Hungarian Experts in Nkrumah’s Ghana

Decolonization and Semiperipheral Postcoloniality in Socialist Hungary

How was Hungary connected to post-WWII decolonization? What does this episode of Eastern European history tell us about shared postcolonialities, transnational interconnectivity, and semiperipheral positioning strategies? This study aims to address these questions in the context of socialist Hungary’s evolving relations with independent Ghana under the Kwame Nkrumah regime (1957–1966), by focusing on the role of Hungarian experts in a transnational context. My aim is to show how this encounter led to the professionalization and internationalization of Hungarian postcolonial knowledge production, and how parallels in colonial history were drawn between Hungary and Africa. I interpret various cases by introducing the notion of semiperipheral (post)coloniality, which connects insights from postcolonialism and world-systems analysis to show the intertwined discursive and structural processes of semiperipheral relations affecting colonial discourse in the activities of experts.

Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah in Budapest, 28 July 1961. MTI Photo: Jenő Pap. © MTVA.
Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah in Budapest, 28 July 1961. MTI Photo: Jenő Pap. © MTVA.


Semiperipheral Eastern Europe and decolonization

Eastern Europe seems to be the “black sheep” of postcolonial studies. The region’s complex colonial experiences and changing relations to the (post)colonial world have only recently been pushed into the limelight. Due to the trauma of WWII and Soviet communist hegemony, previous Eastern European colonial and imperial ties were almost forgotten, and the idea of Soviet imperialism was also disregarded. The Cold War intellectual division of labor epistemologically separated the “Second” and “Third World”, thus the study of (post)socialism from (post)colonialism. During the 1980s, the Euro-Atlantic and neoliberal hegemonic shift as well as the “back to Europe” discourse after the system change of 1989 resulted in a postsocialist amnesia of denying former Eastern European connections with the “Third World.”

Global and transnational history aims to decenter the European episteme by deconstructing internalist Eurocentric histories. The Cold War evolution of European integration was not only induced by geopolitical pressures from the Socialist Bloc, but also strongly embedded in post-WWII colonial struggles during the global 1950s.1 Since “decolonization” was a British concept of top-down “granted” independence in the vision of building a Commonwealth from colonies, socialist countries refrained from using the term and defined themselves as fighting against imperialism and colonialism. Although this anti-imperialist solidarity towards emerging Afro-Asian postcolonies forged an important political project against the dominant capitalist system, it emerged during the global economic boom and relative geopolitical openness of the 1960s détente era. Decolonization also expressed the hegemonic shift from “high imperialism” to developmentalist imperialism, the opening up of investments predominantly for expansive US capital, which also resulted in rivalry with the USSR for the modernization projects of newly independent postcolonial states.

In the historical long-term (longue durée), Hungary occupied a relatively stable semiperipheral position between the global center and periphery in the hierarchical division of labor of the capitalist world-system.2 The semiperiphery concept bridges cultural and structural aspects, and offers a geographically more refined framework than colonizer/colonized subalternity, center/periphery dependency, or capitalist/socialist Cold War dichotomies. While colonialism expresses the power relation between the global center and the periphery, the semiperiphery stands out from the dominant historiography of colonialism due to its complex, in-between, uneasy and ambivalent relation to coloniality. Semiperipheral (post)coloniality expresses the ambivalent historical relations of being both colonized and colonizer, and conceptualizes how the intertwined long-term ideological and structural positions as effects of global integration (re)produce both colonial relations and colonial discourse.3 Semiperipherality shares both central and peripheral aspects: being strongly connected through its cultural or geographical proximity to the global center, but remaining peripheral, dependent and subjugated to the global core as its “internal other;” not having colonies, but benefiting from civilizational superiority and imperialist practices over the global periphery; developing a strong urge to catch up with and imitate the center, while sharing its civilizational and modernization mission towards the periphery. Politically, the semiperiphery offers the double role of revolutionary resistance against the hegemonic center through its proximity, bridge function and alliance with the periphery as well as being the comprador “evil servant” against the periphery by stabilizing the exploitative hierarchy of the hegemon-led world system.

So, what drove political economic relations between socialist Eastern European and decolonized countries? Since semiperipheral Eastern European economies suffered from a relative lack of technology and capital, in order to buy Western technology to industrialize, decrease reliance on expensive imports, develop competitive exports and increase incomes, they depended on Western loans, and tended to accumulate indebtedness and trade deficits generated by unequal exchange.4 In turn, in their “double dependency” under Soviet political and Western capitalist dominance,5 socialist Eastern Bloc countries strove to develop trade with postcolonies to decrease their resource dependency on the Soviet Union and to obtain hard currency—since postcolonies held currencies of their former colonizers—in order to finance technology imports and pay back loans. In the context of Cold War era decolonization, Eastern Bloc foreign economies enjoyed relative autonomy in their foreign economic positioning strategies despite Moscow’s imperial gaze; in fact, European socialist countries—in contrary to Western propaganda—did not have a united foreign policy towards Africa. The Sino-Soviet split and the ensuing Chinese-Soviet rivalry in the “Third World” from the 1960s led Moscow to allow the wider maneuvering of Eastern Bloc countries, so that allies could represent Soviet geopolitical interests, stabilize their regimes and decrease their economic deficits. In this way, the smaller satellite states of the Eastern Bloc could play an important and strategic mediating role between the larger superpowers. On the other hand, their rapid modernization from agrarian to industrial economies and growing state centralization already in the interwar era, as well as their well-trained experts and acquaintance of Western knowledge made Eastern Europeans lucrative partners for the modernization projects of postcolonial countries. They were also more trusted and persuasive due to their relatively small size and similar histories of former oppression, and likewise enabled postcolonies to evade the direct influence of Moscow and Cold War military conflict. In turn, Eastern European “development guidance” in offering education, exporting machinery, technology and experts, and exporting their own socialist models of development could also express cultural superiority, legitimize the successes of their regimes and achieve international political recognition.6

Khruschev’s “doctrine of active foreign policy” and opening towards the Third World generated different geopolitical strategies for Eastern Bloc countries: for example, East Germany’s aim was to undermine the Hallstein doctrine of West Germany, while Romania tendentiously qualified herself as a “developing country” to bargain for benefits in international organizations. As for Hungary, after the political rupture and realignment due to WWII and Sovietization, the country’s efforts to intensify her trade with capitalist countries already commenced during the “New Course” since July 1953, even after the “degrading” of Prime Minister Imre Nagy.7 The search for non-communist postcolonial markets started already from mid-1953, when Hungarian trade experts were sent to Arab countries, India, and Indonesia. Fearing international isolation after the Soviet military intervention in the 1956 revolution, the party leadership sought to develop diplomatic relations and export the “Hungarian model” to attain international recognition and the internal political legitimation of the regime.8 In this context, decolonized Sub-Saharan Africa emerged as a potential region, and newly independent Ghana (1957) as a strategic country for gaining political alliances and penetrating markets in Africa. Hungary was one of the first countries to acknowledge Ghana’s independence, and János Kádár already invited a Ghanaian delegation in 1958, while the first official Hungarian trade delegation visited Ghana during August 8–15, 1959 to decide on building mutual relations.9 The rapid growth of exchange between Hungary and Ghana during 1960 and 1961 further escalated after Nkrumah’s turn towards “African socialism” and his Eastern European round-trip in the summer of 1961. An article of Magyar Nemzet entitled “Expanding world” (1961) evaluated the development of diplomatic relations with Ghana as “opening a new gate into the wide world for our homeland,” which demonstrated the failure of the imperialists to isolate Hungary from the non-socialist world.10 Hungary used these negotiations to bypass Western intermediaries in accessing much-needed raw materials and hard currency from postcolonial African countries.11 The aim of the government was to use Ghana to penetrate other Western African markets (which now formed protective unions), such as Nigeria, Guinea, or Mali. The interest rates of loans and investments by socialist countries were kept at a very low level (around 2%) in order to qualify as foreign aid by the UN, while barter agreements were made on the basis of scientific and technical assistance. Thus the main gains of the Ghana relation for Hungary was not to make short-term deals, but to establish long-term diplomatic relations in order to secure a wider market and resource base in the future. Hungary also sought to penetrate non-communist markets to compensate for deficits generated by trade with the Soviet Union and mostly the European Economic Community.12


Nkrumah in Hungary

After Ghana gained independence in 1957, president Kwame Nkrumah initiated pan-Africanism and the Non-Aligned Movement (1961) to fight against neocolonialism and imperialism. He embarked on modernizing the country via rapid industrialization by building a huge hydroelectric dam on the Volta River to produce cheap electricity for aluminum production, which could only be funded by the US, the UK and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank). Apart from financial dependency, other postcolonial ties prevailed: the long-negotiated agreement with US–Canadian Kaiser Aluminum Co. and Reynolds Metals permitted only the smelting of export bauxite against mining vast local reserves (after promising the latter), in fear that the Ghanaian government will nationalize its assets. To compensate for this economic dependency and to carefully maneuver between Cold War trenches, Nkrumah developed African socialism and turned towards socialist countries. Following initial diplomatic negotiations, Nkrumah made a two-month tour around socialist countries in 1961 (including China), during which he visited Hungary from July 28 until 31. He was invited by the Hungarian government and the President Council, and his arrival was greeted by a grandiose, celebrative reception. The delegation signed a long-term trade treaty, a financial and a flight agreement, and negotiated about cultural, technological, and scientific cooperation for 1962.13

The Hungarian press heroized Nkrumah and positioned Ghana as an ally of socialist countries, while socialist assistance was staged in a relationship based on solidarity, humanism, mutual benefits, intercultural dialogue, the abolishment of racial oppression and prejudice, and a joint anti-imperialist fight for freedom and peace. Optimist evaluations underlined that Ghana is a rapidly developing country, whose economic strength outgrows Turkey or Spain, and the pace of its economic growth exceeds many other countries’.14 Parallels were drawn between the historical colonial backgrounds of the two countries: since neocolonialism was conceptualized widely as the universal expansion of Western capitalist dominance, Eastern Bloc conflicts with the European Economic Community could now be put in line with struggles in the “Third World.”15 The significance of Nkrumah’s visit was framed in the context of recent French aggression in Tunis, also addressed by a declaration from the World Council of Peace, calling for the annihilation of the colonial system and a movement towards world peace.16 Nkrumah’s ideas on neocolonialism and pan-Africanism were disseminated, in fact, Nkrumah’s book Neocolonialism: The Last Phase of Imperialism was later translated and published in Hungarian in 1967, and afterwards in 1972, translated excerpts from similar works of Nkrumah, Amílcar Cabral, Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, Julius Nyerere, and Sékou Touré also appeared.17

In his greeting speech to Nkrumah, István Dobi, the president of the President Council, emphasized:

The People’s Republic of Hungary is also guided by the aim to support the war for independence of colonial peoples, strengthen friendship between different peoples, and contribute to securing world peace.

