Márta Elbert (1950–) is an editor, reporter, producer, founding member and editor of the video periodical Black Box, and a documentarian of the changing political system in Hungary and in East-Central Europe.
Filming was destined to become her profession. In her early childhood, she was fond of watching all films, as she recollects, and instead of school she often went to the cinema from the age of ten. Later, she was enrolled in a technical institute, and her father, a furrier, wanted to pass his own profession on to her, but she felt little affinity for this line of work.
She started to work for the Hungarian Film Factory in 1970, at first as an assistant cash-keeper, which was really the lowest rank, but she was still delighted to get into the exclusive world of filmmaking. This had a great influence on her, to have the chance to come close to the celebrated actors of the age, whom before she could only watch and admire on the cinema screen. The staff hierarchy was sometimes overwhelming, but in spite of this, her compensation was having the chance to often enter into private conversation with actors and actresses. She eventually rose in the ranks of the film industry, and worked for twenty years as a recording and production manager.
In 1973, she was assigned to the television show department, then became a full-time recording tutor of Béla Balázs Studio (BBS) that had been formed as a part of Film Factory, but later became a separate entity of young Hungarian filmmakers. It was the legendary era of BBS, and Elbert herself assisted actively at the birth of a series of important films. She contributed to both documentary and feature films as a colleague of renowned directors, such as Pál Sándor, Márta Mészáros, Pál Schiffer, Gyula Gazdag, Béla Tarr, and others. During her work she realized the main challenge of documentary film, whether or not a real-life story can be presented from enough distance and strict editing work from start to finish. After she had been declined twice, Elbert in 1979 was finally admitted to the Theater and Cinema College as a student of production head training.
She recalled the atmosphere of teamwork at shootings in one of her interviews: “In 1973, we worked on the film ‘The Message of the Emperor,’ directed by László Najmányi. We badly needed some 150 extras, so Ábel Kőszegi and myself went to recruit them from the neighboring summer camps for foreigners, organized by the Hungarian Communist Youth League [KISZ]. And we managed to recruit a hell of a crowd of students of many races and ethnicities, and shoot that feature film of 50 minutes at almost no cost. And the cast was just great with all the Hungarian dissidents and young underground artists, like Péter Halász, László Rajk, Péter Breznyik, István Eörsi, and others. We camped in tents in Visegrád along the Danube bend. And at the same time I had my duties in another film shooting too, that of ‘God’s Field,’ directed by Judit Elek. So I had to keep shuttling daily between Visegrád and Nógrád County, on the other side of Danube. At the dawn I bought 150 eggs, 50 cents apiece, at the village location of ‘God’s Field,’ rushed with them back to Visegrád, and by the time the actors and staff members were waking up, I managed to fry a gigantic omlette for them.”
These years were a busy time for her, and she felt wonderful to be among people of similar interest and thought. They had house parties, a big social life, and of course worked hard, with days never ending by 8 o’clock. “My duties and responsibilities have hardened me. It is a hard job physically, as you keep running all day, and of course mentally too, since you must not forget anything in preparation for shooting. Still it was a great school, and it taught me to work hard and steadily. It bothers me a bit that I didn’t keep a diary. Incredible stories transpired during the shooting of films. And more than once I had to work on a feature and a documentary film at the same time.” In the meantime she studied sociology at the ELTE University, Budapest, which was not at all a strange choice for her, given that documentaries often involve similar subjects and expertise.
Filmmakers’ work, of course, was often disturbed by the censors. At Béla Balázs Studio (BBS) there was a system of post-censorship, not the script but the completed film was censored. Elbert also shares her memories of how it worked: “It happened several times that the Chief Director of Film Production sent his secret cops to the laboratory during the night. There they kidnapped the negatives and the working copy of a film just completed, and then locked it into one of the safes of the censorship office in its Báthori Street headquarters. And from that point on, the film did not exist anymore. I think the invention of the video has greatly contributed to the fall of communism, as this has enabled the showing of events without political manipulation. In fall of the Eastern European systems, the freeing of media played a crazy big role.’
