The Hungarian “FBI” and leaks

I never run out of topics to write about. There is always something interesting, amusing, or frightening happening in Hungarian politics. The latest upheaval is related to a statue that was erected in 1937 in Újpest (District IV) next to a high school. It was called "Grieving Mother" and apparently commemorated the loss of territories as a result of the Treaty of Trianon. The sculptor was András Kocsis. I don't know why this statue was erected in 1937 since it wasn't a significant anniversary. Another mystery is how the statue managed to survive the Rákosi-Kádár era when all the statues and other reminders of Hungary's irredentist past were removed from public display. My guess is that a statue depicting a mother with a child in arms couldn't easily be linked to Trianon. Moreover, the sculptor must subsequently have served Rákosi's regime faithfully. Otherwise he wouldn't have received the Kossuth Prize in 1953, one of the darkest years of the Rákosi regime. In any case, the statue stood undisturbed until 1992 when it was removed. I didn't manage to find out why. Perhaps it was supposed to be refurbished. In any case, it wasn't returned, and now that Újpest is revitalizing its central square (Főtér) the district council decided to return "Grieving Mother" to its rightful place. This decision was also supported by Norbert Trippon, MSZP vice-mayor of Újpest. It was at this point that the trouble began.

Tamás Krausz, a professor of history who until recently had been an MSZP party member but who resigned because MSZP was not socialist enough, was outraged at the news. What kind of a socialist is this Trippon, asked Krausz, who champions erecting an irredentist statue? Such a man is a "common political impostor who is not sure whether he is a member of Jobbik or MSZP." Trippon indignantly answered that if the statue could be left undisturbed between 1937 and 1992 then surely there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. My hunch is that Krausz didn't know that this statue was standing even during the socialist period. Perhaps he thought that it was moved somewhere after 1945 and was sitting in a dark corner of the Hungarian National Museum's basement. Anyway, Krausz concluded, now an irredentist MSZP politician is supporting its resurrection.

Népszava  (August 31) briefly reported the controversy. The paper quoted Tamás Krausz as well as Norbert Trippon and also asked the spokesman of MSZP about the party's position. There was nothing in that brief news item that would have provoked what happened afterward.

Yesterday a young man in civilian attire accompanied by two uniformed members of the Hungarian Guard unexpectedly showed up in the offices of Népszava on the ninth floor of a large office building. It is not clear whether the guardsmen entered the building in uniform or whether they changed into their outfits in the elevator; in any case the doorman let them in. The first person they accosted was István Horváth, a member of the editorial board whose office door is always open. He noticed that there were strange people wandering around in the corridor and went out to see who they were. The young man, later identified as Jobbik's representative on the Újpest City Council, told Horváth that he wanted to give him a historical periodical because his knowledge of history, specifically of Trianon, is inadequate. Horváth wouldn't take the gift and wanted to leave the room, but the two guardists blocked his way. His visitor then said that he would leave the periodical anyway because perhaps Horváth could give it to Tamász Krausz, the historian, who surely needs some information on the past. Horváth said that he wasn't a delivery man.

At this point Horváth noticed another older civilian whom he recognized from videos and pictures taken at right-wing demonstrations. The fellow began taking pictures of him. Horváth, who had been civil until then, became angry and protested loudly. The answer was that after all people took pictures of him so why can't he take pictures of the journalist? Horváth explained that there was a bit of difference; he took part in a public demonstration. And, in any case, why did he need a photograph? The man rather menacingly answered: "It might come in handy one day!" Meanwhile, the paper's photographer managed to take a few pictures of the intruders.Nepszava The guardists were silent throughout the incident; they only looked at Horváth threateningly. Horváth commented that these guys don't have to commit any physical act because they manage by their sheer presence to put the fear of God into some people. Népszava contacted the police and the prosecutor's office, but they are not very optimistic that anything will happen. One thing is sure: the Hungarian Guard is not paying any attention to the court's decision. They want to show that they exist, and their numbers are most likely growing.

Meanwhile, István Horváth began to check out some of the far-right websites hoping to find something about his visitors. On www.barikad.hu he found his civilian–Tibor Pajor, who represents Jobbik in the Újpest City Council. The periodical is called Nagy Magyarország (Greater Hungary), and this particular issue dealt with Trianon. According to barikad.hu the editors of Népszava didn't know "what to do with this gesture." They looked frightened and distrustful. "They refused any discussion concerning the subject of Trianon and its influence." The Jobbik city councilman was especially infuriated by what Tamás Krausz said and what was quoted in Népszava. Krausz claimed that in his opinion "the responsibility for Trianon lies with the Right."

