CUNY REEES Workshop: “Marrying Sun Yat-senism and Turanism. Leveraging Ancestral Nationalism in Interwar Sino-Hungarian Cultural Diplomacy”

Event Date: March 22, 2024 | Online

Historian Mátyás Mervay, “Marrying Sun Yat-senism and Turanism. Leveraging Ancestral Nationalism in Interwar Sino-Hungarian Cultural Diplomacy,” on Friday, March 22nd at 12:30 pm via Zoom.

Zoom registration link:

Papers for the workshops will be circulated one week prior to the event date and a reminder email will be sent at that time. We will meet once per month throughout the semester. March, April and May dates will be announced shortly. We look forward to seeing you!

About the paper: The collapse of the Qing and Habsburg empires in the 1910s enabled an unprecedented opportunity for interactions between China and the East-Central European countries. These successor states in both postimperial regions wanted to integrate into the world of international diplomacy as equal peers. In the interwar, treaties of commerce and amity were considered important milestones; however, unlike its post-Habsburg neighbor Austria and Czechoslovakia, Hungary never established formal ties with the Republic of China. Those Hungarians and Chinese wanting to promote such an accord used cultural diplomacy as a PR means to achieve their desired politico-economic end: consular representation of their expatriates, boosting trade and expanding the number of friendly countries through mutual diplomatic recognition. This paper introduces a case study of a rogue Kuomintang diplomat diving deep into a frustrated nationalist subculture in an attempt to recruit Japanese-leaning Hungary as an ally of China. Although He Zhenya ultimately failed to convince his government to exploit Hungary’s Turanist quasi-ideology of Eastern orientation, his involvement in the birth of Hungarian academic Sinology in the 1930s and his manifold activism in Budapest and Nanjing proved to be an important milestone for postimperial China’s first diplomatic entry in Central Europe.

About the author: Mátyás Mervay ( is a Ph.D. Candidate who completed and will defend his dissertation in Spring 2024 at New York University’s History Department. “Habsburg Refugees in China: Postimperial Diaspora, Diplomacy, and Orientalism in the Republican Era (1918-1949)” focuses on displacement, humanitarian assistance, and diaspora formation in a twentieth-century Sino-Central European foreign relations context, drawing on multilingual sources from three continents. In his work, Mátyás investigates the blind spots in our knowledge of 19th- and 20th-century European imperialism and its diasporas in Greater China. He argues that Sino-Central European interactions reveal much about the postimperial continuities and interwovenness of the Central European countries while shedding light on the Chinese struggle against colonialism and the quest for sovereignty.

The CUNY REEES Kruzhok is a space for scholars in the social sciences and humanities to share research in progress for feedback, with a wider aim of connecting specialists focused on this region within CUNY, New York, and further afield. It is co-sponsored by the European Union Studies Center and the History PhD Program at the Graduate Center, CUNY. It is coordinated by Mark Lewis (College of Staten Island/Graduate Center, CUNY), Merrill Sovner (EU Studies Center, Graduate Center, CUNY) and Lukasz Chielminski (Baruch College/CUNY Baccalaureate). It meets on selected Fridays at 12:30 pm ET during the semester. 

Email to join the mailing list or express interest in presenting.

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