MTA Néprajzi Kutatócsoportja [MTA Ethnology Research Group] (currently, HUN-REN-DE Néprajzi Kutatócsoport [HUN-REN-DE Ethnology Research Group]) was established almost seven decades ago and has been operating without any interruption ever since. In Hungarian ethnography, it represents an integral part of the ethnographical school recognized as “debreceni iskola” [Debrecen school], which it constitutes together with the Department of Ethnography of our university. Between 1968 and 1972, the members of the research group used to belong to MTA budapesti Néprajzi Kutatócsoportja (today: MTA BTK Néprajzi Kutatóintézet). The Debrecen research group has been independent since 1972, with DE BTK Néprajzi Tanszék providing the infrastructural background for it. Between 1965 and 1968, members of the research group included, for example, József Szabadfalvi and the academician of our profession, Attila Paládi-Kovács. Until 1981, the head of the research group had been its founder, academician Béla Gunda. Between 1981 and 2002, the group was headed by MTA doktora [Doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences] Zoltán Ujváry, while as of 2002, the academic program leader of the group has been MTA doktora Elek Bartha.
In the beginning, we put emphasis on researching the Eastern European traditional culture, followed by the examination of inter-ethnic connections in the same region. Debreceni Néprajzi Intézet [Debrecen Institute of Ethnography] conducted three major monographic regional research projects: Béla Gunda headed the inquiries about the counties Szatmár and Zemplén and, later, Zoltán Ujváry was in charge of the research on Gömör County. Since the turn of the millennium, the research activities have become more problem-oriented and expanded to cover macro-regions.
Through the academic programs and the activities of researchers, the research group has actively contributed to the preservation of the professional traditions of ethnography in Hungary and, simultaneously, to the methodological and theoretical revival of the discipline. The members of the research group have participated in the completion of the two major fundamental syntheses of Hungarian ethnography: Magyar Néprajzi Lexikon [Hungarian Ethnographic Lexicon] and Magyar Néprajz (II–VIII.) [Hungarian Ethnography]. Between 2002 and 2012, the head of the research group was the editor of Ethnographia, the leading periodical of ethnography in Hungary, while the other members kept performing a significant role in the preparatory work for the printing process of the periodical. Furthermore, they also take part in editing and publishing other periodicals of ethnography, including Néprajzi Látóhatár and Ethnographica et Folkloristica Carpathica.
The research group has been involved in conducting empirical ethnographic research for decades on both sides of the northern, north-eastern and eastern Hungarian state border dividing the Carpathian Basin (comprising the old counties of Abaúj, Gömör, Zemplén, Szabolcs, Szatmár, Bereg, Ung, Ugocsa and Bihar) and around the north-eastern and northern rim of the plain area of Alföld. The exhibits of the ethnographical collections are preserved in the two databases (DENIA, GA) of the Department of Ethnography at UD, which contain several thousand items.