The Lakitelek foundation and Russian cultural penetration in Hungary

In early May I wrote a piece titled “Sándor Lezsák’s fiefdom in Lakitelek came to an abrupt end.” The occasion was a by-election held in this large village where the Fidesz leadership suffered a severe blow. The solid Fidesz majority on the Lakitelek town council simply evaporated. The event received national attention because Lakitelek is Sándor Lezsák’s Felcsút.

Sándor Lezsák is best known as the man in whose backyard the Magyar Demokrata Fórum, a right-of-center political party that won the first democratic election after the fall of communism, was born. Lezsák was a teacher at the time in the Lakitelek elementary school. Although he is often described as a minor poet on the basis of two slim volumes of poetry published in 1983 and 1988, he seems to have given up his literary ambitions. On the other hand, ever since 1987 he has been active in politics, first as a member of MDF and later, after his expulsion from the party, in Fidesz. Today Lezsák is one of the deputy speakers of the Hungarian parliament.

While Viktor Orbán’s Felcsút has become the football capital of Hungary, Lakitelek is best known for the Lakitelek Népfőiskola Alapítvány, a private foundation established by Lezsák and his wife for the edification of those who would like to immerse themselves in the eastern traditions of the Hungarian past. This “people’s college” has adopted a decidedly right-wing ideology and a pro-eastern cultural and political orientation. Lezsák’s foundation receives a great deal less public money than does Orbán’s Puskás Academy. Still, according to some estimates, Lakitelek Népfőiskola will have received about 12 billion forints in public funds by 2020. Year after year buildings are added to the complex, which by now looks more like a wellness center than a college for poor country folks, as the founders of such institutions originally imagined them.

Lakitelek is in the news again. It looks as if the Nemzeti Művelődési Intézet (NMI), a public institution with a yearly budget of 1.3 billion forints, will be “inherited” by Sándor Lezsák’s foundation. Thus, a publicly funded institution will be moving to the grounds of a private foundation. NMI’s headquarters are currently in Budapest, but a new building will be erected in Lakitelek. The staff will have to relocate. If, that is, they want to move to a village on the Great Plains about 100 km from Budapest.

In January János Lázár announced, in the name of reducing the size of the bureaucracy and cost cutting, the closing or merger of 73 so-called background institutions attached to ministries. NMI, which was established only in 2013, was destined to be eliminated. But then, as usual, all sorts of interest groups tried to save the institution, which has a nationwide network and whose main function is cultural and educational improvements, especially in smaller, disadvantaged communities.

In Hungarian universities a student can choose a major that trains people to become professional educators outside of the formal educational network. Perhaps one could call them adult educators. The subject is also described as andragogy, which, according to dictionary.com means “the methods or techniques used to teach adults.” Ever since the 1950s almost all villages have had “a house of culture” (kultúrház) where movies, theatrical performances, and other cultural activities could be held. Now it seems that the government wants to replace this network with 500 “people’s colleges” following the Lakitelek model. Accordingly, a June 13 government decree abolished NMI and declared that its functions will be taken over by the Lakitelek Népfőiskola Alapítvány.

This change is another decision that will fundamentally change cultural and education activities outside of schools. Until now NMI’s cultural activities were on a professional footing, but in the hands of the far-right Sándor Lezsák, who is a devotee of Turanism (which is described as a “pseudoscientific, nationalist political and cultural movement which proclaims an ethnic cultural unity for disparate people who are supposed to have a common ancestral origin in Central Asia”), they will be vehicles of state ideology.

