The growing Horthy cult and the associated rehabilitation of writers of anti-Semitic and/or Nazi sympathies have raised a few eyebrows, and not just in Romania where the circus surrounding the reburial of the remains of József Nyirő led to a diplomatic flare-up between Hungary and her former good friend, Romania. It seems that the Russian government is also watching the rehabilitation of the Horthy era with growing concern.
But first let’s visit Romania where the storm created by Hungary’s clumsy attempt at organizing a reburial of József Nyirő has been growing. First, the Romanian government refused to allow entry of a special railway carriage carrying Nyirő’s remains. Then the burial itself had to be postponed because its permission was revoked. The remains are apparently still in Budapest.
The latest is that there is a good possibility that the Romanian government will investigate local permits that allowed schools or streets to be named after József Nyirő. The Romanian government spokesman announced yesterday that in Romania ” law forbids any kind of appreciation or honoration of people of anti-Semitic and fascist views.” So, this is the end result of László Kövér’s initiative on behalf of the Magyar Polgári Párt. However, Kövér didn’t seem to learn anything from this fiasco. He triumphantly announced in Székelyudvarhely where the burial was supposed to be held that the victory of Hungary is inevitable. After all, non-Hungarians are afraid even of the remains of a Hungarian who has been buried for sixty years. And, he added, the members of the Romanian government are barbarians.
The rehabilitation of the Horthy regime caused unease in Russia as well. Over the weekend there was a conference organized by the Russian Center of ELTE where Hungarian, Russian, and American historians gave lectures on historical topics. Among the invited guests was the Russian ambassador Aleksandr Tolkach, who sharply criticized the Hungarian government’s attempts at rewriting the history of World War II. He rejected the Orbán government’s efforts to equate nazism and communism and to treat the Soviet Union and her allies, on the one hand, and the Third Reich, on the other, as equally guilty.
Tolkach specifically mentioned the preamble to the new Hungarian constitution, which views the historical events between 1944 and 1990 as nonexistent. This in Russian opinion results in the denial of the role of the Red Army as liberators. Right-wing Hungarian historians are trying to reevaluate Hungary’s role in the events while they say nothing about Hungarian crimes in the Soviet Union. These same historians are also silent on Hungary’s active role in the annihilation of Hungarian Jewry.
Considering that Viktor Orbán is allegedly a great friend of Vladimir Putin, Tolkach’s remarks are an indication that not all is well in Russian-Hungarian relations. The Hungarian government should be mindful of the forthcoming negotiations with Russia over the price of natural gas. This is what happens when the Fidesz government wants to please its extreme-right rival, Jobbik, by forcing an issue that causes serious diplomatic friction.
If creating friction between Romania and Hungary and Russia and Hungary weren’t enough, the Orbán government moved on to an attack on the United States and the European Union.
The attack on the European Union began with Kövér lecturing Europe on its attitude toward Christianity. According to him, ” Europe lost its self-identity.” Moreover, ” it looks at its own Christian roots with loathing.” And to be sure that this message will get to those for whom it was intended, Kövér made these remarks to a reporter of Süddeutsche Zeitung, a liberal German paper. In the same interview Kövér labelled the European Union’s criticism of the extra levies “immoral” because EU politicians condoned the socialist governments’ economic policies that resulted in the country’s indebtedness.
And today in parliament János Lázár, in his farewell speech as head of the Fidesz caucus, indirectly attacked the United States by claiming that the Hungarian opposition is actually supported by Uncle Sam. Considering that the Orbán government initiated a charm campaign in the United States and that Budapest hired a PR firm to influence the American attitude toward the present regime in Hungary, one can only marvel at the inconsistencies of the government’s policies.
Lázár also decided to lash out at international capital. According to him, MSZP has never been anything but a “front man” for multinational companies. This remark didn’t surprise me terribly because there has been a tendency lately to contrast the government’s pro-Hungarian policies with the opposition’s siding with foreign interests. After all, it wasn’t a long time ago that Viktor Orbán talked about his government’s “kuruc” stance as opposed to the members of the opposition who belong to the ” labanc” camp. These two words go back to the Rákóczi rebellion (1703-1711) when the rebels were called ” kuruc” and those who sided with Vienna “labanc.” Thus, Orbán indicated that he represents Hungarian interests while the opposition represents the interests of foreign powers.
One against all? A losing proposition.