The Radical Vision of FreeSZFE at Yale University

On January 27, Yale University Library held a Zoom conference on “Art, Education, and Protest in Hungary: The Radical Vision of FreeSZFE.”  In September 2020 the entire faculty and students of the Theater and Film University went on strike and occupied their building to protest the privatization of the University by the government, the transfer of national assets to a board appointed by Orbán, ending 155 years of independence.  Their strike lasted 71 days, until COVID restrictions forced them to leave.  They created a free university and have operated successfully ever since.

The last legitimate rector of the university, László Upor, award-winning director Ildikó Enyedi, and former student Nóra Aujeszky presented an update of the creation and functioning of the free university ever since its foundation a year and a half ago.  They recalled the heady days of the protest when students and faculty created innovative productions that paraded through the streets of Budapest, their march to the Parliament to present their protest joined by 30,000 citizens.  The government was surprised by their immediate and unanimous defiance. The police sent to disperse or control them ended up being of assistance. No such reaction had happened when other universities were deprived of their independence.  They showed video footage of the torch that was lit by the director and passed on to faculty and students.  The torch, red-and-white ribbons signaling emergency, and a mask with an outstretched hand became the symbols of the movement.  And that movement was a call to defiance that gave life to the forces of opposition to the dictatorial rule of the Orbán regime.

Deprived of a building and of a diploma, faculty and students found other sites and got the cooperation of five different universities of theater and film in Germany, Austria and Poland that have agreed to offer diplomas to the students who have continued their work with their professors.

Ildikó Enyedi, acclaimed director of MY TWENTIETH CENTURY, ON BODY AND SOUL, and the latest THE STORY OF MY WIFE, spoke of the difficulty of the democratic process in making decisions by such a large and diverse body working together against governmental oppression.  She spoke of the success of the artistic community working together, the elation that fueled their creative protest, what she termed “humble resilience” that stood against the regime.

Upor and Aujenszky talked about other ways in which FreeSZFE confronted the autocracy–by filing law suits to invalidate privatization, by staging public events and performances, demonstrating the vitality of the new organization.  They pointed to the integrity of all at FreeSZFE, not accepting any private bargains offered by the government.

But the vibrant opposition of the free university is constrained by political realities.  Asked about the press, Upor admitted there was a modicum of free and independent electronic and paper media, but they cannot possibly compete with the barrage of government propaganda.  He also gave his sober opinion that even if the opposition were to gain control in the April elections, it is unlikely that the independence of the university would be reinstated.

And the Orbán propaganda machine immediately swung into action to discredit the Zoom conference, attacking Enyedi on Facebook as ungrateful and two-faced for attacking the government while accepting financing to make her films.

Despite the hardships the best and brightest of Hungarian theater and film faculty and students have continued to study, work, and create, and in so doing have lit a torch of freedom that is creating light in a country ruled by an oppressive “democratically elected” autocracy.

Here is the video recording of the zoom conference.


Steven Kovacs


  1. Can someone please tell readers who are not in the know, what SZFE stands for please?

    • SZFE is an acronym. The full name is Szinhaz és Filmmuveszeti Egyetem, Hungarian for University of Film and Theatre Arts

  2. Avatar Göllner András says:

    In appreciation of the courage and lucidity of the speakers at the Yale colloquium, and with applause to the organizers, and to Steven Kovacs, I would like to insert the following brief comment here in order to provide some context to the discussion on the assault by the Orbán autocracy on Hungary’s higher education sector.

    The hijacking of Hungary’s greatest intellectual treasures did not begin with the University of Cinema and Theater, but with Corvinus University, in 2019. SzFE was the Institution in Hungary that put up the greatest and most heroic resistance to this rape, that began in 2019.

    By the start of the 2021 academic year, only 5 of Hungary’s 38 institutions of higher learning are still under public ownership and scrutiny. Hungary’s greatest intellectual treasures were given away free, like cookies as Ildikó Enyedi said, to the corporate cronies of the Hungarian autocracy. And they have been given this pro bono, for life, as a consequence of a constitutional amendment passed by the Orbán autocracy. in 2021. This privatization (sic) did not proceed via public consultations with the constituents of the institutions involved (i.e. the faculty and students of the affected institutions).It took place under the cover of darkness. Listen to the Hungarian Network of Academics’ (Oktatói Hálózat) account of how it all went down:

    “As if under martial law, the Orbán regime has seized control of our universities, stripping them of all their remaining autonomy by blackmail: they were told that unless they voluntarily submit to the government’s privatization plan, they will be denied access to the 1,500 billion HUF development funds expected from the EU’s Covid Recovery Fund… This radical transformation will annihilate academic freedom in teaching and research; will jeopardise students’ progress to further education; will endanger tuition-free training; and will limit access to university education especially for those at the lower end of the income scale. The transformation eliminates the public employment status and rights of academic staff which may open the gates to mass layoffs. This is a new stage in the all-out war against intellectuals and, at the same time, against all of society… The unexpected and rapid pace of the process made it impossible for the universities to conduct a wide-ranging and thorough internal discussion of the ramifications of this monumental change upon their constituents or on Hungarian society in general… The government run national broadcasting organization, Media Services and Support Trust Fund (MTVA) announced this hijacking of our public institutions as a done deal days before the respective university senates could even vote on the matter… Throughout the process we were uninformed, mislead and deceived… In response to this assault, and under these extraordinary circumstances, spontaneous and unofficial forums were organized at some universities, where the majority of those present refused to go along with this government initiated privatization. By contrast, at the official meetings opponents were often intimidated or silenced, established voting procedures were frequently violated… Our people have been robbed for more than ten years, with increasingly aggressive methods, and ever more shamelessly by the power elite in charge of the country. Its now society as a whole that is being hijacked… The state of emergency and the ensuing restrictions on gatherings are used by the Government to introduce measures that are against the interest of the Hungarian nation and the Hungarian people. This transfer of our public universities into the hands of the ruling party’s corrupt and loyal oligarchs, and the limitations placed on their public scrutinization follow methods we last saw in our country during the Stalinist era in the early 1950s. It does not serve the public good, nor does it serve to increase the quality of Hungarian higher education or research – it only serves the interests of those in power… The Hungarian Network of Academics object to the anti-educational and anti-academic politics of the Hungarian Government, object to their hijacking of Hungarian higher education, and to the trampling upon of academic freedom. We express our solidarity with protesting members of the academic community and demand that all responsible citizens and organisations support their fight with all available means to protest against the process of transforming universities into private, and publicly uncontrollable hands.” (Translated by András Göllner from the Hungarian:

    I invite all to join the campaign of the Hungarian Network of Academics publicly by addressing their protest notes to

    For background references to the hijacking of the University of Cinema and Theater Arts (SZFE) and Hungary’s higher education sector by the Orbán regime’s corporate cronies, please consult the following sources:

    1. Sept, 7, 2018:
    2. Sept 10, 2018:
    3. Sept 13, 2018
    4. Okt 9, 2018
    5. Okt 11, 2018
    6. Nov 20, 2019
    7. Feb 10, 2020
    8. Jan 21, 2021
    9. Feb 6, 2021
    The Hungarian Network of Academics’ (OHA) declaration of protest against the appropriation of Hungarian universities
    10. Feb 22, 2021
    11. April 27, 2021
    12. April 28, 2021
    13. Okt 14, 2021
    14. Dec 27, 2021

    • “In appreciation of the courage and lucidity of the speakers at the Yale colloquium,”

      Yes, it takes a lot of courage to be a darling of the supporters of the Western neo-Marxist ideological tyranny. It is like praising the “courage” of a pro-Stalin mouthpiece during the reign of Stalin in the Soviet Union.

  3. You cannot have free universities and the government paying tuition of students and other costs at the same time. Government has a responsibility to make sure taxpayer money is spent for the benefit of society, certainly not to be used to undermine it.

    Academia has been unfortunately the cancer that has been ruining Western society for decades now. A leftist ideological monopoly within academia is now seeping through every aspect of our lives, where teachers who teach our children are overwhelmingly leftist. Media personnel are likewise mostly leftists. Political elites, judges, and more recently business elites. And now they are entering the stage of heavily persecuting those who fail to publically align with their ideological viewpoints.

    As for the leftist ideology and the resulting effects on the society? Racial marxism is leading to the destruction of law enforcement in places like the US, resulting in a rise in murders and other crimes. Gifted programs for kids are either being canceled or subjected to extreme quotas. It amounts to spitting on the efforts of all children and their parents’ sacrifices, especially Asian and White families. Women’s sports as an institution is also being undermined by Marxist Alphabet ideology, where increasingly young girls are losing hope of earning scholarships since boys can now just pretend to want to be girls in order to join girls sports.

    Hungary is lucky to have a government that is putting some curbs on this cancer, even as pressure to conform continues. The academic environment is supposed to be a place of free flow of ideas, not a place of ideological indoctrination, which is what it has become in much of the Western World.

    Here is an example of where we are at this point.

    It is a very expensive, ruinous joke on most students who attend these places!!!

