Trianon and young Hungarian adults

Yesterday I mentioned in passing a survey designed to find out how much younger people (between the ages of 18 and 30) knew about the Treaty of Trianon and the historical facts surrounding it. The survey was conducted by the Research Group for Communicational Theory under the joint sponsorship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Eötvös Lóránd University. The details, which I will summarize here, can be found in the last issue of Élet és Irodalom (June 3, 2011). I will also refer to two earlier surveys (in 2000 and 2007) conducted by the Center for Strategic Research and Communicational Theory of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences which asked about the Treaty of Trianon in the adult population as a whole. If possible, the younger generation knows even less about the peace treaty than their parents and grandparents. As far as I know, the results of these earlier surveys appeared in book form in 2007.

In this connection I would also like to mention two articles written by former SZDSZ (liberal) members of parliament: Tamás Bauer and Mátyás Eörsi. Tamás Bauer in his article dissects the topic analytically and reaches conclusions that he knows fly in the face of general sentiment about the treaty. That's why he entitled his article "Dissenting opinion on illustrious holidays" (Különvélemény jeles napokon). Those who know Hungarian should read it because Bauer's opinions are unique in Hungarian thinking. For him, to talk about national unity across borders is nonsense because national unity even within the same country is a fiction and therefore talking about national unity of people living in different countries is really meaningless. Yes, a lot of Hungarian-speaking people remained outside of Hungary proper, but overall the size of national minorities in post-Trianon East-Central Europe was reduced. All in all, Trianon was a good thing for the majority of the region's people.

Mátyás Eörsi, although agreeing with all the facts Bauer marshals to support his opinion, finds something lacking. Exactly the kind of emotion that Bauer refuses to indulge in. He feels that this "scientific dissection of the phenomenon" is no answer to the "trauma" most Hungarians claim as their reaction to the events of 1918-1920. Bauer is right, he admits, but his emotionless, scientific attitude is not useful as an antidote to the Hungarian right's Trianon picture.

The reason that the dialogue between these two liberal people is important for our purposes ís that Hungarian society is greatly divided on the question of Trianon and what to do about it. It can be said that the population as a whole considers Trianon a tragedy and a terrible injustice. That's why Tamás Bauer is perhaps alone in the whole country in thinking the way he does about the treaty and its consequences.

Mária Vásárhelyi, a member of the research group that did the survey, mentions that one of the problems is that after the Horthy regime's radical irredentism there was total silence on the topic during the Rákosi and Kádár regimes. Yet a survey conducted in 1976 about the population's historical knowledge revealed that 70% of the Hungarian adults even then claimed that "they felt deep bitterness" still because of the injustices of the treaty. And that was in 1976 when expressing such an opinion could bring very negative reactions from the authorities. The majority of Hungarians at that time approved of and supported the reoccupation of parts of Slovakia and northern Romania. So, although there was official silence, the people's reaction to the lost territories was even then deeply felt. Vásárhelyi thinks that this "lack of discussion" of the issue has resulted in the present confusion.

After the change of regime the right followed the tradition of the Horthy regime and interpreted Trianon "as the great burial ground of our grand national life" while the left pretty well followed the tradition of the Kádár regime: they simply didn't talk about it. The problem didn't exist as far as they were concerned. History, including the traumas of the twentieth century, became "the prey of party politics." The right continued an ever growing aggressive nationalistic propaganda; the left had no alternative interpretation to counter the nationalistic danger.

As for the younger generation. If one compares their knowledge to that of the adult population as a whole in earlier surveys, the results are even more discouraging. And especially discouraging since the younger generation is formally at least better educated than the population as a whole. While 44% of the adult population knew more or less the size of the territorial losses, in the younger group only 14% can even approximate the proper figures. More than half of the people in their twenties are convinced that the lost territories were overwhelmingly populated by Hungarians.

The younger group shares the general Hungarian tendency to find scapegoats. While most historians consider Hungarian national policy before 1918 one of the most important causes of the very great territorial losses the country had to suffer, only 5% of those questioned mentioned the oppression of the nationalities as a possible cause. Instead about 30% of them think that the Great Powers wanted a weak Hungary and therefore supported the extravagant claims of the neighboring countries. Another 30% blame the French and their pro-Romanian sympathies for Hungary's misfortunes.

