Guided tour to Mohács (Your intrepid tour guide is Viktor Orbán) by S. K.

“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was a rout, the best and greatest of Hungarian nobility met their death, outsmarted, out-maneuvered and a century out of date in their armors of heavy cavalry, in the fusillades of Turkish cannons.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!

* * *

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.

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GW
Guest

Between the seizure of the private pension funds and the coming seizure of the national foreign currency reserves, there should no longer be any doubt that this is not a conservative government, but a radical and incompetent one.
When the Fidesz leadership is gone, not one of their supporters should be surprised to find that the silverware has gone walkies and all the cupboards are bare.

Paul
Guest

It always amuses me when Hungarians proudly tell you that church bells ring out at noon every day all over Europe to commemorate the Hungarians saving Christian Europe from the Turks at Nándorfehérvár in 1456.
Well, for a start, they don’t ring “all over Europe”, and secondly all this bell ringing and Hungarian pride rather neglects to tell you what happened 70 years later.
The victory at Nándorfehérvár may have been a great triumph at the time, but it’s what happened at Mohács (and why it happened) that sealed Hungary’s fate.
Let’s see OV make that a ‘national memorial day’.

Paul
Guest
Mind you, I really should balance that comment against the British tendency to be proud of our failures. The Dunkirk evacuation, for instance, is held up as one of our great national moments. And indeed it was a great feat of emergency organisation and involved much individual courage. But most British histories of the event almost neglect the fact that the reason for the evacuation was that our army had been absolutely routed by a vastly superior German force! But my favourite is Scott of the Antarctic, our great British explorer hero. He led a poorly planned expedition to the South Pole, using untried new technology (petrol driven sledges), and arrogantly ignoring all advice. At the last minute he decided to take more men with him, knowing that they then wouldn’t have enough food to do the return journey. And to cap it all, he got there second! (And, of course, his whole team died on the way back.) And yet, in Britain, he is a hero. Many years ago, I was visited the Kon-tiki museum in Oslo, and there was an exhibition running about Amundsen (who WAS the first man to get to the pole – and he got… Read more »
Sandor
Guest

Paul, you are wrong.
“The Dunkirk evacuation, for instance, is held up as one of our great national moments. And indeed it was a great feat of emergency organisation and involved much individual courage. But most British histories of the event almost neglect the fact that the reason for the evacuation was that our army had been absolutely routed by a vastly superior German force!”
Britain didn’t suffer a defeat at Dunkirk and certainly not from a superior force. The German forces were long drawn out, poorly supplied and were taking a great gamble that did work out in their favour. But not as the fault of the Brits. Actually, the belgians wanted to surrender almost from the beginning and the French were dickering, reluctant to fight, retreating constantly, so the Brits had no option but to evacuate.
It was indeed a feat to be proud of, in the face of the betrayal of their closest allies.

peter litvanyi
Guest

Oh Dear Eva,
re: “feeling of immense mourning”-get real.
It’s called a seasonal depression and I have it as well.
http://english.lehetmas.hu/news/580/an-era-is-over-time-for-new-resistance/
Act human, be human and help those who really need help. Tetenyi Eva, Berki Judit etc. I mean DO IT. You will feel better. Mohacs? I am personally sick of the topic.
Happy…well…whatever.
Sincerely:
Peter Litvanyi

Lutra lutra
Guest

However you look at it, Dunkirk did not result in national humiliation for the British; although they had to leave behind just about all of their (mostly obsolete) weaponry, their forces returned to Britain. Stubbornly clinging on until the Wehrmacht had refuelled and rearmed would have spelled disaster. I’m sure the lesson would be lost on Orbán in any case.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Peter Litvanyi: “Oh Dear Eva, re: “feeling of immense mourning”-get real.”
You may not have noticed but yesterday’s article was not written by me but S.K. Our writing styles are very different, I think, and therefore difficult to mistake one for the other.

Dirk Diggler
Guest

First, a big thanks to Eva for hosting this blog. Really the only decent news source in English on Hungary (or in Hungarian for that matter)
The more I watch this unfolding car crash, the more I am reminded of Argentina. It is like watching the same movie twice…..and having seen first hand what happened to Argentina after their crisis I become more and more worried about the future of Hungary

Wondercat
Guest

@Dirk Diggler: What you said — about the work done and generosity of spirit shown by Prof Balogh in maintaining this blog, for which I truly am grateful.
@the readership in general: OV’s economic rescue plan; see
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/alex/ for today, 20 December 2011, and draw the parallel.

