From 1943 to the 1970s – An interdisciplinary institute in service of Transdanubia


The historical roots of Transdanubian Research Institute founded in 1943 go back to the international political situation in the post-World War II era, as well as to the contemporary situation of the Hungarian scientific life. In particular, after the closing of the Faculty of Humanities of the Erzsébet University Pécs in 1941 an idea came up with founding a research institute, which aims to investigate and strenghten the socio-economic position of the population of Pannonia. The draft from scientific point of view remphasized that in order to develop scientific research – in addition to higher education institutions – an independent academic institution is required. As a result of these arguments the Transdanubian Research Institute has been established.

As a part of building the research institute network of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Academy took over the institute from the Ministry of Education on 1st January 1955. This increased not only the institute’s rank, but also ensured that the regional research in Hungary – as in several European countries – could continue in the academic setting. The fundamental task of the Institute at this time was carrying out and further improving researches in physical geography, economic geography, ethnography and history and investigating the theoretical and practical issues of natural and social phenomena in Transdanubia, as well as their relationships.

The Institute had its deepest roots in physical geographic research. At first this branch of science with investigations in karst morphology and karst hidrology worked out proposals for karst development in the Mecsek Mountains and on the basis of ancient karst studies it built scientific relations with international research institutions as well. A detailed exploration of Southeastern Transdanubia’s natural endowments in landscape research program began in the mid-fifties and sixties, and it was supplemented with related disciplines and practices more suited to the needs of the geographical landscape evaluation as well. The anthropogenic geoprocesses as a new trend joined to the earlier research themes by studying their adverse effects on the environment.

On the most important areas of study in economic geography started in 1952 – which were the research of the spatial distribution of population and settlements and investigating the regional structure of building materials industry – more and more research outputs – capable for meeting public demands – were produced.

Population and settlement geography studies and research papers among others revealed the motives, proportions and consequences of population migration after World War for Southeastern Transdanubia. These studies have provided useful results for urban transformation, for the delineation of the catchment area of hierarchical centres and for to solving the socio-economic issues of the small village settlement system.

Researches in history had significant role in the Institute’s activities since its foundation. The economic history is the most important theme for the beginning of the Mecsek coal basin exploration was offered, and the coal mining industry in the history of national production summary. The manufacturing Transdanubia research in the Southeast industrial process aimed history. The institute was part of the ten-volume “History of Hungary” was artificial economic history of impurities from the 1790-1848’s.

The recording of the landscape distribution of population culture had an important role in ethnographic studies. The Institute’s ethnographers were involved in the large-scale projects of the Hungarian Ethnographic Atla, they explored the ethnic culture Southeast Transdanubia with the idenific ation of related villages, investigated the interaction of local cultures. The scientific results started with landscape theory but comparative researches analysing the distribution and diversity of the regional differences of red-wine making had national significance. The published results of the internationally recognised cultural, and culture historical researches revealed the development of Hungarian-Yugoslav cultural relations in the 18-20th centuries and their socio-political and ideological currents.

Over the past seven decades since its establishment, the Institute has made significant progress in research organization and methodology. During the development of the disciplines represented in the institute the general requirement urging for a certain convergence between sciences and disciplines and the active use of the results had become increasingly dominant.

This consideration played a part in the institute’s careful selection of research topics, and – as well as – in the collective definition of the methodological foundation of researches. This methodological consideration of researches was always the institute’s prime responsibility, because nothing less is important than incorporating an interdisciplinary scheme of social science research into a unit being an important prerequisite for the further development and promoting the sciences concerned.

The fact that individual disciplines alone (in spite of their successful results) could not satisfactorily answer the questions raised by the socio-economic development worked against integration.

This trend finally led to a gradually beginning but now an indispensable cooperation first within a discipline, and then between different disciplines. It started a process of interdisciplinary cooperation which served to promote not a mere formal, but an organic unity of scientific disciplines having been researched in the institute as well.

From the 1970s to 1984 – a multidisciplinary research institute


The early 1970s brought about a significant change in the Institute’s scientific activities. The major change in the medium-term research plan – the institutional theme groups were bound to „The development of complex scientific research administration” mainstream research direction which correlates with the institution’s development concept approved in 1974, formulated in the profile change and balance change set up in the original functional responsibilities.

