An interview with Imre Makowecz, a favorite of Viktor Orbán

Imre Makowecz is a well known architect whose creations some people admire greatly. I’m not among them. He is a fierce nationalist, an anti-communist, and an anti-Semite who has been much favored by the right-wing regime of Viktor Orbán.

As is often the case with anti-communists, Makowecz had a highly successful career during the Kádár regime. There was hardly a year between 1960 and 1989 when there was no new Makowecz building. His current style is “national,” which I find strangely out of place in our globalized world. Here is one of his creations:

 

Or here is one of his many churches:

 

After the change of regime he exhibited his independent ways by establishing the Hungarian Academy of Arts, of which he is the founder and  “eternal and executive president.” He was the architect of the Ferenc Puskás Academy of Soccer at Felcsút, Orbán’s hometown, and thus the two men know each other intimately. Lately he became somewhat notorious when in the new Hungarian constitution his right-wing Academy of Arts was specifically mentioned alongside of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Perhaps because of this rather surprising development he was interviewed in Hetek (Weeks), the magazine of the Assembly of God (Hitgyülekezet), on May 6. The contents of this interview shocked the more liberal Hungarian intellectuals, and the interview was discussed on the program A tét (The stake) on ATV last Wednesday. The program, moderated by András Bánó, calls on a panel of four political scientists or commentators.

Some of Makowecz’s assertions were indeed shocking. My first reaction was the Hungarian saying “the shoemaker should stick with his shoelast,” meaning that one ought not to expound on subjects he knows nothing about. Well, this is what happened to Makowecz and history. Even his facts were wrong and therefore it was inevitable that his conclusions were also wrong.

History entered the conversation when Makowecz claimed that “Heller and her gang,” just because they are of Jewish descent, cannot possibly be concerned with all the Hungarian national tragedies that took place in the twentieth century. “They don’t care that we lost a country in 1914 where 70% of the population was Hungarian.” Two mistakes in one sentence. Naturally, Hungary didn’t lose the country in 1914 but officially only in 1920, although by the early months of 1919 it was becoming evident that the loss of territories would be substantial once the peace treaty is signed. The second problem is that in Greater Hungary only about half of the population was Hungarian-speaking, not 70%. Makowecz further claimed that after the loss of territories, Hungary received 2 million Hungarian refugees. In reality their number was about 100,000.

Makowecz’s Miklós Horthy was a great statesman who managed to reoccupy “the annexed territories as the result of the Vienna Award.” First of all, during the interwar period Horthy was not personally involved in policy-making and therefore had little to do with foreign policy directly. And the second problem is that there was not just one Vienna Award but two. Finally, Makowecz asserted that the returned territories were wholly inhabited by Hungarians. This was not the case, especially with the Second Vienna Award where the region of northern Transylvania allotted to Hungary had an ethnic makeup that was practically equally divided between Hungarians and Romanians.

He talked disparagingly about Ágnes Heller and György Konrád. Makowecz, if I understand his rather primitive thoughts properly, doesn’t divide the world into right and left but into Christians and non-Christians. For him the Christian/non-Christian distinction is much more important than political divisions. According to him “Heller and the whole gang” stand on the liberal side for economic and political gains. When the reporter asked him whether his opinion of “Heller and company” had anything to do with their Jewishness, his answer was: “I can’t leave it out, even if I stand on my head. They always have something to criticize the Hungarian nation for; they have a superiority complex; they live with the idea of being the chosen people.”

Finally he expressed his sorrow over the disappearance of the Hungarian aristocracy, nobility, and the middle class.

Makowecz himself exhibits a good dose of a superiority complex–a Hungarian superiority complex. According to him “Hungarian folk art carries such world-wide and ancient content which makes it universal.” The implication being that first there was Hungarian folk art, which then in some strange way was disseminated throughout the world. The reporter felt compelled to ask whether this doesn’t mean a similar message of the “chosen people syndrome” which Makowecz levels against Ágnes Heller and others. Makowecz’s answer was rather primitive: “No, because the Hungarians didn’t come up with the idea that they were the chosen people of God.”