Later the next day, at the first banquet held at the House of Parliament, Dobi added:

Our people turn with great curiosity towards Africa, where today there is a battle decisive to the future of mankind wielded between social progress and the forces of imperialism.

In response, Nkrumah gave a toast, in which he declared:

We, in Africa, fight consistently. Whatever direction we try to leap forward, everywhere we find ourselves confronted by imperialist treachery. We will master our difficulties with the support of the socialist camp. We are here to strengthen our relations with Hungary, and strengthen our ties with the countries of the socialist camp.

And finally, at the evening banquet of the President Council, Nkrumah stated in his toast speech the following:

Mr. President! When I talked with you, the President Council, and members of government, the discussion—on the history of the Hungarian people—brightly evoked in me the events of our own battles. In the past the Hungarian people also knew well all the curses of foreign suppression. We have struggled for more than a hundred years under the yoke of colonial subjection. 18

Later during Nkumah’s talk, when he was lamenting the violent acts of imperialists against Ghana, the British ambassador and military attaché left the scene – an incident Prime Minister János Kádár recalled in their personal discussion in a sarcastic tone.19


The meeting of János Kádár and Kwame Nkrumah in Balatonaliga. Kalmár György, Arany Ghana (Budapest, Kossuth Könyvkiadó, 1964). 289.


The dialogue between Nkrumah and Kádár, who was spending his vacation in his summer resort in Balatonaliga, is revealing in how historical parallels were drawn between Ghana and Hungary. Nkrumah recalled that the ex-Vice President of USA, Nixon called Eastern Bloc countries such as Hungary “Communist slaves,” and added: “if slavery consists of what I saw in Hungary, I am prepared to become a Communist slave,” because “freedom, equality, justice and all what goes with them, that is, humanism, take true shape only in socialist countries.” Kádár also reflected on his vision of common historical fates: “Our country had also lived for centuries under semi-colonial subordination, in fact under the war German fascists ruined and looted Hungary.” To accentuate his point, Kádár recalled in awe Nkrumah’s famous speech at the UN convention on “freedom for Africa.” On Nkrumah’s visit to the Beloiannisz Electric Equipment Factory of Budapest, which he decided to copy and transfer to Ghana, he declared in his speech to the workers:

…we have chosen the same direction of development as yours. A great lesson and example to be followed is your technical and scientific development, the way you organize your agriculture.20

He also added gratefully:

In Hungary, the atmosphere greeting us was completely free of any kind of racial hatred or discrimination. … We in Africa fight against imperialism, colonialism, and the new forms of colonialism, neocolonialism. We fight with the vision that success and victory will crown our actions. In this struggle we count on the Hungarian people…21

In turn, Ghana’s official press also underlined shared colonial experiences, referring to the long periods of Turkish, Prussian, Austrian, and Russian imperialist rule in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. In line with West African leaders, such as the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor and the Guinean Sékou Touré, Nkrumah drew parallels between Balkan and African decolonization by referring to the political dangers of “balkanization:” fragmented states and ethnic conflicts could be exploited by imperialists to prevent Pan-African alliance. For example, in his speech at the summit conference of the Organization of African Unity in Cairo, 19 July 1964, he declared:

History has shown that where the Great Powers cannot colonize, they balkanize. This is what they did to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and this is what they have done and are doing in Africa. If we allow ourselves to be balkanized, we shall be re-colonized and be picked off one after the other.22

Although “African socialism” expressed the cautious protection of autonomous development against Soviet influence, Nkrumah’s sympathy towards socialism was not obvious, since some members of the Non-Aligned Movement had reserves or were out-right critical against Soviet colonialism or imperialism.23


Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah in Budapest, 28 July 1961. MTI Photo: Gábor Pálfai. © MTVA.
Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah in Budapest, 28 July 1961. MTI Photo: Gábor Pálfai. © MTVA.


Ghana’s First Seven-Year Plan and the Centre for Afro-Asian Research

During his Hungarian visit, Nkrumah read a small book, Planned Economy in Hungary, published by József Bognár in 1959.24 Bognár was an important expert in socialist Hungary: previously he was mayor of Budapest (1947–1949), a prime member of the Small-Holders’ Party (1943–1948), and minister of domestic and foreign trade in the communist government (1949–1956), but after the 1956 revolution he rejected invitations to the ministry. He instead became professor at Karl Marx Economic University from 1956 and president of the Institute of Cultural Relations (1961–1969), but remained a major (yet very much underrated) figure in Hungarian foreign policy-making and in preparing the semi-capitalistic reforms of the New Economic Mechanism. Nkrumah was impressed by Hungarian achievements and decided to invite Bognár to become chief advisor to Ghana’s First Seven-Year Plan. Bognár recruited his team and spent with his two assistants, Tamás Bácskai and Gábor Székely, two months from January until the end of March 1962 in Accra.

The First Seven-Year Plan (1964–1970) of Ghana was a truly transnational product, embedded in already developed global networks of planners and planning knowledge, but also represented the emerging transnational character of development planning, since previous colonial planning was administered by experts from the imperial core. Although Bognár led the planning work, the Plan was ultimately a negotiated product of various local and foreign planners and ministers. The Plan was formulated by Ghana’s Planning Commission, and preparation included 4 qualified Ghanaians and 16 foreign advisors of varying expertise and command of English, and limited knowledge of the Ghanaian economy.25), 147.] Among the Ghanaians were E. N. Omaboe and J. H. Mensah, while another important advisor was the Bank of Ghana, which organized with the Planning Commission a staff of freshly graduated economists versed in the ideas of mainstream development economics.26 For advice on tax issues, Nkrumah turned to (Lord) Nicholas Kaldor, a renowned Hungarian-born British economist by the original name of Miklós Káldor. The Polish economist Czesław Bobrowski (1904–1996) from the Planning Commission of Poland and an emerging group of Polish development economists was also involved.27 As in the case of Bognár, the Ghana assignment also influenced his specialization in developing countries, and he subsequently published on the “mixed economies” of “Third World” countries (a concept developed by his colleague, Michał Kalecki), working later as a renowned international expert in development planning for the United Nations in Algeria, Iraq, and Syria in the 1970s. 28 Due to criticism from the World Bank and to their suggestion, the Ghanaian government held an academic conference in March 1963 to discuss the plan. This conference became an iconic moment of clash between different ideas on economic development, with 14 high-ranking experts arriving from the US, the UK, the Eastern Bloc, and the Third World, such as Dudley Seers, (Sir) William Arthur Lewis (West Indies), (Lord) Nicholas Kaldor (UK), Albert Otto Hirschman (USA), Kakkadan Nandanath Raj (Delhi School of Economics), Hendricus Cornelis Bos (the Netherlands), Ibrahim Helmi Abdel-Rahman (President of the National Planning Committee and Special Planning Advisor to the United Arab Republic), James Milton Weeks (Director of the National Planning Agency of Liberia), Abdullah Sikta (Director General of the Development Council of Libya), József Bognár (Ghana’s Planning Commission), and Czesław Bobrowski.29

The “Ghana job” resulted in institutionalizing the new expertise of development planning, development and area studies, and enabled Hungary’s entrance into the emerging global market of development advocacy towards the “Third World.” After Ghana, Bognár was invited by many other developing countries, such as India, Indonesia, Burma, and the United Arab Republic to advise on their economic plans. Only after his invitation to Ghana as chief advisor did he realize developing countries as “the most important issue in the world economy.”30 His book published in 1959 enjoyed general international success in “developing countries” and was retrieved by the representatives of the above-mentioned states.31 Due to the “pilot” project of Ghana, Bognár published his new experiences in development planning and focused his scientific and advisory work on developing countries, and applied with this topic for fellowship in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.32

The Hungarian delegation of development economists arrive in Accra in January 1962 to work on Ghana's First Seven-Year Plan. From left to right: Tamás Bácskai (Bognár’s assistant, associate professor), Péter Kós (first ambassador), Kwame Nkrumah (President of the Republic of Ghana), József Bognár (chief advisor), Gábor Székely (Bognár's assistant, economic engineer).
The Hungarian delegation of development economists arrive in Accra in January 1962 to work on Ghana’s First Seven-Year Plan. From left to right: Tamás Bácskai (Bognár’s assistant, associate professor), Péter Kós (first ambassador), Kwame Nkrumah (President of the Republic of Ghana), József Bognár (chief advisor), Gábor Székely (Bognár’s assistant, economic engineer). József Bognár, “Két hónap Ghánában,” Magyar Hírek (May 1, 1962): 1–2.


Bognár’s assignment in Ghana was also decisive in founding the Afro-Asian Research Group in 1963, first based at Karl Marx Economic University at his Department of International Trade and the Department of Economic History,33 which later evolved into the Center for Afro-Asian Research (CAAR) at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS) in 1965. The establishment of CAAR went in line with the institutionalization of similar centers in socialist countries that specialized in global comparative analysis and development economics, including the Institute for the World Economy and International Relations in the Soviet Union in 1956, the Center of Research on Underdeveloped Economies in Poland in 1961, and the Institute for Developing Countries in Zagreb, Yugoslavia in 1971. Perhaps the earliest and most prominent group of development planners in the Eastern Bloc consisted of Polish economists Michał Kalecki (1899–1970), Ignacy Sachs (1927–), Oskar Lange (1904–1965), and Czesław Bobrowski (1904–1996), also joined by Kazimierz Łaski (1921–2015) and economic historian Witold Kula (1916–1988). Compared to CAAR, at the time of the Ghana assignment the Polish already had a trained and more homogeneous staff of economists who drew on their pre-WWII experiences to deal with development planning in “developing countries.”34 Although the Polish are relatively well known, most of these Eastern European experts are rather underrated in mainstream literature despite their contemporary international prominence—as Bognár’s figure definitely demonstrates.

What is conceptually remarkable in Bognár’s founding proposal for CAAR in 1962 is that by generalizing his local planning experiences in Ghana he argued against imposing socialist or capitalist development models on these countries, and suggested a separate category of “poorly developed countries” constituting “a specific type of economic development.”35 He even argued that “the historically evolved problematic of socialist countries is also not far from the issues of poorly developed countries (China, Vietnam, Mongolia)” [original emphasis].36 On November 8, 1965, in his academic inaugural lecture he declared, “the economic growth of developing countries is not an isolated question, but a global problem, the solving of which is an existential issue for the whole of humanity and civilization.”37 Bognár explicitly proposed his institution to become a government think tank in order to provide training and briefing for advisors, experts, and university lecturers traveling to “poorly developed countries.” Moved from the university to a bourgeois mansion, CAAR enjoyed political protection and great intellectual autonomy, which was guaranteed not only by becoming an entity of HAS, but also by Bognár’s high reputation and good personal relations with János Kádár. The Afro-Asian Research Group was treated as a significant entity under HAS, enjoying high funding and prosperous development.38 Bognár also extended his bargaining position with politicians by establishing the Scientific Council for World Economy in 1969 [Tudományos Világgazdasági Tanács], and CAAR was later expanded and transformed into the Institute of World Economics in 1973.39. He authored the four-volume History of Black Africa [Fekete-Afrika története] published in 1964–1973, which was translated in French and English.]

