Institute of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the original core of our collections, should stay and remain accessible in Budapest, at least until 2045. We cannot and will not emigrate.


The Archives have embarked on a multi-year digitization program, in order to make our visual documents available for the community of the University, even in Vienna. In the coming years we will digitize our entire film collection, and via a private cloud we will make the moving images available for users outside the premises of the Archives. We have purchased a high-speed, high-resolution book and document scanner, to provide a digitize-on-demand service, providing digitized textual documents for remote researchers.

OSA is an open access institution: we have nothing to hide. All the documents, except those restricted for a certain period of time by the donors or in order to safeguard the dignity of victims of human rights abuses, and the safety of witnesses, are freely available for researchers. Until the attack against autonomous institutions by the government, OSA was considered to be a safe place by organizations that wanted to have their archives kept in a secure repository that guards the authenticity and integrity of the documents. Human rights organizations, including Index on Censorship, Physicians for Human Rights (the organization responsible for exhuming mass graves, including the graves at the site of the Srebrenica genocide), have deposited their archives, including highly sensitive materials, at OSA. We still do everything in order to guard the safety of all the documents under our care.

We had worked with a Silicon Valley nonprofit software company to develop knowledge management software for human rights organizations working under extremely difficult circumstances. The organizations could deposit encrypted investigative reports on a safe server that was housed in the Archives. As our situation has changed, we felt responsible for the safety of these endangered institutions and after having set up a mirror site outside Hungary, - as a preemptive measure – we decided to destroy the server in the Archives. There are situations in which archives are forced to make difficult decisions that seemingly contradict the mission of the institution. Sometime, destruction is the only responsible way of preservation.


Julianna Lendvai

I have worked for Blinken OSA for 8 years; I am the longest serving receptionist here so far. For four years I have also been an Administrative Assistant.

In April 2011, I had only vague ideas about the nature of the administration of this unique workplace which is involved in diverse cultural and intellectual activities. Looking back I realize how much I have learnt about the operation of our Administrative Unit, which consists of a Head of Administration, a Research Center Coordinator, an Admin Assistant and Receptionists. We operate invisibly in the background, while we have to be at hand for colleagues all through the workday.

We are required to work in close cooperation with the Budget and Finance Office and the Human Resource Office in Central European University ensuring transparency of budgetary and employment procedures at Blinken OSA. Among the innumerable tasks of the Admin Unit, I am involved in purchases ranging from coffee supplies to valuable assets for exhibition installations. I am also responsible for preparing the payroll of our staff.

By now OSA’s staff has increased to almost 40 people including employees with temporary contracts. The Administration Unit has to provide for different professional needs for everyone. The smooth organization of various events/ meetings/professional travel can sometimes be challenging, so admin members rely heavily on each other’s work. The members of the Administration Unit are all in contact with Blinken OSA's business/professional partners, and with the members of the community of the Archives in various ways.

Guests and visitors at the Archives and at Galeria Centralis often make positive and even complimentary comments about Blinken OSA’s activities as they stop by the reception desk. In my view, this is the best part of this profession.

Last year OSA became a dog-friendly workplace, which means that dog fans and would-be dog fans have a chance to ease tensions with the help of a playful and energetic four-legged companion.


Pearl Silverman

I started my internship at the Open Society Archives in early October, 2018. I came here from the USA for a year long exchange at Central European University.

I am finishing the third year of my bachelor's degree in History with an archival specialization. I knew I wanted to continue my work in the archives when I came to Budapest, and the possibility of working at OSA was exciting to me.

Pearl Silverman

I am an Assistant Archivist working on processing the digital collection of Free Europe Committee/Radio Free Europe (FEC/RFE) materials, expanding the database of encrypted telex communications between the New York and Munich offices in the 1950s. RFE broadcasts were focused on the Central/Eastern European region, but they tried to channel American liberal propaganda into those countries. Being an American studying and working in Budapest is, I think, a useful position to be in when processing these kinds of materials.

In all my archival jobs, processing special collections is something I have always loved. When I am not consulting my colleagues on important issues, I find myself in a solitary space and mindset, allowing me to focus my attention solely on the documents. At the end of each day, as I process a great deal of material, I can sense that my knowledge of the historical world is continuously expanding in new and subtle ways.


Katalin Dobó

This year, besides smaller private donations the European Roma Right Center offered its reference collection to the Archives; thus, after a careful selection process our Roma related collection was enriched with numerous publications.

Another source of acquisitions was the huge holdings OSI Budapest left behind after their move to Berlin: altogether 36 pallets, some 7.5 tons of publications meant for shredding and recycling. The Archives decided to take over the books, sort them out, and offer as many of them as possible as a donation. By the end of the year the selection process was completed. As a result, only 33 % of the OSI Budapest holdings will be recycled, while 67 % of the publications were systematically repacked, ready for distribution. Their inventory and donation will be continued and finished in 2019.

