SU&3rdW, Ch 5: Eastern Europe and the Third World; or, “Limited Regret Strategy” Revisited (Korbonski)

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Ch 5 Essay written by book’s editor Andrzej Korbonski

  • types of interest: military, political, ideological, economic (99)
  • “To be sure, the leaders of Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland have paid ceremonial visits to various Third World countries, notably India, Libya, Iraq, and Iran, but otherwise there is no evidence of extensive contacts and what contacts did exist seemed to focus almost entirely on economics” (107)
    • Korbonski seems to imply that the general academic consensus at the time was that Eastern European countries and Third World countries (Hungary included in the former group, India in the latter) did not really interact, and even then their interactions were based purely on economic benefit
    • WHILE this is true in part (considering this period falls before the ‘critical moment’ that I am looking at – which revolves around both countries experiencing waves of economic liberalization) it also ignores some of the bigger ideological sympathies that India and Hungary had already expressed at this time!
  • “The examples of Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, and Poland in the past thirty years must have persuaded Third World leaders that Eastern Europe has little to offer as a model of stability and concord” (110)
  • “Although the Soviet intervention in Hungary in 1956 was widely ignored by Third World countries, which were preoccupied with the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt, Moscow’s armed suppression of the ‘Prague Spring’ in 1968 and the Soviet pressure on Poland in 1980-81 were widely noted and commented upon in the Third World and did little to improve the image and global reputation of the USSR” (110)
    • NO! India certainly made many open efforts to show its sympathy in the Hungarian cause…so hah.
  • “Most of the Third World realized some time ago that the Stalinist central planning system simply did not work and that what Eastern Europe needed was a program of comprehensive economic reforms. So East European countries, such as Hungary, have indeed undertaken extensive reforms in the past twenty years and proved reasonably successful in implementing them. It is possible that the Hungarian New Economic Mechanism, just like the Yugoslav workers’ council system of thirty years ago, may attract the attention of the LDCs, both communist and noncommunist” (110)
    • aka Hungary is showing signs of liberalization!
  • **”East European Six” –> Hungary is a part of it…is this label limited to this book or is it more commonly used? Just good to find out!**
  • “The topic of East European-Third World relations has attracted little scholarly attention so far because the relationship between Eastern Europe and the Third World in the past thirty years has been mostly marginal, a phenomenon that was not likely to cause many ripples in international politics and economics” (118)
    • AGAIN, another sign that this was the way things were before the period of economic liberalization with both countries!
  • “Left entirely to itself, I would suggest, Eastern Europe would probably maintain its contacts with the Third World, but the nature of these contacts would be quite different and most likely based on rational economic and political calculations” (121)
    • AGAIN, this shows a good scholarly assumption/observation/conclusion about the way that Indo-Hungarian relations were seen at the time –> plus is a clear indicator that this is before Bollywood started functioning as a cultural vehicle

SU&3rdW, Ch 9: The Soviet Union and South Asia: Moscow and New Delhi Standing Together (Horn)

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This book is compiled/edited by Andrzej Korbonski and Francis Fukuyama; chapter/essay was written by Robert Horn. What I HAVE to keep in mind is that this book was published in 1987! This means it is fairly outdated, but it does present a good summarizing picture of Indo-Soviet relations until the 80s…

  • 1955: SU signed agreement to loan $100 million to India to build steel mill in Bhilai; PM Nehru visited SU as (first) non-aligned leader; Khrushchev visited India to show foreign policy support
  • research questions from the essay: “What was it about India that attracted Soviet interest in 1955, and what explains the continuing Soviet interest since then? How did and how does India fit into the Soviet Union’ s foreign policy goals and objectives? Second, what factors explain the nature of the relationship, its closeness and limitations? What factors have been conducive and what have obstructed the establishment of Soviet influence in India?” (209)
  • India in Context of Soviet Foreign Policy Interests
    • interest driven by pragmatic goals; also lessening Western influence in the Third World
    • India’s own goals: nonalignment aka boosting independence; seeking security; protect broader South Asian subcontinent from domination
  • Nature of the Relationship: Attracting Factors
    • similar industrial interests: oil, metal, manufacturing, etc
    • “India felt compelled to seek a reliable superpower friend, and the USSR realized that India would likely be responsive to its own anti-American global strategy” (213)
      • even here, it’s clear that the “non-aligned” countries still have alliances set up, India’s move was virtually always related to Pakistan’s political moves (P allied w/ US)
  • Nature of the Relationship: Limiting Factors
    • pertinent to my research: India has appreciated SU support but is willing to seek other allies
    • Indo-Soviet relationship shown as “shifting balance of mutual dependency” (225)
    • “India has needed the Soviet Union for support, in times of crisis vis-a-vis Pakistan and in times of uncertainty as the Sino-American rapprochement has developed. India has also needed the economic, technical, and military assistance that the Soviets have been able to provide” (225)