CAAR emerged as a prestigious institution not only at home but also in the international scene by developing a wide scientific network. It regularly published a “yellow-brown” book series consisting of their own research reports in various translations and the Hungarian translations of foreign authors in the field. Interestingly, many of CAAR’s associates were originally not trained economists (even the “economist” Bognár originally had a humanities background), but a heterogeneous and interdisciplinary group of people who mostly self-taught themselves in international relations and development economics. CAAR became an important promoter of export-oriented growth, and advised on Hungary’s integration into the world economy by drawing comparisons above accepted Cold War ideological regionalism. In CAAR, Bognár’s notion of “interdependency”, Béla Kádár’s “small countries,” Tamás Szentes’s understandings of underdevelopment and dependency, and the application of Immanuel Wallerstein’s concept of semiperiphery offered various new interpretations of how to reposition Hungary in the global economy. For example, working in CAAR, András Inotai in the late 1960s searched for parallels between Comecon integration and Latin American integration, indebtedness, and dependency, while Kádár later looked at Spanish and South Korean analogies for Hungarian development.40 Tamás Szentes also co-ordinated with Ferenc Miszlivetz the series Fejlődés-tanulmányok (Development Studies) from the late 1970s, which included translations of Third Worldist scholars such as Samir Amin, Immanuel Wallerstein, and Giovanni Arrighi, Emmanuel Arghiri, or dependency theorists André Gunder Frank, Celso Furtado, and Osvaldo Sunkel, but also postcolonial thinkers Kwame Nkrumah, Sékou Touré, Frantz Fanon, or Amilcar Cabral.41 The Ghana experience contributed greatly to the expansion of development studies, postcolonial critique, global historical, and comparative research, African and Asian studies in socialist Europe in the early 1960s, and was an important element in generating expertise for what some historians identified as “socialist globalization.”42


Ghana as the transnational hub of experts

But the above story of the First Seven-Year Plan is only one notable case in the bigger picture of Nkrumah’s independent Ghana becoming a “development laboratory” and transnational hub of various experts, where the “three worlds” could meet and interact.43 Nkrumah invested considerably into developing research and planning institutions (e.g. libraries, schools, universities) and convention halls, while the former British staff of research and higher education institutions became much more international. Ghana emerged as a site of transnational engagement and knowledge exchange, where experts otherwise separated by Cold War trenches could interact, develop relations, and work together on joint projects, and build themselves into international organizations (such as the UN or the World Bank) with the perspective of a mobile international career. Ghana influenced a generation of planners to turn towards the emerging Afro-Asian “Third World,” and had a huge impact on their biographies, identities, career-paths, networks and communities, thereby contributing to the production of postcolonial(ist) knowledge. The “Black Star” of Africa became a “jumping ground” for Eastern European experts to showcase their expertise internationally (towards the West) and make their careers “go global.”

A few examples of noteworthy intellectuals demonstrate the significance of 1960s Ghana as a convoluted site of capitalist and socialist modernization trajectories, and “third way” development alternatives. At an old age, William E. B. Du Bois went to Ghana in 1961 as a special guest of President Nkrumah to direct the government-sponsored Encyclopedia Africana, and in turn renounced his US citizenship to become a citizen of Ghana, where he finally passed away in 1963. In 1959, the postcolonial writer Frantz Fanon became the first Algerian ambassador in Ghana for the Algerian National Liberation Front, and his critique against postcolonial nationalist essentialism was partly based on his experiences under the Nkrumah regime.44 In 1960, André Gunder Frank came to Ghana to decide whether he would focus on African cases to develop his dependency theory, but he instead chose Latin America for cultural reasons.45 As a former Africanist, the world-systems theorist Immanuel Wallerstein also drew many of his ideas from his early involvement in African studies based in Ghana from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s (first funded by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1956), and even his Ph.D. was about Ghana’s independence.46 Many experts still arrived from the former colonizer, the UK, but West Africa also emerged as an important region for the US “takeover” of postcolonial planning expertise in the spirit of modernization theory already from the 1950s. The Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, the Marshall and Rhodes Scholar programs, and USAID (from 1961) persuaded and recruited both Americans and African researchers to work on local urban and regional planning using Western theories and technology.47 “Quantitative geographers” from the US, such as Brian Berry and Michael McNulty did research on Ghana, while Peter R. Gould (his research in Ghana was also funded by Rockefeller Foundation in 1958–59), Edward Taaffe and Richard L. Morrill constructed their much cited and debated ideal stage model of transportation system development partly based on their Ghanaian experiences.48 Due to the postcolonial emergence of Indian regional planning in the 1950s, planners also arrived from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur (founded in 1951).

To this important but only selective line of intellectuals one can add the various Eastern European experts coming from the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Poland, the GDR, and Hungary. In Hungary, individual contracts with experts were made possible by the establishment of the International Organization of Technical and Scientific Assistance (TESCO) in 1962. Organizing expos and participating in international trade fairs were crucial in establishing foreign economic ties and building local markets for Hungarian goods, while the Hungarian government exported technology and key-turn factories of machinery, electric equipment, and pharmaceutics, all of which required the expertise and mediatory role of diplomats, traders, managers, scientists, engineers, and educators. While the literature on transnational development economists and architects have increasingly developed in the past decade, there seems to be a marked silence on the activities of these other Eastern Bloc experts, adding to this list natural scientists, such as geologists, biologists, geographers, chemists, doctors etc. working in “Third World” contexts.49 For example, Soviet geologists in Ghana were already prospecting minerals, such as coal, oil, and bauxite in the late 1950s. But while Soviets (and Chinese) had to flee immediately after the US-backed 1966 coup against Nkrumah, socialist Eastern Europeans (except the GDR) were trusted enough to be allowed to stay intact and continue their activities—a good indication of semiperipheral postcoloniality.


Hungarian experts in the Volta River Resettlement Plan

A factor that unequivocally determined the viability of the First Seven-Year Plan was Nkrumah’s Volta River Project (VRP), an immense transnational enterprise, on which a range of experts worked from surveying and planning to materialization, coming from the UK, the US, the Soviet Union, and the Eastern Bloc. The VRP was an iconic example of the huge hydroelectric dams envisioned and deployed by postcolonial governments with the belief of unleashing modernity, which was well represented by the sheer materiality of the dam and the progressive technoscientific planning to provide a perspective future for the nation.50 It was embedded in the general optimism of an era of global economic boom and Cold War investment drives, especially postwar US capital expansion. The Volta Lake became the largest man-made lake at the time, ranging 3.275 square miles, and needing the displacement of around 80.000 people, mostly subsistence farmers producing cocoa, from 739 villages (ca. 1% of total population), into newly built towns of “nuclear” or “core” houses.51

The VRP contributed to the emerging global recognition of Hungarian expertise in water management, hydro-engineering, freshwater prospecting, and exporting hydrotechnology, which stemmed from Hungary’s long historical tradition of managing its vast marshes and swamps. Already by the early 1960s, the most important destinations of exporting Hungarian hydrotechnology and water management expertise were North African regions such as Algeria, Libya, and Egypt, but also Iraq, Guinea, Mali, China, Mongolia, and Brazil.52 The hydroelectric prospectors Tibor Szécsei and Gyula Szalay worked for several months in Ghana, and wrote a plan document for the planned hydroelectric dams on the Densu and Pra rivers in 1960, and Soviets prospected the Black Volta for another one to be located in Bui and planned to be carried out with the technical assistance and investment worth 75 million dollars coming from the USSR.53 Mihály Erdélyi wrote in Hydrological Review (Hidrológiai Közlöny) about the hydrogeology of Ghana, drawing on the experiences of the Hungarian water affairs delegation, which visited for 6 weeks during April and May 1964.54 The Hungarian hydro-engineer and planner Gyula Jolánkai (1906–1976) – whom Polónyi referred to as “my uncle Gyula” (“Gyula bátyám”)55 – coordinated a UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) team in the VRP in 1963–66, and worked on solving the problems of drought-ridden African countries in the UN aid program. Formerly working in various Hungarian state offices in water management, Jolánkai’s vast interwar and socialist era experience in water engineering, irrigation systems, canal building, and port-building brought him to Ghana, and led him further to work in South Yemen (1966) and Somalia (1967–70). Béla Entz (1919–2012) became the Principal Research Officer at the Institute of Aquatic Biology in Accra during 1966 and 1969, and later specialized in tropical artificial lakes, working between 1970 and 1974 on Lake Nasser as FAO Project Manager in Assuan. 56 Due to Ghana’s rising importance, it was no coincidence that the settlement geographer Ernő Wallner also published an article in Geographical Review (Földrajzi Közlemények) on the geography of Ghana in 1964, mentioning development plans, including the participation of Bognár.57

The carrying out of the First Seven-Year Plan and the VRP required serious on-the-spot prospecting, engineering, and spatial planning, much of which was carried out by Eastern Europeans based at the University of Ghana in Legon (near Accra) and the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi. One of the planners was the Hungarian architect László Huszár (1932–2002). Huszár fled to London due to his participation in the 1956 revolution, and after an unsuccessful attempt to build a political base of diaspora intellectuals, he left to Ghana with British architect David Grove to work between 1961 and 1965 on planning new settlements for the relocated population. They published on planning the service centers of Ghanaian settlements and developing planning regions in their book The Towns of Ghana (1964), which was widely cited and debated, and formed an important element in the postcolonial history of urban and regional planning, a topic yet missing from mainstream human geography.58 This assignment had a huge impact on the life and career of Huszár, who afterwards specialized in “Third World” urban and regional planning (he considered himself a “regional planner”), and worked in Malaysia, Thailand, Cameroon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Brunei. Although Huszár came not from socialist Hungary but capitalist United Kingdom, through transnational networks he could re-embed himself into Hungarian expert communities, from which David Grove also profited in his later career.

Existing and proposed central places (settlements) in the Volta River Resettlement Plan designed by László Huszár and David Grove. Huszár and Grove, 72.


Proposed planning regions according to existing administrative regions and optimal service centers in the Volta River Resettlement Plan designed by László Huszár and David Grove. Huszár and Grove, 72.


