I wrote earlier about a second-rate soccer match between a Bratislava team and a team from Dunajská Streda, better known in Hungary as Dunaszerdahely (see blog witten on November 1). The latter is a town of 23,000 inhabitants whose overwhelming majority is Hungarian speaking. It seems that extreme nationalistic groups on both sides had for weeks prepared themselves to create a disturbance at the game. About one thousand Slovak extreme nationalists and about the same number of Hungarian extremists arrived in town. Everybody was anticipating a confrontation, including the Slovak police who appeared with a force of about 1,500 men.
It’s difficult to know exactly what happened. Each side has its own story. The Hungarian “fans” claim that there was no disturbance in their sector of the arena and that the Slovak police brutally attacked them without reason. The videos that circulated on the Internet indeed show Slovak policemen using their nightsticks rather indiscriminately on the retreating Hungarians. But I’m a cautious sort, and there is a very good possibility that the video segment we see doesn’t tell the whole story. Moreover, the breakdown of arrestees indicates that the Slovak police were not kinder to their own extremists. About the same number of Slovaks and Hungarians were arrested and later released.
When it comes to nationalism people lose all reason. Most likely the majority of the Hungarian population, even those who do not sympathize with the extremists who wreak havoc in Budapest, were outraged at the “brutality” of the Slovak police. Yes, they do admit that it was not appropriate to go to Slovakia with pictures of Greater Hungary, a Hungary that included as part of its territory present-day Slovakia, then known as the Upland (Felvidék). And, yes, it was provocative to display irredentist slogans. But, they add, neither justified the use of brutal force.
The extremists, sensing the sympathy of the country, immediately went on the attack. They gathered close to 1,000 people in front of the Slovak embassy, burned at least one Slovak flag, and displayed signs demanding “Death to Ján Slota.” Ján Slota, head of SNS (Slovak National Party), is not a nice man.
Hungarians are high up on his hate list, but Gypsies and homosexuals are not exactly his favorites either. He considers the Hungarian minority in Slovakia “a cancer in the body of the Slovak nation,” and a couple of times he alluded to the joy he would feel someday moving into Budapest inside of a tank. Every time Slota says something outrageous all of Hungary listens. Before the current coalition which includes Slota’s party came to power in 2006, Hungarian-Slovak relations were cordial. But, of course, then the coalition partner was MKP (Magyar Koalició Pártja/Strana Mad’arsklek Koalícije), a party of the Hungarian minority.
So on the one hand there is Slota and the anti-Hungarian feelings he whips up and on the other hand there is the growing Hungarian extremism fueled by Slota’s rhetoric. They feed on each other. The latest is that a group of 41 men, 28 in uniforms strongly resembling the outfit of the Hungarian Nazis, crossed the border and laid a wreath at a statue of Virgin Mary in remembrance of the First Vienna Award (November 2, 1938) which with the arbitration of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy awarded parts of southern Slovakia to Hungary. The place was Királyhelmec (Král’ovský Chlmec) not far from the Hungarian border in the county of Kosice (Kassa). Well, the uniforms are most objectionable and according to Slovak law the emblem of Nemzeti Őrsereg, a paramilitary organization, is a forbidden Nazi symbol. See the emblem here.
By the way, there is a similar legal restriction in Hungary, but Hungarian authorities decided that this emblem is not exactly the same as the symbol used by the Hungarian Nazis. Although it is red and green, the arrow crosses are not the exact duplicates of the old. The Slovaks thought otherwise. They arrested the 28 men and, although they were released and could return to Hungary, they will have to appear in a Slovak court at a later date. The maximum sentence for this particular crime is four years. The minimum is six months. I’m almost certain that the Slovak courts will be less charitable than the Hungarian ones were when it came to the Hungarian Guard and other paramilitary organizations. Months have gone by and the Hungarian Guard is freely recruiting and growing in number.
I have heard rumors that Fidesz wants to have a united front of the five parliamentary parties to condemn the Slovak brutality and thus defend the Hungarian extremists. One can only hope that sanity will prevail. Such a move would only add oil to the fire and perhaps damage Slovak-Hungarian relations for a long time to come.