Monthly Archives: May 2009

Hungarian justice as a political instrument

It is hard not to come to the conclusion that Fidesz has very close relations with the Hungarian judiciary. In plain language, the party is using the courts and the prosecutor's offices to its own political advantage. Even more bluntly, it is using them against its political "enemies."

Just as Viktor Orbán discovered early in his tenure as prime minister that he needed a friendly media, he also realized that the judiciary is at least as important if not more so for his political purposes. Because the Hungarian constitution is full of legal … Read the rest

Verdict in the Olaszliszka (Hungary) murder

On October 5, 2006, a teacher of biology in a "general" school in Tiszavasvári was driving with his two young daughters (ages 5 and 13) from Szerencs toward Olaszliszka. All these places are in one of the poorest regions of Hungary–in the northeast corner of the country close to the Slovak and the Ukrainian borders. The percentage of the Roma population there is very high. In some places around 30%. Both in Olaszliszka (population 1,945) and in Tiszavasvári (population 13,000) about 20% of the population is Gypsy. As the teacher was driving through Olaszliszka a … Read the rest

European parliamentary elections in Hungary

I guess it is time to get back to the present, especially since there will be elections between June 4 and 7 in the countries of the European Union. Hungary can send 22 men and women to participate in the work of the European Parliament; the parliament has a total membership of 736. Eight parties are qualified to compete. MSZP, SZDSZ, MDF, Fidesz, and Jobbik are the well known ones. However, there is the Munkáspárt (the communists) in addition to two new parties: Roma Összefogás (Gypsy Cooperation) and LMP-Humanista Párt that has … Read the rest

Hungarian public education: 1956-1990

Because I have no personal experience to rely on, I have to turn to historians dealing with this period. I chose Ignác Romsics's Magyarország története–A XX. században (Budapest: Osiris, 1999) mostly because Romsics spends a fair amount of his book on educational and cultural matters. I learned from him about the educational changes introduced, what worked and what didn't. It seems that the ministry of education and the experts came up with new ideas about every ten years.

Romsics considers the expansion of kindergartens a real success. In 1938 there were only 1,140 kindergartens, most … Read the rest

Skipping along in Hungary: Public transportation anomalies

A bit of an explanation of the title. If outside of Hungary one uses public transportation without paying for it, it is called "cheating." In Hungary they call it "bliccelés," the same word students use when they skip a class here and there. "Bliccelni" generally means to gain a certain advantage by cleverness, by outfoxing the authorities. It is not really a crime.

It seems that twenty-five percent of people who use public transportation in Budapest "skip" the price of the ticket. To tell you the truth, I'm surprised that even that many … Read the rest

Hungarian public education: 1945-1956

First a few words about the war years, especially 1943 and 1944. Although the Soviet troops were still nowhere and Hungary was not yet a battlefield, the education of children was not without its problems. During 1943 Hungary was the target of aerial attacks so attending school wasn't always easy. In Budapest, for example, the "siege" lasted for months; most people were happy to survive in bomb shelters. And when there was door to door armed conflict, going to school was out of the question. Even in cities where the German takeover was relatively easy, with armed opposition lasting only a few days, … Read the rest

Hungarian public education: The beginnings

It is clear from comments to my earlier post on education that people have rather strong views about the kind of education Hungarian children should receive. Some believe in the old-fashioned "Prussian" model that has been the norm in Hungary ever since 1869 when the first education law was drafted. Although Hungarian education underwent many changes over the subsequent 140 years, the Prussian model that emphasizes factual learning and discipline remained its cornerstone. Yes, today most of the children finish high school at the age of eighteen while about a hundred years ago most sons and daughters of Hungarian … Read the rest