In case you don’t remember, that was the day when certain parts of downtown Budapest were in flames. When cars were turned upside down, garbage cans were set on fire, large paving blocks were thrown at the police. All these atrocities were transformed thanks to the propaganda campaign orchestrated by Zoltán Balog, the Hungarian Reformed minister and Fidesz member of parliament, and Krisztina Morvai, Jobbik member of the EU parliament. They were portrayed as the attempt of a dictatorial regime to attack its political opponents, the peaceful Fidesz demonstrators who came to listen to their leader, Viktor Orbán.
I think I mentioned earlier that Viktor Orbán picked a very unusual spot for Fidesz’s large demonstration–the intersection of Kossuth-Rákóczi Streets and Múzeum-Károly Boulevards. This is a very busy thoroughfare. The police could have denied the request to hold the demonstration there on the grounds that it would interfere with traffic too much. However, by then the Hungarian police were so intimidated by the Fidesz opposition that they didn’t dare to say anything. Even then some people expressed their misgivings about the spot because they considered it too close to the far-right demonstration. It was feared that this demonstration would turn violent and thus would require police action.
Viktor Orbán’s crowd enthusiastically listened to his speech which of course had nothing to do with October 23, 1956. When it was over he immediately left in an apparently borrowed armored car that transported him from the scene in a great hurry in the direction of Kossuth Street, far from the madding crowd. The police informed the organizers that they should not leave the spot via Károly Boulevard because not far from there the extremists were already battling the police. The organizers apparently neglected to pass on this message, and a lot of people began rushing toward Erzsébet Square.
This story thanks to Zoltán Balog and Krisztina Morvai morphed into something else: the police purposely pushed the crowd toward the mob. Anyone familiar with the scene knows that this was almost impossible to do because between the the Fidesz crowd and the rabble was a police line. The police, however, seemed to be unable to stop the demonstrators who were bent on joining the rock- and Molotov cocktail-throwing crowd. For easier comprehension I’ve attached a map of the area:
In the subsequent investigation the police released two telephone conversations that occurred during the encounter between the mob and the police.
The first one was between X and D. D inquired where X and his crew were. X told D that “we can’t get through.” D instructed X to go back to the Astoria Hotel. They shouldn’t try to get through the police line. Instead they “should pull the police toward the the Fidesz crowd.”
The second conversation is even more interesting. D, whose nickname was Debil (what a name to pick!), phoned Gy (Gyík = lizard) and urged him as well to “pull the police behind [themselves] toward the Astoria Hotel.” Gyík assured Debil that they were trying to do so but they couldn’t. There were far too many policemen. Moreover, Gyík and company got a good dose of tear gas. Debil noticed that the police stopped at Arany János Street; it looked as if they had no intention of following Gyík and his friends. But that was very bad from their point of view. In that case they “must bring the people at the Astoria Hotel to us. Otherwise we will lose.” Gyík liked this idea: “That’s right, that’s right. The best thing is if the people come here and if you raise hell here.” Debil said that there were an awful lot of people at the Fidesz demonstration and, although they came to hear Viktor Orbán, they will soon join them if they get some tear gas.
It has been known for some time that the Balog-Morvai version of the events was the figment of their political imagination. It was also fairly widely circulated in Hungary that it would have been to Orbán’s liking if the “peaceful demonstrators” had also received harsh treatment from the police. More and more people suggested that in fact Orbán was hoping for a very large crowd to be involved: not hundreds but thousands. Perhaps tens of thousands. And in that case he could have forced the government to resign. As we know, things didn’t quite work out that way. Of course, they didn’t have any proof of such plans, only conjecture. For example, Orbán in a rather unusual move went to a Ferencváros (Fradi) soccer match, whose fans took part in practically all of the disturbances in the fall of 2006.
But now thanks to Wikileaks I found an interesting document in the English edition of Der Spiegel. The article is really about the media law. Its title is “Hungary’s ‘Orbanization’ Is Worrying Europe.” In this long article there are a couple of very interesting sentences about Viktor Orbán and the far right. One of the classified U.S. embassy cables, which originated at the embassy in Budapest, discusses a demonstration organized by Fidesz and the party’s links to “violent protesters.” The author of the cable goes on: “Much as we saw Viktor Orbán at his best in a recent meeting with the Ambassadors, this escapade (regarding the protest march–editor’s note) shows that he is still equally liable to play with fire.”
Der Spiegel didn’t specify the date of the document but I would put it somewhere in the late fall of 2006. Definitely after the October 23, 2006, disturbances. The meeting with the ambassadors took place on September 22, 2006.
I published a short article about this discovery on December 30 but only Népszava noticed it. Although the piece appeared on the front page of the newspaper on December 31, for one reason or another the editors didn’t include it in the Internet edition of the paper. Here is the print edition’s version:
By today another article appeared in an Internet newspaper called Egyenlítő (Equalizer). That made a bigger splash. The last time I checked over 1,800 people had recommended the article, which contained a link to my piece in Galamus. I just heard from the editor-in-chief of Galamus that the Galamus site is down at the moment. Too many people are trying to find the article.
No wonder there is interest. This is the first document that supports the hypothesis that Orbán had something to do with the “violent protesters.” I have the feeling that there will be more interesting revelations in those Wikileaks documents. I might also add that MTI summarized the Spiegel article but left out all references to Orbán’s possible connection to the leaders of the mob. It simply said: “In the diplomatic documents recently made public [Viktor Orbán] is being depicted as a man who likes to play with fire.” Well, that’s one way of reporting foreign news!