The first issue of the new periodical, launched with so much free publicity, "is an objective description of what led to the tragedy of Trianon." Jobbik considers it important for everybody to learn "the true history of the country" and therefore "with their gift wanted to assist the journalists of Népszava in widening their historical knowledge." I hate to think what Jobbik's "objective" description of Trianon must be like. Unfortunately it is not yet available on the Internet. But surely we will soon have the pleasure of reading Jobbik's interpretation of Hungarian history in issue after issue of Nagy Magyarország.

Somehow the Hungarian far right, and increasingly not just the far right, finds it difficult to accept that the attacks on the Gypsies that resulted in the deaths of six people were not committed either by some foreign agents, preferably Slovak, or by the "communists" who are governing the country. Because, as the arguments go, the Slovak agents want to create havoc in Hungary and it is in the government's interest to exaggerate the Nazi danger in Hungary. I might add here that some of these same people are also convinced that Jobbik is the creation of the government or the socialist party because the appearance of such a party weakens Fidesz and, again, it can heighten the fear of a far-right surge. Never mind that Gábor Vona was a member of Viktor Orbán's civil cell at one point. So every attempt is made to uncover some hitherto unknown "fact" that may prove the complicity of the government in this whole affair. And if facts cannot be found, some people are ready to invent them.

It didn't take long before the first anonymous "informer" came forth. Thanks to the Internet there is plenty of opportunity to spread the message, and technology makes it easy to create bogus documents. Such a "document" appeared on the website of Index, the most popular on-line Hungarian paper. Index, as with most such websites, has a forum where people can "discuss" political events. The level of these discussions is pretty low. One has to have a strong stomach when reading the comments even in respectable liberal papers like Népszabadság. The language is usually base, and the political views are often unacceptable to any moderate, democratic person.

In Index's forum there appeared a three-page "document" alleged to be an internal memo from the Nemzetbiztonsági Hivatal (NNH or National Security Office). The author(s) didn't put much effort into the simulation. The format of the document bears no resemblance to genuine memos released by NBH. There is no reference number, required of every official letter/document in Hungary. There is no addressee, there is no author, there is no subject indicated. And most of all, every Hungarian document worth anything must have a seal. And that seal is very imporant. Not long ago in some other controversial case the problem was that the document didn't have a "dry" seal when it was supposed to. An official document without a seal is simply unimaginable. Stylistically, the document also bears little resemblance to internal memos. For example, the author uses question marks and exclamation points, in one case three exclamation points in a row. Genuine internal documents never express emotions. They stick with dry facts or observations. Another oddity is that the author used the abbreviations of the names as found in the Hungarian media, I. K. or István K. Again this practice is unknown inside NBH.

As soon as I read about this "document" in Magyar Nemzet and found out that their original source was an anonymous commentor in Index, I immediately smelled a rat. But not Magyar Nemzet because, even though the newspaper has been improving its track record of separating fact from fiction, its first instinct is to believe anything that might cast a shadow on the current government and its agencies. Other publications such as HVG were a great deal more cautious.

The document claims that for years NBH had kept an eye on István Kiss, the younger of the two brothers accused of being involved in all the attacks. Although NBH regularly listened in on Kiss's telephone conversations, they stopped the surveillance as soon as Kiss and company began purchasing weapons necessary for the planned murders. The other accused, István Cs., allegedly "had secret connections" to the Military Security Office (Katonai Biztonsági Hivatal). Whoever wrote the "document" accuses Sándor Laborc, former head of NBH, of purposely stopping the investigation. Moreoever, the author asks who would benefit from the murders of the Romas. The answer can easily be guessed.

NBH is investigating because, although it is clear that the document is a fake, it seems to be a compilation of bits and pieces of information that came from someone familiar with the surveillance of István Kiss, which definitely took place. The conclusions are most likely the figment of the author's imagination intended to serve a political purpose. Next week we ought to know more. I am by now not surprised by anything. Not even by document factories working for a political cause and newspapers swallowing their tales hook, line, and sinker.

