Fidesz and the scientific community: Trouble ahead

Not long ago I started a new folder I called “Daily Musings.” As I read the day’s news and find something interesting I jot it down with comments. Today there was a lot to be both amused and outraged about.

First and foremost the far-right Magyar Hírlap just happened to learn about the existence of some documents that proved that the brother of the president of Semmelweis University also had an encounter with plagiarism. Zsolt Tulassay, a gastroenterologist who also teaches at Semmelweis, together with a Hungarian colleague, László Herszényi, submitted an article to the international periodical Clinical Gastroenterology. That was in 2010, but the article never appeared in print because the editorial board of the journal found that “there was significant overlap” between their article and another earlier publication by Michael B. Wallace of Jacksonville, Florida. The editorial board’s verdict was disputed by Tulassay and Herszényi, who claimed that only a couple of sentences were questionable and those were not in the part that contained original research. They used Wallace’s work and quoted from it. They also included his article in the bibliography. However, the editorial board of Clinical Gastroenterology rejected the paper.

Zsolt Tulassay was apparently anticipating such an attack. In his statement he wrote that “because of the situation that developed concerning Semmelweis University the re-emergence of a story that happened a few years ago didn’t surprise [him].” At Semmelweis Zsolt Tulassay was the chairman of the Habilitációs Bizottság (Committee). The concept of “habilitáció” doesn’t exist in Anglo-Saxon countries but it comes closest to “tenure.” Well, Zsolt Tulassay is no longer the chairman of this committee. He resigned. Some commentators, Zsófia Mihancsik among them, smell a rat. Did some people in Fidesz know about this blotch on Zsolt Tulassay’s professional record? Did they hope that Tivadar Tulassay, the president, would play ball fearing that otherwise his brother’s encounter with Clinical Gastroenterology might be exposed? We will probably never know. But if some people hoped that the president and the senate of the university would try to save Schmitt’s neck they were wrong. In fact, as the day went on a mini-revolution developed at Semmelweis.

So, they found that Schmitt plagiarized. Well, that’s bad but perhaps to counter that decision Fidesz and its supporters could find dirt on some people in the democratic opposition. Who is the best candidate? Ferenc Gyurcsány, of course. Gyurcsány received two degrees, both from the University of Pécs. A local online newspaper, Pécsi Újság, mysteriously hinted that “news is spreading that not all is well with Gyurcsány’s senior papers.” In fact, the newspaper claimed, he never submitted the compulsory senior thesis, but because he was the KISZ secretary of the university it granted him a degree anyway. Pécsi Újság included a video from a documentary on Gyurcsány put together by a right-wing journalistic crew. On it one can hear Tamás Mellár, professor of economics, saying that Gyurcsány indeed received special treatment. For example, Mellár received a telephone call from the party secretary announcing that “Comrade Gyurcsány is coming today to take his exam.” However, adds Mellár, he didn’t need any assistance from above. Mellár gave him a “B.”

Gyurcsány made available his “leckekönyv” or “index” which registered his grades. Gyurcsány wasn’t exactly a sterling student, but there is no question that he did write two senior papers for the two degrees he received, one in biology in 1984 and another in economics in 1990.

The attacks on the scientific community are intensifying. The Tatabánya chapter of the Christian Democratic Party issued a statement in which Pál Schmitt’s sufferings were compared to those of Jesus Christ and Semmelweis University to Pontius Pilate! It seems, however, that the modern institutional Pontius Pilate had enough, especially after it became clear that Schmitt is planning to sue the university. This afternoon the office of the former president of Hungary issued a statement in which Schmitt said that his resignation is due solely to his desire to serve the interest of the country and not sow seeds of strife in Hungarian society. His resignation has nothing to do with anything else. So, he refuses to accept the verdict of plagiarism. In addition, he again announced his intention to sue the university.

A couple of hours after this announcement 117 professors of Semmelweis also issued a statement in which they expressed their complete agreement with the decision of the university senate. The statement reads in part: “The professors of Semmelweis University fully agree and identify with the verdict of the senate of the university.” They also support Tivadar Tulassay who stood up for the quality of Hungarian and international scholarship.

Semmelweis University tower

Semmelweis University tower

I consider Fidesz-KDNP’s frontal attack on the medical profession unwise. Until now the medical community has overwhelmingly supported Viktor Orbán and his party. They were disenchanted with the reform attempts of the Gyurcsány administration and foolishly believed Fidesz’s promises not to touch the existing structure of healthcare and at the same time to pour huge amounts of money into the unreformed system. Naturally, nothing came of all these promises and the medical profession is profoundly unhappy and disappointed. And now this attack on Semmelweis.

And, I fear, this is not the end. After the medical doctors will come the rest of the academics, if one can believe János Lázár’s rantings. The influence of those who take intellectual integrity very seriously should not be underestimated. In recent Hungarian history universities have not exactly been political ivory towers.

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The Hungarian Realist (The Hungarian Comedian)
The Hungarian Realist (The Hungarian Comedian)

Mrs. Balogh, thank you for your hard work and keeping it real.
The,, MTV is great for those who want to be programmed, but for us who think for ourselves, and can speak for ourselves, we need more people like you.


Tulassay Tivadar, not Zsolt…


I’m surprised you didn’t mention the attack on Lajos Bokros’s degree, pertaining to his time spent in Central America.


