Young Hungarians are disillusioned and feel helpless

A new study appeared a couple of days ago about the attitude of Hungarian youth between the ages of 15 and 29. Keep in mind that the people who filled out these questionnaires prepared by Kutatópont (Research Point) were born after 1984; that is, even the oldest ones were only six years old at the time of the regime change. The study is available free on the Internet. Naturally, it is impossible to cover every aspect of an in-depth study that is 350 pages long. (And, by way of confession, there was no way I could I read the whole thing in a couple of hours.) But here are its conclusions as summarized by MTI and Origo.

These young people are described as members of “the quiet generation” who don’t rebel against the value systems of their parents. They are inward looking and passive, in addition to being disillusioned. By and large they are at a loss as far as their goals in life are concerned. According to the authors, this generation most resembles the young people of the 1920s and 1930s who accepted the world as is and who believed in traditional values. If the authors are correct in their assessment, these people will soon feel very much at home thanks to Viktor Orbán’s efforts to turn the clock back and rehabilitate the Horthy regime.

Not surprisingly the least rebellious types live in villages where 52% of them agree with the worldview of their parents. In Budapest only 29% are so quiescent. Across the board when it comes to politics, they are simply not interested. Very few people even bothered to answer questions about their political opinions, most likely because they know next to nothing about the issues at hand. Two-thirds of them did not reveal their intentions about which parties they prefer and only 19% of them will most likely vote at the next elections. Naturally, they have a very low opinion of politicians in general, but I’m sure that in this respect this is not a unique group. When I once mentioned that if the change of regime had come a few decades earlier I wouldn’t have minded entering politics, my relatives were horrified at the very thought.

Apparently the quiet generation of the 1920s-1930s had great trust in the government and public institutions. In this respect this group is different. They don’t believe in anything: government, parliament, banks, the president, or the constitutional court. One ought to mention that not trusting the president and the court is a new phenomenon because in the last twenty years these two institutions received high grades from the population. So perhaps this generation is not as ignorant as we assume; perhaps it became evident to them that both the presidency and the constitutional court lost their independence. Or perhaps they just tar everybody with the same brush.

They have so little trust in the system that only 40% of them consider democracy the best possible political system and, although they never experienced it, most of them think of the Kádár regime with nostalgia. Naturally, this is what they hear at home, especially since 71% of them still live with their parents. Only 10% of them are married and only 15% of them have children.  In this age group the unemployment rate is high, 25%. All in all, young Hungarians don’t see any hope and that’s one reason that so many young people have already left the country or plan to do so. But some of them are trapped; they can’t even leave to try their luck abroad because they don’t have enough money to survive the few months while they look for a job.

ApathyOrigo‘s article inspired almost 300 comments and most of them are educational. One can read such sentences as: “In Hungary there are free elections but there is no alternative. I can’t even travel abroad because I don’t make enough money to save. They even took the money I put away in my pension plan.” Or here is another one commenting on this generation’s passivity and their lack of rebelliousness:  “But didn’t they actually want us to be like that? They wanted us to be zombies so the powers that be can lead us in the direction they want.” Or, “in my opinion all generations are responsible for the present one.” Or, “I could have written that study sitting at home…. There are no jobs, there is no social net. This government and to be honest all politicians just create one stupid law after the other. … For example, here is this national tobacco shop affair. Black market, smuggling. I am serious, idiots are sitting up there.”

The accusing fingers point overwhelmingly to the present government. For example, “not everybody can have a job with Közgép, not everybody can have a government subsidy for a horse farm. The great majority of my generation washes dishes in England and elsewhere. This is the situation.” The sentence about the horse farm is a reference to the family of Ráhel Orbán’s husband. Another loudly complains that in Orbán’s NER (Nemzeti Együttműködés Rendszere) decisions are made from above and the people have no input. “If you don’t like it you can engage in an endless fight that you will lose, will drive you crazy, or they will do you in.” These comments support the conclusions of the study.

Zsófia Mihancsik of Galamus also wrote about the study, and she began her article with a number of pictures of crowds who gather at political demonstrations. The one taken at the Demokratikus Koalíció’s latest demonstration was ridiculed in the German-language blog, Hungarian Voice. The demonstrators’ average age seems like 65. The title: “Foto des Tages: Gyurcsány verammelt die DK-Parteijugend” followed by a one-liner: “No further comment…”  But, says Mihancsik, all political meetings are attended mostly by older people, including the pro-government demonstrators. The simple reason for that phenomenon is that younger people are not interested in politics.

