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Rev, Istvan 1951(?)-

Rev, Istvan 1951(?)-


Born c. 1951. Education: Eötvös Loránd University, M.A., 1975.


Office—Central European University, History Department, Nador u. 9, Budapest, H-1051, Hungary. E-mail—[email protected]


Political scientist, educator, and author. Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary, junior fellow, 1975-81, scientific fellow, 1981-85; Karl Marx University of Economics, Budapest, scientific fellow, 1985-91; Central European University, Budapest, director of Budapest College, 1991-93, professor and academic director of the Open Society Archive. Visiting faculty member, University of California, Berkeley.


Economic and Social History of Hungary in the Period of "Socialism" (Hungarian language edition), Aula (Budapest, Hungary), 1990.

Retroactive Justice: Prehistory of Post-Communism, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 2005.

Contributor to books, including The New Détente, 1989; Between Past and Future, 2000; and Schools of Thoughts, 2001. Contributor to periodicals, including Daedalus, Dissent, and Representations. Founding editor of the Budapest Review of Books, 1989—.


Istvan Rev is a professor, writer, scholar, and political scientist. Rev earned his M.A. from the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, in 1975. He then went on to work as a research fellow at institutions such as the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Karl Marx University of Economics. The second phase of Rev's career began when Rev started working for Central European University as director of Budapest College, going on to become a professor and academic director of the Open Society Archive there. As a scholar, Rev has contributed to such periodicals as Daedalus, Dissent, and Representations, as well as books such as Between Past and Future and Schools of Thoughts. Rev released his first full-length book, Economic and Social History of Hungary in the Period of "Socialism," (published in Hungarian) in 1990.

Rev's second book, Retroactive Justice: Prehistory of Post-Communism, was published in English in 2005. The book is a political history of Hungary in the twentieth century. Indeed, in a Chronicle of Higher Education article on Rev and his work, Richard Byrne noted that Retroactive Justice views "Hungarian history from oblique angles: how politically sensitive exhumations pluck the strings of contemporary nationalism; the significance of the banishment and revival of national holidays; the odd mechanisms … used by fervent nationalists to rebrand the Hungarian fascists allied with Adolf Hitler as ‘anti-communist’ heroes." The book was widely reviewed and met with almost universal acclaim. According to Canadian Journal of History contributor Magdalena Zolkos, the book is "a peculiar retrograde journey into the communist past that is quite unlike any other study of postwar eastern European … history." Because of this, Zolkos continued, "it not only provides new knowledge about that era, but, more importantly, challenges conventional and linear perceptions of historical events." "One of the most interesting components of Retroactive Justice," Zolkos noted, "is the fact that the author admits the contingency of his own historical perspective in that he explicitly speaks from the position of post-communism."

Many critics, like Byrne and Zolkos, focused on the book's singular approach to history. Clarence B. Davis, writing in History: Review of New Books, was no exception. Davis called Retroactive Justice "a distinctive, not to say unique, historical account, written for specialists rather than a general or student audience. It is difficult to suggest similar works." Davis concluded: "This book is a work of great erudition and sophistication. It is imbued with a deep and biting sense of wit and irony."



American Historical Review, April 1, 2006, Katherine Verdery, review of Retroactive Justice: Prehistory of Post-Communism, p. 586.

Canadian Journal of History, September 22, 2006, Magdalena Zolkos, review of Retroactive Justice, p. 383.

Chronicle of Higher Education, November 4, 2005, Richard Byrne, "Buried in the Files."

History: Review of New Books, March 22, 2005, Clarence B. Davis, review of Retroactive Justice, p. 110.

London Review of Books, April 6, 2006, "Unquiet Bodies," p. 3.

Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 2004, review of Retroactive Justice, p. 41.

Sociology, February 1, 2003, "The Paradoxes of Unintended Consequences," p. 183.


Central European University History Department Web site, (May 25, 2008), author profile.

University of California, Santa Cruz Web site, (May 25, 2008), author profile.

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