The Hungarian right and the bogus Solzhenitsyn quotation

Thanks to T.E. I learned that there was a reason for my not finding the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn quotation János Lázár used in his open letter to Anna Schiffer. It is a hoax, one that Elek Tokfalvi unearthed way back in 2008. Elek Tokfalvi is a pseudonym, a mirror translation of ‘Alexis de Tocqueville’.

Tokfalvi’s research and his results are so fascinating that I decided to summarize the two articles for those readers who don’t know Hungarian. In the first article Tokfalvi poses the puzzle of the quotation and describes the detective work that he and some of his commenters conducted. In the second article he draws some conclusions of when, how, and why this non-existent Solzhenistyn quotation was born in Hungary and not elsewhere. After reading more about the “life” of this bogus quotation, I was not at all surprised that János Lázár found this passage so attractive.

Initially Elek Tokfalvi had the same problem I did. He couldn’t find the quotation in Russian, English or French. But, going to the Hungarian-language version of Wikipedia he read that this quotation is from a pamphlet Solzhenitsyn wrote in 1990 entitled “How can we save Russia?” I didn’t get that far. On the English version there was no sign of it (and, though I didn’t check, it has since been taken down from the Hungarian Wikipedia). At that point I stopped, admitted that I couldn’t find either the original or the English version, and concluded that there was no use in translating it from the Hungarian translation.

Tokfalvi, on the other hand, became intrigued and found the Russian original of the 1990 pamphlet where there was no sign of these few sentences. Further research revealed that the text in question was uploaded to the Hungarian Wikipedia on April 24, 2008 by an unregistered user. The editors subsequently made some changes but didn’t notice that there was a problem with the text itself and not only with the spelling of Solzhenitsyn’s given name.

While a discussion of this mysterious quotation was taking place on Tokfalvi’s blog someone, perhaps the originator of the original hoax, put up an English translation of the text on Wikiquote.org. This apparently badly written English text is no longer available on Wikiquote.

The conclusion Tokfalvi came to was that these seven sentences were not written by Solzhenitsyn, and since these sentences don’t show up in any language other than Hungarian the author must be a Hungarian.

I summarized the gist of the quotation, but since it became so famous I think I should provide the complete Hungarian text because it has a bearing on Tokfalvi’s conclusions:

A kommunistánál kártékonyabb és veszélyesebb embertípust még nem produkált a történelem. Cinizmusuk, szemtelenségük, hataloméhségük, gátlástalanságuk, rombolási hajlamuk, kultúra- és szellemellenességük elképzelhetetlen minden más, normális, azaz nem-kommunista ember számára. A kommunista nem ismeri a szégyent, az emberi méltóságot, és fogalma sincs arról, amit a keresztény etika így nevez: lelkiismeret. A kommunista eltorzult lélek! Egészséges szellemű európai ember nem lehet kommunista!  Nincs olyan vastag bőrt igénylő hazugság, amit egy kommunista szemrebbenés nélkül ki ne mondana, ha azt a mozgalom érdeke vagy az elvtársak szermélyes boldogulása így kívánja.

This is a very simple-minded and primitive piece of prose. In the first sentence the author talks about “a communist” but by the second sentence he switches to the plural and in the third back to singular. More important than these grammatical snafus is the fact that the ideas expressed in these sentences are alien to Solzhenitsyn who was, as Tokfalvi correctly notes, a Christian nationalist for whom the important political dividing line was between Orthodox Christianity and Pan-Slavism and everything that fell outside.

Second, whoever wrote this piece considers “the communist” to be a “human type.” Thus all communists behave exactly the same regardless of time and place or individual character. They are all bad. But for Solzhenitsyn “the dividing line between Good and Evil is in every man’s heart.”

According to the bogus quotation, the communists’ cynicism, power-hungriness, unscrupulousness, and all sorts of other crimes “are unimaginable for a non-communist person.” So, as this author sees the world humankind can be divided into two distinct groups: the communists and the normal people. Moreover, the bogus quotation claims that “a healthy-minded European cannot be a communist.” Solzhenitsyn, by the way, didn’t have a very high opinion of Europeans (and he didn’t consider Russians to be Europeans), not because Europeans were inclined to be communists but because they were decadent and too secular.

