Molotov cocktails and a beating in Hungary

Who would have thought that Molotov cocktails would once again be used in Hungary? The last time I saw them was in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, but then it was understandable. The youngsters on the streets had no firearms that would be effective against tanks–hence Molotov cocktails. But in a peaceful country in 2007? Alas, yes.

There have been three incidents involving Molotov cocktails in less three months. The first took place in Adony (Fejér County) where somebody surely didn’t like the socialist parliamentary member, László Ecsődi. Two Molotov cocktails were thrown at his house on the evening of October 23. His wife was at home, he was away. The Molotov cocktails didn’t do much damage but, as far as I know, to this day no one knows who the culprits were.

Lately there have been more ugly attacks on MSZP headquarters or members of the government. Last Monday two Molotov cocktails were thrown into the MSZP headquarters in District III of Budapest. To give you an idea of how inept these people are: they put not gasoline but diesel oil into the bottles. Not surprisingly, although they went through the window, they didn’t cause any real damage because they didn’t ignite. Surprisingly, the police managed to find the two left-handed culprits: a twenty-one-year-old college student and a twenty-nine-year-old computer scientist. One from Budapest and the other from Szentendre, the picturesque little town north of Budapest and apparently one of the centers of right radicalism. (Interestingly enough, Szentendre was the birthplace of the Arrowcross movement in the second half of the 1930s. Obviously, there is nothing new under the sun.)

There was another attack with Molotov cocktails against SZDSZ party chief János Kóka’s unfinished house. Here again there were two Molotov cocktails thrown, but these guys seemed to have known the difference between gasoline and diesel oil. There was considerable damage but no one was injured because no one was in the half-built house.

And then on to the "Case of the Baffling Beating": two or three masked men, according to his account, attacked Sándor Csintalan in the underground garage of his apartment house. They called him a dirty Jew, beat him up, and robbed him.

It is difficult to make a coherent story out of Csintalan’s past based on the information he himself gave in the Hungarian Who’s Who (Ki kicsoda). He claims that he is Jewish, but he began his studies (between 1975 and 1977) in the Kossuth Lajos Katolikus Főiskola. I have never heard of such a Catholic college and, although I tried to find information, I came up with nothing. His next station was the Ho Chi Minh Teacher’s College, where he spent a year (1977-78) in Budapest and three years allegedly in the Eger branch of the same teacher’s college. (The teacher’s college in Eger needless to say no longer is named after Ho Chi Minh.) He began to teach in the lower grades (first eight) in Csepel, a working-class district in Budapest. For years he was active in the Communist Youth Organization (1982-1986). He joined the Party (MSZMP) when he was still quite young (in 1977). In 1990, after being a member of the Independent Social Democratic Party (long gone), he joined the MSZP and soon enough became one of the vice presidents. He broke with the party sometime at the end of the 1990s and subsequently joined the Fidesz. For the last few years he has appeared weekly on the right-wing HírTV with a political call-in show with a very right-wing agenda.

As I indicated, he is not a sympathetic character. He behaves even on screen like a boor. Perhaps some people actually say that Csintalan deserved what he got. One thing is sure: he looked pretty bad after the attack and Csintalan, the showman, made certain that no one cleaned up the blood running down on his face before pictures were taken. He was taken to the hospital where policemen were guarding his room. Although there was a lot of blood the wounds turned out to be superficial. Csintalan’s stories, according to the police, changed every time he told them. But he eventually settled on the following: two or three masked men waited for him in the garage and they beat him with metal rods up, calling him a dirty Jew. He was certain that these men were professionals, perhaps former members of the Hungarian secret police. According to Csintalan, although his attackers were right-wingers, the real culprits were the communists, his former comrades. The MSZP was behind this attack. It was a message to Viktor Orbán. A pretty unbelievable story, if you ask me.

The police suspects that it was nothing but a simple case of robbery but Csintalan claims that taking his few thousand forints was just an afterthought in order to make it look like a robbery.

The Office of National Security immediately announced that they would organize a special unit whose job it will be to find Csintalan’s attackers. A few days later there was an e-mail message from a mysterious Liberating Army of the Arrows of Hungarians (Magyarok Nyílai Felszabaditó Hadsereg): they claimed responsibility. The problem is that no one has ever heard of the Liberating Army of the Arrows of Hungarians.

As time goes on, the story gets fancier and fancier. Csintalan told Magyar Nemzet that his own father was also beaten badly at one time and his death (three heart attacks) was somehow connected to this beating. I also noticed that Nap-Kelte (the early morning political show on MTV) called Csintalan in the hospital one day and Csintalan’s voice was strong and fairly cheerful at the beginning, but as soon as he found out from where the call came from, his voice became weaker and weaker and at the end inaudible. In any case, I will be interested how this bizarre story will end.