Our efforts were also concentrated on cataloging our backlog: our samizdat and émigré book collection as well as other special publications. A major achievement in 2018 was our contribution to the success of the Suicide – Hungary 1956-1986 exhibition with research based on our rich library collection.


Judit Izinger, Mark László-Herbert, Milos Pavlovic

The Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives’ (Blinken OSA) Records and Information Management Services were established to preserve the institutional memory and history of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) network and to provide recordkeeping consultancy services to the Foundations’ institutions.

The Blinken OSA Records and Information Management (RIM) team thus serves OSF hub offices throughout Europe, including the national foundations, while also providing RM services to the Central European University's (CEU) offices and departments. Of the OSF hub offices, Blinken OSA’s RIM team focused primarily on managing the Open Society Institute–Budapest office’s (OSI-Budapest) records until the office moved from Hungary in the fall of 2018.

For years our strategy consisted of trying to become involved in the creation phase of the records’ life cycle. However, especially in the case of the national foundations, scattered across several countries, we gradually shifted to rescue operations, risk management, and the performance of preservation activities. The reason for this is that Blinken OSA’s RIM team is understaffed. In addition, the global network with its geographically dispersed foundations and offices constitutes a real challenge for the team.

In 2018, the RIM team maintained three on-site records centers and two off-site storage facilities for OSI-Budapest and CEU. During the year 930 containers (boxes/binders) of paper-based records were transferred from OSI-Budapest and CEU programs/departments/offices to the three on-site records centers, and 654 containers were retrieved by OSI and CEU staff members. Of the retrieved containers 435 files were scanned for CEU. As a regular RIM procedure, 502 containers of records were destroyed after their retention period expired and 45 containers of permanent paper records and 4496 files of electronic records were transferred to Blinken OSA for long-term preservation.

2018 was a difficult and sad year due to OSF’s decision to close their Budapest hub office after more than a quarter of a century. Consequently, all the 6,656 containers of the OSI-Budapest off-site storage and of its on-site Records Center–a new storage facility where records were moved just two years ago–had to be relocated once again, besides which all records from the office areas had to be archived. The RIM team assisted the closing procedures with records management and archiving, including records in various formats including paper, electronic and audiovisual.

In addition, the RIM team initiated and organized the “rescue” of several tons (36 pallets) of OSF publications. As a policy, the RIM team kept two copies of every OSF publication for archival purposes. Several hundred OSF publications collected during the OSI-Budapest move in 2016 and in 2018, and in OSF-Bratislava in the recent years, were archived under the supervision of the RIM team as well.

In connection with the CEU’s redevelopment project, the relocation of archival and records storage facilities were planned in 2018 as well. Blinken OSA’s archivists and RIM team members work closely together with the Campus Redevelopment Office (CREO) staff on planning the storage areas and giving advice on special archival and records storage requirements, such as temperature, humidity, safety, and fire protection requirements. In order to protect the archived materials from various hazards, Blinken OSA staff’s aim is to ensure a suitable environment for the coming decades.

Blinken OSA's RIM team assists the OSF network and CEU in recordkeeping and in the preservation of electronic records as well. Electronic records of permanent value are uploaded continuously to the Open Society Foundations’ permanent documents digital repository, which currently stores more than 100,000 individual files.

The RIM team also contributes to the second and third part of the Archives and Evidentiary Practices Specialization course, the Archival Practice and the Advanced Coursework, which are offered to CEU students.

Blinken OSA's RIM Service is also increasingly involved in the afterlife of the records it takes care of. The long-term preservation of documents of historical value produced by the OSF network and CEU is an integral part of the work of the RIM Services. Though not considered strictly records management tasks, the archival processing and digitization of CEU and OSF records of historical value is now performed by those who know these documents best: the members of the RIM Services. In 2018, OSF materials amounting to over 250 archival boxes and CEU materials amounting to approx. 45 archival boxes were processed in this way.


Robert Parnica

In 2018 there were many inquiries about the future of the Blinken OSA in Budapest, with numerous researchers expressing their full support for the Archives and their conviction that the Archives will stay in Budapest.

Later on, it was confirmed that Blinken OSA is one of the research facilities that will remain in Budapest while CEU has been moving to Vienna. None of this had much impact in terms of reducing the role of the Archives in the academic community in Hungary.