Communist

It is at this point that Tokfalvi comes to some very interesting observations about this “Hungarian Solzhenitsyn” quotation. Finding a moral dividing line between “all good men” and “the communists” is an idea that has taken root in East-Central Europe, particularly in Hungary. Moreover, after 2004 or so it became fashionable in Hungarian right-wing circles to call communists or rather those who were so labelled not just evil but also not quite normal. Tokfalvi guesses that this Hungarian fabrication was born during the Gyurcsány period when it was fashionable in the Fidesz camp to call the prime minister “idegbeteg,” an unscientific and unspecific description of someone not quite normal.

The bogus quotation was popular only in right-wing circles. Tokfalvi found it on reakcio.blog, Vatikán Rádió, Magyar Nemzet and Tomcat (Bombagyar.hu). So, says Tokfalvi, this primitive message is believed and quoted approvingly by the whole spectrum of the Hungarian right from moderate youngsters through Catholic conservatives to a psychopath (that is, Tomcat). There is something very wrong with the Hungarian right even in comparison to other countries if such a quotation resonates with the members of this rather large group.

And finally, I return to János Lázár. The fact that he cut and pasted this bogus quotation into the very beginning of his open letter to Anna Schiffer says a lot about him. Whoever wrote these seven sentences for the Hungarian Wikipedia made a typo in the last sentence. Instead of “személyes” (personal) he typed “szermélyes.” And how do you think Lázár quoted it? Yes, with the typo. He no longer could find the quotation on the Hungarian-language Wikipedia. No, Lázár must have gone to one of those right-wing sources Tokfalvi was talking about.

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Population One
Guest

I’m rather shocked, and thank you.

Member

This is very funny! Every single quote I find has the typo: “szermélyes”. Nobody corrected it! What did these bozos think? Archaic Hungarian? Sounds like the seven tribe leaders in the 9th century. To the English speaking readers: this is not a grammatical error, it’s an extra character (r). The quote is so sacred, they didn’t want to change it? Actually it’s a great way to ‘watermark’ your hoax.
Calling your opponent ‘not normal’ with a psychological disorder is typical. I was called that by a close relative for my comments on the ‘closet revolution’. Our wingnuts have a distinctive style.
“You are full of hate …” – Right. Criticism and sarcasm are hate.
“I pity you, but I accept you as you are …” – This is what drives me to the wall. The Christian brother …
“You have no idea what you are talking about …” – Case closed. Further discussion is futile.
“You are just repeating what you read from the anti-Hungarian journalists …” – I’m dumb. No way I have my own thoughts.

Member

I have to say that either Orban or Lazar are not normal. Their motivation and the way how they go about their business cannot belong to a person who society could call well adjusted. As I said on the previous thread, I seriously call into question the quality of their education or more so the merit of their degrees. Hungary has a President who clearly id a liar (saying he has a PhD that he never had), and a plagiarist. THey have a Prime Minister who says one thing one day, does an other on the next, he says one thing to Hungarians and 180 degree switch to foreigners. WE have a Lazar, who does not even bother to do a spell check on stuff that he publishes, a Deutsch who is anything but a politician, and the list just gets better from there. It is truly a shame that these are the best that Hungary can offer to the world at the present time.

Member

I stand corrected. The index.hu quoted the “személyes” correctly when Solzhenitsyn died in 2008.

Sandor
Guest

Hurra for scholarship and source criticism.
But Lazar had already compromised his credibility years ago, when the Gyurcsany government introduced the health care reform, and on the second day a person died and Lazar claimed that the deceased was the victim of the reforms. He even maintained this claim in his ATV interview, and no matter how the questionaire offered him the opportunity for elucidation, he just stubbornly repeated the same mantra: the man died because of the reform.
Later it was cleared that the death was the consequence of the man’s own fault, but Lazar never apologized or clear his stupid claim to this day.

enuff
Guest

Just seems to me our “leader” and gang are insecure :-
1) They want control
2) They surround themselves with mediocrity, instead of hiring top-notch people
3) They create unsettling and confusing environment, you’ll never know what’s going to happen next.
The cause of insecurity perhaps is due to the “quality of their education or more so the merit of their degrees.” (as some1 mentioned earlier)

