Hungary at the Milan Expo: An expensive, embarrassing pavilion

In the last few days quite a few alleged corruption cases have surfaced that may deserve closer scrutiny. For today’s post I picked one, the story of the Hungarian pavilion at the Milan World’s Fair. It might be amusing if it were not so sad. More than five billion forints were spent building a pavilion and designing a program that was supposed to say something meaningful about  Hungary’s contribution to sustainable agriculture and the environment. The result? Hungary ended up with a monstrous building and an inferior kitschy exhibition that most Hungarian visitors are outright ashamed of.

The building was more or less ready by the deadline, May 1, when the Expo officially opened. Several Hungarian politicians showed up for the event. Among the media, only MTI (the state telegraphic agency) and the state television station were invited. As if the organizers and the politicians involved in the project realized that it would create a scandal at home. The fewer people who know about it the better.

The man who was responsible for the project is Géza Szőcs, a Hungarian poet originally from Cluj/Kolozsvár, who with a detour to Switzerland returned to Eastern Europe. He went first to Romania, where he served in the Romanian Senate (19901-1992), and eventually settled in Hungary, where in May 2010 Viktor Orbán appointed him undersecretary in charge of culture in the ministry of human resources. In two years it became crystal clear that Szőcs was a disaster in the job, and although the prime minister doesn’t like to fire people, Szőcs was let go. As a consolation price he became of the many chief advisers to Orbán and, in addition, got the job of overseeing the Milan Expo.

Szőcs turned out to be as unfit to be a government commissioner (kormánybiztos) as he was to be an undersecretary. The first scandal attached to his name in this capacity was the choice of a design for the pavilion that would house the Hungarian exhibition. Arbitrarily he opted for the runner-up instead of the one that was approved by the Association of Hungarian Architects. All organizations that have anything to do with architecture were horrified, as was the public.


What most likely captured the imagination of Géza Szőcs were the two “wheels,” which apparently are shaman drums. Szőcs’s father apparently was fascinated by early Hungarian history and the origins of Hungarians. And one of Géza Szőcs’s first projects was launching genetic research that would decide once and for all the connection between Hungarians and other people speaking Finno-Ugric languages. An absurd idea for at least two reasons. First, linguistic relationships have nothing to do with genes. Second, genetic research of the kind Szőcs proposed has already been done, and it turned out that the genetic makeup of Hungarians is in no significant way different from that of any other European group.

The winning (but rejected) design, at least in my opinion, was more in keeping with the theme of the Expo. It depicted an old-fashioned water-mill, which would have played into the idea of renewable energy. Moreover, Hungarian mills had a very important role to play in the economic development of the country. This is what it would have looked like.


András Földes of Index listed six Hungarian sins which, in his opinion, are all present in the pavilion and exhibition. The first two are lack of competence and conceit. The other sins are a lack of transparency, (suspicion of) corruption, blaming others for one’s own failures, and being elusive. Szőcs first blamed the Italians for the delays and then hid from the journalists on the day of the opening. Földes also includes a seventh Hungarian sin: cheapness (kisstílűség). Lots of money spent on inferior, tasteless items.

By the time the pavilion was built, it bore no resemblance to the original design, the result of which was that even the creators refused to give their names to the project. It is hard to decide which is more hideous, the design or what became of it. As Földes points out, at least in the original design the shaman drums looked like shaman drums and there was a recognizable garden. The final result (below) reminded Földes of a 19th-century steam engine. But why then is the pavilion called the Garden of Life?


Hungarian visitors, and not just journalists, tell us that there are mighty few people who are interested in the Hungarian exhibition which, instead of having a main theme, simply displays  items traditionally associated with Hungary, including dried red peppers that hang everywhere. In the past, Hungary employed its best chefs for such occasions. This time even the food is inferior (and expensive).


