A Fidesz politician and history

The other day the Order of Knights held a ball.

By way of background, Horthy as governor couldn’t bestow titles of nobility, so in 1920 he established the Order of Knights to honor men deemed especially worthy. Originally military valor in World War I was a necessary prerequisite to becoming a knight, but soon enough the order was expanded to include both military and civilian supporters of Horthy’s regime. Eventually knighthood became hereditary. Admission to the Order also carried with it a land grant of about 60 acres for a former officer and about 12 acres for lower ranks and civilians. Jews were banned. As C. A. Macartney, the British historian of interwar Hungary, said, “the unspoken function [of the knighted individuals] was to form nuclei of order and patriotism throughout the country.”

Members of the Order who left Hungary with the German troops and settled in Western Europe, the United States, and Canada kept up the knightly tradition and allowed “worthy” emigrants into the ranks. After the change of regime in 1990, the Order of Knights became a legal entity once again in Hungary. It is clear from the website of the Order that one of the functions of the organization is to keep alive the memory of Miklós Horthy and to “educate” the populace about the true historical role of Hungary’s governor between 1920 and 1945. Currently they are collecting money for a statue of the governor on horseback.

It turns out that two Fidesz politicians were patrons of the ball. Both are members of parliament. In addition, Péter Kovács is the mayor of District XVI (Sashalom) and Kristóf Szatmáry is an undersecretary in the Ministry of National Economy. I assume that both men belong to the right wing of Fidesz. Péter Kovács is certainly making his district “a citadel of right-wing politics,” as the district was described by an MSZP member of the city council. Runic writings can be seen all over the place and just lately the council passed a resolution about erecting a Trianon Memorial.

As for Krtistóf Szatmáry, I don’t know a lot about him except that he has degrees in geography and political science. So, it seems that it was not exactly his knowledge of economics that made him a desirable addition to György Matolcsy’s ministry. I was somewhat surprised that the organizer of the ball was a certain Knight Lieutenant László Szatmáry. Since there is a resemblance between the two Szatmárys, perhaps they are brothers. In any case, even a general would be envious of the outfit of this lieutenant:

 

Péter Szegő, a reporter for ATV, decided to have an interview with Mayor Péter Kovács to ask him what he knows and thinks about Miklós Horthy. Kovács, according to his biography on Fidesz’s website, “finished his studies at the University of Technology’s “‘építőmérnöki” faculty. The reason that I used the Hungarian designation is because I want to make clear that whatever degree Kovács has it is not in architecture (építészmérnök). I would ask the engineering types who read this blog to visit the university’s website and enlighten us about what Kovács actually learned at the university. There is another odd thing about this degree. Kovács neglected to mention it on parliament’s site. However, he claims to know English well enough to be able to carry on negotiations in that language and to know “conversational” French.

His knowledge of history definitely leaves something to be desired. The reporter wanted to find out how much Kovács knows about Horthy. He expressed the commonly held view that Horthy’s last few years were not exactly successful. Kovács replied: “I don’t know but I learned differently from a lecture given by the Fraternal Circle of Noon Bell Ringing (Déli Harangszó Baráti Köre).” The reporter wanted to hear Kovács’s version but instead he heard the following: “I suggest that in case you have doubts about this question look for the Fraternal Circle of Noon Bell Ringing. They give free lectures on the life of Miklós Horthy.”

When the reporter mentioned the disastrous war against the Allies and the death of 437,000 Jewish Hungarian citizens, Kovács could only answer that “it was a long time ago. It was during a war.” After the reporter pressed him further on the details, instead of giving an answer Kovács asked the reporter: “Are you historian?” It turned out that the reporter had a degree in history. Kovács triumphantly answered: “You see, I am not a historian.”

Eventually the conversation turned to the Order of Knights, and the reporter pointed out that the Order was “one of the most important bases of the counter-revolutionary regime.” Kovács simply answered: “This is not how I know it.” But then it turned out that he knows absolutely nothing about the history of the Order and began talking about the present knights who are wonderful people. For example, they assisted the work of the locals when the Tisza River flooded. The reporter tried to get back to the origins of the Order. Kovács’s answer: “1920 was quite a few years ago.” The reporter pressed on and asked whether Kovács didn’t find it troubling that today’s knights consider themselves the successors of the original Order, thereby associating themselves with the Horthy regime. Answer: “Are you sure that they themselves think that way?” Kovács at that point admitted that the present knights do consider themselves members of the original Order of Knights but they never said to him that they associate themselves with the Horthy regime. So, surely the reporter must be wrong.