Population One
Guest
@enuff The reason the PM surrounded himself with these people goes back to his own personality disorder, and childhood. A certain percentage with his condition have learning disabilities as children, and a hard time comprehending many subjects fast enough as a child. This as in many cases leads to a necessity to simplify concepts, making them more understandable, which can be normal but to a degree. For instance, the PM will excel in regurgitating speeches where there are simplified concepts such as bad vs good. Communist vs Fidesz. EU vs Him, or introducing concepts such as a flat tax reform. He has to simplify them to a point where they become so easy that he can see them as black or white. This is why the PM struggles with any concepts in finance, because it can’t always be reduced to a black and white or narrow view. He immediately reverts to a defense strategy when financial topics are no longer black and white to comments like: ‘the numbers are facts, but these numbers are lies’, and then switching to other another topic which can’t be defined in terms of numbers. A good example is his recent Munich speech. He speaks… Read more »
Kingfisher
Guest

OT but will be very interesting to see the turn out at today’s referendum in Esztergom.

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest

Population one. ….
I know that this may be a little OT, but you have raised the problem of ‘Ollie V’.
Have a look at the link below. Forget who it is all about. Do the conditions it describes resemble the Viktator’s latest rise to power, the demonstrations where the crowds chanted his name etc.
The Link is : –



I wonder if the CIA have made such a Psy-profile of the Viktator?

Joe Simon
Guest

Solzhenitsyn would agree with every word of that quotation. While Shaw, Wells and even Einstein considered Lenin a great humanist, it was Solzhenitsyn who had shown that Lenin was cut from the same cloth as Stalin, both murderers.

LwiiH
Guest

@Kingfisher, the situation in Esztergom is ridiculous. Just shows you how uncooperative Fidesz is to the point of destructive. Oh my, that’s how it works on the national level also….

Member

Joe Simon: “Solzhenitsyn would agree with every word of that quotation.”
And you know this because you are an expert in …? THis is what wrong with the Fidesz group Simon. THey base everything on assumptions, on fairy tales, on conspiracy theories, on made up conclusions based on mad up stories. After that they start to spread the news, and you and your fellow hoaxed Fidesz fans come up wit the weirdest, mots twisted explanations like “he did not say it, but would agree”, “he did not write his theory for his doctorate, but he wanted to say the exact thing that he copied”, “my people only served the communists to protect the wold from the, not like the others”, “everyone could live off of 48,000,000 forints a month”, “people who do not agree with us are the reincarnation of the devil”.

Member

@Joe Simon: “Solzhenitsyn would agree with every word of that quotation.”
I’m pretty sure Solzhenitsyn will agree with everything you say. So don’t hold back. Every time when you are cornered just pull out a bogus Solzhenitsyn quote of your butt and all will be lifted to new intellectual heights.

Kingfisher
Guest

But don’t forget, Joseph, that even if Solzhenitsyn did say this, he himself experienced a very different kind of Communism to that most Hungarians knew. Yes, the Rákosi pre-1956 period was appalling. But the overwhelming majority of people today did not grow up in it or have first hand experience. They grew up with the Kádár system and it is being a little dishonest, I think, to pretend (as people tend to do) that Kádárism was equivalent to the Rákosi era, or the Soviet system, or the one in East Germany at the same period of time.

Kingfisher
Guest

Rather disappointing – at 3 o’clock, only 25% of the electorate have voted in Esztergom. A 50% turnout is needed for it to be valid. So despite all the appalling things that have gone on in the town, when people were finally given a chance to exert real “people power”, they don’t bother to turn up.
Disillusioning

Population One
Guest
@Odin’s Lost Eye Thank you for the link. I have heard of the project, but I haven’t seen the specific documentary you linked. Although similarities can be drawn between their childhood on the surface, for instance the abusive father, and the physical, emotional and psychological abuse, the disturbance in the development stages of early childhood, we can’t directly compared them for many reasons, including the fact that they lived in different times, had different experiences and have different levels of intelligence. And today you have the internet, and you can simply get into the car, train, buss, airplane and go elsewhere if things get really bad. As for the CIA comment, I don’t really know. I wouldn’t think they would care enough to bother with a country that is in the NATO, unless there was some dramatic change that jeopardize their NATO membership, or a politican in the U.S. such as Hillary Clinton would raise a red flag in media and in written form to Hungary depending on the outcome of the EU disputes. Hungary at the present does not have the structure or finance to do harm in other directions than its own, which is bad enough, very bad.… Read more »
Member

@ Kinmgfisher, I am not sure if the apathy is brought on by the consistent indifference when those people tried to take actions. After while people get tired and they feel that nothing will change but they have to put more and more effort into even be heard.
“In communications, familiarity breeds apathy.” said William Bernbach (advertising genius), but I think it is true for many things way beyond that.