The same András Földes who reported on his impressions of the pavilion yesterday published a second article after Index received some information from the ministry of human resources on expenditures connected to the “Garden of Life.” The list of financial misdeeds is too long to itemize, but here are a few. The government spent 60 million forints for 16 documentary films which up to now no one has seen. Apparently, the films have absolutely nothing to do with sustainable agriculture. Instead, some historians talk about relations between Hungary and Lombardy. EuroAtlantic Solutions, a firm known to American-Hungarians as a lobbying group owned by Tamás Fellegi, a former professor of Viktor Orbán and his first minister of national development, was also involved in the project. Budapest Beacon reported already in March that Fellegi’s firm received $2.85 million to organize and promote the Hungarian pavilion in Milan. The agreement included organizing events, travel arrangements and lodging, catering, marketing, public relations, creative work, and media management. Judging from the reports about the poverty of events and programs, EuroAtlantic Solutions was overpaid.

The ministry of human resources, which is responsible for the project, is up in arms. They are certain that the journalist who wrote the article did so in order “to discredit” Szőcs and the ministry. They will sue Index and those opposition parties who, on the basis of Földes’s report, are asking for a police investigation into Szőcs’s activities. I have the feeling that the ministry and Szőcs would be much wiser to let sleeping dogs lie.

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Gene/Culture Co-evolution

Actually, there is a correlation between linguistic relatedness and genetic relatedness, starting with the classic work of Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman. This is probably because of at least 3 factors: linguistic differences reduce interbreeding, non-migrant local populations tend to be more closely related and linguistic differences increase with distance. There are probably more factors.

Cavalli-Sforza, L. L., Minch, E., & Mountain, J. L. (1992). ”Coevolution of genes and languages revisited. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 89(12), 5620-5624.

Spolaore, E., & Wacziarg, R. (2015). Ancestry, Language and Culture (No. w21242). National Bureau of Economic Research.

I would guess speaking the same language goes hand in hand with getting a mate and having a mate means the genes from the two will become much more closely related. Here is another spurious correlation… Japanese passenger cars sold in the US correlates very strongly suicides by crashing of motor vehicle from 1999 to 2009. So, the relationship is you need a car to commit suicide. Obviously the way to reduce suicides is to ban the import of Japanese cars. You can have so much fun abusing statistics. Even better, done right and you can fool statisticians. Translate that to; what chances does the mostly mathematically illiterate population have to sort statistics when the “experts” get fooled all the time. OT, I was by the small roped off area near Nyugati today and dropped off a couple cases of water and a case of wafers. Everything looked quite orderly. A TV crew was filming near by interviewing anyone walking by that was willing to talk to them. Surprisingly quite a few weren’t willing to offer a comment. There did appear to be a nurse hovering about but other than that, there didn’t appear to be any organized effort to… Read more »

So can we infer, Stevan Harnad, that the real underlying reason for Orbán being less than friendly to the desperate immigrants, who speak different languages, is actually because if we let them assimilate into Hungarian cullture, there would be less inbreeding, and consequently, higher levels of intelligence, and he would lose millions of votes?


What Stevan Harnad should have said was that “there CAN BE a correlation between linguistic relatedness and genetic relatedness”. The works he cited are not the be-all-and-end-all on the language/genes issue.

Because you posed a question, as opposed to making a statement, am I to presume that you have a bone to pick with SH re genetics/linguistics?

I doubt that Stevan Harnad implied anything, magyar2lips, other than making a point about a certain kind of linguistic/genetic relationship.



I think you misunderstood magyar2lips’ comment. He/she seemed to be making a joke by implying that intelligent people do not vote for Orbán.


I also considered the possibility you posited, buddy, however your POV is not necessarily the correct one. We’ll have to wait for magyar2lips to come back with the definitive answer.



Genetically speaking, Hungarians are not significantly dissimilar to most others in the European mix. That is to be expected given the Central European crisscrossing of peoples over the millenniums.

The Magyars, on the other hand, are a different matter. They came from Central Asia and are ethnically (and probably genetically) different than those who are now called Hungarians.

Not many in Magyarország who can be said to be true Magyars.