The statistics, if compared with those of past years, illustrate stable numbers corresponding to those of the previous year. The pressure on CEU did not lead to the drastic changes in trends and figures that one might have anticipated. In general, our numbers are in line with previous years’ - stable figures and good performance. The trend of constant growth of new researchers which stated 2015 continued in 2018 and the number of visitors was better in 2018 than in 2016, or in 2017. Overall, the total number of visits has fallen slightly since 2014. The composition of visitors varies and we can see that the highest number (77) were students from CEU, followed by foreign students (55), while the number of Hungarian students is in decline (20). Concerning new archival requests, the year 2018 showed the second best figures (over 1,000) in 5 years, which is slightly at odds with the number of documents, where a notable decline has been observed. This can be explained by the fact that research strategies change as Visegrad scholarship-holders tend to physically process materials in the research room and not to take digital images. In other words, we have fewer and fewer short research visits, which produce a large number of requests but also a substantial quantity of digital images.

The figures in Table 1 illustrate that since 2015 OSA witnessed a slight growth in the number of new researchers. The majority of students who visited OSA during the pre-session week at the beginning of September came back for their research, a different tendency to that of previous years when the registration was “highly recommended”. The rate of 6.4 visitors per day was maintained in 2016 and 2017 but fell slightly to 6.3 in 2018. The slight decline in the total number of visitors, which has also fallen since 2015 (1419 visits) continued in 2017 (1361 visits) and in 2018 (1344 visits). This trend has already been explained in previous Annual Reports as the result of several factors, such as the abundance of digital content available online, a change in discourse in academia most notably at CEU. The trend from previous years, i.e. slightly fewer visitors spending longer research sessions, continued (from 03:57 in 2016 to 04:07 in 2017, and finally to 05:05 in 2018 per researcher.)

The renewed outreach efforts to attract CEU faculty have been conducted by inviting a number of CEU faculty from several departments important for OSA; not all the professors responded or accepted our invitation to visit us. We can only hope that more of them will visit OSA’s website and become familiar with our collections. However, foreign faculty acknowledge the importance and the value of OSA and their number continues to be around 20 each year.

At the same time, successful contact was made with the ELTE Institute of Germanistic Studies: professors brought their students to visit OSA several times and plan to keep bringing their students in the future as well.

The number of CEU students has continued to rise since 2016 although a 5 year period shows a considerable fluctuation, with growth in one year and then a sudden decline in another. More striking is the constant decrease in the number of foreign faculty over a period of 5 years as well as a somewhat slighter decrease of foreign students. One possible explanation could be the lack of funds and research grants for research abroad. The “Hungarian professionals” category also experienced a significant drop in comparison to the relatively “good years” 2016 and 2017 (around 45 professionals): this number fell to 35 in 2018.

As in previous, in 2018 Visegrad grantees played an important part in our statistics, alongside other students from partner Institutions and Universities (George Mason University, West Point Military Academy, Corvinus University etc.). They all are included in the “Students from Abroad” Category.

The number of Requests per day in 2018 fell slightly from 5.3 in 2017 to 5.0 in 2018. Lower figures have been also noted in document number and production of digital images.

The most frequently requested collections were those relating to the Cold War and RFE/RL in particular. About 70 percent of all requested archival boxes come from this research area. They were followed by Human Rights collections (c. 20 percent) such as audio – visual tapes from the International Monitor Institute, Records of the International Human Rights Law Institute Relating to the Conflict in the Former Yugoslavia and Records of the Physicians for Human Rights’ Bosnian Project. The third research area involves collections of the Central European University or/and history of the Open Society Foundation in the region, but not to such an extent as in previous years.

To sum up, one notices that unfavorable external events did not negatively affect the activities of the OSA Reference Services, especially as far as the CEU community is concerned. Visits by foreign students and faculty depend on “non-political” issues such as those already mentioned – finance-related. However, what could be a matter for concern in the near future is the clear and visible decrease in the number of Hungarian students, professionals and university staff. We still do not know what the real reason is but OSA should carefully observe this trend and draw conclusions as to whether the falling numbers represent only an isolated anomaly or steady trend due to other and more complex problems. If the trend continues, OSA should initiate deliberate and complex outreach campaigns in the near future. Thus, there is space for improvements, such as preparing OSA’s Reference Services to respond to the new situation caused by the partial move of CEU to Vienna in 2019. The creation of a modern and integrated Reference and Researcher Data System that would unite OSA’s finding aids and online catalogue with improved patterns of our current Researchers database into a new web based platform is a new and challenging task for us in 2019.

The issue of the continuation of the Visegrad scholarships has not always been OSA’s immediate responsibility or competence, but we believe that the Program will continue to exist and that it contributes a great deal to cultural and intellectual diversity. Currently, the Reference Services are also undertaking initiatives to set up a similar scheme with south-east European countries to counterbalance the possible loss of students from CEU. For this reason 2019/20 will be challenging too.


Fanni Andristyák

2018 saw the fruitful continuation of Blinken OSA’s Education Outreach Program. The Program aims to better reach and engage Hungarian students and their teachers with our collections and exhibitions.

