Ex-diplomat lectures on post-communist Europe

By on September 5, 2006

Geza Jeszenszky, a former Hungarian ambassador to the United States, proclaimed that communist rule ended in Hungary because “it failed to achieve a better way of life to people,” during a lecture in the Mancheski Seminar Room Aug. 29.

Hungary assumed a democratic government in 1989, after 42 years of Soviet-controlled communism. Only then were citizens able to speak ideas freely and engage in free-market economy, he said.

“Communism, that brutal and repressive regime, was now gone from Central and Eastern Europe,” Jeszenszky said.

One difference between modern-day Hungary, which is a democracy, and the nation during communist reign, pertains to freedom of speech, he said. In communism, Jeszenszky was barred from college for two years because he espoused ideas that communist leaders deemed dangerous, he said.

During the communist era, Hungarian citizens were ensured free health care, free education, and a guaranteed job. But few citizens grew prosperous, regardless of how hard they worked, Jeszenszky said. By the early 1980s, communism had caused “a huge division of wealth” between the eastern bloc nations and the democratic nations of Western Europe, he said. This resulted in a “a lack of compassion and concern for the public welfare,” he said.

In October 1989, Hungary amended its constitution, thereby marking the beginning of the end of communist rule. In November 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany hastened the impending dissolution of communist rule in Hungary as well as in other Soviet-controlled nations of Eastern Europe.

Today, many former communist nations are still heavily influenced by their former leaders, Jeszenszky said. Additionally, some nations’ attempts at developing democratic infrastructures are being thwarted by the influences of socialist organizations.

“In communism, few goods were available; yet whatever was available was affordable,” Jeszenszky said. “In capitalism, goods are plentiful but few people are able to afford them.”

Jeszenszky is currently a professor at Corvinus University of Budapest in Hungary. He was the Hungarian ambassador to the United State from 1998 to 2002.

Christopher Ball, a professor of economics and coordinator of the lecture, said Quinnipiac asked Jeszenszky to speak because this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Soviet occupation of Hungary and because the university is working to establish programs with eastern European universities.


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