Cultural Commissioner Imre Kerényi

20120925KAR_6415_AK_portré_231Theater director Imre Kerényi has served as Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s cultural commissioner since May 15, 2011. His official title: “prime ministerial commissioner responsible for establishing the foundations for conscious national thought and implementation of tasks connected to the preservation and development of Hungarian cultural values.”


Born in the village of Csopak on the north shore of Lake Balaton. Attended the Gergely Czuczor Benedictine High School in the city of Győr in northwestern Hungary.

Earned a degree in theater direction at the Academy of Drama and Film in Budapest in 1966. Served as director at various theaters over the next forty years, including the Madách Theater for nearly three decades and the National Theater from 1983 to 1989.

Was a member of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party before the System Change (source in Hungarian). Ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the National Assembly as a candidate for the Christian-nationalist Hungarian Democratic Forum in Hungary’s first democratic elections in 1990.

Recipient of the Kossuth Prize in 2002, the final year of the first Orbán government. (The Kossuth Prize is the most prestigious state award in Hungary, recognizing outstanding achievement among Hungarians in the fields of science, art and literature.)

Emerged as one of the secondary leaders of the mass protests against Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány and his government that took place in Budapest in September 2006 (source in Hungarian).

Activity as Government Commissioner

Was responsible for commissioning the paintings that serve as illustrations in the decorative edition of Hungary’s Fundamental Law that came into effect on January 1, 2012 (source in Hungarian). See Orange Files gallery of these paintings.

Petitioned Budapest Mayor István Tarlós to have street in the city named after emblematic Horthy-era nationalist author Cécile Tormay (source in Hungarian). Tarlós eventually rejected the request after the Hungarian Academy of Sciences determined that Tormay “proudly acknowledged herself to be an anti-Semite and fascist” (source in Hungarian).

Played a central role in the selection of the controversial memorial commemorating the German occupation of Hungary on in March 1944 to be unveiled in Budapest on the 70th anniversary of the invasion (see source in Hungarian and Orange Files post What Is Truth?).

Notable Quotes 

“The left-liberals have spoken up against Cécile Tormay, but not because of her literary work, but because of her political activity. The left-wing is going to have to learn to accept this.” March 6, 2013, in interview with website (source in Hungarian). 

“He still has enough strength for it, he is of the right age, he has the education, the experience, the culture for it and he will run a National Theater that is just as popular as Alföldi’s, only it won’t be about queers, but love and friendship and loyalty.” May 21, 2013, during an interview regarding Attila Vidnyánszky, who replaced Róbert Alföldi as the director of the National Theater in the summer of 2013 (see source in Hungarian and Orange Files post Fecal Matter).

“We must start down a path, take up the fight against this force. This is, in fact, the queer lobby . . .” May 21, 2014, speaking at the Christian Theater Festival [Keresztény Színházi Fesztivál] in Budapest (source in Hungarian). 

 Last updated: June 27, 2018.

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