Also interesting are the answers to "what can be done about Trianon." Here there are much greater differences between right and left. More than half (53%) of the younger generation think that Hungary should never accept the consequences of the Treaty of Trianon. Within that group a third would even resort to war to get back the lost territories. However, 43% believe that Hungary must resign itself to the status quo. That pretty well tells us that, whether we like it or not, at the moment radical right ideology has captured the imagination of the majority of this group. About 16% of the young adults who would resort to military means to regain lost territories are sympathizers of the Christian Democratic Party and Jobbik. About 37% dream of a peaceful revision ("followers of the national-nationalistic ideology") that is increasingly becoming the trademark of Fidesz.

All this is rather depressing and shows a very advanced degree of radicalization among the Hungarian youth. People blame the socialist-liberal parties for not being able to find an alternative to the nationalistic, irredentist interpretation of Trianon based on wrong historical facts. But I am skeptical of being able to combat the problem with rational arguments. I doubt that the radicalized Hungarian youth would be too impressed by balanced historical counterarguments based on solid research.

 

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Member

I wonder how the possibility of conscription would play here, as I suspect that few young people would want to be the ones on the receiving end of bullets in the war to recover Transylvania, or wherever.
In general terms the belief that recovery of the territories lost at Trianon is possible seems utterly disconnected with reality. If it is pursued peacefully, well the Slovaks are hardly going to volunteer to abolish their country, need I say more. If pursued by war, well look at Serbia for how the rest of the world might react to that one.

Ivan
Guest

… and think how Serbia might react to that one!

Member

David and Ivan are so right. There is a huge disconnect with reality going on here. I do not understand why no journalist ask the question directly from Orban bout whet does he really wants to do to fix Trianon. I would not buy the “we start here and twenty years from now” answer. Let just say that he can have what he wants, so what would it be? How would he employ all the people? What would he do with the Romanians, Serbians, Croats, etc. I want him to provide a three year plan, if suddenly all lost Hungarian territories would go back to Hungary.

Member

It’s kinda cool to imagine that the country has access to the Adriatic see. We would go there instead of the Balaton. Or we would go skiing to the Transylvanian mountains … or to the Tatra mountains on the North. With no passport. It would be awesome !!
Maybe it was fate. Who knows what would 20 million hotheaded, intolerant bumpkins do in the middle of Europe. Who would we hate now if there was no Trianon?
Idiots.

Kirsten
Guest

I got the impression that the “hotheaded” bumpkins would have needed something more threatening than just OV’s words and the sabre-rattling of the Guards. In current circumstances, Hungary will not find a too many supporters of border revisions. But Trianon stands not only for the lost territories but also for repeated unability (Turks, Trianon, WWII) to defend the territory claimed for Hungary (could be diplomatically as well, need not be only military). The latter seems for me even more traumatising than the former (but this I cannot judge).

GW
Guest

“While 44% of the adult population knew more or less the size of the territorial losses, in the younger group only 14% can even approximate the proper figures.”
This kind of innumeracy seems to be strategy with the Hungarian right, with talk of a “Great Nation” distracting from any actual accomplishments. Whether at 10 million or 15 million, Hungary is a small country with the challenges of a small country in organizing its human and material resources within a much larger, and rapidly changing, world.

Ivan
Guest

The principle of ‘consent’ has been enshrined in nearly all successful border/territory/determination disputes. The fact is that if that democratic principle had been applied in the redrawing of the map (or if it were to be applied now) in this situation, then pretty much what happened would still have happened … and there would still be a substantial aggrieved minority.
What’s the alternative? There is simply no discussion in Hungary about the rights of other peoples to NOT be ruled from Budapest (or Vienna).
Would Hungarians really have preferred Tito’s Yugoslavia as a model – and its inevitable conclusion? Or perhaps Franco’s Spain – where imposition of nationality and dogmatic attitudes to culture and border and education only resulted in a decades-long terrorist problem of unparalleled brutality. Would Hungarians have liked either of those situations?
Would someone care to point me to a situation where a minority successfully ruled a majority (in the main against their wishes).
Perhaps it’s a return to feudalism that people really want? The Slovaks would love that, surely.

