After I wrote my piece yesterday on Hungarian education I saw a photo I thought I should share with you because it seems to me to fortify my strong suspicion that Viktor Orbán has made HÖOK, the official nationwide student union, his willing instrument. I described HÖOK as the Orbán regime’s KISZ.
HÖOK has often been described as a breeding ground for young Fidesz cadres, although in certain universities some of the HÖOK leaders leaned toward Jobbik and eventually accepted high positions in that party. During the socialist-liberal governments Fidesz used HÖOK effectively: with the help of these young and not so young politicos Viktor Orbán guaranteed that all governmental attempts at the reform of higher education would fail. Once Fidesz assumed power HÖOK had to be co-opted because if it had continued its obstructionist activities it could have been a serious impediment to the Orbán government’s attempts at restructuring higher education (including curbing the powers of HÖOK).
Months of negotiations between Rózsa Hoffmann and Dávid Nagy, the president of HÖOK, led nowhere. It seems that Nagy, the greying and balding undergraduate, was still trying to represent the interests of the students. But then something happened. First, Orbán sent Tibor Navracsics to talk with him. Nagy was enthusiastic about the encounter. He announced that in one hour more was accomplished than in the previous five months. Moreover, Nagy announced that the prime minister himself would meet with him.
The meeting took place and Dávid Nagy, who had been a frequent guest on Olga Kálmán’s Egyenes beszéd, was a changed man. Here is the photo that I think speaks volumes.
Pictured are Rózsa Hoffmann, Dávid Nagy, Viktor Orbán and Imre Csiszár, secretary of the National Association of Graduate Students. It’s obvious that Orbán decided to charm the until then intractable Dávid Nagy. It may have been during this meeting that a deal was struck: HÖOK and Dávid Nagy can stay, but Nagy has to play ball.
Of course, there is the new student organization, Hallgatói Hálozat, that will be more difficult to control. These are really young kids. The chief organizer, Andrea Kóbor, was born at the very end of 1989. She never experienced the Kádár regime first hand and wasn’t in an “official” position in HÖOK. Moreover, most likely she has a very low opinion of the whole organization and its leaders at the various universities. As she said in a recent interview, HÖOK president Nagy didn’t manage to achieve anything except to keep his own organization intact.
The other photo I thought you ought to see was taken at István Csurka’s funeral this afternoon. He was buried in the Kerepesi Cemetery (official name Fiumei úti nemzeti sírkert or Fiume Road National Graveyard.) Not everybody can be buried there nowadays. Only famous people. The cemetery, by the way, is certainly worth a visit, in part because of its spectacular statues. For those who prefer online tourism, I recommend this fantastic pictorial tour of the 56-acre cemetery.
In any case, Csurka was buried in Kerepesi Cemetery–in the area reserved for the heroes of the 1956 revolution. As we know, he did take part in the student movement in 1956 and spent a few months in a camp, but unfortunately we also know that after his release he became an informer. For his good services he received the apartment of István Angyal, a real hero of 1956, who had already been arrested and was later executed. In any case, Csurka was buried as a hero and “hundreds of people followed him on his last journey,” as MTI reported.
As you can see, a lot of people attended the funeral. If I am correct, right in front with a white hat and sunglasses is the revolutionary heroine Mária Wittner, Fidesz member of parliament. The MTI reporter spotted the following politicians among the mourners: János Lázár, leader of the Fidesz caucus; Zsolt Németh, undersecretary in the Foreign Ministry; Máté Kocsis, MP and mayor of District VIII who is responsible for the harsh treatment of the homeless; László L. Simon, MP in charge lately of cultural affairs and in civilian life apparently a writer; Ferenc Papcsák, MP and mayor of District XIV (Zugló); Mária Wittner; Károly Nemcsák, a theater director known for his right-wing sympathies; and Zsolt Bayer.
Csurka was a Protestant (református, Calvinist) and thus a Reformed bishop, István Bogárdi Szabó, performed the ceremony. Sándor Lezsák, deputy speaker of the House, delivered a eulogy in which he talked about his “friend and fighting companion” who was “a radical but not an extremist … radical in defending the Hungarians.” Lezsák, a minor poet himself, compared Csurka’s radicalism to that of Endre Ady and Dezső Szabó, an interesting pairing since Ady was a genius and Szabó was not. Moreover, Szabó was an anti-Semite and a nationalist while Ady was anything but. Well, let that be Lezsák’s problem.
Lezsák also mentioned the happy fact that Csurka could still see “the hundreds of thousands of the Peace March,” which was an uplifting sight and had to be “a historical fulfillment for István Csurka because he knew full well that only a healthy human fear of danger is able to unite people in such a way.” According to Lezsák, the Peace March was a manifestation of the “calm national strength that defends Hungarian independence, national self-determination” and showed that the Orbán government is on the right track.
Csaba Gy. Kiss, one of the leaders of the Hungarian Writers’ Union, in which hardly any truly important writers can be found, compared Csurka’s stature to that of the Polish Sławomir Mrożek and the Czech Milan Kundera. According to Kiss, Csurka is one of the greats of the Central European theater of the absurd. László Kovács, deputy chairman of MIÉP, compared Csurka to the Spartan hero-king Leonidas. György Dörner, whose name was spread far and wide after his appointment to be director of Új Szinház, recited a poem by Sándor Reményik, a Transylvanian poet. The ceremony ended with the national anthem, and the crowd bade farewell to Csurka by applauding as in a theater.