In February, we organized PressUp, a 2-day “boot camp” on journalism that included numerous presentations and creative workshops. During the program, selected high school and university students dived into topics such as investigative journalism, data visualization, and video journalism under the guidance of practicing journalists from leading media news outlets. Following the “boot camp” the participants formed a team, elected an editor from among themselves, and published their own newspaper . The program served as a preparation for the award ceremony of the 2018 European Press Prize hosted by OSA on 14 March.


In May and June, high school students participated in guided tours at our Therapy exhibition. The students were invited to reflect on how young artists see their present and future in Hungary. Following the tours participants also had the opportunity to try and “make it” in the world of young artists with the help of Gazdákodj OFF-osan, a board game that borrowed its concept from Monopoly to reflect the realities of the contemporary art world. (In addition to engaging high school students, the exhibition itself grew out of OSA’s cooperation with art students. cross-reference to Székely Kati’s section.)

OSA initiated two co-operations in December, both with the aim of designing workshops for 2019. Both workshops build on matters central to our The Illusion of the Republic . Our partners were artist Zsolt Keserue and DIA. Both workshops are to remain permanently available as of 2019.

In December, OSA organized – for the third time since 2017 – its highly successful accredited teacher training course, entitled Scopes and Constraints in 20th Century Hungarian History. Complementing our student programs, the course is taught by acclaimed historians András Mink and Krisztián Ungváry and boasts yet again a twenty-strong full house, with participating teachers coming from every corner of the country. By using the rich collections of Blinken OSA, the course offers tools for a perspectivist and critical exploration of 20th century’s socio-political events which generated radically different interpretations in the historical memory of Hungarians. The results of the first and second course’s satisfaction surveys may be consulted on OSA’s website.

Finally, 2018 also witnessed the launch of our newsletter, and the beginning of preparations for a website dedicated to our Education Outreach Program. For the coming year, our goal is to offer a continuously growing “menu” of on-demand youth programs, to maintain the high satisfaction rate of our participants, and to connect with new audiences and partners across the country.


Iván Székely

The educational activities of Blinken OSA in 2018 were conducted primarily in the headquarters of the Archives or in other buildings of CEU’s Budapest campus; however, our colleagues were teaching courses in foreign countries, too.


Csaba Szilágyi participated in the Open Learning Initiative University Preparatory Program (OLIve UP) at CEU, offered to refugees and asylum seekers in Hungary, where he co-taught the Documentary and Memory Practices in Archives course together with Anikó Kövecsi in the spring semester of 2018. Csaba was a lecturer at the Srebrenica Summer University, in Sarajevo in July 2018; his presentation was titled “Documents of human pain: (Re)Using Mass atrocity records on Srebrenica”.

In the fall semester of the academic year 2017-18, the 17th time the multidisciplinary course Archives, Evidence and Human Rights (AEHR) was taught for the seventh time, by three staff members of Blinken OSA, Iván Székely, Csaba Szilágyi and András Mink. The three-credit course has been traditionally offered to students of the Departments of Law and History; however, students from other programs are also admitted when the number of registered students permits. This year students of sociology and social anthropology also participated in the work, which included classes, workshops, and intensive individual research projects and consultations on the basis of which a final essay had to be prepared by each of the 17 participants, who represented different professional and cultural backgrounds.


In the spring semester the second group of students started on the Archives and Evidentiary Practices Specialization worked out and provided by Blinken OSA. The three parts of this specialization include the AEHR course itself, during which the students learn how to use the archives from the researchers’ point of view; Archival Practice, in the course of which students get acquainted with the professional tasks of the archivists who serve researchers; and the Advanced Coursework during which they obtain deeper knowledge in certain problems of archivistics. In the second and third phases several colleagues from Blinken OSA staff participated as teaching fellows, under the leadership of Csaba Szilágyi. All the four students who took this specialization successfully completed their studies and prepared their written exam by June.

Oksana Sarkisova, together with Jeremy Braverman, were teaching a four-credit filmmaking course for historians and those in related fields, “Historical Narratives and Moving Image”, combining theoretical and practical components. The course was offered to students of history and other humanities and social sciences interested in visual imagery. She was also teaching a course, together with Renata Uitz, offered to students of law, “Human Rights and Documentary Cinema”. This course introduced ten recent thought-provoking, educational, professionally crafted, and visually engaging documentary films from different parts of the world addressing a variety of human rights issues, exploring the variety of means of filmmaking and the political and economic contexts which create conditions for human rights abuses.


Several members of the Blinken OSA community have traditionally been active in research in the areas of the Archives’ activities, and produced publications and conference presentations in 2018, too.