Erin
Guest

I think this perpetuation of historical fiction within the right and radical-right in Hungary is a combination of educational confusion, family rhetoric and a cultural void. Most young Hungarians I talk with mention that within their schools the handling of sensitive historical topics are either avoided or expounded upon by right-wing laments of lost territory, depicting Hungary as an oppressed and marginalized nation, constantly picked on by foreign forces. In the family it is similar, either the family rants about Hungary’s past grandeur and current depletion from ‘others’ or there is little discussion about politics and history.
There are very few outlets for young people in post-communist Hungary. The right, and particularly radical-right, have created not only a space for young people but an all encompassing identity. Fashion trends, nemzeti rock concerts, a definition of the ‘real’ Hungarian, strong slogans and youth political dialogues. The left has been unable to create the same feeling of community among the youth. So with this youth cohesion on the right the ideas and false narrative of history are perpetuated.

Ivan
Guest
Erin, spot on analysis. This is absolutely my experience too. I also agree with GW, but reference to the mantra that ‘Hungary is only a small country’ demands response. I’ve heard this from almost everyone I know in Hungary. I hear it or read it on an almost daily basis. It is one of those givens that everyone believes – and no article is complete without. But it’s not true, within the context of the European Union anyway. Looking at the latest demographics, I can see that Hungary has a substantially larger population than Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden (many of which do not have any preoccupation with how ‘small’ their populations are). Furthermore, Hungary’s population is roughly equal to that of Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece and Portugal. In fact only 8 of the 27 EU countries have significantly larger populations than Hungary’s. One can only assume that this Hungarian preoccupation with how small their population is – and the ‘persecution’ and ‘inferiority’ complexes that accompany such a belief – must stem from the loss of the 5 million ‘ethnic Hungarians’ through Trianon. But if Trianon had never happened, well,… Read more »
Member
Kirsten: “to defend the territory claimed for Hungary (could be diplomatically as well, need not be only military). ” Maybe Orban, Kover and Vona should suggest to the EU and to surrounding countries that they would like to sit down for a discussion. THey have a tendency to blame everyone and anyone who signed the Treaty, so lets see how far they can go. They are such great politicians, and they can show the whole, wide world and to the real Hungarians how is it when the real Hungarian politicians take on a cause face to face with a united, strong opposition. Erin: “There are very few outlets for young people in post-communist Hungary. The right, and particularly radical-right, have created not only a space for young people but an all encompassing identity.” It is true but also, do not forget that the right is very aggressive physically and otherwise. The unspoken threat that would come for any alternative “movement” and its members cannot be dismissed. In a country where radical movements are welcomed and are semi-legal, it would take a lot not only to organize something but also to be a member. Same goes for education, those right-wing nut… Read more »
kis fiu
Guest

@Erin: interesting post. You mention “There are very few outlets for young people in post-communist Hungary.” As an American, I am curious what you are referring to here. Do you mean relative to other neighboring countries or relative to communist Hungary, or something else? Thanks.

Last hun
Guest

I postulate that it’s all a smokescreen. The ruling party know they don’t have a snowballs chance in hell of changing the territorial boundaries of the country, but stirring up nationalistic sentiments helps divert people from their worsening economic circumstances and ongoing exploitation.
I hope ther’s nothing to see here except some primitive flag waving to triangulate, capture some of the issues and thus drain support away from the far right.
Maybe I’m being too charitable. Oh my god no, surely they can’t actually be that stupid????

Johnny Boy
Guest

“Yes, a lot of Hungarian-speaking people remained outside of Hungary proper, but overall the size of national minorities in post-Trianon East-Central Europe was reduced. All in all, Trianon was a good thing for the majority of the region’s people.”
I bet you don’t even realize the outrageous capital treason you’re committing here.
You are completely unworthy of the title “historian” because you intentionally fail to mention the basic reason behind the reduction in size of the national minorities, mostly Hungarians.
And that reason was the forced assimilation by neighbouring countries, usually by taking away the rights to education in mother tongue, by exclusion of Hungarians from economic and other aspects of life. By redrawing borders of cities and local regions to dissect Hungarian minorities so that their proportion falls below the desired rate in every region. All of these actions violate basic human rights.
In short, you justify the sins committed against Hungarian minority in Europe, and that is capital treason, plain and simple.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Bauer and Eörsi, along with a few miserable but luckily outcasted others, will never ever understand the basics of how Hungarians work. They are not members of the nation as they have no connection in the soul to the people around them whatsoever.
They will never be able to produce anything else than something of ‘scientific’ approach to issues that cannot be approached scientifically by their nature. (Interesting, however, that Bauer, as economist – a pretty weak one too – feels compelled to intervene in other affairs, pretending scientific knowledge despite his obvious all-around incompetence.)