I’m not even sure whether this particular generation is less interested in politics than any other of the same age bracket. Yes, there are some who plan a career in politics very early in life. For example, Bill Clinton. Or I had a student who as a junior (age 19-20) told me that after graduation he will enter local politics. He will try to become the mayor of his hometown. And you know what, he became mayor shortly after he left Yale and today he is an important member of the U.S. Senate. There are people like that but not too many. Most of them care not a whit about politics. What is different about this group becomes clear from the comments. As a result of the last five years or so, these people have lost all hope and are disgusted with the country Viktor Orbán created.

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I’d be careful about these results. Kutatópont isn’t exactly an established research firm, having been founded only three years ago, as far as I know. Also, it’s a kind of spin-off of Nézőpont Institute’s. Had this survey been conducted by a well-known research agency (GfK, Millward Brown, Nielsen – you name it), I would have more confidence in the findings.


Eva S. Balogh :

Tyrker :
I’d be careful about these results. Kutatópont isn’t exactly an established research firm, having been founded only three years ago, as far as I know. Also, it’s a kind of spin-off of Nézőpont Institute’s. Had this survey been conducted by a well-known research agency (GfK, Millward Brown, Nielsen – you name it), I would have more confidence in the findings.

Are your sure? This is their fourth study. But I will make some inquiry.

I agree with Tyrker you need to take a large pinch of salt with it.

Tyrker: The results sound very plausible, except that kids say they don’t do drugs, which is obviously not true. But the rest are just a confirmation of what high school/university teachers have been seeing and experiencing for a long time. And you have the experience as well: do you see the same organized and revolutionary heat with any youngsters these days as you saw those with Fidesz back in the day? Kids (well people under 30 still live with and depend on their parents) are not organized, do not participate in any community-related activity, do not care and absolutely content with their iphones if they can buy their microbrewery beers on Friday nights. Orbán saw it well: kids don’t give a damn about tuition fees because parents pay anyway, kids have no views. Why would be better for them if they participated and were active? They don’t need a second iphone, or so much more beer. They seem to be quite OK. Their much lower propensity to vote at elections is well documented. So whatever methodology the firm is using, the results seem very plausible, I just don’t see the interest in not telling the pollster what one does or… Read more »
“As a result of the last five years or so, these people have lost all hope and are disgusted with the country Viktor Orbán created.” With all due respect, this statement might be too manichean to credibly approach reality. As a foreigner living in Hungary for close to 20 years and who became privy (unvoluntarily and with utmost disgust) to some of the behind the scene rationales in the few cases I happened to have been involved in, the current situation cannot be summarily described as the “country that Victor Orban created.” The situation in which Hungary is in today is partly the logical outcome of the crass arrogance, cronyism and corruption of the political “elite” at the helm prior to the current government, including the Orban clique from the very beginning. There has been substantial lack of consideration for public interest and public good. Many decisions were made not with the public interest in mind but because they were the best avenue to “indulge” in graft, often under the guise of political party financing to give theft a veneer of respectability. For the stolen money to end up in the coffers of the various parties, politicians and those gravitating… Read more »

Neither did I say this is what you said.

My point, and I am sorry if it did not come accross, was that the current situation is the result of what was before. And what we had before was dreadful as far as corruption, arrogance and cronyism. The current team brought that to a new height, but not from nowhere.

Renaissance HU

Orban has turned Hungary back without significant resistance from the nation, because Hungarian grandparents and parents never learned to do a good job.
The decline of Hungary has started long time ago.
The people have to end supporting unworthy leaders who can paint all European critique as anti-hungarianism.
The rulers of present and various past times allied themselves with ideology and religion to hold to power.
It is the decline of societies which were left out of Enlightenment.
Saudi Arabia, Iran, Soviet Union, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Yemen, Kenya, Somalia….

The liberation will have to arrive soon. Eva Balogh, Karl Pfeifer, Gyorgy Konrad, Agnes Heller, Maria Ludassy, Zsuzsa Sandor, Andras Gero, Laszlo Bito may lead the Hungarian Renaissance.


Renaissance: with all due respect to the named people, liberation will have to come from a younger generation. Until they are really active and start to care, nothing will happen.


I don’t know about the credentials of Kutatópont but I do know that their headline finding re the political apathy/nihilism of the younger generation is true. It might not suit us but the fact is the biggest *youth* uprising against the Orban regime, as far as I am aware, was not about his constitutional vandalism, student fees, homeless etc but instead literally 10s of thousands protested against the closure of the Zold Pardon night spot?