The dissident artists’ films produced by BBS belonged in most cases to the category of “tolerated,” under the vigilance of the state security agencies. As Elbert remembers, “In 1976 we worked on the film Cséplő Gyuri. Its director Pál Schiffer was not really on good terms with ‘the comrades’ of cultural policy, nor was its scriptwriter, the dissident sociologist István Kemény. It was obvious that the secret police kept a keen eye on us. They followed us all the time, wherever we went. And when we screened our freshly shot raw materials in the Pasarét studio of BBS, strange gentlemen regularly appeared in the projection room.
A decade later Márta Elbert became an active founding member of Black Box. A new and independent documentary staff was selected at her apartment, and its clandestine editorial meetings were held there with the participation of István Jávor, András Lányi, Judit Ember, and Gábor Vági. Elbert was in close contact with Jávor during the shooting of Cséplő Gyuri. Jávor at that time had a home video camera and proposed that they start filming together. As Elbert recalls: “If someone at that time had a video camera, it was such a great thing, like a privately owned satellite would be in our day. Jávor’s was medium size with a separate recording unit of 8 to 10 kilos. For more than a year this was the only technical device of Black Box.”In 1990 Elbert left BBS, and from then worked only for Black Box. She has been involved in over 130 films as editor, reporter, and producer. In addition, in 1994 she founded Black Box Roma Media School and taught there for ten years. In the mid-1990s, political themes were replaced by the themes of sociology. In the meantime, she has changed production management for the substantial tasks of filmmaking.
- Budapest, Hungary
In 1981, he created the Abagar Bulgarian Catholic Cultural Center in Rome, named after the first printed book in Bulgarian, published by the Catholic bishop Philip Stanislavov in Rome in 1651. It housed rare Bulgarian bibliographic publications and the personal collections of Bulgarians living outside Bulgaria closely associated with its history and culture. Eldarov was the publisher of the Catholic newspaper Abagar. He, thus, played an important role in the cultural life of the Bulgarian diaspora and was in contact with political émigrés from Bulgaria, such as Hristo Ognyanov.
Eldarov visited Bulgaria only once during the communist era, in November 1976 with diplomatic immunity as part of a Vatican delegation led by Agostino Casaroli. Eldarov was the first chargé d'affaires of the Vatican in Sofia in 1991, right after the restoration of the diplomatic relations of Bulgaria with the Holy See. After 1993 Professor Eldarov cooperated with the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad.
The literary archive of the Abagar Bulgarian Catholic Cultural Center was moved from Rome to Bulgaria in 1997. The Abagar Foundation, established at that time, took care of the archive. A year after the death of Prof. Eldarov in 2011 a woman in Sofia was arrested for trading illegally with valuables from the archive; the fate of the archive material is, therefore, unknown.See also the Bulgarian Wikipedia entry on Eldarov.
- Metropolitan City of Rome, Rome, Italy
Mircea Eliade (born 28 February 1907, Bucharest, Romania - died 22 April 1986, Chicago, USA) was a Romanian historian of religions, philosopher, and writer who decided to prolong his activity in the West after 1945, where he became one of the most well-known Romanian intellectuals in exile. He was born into a middle-class family. From an early age, Eliade showed a remarkable literary talent, as well as an interest in science. His early debut took place in 1921 at the age of fourteen, with an article in a magazine for scientific popularisation. From 1926 to 1934, he published numerous articles on cultural themes in the daily newspaper Cuvântul, among those worth mentioning being “Itinerariu spiritual” (Spiritual itinerary), which appeared in several issues of the paper in 1927. The literary historian Zigu Ornea considered this text a “programme” for the young generation of intellectuals, through which Eliade prompted them to “unity and common goals” (Ornea 1995, 147). Intellectuals such as Petru Comarnescu, Constantin Noica, Emil Cioran, Mircea Vulcănescu, Sandu Tudor, and Mihail Polihroniade belonged to this generation. The young group came together in 1932–1934 under the aegis of Criterion, an association that organised cultural conferences on various themes. The adherence of some Criterion members to the Legion of the Archangel Michael led to the association’s dissolution (Ornea 1995, 150–151).
