Life story


“Against Headwinds On the Lee Side”

Extract: From György Hazai's memoir published in 2019. (pages 8-11.)

The road to the university led from "Trefort" high school. I can remember the teachers of my first alma mater with heartfelt gratitude and love. They were unique founts of all wisdom, and provided me with excellent ammunition for the road ahead.
    I enrolled in the Faculty of Humanities of ELTE in 1950. There, in a matter of a few weeks, it was decided that I was to become a Turkologist. In such a way, it was not romantic affections that proved to be the antecedents: the choice was suggested by my brilliant professors in history.
    At the Department of Turkology, constituting a one-person class, for many years I was the student of the great masters of international Turkology–Gyula Németh and Lajos Fekete. The various aspects of my major also led me to Lajos Ligeti. From them it was possible to learn everything–even beyond the subject of Turkology–that was necessary for embarking on a career in scholarly research.
    At the same time, Gyula Németh and Lajos Ligeti–unparalleled scholars–were very difficult persons in organizing the circle of their disciples. Organizing Oriental Studies was no exception either. Views different from theirs inevitably caused a conflict with them. This is what happened to me too. Their greatness as scholars was, however, demonstrated by the fact that they were able to put all this aside when they had to evaluate my dissertation to become a professor. Lajos Ligeti–Gyula Németh was no longer alive at the time–also recommended me for membership in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) ahead of his other students.
    The experiences of the years as a young researcher produced one great resolution: in research, do everything as the masters do, but in the human sphere, do everything in a different way.
    It was an accident that the course of my life took me abroad very early. In 1956–57 when I was an aspirant, I read Turkology to a large group of students at the invitation of the University of Sofia. A few years later, this was followed by my work at Humboldt University and the German Academy of Sciences (1963–1982).
    However, there were some other reasons for accepting the latter foreign invitation that proved to be decisive in my career.
    Upon completing my studies as an aspirant, I more and more sensed that my generation of colleagues did not want to see me playing cards at the same table of Oriental Studies, even as a kibitzer. In this way, although the opportunities were very limited at the time, I had to look for foreign tables. And there, I was immediately dealt a better hand. The condition, however, was that I–especially as a foreigner–had to play this hand very well.
    In turn, throughout my life I faced the challenge, the incentive to try and attain more and better.
    After spending twenty years on German soil, I returned home in 1982. I became a member of the Academy of Sciences at the recommendation of Béla Köpeczi, Lajos Ligeti and Ferenc Tőkei, and a little later, at the initiative of the Secretary General of the Academy of Sciences, the Director General of the Publishing House of the Academy of Sciences (1984–1990).
    The 1990s called me abroad again: in 1992, I became the Director of the newly established Institute of Turkology of the University of Cyprus. I had to lay the foundations of Turkology on the Greek side of the island that suffered from the Greek-Turkish conflict. The work was not easy, but the years spent on the island of Aphrodite were unforgettable all the same.
    What is the record of all these years?
    As far as scholarly publications are concerned–although I will say a few words about them a little later–the relevant handbooks will provide the necessary information.
    In the work of Turkology and events in that field, I have had a no small number of prestigious jobs. As a result of that, I was able to see the world as a visiting professor.
    I have to be honest: in fact, I owe my generation of colleagues great thanks for being reluctant to see me at home.
    The chronological frame of our lifework is not within our choice. The century in which I was destined to live was not one to be loved. Our generation paid a high price for what had happened around us. At the same time, the century itself presented a challenge to all thinking people. For me, this was crowned by very adventurous positions: I had to remain a man and a European citizen under difficult circumstances.

    My friends and colleagues encourage me to write my memoirs. I have something to say. I have already found a title: Against Headwinds On the Lee Side.