Today I would like to talk about the role of Trianon in today's Hungary. Until recently only the extreme right was preoccupied with Trianon. This year, however, even Fidesz politicians have been involved in public demonstrations, unveiling monuments and giving anti-Trianon speeches. This is especially interesting because on June 4, 1990, the small Fidesz parliamentary delegation headed by Viktor Orbán unceremoniously marched out of the chamber when György Szabad, speaker of the house, asked the members to stand up and observe a few minutes of silence in remembrance of the signing of the peace treaty seventy years earlier. In 1990 Fidesz considered this gesture a sign of nationalism that might sow the seeds of mistrust between Hungary and her neighbors.
The Hungarian right hasn't heeded Orbán's early warnings. For instance, so far this year at least 150 events have been held in remembrance of Trianon. And then there is the proliferation of monuments over the past few years. Initially, the monuments were erected mostly as a result of local initiative, and only local dignitaries and right-radical groups attended their unveilings. This year has been different: a politician as important as Tibor Navracsics, head of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation, was the keynote speaker at the cornerstone laying of a Trianon monument in Sümeg, a picturesque town in Veszprém County. In addition to Navracsics, Jenő Lasztowicza, a Fidesz member of parliament representing Veszprém, and the local Fidesz mayor were present. The monument will be an eight-foot-high column on top of which will be a "turul" (falcon, eagle, lanner), the mythical bird of ancient Hungarians. The turul is the symbol of the Hungarians' fighting spirit, of war, of struggle. The turul is normally pictured with a sword in its mouth. The turul can be found in the emblem of the Office of National Security established in 1990. It is worth taking a look at this image because the extreme right usually brings it up when there is any criticism of the red and white striped flags radical groups like to carry at anti-government demonstrations. These people ask what is wrong with either the turul or the flag if both are depicted in the emblem of the Office of National Security.
Certain passages of Navracsics's speech are difficult to understand. For example: "Trianon is the day of belonging … if we unite, if we belong to each other and if we want to build a strong Hungary, a secure future, then we have to keep in mind Trianon and, building on the national energy of purpose, we will rebuild this country." What does this mean? Rebuild the country? If someone had said in 1945 that "we have to rebuild the country" everybody would have understood what the speaker meant. But even if we assume that Navracsics thinks that somehow Hungary has to be rebuilt, what does this have to do with Trianon? Was he simply at a loss to say anything meaningful about the message of Trianon for today's Hungary? Or is there some hidden meaning behind these words? I really don't know. Navracsics also recalled the silence that surrounded the topic of Trianon during the years of the dictatorship and added that with this silence the government tried to erase the nation's memory, hoping that "with this act they could break its vitality." Well, I don't understand that either. What does a people's vitality have to do with remembering an old wound?
Navracsics took the opportunity to refer to the 2005 referendum to accord dual citizenship to Hungarians living in the neighboring countries. That referendum was invalid because not enough people voted. According to Navracsics, "it was especially painful that it was not foreign powers who reinforced the dictat of Trianon but Hungarian political parties who did this shameful deed," meaning of course MSZP and SZDSZ.
Although Fidesz lent credence to the anti-Trianon demonstrations, the chief moving force remains the far right. Fidesz tried to walk the tightrope between reliving the past and just getting over it. They didn't always succeed. For example, in Eger, Újszilvás, and Békés beside the Jobbik, the Hungarian Guard, the Youth Movement of Sixty-Four Counties (referring to the number of counties in Greater Hungary) Fidesz representatives were also present. While Navracsics was the keynote speaker in Sümeg, János Halász spoke in Debrecen, Ferenc Ódor in Szikszó. In Szikszó there was even a tablet placed depicting Greater Hungary and what has remained of it. László Tőkés, the Hungarian-reformed bishop from Transylvania, spoke in Dunavarsány where they opened the Trianon Memorial Park.
The events will continue until at least Sunday. Some extreme right leaders have declared this Sunday a Day of National Unity. The day will begin with a church service with a sermon by Lóránt Hegedűs, Jr. He will apparently condemn "Israeli plans to ruin the Palestinian people and occupy Hungary." Now that will be really interesting: Trianon, Israel, the occupation of Hungary…. What else can they come up with?