Finally, the question of Hungary’s entry into the war came up. The reporter pointed out that the Barbarossa Plan didn’t count on Hungary’s joining the German war effort but Hungary decided to declare war because it was competing with Romania and Slovakia for German favors. Kovács: “That’s how you think. … This is just one of the readings of history.”

I can’t get over the colossal ignorance that some of these foot soldiers of Fidesz exhibit. And we mustn’t forget that Péter Kovács was hand picked by Viktor Orbán.

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Chris S.
Guest

This comment applies to the entire blog – it’s a real public service that you post so often and in so much depth about life in Hungary under the Fidesz government.
When the major Western news outlets cover Hungary, the story is short, oversimplified, shorn of context, and sometimes shoehorned into a predetermined narrative.
Details about the political zeitgeist – like what’s happening in front of the Parliament building, or the latest attempts to try to rehabilitate Horthy – are of great interest to me (and unfortunately, I don’t read Hungarian well enough to get that information from the Hungarian press).
So, thank you…

Member

Check out the bling. Where did he get those decorations? On a garage sale?

An
Guest

Other than Fidesz is not recruiting the brightest of the population, the other issue is that people with university degrees in Hungary can be so ignorant about history (and social sciences) in general. I think it is partly due to the structure of Hungarian higher education, where specialization starts early (one gets admitted to a specialized field of study right after high school, e.g. engineering, medicine, business, mathematics, etc… and these people never learn much at the college level about subjects in the humanities and social sciences).
I always see the most astonishing ignorance about subjects falling under the classical liberal arts education among people with these specialized degrees. I think some core college level curriculum in basic subjects should be required of anyone who gets a university degree.

Member

The guy’s degree, “epitomernok”, is civil engineering. Bridges, roads and things like this.
Kovacs’s interview skills are amazing. It should be taught in communication classes. When you get stuck with something, because you are an uneducated bumpkin, just ask the reporter “Hey. Are you intelligent?” When he says, “Yes. I think so.” then just say “Because I’m not!”. Zing!

Member

I usually do not comment on people’s look, as that is something is beyond our control, but for goodness sake, can’t Knight Lieutenant László Szatmáry cannot afford to buy a proper dress for his wife and send her to hair stylist. The woman is a fashion disaster. Look at her dress cut up almost up to her vagina, and she ain’t Angelina Jolie. When Fidesz wants religious education in school and their members put this aged stuffed pigeon in a white sock on display. I am sorry but I just had to vent.
Now, back at the story. The general lack of understanding of various issues never stopped either the members of Fidesz or Jobbik to act as some sort of experts on subjects. Clearly if the journalist would not be a historian the excuse of the “Knight” would of been that he is more informed. THe lack of understanding of basic politics never stopped Deutsch to say something either, and the list could go on.

petofi
Guest

@An: “Fidesz is not recruiting the brightest of the population..:
That might be true with Kerenyi, Matolcsy, Budai, and some of the others but I saw Antal on Egyenes Beszed and he was strong, logical, and mild-mannered. I was impressed. He’s make an interesting replacement for Orban.
I must say that I saw Orban in his parliamentary tussle with Karacsony and he was pretty good, too.
Somebody feeding these guys some new, improved oats?

LwiiH
Guest

“Kovács asked the reporter: “Are you historian?””
@mutt, agreed, it’s a common theme practiced it seems by all politicians in all parties. Unless you’ve studied a subject in uni you’ve not a clue about what you’re talking about and can’t possibly understand.. hey pot, you’re black too!!!

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

An: “the other issue is that people with university degrees in Hungary can be so ignorant about history (and social sciences) in general. I think it is partly due to the structure of Hungarian higher education, where specialization starts early”
This is also one of my gripes.

late night
Guest

IMHO Horthy was centrally involved with two world wars. Hungary lost so much blood in them, that this can be viewed THE basic problem of the land to this day. I suppose the land might have 20 mio inhabitants today, if those wars could have been avoided. From far right to the far left this should be the common view. Unfortunately it isnt. Horthy and all politics connected to his name is disqualified to be helpful for the future. It is still not too late to recognise this. Actually exactly this should be the subject of national consensus so much missing from todays Hungary