When the reporter mentioned Jesus’s Jewishness, Makowecz’s patience was running out: “I don’t play such games, especially since no Jews lived in Galilee when this man talked about the connection between heaven and earth, and in any case he was always talking about a universal God present in everything and everybody.” Another typical anti-Semitic, old Nazi contention about Jesus’s ancestry.

While the participants of A tét last Wednesday tore Makowecz’s historical knowledge into bits, András Gerő, a historian who apparently likes Makowecz’s work, expressed his hope that one day he could sit down and exchange ideas with the architect. He would explain to Makowecz that his knowledge of history leaves a great deal to be desired and surely Makowecz is an intelligent man who will understand reason. I’m afraid Gerő is naive. Makowecz wouldn’t care a bit about his historical explanations and he certainly wouldn’t be able to change this man’s notions of history, human relations, or his political views.

What I find worrisome is that people close to Viktor Orbán are often those who entertain far-right, ultra-nationalistic, anti-Semitic views. What does that say about Hungary’s current prime minister?

 

 

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Member

“Makowecz, if I understand his rather primitive thoughts properly, doesn’t divide the world into right and left but into Christians and non-Christians. For him the Christian/non-Christian distinction is much more important than political divisions.”
His views on Jesus not being Jewish are out of line with the doctrine of pretty much every church outside Hungary.
BTW “Hit Gyülekezet” is generally called “Faith Church” in English. While it is similar to the US Assemblies of God, it is not affiliated to it AFAIK.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

David: “His views on Jesus not being Jewish are out of line with the doctrine of pretty much every church outside Hungary”
I can’t imagine that either the Protestant or the Catholic Church in Hungary believe that Jesus wasn’t Jewish.

Member

The reason why I said every church outside of Hungary is because I am aware that books about Jesus being Hungarian and the like are popular in right wing circles in Hungary. I am also aware that Lorand Hegedus has a big church in the middle of Budapest that seems to take its nationalism very seriously, so who knows what is taught there.

Sandor
Guest

Eva: ” What does that say about Hungary’s current prime minister?”
Nothing.
He is just as ignorant as the people around him. What’s more, they really don’t care about being ignorant, because it doesn’t matter. There is plenty of purchase for their ignorance, because it is a lovely, expedient ignorance that for now, and to them, pays a handsome dividend. And what about the long run?
Well, we shall all be dead in the long run.
What about then Makowecz?
Well, his style is “individual historical,” meaning that it is in the style of an imaginary historical style that is just as well supported by art history as his “history” is supported by the facts. He is typically one of the collections of petty charlatans so characteristic of today’s Hungary. But he has the potent admixture of ignorance and bravado just good enough to be prominent. This has nothing to do with quality or accomplishments.

Sandor
Guest

Sorry, one more word about Jesus and his jewishness.
This point doesn’t need to be argued too much, since it is written in the Evangelium by Matthew. (Interestingly, nowhere else.)
However, from Makowecz to Morvai, – to mine the benefit of alliterations, – the entire Hungarian Right is reveling in the pleasure of denying the Jewish lineage of Jesus, because that is the proper nazi thing to do. Hitler didn’t deny it, but Makowetcz does.
They out-nazi even the real nazis.

Gábor
Guest

Well, Éva what does this tell about the Christian chruches in Hungary? Apparently they allow a heretic to plan and build their most holy buildings fashioned with pagan symbols, like the Turul bird.