Working with Huszár in the Ghana National Construction Company (GNCC) was another Hungarian architect, the renowned CIAM and Team 10 member Charles (Károly) Polónyi (1928–2002). Originating from the colonial Public Works Department, the GNCC substituted most British architects in the early 1960s with ones from West Germany, Poland, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and South America. Contracted through TESCO, Polónyi worked from 1963 to 1969 as chief planner, and was appointed as professor to train local planners in the architectural school at Kumasi University of Science and Technology together with Huszár.59 With his students, Polónyi designed various projects, such as model farms using cheap “temporary technologies” and new irrigation methods (Tongo Development Project, 1966–67), spatial planning connected to oil prospects in the Volta Delta and basin, and water transportation lines on Lake Volta towards Tema port with the Hungarian FAO expert Gyula Jolánkai. Nkrumah’s huge investments in housing and infrastructure created a haven for architects, engineers and planners, who were in constant competition for contracts. Łukasz Stanek explored the histories of Eastern European, mostly Polish and partly Hungarian architects in the “Third World,” particularly Ghana, during this period.60 Stanek covered the wide range of buildings and infrastructural developments designed by Eastern Europeans, from housing and administrative buildings to trade fairs and convention halls, and how these planners exported their own Eastern European ideas which they developed into new styles of “tropical architecture” or “tropical modernism.”61

As Polónyi wrote in his retrospective autobiography (published both in English [1992] and in Hungarian [2000]), post-WWII reconstruction plans of the war-torn capital of Budapest and the planning of new settlements after a devastating flood near the Southern Hungarian town of Mohács in 1956 provided valuable experience for the Volta River Resettlement Plan. The interwar era challenges of mass poverty and rurality, and the modernization and industrialization of agrarian economies in Eastern Europe formed the basis of shared epistemologies connecting Hungarian and Ghanaian contexts.62 In his work, Polónyi also drew parallels between Hungary and Africa in terms of their shared coloniality and underdevelopment:

Otherwise we were not so far from what I had later experienced in developing countries. Since in Hungary the majority of the population had worked in agriculture, 78 per cent lived in adobes, and half of the still meager share of urban population could only drink contaminated water.63

He recalled being ridiculed by his Hungarian boss at VÁTI for making comparisons with what he experienced in Ghana, but, as he continued:

Soon I realized that my mistake of comparing a Hungarian village to a settlement in the Golden Coast was not at all that far-fetched. … Due to the similarities in circumstances and problems, during my walks in Ghanaian villages echoed in me the words of experienced architects and water engineers, who told me in VÁTI’s village group various stories about their Hungarian experiences from the interwar era.64

The Budapest-based urban and regional planning firm VÁTI reached more than 700 employees during the 1970s, and completed a number of assignments in postcolonial countries.65 In the context of Hungary’s success in exporting pharmaceutical technology and buses in West Africa, the Hungarian architectural planning company KÖZTI (Középület-tervező Vállalat) won the contract to plan the new capital “Calabar” for the new oil-rich Republic of Biafra in the eastern part of war-torn Nigeria.66 Due to Polónyi’s experience in Ghana, he was asked to coordinate the project. As Polónyi recalled:

In Calabar, the authorities introduced us at a press conference. The first question put to me was the following: “You are Hungarians. You never had colonies. You don’t have any tropical experience. Do you consider yourselves competent to prepare a master plan for a city in West Africa?” It was easy to answer that question: “It is true, Hungary was never a colonial power, but I cannot admit that we do not have tropical experiences. I have spent the last five and half years in Ghana. I am one of those who organized the first post-graduate urban planning course in West Africa. At this moment there are only eight urban planners who received their M.Sc. in West Africa, all are my former students. Another member of the team recently helped to organize and evaluate the census in Ghana…”67

He worked with Hungarian and West African planners on various planning assignments in Nigeria up until 1976, leading further projects in Algiers and Ethiopia.

Remarkably, Polónyi argued for his Hungarian competence in planning postcolonial projects by pointing out the comparable history of (East) Central Europe and Africa, since both shared the “colonial experience” of once being colonized— “such common features,” he argued, “can increase our ability to at least partially understand the feelings and thoughts of Africans.”68 In a lecture given in Darmstadt, Germany in 1978, he claimed that the planning practices in the Hapsburg “recolonization” of Hungary after Ottoman occupation could provide a model for developing countries.69 This expressed his “nostalgia” for imperial modernity’s efficient planning, whilst criticizing Soviet colonialism, just as in the Hungarian anti-Soviet dissident discourse that resurrected the cultural idea of “Central Europe” in the late 1970s. As the architectural historian Moravánszky shows, Polónyi made comparisons between the comb-like settlement structure developed by 18th century Austrian military engineers in Hungary, in his Ghanaian students’ projects in 1968, and his project for Újszeged, Hungary in 1978.

Polónyi in fact developed unique but ambivalently positive notions of “elitism” and “colonialism.” First, he upheld the necessity of top-down planning schemes, as his work in the planning region of Lake Balaton in Hungary in 1958, against the vicissitudes of “populism” he experienced in Calabar, but supported “gradual transformation,” “popular initiatives,” planning with locals, and embedding cultural traditions in favor of creating an autonomous African modernism. Second, he argued that the successive colonial rule of the Roman Empire, “Pax Turcensis” and “Pax Austriatica” in the Carpathian Basin and the Balkans brought stability, since “they built up not only effective public administration, but also constructed roads, railways, towns, harbors, schools, and hospitals.” By drawing colonial parallels between Central European and African history, Polónyi suggested that less-developed countries can only modernize by pragmatically exploiting the gains of being connected to the center under foreign political rule: “colonialism—except when a socially and economically less developed power extended its control over a territory—can be interpreted as a challenge to close up to the centers,” or as in Moravánszky’s interpretation, the road to progress is “balancing between ‘closing up’ to the center and ‘remaining loyal’ to the periphery.”70 In this peculiar semiperipheral positioning strategy, Polónyi’s “exception” referred to Soviet colonialism in Europe, while Hungarians could help Africans’ adaptation to modern industrial civilization due to their ability to make rational use of their own imperialist heritage.

Vic Adegbite (chief architect), Charles Polónyi (design architect), Flagstaff House housing project, Accra, 1964 (photo by Ł. Stanek, 2012), first published in: Łukasz Stanek, Architects from Socialist Countries in Ghana (1957-1967): Modern Architecture and Mondialisation, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 74, no. 4 (December 2015), 416–42.


Cultivating Ghana: semiperipheral postcoloniality in cultural relations

While most trade and economic agreements were kept secret from the public, culture was an important vehicle in interpreting, mediating and commodifying postcolonial encounters, and performing cultural identity and redefining positions publicly. As diplomatic, trade, and economic deals quickly grew, culture and education also emerged as key Hungarian export products, including training in sports, journalism, television. During the period of 1963–1964, a number of news snippets were published about Hungarian education programs, book donations to the Nkrumah Institute in Winneba, educational and cultural traveling exhibitions reaching out to the Ghanaian countryside, Hungarian-Ghanaian friendship eves in Hungarian cities (e.g. Sátoraljaújhely), or the Africana band performing in Győr.71 Even a representative celebration was held on the occasion of Nkrumah’s 55th birthday.72  Cultural relations between the two countries peaked when ambassador Péter Kós signed a cultural work plan between Hungary and Ghana for 1964–65.73 Many students came from Ghana to study—mostly medicine or engineering—with state-subsidized scholarships in Hungarian universities, which sometimes evolved into family relations (some Ghanaians stayed and still live in Hungary). Education served political legitimation and the building of an Nkrumah-loyal national bourgeoisie, but also lured the interest of Hungarian secret services, which attempted to persuade students to become political activists or agents. However, official state-socialist anti-racism often sided with modalities of exoticization and it was also not uncommon that Ghanaians were met by racist distrust or even contempt from Hungarian citizens, all of which underline socialist orientalism, Eurocentrism and cultural racism, especially in light of the politically burdened ethnic history and nationalism of East Central Europe.74

This ambivalent semiperipheral relationship of socialist solidarity and civilizational superiority is well expressed in the practices of Hungarian cultural exchange and education. While cultural intercourse was framed by curiosity, dialogue and reciprocity, the exportation of Hungarian culture not only represented national pride, but also the missionary spreading of European “high civilization”. In 1963, a Hungarian group of music teachers consisting of meastro Frigyes Róna, Erzsébet Pártos (known as Pártos Erzsi), and Judit Dományi established a music department headed by Róna, which taught European classical music and organized philharmonic concerts and theatre plays in Legon University near Accra until 1966.75 They held a music festival in Sunyani, where Hungarian musical pedagogues performed their “Bartók and Kodály” show to introduce modernized and canonized Hungarian folk music.76 An interview with Róna in the newspaper Magyar Nemzet revealed the peculiar postcolonial imaginaries of the Hungarian press:

He has been living out there for a year with his wife. But you can see on him how much he has changed. One who returns from the tropics, thinks in very different prospects. His Pest-styled cynicism broke down, speechlessness disappeared, and he became brown, young, and motivated. His blue eyes stare far.77

The optimist preservationism of Róna was expressed by his call to “record the jungle!” [magnetofonnal a dzsungelbe!] and his cautious warning, “we must understand: the dark-skinned man is not uncultured.” Pártos sensitively shed tears when recalling their “philharmonic concert in the jungle,” drawing the exotic picture of Bartók’s modern music enjoyed by curious black youth.78 The humanist appreciation of the merits and authenticity of African culture went hand in hand with upholding the need to persuade and civilize the young African nation.

Hungarian music in Africa: A Ghanaian man reads Zoltán Kodály “Magyar zene Afrikában,” Esti Hírlap (10 March 1964). HU OSA 300-40-1: 848.


Accra was not only the capital of Ghana, but as a center of the Non-Aligned world and Pan-Africanism evolved into a capital of diplomats and news agencies. In this respect, the postcolonial narratives of Hungarian media, including journalists, television, radio, travel reports and documentaries, and the ways the process of decolonization and the new-born postcolonial world was framed specifically for Hungarian consumers are yet uncharted terrain for critical scholarly inquiry. The first Hungarian media agency in Africa was founded by the leading newspaper Népszabadság in 1961 in Accra, where the “star” correspondent György Kalmár arrived in March to work for the newspaper and the Hungarian Radio. Kalmár flanked the ambassador with information as an agent of the secret services, and later also worked part-time for the Center for Afro-Asian Research. He was perhaps the most important Hungarian publicist on African issues at the time, and his documentary book Arany Ghana (Golden Ghana) published in 1964 was disseminated in two editions and numerous copies.79 The global historical sociologist József Böröcz highlights some remarkable silences in Kalmár’s account (e.g. the activities of Hungarians and Eastern Europeans are absent), but he also argues that this book resembles to an older, interwar genre of sociography by describing social issues, workers’ relations, and the local economy, with parts on gold mining and timber production fitting well into dependency theory. In my view, Kalmár’s documentary also continues the tradition of pre-WWII travel writing previously monopolized by the science of geography, but also expresses early postcolonial criticism. While upholding the true path of socialist modernization and proletarianization, Kalmár acknowledged and endorsed the non-capitalist and non-socialist, independent development trajectory of Ghana, emphasizing in one of his articles: “the reality is this: Ghana follows its own road.”80

Continuities in Eurocentric and colonial-imperialist attitudes were typically expressed in views of socialist modernizationism. Most press materials presented the newly built, modern architecture, and the media heavily relied on the contrasting image of tradition versus modernization in framing the Ghanaian experiment. For example, the economist Tamás Bácskai, a member of Bognár’s delegation in Accra, reported in the popular scientific magazine Life and Science [Élet és Tudomány] on his Ghanaian experiences in 1962. While signaling important economic achievements (e.g. the Volta dam), his strong modernizationist narrative highlighted inner cultural aspects such as traditionalism and tribalism as the greatest barriers to socio-economic development, individualism, and the nuclear family.