Interesting to note that initial foreign support that India sought was specifically non-US!

Updated Research Questions

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Just to make a note of this, especially since it feels like I’m slowly progressing and narrowing to a point of being relevant/useful:

How have developing political and economic interactions between India and Hungary from the mid-20th century enabled the contemporary presence of Bollywood in the Eastern European country? Furthermore, how has Bollywood served as a broader vehicle of cultural conversation between the two countries?

Govil Office Hours

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  • read introduction, Ch 3, and Ch 7 from Partha Chatterjee’s book Wages of Freedom
  • introduction: bring up complications about Bollywood term and the contradictory meanings/representation it has
  • also include paragraphs on industrial trade, IT and pharmaceutical alliances: interesting for reader PLUS they will further legitimize the study of Indo-Hungarian interactions from a new standpoint, namely that of film
  • also consider section on “Why India?” … more for what India gets out of the relationship rather than the point of studying India (this is implied in the fact that popular Hindi cinema IS the focal point)
  • introduction: don’t use “transpired” in research question; try “framed” or “enabled”
  • Govil’s “Frictions” article:
    • look into cause/effects
    • state is NOT directly funding Bollywood! it is always private: state started opening up processes of investment, opening up barriers for foreign corporations to ally with Indian/national corporations…this is not a story about direct subsidies or tax cuts!
  • with Hungarian film festivals, consider/mention if other categories of film (besides that of Bollywood) have been featured over the years

“Why Hungary” Section – 1st Draft

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Why Hungary?

There is no overtly ostensible reason why Hungary should be the focal setting of this study; arguably, Indo-Hungarian relations are simply one of many ongoing relationships between the South Asian country and a handful of similar countries throughout Eastern Europe. However, upon closer examination, three main reasons for the deeper significance—and uniqueness—of the Indo-Hungarian situation arise.

First, and probably the most concretely defined, is the Hungarian revolution from Soviet forces in 1956; its influence on contemporary Indo-Hungarian relations lies not in the event itself but rather in India’s response to it. While this will be further analyzed and broken down in later sections, it bodes well to initially introduce it here. The early 1950s saw the Soviet Union pushing to create a tight bond with India, since “[Prime Minister] Nehru’s reiterated themes of nonalignment and anticolonialism created friction with the Western powers which dovetailed neatly with the Soviet outlook” (Horn, 211). And yet when Hungary lashed back against Communist rule under the leadership of then-PM Imre Nagy, India chose to show blatant governmental support of the Hungarian cause—certainly a curious path for a young country who had just cemented friendly Soviet relations only a few years earlier. Hungary was unique in being the first nation to emerge into proper sovereignty for the young Indian nation to pursue diplomatic relations with following its own independence (Kalmar, 1). This planted an underlying sympathy for the other’s cause that translated into active economic and industrial agreements in later decades.

Another element of uniqueness in the Indo-Hungarian bond is the muted South Asian diasporic population in Hungary. The Embassy of India in Budapest estimates 300-500 Indians in Hungary today; of this number, most identify as part of “a transient community” made up of students and IT professionals ( Despite this meager presence, Bollywood films have still been screened regularly both as part of film festivals or regular premieres over the past decade. Here one finds evidence that both the Indian and Hungarian governments have been active in constructing cultural bonds through the visual medium of film. Such a phenomenon shows a marked divergence from more mainstream cinematic studies of Bollywood’s globalization; most research focuses on spots of significant Indian diasporic clout, such as the United Kingdom or the United States.

