Monthly Archives: December 2008

The Hungarian political police chiefs and their underlings, 1957-1990

I assume that Ricsi thinks that while the victims of the Hungarian political police were all Christians, the beneficiaries of the system were the Jews. I hate to disappoint him. Although Gábor Tabajdi and Krisztián Ungváry don't mention the leaders' religious affiliation or ethnic origin, the two historians managed to compile fairly detailed biographical notes on all the sixty-odd people who played important roles within the organization between 1957 and 1990. On the basis of these biographical notes I can safely state that the number of people with Jewish backgrounds was … Read the rest

The Hungarian Secret Service and the Catholic Church

There are times of odd coincidences. In my life today is one of these times. Earlier I heard about a Christmas Eve midnight mass broadcast on MTV (public television). In it János Székely, auxiliary bishop of Esztergom, expressed his sorrow over the fact that there were more Gypsy than Hungarian babies born in 2008. First of all, I considered the reference to Roma versus Hungarian babies tasteless. My second thought was: How does he know this when there are no statistics available on the ethnic origins of newborn babies? My third thought … Read the rest

The Hungarian secret service, 1956-1990

Two historians, Gábor Tabajdi and Krisztián Ungváry, have written a new book about the history of the Hungarian secret service between 1956 and 1990. The title is Elhallgatott múlt: A pártállam és a belügy. A politikai rendőrség Magyarországon, 19856-1990 (The Suppressed Past: The Dictatorship and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Activities of the Secret Service in Hungary, 1956-1990). Krisztián Ungváry is well known because he writes frequently in the daily press, mostly about the archives of the secret service. He is one of the authors of the Kenedi Report commissioned by Ferenc Gyurcsány.… Read the rest

Orbán’s Christmas message

Well, not quite. It is an interview in Magyar Nemzet. A very long interview. Tibor Várkonyi in Népszava thought that the only remarkable thing about the interview was its length. I would agree with Várkonyi  that there is nothing terribly new here as far as policy is concerned. But in terms of viciousness Orbán achieved new heights. No wonder that Gábor Pápai of Népszava drew this cartoon with the following caption: "My dear little Jesus, at least now, at the time of love and peace, please kill those whom I dislike so much!" … Read the rest

Hungarian retro: the 1950s and 1988

Those who speak Hungarian have a rare treat. The Nemzeti Audiovizuális Archivum (National Audiovisual Archives) has made available 77 old movies and news clips that are available free of charge on the Internet ( Some of the news clips are truly old, from the 1930s, but the bulk of them come from 1988, the last full year of the one-party system, which this year has its twentieth anniversary. Anyone who is nostalgic for the good old days of the Kádár regime ought to take a look at the news from … Read the rest

Friderikusz on the media

The time between December 23 and January 2 in Hungary is devoid of political news. As if life stopped. Of course, it is quite possible that in Hungary nothing is happening because there seems to be an unspoken rule that no conversation can be conducted, even with politicians, about politics. So come the trivia. Politicians have to say how they will spend their Christmas, how many people will be sitting around the table, who will eat what, or did they manage to buy all the Christmas presents. Conversations with historians center around Christmases … Read the rest

A few facts and figures about the Hungarian Railways fares

Just for the sake of transition from Sándor Frederikusz to MÁV (Magyar Állami Vasút) let me return briefly to the publicly financed MTV (Magyar Televízió). According to Friderikusz the people who work there have neither the motivation nor feel that they have a stake in running the company. The reason, says Friderikusz, is that "MTV remained a socialist mammoth factory without the slightest recognition that capitalism had arrived." The same thing can be said about MÁV and many other state-owned companies, and just as MTV is always in the red, so is MÁV. … Read the rest