“More was lost at Mohács field.” Thus says the Hungarian proverb.
For those in need of a refresher, or introduction to Mohács, let me quickly recapitulate what it means. It means nothing less than the greatest possible disaster, referring to the battle of Hungarians against the invading Turks on the 29th of August 1526. The battle was a rout, the best and greatest of Hungarian nobility met their death, outsmarted, out-maneuvered and a century out of date in their armors of heavy cavalry, in the fusillades of Turkish cannons. The king also died on the same day after the battle, drowning in a creek. This was the beginning of a fifteen year long process of the disintegration of Hungary, leading to 145 years of Turkish occupation and the suspension of statehood.
The Battle of Mohács as imagined by Mór Tahn (1828-1899)
Reading the Hungarian newspapers on the 15th and 16th of December, I couldn’t help but feel a queer déjà vu, albeit I wasn’t present at Mohács, but the feeling of immense mourning came over me.
On those two days the Orbán government completed the destruction of the last remaining vestiges of a democracy. In the “revolutionary war” conducted against the Republic and its own people, they submitted to Parliament their “solution” for the beheading of judicial independence and a sinister attack against the National Bank. These were the last institutions heretofore standing. But the judiciary has already fallen and the Bank, despite the valiant resistance of its chairman, is unlikely to survive the first of next year.
In the tumultuous economic climate of Europe the reaction to the judicial appointment of two Orbán sycophants takes longer to formulate, but it is just delay, I am certain, and it will not be overlooked. However, the attack on the central bank’s independence, not the first, but likely the last, has engendered an immediate and unusually firm reaction from the European Central Bank as well as from the EU commissionaire for finance, Ollie Rehn. But those were only words. The government will attempt, as usual, to parry them with words of their own and eventually retreat just enough to slip under the radar of EU scrutiny. Or so they hoped until now. The goal of this move is twofold: to disable the Bank’s independence, but more importantly, as Orbán let it slip out in a radio interview, to grab the foreign currency reserves, 30 billion Euros of it, the only available unencumbered cash left in the country. Mind you, they also announced at the same time the nationalization of the remaining private pension funds, but that is a relatively modest sum.
The timing of these cynical moves, however, couldn’t have been more unfortunate even by design. The delegation of the IMF, conducting preliminary discussions for the January actual negotiations, chose to say nothing. Instead, they packed their bags and left in icy silence. Obviously, they regarded those moves as completely unacceptable.
The rapid-fire legislative rampage of the government left the public dumbfounded. Impotence and resignation are the general reactions. The public watches in disbelief, or perhaps is misplaced hopes, as the Republic is stood up against the wall of execution.
In the event, the budget for next year requires further adjustments, so it will not be approved on the 19th as planned. Instead the Parliament will be entertained with further social and procedural legislation, all of which are restrictive and retrograde.
The effect of all these new laws, so hastily rammed through Parliament, is not only immense, but also incalculable. Just like the consequences of the Peril of Mohács, the fallout will come incrementally, but inevitably and for a long time.
Welcome to Mohács!
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And I would like to add a poem by Endre Ady (1877-1919). The poem’s title is “We need Mohács.” Fidesz and Jobbik would drag a poet through the mud who said such things against the Hungarians today. He is asking God to punish the Hungarians because they are born for punishment.
Nekünk Mohács kell
Ha van Isten, ne könyörüljön rajta:
Veréshez szokott fajta,
Cigány-népek langy szivû sihederje,
Verje csak, verje, verje.
Ha van Isten, meg ne sajnáljon engem:
Én magyarnak születtem.
Szent galambja nehogy zöld ágat hozzon,
Üssön csak, ostorozzon.
Ha van Isten, földtõl a fényes égig
Rángasson minket végig.
Ne legyen egy félpercnyi békességünk,
Mert akkor végünk, végünk.