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mutt Damon: “The guy’s degree, “epitomernok”, is civil engineering”
Thank you. About two hours later I dawned on me that it might be civil engineering. What an idiot.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Petofi: “I saw Antal on Egyenes Beszed and he was strong, logical, and mild-mannered”
You’re talking about Rogán. He is misleading. Before 2010 he was always portrayed as moderate but then came the elections and he was responsible for the most awful pieces of legislation.
As far as Rogán’s knowledge of history, I still remember when the only thing he could muster was his peasant grandfather’s stories of the Rákosi regime. Surely, there are better sources for the past than stories of our grandfathers.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

A footnote to Rogán’s activities from today’s Népszava:
http://www.nepszava.hu/articles/article.php?id=547998

Guest

@Some1
Your comments on the lady’s dress and coiffure are bad style and wrong. She fits very well into the total incongruity of all elements of the picture. The ridiculous uniforms, their atrocious colour match, lookers-on with hands folded, and gymnastics equipment with an emblem hung on it in the background.

Member

@ Jean P, I guess you are right. I also love her smile.

Guest

London Calling!
That’s not a ball?
Where’s the twinkly ball?
Regards
Charlie

Tyrker
Guest
“Hungary decided to declare war” That’s incorrect. Hungary didn’t declare war, at least not on the Soviet Union. After the two unprovoked air strikes that took Hungary by surprise on 26 June 1941 – a[n apparently Soviet] fighter squadron’s machine-gun attack on a passenger train and the aerial bombardment of mostly civilian targets in Kassa by a bunch of unidentified bombers – prime minister Bárdossy told parliament that Hungary considered itself at war with the Soviet Union. In other words, the country didn’t send a formal declaration of war because it considered itself a victim of Soviet belligerence, with a right to defend itself without further ado. Needless to say, this was not the most brilliant way of reacting to the events. Commissioning an investigation into the air strikes and waiting for the results would have been a lot wiser. The Soviet Union did not have a motive to draw Hungary into the war at a time when it was facing a devastating invasion by Finnish, German, Slovakian and Rumanian forces. The air strikes against Hungarian territory may well have been the result of false target identification on the Soviets’ part. And at any rate, sending a 45,000-strong ground force… Read more »
Leo
Guest

Tyrker you are playing with words, which can be a dangerous thing to do. The point is not whether or not (or when) Hungary declared war. The point is Horthy’s attitude: whether he did think a war to be in Hungary’s interest or not.
As you say, it is improbable that the Soviets were behind the air strikes. As far as I know it has never been cleared up who was. And at the time they didn’t even really try. For all we know it might even have been the regent himself who created the casus belli.
Anyway, I think his reaction should not be played down as “hasty”. I rather think he imagined his attack on the USSR was indeed in the best interest of Hungary. Which proved to be a miscalculation with horrible consequences for the country.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

To Tyrker, I would like to see exact references to your assertions on Hungary’s declaration of war on the Soviet Union.

enuff
Guest

arrgh..that ball is a joke. I’ve seen better Halloween costumes that this. What a bunch of wannabes!

Member

I love the picture, the juxtaposition of a humble schoolgym and a group of g
rown-up Ruritanian school boys and gals. Nothing wrong with a bit of fancy dress to keep the old “We are Hungary, no one likes us, we don’t care” urge, omnipresent inside a certain type of Hungarian Nat, satiated.
Having said that, I am not suprised at Kovacs’ failure to grasp the historical implications of the whole show. Fidesz’s adherence to any kind of idealogy is greatly exaggerated- if the folk want anti-Jew/Roma/Foreigner bashing, then by golly Fidesz will deliver it by hook or by crook.
Doesn’t mean they believe all or even have much of an historical awareness the guff they spout though. Power, personal enrichment and the odd bit of petty revenge is their guiding philosophy, everything else is pretty much only a means to that end.

Member
Tyrker provides the perfect example what is wrong with how to use snippets of information totally taken out of context, so it is accurate in a certain way, and cannot be debated, except in the content of things is a big, fat lie. THis is exactly the way how Hungarians are manipulated by half-truths. THis is why Horthy is becoming the best Hungarian ever lived. As far as I am concerned. Just like Hungary’s involvement in WWI that started by student assassinating of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife (and we know how many Hungarian had to die because of that), the brave Hungarian politicians found an other reason to get up to the Germans’ arses. THe truth is and the facts are that it has not been established that it was Soviet planes hat bombed. For that matter the bombing took place on June 26, 1941, four days after Germany attacked the Soviet Union in violation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression treaty. Why would the Soviets attack Hungary at the first place and not the Germans? I take any logical explanation. It is more likely that the Germans did the attack (possibly wit the knowledge of Hungarian politicians),… Read more »
Member

Hmmm … I learned in high school that Hungary did declare war on the Soviet Union one day after the Kosice (Kassa) attacks. Mrs Hajpal (my history teacher)! I want my money back.

