Monthly Archives: August 2009

Austria vs. Hungary: A personal reflection by S.K.

For his eightieth birthday, the famous journalist Paul Lendvai received the gift of a book publication from the Hungarian public. This book, about which I have read, but have not seen, or read it, is supposedly a summary of the difference between Austria and Hungary. The subject is large and interesting and the author is a highly respected, well-seasoned, liberal gentleman of the old school: reason prevails over passion, and opinion without ideology. A man after my own heart.

Lendvai has spent forty years in the forefront of the Austrian … Read the rest

Hungary and Slovakia: Perhaps there is hope

Mátyás Eörsi, SZDSZ member of parliament and chairman of the parliamentary Committee on European Affairs, described the situation in fairly dire terms: "we are sitting on a tinderbox." I don't think that he is too far from the truth. A few days ago someone threw two Molotov cocktails at the main entrance of the Slovak Embassy. Luckily they didn't explode and the damage was minimal. Two men have been arrested and are now being questioned. A day later the Slovak ambassador's car was forced off the road by two men on Bem … Read the rest

Saint Stephen of Hungary

Because there are so many references to St. Stephen nowadays in Hungary I thought I ought to write a post on what "Hungary" looked liked in his days. In my narrative here I am relying heavily on Gyula Kristó's Szent István király (Budapest, 2001). Kristó starts off by saying that in the tenth century there was "no country" in the Carpathian Basin. There were several smaller units, but "a single Hungary didn't exist." That must be a blow to those who want to "return to the country of St. Stephen." The Hungarians … Read the rest

The Carpathian Basin and the Hungarian conquest

Sorry that I'm going back so far but the other day I heard the mayor of Komárno, Tibor Bastrnák, talk about Slovak and Hungarian historical consciousness. When the interviewer mentioned that according to Robert Fico the Slovaks' great king is not St. Stephen but Svatopluk, the mayor's reaction was rather peculiar: they don't care what the Slovaks think. St. Stephen was the king of the whole Carpathian Basin. It's that simple. Thus according to him there can be only one interpretation of the history of the region: the Hungarian one. As … Read the rest

A Hungarian historical atlas

Every time the topic of historical atlases comes up I have to think of an old story when I tried to buy a good historical atlas. The salesman who waited on me was obviously not quite fit to work in a bookstore because he looked at me as if I came from the moon. I tried to help him out: "You know, in the last couple of thousand years the political map of the world has changed a bit." I don't think it registered. In the end I ordered a three-volume German … Read the rest

Viktor Orbán and Hungarian democracy

There are many who dread the prospect of Viktor Orbán's return to power. And, I'm afraid, not without reason. Although it seems that the majority of people don't quite remember the days when Viktor Orbán was prime minister, others have a better memory. They recall that even then Orbán was not exactly a faithful guardian of democracy. In fact, he and his government considered parliament a burden that constrained their activities. They did everything in their power to limit its competence. They couldn't change the constitution because according to the Hungarian system any constitutional change must … Read the rest

Hungary and Czechoslovakia in 1968: Kádár and Dubček

Because there have been so many references recently to Hungarian participation in the August 21, 1968, occupation of Czechoslovakia I decided to take a look at János Kádár's role in this whole drama. My source is Tibor Huszár, Kádár János: Politikai életrajz, 2 vols. (Budapest: 2001-2003). The second volume deals with the period between November 1957 and June 1989.

Alexander Dubček and János Kádár first met two weeks before Dubček's visit to Moscow on January 29-30, 1968. The private meeting took place in a hunting lodge in Topolčany in Eastern Slovakia. Kádár later … Read the rest