The Day of National Unity: 131-page-long instruction to teachers

One of the very first orders of business of the new government last summer was to designate June 4, the date of the signing of the Treaty of Trianon, as a day of remembrance. Thus yesterday scores of government politicians made speeches to honor the occasion, most of which were the usual distortions of historical facts. I was also amused by Zsolt Semjén's "threat": they will find every Hungarian in the whole wide world! They will also fight for "every Hungarian." Csaba Hende, minister of defense who is also great at saying silly things, announced that in order to build a new country one "needs the whole nation." I wonder how he is planning to rely on Hungarians living in other countries to build Orbán's Hungary.

These political speeches are not really dangerous. However, the compulsory "day of remembrance" in all Hungarian schools is much more worrisome. All institutions already received a very detailed "guide" on how to enlighten their students about Trianon. Anyone who's interested can read the material on the government's website.

The teachers need to be enlightened because, according to a 2009 survey, knowledge about the topic among younger people (ages 18 to 30) is meager. Only one-third of this group knew the year the treaty was signed; another third couldn't even guess; and the remaining third came up with such wild answers as 1910. They were also in error when it came to the ethnic composition of the territories lost. Two-thirds of them were convinced that the causes of Trianon lay entirely outside of Hungary. Hungary was an innocent victim. So, learning something about Trianon is definitely in order. The trouble is that the enlightenment shouldn't be done the way Rózsa Hoffmann's "ministry" envisages.

The first problem is that the goal of the government's published material is not to enrich the meager historical knowledge of the students but "to make the student realize emotionally that Trianon was the greatest tragedy of Hungary's modern history." If the teachers stick with the material in the guide–and they will because they don't want to get into trouble–they will only strengthen the already very strong nationalistic passions by calling attention to the "injustice" of the treaty.

There is a short chapter outlining the historical antecedents of the event which, unfortunately, is full of not quite accurate facts. For example, teachers are supposed to tell their pupils that the government of Mihály Károlyi didn't utilize the soldiers returning from the war for the defense of the borders. This line of interpretation is exactly the same as was favored by the Horthy regime. As if the Hungarian army came back intact after the lost war and Károlyi simply let them go home. The fact was that most of the weaponry was lost or left behind. The soldiers returned either weaponless or maybe with small arms. The government tried to get volunteers, but the enthusiasm for defending the borders was so minimal that altogether about 5,000 men were willing to serve the fatherland.

An even greater piece of misinformation comes when the military attacks from Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Serbia are blamed on the establishment of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. As is well known, the foreign occupation of the country from the north, east, and south began well before that date. In fact, Mihály Károlyi's resignation was the result of further demands for evacuation of  more territories by Hungary. The renewed military occupation was not the immediate reaction to the declaration of the Soviet Republic. It was in response to Béla Kun's extravagant territorial demands for a demarcation line between the Romanian and Hungarian forces that Jan Smuts, the representative of the Paris Peace Conference, came to Hungary to negotiate.

Then there are suspicious omissions. For example, the guide quotes Albert Apponyi's speech on January 16, 1920, during his appearance before the representatives of the Entente. Only one paragraph is missing, the one in which he talked about the "cultural inferiority" of Hungary's neighbors. This paragraph made a very negative impression on the representatives of the Great Powers and only hurt Hungary's case. In sum, the authors of the guide consider Trianon "altogether unjust and arrived at on the basis of a fundamentally wrong political strategy."

The day also includes a program which all the pupils must attend. Although the guide mentions that this day shouldn't be considered "a day of mourning," the suggested program sounds mournful enough, especially since the background music is the well known and very sad Hungarian folksong "l left my beautiful country/Famous little Hungary" (Elindultam szép hazámból/Híres kis Magyarországból). After the first stanza comes a narrator who tells about the victims of the war. The second stanza is followed by a description of "the trauma of Trianon" and by way of illustration someone will recite poems written about Trianon between the two world wars. The third stanza's narration will concentrate on love of country and the unity of the nation illustrated by Endre Ady's poem, "Föl-föl dobott kő." 

Several further poetic recommendations are listed, among them Albert Wass, the representative of Hungarian irredentism between the two world wars, and Sándor Sajó, an iconic literary figure of the far right from the same period.

In the narrative passages one often hears about the "Trianon diktat," again a favorite description of Trianon during the Horthy regime. Another complaint from the past crops up when the narrator talks about the "economic and geopolitical unity of the Carpathian Basin" which was destroyed by Trianon. The annexed territories are described as "parts of the body of our nation" (nemzettest), a word often used in racist and antisemitic writings. According to Hírszerző the word was used in parliament last year eleven times, exclusively by Jobbik MPs.