Ivan
Guest

Makovecz designed the theatre in the Peter Pazmany Catholic University on the edge of Buda. The theatre was opened by his good friend Orban. And the building certainly looks fun – huge wings protrude from the roof, the entrance cupola is filled with vast AliceInWonderlandesque thrones, sculpted forests etc. But the theatre completely fails on every basic level as a piece of practical architecture: there are big windows placed just behind the stage, the auditorium is designed so that about half the audience can hardly see anything, the acoustics are so bad that while the performers can hear every whisper and cough coming from the audience, that audience cannot actually hear the performers! It’s a grand folly, then, more of a film set than a viable building.
Actually, come to think of it, there’s something of an OrbanHungary metaphor about it. The packaging has a nice PR sheen. Underneath, though, it stinks. And it doesn’t work. And it’s decaying.

pusztaranger
Guest

@Gábor: “Apparently they allow a heretic to plan and build their most holy buildings fashioned with pagan symbols, like the Turul bird.”
They did that already in Verôce (see the pictures):
http://www.168ora.hu/itthon/templom-pogany-veroce-59514.html
The catholic, reformed and evangelical churches boycotted this building for not being christian; the unitarian church and certain representatives of the reformed church supporting Jobbik/Magyar Garda embrace it. See
http://www.evangelikus.hu/lapszemle/turul-az-oltar-foeloett/?searchterm=None

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Sandor: “Eva: ” What does that say about Hungary’s current prime minister?” Nothing. He is just as ignorant as the people around him.”
What I was getting at was Makowecz’s anti-Semitism. In today’s Galamus there is a letter from a man who most likely lives in the United States. He claims that he was present at a 1992 meeting on Long Island with the young Orbán who refused to disassociate himself from István Csurka because “no one knows when one will need him.”
Orbán is not considered to be an anti-Semite but if he is not why does he surround himself with people who are? I consider that strange.

Ron
Guest

Anti-Semitism or anti-Roma (of which most of them are Roman Catholic) or even anti-Muslism (anti-SRM)I can understand that, although I do not agree with this.
What I do not understand is that most of the anti-SRM are also christians, and some of them devoted. Since WWII Christianity (read:churches) distant themselves from these anti-SRM, but how is it that Fidesz and Jobbik support/ignore anti-SRM. That I do not understand.

Member

The Makowecz, Wass Albert mania grew out of the Erdely cult that was actually present way before 1990. The people, who believe in them with no criticism are basically Orban’s voting base. He has to please them.

Member

The Makowecz, Wass Albert mania grew out of the Erdely cult that was actually present way before 1990. The people, who believe in them with no criticism are basically Orban’s voting base. He has to please them.

Jim
Guest

Makovecz’ organic architecture is, paradoxically, a cult of death: tree-corpses packed tightly in dark, claustrophobic proximity. (Or sometimes it’s just ridiculous, like the church above with eyes and a mustache.)
Just plain creepy.

PT
Guest

…not to mention the fact that the damn buildings leak like sieves.

Member

I must confess I did like Makowecz’ early works (namely the Sarospatak Cultural Centre), but later his style became repetitive and somehow obscure and misguided. The big true Magyar roots he is reaching back to certainly has nothing to do with Christianity as his style reflects more nomadic pagan influence then any Christianity. For that matter for his admiration and use of strange symbols he would of been likely executed (burnt) by no-one else but the church. Makowecz and his admirers again do not see the hypocrisy about what hey are talking about. There is not one day that one of these fools do not speak about how “chosen” the Hungarians are, and that is not written anywhere else but in their own minds.

Kirsten
Guest

“András Gerő, a historian who apparently likes Makowecz’s work, expressed his hope that one day he could sit down and exchange ideas with the architect.”
Are historians such as Mr. Gerö (in the current circumstances) really that relaxed about the ideas of (some) apparently important Hungarians on Hungarian history? The problem is that only rarely promising policies can be devised if the diagnosis is quite off the mark. And then it is worrying that OV is surrounded by people who believe that Hungary has an entitlement to “greatness” although the policies (economic or regarding the state structure, i.e. political stability) have not too often been conducive to it. It fits that “he expressed his sorrow over the disappearance of the Hungarian aristocracy, nobility”. Were these not the groups that (on the whole) stood in the way to modernisation in Hungary and instead felt entitled to admiration for their grandeur?