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

JB: “Yes, a lot of Hungarian-speaking people remained outside of Hungary proper, but overall the size of national minorities in post-Trianon East-Central Europe was reduced. All in all, Trianon was a good thing for the majority of the region’s people.” I bet you don’t even realize the outrageous capital treason you’re committing here. You are completely unworthy of the title “historian”
The only problem here is that it was Tamás Bauer who said that and not I. But what he is saying here is a fact: the size of minority groups in East-Central Europe was reduced as a result of the Treaty of Trianon.

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

Mutt Damon writes: “It’s kinda cool to imagine that the country has access to the Adriatic see. We would go there instead of the Balaton. Or we would go skiing to the Transylvanian mountains … or to the Tatra mountains on the North. With no passport. It would be awesome !!”
The fact is that you CAN go to the Adreatic sea or the Tatra mountains without your passport as an EU citizen.

Member

“you CAN go to the Adreatic sea”
OMG!! Really! Then what’s the fuss about this Trianon thing … ?
(I was joking)

Member

Johnny: “outrageous capital treason”
Wake up and smell the freedom of speech, Johnny.
Ok, just let’s look at sheer the numbers:
The original (pre-Trianon) population of the Hungarian Kingdom was 20 million. Less then the half were Magyars (!). Trianon reduced the population to 7 millions, leaving 3.3 millions Magyars to our neighbors. Give or take a few Johnny Boys. So 10 million “lost” Hungarians actually were not Hungarian. If we kept the territories today we would have 15 million non-Hungarian in our country.
The little shred of sanity shining through Johnny’s Hamsterian views is that the neighbors screwed us big time. This was an injustice after all. That was how they tried to shake off the moral burden.
This Trianon thing in 21st century European Union is just crying over spilled milk. It’s a joke.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“This Trianon thing in 21st century European Union is just crying over spilled milk. It’s a joke”
Would you dare say the same about the Holocaust? I wonder…
Or is it Hungary’s pain only that gets neglected by you?

Member

Johnny: We don’t deny Trianon. We’re only saying move on because being Europe’s reject will not help your future. Capish?
You cannot miss this analogy: this blog is Europe and you are Hungary. You are alone and everybody thinks you are a moron.

Member

Johnny Boy: “outrageous capital treason” You have no idea again what you are talking about. Trianon was approved and signed by Hungary, in order to spare itself. All of we know, Hungary could of been chopped off and given away left and right with no government left whatsoever. Hungary lost the war. Hungary was in the wrong. Get it? And comparing territories taken away from a country that lost the war to millions of jews, gypsies, political prisoners slaughtered is even below you. Oh no let me correct that, it is not below you, it is you! Maybe you should analyze what lead to Trianon.

Ivan
Guest
Hungary seems to be going on the opposite journey to the Republic of Ireland, which was partitioned at round about the same time as Trianon. In Ireland’s case, three counties of Ulster remained with the Republic in order to ensure an inbuilt Protestant majority in Northern Ireland. But only just – the number of ‘Irish’ people forced to live in the North being much higher, proportionately than the number of ‘Hungarians’ forced to live in neighbouring countries. As part of the Good Friday Agreement just over ten years ago, the people of the Republic voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to drop their territorial claim on the north. Peace seemed more important, along with the increasing redundancy of the border in a European Union of free movement. The British, for their part, have accepted the principle of consent. And it has been many many years since I heard an English person refer to ‘Londonderry’ when talking about Derry. Hungary, meanwhile, seems to be increasing its sabre-rattling, misinforming of school children and territorial aspirations in general. Why on earth would any peace loving Hungarian want to enforce millions of non-Hungarians to become citizens of Hungary and thereby ensure that something like the… Read more »
Odin's lost eye
Guest
You start a war, you lose that war and the victors dictate the peace- no matter how just/unjust the losers think it is! The losers buy peace on the victors’ terms. If the losers start another war (or join one) and lose again then as Joe Stalin said to Rakosi “The question of the Carpathian Basin is SETTELED once and for all!” Johnny Boy Hungary was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. OK! 97 years (Yes Ninety Seven years) ago the Austro-Hungarian Empire started a war. OK? The Austro Hungarian Empire and its various allies LOST that war!. One of the senior allies on the victorious side (The U.S.A) persuaded the others that the peoples of that old empire should be given’ Self Determination. The other main allies (Britain and France) were too broke and war weary to object. The result was Trianon! We will have none of the rubbish about the cultural inferiority of the Non-Hungarian peoples. I and my people are non-Hungarians and in a grubby little city, by the highly cultured Hungarian standards, near a somewhat smelly tidal river are the buildings which house the ‘Mother of day Parliaments’. The way things are going it proves that… Read more »
Erin
Guest