Only after overviewing the prejudices, superstitions, and narrow tribal nationalisms rooted in people’s minds and hearts can we really understand the huge political difficulties the central government has to fight. 81

He argued that due to these many diverging forces of traditionalism, only a uniform, modern central state could allow socio-economic progress. In other words, the unorganized “natives” needed control, only now coming not from colonial administration, but from the socialist state.

György Kalmár: Arany Ghana (Budapest: Kossuth Könyvkiadó, 1964)


“A walk in Accra” article by György Kalmár. Kalmár György (1962): Kalmár György bemutatja Ghanát. Accrai séta. Ország-Világ, szeptember 6. HU OSA 300-40-1: 848.


In order to domesticate the Ghanaian experience for Hungarian consumers, stereotypical images of tropical Africa were often mobilized. In the masculine gaze of Kalmár’s special article in the weekly of the Association for Hungarian-Soviet Friendship, Nation and World [Ország-Világ], a picture of a local black woman was presented as the “Accraian beauty” [Accrai szépség].82 Although Eastern Europeans were more likely to bring their families compared to Americans or Soviets, experts were predominantly men, while Ghana’s matriarchal traditions were often contrasted to European patriarchy. Kalmár only passingly described the political economies behind these cultural norms, but as a woman, Pártos reflected in her interview more acutely on these differences in power relations between men and women. However, cultural interpretations dominated these understandings of postcolonial difference, while political dialogue in female solidarity was downplayed, and the activity of women’s associations was marginal. While the growing literature on Eastern Europe and Cold War decolonization and the postcolonial world focuses on the (perhaps masculine) geopolitical and economic aspects of foreign policy, the feminist postcolonial aspects of these Hungarian encounters remain undiscovered.83


Reinterpreting decolonization from semiperipheral perspectives

Eastern Bloc countries attained a key position in decolonization during the Cold War, and were important producers of postcolonial knowledge. Connecting to recent literature, I argue that this encounter should be understood in a global historical perspective as a significant episode in the long-term history of Hungarian semiperipheral (post)coloniality.84 Hungary’s historically stable in-between or semiperipheral position between the center and periphery in the global hierarchical divisions of labor entailed an ambivalent relation towards Afro-Asian decolonization. Having a historical record of being both colonized and part of the imperialist core, while being locked in the Cold War double dependency of “East” and “West,” Hungary’s anti-imperialist political solidarity and shared historical positions with the postcolonial periphery were mixed with civilizational paternalism and pragmatic maneuvering in foreign policy. Despite the vivid relationship with Ghana in the 1960s, socialist Hungary never developed deep relations with the Non-Aligned Movement.85 While Hungary was eager to open towards Afro-Asian countries to break international isolation and gather allies in the UN, being economically closely tied to Comecon and the West limited its actual trade possibilities and sharpened the importance of technical assistance and education, thereby increasing the role of experts in the postcolonial world.

Semiperipheral postcoloniality underlines that despite the coincidental emergence of individual cases described in this study (even Bognár explained his assignment by mere “luck”), and the unique merits of career trajectories and professional successes, structural relations not only conditioned the positional identifications of experts, but also set out their possibilities of emergence in a wave of East-West rapprochement and internationalization, global economic boom, and geopolitical détente in a period of post-WWII hegemonic shift and capital expansion towards the global periphery. Although embedded in the wider thrust of “socialist globalization” and the geopolitical interests of Moscow, Eastern European experts were nevertheless far from being simply the “foot soldiers” or “messiahs” of socialist modernization and propaganda, as chanted by Western Cold War propaganda. While the political loyalty of experts was considered as a prerequisite for export contracts, the pragmatism of foreign policy often overruled this in favor of their language skills and professional experience. In addition, socialist internationalism was pragmatically exploited by individual national interests. After the brief but painful post-WWII geopolitical restructuration and consequent Sovietization, Eastern Bloc nations eagerly tried to benefit from both socialist internationalism and their own histories of coloniality and underdevelopment to gain foothold in the “Third World” and counter or compete with Western dominance.

Apart from the structural setting of hierarchical world-systemic positions, the dynamic circulation of experts and ideas developed into postcolonial interconnectivity. Foreign experts not only exported their local expertise accumulated already before WWII, but also applied their experiences in peripheral regions when returning back home. For example, the renowned ECLA (Economic Commission for Latin America) development economist Dudley Seers studied the underdeveloped areas of Europe in the 1970s by repatriating his development studies from the “Third World,” including Ghana.86 In similar fashion, József Bognár institutionalized his experiences in “poorly developed countries” in Hungary to advise on the country’s integration into the world economy, and to develop semi-capitalistic reforms under the New Economic Mechanism (developed during the 1960s and initiated in January 1968), such as supporting state company lobbies for selective industrialization in strategies of export-oriented growth. Interaction with the global periphery in the field of development economics influenced various new concepts, policies and development strategies, which later contributed to the liberal turn in the 1980s.87 This interactive interconnectivity and exchange was also evident in the case of the Polish group of development economists.88 Experts drew not only from their local or national experiences, but also from a transnational pool of ideas, and contributed to international discourse or affected developments in the center via engaging the periphery, thereby mediating between the global center and the periphery. The structural periphery of Ghana became the center of professionalism, rivaling visions of modernization, and—in Thomas Gieryn’s words—the “truth spot” of scientific contestation.89

So in light of the Ghana story, what was the role of the decolonizing periphery for experts coming from semiperipheral Hungary? While some, like Bognár or Kalmár, used the Ghana opportunity to politically embed their trajectories and legitimize their domestic political regimes, others instead used it to escape the clutches of communist dictatorship. The transnationalism sparked by the Ghana job enabled the CAAR associate Béla Kádár to temporarily “escape” to Latin America to evade harsh criticism of his book Small Countries in the World Economy (1971).90 Similarly, the politically contested career and radical leftist, Third Worldist political economic ideas of Kádár’s colleague, Tamás Szentes found soil when he founded the Development Studies Department at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania in 1967, which became another important center for “third way” intellectuals.91 For Charles Polónyi, as Moravánszky explains, the Ghanaian “periphery of capitalism and socialism” was not a subaltern space, but a place of refuge, opportunity, and experimentation, where, far from the global center and from Soviet colonialism, hegemonic ideas could be questioned, disrupted, sidelined or reworked in critical insight into something anew.92 Through Ghana, Hungarian experts could internationalize their careers, develop professional relations with the West, and maintain great professional freedom in the “periphery.”93 In the hierarchical tripartite relationship of Ghana (periphery), Eastern Europe (semiperiphery), and the West (center), semiperipheral experts constructed common ground with the periphery in order to connect and compete professionally with the West, while Ghanaians strove to modernize and catch up with the West with the help of Eastern Bloc experts. The latter were considered as “white” non-colonizers, with their long-term contracts enabling the development of personal relations and greater trust from Ghanaians along “socialist solidarity” as compared to the Soviets, in an unprecedented relationship of “whites” having “black bosses.”94

Finally, the concept of semiperipheral postcoloniality permits us a number of critical conclusions for postcolonial theory and postcolonialism. First of all, my case study in “socialist postcolonialism” aims to put Eastern Europe back on the postcolonial map by acknowledging the region’s rich colonial experiences. I argue that colonial discourse is an important element of semiperipherality, and was not merely a unique and transient product of socialist internationalism, but has been constantly reformulated and exploited by intellectuals, civil movements, political governments, and state-led propaganda. The case of Eastern European semiperipheral (post)coloniality in Afro-Asian decolonization might lead us to rediscover and reinterpret our historical knowledge of coloniality, and thereby contribute to recent debates about why and how (post)socialist Eastern Europe was routinely left out of and how it could be reintegrated into postcolonial theory.95

Second, Afro-Asian decolonization and Cold War geopolitical pressures created opportunities in postcolonial development planning and provoked Hungarian intellectuals and experts to embark on the epistemological project of thinking in comparable terms with the postcolonial periphery. This episode forms an important political moment and knowledge niche for us to rethink shared colonial histories, peripheral relations, structural dependencies, political solidarity, and strategies of joint resistance in the capitalist world-system between Eastern Europe and other postcolonial regions, against often Eurocentric cultural differences and civilizational distinctions.

Third, semiperipheral postcoloniality also puts into question the dominantly social constructionist arguments of postcolonial theory. Poststructuralist notions such as “othering”, Orientalism, subalternity, or hybridity, however complex and theoretically refined, or relationally well re-applied in the Eastern European context (see for example, Milica Bakić-Hayden’s “nested Orientalism,” or Maria Todorova’s “Balkanism”), were developed inside a dichotomous center-periphery or Orientalist-Occidentalist framework, which ironically reproduces a West-centric epistemology and misses or simplifies the complex, layered, and ambivalent colonial experiences of Eastern Europe and Hungary.96 Meanwhile, recent historical accounts about Eastern Bloc and “Third World” relations mostly focus on the diplomatic, geopolitical, trade, and economic aspects of foreign policy, and these are seldom conceptualized holistically with cultural, ethnographic, identity, and development discourse. Semiperipheral (post)coloniality offers a more refined approach against existing postcolonial approaches in at least two ways. First, by conceptualizing “middling” or “in-between” semiperipheral positions, which produce an ambivalent mixture of subalternity and superiority. Second, by situating the seemingly fluid and relational discursive constructions of coloniality in a global historical and structuralist explanatory framework, which links discursive formations to specific modes of political economic integration into the world-system.



I would like to acknowledge support from the Visegrad Fund research scholarship, which allowed me to conduct 2 months of archival research at the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (OSA). The present study evolved from a 48-page research report submitted to the OSA, entitled Opening the Semi-Periphery: Hungary and Decolonisation ( My gratitude also goes to professor James Mark for involving me in the five-year Leverhulme Trust-funded research project, 1989 after 1989: Rethinking the Fall of State Socialism in Global Perspective ( This research received support from the “NKFIH K No. 115870” project entitled “Contemporary theories of space and spatiality in the Central Eastern European context” (“Kortárs térelméletek közép-kelet-európai kontextusban”) funded by the National Research, Development and Innovation Office (NRDIO) in Hungary.


About the author

Zoltán Ginelli is a critical geographer and historian of science from Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. He is an assistant researcher at the Institute for Regional Studies of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and an assistant for the Leverhulme Trust-funded research project 1989 After 1989: Rethinking the Fall of State Socialism in Global Perspective based at Exeter University (2014–2018). His research focuses on the historical geographies of scientific knowledge, transnational and global history, world-systems analysis, and postcolonial and decolonial theory. His dissertation studies the transnational history of the “quantitative revolution” in Cold War geography and spatial planning. His main work is on the history of Hungarian geography, and his current research focuses on socialist globalization and the changing relations between Eastern Europe and the “Third World,” specifically Hungary and Africa.