An
Guest

OV’s economic rescue plan? Well, he has a plan:
“A government source told the paper that if the cabinet fails to reach an agreement on financial assistance with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) due to the rigour of Brussels then it plans to tap the central bank’s (NBH) foreign currency reserves. ”
http://www.portfolio.hu/en/economy/if_hungary_gets_no_imf_credit_it_will_put_its_hands_on_cbank_fx_reserves_source.23474.html

Member

“Well, he has a plan”
On the day he does that, convert you savings into US dollars, rent a safe deposit box and keep it there.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

An: “OV’s economic rescue plan? Well, he has a plan: “A government source told the paper that if the cabinet fails to reach an agreement on financial assistance with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) due to the rigour of Brussels then it plans to tap the central bank’s (NBH) foreign currency reserves.”
Unfortunately, this is the case. Or at least this is what he apparently said to the Fidesz parliamentary delegation. I’m curious for how long he can maintain this position.
I very much doubt that everybody in his party will blindly follow him leading the country down the drain. Someone, I hope, will have some sense.

Ron
Guest

Mutt Damon: On the day he does that, convert you savings into US dollars, rent a safe deposit box and keep it there.
Surely, you mean a safe deposit outside of Hungary.
He stole or about to steal all pensions, next will be the bank accounts of the National Bank and all other banks in Hungary, and after that the safe deposits.

Ron
Guest

I just wonder where VO has stashed his cash?
Anybody?

Ron
Guest

The forint is a little stronger today. Currently sits at 300.57 against the EUR.
http://index.hu/gazdasag/magyar/2011/12/20/fel_szazalekkal_nott_az_alapkamat/
Main reason is that the MNB increased interest with half a percent. Inflation for 2012 is expect to be around 5% in 2012.
I mentioned this my wife, she believes that the inflation should be around 10-15% for 2011, is actually around 4%. She did not believe me.
Here is the inflation statistics: http://www.inflation.eu/inflation-rates/hungary/historic-inflation/cpi-inflation-hungary-2011.aspx
She still does not believe me.

GW
Guest

“I mentioned this my wife, she believes that the inflation should be around 10-15% for 2011, is actually around 4%.”
The perception of inflation is often off the mark, because inflation is measured on the basis of the price index of a basket of goods and services, and price rises in everyday items often appear to have greater weight while other costs (housing, for example) may actually be declining.

Member

Now something less apocalyptic:
According to Index the law making frenzy now it’s a parody of itself. There is a proposed law on the todays schedule that doesn’t even have title yet. Actually doesn’t have text either. It is just simply referred as the law “related to churches”.
The index.hu he started a poll to pick the right title. The number on the left is the current number of votes as of 10:30 am.
256 Az egyházakkal kapcsolatos dolgok nagyszerűségének elismeréséről
(About the awesomness of things … related to churches)
155 Az egyházakkal kapcsolatos viccek betiltásáról
(About the banning of jokes … related to churches)
319 Az egyházakkal kapcsolatos szavak Nagy Kezdőbetűvel Történő Írásáról
(About starting all words with capital letters … related to churches)
508 Az egyházakkal kapcsolatos adók bevezetéséről
(About the introduction of taxes … related to churches)
696 Az egyházakkal kapcsolatos istenségek és más mitológiai személyek jogállásáról
(About the legal status of gods and other mythological persons … related to churches)
1283 Az egyházakkal kapcsolatos szexuális szolgáltatások adózásáról
(About the taxes on the sexual favors … related to churches)
578 Az egyházakkal kapcsolatos törvényjavaslatok befejezetlen címeiről
(About the unfinished titles of proposed laws … related to churches)
The link:
http://index.hu/velemeny/2011/12/20/szoveg_es_cim_nelkuli_torvenyjavaslatot_terjesztett_be_a_fidesz/?rnd=1446

Member

I think we might be seeing beginning of the end of our Dear Leader (as opposed to “the end of a beginning” as he himself believes.
No IMF/EU Funding early new year, then the Money Men both abroad and at home will move against him. Berlusconi and the Greek PM didn’t bite the bullet because of internal political pressure; likewise Orban could be PM till he’s a 100 before anyone within the Fidesz court would have the bottle to tell the Emperor he’s got no clothes. Nope, the international markets decided enough’s enough, let’s make a quick profit and pushed the lame duck out.
Orban’s biggest threat at home lies not politically but amongst the more obvious and also the shadowy money men who bankoll his Premiership. They start panicking (and they will if eg private pension funds get raided, the voluntary ones are also now on the target list apparently)and the Dear Leader will be very shortly the Dear Toast.

