Another St. Stephen’s Day in Hungary

It was twelve years ago, about this time of year, that the St. Stephen mania was at its height during the first Orbán government. Because of the celebrations of the millennium of Stephen’s coronation and thus the historically accepted date of the establishment of the Hungarian state Viktor Orbán had a fantastic opportunity for self-aggrandizement. On August 19, 2000, the prime minister visited the neighboring villages, Alcsútdoboz and Felcsút, where he grew up. It was here that he awaited the arrival of Hungarian pilgrims returning from Rome on foot. The pilgrims had taken a replica of the Holy Crown to the Vatican where the pope blessed it. When the pilgrims arrived with the fake crown with its papal blessing, the prime minister delivered a speech in which he recalled that St. Stephen offered his country to the Virgin Mary in the very place where he was standing: in Alcsútdoboz.

There are a couple of problems with Orbán’s claim. The first is that the earliest reference to Alcsútdoboz is from the fourteenth century. The second problem, and the more serious one, is that St. Stephen most likely never offered his country to the Virgin Mary. The first mention of this alleged offering was at the end of the eleventh century when Pope Gregory VII made all sorts of fiscal demands on the Hungarian kings who cleverly replied that unfortunately the country was already ruled by none other than the Virgin Mary herself.

At the beginning of his political career Orbán was known to profess no faith. Later the public learned that he was a devout Calvinist. People suspected that his sudden interest in Calvinism had something to do with his need to have the political assistance of István Csurka’s MIÉP.  The Hungarian Reformed Church happened to have good relations with that party. But if he was a good Calvinist, how could he take the Regnum Marianum cult seriously? After all, Calvinists don’t consider the Virgin Mary an important part of their religious beliefs. On the contrary, they reject anything that has to do with saints and post-biblical miracles.

St. Stephen’s portrait in the Képes Krónika / Chronicon Pictum, prior to 1360

This story from twelve years ago shows how far politicians are willing to go to use history and religion to their own political advantage. By now Viktor Orbán is being compared to St. Stephen himself . Lajos Kósa, deputy chairman of Fidesz and mayor of Debrecen, in his speech emphasized that Stephen used “unusual methods to convert his country from a pagan tribal society to a Christian state,” just as Viktor Orbán decided to use “unorthodox methods” to change Hungary. János Áder, the president, talked about a new foundation of Hungary, just as in Stephen’s time. János Lázár emphasized that the whole country must change radically, just as in Stephen’s time.

The saintly king’s methods were “unusual” in one sense: he was ruthless. He forcibly converted the people to Christianity and used every possible method to make sure that they followed the strictures of the new religion. He was equally ruthless with his relatives who threatened his position. One was drawn and quartered; his remains were displayed on the gates of four different cities. Another was blinded and his ears filled with hot lead.  Let’s hope that the Matolcsy-Orbán duo’s “unorthodox methods” will be less draconian.

Then came Péter Harrach (KDNP). From him we learned that Stephen was a man who wanted to introduce order but not dictatorship. Dictatorship in the early eleventh century?  The word didn’t even exist until the mid-sixteenth century. I guess this reference to Stephen’s desire for order but not dictatorship has something to do with the charge leveled against Orbán, that he’s a man of dictatorial tendencies. Another modern concept Harrach attributed to Stephen’s days is ” unity.” Stephen certainly managed to break down the power of other chieftains and expanded his own rule over their lands, but I’m afraid Harrach wasn’t talking about geographical unity but rather national unity which is of course a historical anomaly when we are talking about the eleventh century. According to Gyula Kristó, the foremost historian of the period, most likely the majority of the population of the Carpathian Basin was Slavic speaking and the Hungarians at that time were still in the minority. Stephen most likely didn’t give a hoot who spoke what language. The only thing that was important for him was that they were his faithful subjects.

Harrach, a Christian Democrat, could not leave out the usual idealized description of Stephen as a deeply religious and pious man. According to him, the key to his personality is his “Exhortations” to his son. The problem is that most medieval kings were illiterate; according to Kristó, that probably was the case with Stephen as well. The “Exhortations” were most likely written by Bishop Asrik-Anastas, the man who brought a crown (not the Holy Crown of today) to Stephen from Rome. It is therefore doubtful that this document is the key to Stephen’s personality.