Oksana Sarkisova continued her collaborative research project on Soviet vernacular photography with Dr. Olga Shevchenko. She is currently further extending the framework of research as a comparative study of repurposing archival footage in documentary and fiction film in Eastern Europe, with special emphasis on amateur film and video materials. In 2018, her research findings were published in two collected volumes as articles co-authored with Olga Shevchenko: “The Heroic, the Banal and the Improbable in the Family Memories of the Soviet Past”, in Silke Arnold-de Simine and Joanne Leal (eds.), Picturing the Family: Media, Narrative, Memory, Bloomsbury Academic, London, and “The Album as Performance: Notes on the Limits of the Visible”, in Julie Cassiday, Julie Buckler and Boris Wolfson (eds.), Russian Performances: Word, Object, Action, University of Wisconsin Press, 2018.

Csaba Szilágyi’s ongoing research projects include archiving mass atrocity records for transitional justice, archives and people on the move: refugee narratives in historical records. His book chapter “Re-archiving mass atrocity records by involving affected communities in postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina” is published in Sandra Ristovska and Monroe Price (eds.), Visual imagery and human rights practice, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, pp. 131-152.

András Mink’s research in collecting documents on the history of the great transformation of the political system resulted in the publication of the book Rendszerváltás [Regime-change], published by Osiris, Budapest, in 2018, in which he edited and published the most relevant documentary sources of this period.

Blinken OSA staff members participated in several international conferences and workshops in 2018, too.

Csaba Szilágyi was organizer and participant of the international workshop “After ICTY: Prospects for Reconciliation and Transitional Justice in the Post-Yugoslav Region” and the “Refugee Rights in Records” Symposium, both held in Blinken OSA; at the latter event he delivered a presentation titled “Who Does Not Leave Will Be Killed”: Refugee Narratives in Historical Perspective. At the same event Iván Székely also delivered a presentation titled “Mass Problems and the Search for Individual Solutions. Stakeholders and Interests in Documenting the Refugee Crisis”. Csaba gave presentations at the conferences on “Archives and Human Rights: An Agenda to Strengthen Human Rights” in Buenos Aires, and “Archival Education and Research Institute” at the University of Alabama (“Teaching Archives, Evidence and Human Rights: A Multidisciplinary Approach”); “After ICTY: Regional Cooperation, Accountability, Truth and Justice in the Former Yugoslavia” in Sarajevo (“Archives dealing with the future: managing the heritage of conflict”), and Refugee Rights in Records Symposium” at the University of Zagreb (“Records and People on the Move: An Archival and Education Project”).

Iván Székely delivered a lecture titled “TK 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, or Lessons Learned from an Institution’s Metamorphoses” at the conference “Hungarian Sociology at the Turn of the Century” held at the John Wesley Theological College, Budapest; he also delivered a presentation at the annual conference of the John von Neumann Computer Society in Budapest, “The Master and the AI”, titled “Post-Fact Society: When Even Fake News Become Unreliable”, (in Hungarian)

Each of the conferences and workshops, as well as the exhibitions organized by Blinken OSA, involves preparatory research, the results of which were presented at these professional events. One outstanding event of 2018 was the exhibition “Farewell to Spring: Revolutionary Youth Magazines 1968. Nr. 2”, which presented the thriving and hopeful period of student protests, happenings and other events of youth- and counter culture in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, and Hungary, and was opened at the 50th anniversary of the 1968 events.


Katalin Gádoros / Nóra Ungár

OSA has a long history in offering different types of fellowships, be these research grants for current Masters and PhD students, individual researchers, exchange students, artists, journalist or even groups of researchers dedicated to certain research agenda. To date OSA has awarded close to 1,200 grants.

Currently OSA offers only three support schemes, out of which the Visegrad Scholarship at OSA awarded jointly with the International Visegrad Fund supports 15 researchers a year and the Hoover Archives Research Assistance Scholarship offered jointly with the Freedom Broadcasting Foundation (formerly the RFE/RL Fund) supports applications on the basis of merit as long as the fund lasts, while the Aaron Swartz Fellowship supports one successful candidate a year.

Since its inception in 2010 the Visegrad Scholarship at OSA scheme has so far supported 162 individual or group applications with a maximum stipend of 2,000 EUR for two months to come to OSA and research its collection relating to Cold War, Communism and Human Rights. Although applications from the four Visegrad countries have priority over applications from other countries and such awards constitute the majority, the jury and the Council of the Visegrad Ambassadors have so far supported applicants from 29 countries in 4 continents. 2018 saw 16 Visegrad scholars in OSA, all of whom gave their respective university wide presentations within the framework of the Visegrad Scholarship at OSA Lecture Series.

The Hoover Archives Research Assistance Scholarship, which supports distant research in the Hoover Archives in the US, was not awarded in 2018.

The Aaron Swartz Fellowship in memory of Aaron Hillel Swartz (1986 –2013), American computer programmer, entrepreneur, writer, political organizer, and Internet hacktivist, opened only in 2016 to support one promising young technology expert, scholar or activist working at the intersection of humanities, social sciences and technology studies or technological solutions with a grant of $10,000.The winner of the 2017 call, Natalie Widmann, carried out her 3-month research project in 2018.


