Researching Pandemic Management in the Heart of Europe

by | Feb 17, 2021 | Budapest Fellowship Program, News

Introduction and interview with István Kiss, Budapest Fellowship Program Mentor.


BFP mentor István Kiss with his mentee Dr. George Bogden


In September 2020, the Hungary Foundation together with Mathias Corvinus Collegium (Budapest, Hungary) established the Budapest Fellowship Program, a full-time, fully-funded transatlantic fellowship opportunity in Budapest, Hungary, for young American scholars and professionals. The fellows are conducting independent research on an independently chosen topic, at an assigned host institution, guided by a trusted mentor. We could not do this program without these mentors and host institutions, so we’re introducing them one by one in a series of new interviews.

István Kiss, Executive Director of the Danube Institute, is mentor of Dr. George Bogden, Budapest Fellowship Program’s 2020 visiting senior fellow.


The Danube Institute is a Budapest-based think-tank focusing mainly on the Anglo-Saxon countries and Europe, with a special emphasis on the Central European region. The Institute itself was founded in 2013 by the Batthyány Lajos Foundation. The President of the Institute, John O’Sullivan is a recognized and renowned editor and columnist worldwide. Besides his title at the Danube Institute currently, he is also a senior fellow at the Washington-based National Review Institute.

The Danube Institute provides a platform for discussion and debate for people from nearly all over the world: well-known scholars, politicians, recognized journalists and columnists are more than often attending events and conferences organized by the Institute. The aim and the mission that the Danube Institute is trying to fulfill is to help in the process of bringing the English-speaking – or the so-called Anglo Saxon – world and the world of our region closer.

Research, analysis, and publication also play a critical and important role in the work of the Institute, not only to understand our world but to also help shape it. Besides focusing on the current and actual prominent figures of the – mainly center-right – intellectual and political sphere, Danube Institute also pays attention to the next generation of opinion-leaders by engaging them and making them one of their target groups. This pursuit makes the cooperation of the Institute and the Budapest Fellowship Program a great one.

As the research topic of Dr. George Bogden, this year is “Double standards and managing the Covid-19 pandemic” – including subnational cooperation among Central and Eastern European states, as well as North American countries – the Danube Institute with its professional profile is a perfect choice of a host institution for him.

“I am learning so much at the Danube Institute. Every time I come in, I am invited to participate in conversations and dialogue that bring dynamics within Hungary into focus. Istvan Kiss is an ideal mentor. He is providing me with numerous opportunities to develop lines of inquiry, to discuss new and old topics in U.S.-Hungarian relations, and to leverage contacts in Budapest, Washington, DC, and New York. The community of fellows and senior staff at the Danube Institute have made my time here exciting and enriching.” – Dr. George Bogden

István Kiss, Executive Director is a political scientist and an international relations expert. He has earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Pázmány Péter Catholic University and at the University of Edinburgh. From 2013 to 2018 he worked at the Századvég Foundation first as a Research Fellow then as a Senior Research Fellow. Formerly, he worked as a Political Adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office of Hungary.

István Kiss

We asked István Kiss about his role as a mentor to provide you with a glimpse into this important aspect of the program:

How are you guiding your mentee along the way?

George joins us at our office at least once a week and will be a regular contributor to our geopolitical research group. He has also a lot of good ideas about some of our future events and will definitely join us as a speaker on some of them. I believe his main research topic is progressing at a better pace as well since he is actually here in person. During the spring semester, I am hoping that we will be able to introduce him to several Hungarian academics and some important policymakers which will help him further progress in his research. We also hope that once the Covid situation improves we will be able to organize some research trips for him to the other Visegrad countries as well.

What was your first impression of George, how is working together coming along?

My first impression of George was very positive, he came off as a motivated, enthusiastic person who has a sincere and keen interest in the region. I was also very impressed by his academic carrier and his knowledge of Hungary, it is always very rare for a foreigner, especially not from our own region, to know this much about our country. Furthermore, his knowledge is not only focused on the politics of Hungary, but he also has a keen interest in our culture and history as well. For example, he is already an expert on the life of Lajos Kossuth in his own right. I truly believe that George would have been welcomed with open arms in some of the best universities and think tanks in the world. Still, he chose Hungary and honored us at the Danube Institute with his work, for this, we are very grateful for him.

What are the main challenges of his research topic, or method?

The research topic he has chosen is very recent as it deals with the Covid pandemic, and because of this, there will certainly be a lack of proper academic sources. Overall reliance on news reports and analyses will be a difficult challenge but not something that will deter George.

Why do you think the Budapest Fellowship Program is important, and what makes it different from others of its kind?

I believe the Budapest Fellowship is very unique compared to the other scholarships I have knowledge about, especially in this region. The time period of about a year offered by the program is very generous and allows the participants to really immerse themselves with their research topics and also give ample time for them to get to know Hungary better. This is encouraged by several classes about Hungarian history, politics, and culture, an intensive language class, and even several road trips to important historical sites, museums, and the countryside. The program will eventually develop young foreign academics and experts with deep inside knowledge of Hungary and Central and Eastern Europe which is currently sadly very much missing in a lot of Western universities.


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