“Cold War Politics and the Hungarian-Canadian Press, 1956-1989”
Canadian Ethnic Studies Association (CESA), Winnipeg, September 28, 2007.    

The émigré press, and newspapers more generally, serve as a vehicle through which society negotiates both its past and present. Editorials and the selection of articles express the way in which the given paper wishes to be perceived by its readership, while letters to the editor are often representative of the ideas, views and beliefs present in a specific community. In the case of Hungarians in Canada, the sheer number of publications printed after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the arrival to Canada of 38,000 refugees, as well as the diversity of their political and ideological inclinations, means that these Hungarian ethnic papers provide the best glimpse into both the changes in public opinion over the years, and the way in which Hungarian community leaders attempted to infuse the immigration with specific ideological messages and political debates based on the realities of the Cold War.

Ethnic newspapers serve as one of the most important institutions of any minority community. While Hungarian immigrants in the United States established political lobby groups aimed at keeping the international outrage over the Soviet suppression of the 1956 revolution on the political agenda and maintaining a sense of solidarity among Hungarians, in Canada the Hungarian press assumed much the same role. Despite the politically varied nature of Canada’s Hungarian press, including a range of conservative, liberal and far-right papers, the ramifications of the 1956 uprising and the unprecedented influx of 38,000 Hungarians made the issue of the repressed revolution, Communism in Hungary and anti-Communism in Hungarian-Canadian communities the single most important and contentious political debate on the pages of the Hungarian weeklies for over three decades. Conservative, liberal and far-right papers all seemed to think that the revolution belonged exclusively to their political camp and that they were on the “right” side of the Cold War. Consequently, this issue of ownership over an event, which had at first served as a rallying cry and uniting force for most Hungarian-Canadians, led to a politically and ideologically divided community, based on the animosities of the Cold War.

Christopher Adam
Department of History - University of Ottawa