Petofi
Guest

@Esztergom vote…
Was it not at this website that someone quoted Stalin: “Voting is nothing: counting votes is everything”?
So I wonder about that…
If the people of Esztergom don’t turn out to vote, they deserve their Fidesz overlords.

Paul
Guest

What’s with this putting ‘@’ in front of everything? Isn’t enough just to address the person by their name?
And what on earth does “@Esztergom vote” mean??

Kirsten
Guest

@Paul, @it @makes @reading @the @comments @easier :-).
“If the people of Esztergom don’t turn out to vote, they deserve their Fidesz overlords.”
Hard words but what about those brave people who showed up? Not only do they not deserve Fidesz but neither such companions…!

Paul
Guest

“@Paul, @it @makes @reading @the @comments @easier :-).”
Hmmm. Reads like sheep saying ‘baa’ to me.
As for the Esztergom situation (@Esztergom!). I suspect if you asked those who haven’t turned up, a fair few would say “I didn’t want any trouble”. Keeping your head down is how it is in Hungary these days.

Paul
Guest

Entirely OT, but the non-Brits on here might not be aware of our latest local scandal.
The Tory party treasurer was secretly filmed by Sunday Times journalists posing as potential donors offering favours if the donation was big enough. Bribery and corruption in high places, no less.
Within hours of the news coming out, he had resigned.
Compare and contrast with Hungarian scandals in high places.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17507447 for anyone interested in how corruption works in the UK.

GDF
Guest

Paul: “The Tory party treasurer was secretly filmed by Sunday Times journalists posing as potential donors offering favours if the donation was big enough. Bribery and corruption in high places, no less.”
I am not impressed. Here the big donors received a night at the White House, invitation to State Dinners, access to policy makers. Why else would they donate? By the way it’s done by both parties (Republicans and Democrats).
I agree with you, bribery and corruption. I think the election system in England is based on free access to radio and TV (and the press?), here, in the US, the candidates spend monies “contributed” by this process. What happens to these monies in the UK?

Paul
Guest
Donated money is used to run the parties, pay for billboard ads, making radio and TV party political broadcasts, election expenses, etc. I don’t know the figures, but my impression is that a hell of a lot more is spent in the US. Unfortunately, this is yet another area in the UK where the ‘status quo’ is right of centre. The Tories access to big business, etc means that they get (and spend) a lot more than Labour (maybe two or three times as much?). And whenever the question of how they are funded comes up (as now), they do their best to deflect all questions by pointing out that Labour are funded by the unions (and, of course, the radio and TV go along with this). This really winds me up because anyone with any knowledge of UK political history knows very well that the Labour party was set up by the unions (hence the name ‘Labour’, not ‘socialist’ or ‘democrat’, etc). It had to be funded by the unions because there was no other way of funding a party that stood half a chance of defeating the Tories. And the same is pretty much true today. Incidentally, this… Read more »
GDF
Guest

Paul:”Donated money is used to run the parties, pay for billboard ads, making radio and TV party political broadcasts, election expenses, etc. I don’t know the figures, but my impression is that a hell of a lot more is spent in the US.”
They are talking about a billion dollars this year (per party)…

Paul
Guest

“They are talking about a billion dollars this year (per party)…”
Madness. Reminds me of the arms race between the US and the Soviets.
Our figures are much lower: £14m Tories, £12m Labour, £4+m Liberals. So the parties in the US are raising/spending more than 40 times what our highest spending party is. What on earth do they do with all that money??
Scroll down to the bottom of this link for the details: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17516853
Incidentally, I was very surprised to see how close the Tories and Labour were in donations. Things have obviously changed, I’m pretty sure 20 or 30 years ago there was a huge difference.
The Tories ran up huge debts though (which they’ve only just cleared), so maybe that’s affected their spending these days?

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