But this apathy is not something peculiar to Hungary and it is also true, if one looks outside Europe, you can never predict what will be the spark to ignite the youngsters. Generally it is something completely unpredictable, eg look at what provoked the unrest in Istanbul? I actually think street politics will emerge and bite Orban on the posterior but it will not be over the issues he and his opponents consider most important.

dakdekker vroomshoop

Hey There Hungarianspectrum,
In addition to your post I was wondering, Hi there! I have a young Hungarian student in my class and I would like her to understand some of the key words in a text we’re studying. Here they are:

crown –
throne –
king –
heir –
sword –
dagger/knife –
blood –
murder –
light –
dark –
witch –
banquet/feast –
hallucination –

I’m afraid I don’t yet know which dialect she speaks, but she is from Budapest.

Any help is appreciated, but please, when you post, let me know how fluent you are in Hungarian/English. 🙂

Thank you very much indeed!
Great Job!

qaz : Should one forget and/or forgive? Maybe; but with lucidity and eyes wide open. As the saying goes: if one forgets/forgives, one must always remember the lesson. You definitely should, as everyone else, of that matter. If you just keep chewing the old grub and refuse to come to terms with past events, you’ll never get anywhere, – like forward, – in the very best case you keep marching on the same spot, pretending, you care and doing something, but mostly it’s nothing better than a backward gesture with no avail. What do you think, how and why Germany managed to pull herself out of the aftermath and all the consequences of WW2, and became one of the leaders of Europe? Just try to compare the orbanist way, and you will see the pitfalls of the latter quite clearly. They have something to work for, they have a reason to move forward, because they have a vision of the future, instead of dwelling over the deeds of the past and only feel sorry about themselves, as the orbanist Hungary does. I have a bad news: time is a one-way affair, there is no chance in Earth, that you –… Read more »

Hun :
Renaissance: with all due respect to the named people, liberation will have to come from a younger generation. Until they are really active and start to care, nothing will happen.

Exactly. Compare and contrast with 56.

I’ve no idea how technically valid this study is, but its conclusion entirely matches my experience of the attitudes and opinions of young people in Hungary (and in England).

Perhaps the most disappointing thing is that their attitudes don’t change once they’ve been here for a while. I’ve given up trying to engage youngsters in political discussion in Hungary (how different to 10 years ago, when you couldn’t shut them up!), but I hoped it would be different once they saw how things worked here and started to see their old lives, Orbán, etc in perspective. But, no, they are just as uninterested over here – no desire at all, even now they can see the mess Hungary is in from a Western perspective, to do anything about it.


@Paul, as opposed to the situation in ’56, in the present Europe a bunch of youth as the main political force – let alone as a government – hardly a solution.
I may be wrong, but I am pretty much convinced, that today in Hungary only the experience and solid expertise has a (slight) chance to make a change – there is so much debris to clean up skilfully, even if they manage to overthrow the low caesar, – that for starters – there is no way in hell, that a haphazard “revolutionary force” could lead the country out of this chasm today, sorry.


This survey pretty much tallies with my experience. Compare/contrast the (in general) student apathy in Hungary with the tuition fee protests in the UK last year. It’s also extremely strange to witness a generation devoted to western culture who also have a kind of innate national conservatism.

This has been the case for a long time. I remember tens of thousands of people on Heroes’s Square 12 years ago – many very young – expressing their devotion to Istvan Csurka’s extremism, and I also recall being completely shocked that there weren’t any youthful antifascist protests whatsoever. I couldn’t find any dissent to the repugnance being expressed – and learned, then, that there was something alarmingly different about student attitudes in Hungary. It’s all part of education’s role, here, to discourage personal analysis and thought.


I’ve heard and read that among the young people in Hungary(especially so called intellectuals!) support for Jobbik and disdain for democracy is very strong – though I have no numbers.

To me this feels really strange – especially compared with my own youth!