While a genetic connection between the original Magyars of the southern Urals and Finns/Estonians will not likely be provable, it should be easy to find a genetic linkage between the original Magyars and the Mansi —said to speak a language most similar to Hungarian— of the northern Urals.

The problem will be to find peoples in Central Asia that are provably linkable to the original Magyars. Madjars in Kazakhstan?

The wikilink demonstrates how close Mansi is to Hungarian.



I am sorry but I have to return to the previous thread with this news:
Eva (and others) are right, not too many immigrants want stay in Hungary. Orban’s scare tactics are there to create hysterics, so he: can become the saviour of Hungarians, can contract the billion forints of work to erect the two fences likely to his friends, use the EU money to curb the unemployment rate with the building.
“In Roszke, officers used tear gas to quell unrest after migrants at the reception centre refused to be fingerprinted.
The migrants, many of them Syrian, reportedly feared this would mean them having to claim asylum in Hungary whereas they wanted to travel on to Germany and other EU states.”

Yesterday there was also news about, how the fence is being NOT at the border but meters away from Serbia. Legally it means that anyone who is at the fence are already in Hungary, and as such could not be turned away. I cannot fin that article…


May I add two minor notes to this hilarious story. The reporter of Index is in fact András Földes (not Fodor), whose investigative observations on political and cultural scandals truly deserve attention. Were it not about the Milan Expo, I would have loved to read a more detailed summary of Szőcs’s career. Back in the seventies, he was one of the most talented poets of a new generation in Transylvania. Then he became the editor of a samizdat paper, the ‘Ellenpontok’, for which he was captured by the Securitate, then sent to prison. Due to an international uproar, he was later released and ousted from Romania. On the proposal of András Sütő, he got a Herder stipendium to live and work in Vienna. After the fall of the Ceacescu regime, he became one of the top executives of the biggest Hungarian party in Romania, the RMDSZ, but because of major and obscure financial calamities, he had to leave. He then came to Hungary, where in 2010 was appointed the Secretary of State for Culture in the Orbán government. One of his ill-famed activities in this post was his doubtful role in the re-burial ceremony of József Nyírő. Facts, gossips and… Read more »

Architectural monstrosity.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Landeszmann feels himself vindicated.


Re: great migration of 2015.

Iran & US+European powers deal.

Here is my plot. Feel free to criticize it!

Iran can have its New Persian Empire, including Iraq+Syria, atomic bomb, possible destruction of Israel. Of course, long term occupation of Syria and Iraq by Iran is possible only with the ouster of millions of Sunni Muslims. They also flee their own monster, the Da’esh.

They enter Western Europe, make it more Islamic. German & other “capitalists” gain cheap labor, making it possible to force lower wages on their workers. Merkel’s eagerness to take in hundreds of thousands support this theory.


Here’s your criticism: You are apparently looking for some grand plan, some secret cabal that has decided what to do with the world.
Your theory is more fruity than most Balkan cafe theories, but it might make a nice novel.
Interesting that you rule out the possibility of:
1. unanticipated consequences
2. specifically that this is simply a humanitarian catastrophe, and an unanticipated consequence
3. that German politicians, including Merkel, are reacting to this unanticipated consequence in a humanitarian way – that is, they are not “eager”, but are simply acting as Good Samaritans should, and must.


What happens with Saudi Arabia? Mecca? The Emirates? Yemen?

Do you think the caliph of Berlin will allow the existence of German “capitalists” (unless they all convert to Islam)?


It looks like a Venus Flytrap!


Percentage of children among the migrants captured in Csongrad county.

August 15: 17.8%
August 16: 17.6%
August 17: 17.1%
August 18: 22.8%
August 20: 20.6%
August 22: 21.8%
August 23: 9.8%
August 24: 16.0%

Source of raw data: daily reports on

Internal instruction to the editors of the state television news:
do not show children in the news reports.


Official employment situation. June 2015 vs June 2014.