All in all, the Day of National Unity serves only one purpose: to whip up nationalism and irredentist sentiments. As for the children, the ministry's recommendation will plant the seeds of hatred of the neighbors and the evil Great Powers responsible for Hungary's mutilation. Instead of teaching them about their common history and destiny and emphasizing their place within the frontiers of Europe.

 

 

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Kirsten
Guest

Éva: “…calling attention to the “injustice” of the treaty.” “this day shouldn’t be considered “a day of mourning…”
But what then is the objective of this day? If all children will be aware of the injustice of the treaty while they are not asked to mourn about it, what then should they do with this newly acquired knowledge? Fight? Hate the Allies?
‘the authors of the guide consider Trianon “altogether unjust and arrived at on the basis of a fundamentally wrong political strategy.” ‘
I could not open the document but do the authors of this material also include a comment on the political strategy and military achievements of Hungary in 1914-1917?
I also read that in Hungary at that time there was awareness of that this war cannot bring anything positive: either German domination or dissolution of Greater Hungary.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kirsten: “Éva: “…calling attention to the “injustice” of the treaty.” “this day shouldn’t be considered “a day of mourning…” But what then is the objective of this day?”
It’s a logical mess. The whole thing is a mishmash of confused thinking.

Odin's lost eye
Guest

Ho ho what fun the website immediately disables Google tool bar so none of us stupid foreigners can translate it!
These gooks are beginning to learn.
Teach the world wide community of Hungarians to HATE all non Hungarians
Their next trick will be taken from the book of the “Allah A Akbar BOOM” mob of suicide bombers.. The proto-Saint Orban promises paradise and a free ride on Metro 4 (when it is finished) with a ½ price ice cream at the end for all who kill enough non Hungarians in their suicide.

Ivan
Guest

I am bringing up a little girl here in Hungary. And so, after many months of reading this vital blog, this is the most terrifying entry yet. It seems that it will be mandatory for schoolchildren to learn lies (and, even worse, to study the occasionally deranged, and always insufferably didactic, racist writings of Albert Wass). Completely unacceptable. And then, full of hate and territorial aspirations, the kids will leave school straight into the new Fidesz conscript army. Which is when, presumably, Jobbik take over both the reins of government and the big new hate-filled army. Hopeful stuff! As I stated before, there are precedents for this all going terribly wrong in recent history – all along Hungary’s southern border.
Oh, and most bothered by this aim “to make the student realize emotionally that Trianon was the greatest tragedy of Hungary’s modern history” … not the holocaust, then?

Kirsten
Guest

I looked at the pages törtenelmi hatter. Whether this can help overcome the trauma of Trianon (the loss of territory) remains to be seen. The trauma stemming from the defencelessness before, during and after that period most likely not, and this is not owing to “being admitted to the Peace Conference almost too late”.

Member

Ivan: “Oh, and most bothered by this aim “to make the student realize emotionally that Trianon was the greatest tragedy of Hungary’s modern history” … not the holocaust, then?”
No, not for Orban, not for Johnny Boy and for their clowns.
Personally, I think the greatest tragedy of Hungary’s modern history are the actions (or non-actions) of individuals that lead Hungary to contribute to the Holocaust and Trianon. Unfortunately the aspiration of such politicians still exist, and I am afrad that they are leading down Hungary on the same path. The only hope is that there are smarter people there then Johnny Boy, who cannot be lead by these kind of two-faced politicians.

Ivan
Guest

What hope can there be if teachers are henceforth compelled to teach the writings of Albert Wass? Authority figures will be teaching hate and deliberately misleading history to the highly impressionable.
Will such a letter also be wending its way to the many Hungarian schools outside the present day borders?

Member

Was Wass Albert’s war crimes conviction in Romania ever overturned?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

David: “Was Wass Albert’s war crimes conviction in Romania ever overturned?”
To my knowledge, no.