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Mark
Guest
“I don’t know why this statue was erected in 1937 since it wasn’t a significant anniversary. Another mystery is how the statue managed to survive the Rákosi-Kádár era when all the statues and other reminders of Hungary’s irredentist past were removed from public display.” The answer to this mystery is probably that it wasn’t an irredentist statue – certainly its actual name is a matter of doubt (one of my sidelines has been the history of Újpest, and while I’ve not been very interested in its public sculpture, when I heard about this story it didn’t seem quite right, so I did a little looking up). The first thing you need to know is that the Újpest főter is the Szent István tér. In the Kortárs magyar művészeti lexikon that statue is listed, but its title is the more neutral Mother with Child, rather than the Greiving Mother – this latter title seems to have become accepted only in the past decade; the first mention is in the local authority produced Újpest Lexikon from around 2001. Furthermore, after 1947 it wasn’t the only work by Kocsis that stood in the Szent István tér – his other work that stood there… Read more »
Bob
Guest

I agree, there is always something in Hungary… it is kinda amusing that these Jobbik kids are so involved in Trianon, happened almost a 100 years ago…
They need a couple of basket ball courts and swimming pools in Hungary… these kids should get a life, not to spend their spare summer dealing with ancient history..

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mark: “In the Kortárs magyar művészeti lexikon that statue is listed, but its title is the more neutral Mother with Child, rather than the Greiving Mother”
This is very interesting and it is possible that this “Grieving Mother” name came up only recently. Of course, there might be another scenario, namely, that it was originally called “Grieving Mother” and was renamed after 1945. Kocsis was born in Kolozsvár (Cluj) and in 1943 he had an exhibition in the Kolozsvár Műcsarnok. So, he maybe had a personal connection to Trianon. Of course, this is only a guess.

Öcsi
Guest

“One thing is sure: the Hungarian Guard is not paying any attention to the court’s decision. They want to show that they exist, and their numbers are most likely growing.”
That’s probably true.
My nightmare scenario has Jobbik forming government sooner than we might imagine. The hotheads in Jobbik and the Hungarian Guard will destabilize the region and Hungary gets suspended from NATO and the EU. Undeterred, Jobbik instigates clashes with neighbouring countries. NATO bombs Budapest.
Can that really happen? Yes! NATO forces bombed Belgrade in 1999. And I don’t see Budapest being treated differently.
Sure, that’s my nightmare scenario but it is possible…

ovidiu
Guest

@My nightmare scenario
This is a sci-fi dystopic scenario which won’t happen. Militarily speaking Hungary is a paper-tiger. I don’t belive it stands a chance against a coalition of its ancient foes (Slovakia, Romania, Serbia). It would be sheer madness to provoke them militarily. It won’t happen.
But it can worsen a lot the life of the hungarian minorities living in those countries by starting a new series of heavy-rhetoric exchanges with them only to satisfy the need for pride and though-talk of jobbik-like voters.

Öcsi
Guest

ovidiu,
I hope that my dystopic scenario won’t come true. However, who in 1989 (as the old syestem was collapsing) would have thought that eleven years later, in 1999, Belgrade would be bombed by NATO? Total madness! And I understand why it had to be done, but who would have guessed that in 1989?
Of course it would be sheer madness by Jobbik to provoke neighbouring countries. But are you suggesting that they are sane? My understanding of Jobbik and the Hungarian Guard is that they are totally mad. But the problem is that they have lots of support and they don’t play by the accepted rules of conduct.
So what do we do? Wait for what…? A better future? A szebb jövöt? Hell no!

Odin's lost eye
Guest
Oh my God someone has left the cage door unlocked! For a non existent and banned organisation these guys are sticking their ‘necks out’. In your piece you say ** “Népszava contacted the police and the prosecutor’s office, but they are not very optimistic that anything will happen” **. By “they” I suppose that you mean “Népszava” and not the police. Imagine the fire and fury if such a thing had happened in the offices of the ‘local rag’ like the East Hartford Guts-ache (Gazette). Even the ‘Nationals’ would pick up on it, but over here I suppose the editors of such journals are too supine do even let off a damp squib by way of complaint in case they offend someone. The quotation in the ** “.” The Jobbik city councilman was especially infuriated by what Tamás Krausz said and what was quoted in Népszava. Krausz claimed that in his opinion “the responsibility for Trianon lies with the Right.” **. No the responsibility for the treaty of Trianon lies wholly fairly and squarely on the shoulders of those in the Austro-Hungarian Empire who ordered the attack on Serbia after the events in Sarajevo. They started the war and they… Read more »
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