Our relations in the field of culture

Cultural relations between Vietnam and Hungary have been affected by the geographical distance between the two countries. During the 1950s and 1960s, people learnt about the Vietnamese people’s struggle from radio news. From the mid-1960s, they could watch the terrible destruction by the war on television. Gradually, through many decades, information on the Vietnam war was engraved on Hungarian people’s mind. In those years, radio and television were the only means to transmit information on the ethnic groups and cultures of the two countries. Radio broadcast agreements made folk music exchanges possible. Every week, the Voice of Vietnam and the Hungarian Radio had music programs of the other country on the air. Besides Hungarian folk music, Vietnamese audience could also enjoy works by such famous Hungarian composers as Kodaly and Bartok as well as many other world-renowned musicians.

All the same, our country was best known from the Vietnamese Radio’s regular information on support funds raised in Hungary.

Due to the hardships of war, Vietnam was not able to welcome Hungarian cultural delegations, and the difficult economic situation of that time also kept the country from sending delegations abroad. The devastation of the warfare moved many Hungarian people to tears. In 1965 Aladár Farkas, Munkácsy award winning sculptor produced a series of works on Vietnam on the basis of war photos requested from the Vietnamese Embassy, and organized statue exhibitions in many localities throughout Hungary. His 40 pieces of statues were out of reach for the Vietnamese people, until President Ho Chi Minh invited the artist to visit Vietnam in 1967, though even then Vietnamese people could appreciate his work on photos only. Aladár Farkas was the only Hungarian sculptor who captured the portrait of President Ho Chi Minh. The Uncle Ho bust was unveiled at the Hanoi Park (now the Independence Park in District 11, the capital city of Budapest) and is now exhibited at the Vietnamese Embassy in Budapest.

In those dire circumstances, the introduction of Hungarian literature in Vietnam seemed to be the most practical. However, that venture also faced many difficulties due to lack of professional translators from the Hungarian language. Vietnamese students studying in Hungary, who were fluent in Hungarian, and loved literature, especially prose and poetry, were mobilized to do this job. Suffice it to say that these students laid a marvellous foundation with their translations. Besides stories told by returning students about Hungary, for a long while the translated works created the only cultural exchange channel between the two countries. It would be hard to find a middle aged or older Vietnamese, who never read the novel entitled “Stars of Eger” by Geza Gardonyi. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Vietnam-Hungary diplomatic relations, the Thanh Nien Publishing House republished some of those translated novels in order to make them a valuable asset for generations to come.

The books together with Hungary’s romantic historical movies screened during the 1980s harvested glorious success. Currently demand for those films remains high but copyright matters prevent television re-screenings. The number of Hungarian movies shown at Vietnamese cinemas is negligible, and even those few could address a limited audience only. Language difficulties could be blamed for this. Only people who have studied in Hungary would understand Hungarian language. Therefore, it is very necessary to have Hungarian films dubbed in Vietnamese, but there is no studio, which could do this work. In case of having financial support, movies with Vietnamese subtitles may be screened.

In the 1980s some positive examples of cultural cooperation took place: for example a Hungarian art group performed in Vietnam. The majority of their performances were sponsored by mass organizations. The most outstanding feature was the play “Bánk bán” translated into Vietnamese by Le Xuan Giang, and put on stage in Hanoi and the Northern province of Thai Binh in 1986. The Operett Budapest Theatre also had a guest performance in Hanoi in November 2005.

After the war, fine art exhibitions were being organized thanks to the close ties between Hungarian and Vietnamese artists, including Tamara Illenyi, Ildiko Bakos and Eszter Balazs. Statue lovers in Vietnam could admire works by Ildiko Bakos and Eszter Balazs in a statue garden on the bank of the Huong River in the central city of Hue.

Efforts were made to introduce Vietnamese culture in Hungary. In 1998, a delegation from the Hanoi Water Puppetry Theatre performed in Budapest during its Europe tour and in 2008, the delegation was invited to return to a Hungarian art festival in the capital city. That same year, a Ho Chi Minh City art troupe was invited by the Budapest Mayor to perform in the capital - they had a great success.

Film production cooperation has witnessed significant results. In 2009, a film entitled “Dung Dot” (Don’t burn it) directed by Dang Nhat Minh was screened in Hanoi. The film received a warm welcome from the public and won the Golden Lotus Prize, the most prestigious award in Vietnam. The Hungarian Benedekfi brothers had composed the film music, and studio work was completed in Budapest.

It’s important to mention that the only religious-cultural monument with Hungarian relevance is the Sandor Csoma Kőrösi memorial stupa in the Southern coastal city of Vung Tau. Buddhist scholars refer to Sandor Csoma Kőrösi as the ‘Hungarian Bothisattva’ (Bo-tat Csoma in Vietnamese), that is a saint with special capabilities. He was sainted to be Bothisattva in Tokyo on February 22, 1933. Therefore, to commemorate him, Vietnamese people built the statue to face the sea. The Hungarian Embassy in Hanoi has made steps to renovate the stupa for the 60th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries and turn the statue area into a Vietnam-Hungary special pilgrimage place.

We hope that the positive trend will continue, more and more cultural exchanges will take place in the future to strengthen our friendship, and introduce the way of thinking, the life and struggle of a faraway people to the younger generation.

Education exchange

Hungary-Vietnam educational cooperation commenced in the 1960s when Hungary granted its first scholarships to Vietnamese students. During the wartime, the training of young experts was a very important task for Vietnam. Until the post-war reconstruction process, foreign countries had granted thousands of scholarships to Vietnamese students, hundreds of which were provided by Hungary. Most of the scholarship recipients pursued studies in technology and electronics, while some of them majored in social sciences and economics. Following a one-year pre-university Hungarian language course, Vietnamese students started professional training. They achieved outstanding academic results and received university degrees awarded by Hungary. In the 1970s, many Vietnamese were sent to Hungary for postgraduate education and research.

The number of Vietnamese people who graduated from Hungarian universities exceeds 4,000. Many of them held the posts of economic or political leaders, minister, deputy minister and ambassador. The first generation of Vietnamese students trained in Hungary is now close to retirement.

The reception of Vietnamese students was interrupted in early 1990s due to Hungary’s economic-financial difficulties, while Vietnam’s education system was improved as it stepped up national reconstruction after the war.

Since the beginning of the new millennium, Hungary has annually provided five scholarships to Vietnamese students. Currently, 40 students are studying in Hungary under fellowships provided by its government. Bilateral educational cooperation has seen encouraging progress as around 200 young Vietnamese pursue higher education at Hungarian universities with self-financing. Not long ago the Vietnamese government raised the number of scholarships to 20 for students to go to Hungary.

Under the terms of an agreement signed between the Hungarian Government and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia and the Shared Service Centre moved to Budapest. As part of the accord, the Government of Hungary provides 100 scholarships to students from developing nations, of which 20 awards will come to Vietnam.

In the 1980s and 1990s, a large number of alumni from Hungary returned to the European country to do business, and many of them received Hungarian citizenship.

Each year a few Hungarian students travelled to Vietnam to study the language in the wartime of 1970s. Some of them came from Hungarian universities, including the famous Eotvos Lorand University, while others were students from the Vietnamese-language study faculty of the Moscow-based academy of diplomacy. Today, many of those are ambassadors and leading diplomats.

We have to mention the Vietnam-Hungary College of Industry, which is located about 40 kilometres from the centre of Hanoi. In the 1990s, young vonluteers from Hungary laid the first bricks to build this vocational training school. It was upgraded to a college at the beginning of the new millenium with 10 training faculties. The college has annually awarded graduation certificates to more than 3,000 trainees, becoming an imporntant vocational training school in the region. In the long run, it is pursuing an ambitious plan to reach university status.

During the years the school received remarkable support from another European country. The donors requested a change of name from the school to mirror their help, but the leadership unanimously rejected the plan. They remained loyal to the memory of Hungary’s help extended to the college during difficult times.The rector quoted a Vietnamese proverb saying: ’’When drinking water, remember its source.”

Entering the new millennium, Hungary’s tertiary education attracts young Vietnamese people by the combination of high standards with competitive training fees. More importantly, teaching is conducted in English, which helps reduce language-related obstacles. In addition, relatives or friends, who have settled in Hungary also provide financial support and assist young Vietnamese people to pursue their studies in the country.

There are encouraging signs of Hungarian tertiary education establishments seeking Vietnamese partners by themselves. As a result, cooperation agreements are signed between universities of Vietnam and Hungary to carry on scientific research, joint compilation of curriculum, as well as student exchange, and part-time training in Hungary. In the framework of Hungarian-Vietnamese cooperation hospitality and restaurant service industry personnell are first trained in Vietnamese institutions, and then sent to Hungary for further professional training. Teaching involves state-of-the-art technniques, internet, and trainees are awarded European Union standard qualification.

With the concerted efforts from both sides, bilateral educational cooperation between Hungary and Vietnam is expected to flourish in the future.

Our relations in the field of sport

Sports relations were established at the beginning of Vietnam’s peacetime. During the 1970s and 1980s, several overseas Vietnamese students who graduated from the Budapest College of Sports and Physical Training returned home as coaches or athletes. Real sports relations started in the 1980s when the Hungarian Army’s young footballers came to play in Vietnam. Vietnamese people’s love for football helped develop the connection in this field. Since then, Hungarian coaches have continuously trained different football teams in Vietnam. In the early 2000s, several young Hungarian footballers signed contracts to play at Hanoi clubs.

In the late 1990s, Hungarian swimming coach Krisztina Egerszegi visited Vietnam in the framework of a campaign for the “Fit for Life” programme. Among graduates from the Budapest College of Sports and Physical Training, some became swimming coaches and trained Hanoi youth and selected teams for competitions. Occasionally junior Vietnamese swimming teams attended training courses in the Hungarian city of Bekescsaba during 1994-1995.

In 2005, Hungarian rowing coaches helped train Vietnamese athletes, who competed in Hungary as well.

Vietnam-Hungary chess cooperation has been established over the past decades as many young Vietnamese people show their aptitude for mathematics and chess. Vietnamese chess players, who were trained in Hungary, have gained high achievements in the international arena. The two countries’ Chess Federations have regularly facilitated the joint participation of Hungarian and Vietnamese junior teams in international competitions, as well as assisted their training courses.

The Badminton Federations of Vietnam and Hungary have made great contributions to fostering the relationship.

The different natural conditions of Vietnam and Hungary have helped coaches and sportsmen of varied fields to prepare for tournaments in each other’s country in order to get adjusted to altering climate conditions before entering large international competitions.

We hope that the positive changes of recent years in Vietnamese-Hungarian relations and strengthened cultural and sports activities will contribute to the friendship between the two nations, helping young generations of Hungarians get more information and understanding about ways of thinking and living, the hardships and successes of Vietnam, a country far in distance but close in sentiments.