Oksana Sarkisova / Enikő Gyureskó

In 2018, Verzió continued its free year-round educational program for high-school students, School Verzió, and created a toolkit for teachers which was shared with hundreds of teachers throughout the country, along with invitations to participate in the free program.

To enhance the films’ impact, we encourage applicants to organize additional follow up discussions for which they can either call our experienced moderators or use the toolkit we prepared in the spring of 2018. Several screenings took place in 2018 to over 800 students throughout the country. The program provides students with the opportunity to develop film and media literacy skills and better understand the nature of documentary cinema while it increases human rights awareness.


Between February 7 - March 7, 2018 the traditional encore screening series, Re-Verzió, were held in the Blinken OSA Archive. 5 occasions were organized to screen some of the best documentaries from the 14th Verzió Film Festival’s program, including the opening film and award winners. All 5 screenings were well attended: 40-80 people stayed for each session, making it one of the most successful Re-Verzió events of the past 14 years.

On July 4, 2018 Verzió at Blinken OSA Archive organized the Hungarian premiere screening of the US documentary, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson. The screening was followed by a discussion with representatives of LGBT activist organizations Transvanilla and Háttér Society. The event was part of the Budapest Pride event series and promoted in the Budapest Pride month program brochure. The discussion focused on the rights of trans people in Hungary: medical, family law, legal recognition of transgender people etc. Approximately 60 people attended the event.

A call for submissions to the 15th Verzió Film Festival was circulated between February and June 2018. Ca. 600 films were submitted to Verzió. The preselection committee previewed the films from June to September and selected 59 films from 35 countries for the program.

15th Verzió International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival was held on November 6-11, 2018 in Budapest, and on November 15-25, 2018 in Pécs, Kecskemét and Szeged. The festival showcased a selection of powerful creative documentaries and held 135 screenings and further events at a total of 10 venues throughout the country. All films at the festival were screened with English subtitles and most films were translated into Hungarian as well. The program comprised several sections: International Competition, Student & Debut Competition, Hungarian Panorama, Labour: Our Life in cooperation with the International Labour Organization of the UN – to discover the various aspects of work, Our Earth: Breaking Limits reporting on the status of our planet, Shapes of Memory discovering the powerful impact of historical events on our present, an Hommage section presenting the last films of two great directors, Claude Lanzmann and Michael Glawogger, and a block of shorts from the Indigenous communities in Quebec: Wapikoni’s Friends. Films about refugees in Europe and beyond were screened in collaboration with the UNHCR Central Europe.


Discussing films at Verzió has been just as important as watching them. Verzió 15 hosted 45 filmmaking guests from 20 countries who participated in 43 Q&As with the audience and 13 panel discussions with local experts. Round tables involved film professionals, human rights experts, and representatives of our international partners (UNHCR, ILO); Q&As were moderated by media experts, NGO representatives, film students and scholars. Various industry programs took place as well in order to increase the circulation of creative ideas within the doc film community: three Doc-Pro panel discussions took place debating the ethical dilemmas of documentary filmmaking, co-production possibilities across Europe, and new models for bringing documentary films to the public. A 4-day intensive filmmaking workshop, DocLab, was organized with the participation of 7 projects in development under the mentorship of experienced European film professionals, award-winning US filmmaker Bill Morrison gave a masterclass on his work with found footage, and Canadian producer Manon Barbeau held a workshop inspired by the community cinema project, Wapikoni Mobil.

Verzió continued its educational programs for high-school students as well: Student Verzió offered 6 films to young people aged 14-18. The festival hosted over 1000 high school students at the free morning screenings followed by moderated discussions, and for the first time organized a day-long program, Youth Verzió, with the participation of 6 NGOs and UNICEF Hungary, engaging over 80 kids from disadvantaged backgrounds from outside Budapest with media and human rights awareness workshops. Another novel feature of the festival was Uni-Verzió, a collaboration with 4 universities which involved over 100 students from film studies, graphic design, art management and media and communication studies. Students took part in the festival preparations and contributed with film reviews to the Verzió Blog. A graphic design MA class designed alternative posters for the festival films which were then exhibited at the Empathy café, the charity café of The Red Cross in Hungary, which also served as a meeting point for festival guests and visitors.


The Verzió team and "film guardians" have reached out to dozens of civil organizations and activists, involving them in the festival events and collaborating on joint communications campaigns for individual films. Music events took place every night in Toldi Cinema, the festival center, with free entry provided to the concerts with cinema tickets valid to the last film screening of the day as an incentive for young people. A special program for families took place on Sunday morning when we screened a movie about a kids’ choir in the slums of India, which was followed by an audience sing-along with a local choir.