After setting up the new research guidelines, as a natural consequence, the institute had increasingly become a base institute of regional development research in Hungary. The investigation of regions and conurbations is aimed at exploring the social, economic and ecological processes, and relationships between them, which would serve as a scientific basis for the long-term development of the socio-economic life of districts (regions, agglomerations). Consequently, it should be pointed out that the basic, but to some degree applied researches mainly of sociological nature, mainly is not directly related to the administrative borders, but are primarily intended to uncover the natural, economic, historical, sociological and political conditions that are different social forces in the areas have been created, regardless of borders, and that the development was moved forward because of the recency requirements.

The change in the institute’s research profile brought about changes in the staff of researchers mostly in favour of economics. It partly explains the changes in research methods, which indicated the intention for greater complexity regarding both research topics and the approach and scope of the disciplines involved. The newly launched, due to the complexity of the issues and the diversity of the institution, interdisciplinary researches focused mainly on the issue of the relationship between the agents of production but they were mostly carried out from the aspects of economic history, economics and economic geography.

The institute in these years through the investigation of particular subfields, through its team-work employing complex, integrated, mathematical and statistical methods and all its activities was able to gain relevant experiences to successfully continue its research in the started direction. In the ensuing period, priority was given to conduct studies in two priority fields: 1 The investigation of the economic and social structure of Southern Transdanubia; 2 The complex researches were conducted from the aspects of economics, administration, jurisprudence, economic geography, economic history, sociology, ethnography, physical geograpy and demography.

The Transdanubian Research Institute played key role in formulating and developing the general image of one of Hungary’s major academic centre as well. It contributed to the more balanced regional distribution of intellectual life and to raising the social efficiency of the spatial division of labour. The solving the research tasks required that in addition to the researchers of the institute it should rely on outside professional, scientific resources. In addition to this, the institute’s existing relationships with academic and industrial research institutions, university and college faculties, state and social organizations, as well as foreign institutions have largely contributed to meeting its objectives. With this the institute has performed significant research organizational and coordinating activities as well.

From 1984 until the millennium – the base research institute of regional science and policy


After Ottó Bihari‘s death in 1983, György Enyedi became the new leader in the rank of Director-General. His concept of scientific research was built on an organization model which was yet unknown in Hungary but had been successfully operating as a network in the European model of science organization. The new organization founded on January 1st 1984, the Centre for Regional Studies (CRS), was an umbrella organisation joining the Transdanubian Research Institute, some research units of the Institute of Geographical Science HAS (its department in Budapest and research groups in Békéscsaba and Kecskemét)

The conditions for the development of regional science into an independent discipline in Hungary – in European comparison – developed relatively early in this period, during the international expansion of this field of science. In 1987 CRS launched its journal „”Tér és Társadalom” (Space and Society) and in 1988 the first volume of the book series under the title „”Területi és települési kutatások” (Regional and Urban Research) was published. Until 1992, nine monographs had been published – and in 1986 the Regional Science Committee of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences was established and regional development committees were formed in the regional committees of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. In 1989 the Minister of Culture authorized the Faculty of Economics Janus Pannonius University to establish a training school for regional development professionals and in 1997 the first regional science graduate school established in Central and Eastern Europe was founded in Pécs.

The Transdanubian Research Institute has been working since that time as a member institution of a major research organization. The investigations of the Institute economists, geographers, political scientists, sociologists and legal professionals are aimed at the European and Hungarian regional development and the scientific foundations of the specific features of local-regional decision-making processes. The institute’s staff and external experts’ manyfolded scientific competence has made possible to carry out complex, interdisciplinary work. The researchers, each on its own special fields conducted basic research the results of which have been utilized in applied research carried out on the demand of the Institute’s external clients as well. During this period, the following research topics had definitive role in the Institute’s professional activities.

a) Basic Research: The DTI primary area of research is investigating regionalism, both domestic and international, the regional structure and trends of the Hungarian economy, society and communities, and of the structure of public management and administrative institutions.

The development of the spatial structure of the economy, the emergence of new organizational forms, the spatial diffusion of innovations, the relationship between spatial factors and the economic structure, the spatial analysis of the financial and income flows;
Domestic regional policy and territorial management: the theoretical foundation of the further development of the Hungarian regional administrative structure and the analysis of regional development activities, establishing professional and performance requirements in the local government system (spatial planning, financing and other instruments and institutions of regional policy);
The investigation of the urban and regional structure of society: the modernisation of urban functions, the spatial structure of the urban system, the differentiation of rural settlements, demographic, sociological analyses;
The EU’s regional policy, international and inter-regional co-operation;
Environmental researches (the investigations of break-out points from environmental crisis and the investigation of the requirements, objectives and instruments of sustainable development).