Our young ones say the same about their generation – luckily they’re real globalist liberals. If not I wouldn’t know how to treat them and how to talk to them …

Eva: “Origo‘s article inspired almost 300 comments and most of them are educational….” For me these comments are “political”! People, and not only the young, say things that have obvious political content, but it appears that they do not know this is the case. The comments that Eva translated are not written by people who are “disinterested” – they commented on a website and put forward relevant points (low income, pension funds nationalisation, “no alternative”, and they are even quite frank about their parents’ generation: “didn’t they actually want us to be like that?”). For me people prefer to be “apolitical” despite quite strong opinions on political issues. Out of reasons that I do not understand well, instead of more systematic thoughts about what could be done about the unfortunate state of affairs, it is said that “all politicians are crooks and corrupt” – and this is it. And I do believe that deliberately or not, it is the older generations that have “educated” this young generation through nurturing scepticism in politics in general, preventing useful political education – and through letting the public sphere deteriorate to the point that young people feel they have no future in such “democracy”.… Read more »
Kristen, I feel that you are very correct about the role of parents. Many parents and this includes mos of the intelligentsia too, I fear simply failed to spend as much time educating their children as they think they actually did. It is interesting to see how children of engaged Hungarian intellectuals simply don’t read books or care about public issues. Did these people spend too much time with their friends and doing their jobs which they loved as opposed with their children or thought that just by making sure the kids get to go to good schools their parenting role is over (also reflecting a more liberal, hands off parenting attitude)? I don’t know, but I do know of a lot of families with very hands on parenting resulted in curiosity, reading, engagement in a community. They were less “liberal” but more successful in this respect. I also think that very deep down, especially with the older ones of the 15-29 age bracket are more (sub)conscious about what they do online. High schoolers have no concept of privacy and cannot think about the future properly, estimate consequences (and this is a cognitive developmental issue as well at this age),… Read more »
Let me add something to Kristen’s assessment, I think, there is one more aspect worth mentioning. Yes, I agree, the young people not apolitical at all, but it manifests itself very differently from what we used to see as politically motivated behaviour, the usual markers aren’t there, so to speak. Let’s not forget, that they belong to the generation (Y?) which don’t even buy CD-s and books, listen and read digitally, their communication is multi-faceted and vastly different from the ones (relics?) presently engaged in the Hungarian politics. In short, our perception of the young people of today can be – perhaps is – misguided. After all, who can blame them, that they find nothing appealing in the “usual way” Hungarian politics crawling along..? Even today, most of the opposition forces will change only the players, while intending to preserve most of the system as it was/is, simply because this is the only way what they know. Obviously, there is no easy way out, just look at the “politics could be different” members now and then, just how the system managed to turn them only one of the others, they lost all their spirit front of our eyes in a… Read more »

Tolmács – – I viewed a video of discussing the street renaming affair in this village.

(Trafik List

Besides some intelligent voices, the residents can be called nice, but some were a little intellectually challenged. It is not easy to speak in front of the camera.

The video was very realistic.

The atmosphere was suffocating.

Not a trace of the relaxed appearance of an American small community.
When I looked at the village webpage, again, it displayed an administrating overkill.
Too many unnecessary regulations.
The older Hungarian generation has failed its children. No child could learn the meaning of freedom there.

The village administration does not seem to care about it.
The Budapest regime even less.
It will let us wait for the elusive freedom.

(Miert ne szeressuk a rezsimet,
miutan csokkentette a rezsimet?)


Éva, it is thanks to you that we have this unique opportunity to think about these issues!

“71% of them still live with their parents. Only 10% of them are married and only 15% of them have children. In this age group the unemployment rate is high, 25%.” I read the Origó article, and these statistics are for people aged 15-29. It should not be a surprise that people between 15 and 23 still identify themselves as living with their parents, should it? Especially since most Hungarian university students go home for the weekend. Nor should it come as such a great surprise that one in four is unemployed. Who would expect a person aged 15-23 to hold down a full time job while being a full time student? Life in Hungary is terrible for many many young people in this age group, but there are ways out: a) leave the country b) learn to take care of yourself, and not wait for anyone else to do so I have a friend who studied economics at university. 26 years old. Cannot get a job in his field. Yes, he still lives at home with his parents, but he contributes. Mightily. He purchased many quail, and now has a profitable (I am envious) business selling quail eggs to… Read more »

re Tolmács:

don’t forget that these are the average Hungarian voters.

You see firsthand the level of intelligence and thoughtfulness and education a politician must appeal to.

A debate about the constitution or the EU are so far removed from their world that it’s almost impossible to put in words. They live outside the modern world as you know it, but they are the majority.



I know of similar cases like someone with a degree in psychology working in a computer warehouse in the Netherlands …

And all those people with degrees who work as waiters etc – when will they have a chance to find work where they (and society!) can profit from their degrees ? After a few years they won’t find a job in their originally planned profession …

It is a terrible waste of “human capital” imho – like that friend of ours who used to work in a hotel reception (with fluent German and acceptable English) and now cleans rooms in a hotel in Germany because she makes more money that way. What’ll she do when she gets older ?

Most of these jobs are only for young people …