And that’s not all. Péter Pető of Népszabadság called attention today to the fact that Lezsák is also honorary president of the Tolsztoj Társaság (Tolstoy Association), which was established on May 12, 2011. Those of you who know either Hungarian or Russian should take a look at their website. MVM, the state-owned Hungarian Power Company, is the supporter of the organization. That support must be quite substantial judging from the number of trips members or students of Slovak-Hungarian or Hungarian high schools make to Russia. The board includes such men as T. Gyula Máté, the son of Gyula Thürmer, chairman of Munkáspárt, the minuscule communist party of Hungary. He is best known for his viciously anti-American opinion pieces in Magyar Hírlap. Gábor Stier, a pro-Russian foreign affairs editor of Magyar Nemzet, is also a board member. Pető correctly points out that Lezsák is not only infatuated with Hungarians’ Turanian origin but is also an advocate of closer relations between Hungary and Russia. Over the years he has invited to Lakitelek such government officials as Ernő Keskeny, today Hungarian ambassador in Kiev and the alleged architect of Viktor Orbán’s Russia policy, Aleksandr Tolkach, former Russian ambassador to Hungary, and the infamous Szilárd Kiss, the Hungarian wheeler and dealer in Moscow.

Unveiling Lev Tolstoy's bust in Városliget, October 16, 2013 / MTI / Photo Zoltán Máthé

Unveiling Lev Tolstoy’s bust in Városliget, October 16, 2013. Lezsák is on the right. MTI / Photo by Zoltán Máthé

According to Lóránt Győri, an analyst at Political Capital, “what we see in Lakitelek and in the Tolsztoj Társaság is the result of Russia’s attempt with the means of ‘soft power’ to gain influence in Central and Western Europe.” As is well known, Russia generously supports far-right political organizations, but “there is another form of influence gathering, the ‘Lakitelek model,’ which is trying to influence people indirectly through pro-Russian socialization in the fields of culture and education.” Such influence, especially now that Lezsák will have MNI’s cultural network at his disposal, “might create a pro-Russian young intellectual elite who later in key positions can be useful in the ideological war of the Kremlin.” It sounds pretty scary.

August 8, 2016
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Observer
Guest

Admirable initiative to bring in some culture and to teach Russian, again. I hope this time round there’ll fewer students, but they’ll study more seriously.

petofi
Guest

US elections:

Prediction: Bernie Sanders will be Secretary of State in the Hilllary Presidency.

(Now, Mr. Pjutin, look into those eyes…)

tappanch
Guest

In a speech just a week ago, Lezsak again praised the anti-Semitic figures of the Horthy era like Pal Teleki, Ottokar Prohaszka, Albert Wass.

An employee of another historical institute created by Orban, “Retörki” emphasized that the “numerus clausus” law of 1920 did not mention Jews. [Let me add that the debates in the Hungarian Parliament and decrees of implementation made it clear the law was against the Jews, and against the Jews only]

http://www.lakitelekma.hu/index.php/lakitelek-hirei/1947-teleki-palra-emlekeztek-balatonboglaron

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tappanch
Guest
Istvan
Guest

I have a very Catholic relative in the Esztergom area who has warned me over the years of the rise of the Ősmagyar Vallás, Hungarian pagans. Apparently they are associated with Turanism. My relative also sees this as somehow being associated with what are often called the end times, days prior to the second coming of Christ. Eva’s essay may give some credibility to my relative’s theory, I shall advise her of this immediately. She will be one of the few who will be thrilled at the new project of Sándor Lezsák and the transformation of NMI. After all its the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. I wonder what Primate Erdő thinks of this theory?

linky
Guest

The Budapest subway is currently full of advertisements about Kurultáj, a three-day “national gathering of the tribes”. Strangely (of not so strangely) enough on several occasion I overheard suited sararimen in downtown Budapest talking about planning to attend Kurultáj.

By the way there is a very good book which I recommend (it’s actually more like a long article): Sebastian Junger’s Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

Istvan
Guest

Thanks for the reference to Sebastian Junger’s Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging. I read a review of the book and noted immediately that there was actually a critique of the military in it relating to combat veterans who come home to find themselves missing the closeness and bonding of that experience along with the controlled fear. Apparently he also wrote a book titled War which also focused in on the combat experience.

It”s a slightly different experience for officers because of command authority and formal rules about fraternizing with enlisted personnel. This isn’t a rule limited to social and potential sexual relationships, but extends to things like officers who call subordinates by their first names, which may bring his or her authority or fairness into question. The truth is our post service relationships tend to be with other officers and NCOs, who have shared the intense isolation of command in situations of combat.

