Elemér Hankiss (1928-2015)

Elemer Hankiss_webIt is with deep sadness that we inform you that Professor Elemér Hankiss, a prominent Hungarian scholar in human sciences and a long-time friend of the IWM, passed away on January 10. He was Visiting Fellow at the IWM in 1993/94/95, and taught at one of our Cortona Summer Schools in the 1990s. He took part in many workshops and conferences organized by the Institute, and served on the advisory board of our journal Transit. We will remember him as a scholar of several disciplines (literary science, sociology, political science and philosophy), a modest and cheerful person full of original ideas, and a public intellectual of great civic courage.

Hankiss’ scholarly achievements will continue to find recognition through his two dozen books published in various languages. As regards his political virtues, it is perhaps this brief story recently recalled by his friend Csaba Gombár (another former Visiting Fellow of the IWM) that characterizes him the best. As a chairman of the Hungarian public television in the early 1990s, he resisted the pressure of the national-conservative government to obey its rules, and in the so-called “media war” insisted, despite serious threats, on the independence and impartiality of public broadcasting. Following many months of fierce conflict, he resigned. The subsequent socialist-liberal coalition government wanted to decorate him with a high-level state prize but he left for a vacation at Lake Balaton instead of accepting it. The government sent a military plane to take him to the prize-giving ceremony in Budapest but he turned down the offer politely, and, more importantly, did not share this incident with the general public.
For his attitude to the “media war”, see his article published in Transit in 1993.