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Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a revolutionary wave ran across the world that resulted in the end of Communist rule throughout the world, including in Central and Eastern Europe. As a response to the fall of the Socialist Bloc in this region, and in pursuit to bring democracy, freedom of speech and examine the challenges of open societies, the Central European University was created in Budapest, Hungary to foster inter-regional cooperation and educate new regional leaders that would bring democracy promotion across the countries of the area.

26 years later, in 2017, the university ranked 25th worldwide in the fields of politics and international studies, faced an amendment to the National Higher Education Law was tabled at the Hungarian parliament, which was signed into law one month later.

This law, known as ‘Lex CEU’ after the university seemed to be the most directly targeted, placed legal obstacles to make it almost impossible for the CEU to operate in the country.  

The reason behind the government’s actions, was that CEU was the last piece on the table to erase the opposition groups that were against the antidemocratic system placed by the party in place. The increasingly repressive political and legal environment in Hungary, took over the control of all media; withdrew the accreditation for teaching gender studies in the country; forced out of Hungary the ‘Open Societies Foundation”, one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world that fights for freedom, democracy, and human rights; it further announced to fine universities that would have study programmes for refugees; and launched governmental anti-EU campaigns.

And so, with academic freedom threatened, together with democracy, people went out on the streets to defend the university. From kids to elderly, students and civilians, national and foreigners, 70,000 people gathered to oppose the government’s decisions. The movement went global and Nobel Prize winners, prominent academics and academic institutions lined up supporting the university. However, democracy didn’t win and in 2019, CEU was forced to move out of the country leaving empty buildings and no strong government counterbalance behind.

This is a visual compilation of a very emotional journey of a strong university, the Hungarian society and myself.  

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