From 1925 to 1928, Eliade attended philosophy courses at the University of Bucharest, where he had the opportunity to meet Nae Ionescu, professor of logic and metaphysics, who had a strong influence not only on Eliade’s intellectual development, but on the entire group he belonged to. Nae Ionescu played an important part in the shaping of both his scholarly and political interests and ideas. Furthermore, between 1928 and 1938, Eliade was an assistant to Nae Ionescu at the University of Bucharest. Influenced by Nae Ionescu, but also by his reading of James George Frazer, Eliade decided to devote his career to the history of religions. In 1927, he travelled to Italy, where he met the Italian Indologist Giuseppe Tucci. Their meeting had a major influence in his decision to leave for India to study Sanskrit and Indian philosophy. As a beneficiary of a scholarship offered by the Maharaja of Kassimbazar, Eliade spent the years between 1928 and 1931 in India studying Indian philosophy with professor Surendranath Dasgupta at the University of Calcutta. Based on his research there, in 1936, he published Yoga. Essai sur les origines de la mystique indienne, a paper on the history of religions which put him on the map among Orientalists outside Romania. His personal experience in India inspired Maitreyi (1933 – published in English translation as Bengal Nights, 1994), the novel he would be acclaimed for in the Romanian literary world. Several other novels which appeared in Romania followed, i.e. Domnișoara Christina (Miss Christina, 1936) and Nuntă în cer (Marriage in Heaven, 1938).
During the second part of the 1930s, Eliade’s political thoughts and attitudes became radicalised. Like other intellectuals of his generation, Eliade adhered to the Legionary Movement. According to Florin Ţurcanu, one of Eliade’s biographers, his political radicalisation happened gradually from 1935 to 1937, with the intellectual influence of Nae Ionescu playing a major part (Ţurcanu 2006, 312–318). Between 1937 and 1938, Eliade wrote numerous articles in the Legionary press, some of them bearing virulent undertones of anti-Semitism, and even participated in the Iron Guard’s election campaign (Ţurcanu 2006, 347, 357–358).
In the aftermath of the Iron Guard’s rapid rise to power and its violent actions, King Carol II’s regime took repressive measures against the Legionary elite in 1938. In July 1938, Mircea Eliade was imprisoned for his political activity in an internment camp at Miercurea Ciuc, where he remained until October 1938. He was released through the intercession of some relatives. They also succeeded in getting him appointed as cultural attaché at the Romanian Embassy in London. Consequent to Romania’s entering the war on the side of the Axis and breaking its diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom, Eliade was moved to Lisbon, where he served as cultural attaché until his discharge in 1944.
Finding himself on Western European soil, Eliade had since 1943 decided not to go back to his homeland. In 1945 he moved to Paris, where the kernel of the Romanian cultural emigration was. The French capital was regarded by many Romanian intellectuals as a starting point for an international career. With the help of Georges Dumézil, Eliade managed to get access to the École Pratique des Hautes Études, where he taught the history of religions, although for a limited period of time. At the time of his arrival in Paris, French society was undergoing a purge of intellectuals who had sided with right-wing extremism. Eliade kept his Legionary past a secret for fear it might endanger his access to an academic career in the West (Laignel-Lavastine 2004, 470–471). The descent of the Iron Curtain enabled him to conceal his past, as Eliade’s pro-legionary publications were no longer available in the West. When details of it emerged, Eliade “deliberately chose to reinvent his past rather than face it” (Ţurcanu 2006, 603). According to Norman Manea, in his autobiographical writings Eliade missed a good chance openly to face his past and to own up to his mistakes (Manea 1992, 94). Trying to explain this attitude, Laignel-Lavastine compares Eliade to Heidegger and argues that Eliade “does not seem to have understood ‘the gravity of his error’” (Laignel-Lavastine 2004, 476).