  1. This is well exemplified by postcolonial trajectories of Eurafrica, the Mediterranean Union, or Caribbean Europe. See József Böröcz, The European Union and Global Social Change: A Critical Geopolitical-Economic Analysis (London: Routledge, 2009); Attila Melegh, “Globális ötvenes évek,” Eszmélet 105, no. 45. (2015): 182–191; Manuela Boatcă, “Caribbean Europe: Out of Sight, Out of Mind?” in Constructing the Pluriverse: The Geopolitics of Knowledge, ed. H-J. Burchardt and B. Reiter. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2018).
  2. Éber, Márk, Ágnes Gagyi, Tamás Gerőcs, Csaba Jelinek, and András Pinkasz. “1989: Szempontok a rendszerváltás globális politikai gazdaságtanához,” Fordulat 21, no. 1. (2014): 10–63.
  3. See similar theoretical attempts at bridging post- and decolonial theory and world-systems analysis in the case of social movements and political discourse in Hungary: Ágnes Gagyi, “’Coloniality of Power’ in East Central Europe: External Penetration as Internal Force in Post-Socialist Hungarian Politics,” Journal of World-Systems Research, 22, no. 2 (2016): 349–372; Ágnes Gagyi, “What It Takes to Compare Non-Core Movements: A World-Systems Perspective. Two Cases from Contemporary East Central European Movements,” Interface: A Journal for And About Social Movements, 9, no. 2 (2017): 61–82.
  4. Tamás Gerőcs and András Pinkasz, “Conflicting Interests in the Comecon Integration: State Socialist Debates on the East-West-South Relations,” East Central Europe (forthcoming).

  5. József Böröcz, “Dual Dependency and Property Vacuum: Social Change On The State Socialist Semiperiphery,” Theory and Society 21 (1992): 77–104.
  6. For recent case studies, see: Philip E. Muehlenbeck and Natalia Telepneva, ed., Warsaw Pact Intervention in the Third World: Aid and Influence in the Cold War (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2018).
  7. Szabad Nép 14, no. 85 (March 25, 1956).
  8. On the issues of the 1956 revolution, see in this issue: Eszter Szakács, “Propaganda, Mon Amour: An Arab ‘World’ through Hungarian Publications (1957–1989),” Mezosfera Issue No 5, Refractions of Socialist Solidarity, ed. Eszter Szakács (Budapest:, 2018), The Hungarian government lobbied to persuade non-Western or non-core countries to lever the suspension of UN membership enforced by the US in the UN General Assembly due to the 1956 revolution (referred to as “the Hungarian question”). In 1962, an agreement was reached by a secret deal with the US, which lifted the issue in 1963 in exchange for granting amnesty for political prisoners. György Péteri, “Transsystemic Fantasies: Counterrevolutionary Hungary at Brussels Expo ’58,” Journal of Contemporary History 47, no. 1 (2012): 137–160; Csaba Békés and Dániel Vékony, “Unfulfilled Promised Lands: Missed Potentials in Relations Between Hungary and the Countries of the Middle East, 1955–75,” In Warsaw Pact Intervention in the Third World: Aid and Influence in the Cold War, eds. Philip E. Muehlenbeck and Natalia Telepneva. (London and New York, I. B. Tauris, 2018). 271–297.
  9. “Magyar kereskedelmi küldöttség látogatása Ghanában,” Népszabadság (20 August 1959), HU OSA 300-40-1: 713; “Magyar kereskedelmi küldöttség utazott Ghanába,” Népszava (6 August 1959), HU OSA 300-40-1: 713.
  10. Tamás Zala, “Táguló világ,” Magyar Nemzet (3 August 1961), HU OSA 300-40-1: 713.
  11. Emil Gárdos, “Magyar gyárak Ghanában,” Külkereskedelmi Szemle (July-August 1961): 33–35, HU OSA 300-40-1: 713.
  12. “Hungary seeks to penetrate non-communist markets to compensate Eastern Bloc trading losses,” Item No. 3348/56. (29 March 1956), HU OSA 300-40-4: 15/3. 751.1 Foreign Trade: Egypt, 1954–1956.
  13. “Bővülnek a magyar-ghanai gazdasági kapcsolatok,” Népszabadság (25 October 1961); “Magyar-ghanai közös nyilatkozatot írtak alá,” Magyar Nemzet (30 July 1961), HU OSA 300-40-1: 848.
  14. György Kalmár, “Gyors iparosítás és törzsfőnökök…,” Esti Hírlap (27 July 1961), HU OSA 300-40-1: 848.
  15. Soviet and Eastern Bloc media criticized the Eurafrican policy of the (later) European Economic Community emerging already in 1957 as a form of neocolonialism. See Melegh; Tamás Zala, “A függetlenség távlatai Ghanában,” Magyar Nemzet, (27 July 1961), HU OSA 300-40-1: 848.; “The Communist Drive into Africa” (7 March 1958), 14, HU OSA 300-8-3-18103.
  16. Zala.
  17. Kwame Nkrumah, Neokolonializmus: Az imperializmus utolsó szakasza (Budapest: Kossuth Könyvkiadó, 1967); András Simor, ed., Néger kiáltás (Budapest: Kozmosz Könyvek, 1972).
  18. “Üdvözöljük kedves vendégünket, Nkrumah elnököt!,” Népszabadság (28 July 1961), HU OSA 300-40-1: 848.
  19. Frigyes Köszegi, “Távol a szemtől, közel a szívhez,” Népszabadság (1 August 1961), HU OSA 300-40-1: 848.
  20. “Magyar-ghanai közös nyilatkozatot írtak alá,” Magyar Nemzet (30 July 1961), HU OSA 300-40-1: 848.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Kwame Nkrumah, “Proposal for a union government of Africa. Speech delivered at the summit conference of the Organization of African Unity (Cairo, 19th July 1964),” In Idem, ed., Revolutionary Path (London: Panaf, 1973), 277–297., 282. See also: Idem, I Speak of Freedom: A Statement of African Ideology (London and New York, 1961), 200.; Ghana Today, 20 June 1962.
  23. For example, the speech of Ceylonese Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala at the Bandung Conference stirred much upheaval amongst socialist-leaning members of the movement. “There is another form of colonialism, however about which many of us represented here are perhaps less clear in our minds and to which some of us would perhaps not agree to apply the term colonialism at all. Think, for example, of those satellite States under Communist domination in Central and Eastern Europe, of Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland. Are not these colonies as much as any of the colonial territories in Africa or Asia? And if we are united in our opposition to colonialism, should it not be our duty openly to declare our opposition to Soviet colonialism as much as to Western imperialism?” UNP Ceylon Prime Minister, Sir John Kotelawala at Bandung, 1955.
  24. József Bognár, Planned Economy in Hungary: Achievements and Problems (Budapest: Pannonia Press, 1959). Originally in Hungarian: József Bognár, Szocialista tervgazdálkodásunk eredményei és problémái (Budapest: Pannonia, 1959).
  25. Tony Killick, Development Economics in Action: A Study of Economic Policies in Ghana, second edition (London and New York: Routledge, 2010[1978
  26. Killick, 58.
  27. See Jeff Grischow and Holger Weiss, “Pan-Africanism, Socialism and the Future: Development Planning in Ghana, 1951–1966,” in The Struggle for the Long-Term in Transnational Science and Politics: Forging the Future, ed. Jenny Andersson and Eglé Rindzevičiūtė (New York and London: Routledge, 2015): 218–240. Bobrowski is only mentioned passingly by Grischow and Weiss, and surprisingly not at all by Killick. Bobrowski worked out the postwar reconstruction and development program of Poland during his exile in London. On November 1945, he was appointed president of the Central Planning Office until February 1948, and developed the three-year Economic Recovery Plan. Under Stalinization he was removed from his office and fled to France, where he became research fellow at the Institute of Political Science and the National Center for Research in (Center Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique) during 1952–1956. Bobrowski returned to Poland after October 1956, and continued as a researcher after gaining full professorship at the University of Warsaw in 1958, and deputy chair of the Economic Council of the Council of Ministers during 1957–1963. Together with Zygmunt Bauman, Jan Strzelecki, and Jerzy Viaterm he took part in the discussion devoted to the future of Polish society in 1961. He emigrated from Poland after the political unrest in March 1968.

  28. Czesław Bobrowski and Stefania Tajerowa, O gospodarce mieszanej w krajach “Trzeciego Świata,” (Warsaw: PWN, 1967).
  29. Tony Killick was also one of the participants. See Grischow and Weiss, 123, Killick, 58, Robert L. Tignor, W. Arthur Lewis and the Birth of Development Economics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), 187; Robert L. Tignor, W. Arthur Lewis and the Birth of Development Economics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006); Rowena M. Lawson, “Conference on Ghana’s Seven.Year Development Plan,” The Journal of Modern African Studies, 1, no. 3 (1963): 392–393.
  30. József Pozsgai, “Tervezők tanácsadója: Bognár professzor a fejlődő országok problémáiról,” Magyarország 36, no. 9. (1965), HU OSA 300-40-5: 21/19. See Bognár.
  31. From personal correspondence with Mihály Simai.
  32. “A fejlődő országok helyzete és szerepe a következő évtizedek világgazdaságában: Bognár József akadémiai székfoglaló előadása,” Magyar Nemzet (9 November 1965), HU OSA 300-40-5: 21/19; József Bognár, “A fejlődő országok helyzete és szerepe a következő évtizedek világgazdaságában,” A MTA Gazdaság- és Jogtudományi Osztályának Közleményei, 1, no. 1–2. (1966–1967): 37–56. Idem, “A gazdaságilag gyengén fejlett országok növekedési problémái a ghanai tervezés tükrében,” Közgazdasági Szemle, 9, no. 7. (1962): 820–840. See also: Béla Kádár, “A gyengén fejlett országok nemzetközi gazdasági kapcsolatainak néhány problémája a tőkés világgazdaságban,” Közgazdasági Szemle, 9, no. 1. (1962): 94–103.
  33. “Letter from János Molnár to József Bognár,” 31223/1962.VI (Budapest: HAS Archives, 8 November 1962).
  34. Kalecki worked as an advisor in India (1959–60) and Cuba (1960), and later in Brazil (1963). Already in 1958, Lange, Bobrowski, and Kalecki started a very popular advanced seminar on underdeveloped economies. As Sachs recalls: “The seminar became a focal point for all researchers and practitioners dealing with the less developed economies. It was addressed by a large number of distinguished foreign speakers many of whom came from the Third World. It discussed many reports from the field, analyzed actual plans and played with enthusiasm Kalecki’s famous planning games. Thus a group produces a draft plan for ’Cocolandia’ building on the experience gained by Polish planners in Ghana.” Ignacy Sachs, “Kalecki and Development Planning,” Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, 39, no. 1. (1977): 47–56, 48; Jan Toporowski, Michal Kalecki: An Intellectual Biography, Volume II:

  35. József Bognár, “Beadvány a Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Elnökségéhez Afro-Ázsia-i kutató csoport létesítése tárgyában,” 15302/II/1963 (Budapest: HAS Archives, 27 September 1962).
  36. Ibid.
  37. József Bognár, „A fejlődő országok helyzete és szerepe a következő évtizedek világgazdaságában,” A MTA Gazdaság- és Jogtudományi Osztályának Közleményei, 1, no. 1–2. (1966–1967): 37–56.
  38. In the HAS budget, the number of institutions receiving target funding decreased (1959: 58, 1962: 24, 1964: 16) in line with the concentration of larger funds to strategic research. Of the 26% total growth in the funds of HAS during 1960–1963, 22% was used to organize the CAAR. See “A Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Társadalmi-Történeti Tudományok Osztályának kibővített osztályülése (1964. április 15.),” A Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Társadalmi-Történeti Tudományok Osztályának Közleményei 13, no. 1–2 (1964): 389–420, 413.
  39. Interestingly, it was ultimately Bognár and not the well-known Hungarian Africanist Endre Sík to establish an institution such as CAAR. Sík (1891–1978) was captured by the Russian army in 1915 during WWI, and in the Soviet Union he became a teacher at the Africa Department of the Eastern Workers’ Communist University (1926–1937), the associate of the Soviet Scientific Academy and taught at the State University of Moscow (1938–1945). He came back to Hungary in 1945, and from 1947 worked in high-rank positions as minister and diplomat in the Foreign Ministry, finally as Minister of Foreign Affairs (1958–1961). From 1963, he became member and a year later president of the Council for World Peace [Béke Világtanács
  40. Interview with András Inotai by James Mark, 2015; interview with Béla Kádár by James Mark and Zoltán Ginelli, 2017. James Mark, “‘The Spanish analogy’: Imagining the Future in State Socialist Hungary, 1948–1989,” Contemporary European History, 26, no. 4 (2017): 600–620; József Bognár, Világgazdasági korszakváltás (Budapest: Közgazdasági és Jogi Könyvkiadó, 1976); Kádár Béla, Kis országok a világgazdaságban (Budapest: Közgazdasági és Jogi Könyvkiadó, 1971); Tamás Szentes, The Political Economy of Underdevelopment (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1971).
  41. László Béládi, Ferenc Miszlivetz, eds.,  Fejlődés-tanulmányok 1.: Kritikai elméletek és elméletkritikák: Bevezetés a fejlődés-tanulmányokba (Budapest: ELTE Állam- és Jogtudományi Kar Tudományos Szocializmus Tanszék, 1979); Idem, eds., Fejlődés-tanulmányok 3.: Történelmi átmenetek és átmeneti társadalmak (Budapest: ELTE Állam- és Jogtudományi Kar Tudományos Szocializmus Tanszék, 1981); Idem, eds., Fejlődés-tanulmányok 3.: Az elmélet fegyvere és a fegyverek kritikája: Ideológusok és filozófusok a harmadik világból (Budapest: ELTE Állam- és Jogtudományi Kar, 1981); László Béládi, Imre Marton, Ferenc Miszlivetz, Tamás Szentes, eds., Fejlődés-tanulmányok 3. Szöveggyűjtemény. Elméleti harcok és harci elméletek. (Budapest: ELTE Állam- és Jogtudományi Kar Tudományos Szocializmus Tanszék, 1978); László Béládi, Ferenc Miszlivetz, eds., Fejlődés-tanulmányok 4.: “Periférikus” nemzetek és nemzetek feletti központok: Tanulmányok a világkapitalizmus egyenlőtlen fejlődéséről (Budapest: ELTE Állam- és Jogtudományi Kar Tudományos Szocializmus Tanszék, 1980); László Béládi, Ferenc Miszlivetz, Tamás Szentes, eds., Fejlődés-tanulmányok 5.: Egyenlőtlen nemzetközi csere vagy a cserepartnerek egyenlőtlensége: Világgazdaság és imperializmus (Budapest: ELTE Állam- és Jogtudományi Kar Tudományos Szocializmus Tanszék, 1983).
  42. James Mark and Péter Apor, “Socialism Goes Global: Decolonization and The Making of A New Culture of Internationalism in Socialist Hungary 1956–1989,” Journal of Modern History, 87, no. 4 (2015): 852–891.
  43. For an overview, see Stephen V. Ward, “Transnational Planners in a Postcolonial World,” In Patsey Healey and Robert Upton, eds., Crossing Borders: International Exchange and Planning Practices. London and New York: Routledge. 47–72. For the issue of modernization in Africa and specifically Ghana, see Peter J. Bloom, Stephan F. Miescher, and Takyiwaa Manuh, eds., Modernization as Spectacle in Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014). See also the volumes of Patsy Healey and Robert Upton, Crossing Borders: International Exchange and Planning Practices. (London and New York: Routledge, 2010); Jenny Andersson and Eglé Rindzevičiūtė, eds., The Struggle for the Long-Term in Transnational Science and Politics: Forging the Future. (New York and London: Routledge, 2015). For specific case studies in state-building and economic development, see Massimiliano Trentin, “Modernization as State Building: The Two Germanies in Syria, 1963–1972,” Diplomatic History 33 no. 3 (2009): 487–505; Alessandro Iandolo, “The rise and fall of the ‘Soviet model of development’ in West Africa, 1957–64,” Cold War History 12 no. 4. (2012): 683–704; and in architecture and urban planning, Iaian Jackson and Rexford A. Oppong, “The Planning of Late Colonial Village Housing in the Tropics: Tema Manhean, Ghana,” Planning Perspectives 29 no. 4. (2014): 475–499; Viviana d’Auria, “In the Laboratory and in the Field: Hybrid Housing Design for the African City in Late-Colonial and Decolonising Ghana (1945–57),” The Journal of Architecture, 19 no. 3. (2014): 329–356; Carlos N. Silva, ed., Urban Planning in North Africa (London: Routledge, 2016).
  44. His writings from this period were published posthumously in: Frantz Fanon, Toward the African Revolution: Political Essays (New York: Grove Press, 1988).
  45. “I went to Cuba in 1960, looked at political change in Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana (where I was disappointed to find little) and in Seku Toure’s Guinea (where I mistakenly thought that I had found more).” André Gunder Frank, “The Underdevelopment of Development,” In The Underdevelopment of Development: Essays in Honour of Andre Gunder Frank, eds., Sing Chew and Robert Denemark (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1996).
  46. “I went to Cuba in 1960, looked at political change in Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana (where I was disappointed to find little) and in Seku Toure’s Guinea (where I mistakenly thought that I had found more).” André Gunder Frank, “The Underdevelopment of Development,” In The Underdevelopment of Development: Essays in Honour of Andre Gunder Frank, eds., Sing Chew and Robert Denemark (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1996).
  47. Ghana, Region of Trans Volta Togoland, French Togoland and Nigeria (International Educational Exchange and Related Exchange-of-Persons Activities for African Countries South of the Sahara, Vol. 3., United States Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, 1959).
  48. Norton Ginsburg, ed., Essays on Geography and Economic Development (Department of Geography Research Paper No. 62, Chicago: The University of Chicago, 1960). Brian J. L. Berry, “Urban Growth and the Economic Development of Ashanti,” in Forrest R. Pitts, ed.: Urban Systems and Economic Development (Eugene: University of Oregon Press, 1962). Peter R. Gould, The Development of the Transportation Pattern in Ghana (Northwestern University Studies in geography, No. 5., Evanston (IL): Northwestern University, 1960). Edward J. Taaffe, Richard L. Morrill, and Peter R. Gould, “Transport Expansion in Underdeveloped Countries: A Comparative Analysis,” The Geographical Review 53 (1963): 503–529. Michael L. McNulty, “Urban structure and development: The urban system of Ghana,” Journal of Developing Areas (January 1969): 159–176. Michael J. McNulty and C. Archer, “Dimension of urban structural change in Ghana, 1948–1960,” Proceedings of the Association of American Geographers no. 1 (1969): 99–103.
  49. I would like to thank Miklós Kázmér, head of the Department of Paleontology at Eötvös Loránd University Faculty of Sciences, for underlining this latter aspect in our inspiring discussion on the topic. In 1964, there were 2 Hungarian doctors working at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Accra, one of them József Kövi. See József Kövi, “Ghana egészségügyi helyzete,” Orvosi Hetilap 105, no. 12 (1964): 565–566. In addition, the demographer Károly Miltényi also worked for the Ghanaian Central Bureau of Statistics, see: Károly Miltényi, “Ghana népesedésének néhány jellegzetessége,” Demográfia 11, no. 3–4 (1968): 362–381; Idem, Registered Births and Deaths in Ghana (Accra: Central Bureau of Statistics, 1967).
  50. The materiality of the dam and its connection to the personality of Nkrumah is well captured by his Memorial in Accra.
  51. Laura B. Johnson, Jordan P. Howell, and Kyle T. Evered, “’Where nothing was before’: (re)producing population and place in Ghana’s Volta River Project,” Journal of Cultural Geography 32, no. 2. (2015): 195–213. See the documentary book of an American advisor working on the project: James Moxon, Volta – Man’s Greatest Lake: The Story of Ghana’s Akosombo Dam, revised edition (London: Andre Deutsch, 1984).
  52. Ruszkai Endre, “Vízellátási exportlehetőségeink Ghanában” (1963). HU OSA 300-40-1: 713. Idem, “Ghanai beszámoló,” Vízgazdálkodás 3, no. 3 (1963): 86–88.
  53. “A ghanai kormány elismerése két magyar mérnöknek,” Népszabadság (3 December 1960). HU OSA 300-40-1: 713; Ernő Wallner, “Ghana gazdasági élete,” Földrajzi Közlemények 88, no. 1 (1964): 61–74.
  54. Mihály Erdélyi, “Ghana vízföldtana,” Hidrológiai közlöny 44, no. 2 (1964): 61–66; Idem, “Ghana vízföldtana és vízellátása,” Hidrológiai tájékoztató 4, no. 1 (1964): 58–60; “Befejezés előtt Ghana nagy vízerőművének építése,” Vízgazdálkodás 5, no. 5 (1965): 160.
  55. Polónyi, 71.
  56. See Szilárd Biernaczky, “Afrikai tanulmányok magyarföldön?! 150 éve vajúdik országunk egy tudományterület létrehozásával,” Magyar Tudomány, no. 12. (2014): 1410–1423; Veszprém Megyei Életrajzi Lexikon.
  57. Wallner; see also József Futó, Afrika (Budapest: Gondolat, 1963).
  58. See his interview by Béla Nóvé: Huszár László (1932–2007), Interview No. 748 (Budapest: Oral History Archívum, 2001), also published as: Béla Nóvé, “Egy ’Lónyays’ örökdiák Londonban: Huszár László életútja,” Holmi, 20, no. 9 (2008): 1184–1187; Idem, “Nem az a fontos, ki miben hisz, hanem, hogy kell-e félni tőle…: Huszár László építész emlékeiből,” Holmi, 20, no. 9 (2008): 1187–1199. See also: László Huszár, “Resettlement Planning,” in Proceedings of the Volta Resettlement Symposium (Kumasi: Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, 1965) 105–110; Idem, “The Volta Resettlement Scheme,” Journal of the Town Planning Institute, 51, no. 7: 279–282; Idem, “Resettlement Planning,” In The Volta Resettlement Experience,” ed., Robert Chambers (New York: Praeger, 1970), 279–282; László Huszár and David Grove, The Towns of Ghana: The Role of Service Centres in Regional Planning (Accra: Ghana Universities Press, 1964). See also: d’Auria. The transnational history of the theory that Huszár and Grove used, namely central place theory, is the topic of my PhD dissertation. Huszár and his friend, Géza Ankerl, drafted and circulated in many languages a “depolarization scheme” in 1960 that proposed a multi-step—diplomatic, military, and political—international reorganization, which built on acknowledging the role and power of the “Third World,” and envisioned to create new non-alignment zones by the UN, through which Central Europe and Hungary could become a neutral country. Huszár did the first Hungarian samizdat translation of George Orwell’s 1984 as a second term student of architecture in 1952.