In her analysis of diasporic viewing practices of Bollywood films, Sujata Moorti asserts that “visual culture” like films “[permits] immigrants to construct a community of sentiment…that emphasizes kinship and affective relations based on shared affiliations and identifications” (356). Here Moorti refers to the emotionally-spurred motivations of immigrants to stay connected to their homeland through film. Yet, as in the case of Hungary when the majority of viewers are not vaguely ethnically linked to India, how are such “affective relations” that transcend linguistic and cultural barriers constructed? There are different types of filmic engagement occurring in this context, approaches of reinterpretation and renegotiation that help to place the film into a completely new setting.

Finally there is the idea of Hungary as what Mette Hjort labels a “small nation;” in the realm of cinema this translates into a very limited cinematic infrastructure that severely circumscribes the scope of filmic production and distribution. Traditionally, studies involving Bollywood have looked at sites of viewing within countries whose own film industries are roaring engines of their own: again, the United States and United Kingdom fall neatly into this slot. Hungary stands apart. A country whose language is among the hardest in the world to learn, whose infrastructure can only provide limited support to its national film industry, Hungary has donned the cloak of a viable shooting location site to enter the global arena of cinematic relations.

This argument focuses on Hindi film presence in Hungary rather than the other way around; yet the converse should still somehow be acknowledged. Namely, how does Hungary’s relationship to Bollywood shape its own filmic development, one that is certainly still very much blooming? In his all-encompassing book Hungarian Cinema: From Coffee House to Multiplex, John Cunningham highlights Hungary’s valuable position straddling multiple spheres, explaining that the “uniqueness of Hungarian culture (and therefore its cinema) [lies] in the nature of Hungary’s linguistic isolation, or its ‘crossroads’ position between East and West” (4). In other words, Hungary’s own significance here stems from its positioning between the European and Asian spotlights; its relationship to Bollywood – and from there, India – is situated in a complex context involving broader geopolitical hierarchies and post-communistic developments.

Bollywood has morphed into a global entertainment giant over the last decade, creating unbelievably large followings in booming metropolises in the Western world. Its function in these new settings, often fueled by Non-Resident Indian (NRI) demands and desires, is certainly worth studying, and has been meticulously analyzed from many angles. There is, however, a serious dearth in study focusing on more traditionally marginalized sites of Hindi filmic reception like Hungary. Yet the intertwining economic and political strands between India and Hungary over the last fifty-odd years suggest there is much to be learned from this bond. Bollywood has developed into a foundational part of contemporary Indo-Hungarian relations – and its story should be told.

Freewriting Exercise 3

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Okay so I have to figure out how to write this introductory section of my paper; it’s due on Wednesday and I’m aiming to put something together with my introduction as well as the significance of studying Hungary in particular. I have to figure out how to morph the proposal language into something more scholarly and less “assignment-y.” There’s always the strategy of moving from passive to active voice gosh I can’t believe I’m making that mistake so often even now and generally cutting out the more meta-narrative heavy elements.

So with the introduction what am I doing? I’m creating a roadmap for myself, trying to figure out how to succinctly sum up my argument, moving temporally from the 1956 starting date of interaction between India and Hungary and then transfer over to the period of centralization but only in the context of the later period of economic liberalization, and then how media-related technology’s rise coincided with the 1990s when the shift of the Hindi film production process became more of an industry, and was seen as such officially by the Indian government. 1998? Still need to look into that. Then how Hungary has been growing and pushing to be seen as a primary shooting location (and cheaper). Then there are the film festivals between the two countries, especially with Bollywood filming in Hungary and overall globalizing. This is where ideas of media flow, globalization, electronic media etc this is where this all comes into play.

But it’s just so intimidating and daunting to realize I’m writing this first page of the first draft of this paper. Gahhhh. I still have to remember to continue refining my questions. Also have to post this up on the blog, maybe I should post up sections of the draft as I complete them? I’ll have to be careful about that though.

