Sociological survey among Hungarian young adults

Hungarians between the ages of eighteen and thirty were the subjects of a recent sociological survey by Mária Vásárhelyi. The representative sample was quite large. Olga Kálmán, the popular reporter of ATV's "Egyenes beszéd" (Straight Talk), conducted an interview with the sociologist about the discouraging results.

This generation has a very favorable opinion of the Kádár regime. Considering that they are too young to have had any meaningful personal experience of the period, their impressions most likely come straight from their parents. Hungarians always had a rather dim view of the change of regime mostly because of unrealistic expectations, subsequent economic difficulties, and the lack of absolute job security enjoyed during the socialist period. In addition, Fidesz's constant criticism of the 1989-90 period and its claim that all things bad were hatched at that time only reinforced this negative view of the regime change.

The most startling finding was that the majority of the people interviewed are convinced that in economic terms life has gone downhill since 2002, the year that Fidesz lost the elections. In fact, the opposite is true. Real wages went up by almost forty percent during this period. When asked to list the regimes in which life was worse or better than today, it turned out that these young adults think that in both the Horthy regime and the Rákosi regime (!) life was more comfortable than it is now. This is a staggering conclusion and only shows that these people have less than a scant knowledge of history. Their ignorance opens the door to political manipulation.

When they were asked about the value of the freedom of speech, multi-party democracy, and freedom of religion they claimed that they considered them to be very important. Or at least, adds Vásárhelyi, they know that it is expected of them to profess such principles. A minority, however, said that they might give up some hallmarks of democracy for more security and prosperity.

Their notions of the state are rather simplistic. Most of them fall into the category of "populist-anticommunist." They are against competition, the market, and capitalism in general. I find it rather interesting how fiercely anticommunist they are when at the same time they look upon the Kádár regime as a golden age of modern Hungarian history. They are convinced that all their problems originate from the fact that the communists managed to hang on to power despite the change from a one-party system to democracy. These communists were not punished. For some strange reason they also think that total "reprivatization" should have been introduced. In practice that would have meant that all nationalized properties should have given back to their original owners or their descendants. Again something is odd: the ancestors of these young adults most likely didn't belong to the monied class with property. On the contrary, most likely they were the beneficiaries of the properties taken from their rightful owners. I don't think that they thought the whole thing through.

A significant segment of those surveyed shares the ideas of a group of people who advocated a "Hungarian" solution for the country in the 1930s. According to these political thinkers the Hungarian system should position itself between capitalism and socialism. I wrote about this notion known as "the third road" at length in Hungarian on Gallamus, the new web site devoted to politics. Almost three-quarters of those surveyed agree with the proposition that "there is a need for a new change of regime after which the authorities should check all privatization contracts and renationalize all the important factories and businesses." They also endorse the view that "a new change of regime is necessary in order to punish all political leaders and find out who harmed the country."

They believe in a strong state that will bring order and justice and that will make sure that the poor will not be too poor and the rich will not be too rich. The state should "regulate all facets of life."

All in all, the results are depressing. Something went very wrong and it is hard to pinpoint exactly who is responsible.

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John T
Guest

All rather disappointing, but not surprising given the average Hungarian’s view on the world. Why is it that Hungarian’s have a knack of continually snatching defeat from the jaw’s of victory!

Erik
Guest

I actually had a great exchange last summer while driving in the country with one young Hungo that really summed the whole idiocy up nicely. He said something like, yeah so many things are worse now – like those awful cottony tomatoes you get in the Tesco in the winter. To which I said, uh, but back then you didn’t have tomatoes in the winter. To which he replied, sure, but still…

John T
Guest

But Tesco’s do sell some crap tomatoes. My local branch (Horsham, UK) is dreadful for fresh fruit and veg sometimes! Still, I’m sure the Garda will sort things out 🙂

Henry
Guest

“Again something is odd: the ancestors of these young adults most likely didn’t belong to the monied class with property. On the contrary, most likely they were the beneficiaries of the properties taken from their rightful owners. I don’t think that they thought the whole thing through.

Maybe I don’t fully understand what you mean by “odd” but is it odd to be unselfish? Maybe they believe in what is right even though they would lose in the exchange. However taking in account the rest of your article it most probably comes from ignorance. Sad really… But the magyarok are hardly the exception there.

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