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Author's Final Manuscript

Publication Title

East European Politics and Societies



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The article examines the historical processes and the motivations of contemporary Hungarian politicians to officially rehabilitate the memory of Cécile Tormay, the internationally acclaimed writer and founder of Hungary’s conservative women’s movement. Through tracing the politics of remembering Tormay since World War II it demonstrates how Tormay’s recent reemergence as a new national icon was intimately tied to a decisive shift in the direction of Hungarian politics from a pro-Western stance to one that is openly hostile towards Western liberalism. Tormay, part of the ruling elite in the authoritarian interwar Horthy regime, was a fierce anticommunist, antisemite, and staunch nationalist who rallied Hungarians to reclaim territories lost after World War I. Already a national icon,Tormay became a central protagonist of one of the largest interwar political scandals in which she was accused of homosexuality and sleeping with the wives of high aristocrats. Yet, stunningly, neither during the interwar years nor since 1989 has the scandal around her alleged homosexuality stopped centre-right and increasingly right wing (Fidesz) and far right (Jobbik) politicians from embracing her as Hungary’s ideal patriotic female figure of the past century. Such a paradox the article contends can be explained by these regimes’ different both approaches to public and private sexuality. By making Tormay’s private sexuality irrelevant the interwar and post-socialist conservative governments could hold up Tormay’s public vision of anticommunism, antisemitism, nationalism, and traditional gender norms as their own.



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