A range of awards were presented, in 2018 for the first time extended with two audience awards to the best-rated Hungarian (A Woman Captured by Bernadett Tuza-Ritter) and international film (The Time of Forests by Francois-Xavier Drouet); The International Jury awarded the Best Student Film (The Island by Adam Weingrod) and a Student Jury, consisting of university students, awarded the Best Human Rights Film (Srbenka by Nebojsa Sljepcevic). A Kid’s Jury was organized for the first time (made up of high-school students) who selected their favorite film from the Student Verzió section: Granny Project by Bálint Révész.

We have added three films from the program to School Verzió, therefore schools can now choose from ten creative documentaries, secured until the end of 2020.

Altogether, Verzió 15 welcomed ca. 10,000 attendees at its programs throughout the country, demonstrating 20% increase in visitor numbers compared to the previous year. This success could be achieved thanks to the great efforts of the staff members and new strategies in audience and program development as well as a significant grant from the Creative Europe Media program of the European Union that was received for the first time by the nonprofit Verzio Film Foundation as the only film festival in Hungary in 2018. The turnout, along with participants’ feedback, demonstrates the great potential that this human rights documentary film festival holds as a community-building initiative and an educational resource. It brings audiences of all ages and walks of life together to watch and debate creative documentary films that can inspire social change.


Katalin Gádoros / Nóra Ungár

In 2018 as in previous years OSA’s core budget, approximately 2% of the operational costs of its mother institution, the Central European University, comfortably covered OSA’s basic operations

But without OSA’s major external source of support from the Foundation of Open Society Institute (FOSI), a grant of $237,000 against appropriate application and on condition of regular reporting, OSA would not have been able to cover the costs of all its Open Society Foundations network-related activities, its extensive processing and digitization operations, indefinite and several short-term temporary, FOSI activity related employment contracts, and its multi-year audio-visual preservation project intended to save about 14,000 hours of endangered VHS recording mostly relating to the early years of the Central European University and the Soros Foundations Network.


The Visegrad Scholarship at OSA grant scheme started in 2010, bringing in EUR 34.500 to OSA annually, out of which 15 grants of 2,000 EUR each are awarded each year. Grants for shorter periods are pro-rated.

OSA’s major donation in 2015 came from Vera and Donald Blinken, whose gift of $83.311 was earmarked for OSA’s major 1956 anniversary project. At the end of 2018 OSA still had $14,326 reserved for further projects – the 2017/18 Aaron Swartz Fellowship among them - with the consent of Vera and Donald Blinken.

Putting all its financial resources to good use, OSA managed to cover not only its archival and records management tasks but its extensive public program activities as well; meanwhile it maintained its overall financial balance throughout the year.

Following a mutual agreement with the CEU Management OSA did not fill its vacant Chief Archivist and the Data Analyst posts in 2018 either. The workload of the vacant post of Digital Archivist was reorganized and distributed among colleagues with a corresponding pay rise.

The unexpected move of the Open Society Foundations Budapest Office from Budapest to Berlin left OSA with two more vacancies for outreach officers, both of which were filled during the calendar year.

At the end of 2018 the staff of OSA numbered 45, although this figure fluctuated over the months, as some new colleagues were only contracted for a definite term. Out of the 45 colleagues 11 colleagues had short term contracts, 1 colleague was on the IT payroll, 2 colleagues were away on maternity leave, 1 colleague was on unpaid leave and 1 colleague was working on an unpaid volunteer contract basis. OSA’s core staff numbered 31, 27 of them working on a full time basis. The OSA staff came from 12 countries.

Tasks that the core staff of OSA could not pick up, and which could not be handled by the technological developments, were covered by externally contracted service providers, interns and CEU students on fixed-term employment contracts. In 2018 a total of 23 interns from 9 different countries worked in OSA. 7 of these students came from CEU and were employed by OSA on a fixed term contract basis, the others, among them 2 Erasmus exchange students and 2 exchange students from the George Mason University in the US, worked for OSA pro bono.

In order to make all of OSA’s operations transparent and easy to follow OSA circulates the OSA Weekly, a list of events of the week, the monthly Management Meeting Brief, a summary of the Management Meeting and after the monthly Staff Meetings the Staff Meeting Minutes. The bi-annual Financial Reports, which are followed by the Open Finance Days, where reports and operational invoices are open for inspection by the staff, also serve the purpose of transparency and open communication.


Oksana Sarkisova / Enikő Gyureskó

In 2018, Verzió continued its free year-round educational program for high-school students, School Verzió, and created a toolkit for teachers.

It was shared with hundreds of teachers throughout the country, along with invitations to participate in the free program. To enhance the films’ impact, we encourage applicants to organize additional follow up discussions for which they can either call our experienced moderators or use the toolkit we prepared in the spring of 2018. 25 screenings took place in 2018 to over 800 students throughout the country. The program provides students with the opportunity to develop film and media literacy skills and better understand the nature of documentary cinema while it increases human rights awareness. We have added three films from the program to School Verzió; therefore schools can now choose from ten creative documentaries, secured until the end of 2020.