I talked to my roommate earlier about the project, just explaining it, and I was happy to see that I’m starting to get more coherent when summarizing it. I never thought I was that good at talking about things, and I still know I’m better at forming my arguments/thoughts on paper, but there’s something about the easy flow of speech (yeah Tredinnick already making his mark on my own approach to writing and researching) that has been helping me formulate my argument’s structure in a much more understandable way. Let me try to think back to what I told my roommate, or even better, pretend I’m writing out what I was talking about earlier:

So I’m doing this thesis project for Comm, and basically it’s about Bollywood’s presence in Hungary. It’s unusual because Hungary hasn’t been seen historically as a site for real scholarly work with the Hindi film industry, and that’s part of the reason I decided to focus there. Plus I have cousins there so there’s that bit of personal interest. Okay, so what’s strange is that the South Asian diaspora in Hungary is in the low hundreds, so there’s not this “reaching to the homeland” kind of desire to connect to India with Bollywood films as there is in the UK or the US, or a dozen other bigger diasporic clumps. What’s interesting about Hungary is that Bollywood’s role there has been more of a carefully constructed and invested plan by the governments of both countries to use film as a way to culturally connect. For some reason — and probably because India is the much stronger country, both economically and infrastructurally — Bollywood has had much more of a presence in Hungary than the other way around. I’m sure there’s something in that related to the aesthetic uniqueness of Hindi films, but I’m not sure at all. Don’t even know if that’s going to factor in my final paper…way too early to start eliminating threads to talk about.

Anyway, so I’ve found out that the origin of present-day interactions between India and Hungary stemmed from the 1956 Hungarian revolution, or rather, the Indian response to it, which was surprisingly open and sympathetic — surprising because amicable Indo-Soviet relations were still blooming at this time. So since the 1950s, there has been a constant progression (or at least existence) or Indo-Hungarian trade; in the last 10-15 years this has been revolving around IT and pharmaceutical industry. This really boomed after the respective periods of economic liberalization for each country. Both countries won their independence in the last 60 years, and because of their relative youth, both have historically had governments that strove for strong central control, which makes sense, given the need to reform and progress in the most controlled way possible.

With this period of economic liberalization in India came the idea of granting Bollywood (rather, the Hindi film collective entity) the status of “industry,” which would make it qualified for government subsidies and other forms of formalized funding and backing. So this is the era when Bollywood films really start branching out in a global sense, as finally they have the infrastructural backbone needed for global movement. Govil’s article (“Size Matters”) highlights this ongoing corporatization of the Bollywood industry.

Similarly, it is in the last 10 years that Hungary has started holding film festivals featuring Bollywood movies. As part of its push to be seen as a viable shooting location for many foreign production companies, Hungary has been actively promoting itself. Here is where the idea of “small nations” comes in; Hungary can never really (in the near future, at least) hope to gain wide global presence with its films…it has neither the infrastructure nor the linguistic relevance to achieve this popularity. Thus it has found its own niche in the realm of cinema to be importing films as well as exporting its physical locations for other countries to use. This is not without complications of cultural identity and representation, but economically it has been very successful.

So when it comes down to it, there is the Bollywood globalization movement (here focusing on its spread into Hungary), the preceding decades of bilateral trade that allowed this cultural conduit to even exist (or make financial sense as a source of investment), and simultaneously the effect of this relationship in the bigger context of Hungary’s own progression in the global network of interactions related to cinema/film production and distribution. This complex relationship brings me to my main research questions…

All right, that’s enough for now. I think I’m slowly understanding how to incorporate the idea of economic/market liberalization into the more film-heavy angle that I was originally pursuing. Time to save/publish this; it’ll be interesting to read it tomorrow and reflect on it more objectively 🙂

Amazon Delivery!

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Cool, so two books I’d ordered from Amazon a couple days ago came in this morning: Writing Well: The Essential Guide by Mark Tredinnick and India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy by Ramachandra Guha. The aim is to read a bit of the Guha book each day (I peeked inside, it seems like an easy enough read, not too academic/dry) and also get through the Tredinnick book when I can.

Hopefully if I post this “reading plan” I’ll be more likely to stick to it…

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