Perhaps the most confusing speech was delivered by János Áder. According to the president, the old world is in crisis and “those nations will be successful in the twenty-first century that can lift their souls. We carry the knowledge in our blood that if the soul is rising, everything rises with it.” I’m not even going to try to figure out what he wanted to say. Perhaps the most intriguing part of these sentences was that “knowledge is in our blood.” I thought that knowledge had to be acquired, usually through hard work, but I guess the Hungarians are different. In their case, at least this particular piece of knowledge is in their blood.

By way of a footnote: the only reference I found to “Knowledge in the Blood” was a book by the first black dean of education at the University of Pretoria. The subtitle of the book was: “Confronting Race and the Apartheid Past.”

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Ms KKA
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Ms KKA
August 21, 2012 5:48 pm

Perhaps Orban and Áder are using the same speech writer – Sir Malaprop of Obfuscation.

Minusio
Guest
Minusio
August 21, 2012 6:01 pm

In this context it is probably off-topic, but nevertheless interesting. In the case of a national emergency, the ancient Roman Senate appointed a special magistrate called “dictator”. However, in contrast to modern-day dictators, he gained the higher honour the more quickly he did his job and resigned his extraordinary powers so that normal political processes could resume as soon as possible.

Paul
Guest
August 21, 2012 6:40 pm
Szent István’s day here is really Virágkarneválnap – THE big day in Debrecen’s calendar, when half a million or more people visit to see the carnival and enjoy the events leading up to it. Only this year, a good number of those half a million must have gone home rather disappointed. For the last few years the carnival has been getting less impressive and the preliminary festivities less interesting, but this year it hit a new low. There was nothing at all worth going to see for the whole week leading up the 20th (usually there’s at least two or three home-grown acts/bands worth watching and at least one of those English or American bands you thought had disappeared but are apparently still ‘big’ in Europe), and the things laid on for the kids were very few and disappointing this year too. But worst of all was the carnival itself. Usually there’s a dozen or so floats that really look like some effort and imagination has gone into them, and four or five that really are worth seeing – put together with great imagination and amazing attention to detail. The crowd look forward to seeing them and are rarely disappointed.… Read more »
petofi
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petofi
August 21, 2012 7:03 pm

“..that state and local funding has been withdrawn..”

If that’s the case in Debrecen–a Fidesz hotbed–than what about poor Ujlipotvaros (District XIII) in Budapest? The local district channel (# 13) was showing folk dancing on an outdoor stage. While the three girls sported native costumes none of the boys
had boots. The boot-slapping was, of course, non existent. It all looked quite funny. And sad…

petofi
Guest
petofi
August 21, 2012 7:09 pm

*****DESERVING OF FURTHER SCRUTINY****

CSATARY’S 30 DAY HOUSE ARREST IS AT AN END AND THE GOVERNMENT WILL
NOT BE RENEWING IT.

DOES THIS NOT DESERVE SOME EXPLANATION BY THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE?

Member
August 21, 2012 7:56 pm

petofi :
*****DESERVING OF FURTHER SCRUTINY****
CSATARY’S 30 DAY HOUSE ARREST IS AT AN END AND THE GOVERNMENT WILL
NOT BE RENEWING IT.
DOES THIS NOT DESERVE SOME EXPLANATION BY THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE?

“That’s one small step for Jobbik; one giant balk for Hungary”.

Member
August 21, 2012 9:24 pm

The most ridiculus custom is probably the procession of the Holy Right Hand. Knowing how lucky we are with our history I will not be surprised when turns out that St Steve was left handed. Oh well, it’s better the Holy Prepuce …

The point in this continuos chanting of our past greatness is hypnotizing the half asiatic hordes that they don’t have to do anything to be great. You are great already. So don’t try to be hard working, smart and tolerant. You are great as you are. Amen!

Member
August 21, 2012 9:42 pm

Mutt Damon :
Knowing how lucky we are with our history I will not be surprised when turns out that St Steve was left handed.

This totally cracks me up! It is funny because it is so true.

hunleonidas
Guest
August 21, 2012 10:48 pm

Reblogged this on hungarianvirus.

Guest
August 22, 2012 1:20 am

A bit OT:

We showed the family around Sopron – it was very quiet on the “Holy Day” …

At least it was very warm and in Sárvár we then saw a lot of costumes – it was International Folklore Weekend.