Minusio
Guest

“After the change of regime he exhibited his independent ways…”
I have always preferred the phrase “the change of the political system” for what happened in 1989. However, I suggest to call what happened from 2010 onwards “after the Orbán regime came to power”.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“He claims that he was present at a 1992 meeting on Long Island with the young Orbán who refused to disassociate himself from István Csurka because “no one knows when one will need him.”
And you seriously believe this shit?

Ron
Guest

Johnny Boy: And you seriously believe this shit?
Yes, but than it were different times. Csurka was at that time Vice-President, and still part of MDF, and VO was a liberal.

Member

An other intelligent expression from Johnny Boy, “this shit”. THis goes next to “flying f00k” , “gays are abnormal”, and alike.
Johnny Boy: How about your feedback on the original post not on the comments.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

JB: “Orbán who refused to disassociate himself from István Csurka because “no one knows when one will need him.” And you seriously believe this shit?”
I have no reason not to believe this man. There are people whose words I don’t trust because they have been caught lying numerous times. Like Matolcsy today who said that the European Commission said that Hungary will be able to keep the deficit under 3% in 2012 when we just read that their estimate is 3.3%. Now, I don’t believe this guy but why would’nt I believe this man from Long Island?

Johnny Boy
Guest

“I have no reason not to believe this man”
Well, if the fact that he speaks utter nonsense is no reason to not believe him, then nevermind.

Ron
Guest

Johnny Boy: I would not say utter nonsense, and you would not either if you know your history.
Like I said before the comment was made in 1992 in a different situation and different times. And if you believe that Orban is a great strategic person, you may see his foresight on this topic, if he said this in 1992.
In 2000 VO started the Polgari Kor, of which one of the founding members was Gabor Vona. Gabor Vona, perheps with help of VO, merged various right wing parties and formed the current Jobbik, one of the merge parties is MIEP.
VO launched Jobbik in 2006 by having some joined lists during the elections.
If VO had that foresight in 1992 than he is really good.

Jim
Guest

Johnny, why is it so hard to believe that Orbán would disassociate himself from Csurka when Bayer and Makovecz are his close friends? They are at least as extreme as Csurka.
Sounds perfectly plausible. If you see a difference, please let us know. I’m honestly curious what distinction you make.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Jim: Bayer and Makovecz are not extremists at all, they never rambled about the New York-Tel-Aviv axis which is Csurka’s only topic.
“VO launched Jobbik in 2006”
Idiocy. Jobbik was formed to compete Fidesz because the founders were not satisfied with Fidesz. OV had nothing to do with them.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Ron: and you should know that Jobbik already campaigned during the 2004 EP elections.
Yet you think they were formed in 2006. This show how much you “know” of what you’re talking about.

Member

Orban never-ever disassociated himself from religious extremes (after he found his long lost God), and thee same goes from extreme right ideas (after he found he cannot make it as a liberal as the competition is way above his head). THe only exception is when his political aspirations get in the way, not to do or say something.

Jim
Guest

I’m afraid you are in denial, Johnny. Bayer’s columns in Magyar Hírlap are as extreme as anything Csurka ever wrote. And even more hot-headed. He belongs to a somewhat younger, more virulent generation of no-holds-barred public antisemites than old Csurka — who after all spent his life spying on Jews for the old regime, so I guess he went soft. 🙂

Ron
Guest

JohnnyBoy: You stated: Ron: and you should know that Jobbik already campaigned during the 2004 EP elections.
Yet you think they were formed in 2006. This show how much you “know” of what you’re talking about.
“VO launched Jobbik in 2006”
Idiocy. Jobbik was formed to compete Fidesz because the founders were not satisfied with Fidesz. OV had nothing to do with them.
JohnnyBoy to found something or to launch something are two different things. Jobbik/Miep were in existence since early 2000, but they did not breakthrough. This is where VO helped in 2006 with the municipality elections, by having joined lists with Jobbik.
http://www.mancs.hu/index.php?gcPage=/public/hirek/hir.php&id=18916
http://www.republikon.hu/upload/5000026/elemzes_onkval_meres.pdf
Republikon is some kind of think tank for ATV/MSZP?

wpDiscuz