I agree that we want as humans to have a tribal sense of belonging and that tribal chiefs in order to control and command must create a space between themselves and the rank and file of the tribe.

Guest

Is this all for real? I can’t believe these guys are serious …

Is this another idea to help in “dumbing down” the Hungarian people? Teach them Russian and some crazy pseudo-religion?

And do you have to show your “Mongolian spot” to be acepted in these circles?

As I’ve written yesterday, the gap between the civilsed West and Hungary seems to be getting larger …

Many of the people I know are more and more frustrated, thinking of leaving the country, workers as well as employers who can’t get enough qualified personnel.

Jean P.
Guest

“Teach them Russian and some crazy pseudo-religion?”

No religion is more pseudo than any other religion.

Joe Simon
Guest

Hungarian TV has been inundated by American ‘culture’, trashy soap-operas like: Sex and the City, Two and a half men, Friends, etc., all utter trash. Not to mention National Geographic’s historical documentaries on the WWII, for example, all serf-serving and one sided presentations of historical events.
Some Russian cultural influence could be helpful, as a counterweight.

Observer
Guest

@fidesznik joe
I am great admirer and reader of Russian literature, I recommend it, just as the great Americam one.
Re. one sided presentation of history you are right, the historians are on one side, the fidesznik servants on the other. But hey, what do you care about the real world, you look at the world from Felcsut.

Guest

My wife well remembers the wonderful tv program she was forced to watch in Communist times …
Actually she didn’t – because for many years she couldn’t afford a tv and didn’t miss it!

Now we have more than a hundred channels from all over the world – so no one is forced to watch the shows that Joe Simon seems to be a fan of …

PS:
Joe, with all your comments you prove that you’re really “simple simon ” – funny in a way.

PPS:
How many tv channels do you have in Russia?

Guest

Re: that ‘wonderful tv program’

Would love to know the name. If I recall watching Magyar tv back in those ‘helyes’ times there was hardly any ‘tv’ as what I was used to. What I recall seeing was usually locked up with the state naturally. Then they got enterprising with showing the ‘krimis’ later on. Naturally ….of the decadent West.

tappanch
Guest

Another Fidesz financial scandal. A Fidesz-mandated audit company creates its profits from taxpayers’ money. But a web of offshore companies sink the profits into a black hole.

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http://nol.hu/belfold/offshore-halozat-a-fidesz-kedvenc-ceg-mogott-egy-szazmillios-vezert-nagyon-vedenek-1626921

Observer
Guest

And who was jumping around about A. Simor’s already sold Cyprus co.
All the Cypriots are nominal owners while the real ones’ identify is registered, but not public. Contrary to Hungary, info doesn’t leak out so easily from Cyprus.

linky
Guest

But why isn’t the opposition jumping now? About this or any other off-shore deals.

Orban very successfully introduced the term “off-shore lovag” (off-shore knight) which stuck on Simor.

Why can’t the left-wing be as effective one wonders.

Observer
Guest

The terms has stuck in the minds of the ignorant and the fideszniks (which is often the same thing). In our minds these are examples of the shameless lying and slander, which are some of the highest achievements of the regime.

The democratic side is not so effective because
– it feels constrained by the truth and some manners,
– it was also constrained by its respect for democracy and could not turn the state media into its mouthpiece, and
– finally did not have any designs to annihilate the opposition media in order to achieve complete dominance on the market (which wit the benefit of hindsight it should have had in order to fight the fascist regime building).

Guest

And because almost all media are controlled by Fidesz – so most people wouldn’t see/read/hear it anyway!

webber
Guest

And because the Hungarian police are now pursuing whistle-blowers and investigative reporters for prosecution for “harassment.”
Press freedom Hungary – you are free to publish anything you want about Fideszniks. After you do, you will go to jail.
http://index.hu/belfold/2016/08/09/rendorseg_taso_laszlo_transparency_international_direkt36_vagyonnyilatkozat/