Seems that most people went to the Balaton – I don’t think that many Hungarians take this St Valaki business for something really serious …

Karl Pfeifer
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Karl Pfeifer
August 22, 2012 1:52 am

Lifting the soul is very important. While Ader is giving this good piece of advice to those still believing in St. Viktor Orbán, V.O. and his ilk put their fingers in the till.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest
August 22, 2012 4:02 am

Indeed, the whole political circus about this day could be dropped, but please keep the Szent Jobb procession! Being an atheist, my reasons for liking it might be quite different from others, nevertheless…

Petofi1
Guest
Petofi1
August 22, 2012 4:30 am

Stadium fascist fiasco rejoined:

The video is telling: most of those turning their backs, laughing, carrying-on, yelling out, were either in their 20s or 30s. What personal experience could have led them to be anti-semitic?
Answer: none. They are all the subject of Hungarian brain-washing by the culture, the media,
and the government’s tacit approval of fascists doings such as the resurrection of Horthy, Wass, Nyiro et. al.

What a sad comment on Hungarian youth’s inability to think for themselves!

Hungary is fashioning a mindless multitude not unlike the Hitler saluting youth of Germany
circa 1930’s. But someone ought to feed these hapless many a little History…

Kirsten
Guest
Kirsten
August 22, 2012 5:20 am

Paul, I had similar thoughts seeing some of the festivities in Bp. Either the money or the enthusiasm are lacking, my guess is the latter.

Rettegő Iván
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Rettegő Iván
August 22, 2012 6:27 am
1. “Dictatorship in the early eleventh century? The word didn’t even exist until the mid-sixteenth century” Livius: Ab Urbe Condita, III. 21 dictatore opus esse rei publicae, ut, qui se mouerit ad sollicitandum statum ciuitatis, sentiat sine prouocatione DICTATURAM esse. http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/livy/liv.3.shtml#21 2. “The saintly king’s methods were “unusual” in one sense: he was ruthless” I doubt that his methods were different from the European standards of that time… His was totally EU compatible… 3. “According to Gyula Kristó, the foremost historian of the period, most likely the majority of the population of the Carpathian Basin was Slavic speaking and the Hungarians at that time were still in the minority. ” It is true, that it is his opinion. The rest of the historians opposed this view. It is a bit exaggeration to say that Mr. Kristó is the foresmost Hungarian medievalist. He was simply seen as a fairy tale writer by the other historians, like József Gerics, Iván Bertényi, György Győrffy, Ferenc Glatz, Why don’t You cite their oppinion? Little help: http://www.3szek.ro/load/cikk/42526/a_magyarsag_lelekszama_a_korai_szazadokban It is unscientific to pick only one source to prove that Mr. Orbán has some grandiosity mania or what. 4. Have something in the blood, there is something… Read more »
petofi
Guest
petofi
August 22, 2012 7:02 am

@ Rettego Ivan:

You were doing well until this:

“It is unscientific to pick only one source to prove that Mr. Orbán has some grandiosity mania or what.”

That, suspiciously, sounds like a defense of the indefensible.
Orban is a maniac: he picks his actions according to what
gains him the greatest feedback–be it good or bad. Like
an imbalanced child, he continually acts up. Hungary is going
to the dogs because of it. Of course, it’s a mystery why a
supposedly reasonable man like Martonyi would squander
reputation among civilized peoples by following him and doing
his bidding. My guess is MONEY. Lots of money–I would
hazard a guess at millions of euros. (Let it not be said that
a Hungarian cannot be bought.)

But here’s the rub: is this Sodom and Gomorrah? Can not
a Fidesz person of reputation, of the inner circle, stand up and
cry “WOLF!” Is the nation totally bereft of decency?

LwiiH
Guest
LwiiH
August 22, 2012 7:19 am

Rettegő Iván :
4. Have something in the blood, there is something in the blood – typical Hungarian idiom/metaphor. It means that someone has an inborn talent/gift for doing something. Used everyday in Hungary. For an English speaker like You, it must be shocking. Like it is shocking for me the “freedom in someone’s heart” expression of the English. How can be freedom there, Hungarians have blood/veins in the heart.