GDF
Guest
Tryker:””Hungary decided to declare war” That’s incorrect. Hungary didn’t declare war, at least not on the Soviet Union. ” Here is the how The New York Times reported the events: Published: June 28, 1941 Copyright © The New York Times HUNGARY DECLARES WAR UPON SOVlET Deputies Hail Announcement by Premier of Move for Reprisal for Soviet Air Raids RUSSIAN CENTERS BOMBED Small Munitions Dump South of Budapest Explodes-Oil Refinery Has Fire By Telephone to The New York Times BUDAPEST, Hungary, June 27- “There is a state of war between Hungary and the Soviet Union because of the aerial attacks,” the Hungarian Premier and Foreign Minister, Dr. Ladislaus de Bardossy declared in the House of Deputies today amid cheers. “I need to add only that the Hungarian Army will take the necessary steps of reprisal,” continued the Premier. The Hungarian Press Bureau issued the following communiqué: “In view of the repeated unlawful attacks by the Soviet Air Force on Hungarian territory during Thursday, Hungary considers herself to be in a state of war with the Soviet Union.” The same source reports that reprisals for Soviet air attacks against Hungary, the Hungarian Air Force today attacked military objectives on Soviet territory. All… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Since Tryker is not coming up with his sources concerning Hungary’s involvement in World War II here are a couple of things.
(1) To this day we don’t know who bombed Kassa/Kosice. A fairly good guess would be German-Hungarian military leaders who were eager to get Hungary into the war.
(2) Horthy was so eager that within a few hours he declared a state of war between SU and Hungary. According to the law he had the right to do that in case of “direct and immediate danger” as long as he asked the government and the parliament to sanction his decision afterwards. Both did it with great enthusiasm.

kormos
Guest

@ Ms. Balogh.
“Order of Knights” may not be the best translation of the “Vitézi Rend”. Would you think that “Order of the Valiant” is a better representation? I know it is a sort of hair splitting.

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest

Hum-Ho An jacket taken (or rented) from a ‘Hokey-pokey’ man You know the lad who pedals a tricycle loaded with ice cream and a notice on them ‘Stop Me and Buy one’. The medals come from one of the local ‘flea markets’. The trousers are the old style U.K. postman’s type or brought from a ‘War Office Surplus’ shop and was surplus to MOD requirements. I bought a similar pair which I used in winter in my workshop. They cost me a ‘fiver’ (£5). In the UK the lot would cost about £20.
My old drill instructor would have had a fit (with a leg up) they are all out of step!
I make no comments about the ‘bit of totty’ he has on his arm.
Mr Kormos There is a bronze medal made from a bit of an Old Russian gun. The only words it carries are the words “For Valour”. I doubt that the nurk shown in the ice cream salesman’s jacket is not even worthy to see one.

Tyrker
Guest
Sorry for not getting back to you guys sooner. Leo: I’m not playing with words. The assertion in the interview, also relayed in this blog post, was that “Hungary decided to declare war.” This is simply not correct. In the wake of the two air strikes, the country considered itself to be in a state of war with the SU, as the attackee. That is a completely different thing to “deciding to declare war”. Also, I never said that it was “improbable that the Soviets were behind the air strikes.” In fact while the true identity of the bombers that attacked Kassa remain debated, there appears to be some kind of a consensus among war historians that the gunning of the train was carried out by three Soviet single-engine aircraft (to Eva, you might want to check out an article entitled, “Magyarország honi légvédelme 1941 nyarán” by one Lajos Olasz, in Hadtörténelmi közlemények, Issue 2, 2011. Even the liberal historian Krisztián Ungváry writes in his excellent book, A magyar honvédség a második világháborúban, that “Kőrösmező és Rahó esetében nem vitatott, hogy az incidenst szovjet gépek követték el.” – page 529, Note #14). What I’m saying is that the attacks were… Read more »
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