b) Applied research: Researches directly preceeding governmental and municipal work the results of which were mostly used in the context of basic research as well.:

The establishment of regional development policy: a significant part of the foundation of the Act on Regional Development and Physical Planning and of the National Spatial Development Concept has been elaborated int he workshops of the Centre for Regional Studies, primarily in the Transdanubian Research Institute. The Institute also played a role in the professional and scientific foundation of biannual reports on the implementation of the Act and the Concept;
The regional policy requirements of EU accession: the scientific and empirical foundation of domestic targets, means and institutions to harmonise, the possibilities of international inter-regional relations; the investigation of transboundary regional co-operation, the government reform, the modernisation of public administration, the investigation of the regulation and operation of local municipalities, the analysis of the financial management of government agencies;
The investigation of infrastructure systems and networks: telecommunications, roads, health, railways, airports, local water management agencies, banks and insurance companies were among the cooperating partners;
Participation in the elaboration of the development programmes of regions, macro landscapes, towns and rural areas these activities were performed primarily on behalf of the new institutions of regional development at that time: county and regional development councils, microregional associations and local authorities.

From the turn of the millennium until the present time – a modern European research institute


The turn of the millennium and the subsequent years were devoted to the preparation for the accession to the European Union. In the period following the accession the Institute joined a number of international projects.

By the millennium the Institute has become a recognized member of the European regional research network. The investigation of regional processes in East and South-East Europe has become a strong element of its research profile. The TRI has extensive contacts in the European network. It has successfully contributed to the EU’s research and development and higher education programmes (ACE, ESPON, EU framework programmes, Tempus, Phare, Interreg), conducts joint researches with all Central and Eastern European countries including Ukraine and Russia based on scientific academy cooperation agreement contract.

The Institute also implemented a number of national research programmes, and has completed successful tenders in the same period. The TRI conducted continuous researches in Paks microregion on the expansion of Paks nuclear power plant and on its environmental, natural and social impact on closer and wider environment. A study has been prepared on theb role of Pécs as regional centre, its growth pole impact, on the institutional system of regional administration and development, on the elaboration of the National Settlement Network Development Concept and also various municipal and micro-regional development concepts heve been prepared for local and microregional governments (Paks, Nagykanizsa, Zalakaros, Marcali).

Year 2010 was particularly important in the life of the Institute. The most important event in 2010 was the organization of the Regional Studies Association’s annual conference in Pécs. It was the Association’s largest annual conference in its history with more than 500 participants, the majority of them presented lectures. For the Institute besides the undoubted increase of international professional prestige the massive building of future contacts was a major positive impact, especially that it succeeded to attract participants from the Balkan region and Eastern Europe. The more personalized relationships facilitated the implementation of the Balkan programme in a joint cooperation with OECD.

Our Institute hosted the 3rd the closing event of the 3rd Central and Eastern European regional seminar where Polish, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian and Italian speakers participated. The event fits into the bilateral exchange programme of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. However, the former strictly bilateral Polish-Hungarian level profile could be widened into Eastern European scale in 2010.

We contributed to the Pécs European Capital of Culture programme series with two events which beyond their actual sphere, by their appearance over the Internet reached a wider circle of public. The programmes were aimed at contributing to the identification, mobilisation of dominant intellectual and creative classes playing dominant role in urban development in the long term who may be involved in in the city’s development strategy. 1. A workshop was held under the title “Social scientists on the outmigration of intellectuals. „El/away/ stage workshop” under the subject heading of geography of knowledge, economic development, and creative cities. 2 Our second event titled “Space providing milieu” held on Science Day had similar topic, however, its range was expanded by participants invited from a wider circle of local intellectuals’ groups and institutions.

On 31st December 2011 Centre for Regional Studies of the Hungarian Academy ceased working under this name as a consequence of restructuring and since 1st January 2012 as a member of Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences it operates under the new name Institute for Regional Studies. As a consequence Transdanubian Research Institute continues its scientific activities under a new name: Transdanubian Research Department Institute for Regional Studies, Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

From 2012 under the leadership of Cecília Mezei, besides the traditional research directions, new topics emerged as the exploration of the territorial aspects of territorial capital, trust or renewable energy sources. Environmental issues have increasingly become the forefront of spatial development research. Of the horizontal research workshops created in the RKI, the exploration and environmental issues groups started in whole or in part.

Cecília Mezei resigned from her position as head of department at the end of 2016, and Viktor Varjú took it over from 1 January 2017.