Yeah, just like last night I was talking about riddles to some of my daughters friends and one said, we have a special Hungarian word for that one, it’s an “anagram”!

petofi
Guest
petofi
August 22, 2012 7:25 am

LwiiH :

Rettegő Iván :
4. Have something in the blood, there is something in the blood – typical Hungarian idiom/metaphor. It means that someone has an inborn talent/gift for doing something. Used everyday in Hungary. For an English speaker like You, it must be shocking. Like it is shocking for me the “freedom in someone’s heart” expression of the English. How can be freedom there, Hungarians have blood/veins in the heart.

Yeah, just like last night I was talking about riddles to some of my daughters friends and one said, we have a special Hungarian word for that one, it’s an “anagram”!

@Rettego I.

“Hungarian have blood/veins…”

ALERT! ALERT!! New discovery. That out-of-this-world
of species called “a Hungarian” has been found to have
something else in their heart….massive amounts of self-delusion
complicated by hemerrhoidal stupidity…

enufff
Guest
August 22, 2012 7:42 am

Most interesting event that happened in our area (near Cegled!) on Aug 20th was seeing a group of Hare krishna followers chanting in the main street. I love it!

Other than that, we simply couldn’t be bothered to go to the main square for the fire works at night as well as not watching the tv broadcast.

Rettegő Iván
Guest
Rettegő Iván
August 22, 2012 7:49 am

Try harder!

Rettegő Iván
Guest
Rettegő Iván
August 22, 2012 7:52 am

Cute!
It reminds me of President Bush famous sentence:
The problem with French language is that they don’t have word for “entrepreneur”
http://www.snopes.com/quotes/bush.asp

Rettegő Iván
Guest
Rettegő Iván
August 22, 2012 7:54 am

Ooops, the last two answers of mine went the wrong place.
The first one is for Petofi, the second is for LwiiH

Member
August 22, 2012 7:57 am

“Rettegő Iván” is Kovach. Many experts say it … 🙂

Same impertinence. Same “google expertise”. Same “others did it too” kindergarten reasoning.

You are not a Phd for a reason. Suck it up.

petofi
Guest
petofi
August 22, 2012 8:41 am

Mutt Damon :
“Rettegő Iván” is Kovach. Many experts say it …
Same impertinence. Same “google expertise”. Same “others did it too” kindergarten reasoning.
You are not a Phd for a reason. Suck it up.

I think you’re right: same kind of mental gaps…

Louis Kovach
Guest
August 22, 2012 10:38 am

No I do not Retteg even from the aces of this gang. As a matter of fact, I waited until today to comment on this penis envy like commentary. Those who do not have a history are frantically trying to make (supposedly) their home countries history into a laughing stock.

Every nations (It is nations not countries) has mythology in its “accepted” history. But just as parting seas, or having Camelots or
Hun origin Niebeungang sagas, or heroizing Vercingetorix does not call for similar sarcastic commentary on a nations heros or history, you can lay off the Hungarian history also.

Rettego is right in most of his comments, but it looks like that he still expects “balanced” postings here and not cherry picked sources based Stuhrmer or Krokodil level “journalism.

But to be educational, I advise the gang to peruse the “census” of Domos from 1138 to check for all thos Slavic names they are citing as being the majority of the population.

http:/www.ehumana.hu/arpad/szoveg/to07.htm

Rettegő Iván
Guest
Rettegő Iván
August 22, 2012 10:57 am

Woooooooooooow!

Rettegő Iván
Guest
Rettegő Iván
August 22, 2012 10:58 am

Wooooooooooooooooooooow!

GÓL
Guest
GÓL
August 22, 2012 10:59 am

I am trying to believe that the Opposition of Éva Balogh consist of decent and knowledgeable people.

They may be very westernized, and well educated, too.

The question is, why they are creating Öngól after Öngól?

Horthy, Orban, Szalasi, Kun, Rakosi are indenfensible.

Öngól kings project a different view.

Orban is acceptable, by now not completely sane, but still worthy of the office.

The George Bush syndrome. He was terrible, although in the final period of his presidency he started to make some sense.

PS Obama is similar, pretty inept, just with some occasional smart remarks.

PPS The Economist Alert – https://www.google.com/search?q=hungary&btnGNS=Search+economist.com&as_sitesearch=economist.com&sa=X&ei=yvM0UPLNI7S30QGOnIAI&ved=0CJoEENsB&num=100&hl=en&newwindow=1&safe=off&client=firefox-a&hs=xys&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial

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