From gleaning to the manor house: The Orbán family of Alcsútdoboz-Felcsút

Why did I mention both Alcsútdoboz and Felcsút in the title of this post? Because in the first ten years of his life Viktor Orbán lived together with his parents in his fraternal grandparent’s house in Alcsútdoboz. Orbán’s father Győző (the name means Viktor in Hungarian) worked fixing agricultural machinery for the local collective farm. Finally the family decided to strike out on its own and bought on borrowed money a dilapidated house at the very edge of Felcsút, the neighboring village. For those of you not familiar with the typical hierarchy of Hungarian villages, living at the edge of the village used to mean being at the periphery of society. Even today the Roma live there. Having a house in the center of the village meant prestige and relative well being.

Not that prior to the move the three-generation Orbán family living under the same roof fared much better. Viktor recalled that at the age of four or five he and his two brothers went along with his parents “to glean” corn that had been left behind. Only the very poor went out to gather up what remained after harvesting.

Of course, eventually the lot of the Orbán family improved considerably. Both his parents finished college. His father joined the communist party and became the manager of a quarry, the same quarry he eventually bought from the state with help from one of the Fidesz-run companies shortly after the change of regime. Between 1998 and 2002 Győző Orbán received plenty of government contracts and became a rich man. Meanwhile, his son Viktor and daughter-in-law Anikó Lévai purchased a vineyard in Tokaj and bought land in Felcsút at a very low price. European Union subsidies flowed their way. One can read about the shady Tokaj subsidies in an earlier post (November 10, 2009) on Hungarian Spectrum.More substantively, Krisztina Ferenczi, in her book entitled Szüret: Az Orbán-vagyonok nyomában (Budapest, 2006), documented the growth in the Orbán family fortunes over the last twenty years. And Krisztina Ferenczi’s work is not finished because the Orbáns actively continue to increase their wealth.

Let me remind everybody of a recent post on the land lease scandal in and around Felcsút where the Orbán family built a house and purchased some land in 2000. Although the land lease program was supposed to favor small farmers, it seems that the bulk of the available land was handed out on twenty-year leases to friends and supporters of Fidesz. In Felcsút large tracts went to the mayor of the village, Lőrinc Molnár, who is also the manager of the Felcsút Football Academy, the pet project of Viktor Orbán. And now come Krisztina Ferenczi’s latest discoveries.

Ferenczi was obviously snooping around in Felcsút investigating the land lease scandal when she must have heard rumors about a new Orbán acquisition in the area. Alcsútdoboz and Felcsút are neighboring villages where once upon a time the estate of Archduke Joseph was situated. Archduke Joseph (1776-1847) was the “nádor” (governor general) of Hungary and truly beloved by Hungarians. His estate comprised about 7,000 acres and featured a summer palace built between 1815 and 1845. Unfortunately the palace burned down in 1945 and most of the land was distributed to the local peasant families in 1946. However a 13 hectare piece was retained by the Hungarian state, which also included a complex of six large buildings that served as houses for the managers of the estate.

Krisztina Ferenczi learned that Győző Orbán in the last few years expanded his business activities. Among other things he established a real estate business through which he purchased the 13 acres and the six buildings for an undisclosed amount of money. That was last July. Local rumor has it that Győző Orbán is planning to use these six buildings as the foundations for a luxury hotel that would serve movie actors and their technical staffs while they work in a large studio built in nearby Etyek. That’s where a lot of American films are being shot nowadays. I’m not quite sure how the elder Orbán will manage to do this because the buildings and the whole area are on the National Register. But I guess with a two-thirds majority anything is possible. In any case, from gleaning to owning a chunk of the Archduke Joseph’s manor is quite a leap.

Aerial photo of the complex

And now we come to the most important discovery of Ferenczi. The lands that Lőrinc Molnár received on a twenty-year lease from the Hungarian government and the pieces of land Anikó Lévai (wife of Viktor Orbán) purchased are adjacent to these thirteen hectares. Here is the aerial photo of the lands surrounding the former estate.

     Areas outlined in red on the left belong to Lőrinc Molnár and on the right to Anikó Lévai

It is worth keeping in mind that Anikó Lévai didn’t purchase her 54 hectares in 2000 directly from the Hungarian government but through an intermediary. One must also add that Viktor Orbán recently mentioned in parliament that there might come a time when it would be useful to sell these leased lands. In any case, the locals suspect that Molnár is only a front man and that the Orbáns will be the real owners of perhaps as many as 1,500 acres of land in and around Felcsút, including part of the former estate of Archduke Joseph.