Kirsten
Guest
A comment to the text of S.K.: Am I correct in understanding that the elimination of the independence of the judiciary and the MNB have a similar impact as Mohacs had, and – as Endre Ady found out – Mohacs was needed (as were these steps towards the judiciary and the central bank) because Hungarians deserve to be punished…? I do not at all doubt that these two institutions should be working within some independence for the public interest. What I do not understand, however, is why the structure of the state, political system and society cannot be looked at in a prosaic manner, and in particular without taking recourse to mythical ideas of national destiny. The main national calamity or calamity shared by speakers of Hungarian currently that I can observe is the inability to approach the problem in a sober and practical manner. Instead I hear or read tales of deserved national punishment for any (of necessity sinister and inescapable) trait shared by the whole nation, or foreign forces acting against Hungary (of course: the nation), or a refusal of the other nations in the world to see what Hungary really is (maltreated hub of the universe). It… Read more »
Member

Kirsten, we are nation of masochists. This is what Ady and I believe Sandor is saying. Because there is no comprehensible explanation why shit is happening to us all the time. It’s like Letterman said it once “I would do anything to look like Brad Pitt. Except diet and exercise …”. Hungary is like this – a different planet.
Mohacs is the symbol of defeat, not the end of the world. This is just another Mohacs, another 20 years in the gutter – we can take it. Bring it on.
Mohacs is also the symbol of our inability to unite and fight for a common cause. In 1521 Janos Szapolyai (John Zápolya in English) had a sizable army very close the battle but didn’t intervene.
By the way somebody once found in a Turkish library a great description of the Mohacs victory. Oh, well.

Kirsten
Guest
Mutt, certainly I need to get better acquainted with what Mohacs stands for. But still there is the difference that today it is not Hungarians being confronted with foreign forces (although unfortunately OV and perhaps some more people believe that after their re-definition of ‘idegen’) but Hungarians being left to decide to a substantial extent themselves, and what we are currently observing is what has been made of it. The elections of 2010 were valid and not manipulated. So what is the Mohacs here? What is the defeat? This ‘defeat’ is a defeat of those people who have wished to establish a functioning democracy or defend what has been achieved after 1989. It is also a defeat of those who just wanted a ‘better life’. But ‘national’ defeat? That still suggests a common interest and common ideas where the nation should be heading for. So far, there are still people out there who appear quite satisfied with OV. There is Jobbik. In current circumstances it is not about national survival; it is about being able (once without foreign interference) to choose what society people want to live in. The problem is that OV and Fidesz use this image of national… Read more »
Member

Kirsten. you have to get better aquatinted with Hungarian sense of humor. Of course there is no Mohacs. But it’s easier to say it than admitting that we are dumb, lazy and spiteful.
Dumb because we did not quiz these guys during the elections about their plans and still voted for them basically out of spite to defeat the evil MSzP. We are lazy .. well look at GDP – it’s not only the government.
Maybe next time.

Paul
Guest

Interesting to see how the spin on Dunkirk has been so successful, even (apparently) beyond our borders.
As for Mohács, I can’t really see any historical parallels with the current situation in Hungary. SK is trying to draw comparisons that just aren’t there – other than the ultimate result not being good for Hungary.

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest
Professor you report in your piece that * “A well-known Fidesz politician has said that “we can use part of the 35 billion euro reserve of the bank for purposes of financial liquidity.” I know that the Forex trade in Hungarian Forints is small when compared with the Euro/Dollar etc. At the moment the reason why people want Forints is to pay for Hungarian exports. Some friends of mine in the U.K. wanted to come over for Christmas but their bank said that they needed 15 working days notice to get £100 worth of forint notes. When a bank says this it, means that they are NOT holding such a currency. To me this means they know something. The countries Foreign Exchange reserves are the only reason why a country’s currency is trusted abroad. When that trust is dissipated the currency becomes valueless. A worthless currency abroad soon becomes worthless at home and inflation sets in –with a vengeance-. Hungarians are very good at inflation they have had it badly twice in the last century (1922-6 and again in 1945-6). I do not know professor, if you remember 1945-46, but the bank of Hungary printed and circulated 100 quintillion Pengo… Read more »
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