  4. SZFE is an acronym of Színház- és Filmművészeti Egyetem which is the University of Theatre and Film Arts in Budapest.

  5. Avatar Göllner András says:

    @ Joe

    If you were not such congenital liar, you’d actually be funny with your phobia about that “neo-Marxist” conspiracy against Orbán’s autocracy. The fact is Orbán, by his own admission, is the closest advocate of the Chinese Communist Party’s Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist path within the Western alliance. He is the one who had set aside more money than Hungary’s entire higher education budget, for the construction of the Chinese Communist Party run Fudan University in downtown Budapest. Instead of tripping all over your Marx and Engels down here, why don’t you go down to Marks and Spencers, get yourself some rubber bands to play with., you loser.

    • Thanks for setting me straight on the “facts”. China currently has as much to do with Marx as Thatcher did. They practice mercantilist capitalism. They are also opposed to the one-world government agenda.

      The only thing they do have in common with your neo-Marxist ideology is the authoritarian tendency to shut down dissent through the persecution of those who dare to voice a different opinion from your own. That of course does not mean that Hungary should not do business with them. Everybody else does.

      Speaking of “autocracy”. Canadian protesters are currently faced with “emergency measures” meant to bring them into submission. Up to a year in prison for protesting? Up to 100,000 dollars fine? Having licenses and permits canceled? Threatening to have their children taken away? And of course, it is 100% up to the government when to declare that a protest is harming business activities, infringing on the rights of other citizens and so on. Racial Marxist oligarchy in charge of your society will probably never declare such an “emergency” over BLM protests. Is that what democracy looks like?

    • As far as Fudan. I am personally not a big fan. Not because it is Chinese. Not because I believe it is a terrible deal. I do believe that it would bring some cutting-edge R&D to Hungary. And I do mean valuable, useful R&D, in Engineering, Physics, IT, Chemistry, and so on. I am not a big fan because I do believe that Hungary could start a brand new domestic university focused on sciences, which in the long run would provide more benefit to Hungary than attracting a prestigious foreign university.

      But I have to say, Fudan would be a huge net benefit compared with Soros U. Soros U is yet to produce a single graduate capable of building a bridge, running an R&D lab, fixing or operating some high-tech machinery in any field. Not a single Soros U graduate helped to heal a sick person. Soros U only helped to spread the cancer of social upheaval by churning out leftist social antagonists, bent on tearing down society. Recent example of “good” works of Soros is the crime epidemic in the US, where prosecutors sponsored by him do not prosecute, police, attacked by his Racial-Marxist mob on the streets, in the MSM, on the boardroom of companies and by politicians, are too intimidated to face down criminals. By my rough estimate, the increase in murders alone cost the lives of about 10,000 people since the BLM riots that his “philanthropy” supported with money, by spreading lies about law enforcement. 10,000 people, including children, babies, women, the elderly, anyone caught in the crossfire. The worldwide misery being spread by Soros U graduates? Cannot be measured!

  6. Avatar Göllner András says:

    Yada yada Joe. Go tell Chairman Xi he’s got nothing to do with Marx or the Chinese Communist Party running that country like a boot-camp. Why not tell us that Mussolini wasn’t a Fascist either, he just made the trains run on time in Italy. Joe, your place is not here in this underpass, in downtown Ottawa, with a muffler up your ass. Come back when you are exhausted.

    • So you want me in downtown Ottawa, where Chairman Trudeau is currently persecuting those protesting there? I take it then that you agree with using anti-terror laws to seize people’s money and other property for protesting? You agree with government officials threatening to have their kids taken away for the simple reason that they are protesting? Going after their means to earn a living by revoking their credentials? Ceausescu used that as a favorite way to persecute anyone dissenting to his rule! Going after those who provided them food? Going after those who donated a few dollars? I hear people are being identified on donation lists and losing their place of employment, having their property seized. So you want me to be persecuted for my views? That is a true statement on your democratic values!

      Meanwhile, in the US of A the justice department set out to persecute parents for the simple fact that they were showing up at school board meetings to protest against Racial-Marxist indoctrination of their kids. Also under anti-terror laws. The father of the 14 year old girl that was anally raped by a dude in a dress in the school bathroom was declared a domestic terrorist by much of the MSM and cited as a reason for the FBI to get involved because he got a bit upset when a Trans activist dared to claim he was lying.

      And of course, yesterday the ECJ ruled that EU can withhold EU funds from countries that are judged by a majority of EU countries to “not follow rule of law”. In other words, nations that will vote in an ideologically incorrect manner will be punished.

      I think the ruling oligarchs and their puppets in the Western World are increasingly becoming the masters of the repression game, with Chairman Xi perhaps needing to call Chairman Trudeau, the EC or the US deep state and learn some of the more modern tricks of the trade.

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