Between February 7 and March 7, 2018 the traditional encore screening series, Re-Verzió, were held in the Blinken OSA Archive. 5 occasions were organized to screen some of the best documentaries from the 14th Verzió Film Festival’s program, including the opening film and award winners. All 5 screenings were well attended, 40-80 people stayed for each session, making it one of the most successful Re-Verzió events of the past 14 years.

On July 4, 2018 Verzió at Blinken OSA Archive organized the Hungarian premiere screening of the US documentary, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson. The screening was followed by a discussion with representatives of LGBT activist organizations Transvanilla and Háttér Society. The event was part of the Budapest Pride event series and promoted in the Budapest Pride month program brochure. The discussion focused on the rights of trans people in Hungary: medical care, family law, and legal recognition of transgender people.


Nóra Bertalan

Was the year 2018 in any way unusual regarding the spectrum of public programs at Blinken OSA?

2018 was a year of confrontation (see IstandwithCEU) in the life of both the University and the archives. Despite these circumstances, Galeria Centralis and the archives itself managed to maintain its normal flow and organization of programs .

The variety of programs offered were the same as in previous years: hosted events, film screenings, exhibitions and educational programs in collaboration with the main public programs. The archives participated in the Cultural Heritage Days, the Night of the Museums and as a new venture, in cooperation with CEU, in the Night of Researchers.

The Archives staged four exhibitions, two of which were hosted. First Demand: Press Freedom/ Techniques, Tactics, Topics, and Teams in the Hungarian Samizdat was curated by the students of Közgazdasági Politechnikum, Budapest and was organized on the occasion of the 170th anniversary of the 1848 Hungarian Revolution. The other hosted program was the Therapy Exhibition, also part of the Küszöb Festival, which made an attempt to reflect on the situation of the youngest generation of artists.


The third exhibition, Farewell to Spring – Revolutionary Youth Magazines 1968. Nr. 2, was created in collaboration with an outside curator and young artists. It reflected on 1968 and the era of great hopes in some Central– and Eastern-European countries. The whirlwind of the Western protest movements reached the region as well, while counter-culture also left its mark on Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, and Hungary. The main theme of the exhibition was a fictional international youth magazine, presenting this thriving and hopeful period of student protests, happenings and other events of youth and counter culture, which ended with the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia

Following years of moderate attendance in the Galeria, the exhibition titled Suicide |- Hungary 1956 – 1986 witnessed a soar in attendance level. The exhibition was organized by Blinken OSA in collaboration with Fortepan Photo Archives and the Budapest City Archives. The accompanying programs also attracted large numbers of visitors. The program was carefully thought out and designed in a very solemn and respectful way.

One more hosted event deserves special attention in the programs of 2018: The winners of the 2018 European Press Prize, awarded to outstanding journalists from across the continent, were announced on March 14 at Blinken OSA: it is a very prestigious award and the choice of the venue in itself was a statement.

All in all the year 2018 has brought many new visitors and researchers to OSA.


Robert Parnica / Pearl Silverman

Over the last few years, in cooperation with the Hoover Institution Library & Archives, the Blinken Open Society Archives has been processing the Free Europe Committee/Radio Free Europe (FEC/RFE) Encrypted Telex Communication Collection, a very important source for the history of the Cold War. Founded in 1949, one of the FEC’s main projects was creating Radio Free Europe, which broadcasted radio programs to the Eastern bloc. The FEC New York and RFE Munich headquarters sent daily encrypted telex messages to each other, amounting to several hundred per month. The messages covered everything from topics such as RFE employee vacation days, to ten-page reports on agricultural situations in the Eastern bloc.


In 2018, we took a very important step for the collection and launched a new website. While we are still working on various aspects of the website for users, the current goal is to finish processing each message. The processing focuses on metadata, but we have also been creating additional tools for researchers, such as a list of acronyms and people, as well as a textual key. Currently, there are three OSA interns processing the collection: Jack Atmore, Pearl Silverman, and Mihai Savuu, with Robert Parnica as their supervisor. We have about 14,000 messages left to process in 2019, out of a total of 22,000 messages left to publish on the website. There are currently 34,541 messages available to researchers on the website, covering the years from 1960 to 1973. There are multiple ways to filter a search in order to find a specific message: by keywords, year, author, contributor, or location. The website also provides guidance to researchers on how to search and read the messages, explaining the file viewer and the structure of a telex message respectively. Additionally, historical timelines of both the processing of the FEC collection and of RFE’s organization history are available, which can provide contextualization for researchers. For further context, researchers can use the data visualization tools or export the available raw data for their own visualization. We hope that this website provides the public with new tools for discovering and researching the history of the Free Europe Committee and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty..