Psychoanalysis Behind Iron Curtains

November 13, 2015

Ferenc Erős

Friday, November 13, 7:00PM–9:00PM, Room 7000, SFU Harbour Centre

Co-sponsored by the Western Branch Psychoanalytic Society and the Lacan Salon

The term “iron curtain” refers to the long lasting division of Europe, the political, military, economic, ideological and cultural divisions between “East” and “West”, started after the second world war, and lasted until the demolition of the Berlin wall in 1989. Iron curtains had been often erected between psychoanalysis and the external world, leaving only very narrow “Checkpoint Sigmunds”, where ideas and experiences could have been nevertheless exchanged. The iron curtain between “East” and “West” was a division line which had forcefully blocked the most important historical centres of psychoanalysis from each other: Vienna from Budapest, and Berlin from Berlin. In my paper I am focusing on the mostly untold story of the Hungarian psychoanalysis behind the iron curtain, its (self)liquidation in 1948, its underground survival until the 1970s, and its revival in the 1980s. I will analyze the political and ideological context of the exclusion of psychoanalysis from the Hungarian intellectual life, and the role played by the great Marxist philosopher Georg Lukács in the exclusion process. I will also show the counterpart of this exclusion, that is, the inclusion of psychoanalysis into the Hungarian intellectual life in 1918/19 through the channels of progressivist movements and radical university students’ circles. I will focus, in particular, on the facts and fictions of Sándor Ferenczi’s legendary professorship under the Hungarian Councils’ Republic 1919, and the role played by Georg Lukács as deputy People’s Commissar of Education in his appointment. I will analyze Ferenczi’s subsequent exclusion from the academic life, as well as his marginalization in the psychoanalytic movement which had gradually developed its own internal “iron curtains” on interpersonal, intergroup as well as on political and ideological division lines.

Ferenc Erős (1946) studied psychology and literature at the ELTE University in Budapest, and graduated in 1969. He obtained his PhD in 1986, and he bears the title “Doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences” (DSc) since 2002. Currently he is professor emeritus at the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Pécs where he directs a doctoral program in psychoanalytic studies since 1997. The focus of his present research areas includes Jewish identity, the social and cultural history of psychoanalysis in Central Europe; psychoanalytic theory and its application to social issues; the problem of trauma and cultural memory. He is the author of several scientific books and articles in his areas of research in English, Hungarian, German and French. He edited the Hungarian translation of the Freud-Ferenczi correspondence, and edited (with Judit Szekacs) Sándor Ferenczi – Ernest Jones: Letters 1911-1933. (London: Karnac 2013). His recent publication is “Freedom and authority in the Clinical Diary” (American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 2014, 74, 367-380.)


Hilda Fernandez is a practitioner of Lacanian Psychoanalysis in Vancouver and a founding member of the Lacan Salon where she serves as its current president. She is also an Associate of the Institute. 

Samir Gandesha is Associate Professor of Modern European Thought and Culture in the Department of the Humanities and Director of the Institute for the Humanities. 

Endre Koritar is a training and supervising analyst in the Vancouver Institute of  Psychoanalysis and a Fellow of the International Psychoanalytic Association.

Jerry Zaslove taught European literatures, humanities, and social and cultural radicalism and the arts at Simon Fraser University since 1965 until evicted; currently Simons Chair, Graduate Liberal Studies.


Christopher (Kit) Fortune is an internationally known historian of psychoanalysis who focuses on the work of Sandor Ferenczi; he is an Associate of the Institute.