  59. Ákos Moravánszky, “Peripheral modernism: Charles Polónyi and the lessons of the village,” The Journal of Architecture 17 no. 3. (2012): 333–359. The regional urban development plan of Ghana was also reported in the Hungarian journal Urban Construction (Városépítés), see Kálmán Lux, “Ghana városfejlesztési regionális tervtanulmány,” Városépítés 2, no. 5 (1965): 11–13.
  60. See Łukasz Stanek, “An Image and Its Performance: Techno-Export from Socialist Poland,” in Ákos Moravánszky and Torsten Lange, eds., Re-Framing Identities: Architecture’s Turn to History, 1970–1990 (Basel: Birkhäuser, 2012) 59–72; Idem, Postmodernism Is Almost All Right: Polish Architecture After Socialist Globalization (Warsaw: Fundacja Nowej Kultury Bec Zmiana, Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej, 2012); Idem, “Building Export from Socialist Poland: On the Traces of a Photograph,” Anza no. 1. (2012): 22–23; “Socialist Networks and the Internationalization of Building Culture after 1945,” Architecture Beyond Europe no. 6. (2014); Idem, “Mobilities of Architecture in the Late Cold War: From Socialist Poland to Kuwait, and Back,” International Journal of Islamic Architecture 4 no. 2. (2015): 365–398; Idem, “Architects from Socialist Countries in Ghana (1957–1967): Modern Architecture and Mondialisation,” Society of Architectural Historians Journal 74 no. 4. (2015): 416–442; Łukasz Stanek and B. Albrecht, “Accra, Warsaw, and Socialist Globalization,” in Idem, eds., Africa: Big Change, Big Chance (Bologna: Editrice Compositori, 2014) 162–164. See also the special issue “Cold War Transfer: Architecture and Planning from Socialist Countries in the ‘Third World’” in The Journal of Architecture, Vol. 17, 2012, with and introduction by Stanek. ( For other cases studies in Ghana, see Jackson and Oppong; d’Auria.

  61. Hannah le Roux, “The Networks of Tropical Architecture,” The Journal of Architecture 8, no. 3. (2003): 337–354.
  62. James Mark and Quinn Slobodian, “Eastern Europe,” in Martin Thomas and Andrew Thompson, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the Ends of Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).
  63. Polónyi Károly, Építész-településtervező a perifériákon: Polónyi Károly retrospektív naplója (Budapest: Műszaki Könyvkiadó, 2000), 12.; Charles K. Polónyi, An Architect-Planner on the Peripheries: Case Studies from the Less Developed World (Budapest: P&C, 1992).
  64. Ibid (Hungarian edition), 49.
  65. The state-subsidized company was established as the Urban Construction and Planning Office in 1950 (Városépítési Tervező Iroda, VÁTERV), which evolved and gained more autonomy in 1967 as the Urban Construction Scientific and Planning Institute (Városépítési Tudományos és Tervező Intézet, VÁTI), and became the leading urban and regional planning firm under the socialist era, with most of its assignments coming from the Ministry of Construction Affairs and Urban Development (Építésügyi és Városfejlesztési Minisztérium, ÉVM).
  66. Ibid, 80.
  67. Ibid, 81, quoted by Moravánszky, 351.
  68. Polónyi, 45–46, Moravánszky, 351–358.
  69. Károly Polonyi, “Lakásépítés a fejlődő országokban,” Városépítés, no. 5 (1978): 24–28.
  70. Polónyi, 46., Moravánszky, 356.
  71. “Győrbe érkezett az Africana,” Kisalföld (7 July 1963). HU OSA 300-40-1: 848.
  72. “A ghanai nagykövet filmbemutatója és fogadása,” Népszabadság (20 September 1964). HU OSA 300-40-1: 848.
  73. “Aláírták a magyar–ghanai kulturális munkaterv jegyzőkönyvét,” Népszabadság (12 July 1964). HU OSA 300-40-1: 848.
  74. This issue of racialization is explored in the growing literature on “Third World” migrant workers in the Eastern Bloc. See for example: James Mark and Bálint Tolmár, “Encountering Cuba in Socialist Hungary,” (forthcoming); Alena K. Alamgir, Socialist Internationalism at Work: Changes in the Czechoslovak-Vietnamese Labor Exchange Program, 1967–1989 (Ph.D. Dissertation, Graduate School of New Brunswick Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2014); Idem, “Race is elsewhere: State-socialist ideology and the racialisation of Vietnamese workers in Czechoslovakia. Race & Class 54, no. 4. (2013): 67–85; Eric Allina, “Between Sozialismus and Socialismo: African workers and public authority in the German Democratic Republic,” in Mahua Sarkar ed., Work Out of Place (De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2017): 77–100; Raia Apostolova, “Duty and Debt under the Ethos of Internationalism: The Case of the Vietnamese Workers in Bulgaria,” Journal of Vietnamese Studies, 12, no. 1 (2017): 101–125.
  75. The Hungarian team came from the city Kecskemét. “Magyar zeneest Accrában,” Népszabadság (21 March 1964); “Ghanai vendégek látogatása a debreceni MÁV Filharmonikus Zenekarnál,” Hajdú-Bihari Napló (5 September 1964); “A ghanai egyetem magyar származású zenei tanszékvezetőjéről…” Új Ember (6 September 1964). HU OSA 300-40-1: 848.
  76. “Magyar zene Afrikában,” Esti Hírlap (10 March 1964). HU OSA 300-40-1: 848.
  77. “Magyar operaalapító Accrában: Beszélgetés Rona Frigyessel, az accrai egyetem zenei tanszékvezetőjével,” Magyar Nemzet (13 August 1964). HU OSA 300-40-1: 848.
  78. “Hangverseny az őserdőben,” Petőfi Népe, 19. no. 224. (24 September 1964).
  79. Kalmár György, Arany Ghana (Budapest, Kossuth Könyvkiadó). Interestingly Kalmár (p. 321–322) only passingly noted the First Seven-Year Plan and did not mention Bognár’s participation, but neither any other activities of Hungarian experts. See the lecture of Böröcz József given on 12 October 2016 at Corvinus University, Budapest, entitled “Socialist Modernizationism Encounters World History: Hungarian Journalist Crosses the ‘Color Line’ and Stumbles on Class Structure in Ghana, 1961–64.”;
  80. György Kalmár, “Gyors iparosítás és törzsfőnökök…” Esti Hírlap (27 July 1961); Idem, “Kivel tart Ghana?” Társadalmi Szemle, 17, no. 11 (1962): 97–110, 110. HU OSA 300-40-1: 848.
  81. Tamás Bácskai, “Ghana a tegnap és a holnap között,” Élet és Tudomány 17, no. 44. (4, 16 November 1962): 1379–1383, 1452–1458. HU OSA 300-40-1: 848. p. 1383.
  82. György Kalmár, “Kalmár György bemutatja Ghanát. Accrai séta,” Ország-Világ (6 September 1964). HU OSA 300-40-1: 848.
  83. I thank Irina Nicorich for emphasizing this aspect after my lecture at Rutgers University. See for example: Magdalena Grabowska, “Beyond the ’Development’ Paradigm: State Socialist Women’s Activism, Transnationalism and the ‘Long Sixties’,” In Barbara Molony and Jennifer Nelson, eds., Women’s Activism and “Second Wave” Feminism: Transnational Histories (London, Oxford, New York, New Delhi, and Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2017): 147–172.
  84. Éber et al.
  85. Gábor Búr, “Hungarian Diplomacy and the Non-Aligned Movement in the Cold War” in Österreich und Ungarn im Kalten Krieg, eds. István Majoros, Zoltán Maruzsa, Oliver Rathkolb (Wien – Budapest: ELTE Új- és Jelenkori Egyetemes Történeti Tanszék – Universität Wien, Institut für Zeitgeschichte, 2010): 353– 372.
  86. Louis Emmerij, “Has Europe Fallen out of Love with the Rest of the World?” IDS Bulletin, 20 no. 3. (1989): 9–16. See also the special issue of IDS Bulletin dedicated to the development planning work of Dudley Seers, especially on Ghana: Barbara Ingham, “Dudley Seers as a Development Adviser in Ghana and Malta,” IDS Bulletin 20, no. 3. (1989): 43–52.
  87. For example, see: Mark; Johanna Bockman, The Left-Wing Origins of Neoliberalism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011).
  88. Sachs.
  89. Thomas F. Gieryn, “Three Truth-Spots,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 38 (2002): 1–13.
  90. Interview with Béla Kádár by James Mark and Zoltán Ginelli, 2017; see Kádár.
  91. Interview with Tamás Szentes by Zoltán Ginelli, 2017.
  92. Moravánszky.
  93. Polónyi, 78.
  95. See, for example: Sharad Chari and Katherine Verdery, “Thinking between the Posts: Postcolonialism, Postsocialism, and Ethnography after the Cold War,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 51, no. 1 (2009): 6–34; Vedrana Velickovic, “Belated alliances? Tracing the intersections between postcolonialism and postcommunism,” Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 48, no. 2. (2012): 164–175; Lucy Mayblin, Aneta Piekut, and Gill Valentine (2016): “’Other’ Posts in ’Other’ Places: Poland through a Postcolonial Lens?” Sociology, 50, no. 1 (2016): 60–76
  96. Milica Bakić-Hayden, “Nesting Orientalism: the Case of Former Yugoslavia,” Slavic Review, 54, no. 4 (1995): 917–931; Maria Todorova, Imagining the Balkans (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997); Vesna Goldsworthy, Inventing Ruritania: The Imperialism of the Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998); cf. Velickovic; Mayblin et al.

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