During his time in France (1945–1956), Eliade published three books for which he was internationally recognised in the field of history of religions: Techniques du Yoga (1948), Traité d'histoire des religions (1949) and Le Mythe de l'Éternel Retour (1949). Thus, in 1956 he was invited to the USA by the Divinity School of the University of Chicago to give the esteemed Haskell Lectures and to be a visiting professor. He later accepted the offer to become a professor at this institution, and in the period 1957–1968, Eliade was the head of the Divinity School’s History of Religions department, where he also launched the academic journal History of Religions. There he made a fundamental contribution to consolidating the history of religions as an academic field in the USA. Subsequent to his moving to the US, several of his works were published in English: The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (1959; initially published in German: Das Heilige und das Profane, 1957) and A History of Religious Ideas (three volumes: 1978, 1982, 1985, initially published in French).
At first, the Romanian communist regime banned Eliade’s work on account of his political involvement in the 1930s. In February 1960, a military court in communist Romania convicted a group of twenty-three intellectuals in the so-called Noica-Pillat political trial. One of the charges was the fact that two copies of Eliade’s Noaptea de sânziene (published in English translation as The Forbidden Forest, 1978) had been brought by actress Marietta Sadova from Paris and circulated clandestinely among her acquaintances (Tănase 2009a, 370–379). However, the attitude of the communist regime towards Eliade changed in the 1960s when the regime detached itself from Moscow and shifted towards national communism. As he was one of the most renowned Romanian intellectuals in exile, Eliade was regarded in an ambivalent manner by Ceauşescu’s regime, which was interested in reclaiming the part of Eliade’s work dedicated to the “Thraco-Dacian lineage”, which could legitimate it (Laignel-Lavastine 2004, 548). The greater part of his work, however, remained inaccessible to the Romanian public under communism. Eliade generally refrained from taking a critical stance towards the communist regime, apart from occasional gestures, such as taking part in the formation of a support group for exiled anti-communist General Rădescu in December 1947. Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine argues that Eliade or Cioran’s muted attitude towards the communist regime could be easily explained by fear of their pro-fascist past being revealed through press campaigns in the West initiated by the communist authorities (Laignel-Lavastine 2004, 547).
Elisabeth Elten-Krause completed education as a teacher, worked as a secretary in the District Author’s Association of Neubrandenburg and from 1973 until 1982 in the Neubrandenburg Literary Center, where she was played a central role in the compilation of the Brigitte-Reimann Archive.
- Neubrandenburg , Germany undefined
Jan Eliáš was born in Olomouc on September 10th, 1944. A year after graduation at the Slovasnke náměstí in Brno (at that time named the Secondary General Education School), he started to study archiving at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Jan Evangelista Purkyně in Brno (nowadays Masaryk University). The final years of his studies (1963-1969) took place in the turbulent period of the Prague Spring. Jan Eliáš was both among one the founders of the Independent FF UJEP Students' Association, and the leading members of the FF UJEP, in 1968. After the defeat of the process of revival in Czechoslovakia, in 1970, the society was dissolved and Jan Eliáš was left to the marginal sphere of historical research. He became an employee of the “Stavoprojekt“. At this time there was targeted activity against the rest of the background from the activities of the association, which Jan Eliáš gathered, organised and wrote down and catalogued. The work on the creation of the collection ended in 1971, which is the date of the handwritten catalogue. He kept his gathered and scattered collection in his possession until the early 1990s, when he agreed to store them in the Masaryk University Archives, which took place in 1993. The period after 1989 meant a great career advancement for Jan Eliáš as he became the director of the state archives in Brno. The Brno state archives has the largest collection in the Czech Republic, and owing to Jan Eliáš, it was changed to its original name, the Moravian Land Archive, despite various disagreements and financial sanctions made by the Prague forces, and in dealing with the local police forces who were running it. As Jan Eliáš failed to defend his uncompromising attitude towards the security authorities of the post-totalitarian state, the Czech archival services remained under the Ministry of the Interior, and he gave up his position in the institution. In 1994 he began working as a self-employed person as a historical researcher, focusing on buildings.
- Brno, Czech Republic