Excuse me if this is OT, but I’m shocked that Kövér’s outrage of this week is so little commented on.
Let me repeat it once more: “.. I consider it unethical, that those sitting left to me [opposition parties] are allowed to sit here in the first place” (“engedelmükkel hozzátenném azt, …, hogy az önmagában méltatlan, hogy a tőlem balra helyet foglaló képviselő hölgyek és urak egyáltalán itt ülhetnek az Országgyűlésben”.
I think this, coming from the Parliamentary chairman (!!), is actually worse than Schmitt’s petty shoplifting. And I trust that where I live it would have led to a quick removal from office. There can be no excuses.
But in Hungary people just shake their head and continue their routine. Talking about a land of no consequences. I can’t believe it.


FBG: Tivadar and Zsolt are siblings.


What me worry!
To ride a horse and slaughter a pig you don’t need an academic degree – and most of those who get one leave the country anyway …
So why don’t we shut down those universities ? Anyway they are just a breeding ground for those darn liberals and atheists and …
I feel really sorry for Hungary and its people.
PS: Those who can, really can make it. On our holiday to the Canary islands we just met a young Hungarian man in an Irish bar – he seemed to be very happy with his job, his Irish girlfriend and with living in the sun …

The Hungarian Comedian
The Hungarian Comedian
Curse these horrible things: – The EU. – The Venice Commission. – The Internet. – The Data Protection and Disclosure Act. Mr Mr Orbán Viktor could have conquered Hungary with a snap of his fingers if it weren’t for those. Indulge me for a moment, and think about it; if the above didn’t exist: He could have gotten Mr Schmitt to sign everything. (Oh sorry, he did.) He could have made the whole judiciary his own and Tunde Handos. He could have gotten Mr Szajer Joszef to type a constitution including the following: “Hungary, Article 1, Paragraph 1, See Mr Orbán Viktor. The End.” He could have robbed the central bank as planned. He could have silenced opposition media, Klubradio, ATV with a snap of his fingers. He could have started his new FBI/CIA/KGB agency having a secret file on every person. He could have started mass litigation against anything moving with Budai. He could have gotten the death penalty approved to use against the opposition. He could have made everyone a Fidesz supporter; it’s either Fidesz or jail. He could have made everyone watch state TV channels. He could have thrown everyone in jail that was out on the… Read more »

I guess Nemethne, Orban’s Minister of National Developmen is a happy camper now. She won’t be attacked for here diploma – that’s for sure. She has nothing to do with this thing called science.
Good choice Vickie! Mediocrity rules!


@The Hungarian Comedian:
Actually the “New Constitution” is a lot (a bit ?) more complicated.
Article 1: King Victor is always right.
Article 2: If the King should not be right, automatically article 1 has to be applied …
BTW: Thanks for that list of Orbán’s and Fidesz’ “accomplishments” – written up very succinctly.


Let’s face it, there are many enemies of Hungary. According to Orban and his group of clowns, the current list consist:
European Parliament with some special members highlighted,
all the Left,
all socialists,
mostly all the Hungarian press with few exceptions,
the philosophers,
the scientists,
everyone with real degrees,
the USA for sure,
Andrea Merkel, Chancellor of Germany,
Andras Simor, the president of the Hungarian National Bank,
Hungarian Judges over the ages of 62,
the Constitutional Court of Hungary
Not to be discouraged as plenty of friends left, as per Orban, like the China, the anti-semite Zsolt Bayer and few other anti-semites and criminals, ant-gays, skinheads, Poland,
You go Viktor!
I would love to hear the Pope’s take on Schmitt’s freud. DO not forget that the Pope is a very educated man, not like Schmitt who claims to be.

Aurélie Martin

Excellent article… and some great comments here (The Hungarian Comedian/Realist, Wolfi, Some1, …).
“There is more logic in humor than in anything else. Because, you see, humor is truth.” – Victor Borge,Clown Prince of Denmark


Meanwhile on Planet Hungary …
The people who are saying the FIDESZ is not an anti-Semitic party … please stand up!
Baráth Zsolt, from the JOBBIK brought up the Tiszeszlar affair in the parliament which was an accusation of ritual murders against Jews in Hungary at the end of the 19th century. Barath remembered the girl, Eszter Solymosi, who disappeared and said: “she may have been killed by the Jews”.
Laszlo “Giant Mustache” Kover, who just two days ago said that the MPs on the left don’t belong in the Parlament because they were laughing at Schmitt’s speech when he resigned, said absolutely nothing.
I understand that it’s the JOBBIK, but you get my point. Among criminals the silent is an accessory (what’s a better translation of “Vetkesek kozt cinkos aki nema” from Babits?).


@Mutt, Kövér was not in the building at the time. One of the deputy speakers was there and parliament seemed pretty much empty.
I don’t understand how these things work exeactly but the moment Baráth sat down, the speaker asked under secretary János Fónagy to respond and I think he reacted as he should have done.


@Kingfisher Ok, I may have jumped the gun … I’m still in the office.
He wasn’t in the building. OK. I’m sure he would have reprehended Barath if he was there.


If the worst that is going to come out of this is that those holding onto ill gotten degrees are filtered out…. I say bring it on…
As for the rejected papers, Eva, my guess is that you know as well as anyone that editorial pages in a journal are an expensive resource. I have rejected numerous papers during my few years of editorial work based on suitability of content (without running into a single suspected case of plagiarism).


LwiiH: “If the worst that is going to come out of this is that those holding onto ill gotten degrees are filtered out…. I say bring it on…”
I agree 100%, but I am afraid that Fidesz and Jobbik will use this as a witch hunt against their “enemies”. I also do not want that this whole issue with Schmitt and the with hunt that follows will take away International focus form all the other issues like the ill though out Constitution, retiring of judges, and so forth..