@ Kis Fiu
Actually I am also American – what I am mainly referring to about there being a lack of outlets for youth has to do with the barriers for open discussion and civil society in many areas that are usually where young people develop, rather than suppress, their ideas. In primary, secondary and even University levels there is no forum for debate created by the university, unless a student group organizes an event and in this case it is monitored and not usually allowed to be directly political in nature. With en masse decentralization there was a lack of re-centralizing youth institutions post-transition. Youth forums, youth centres and general public space for young adults is limited in Hungary. If sensitive subjects in history are not discussed rationally at school or at home then there is a large gap to be filled by radicalism and alluring false historical narratives.

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

Imagine the nightmare: the Great Powers have suddenly decided that Trianon was a bad idea and restored the historical borders. The Hungarian Government – and the people – are dealing with millions of minority Slovaks, Romanians, Croats, Serbs, Ruthenians, Germans and even Poles, who are very unhappy about their fate. The Hungarian Government’s is looking for ways to assimilate them. Hungarian is the required official language, schools teach in Hungarian only, street signs are in Hungarian. A strictly enforced Language Law is the law of the land. In the meanwhile homegrown terrorists are manufacturing homemade bombs…
We Hungarians blew the 70 years between 1848 to 1918 to build a multi-ethnic constitutional democracy and spent the next 90 years not learning from our mistakes. What makes us think we are now ready to do it? We are having trouble even fitting in the common European home – sadly.

peter litvanyi
Guest

MOVE ON EVERYBODY.
Mr. Orban LLC. is playing the old game.
The relevant documentary here in the US is “Why We Fight?”. I recommend.
Mr. Orban is just such a pitiful third world copycat; same story though.
Dear “Odin”: I agree. How is the cat?
Dear “Erin/ kis fiu”: plenty forums to discuss perhaps not at school. michaelmoore.com perhaps? I agree there should be a lot more.
Dear Sackhoes Contributor:
“We Hungarians blew the 70 years between 1848 to 1918 to build a multi-ethnic constitutional democracy and spent the next 90 years not learning from our mistakes. What makes us think we are now ready to do it? We are having trouble even fitting in the common European home – sadly.” Good words. Thanks.
Peter Litvanyi

kis fiu
Guest

@ Erin – thanks. This is something I havent thought about much before but it is interesting.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
Peter The cats and the dogs are fine, as are the jerboas, the injured pigeon and whatever else others bring in. As the U.S. Ambassador wrote of Orban “He likes playing with fire”. The measure of the man is that he MUST be No1 at all times in everything! Mr Orban is behaving just like Mr Mugabe and all would be ‘Mighty Ones’. But to be a real first class ‘Mighty One’ you need ‘military victories’, ‘processional routes’ for your magnificent victorious Armies to march down and to hurl the standards of your defeated enemies at your feet. You need to make sure that you and the people are of one mind. The people will think as you do! The only thoughts that you can get into people’s heads is ‘HATE’. Fidesz is very good at ‘Hate Propaganda’ as we have seen in their campaign leading up to the last election. His ideas of ‘liberating’ the Hungarian speakers in other lands and achieving territorial aggrandizement are his aims. That is why I asked the question about Hungarian speakers in other nations. Orban has fallen into the trap that the Southern Irish fell into. They looked at the land not the… Read more »
Laszlo
Guest

Hungarians have always, for the most part, done better outside their own borders – and, even after the gerrymandering fiasco at Trianon too!!

Guest

Well, I can tell you that my wife’s children (some of which are already parents) and the younger people that I know don’t care at all about “Trianon” – they might laugh at it just as they’re laughing at the churches …
Friends just got married and an elderly neighbour congratulated and asked: which church are you marrying in – and everybody had to laugh (or rather smile at the good woman), because they never thought about a church wedding at all …
They read reddit on the internet and download whatever they like – no relation at all to Johnny Boy’s Christian Universe…
PS: Wasn’t the world supposed to end on May 21 according to one of those Christian Prophets ?

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