Monthly Archives: April 2009

The new Hungarian finance minister: Péter Oszkó and the media

Even before he was named minister of finance in the Bajnai government Péter Oszkó appeared frequently in the Hungarian media because he was one of the bipartisan "experts" who crafted the recommendations of the Reform Alliance. Since he headed one of the workshops dealing with tax reforms he was often asked to explain the Alliance's ideas to television viewers. I always found him to be clear and measured, and therefore I didn't think that Oszkó would have any communication problem once he became finance minister. However, it seems that the communication skills necessary for a politician … Read the rest

The Hungarian far-right: “Jobbik”

This morning I received a link to an interview with András Balczó, the three-time pentathlon gold medalist (1960,1968, 1972) who was named “Honored Master of Sports of the USSR” after his third win. Somehow I don’t think that Balczó proudly displays this particular trophy because by now he is one of the most outspoken right-wingers in the country. The interview was published at, a website whose the editors/owners consider themselves “politically independent” but admit that some of their ideas are close to certain groups. I would say so. … Read the rest

Hungarians in Bolivia

The Hungarian political scene is relatively quiet at the moment. The MSZP and SZDSZ caucuses are planning to do something against holocaust denial, but knowing the Hungarian Constitutional Court most likely nothing will come of it. Another Gypsy was killed, this time in Tiszalök. This man certainly wasn't stealing wood from the nearby forest. Both he and his wife had jobs and lived in relative comfort. He was just getting into his car around 6 p.m. to go to work when he was shot dead. The police are madly looking … Read the rest

The Hungarian literary scene: Péter Esterházy’s view

I assume most of my readers are familiar with the name Esterházy. Not necessarily Péter, the contemporary Hungarian writer, but his ancestors, most notably Prince Miklós József Esterházy (1714-1790), the fabulously rich Hungarian aristocrat in whose Hungarian "country estate" Joseph Haydn lived and worked. The country estate was modelled on Versailles and naturally had a concert hall, still in use. (For anyone planning a Hungarian vacation, a side trip to Fertőd would be rewarding.)Fertod But one doesn't have to go back that far in Péter Esterházy's family tree. His grandfather, Count Móric Esterházy (1881-1960), was … Read the rest

The Hungarian parliament

First, let me say a few things about the building. Work on it began in 1885 and went on for seventeen years. It was designed in the Gothic Revival style of the 1830s and was grandiose. Perhaps as grandiose as the then Hungarian political elite imagined Hungary to be. The building itself is 268 meters long and 123 meters wide.Parliament3 Forty kilograms of gold were used to gild the interior. There are thirteen elevators, innumerable corridors, and a huge gallery. There are two chambers because in those days the Hungarian parliament followed the … Read the rest

“My war with nationalism”

I could have written the article published by Gyula Hellenbart that appeared in the April 10 issue of Élet és Irodalom's "Feuilleton" section. Or, at least, I agree wholeheartedly with his sentiments.

I must say that I wasn't familiar with Gyula Hellenbart's writings, most likely because he is a literary historian who left Hungary in 1956 for Germany. Having lived outside of Hungary for over 50 years, his way at looking at Hungary and Hungarian national identity is obviously different from the homegrown variety. In this article Hellenbart sets aside such obvious components … Read the rest

The Hungarian Guard and holocaust denial

The Hungarian Constitution was written to ensure freedom of speech as an absolute right (a right that, as the U.S. Constitution says, cannot be abridged), so all parliamentary attempts to limit this right have failed at the hands of the judges of the Constitutional Court. Parliament sought to constrain what we call "hate speech." There were many instances of verbal abuse of minority groups, Gypsies, Jews, or homosexuals, but the Court deemed them legal expressions of free speech. The Constitution is equally liberal when it comes to establishing parties. According to the constitution "political parties may … Read the rest