Guest
After WWII ended countries embarked on a path of recovering from the war and assessing their identity in the face of great tragedy. But for Jobbik’s Vona though ‘identity’ cannot be built on tragedies because it will inevitably lead to more and more confrontation’. Considering the cultural and political realties relating to identity noted in Professor’s piece it appears a country has thrown its lot to one who has given it great tragedy and I will say some mortal wounds that have not healed. Ironically with the West particularly the US getting more and more frozen out in a shaky relationship the confrontation Vona apparently speaks about could get edgier and edgier with Magyarorszag’s cultural policies with the Russian state. It would appear the Magyar pm and the modern Czar have a keen understanding of the role of ideology in the constant fight for political, economic and cultural influence in the world today. They are Direktor baratok par excellence. Astute I’d say in instituting ideology as a driving force in keeping power and keeping the drive toward illiberalist government. The West composed of the US, Europe and all other democratic states may need to understand that better if they expect… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

Neither the shady business dealings and political connections nor the death in a police car 28+ months ago of Thomas Wallace (Welsz) are investigated seriously.

Welsz left behind a truckload of documents, which were taken away by the authorities on the day of his death or murder.

http://nol.hu/belfold/welsz-nem-akarta-a-sirba-vinni-minden-titkat-de-utana-dobjak-1626977

Guest

Re: ‘Pető correctly points out that Lezsák is not only infatuated with Hungarians’ Turanian origin but is also an advocate of closer relations between Hungary and Russia’

Perhaps with the way the buddy-buddy relationship is going one day Magyars will find out through scientific ‘research’ that they have some ‘Rus’ in them. And that will no doubt be something to close up the ‘closer relations’ circle. A one big happy family.

tappanch
Guest

The Orban government started the propaganda campaign for its October referendum on electric poles ten days ago, without asking permission from the local governments or the electric companies.

Remark: it was declared illegal for the opposition parties to use the same poles in the 2014 election.

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http://www.kisalfold.hu/dunantul/tudta_kampany_tablaerdo_a_villanyoszlopokon_a_gyor_kornyeki_falvakban/2485417/

tappanch
Guest

For the referendum to be considered valid, (W’+H’+E’)/(W+H+E) >= 50% should be true, where W= voters working in Western Europe, H= voters residing in Hungary, E= “new” voters with residence in neighboring countries.

The government will make sure that W’=0. How will it establish E = ? Will E be declared = E’ = actual voters in Transylvania (Romania) and Voyvodina (Serbia)?

Observer
Guest

The law applies to those whom I say it applies to – illiberal democracy principle.

PALIKA
Guest

And it does not apply to its maker, unless he chooses it should. A dearly cherished relic of the Kadar regime.

Guest

Just a reminder:

This propaganda campaign has been going on for a long time already, all kinds of media are being used down to lowly advertising leaflets (like szuperinfo) which are distributed to all households.

It’s like a constant hammering and makes me wonder:

Is Fidesz maybe even afraid that people might vote against them? Or that not enough people go to the voting booths?

Maybe that idiotc camapaign, now including the electricity poles, will make people angry even – so they’ll stay at home maybe?

Anyway it will be “interesting” to see what other ideas they produce.

The whole affair really reminds one of Communist times propaganda …

PALIKA
Guest

Yes, indeed it does. Marxists and their weird followers do not have monopoly of propaganda. It is an ancient art form and goes back to long before the onset of communism.

Guest

What about Fidesz and their weird followers?

Palika, where do you see marxists in Hungary?

I haven’t met anyone yet?

Since you’re watching from afar you surely have a better view …

PALIKA
Guest

I was looking at propaganda historically. A long term perspective can help to keep one calm

Guest

But the other commenters here are looking at today’s Hungary – some even (have to …) live here!

This is not a history seminar …

And to show you what’s really going on behind all the propaganda:

So far nearly 20 billion forints (EUR 64m) of taxpayer money have been spent on building the prime minister’s “luxury residence” in the castle, Budapest DK politician Erzsébet Gy Németh told MTI. At the same time, general conditions in the country are deteriorating, including reports about no hot meals in a Hungarian hospital and 24 planned operations at the Heim Pál Children’s Hospital in Budapest postponed because of shortage of doctors, she added.
http://dailynewshungary.com/eur-64m-taxpayer-money-spent-building-prime-ministers-residence-castle/

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