Employed by the state, by enterprises and non-profits with more than 5 employees , without “fostered” workers (the numbers include undisclosed numbers of people actually employed abroad)

2.6973 million vs 2.645 million, an increase of 1.98%

Fostered workers:

0.1981 million vs 0.1956 million, an increase of 1.28%



“the numbers include undisclosed numbers of people actually employed abroad”

Please, forgive my ignorance, but:

Aren’t those people registered in their respective country of residence/workplace as someone actually employed there?

Isn’t the ‘employment statistic’s of Hungary’ should only contain the number of people who really employed in Hungary?

Otherwise I would recommend to count in everyone between the age of 16-65 with Hungarian names from all over the Globe – their number may pump up the result even more!
Next could come everyone with Hungarian ancestors, and so on, – pretty soon we have no employment problem at all!

Statistically speaking, that is.

Only that little thing should be solved rather sooner that the income of the respective states generated by those Hungarians should be sent to Hungary as well, pronto!

But of course, Viktor will see to it that they will pay their due part, after all, those people in the Hungarian statistics all over, its only right, not to mention: logical, isn’t it?

Nothing new. That’s how they count Hungarian Nobel Prizes. Anyone who was once a Hungarian citizen, or whose ancestors were Hungarian citizens, is counted, regardless of the person’s citizenship, and whether or not the individual even considered him/herself to be Hungarian. That’s also how Hungarian nationalists count numbers of Hungarians killed in WWII: among “Hungarians” they include Jews rounded up by Hungarian authorities and sent to Auschwitz, Jews killed in the Novi Sad massacres by the Hungarian army, and Jews executed by the Hungarian Arrow Cross (among others). There are war monuments in Hungary on which Arrow Cross men who died fighting for Nazi Germany are listed along with Jews who were sent to Auschwitz, with no distinction made between the two. Some nationalists even count unborn Hungarians – by extrapolating how many children might have been born if people had not been killed in WWII. And some Hungarian nationalists even count Hungarians separated from Hungary after the First World War as “casualties,” thereby achieving really incredible numbers of victims. All this is, of course, ridiculous – and not in accordance with any accepted international measurements. But Hungarian nationalists couldn’t care less about international standards. They simply want as many… Read more »

Until this year, the Statistical Office included a variable number of workers employed abroad in the Hungarian employment statistics (it hovered around 100,000). This data was disclosed not monthly, but only quarterly. Since January 2015, there is no disclosure of this number.


Gross [Net] debt of the Hungarian central government on June 30, 2015:

105.9 [78.8] billion euros

Source: MNB (published on August 18)

The unorthodox “foundations” of the Hungarian National Bank reportedly bought
large amounts of government bonds:


While the National Bank reported 105.9 billion in gross debt, the Treasury reported only 79.6 for the same day, and this latter is the number used to broadcast the debt/GDP ratio. [I remind you that the calculation of the GDP also changed a year ago to increase the denominator]


The data of the National Bank includes the private retirement accounts, which were nationalized in 2011 and spent promptly.

So the gross debt of the central government actually grew from around 80% in 2010 to 104% under the five years under the Orban government.

Of course, the government does not intend to repay the retirement accounts, so it does not consider this as an additional liability

I have a real problem with how Fidesz does all this promoting of cronies to government positions they certainly are not qualified for. It is rediculous really, i have heard about Ministry of Foreign Affairs hiring foci buddies to fill positions, the tobacco scandal giving shops to Fidesz friends, and of course you have Meszaros, now this. I have also been hearing lately from family and friends, of the replacement of qualified skilled workers with unskilled, untrained fostered workers for things like nursing, teaching, jobs like this, It is cheap slave labour and they already are dumbing down the education provided. This is going to create a country of ignorant people, then what? Do they think that if they do this, there will be only specially selected people who can replace them? If they start doing this more, then there is going to be a severe crisis, because everyone will want to leave since they are so replaceable by just anyone desperate for any sort of income they can get. Sometimes I do think that there is such a organized destruction of democracy going on in Hungary, I cannot imagine what they think they are accomplishing.