Member
Holy crap! This is exactly the same or worse than our “celebration” of the “Three Springs” was in 1976 during the ancient regime. Oh, sweet memories. In the 3 springs idea they washed together March 15, the revolution against the Hapsburg (*) rule in 1848, March 21 the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919, and April 4th the so called “liberation of Hungary” by the Soviets at the end of the war in 1945. They were actually trying to piggyback the 2 commie holidays on the anti-Hapsburg revolt. The history teacher scripted the whole thing and in 7th grade I was proud narrator between the usual stupid poems and songs. It was the same routine every year and as a routine I can assure you it left absolutely no trace of any brain cells. So don’t start packing yet (not for this anyway). This is Planet Hungary Circus. These bozos can’t do anything right. The only thing that will happen is an “osztalyfonoki ora”, a “home teacher’s class”, where depending on the political orientation/wisdom of the teacher there will be a lukewarm discussion of the subject. Everybody will hate it and the whole thing will actually backfire on them. I’m trying… Read more »
peter litvanyi
Guest

I agree with the previous comments.
“the most terrifying entry yet” by Ivan.
In a way it is. Orwellian.
“1984” in action.
Peter Litvanyi

Ivan
Guest

Mutt Damon: “I’m trying to imagine what would happen if the parents petitioned a high school principal that they don’t want their kids participate in irredentist celebrations. Or they don’t want their kids learn a boring deranged fascist’s poems.”
Well, I would certainly withold my daughter from participation in such nonsense, not only because of the largely false, twisted and hostile history being promoted but also because of the cynical omissions – witness Eva’s reference to the deletion of problematic Apponyi paragraphs. This kind of selective teaching and deleting is, of course much beloved by promoters of conspiracy theories. As an academic, Rozsa Hoffmann should know better. But she never does.

Member
I was thinking about this whole Trianon cult, as it puzzles me greatly at the time when borders are opening up and most countries are coming under the umbrella of the European Union (slowly but surely). I wrote in a previous comment of mine, that I do not see the “wanting to become Hungarian citizen” syndrome from Austria for example. It makes it obvious that it is more to do with the opportunities and with the hope of better life for most of those who are applying then it has to do with being Hungarian citizens. (There is nothing wrong with that, but the false pretense..) I also believe that one’s nationality does not depend on the passport that the person holds, and even Johnny Bpy would agree with that. But what is the motivation of the State wanting to “realign” the borders and looking for “justice”? There are no economical gains (maybe tourism, and I thin there are some oil, silver mines, etc.). Again, we are not talking about fifty years ago, but about today. These clowns are showing up in the parliament and at celebrations dressed up in folkloristic outfits, like country singers in a Nashville convention. It… Read more »
Hongormaa
Guest

While many could certainly agree that Trianon has been a long-standing trauma for the Hungarian people (without getting into the question of which trauma is ‘bigger’), and that Trianon should be addressed in any school curriculum, this is very possibly the very worst way to go about it. It would be useful if students learnt WHY Trianon happened, Hungary’s role in WWI, etc…having had a brief look at the “Teacher’s guide’, it seems designed to nurture feelings of wounded nationalism…

Kirsten
Guest

someone: “as it puzzles me greatly at the time when borders are opening up and most countries are coming under the umbrella of the European Union”.
That these nationalist ideas are tied to Trianon and WWI is perhaps the case only in Hungary currently but other countries also in the EU and not even former Communist countries also have rising nationalist movements. They may have a bit different topics (support of Greece, “we are paying too much for lazy people in the other member states”, Muslim immigrants, who needs the EU) but it is in some way similar and not an Hungarian specialty (which will certainly not reassure you). But your post reassures me a bit, I was already wondering whether the “border issue” could currently really be high on the agenda. It appears to be also a distraction, then.

Erin
Guest

Many thanks for the article. I study youth political socialization in Hungary and this really adds an edge to one-sided indoctrination that takes place in Hungary today. You mentioned:
‘according to a 2009 survey, knowledge about the topic among younger people (ages 18 to 30) is meager. Only one-third of this group knew the year the treaty was signed; another third couldn’t even guess; and the remaining third came up with such wild answers as 1910.’
I was wondering which survey this was in reference to?

Kirsten
Guest

Hongormaa, I also think that it could be useful (perhaps even more so than the mourning alone) to find out why Hungary was rather isolated and ill-prepared for the conflict.

Johnny Boy
Guest

You, to whom the word “nation” means nothing, certainly cannot grasp the loss caused by Trianon to Hungary.
Regardless of the fact that its main reason was that us Hungarians were not standing up for our own interests enough, the treaty is completely unjust.
You can call it just but that only shows your total neglect for the nation you are ought to belong to (which of course you do not).

Johnny Boy
Guest

“The annexed territories are described as “parts of the body of our nation” (nemzettest), a word often used in racist and antisemitic writings”
So? So what?
This is a brainless insinuation.
Racists and anti-semites often use the words “me”, “do”, “think”, “eat” and lots of others.
Does that make other users of these words racist? No. You lie? Yes.

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