Viktor Orbán’s speech on October 23: Selections

Today as I was looking for articles about yesterday's celebrations I spent some time reading the comments on a piece that appeared in There were about 100 comments at the time I looked and the overwhelming majority of them had a very low opinion of Viktor Orbán's speech. Perhaps one day I will translate some of them for the amusement of many.

Among the comments I found the following: "In your opinion what would the world think of us if someone translates this Orbán oration verbatim because this is terribly embarrassing." Actually he used a slang word for embarrassing, "ciki." Well, I took note and decided to translate selections from the speech which, according to the commentators, he delivered on the top of his lungs. Half way through he lost his voice.


"It happened here, on this square, at 9 o'clock in the evening. Imre Nagy in one of the second-floor rooms of the northern wing stepped on a table in front of a window and looked down on this square…. When he saw the tumultuous crowd, he became dizzy for a moment. It was perhaps the sight that must have been shocking, but he said: Comrades! A protesting murmur ran through the crowd: we are not comrades, the nation came here–yelled somebody. In 1956 the Hungarian nation was reborn.

"It seemed that only inhabitants, workers, collapsing staves without a hoop lived in a place where once a grand nation ready for great things had flourished…. Imre Nagy who stepped in front of that window understood that… On this square Hungary stood. A nation that is united by the voices of the heart, the words of blood, a thousand common years, gloriously raised and lowered flags, identical goals, ideas and mission…. Later Imre Nagy became one of our greatest national heroes when in a show trial he defended the purity of the revolution and the honor of his fellow martyrs. We are grateful for it. [Applause]

"The Hungarians' sigh of freedom (szabadságsóhaj) knocked out the first brick from the wall of communism and through that opening decades later the whole socialist regime was carried away by the draught." [Laughter and applause]

"We who stood in line in 1990 in order to drive our own nails into the coffin of communism, we who took part in the two-thirds revolution of the election this April [ovation, applause] know the feeling when someone stands behind us who encourages us, who tells us to thrust out our jaws and straighten ourselves and step forward without hesitation. We know what it is like when somebody leads us through events that are chaotic, inscrutable and entangled and who directs us toward the fulfillment of our mission … and who unites the life of the masses with a thousand faces in a common fate. And this is what happened in 1956 with arms in hand, in 1990 with a constitutional revolution, and in 2010 with the two-thirds revolution. This is how history is being born, this is how a nation is reborn. [Applause]

"We are the ones who considered it our mission to continue the struggle [of our parents and grandparents], we are the ones who thought that it is we who must build an independent and free Hungarian homeland. For twenty years we got together yearly on this day that commemorates the event and we made a quiet oath…. That we will finish the struggle they began. In spite of the 1990 change of regime and free elections we have felt in the last twenty years that something holds down our hands, shackles, ensnares us, and therefore we cannot really begin the work that would make Hungary free, just, and successful. In brief, happy. A country of a happy nation. In vain was there a change of regime because in the last twenty years–as fog in autumn mornings–a feeling was spreading over us that the history of 1956 was unfinished. For twenty years we have been asking ourselves, from each other, from history, from Almighty God whether those who sacrificed their lives, who risked their freedom during the fall of 1956, and those hundreds of thousands who pennilessly were searching for a new fatherland, did all these people rebel only so that half a century after the world of the comrades had collapsed unscrupulous adventurers would squander the wealth of the nation? That they would speculate on the future of ten million people? No, they imagined a different future. They were ready to give their lives for a different future.

"1956 was the unfinished history of Hungarians until this year. The two-thirds revolution freed us, the inheritors of 1956, from feeling on the day of the revolution that after all we have to fight again. [At this point the orator lost his voice, the audience applauds.] The fight for the free formation of Hungarian life possibilities (életlehetőség) came to a close. This fight ended with our victory, the victory of the fifty-sixers, the victory of free Hungarians in April 2010. In 1956 Hungarians defeated the lies on the streets. Today we decided and delivered the coup de grâce to the regime of lies. [Applause] And with this came–because we brought it and because we opened it–the age of national unity…. No one can take away our freedom that we achieved according to the democratic norms of the world. No outside force can take it away from us. [Applause] There are times when for justice one can only die …. but we don't want to die for justice but live in a just world. … We received the opportunity to open the new just century of the Hungarians. Let's give thanks for it.

"Let's be honest. We are prone to skepticism… There is the choir of tempting doubters: they are bigger than you, stronger than you, you don't have enough strength. If the 56ers had listened to temptation, the brick wall of communism would still stand today. If in 1989 we didn't demand the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, today Central Europe would still be full of them. If we had allowed doubt to enter our minds we wouldn't stand here today and people would regret until the moment of their death that they had let the opportunity slip from their hands. And we know that at the time of the regime change Hungary let itself be talked out of certain things. We know that this was a big mistake…. That was a good lesson that is worth keeping in mind. When there is opportunity, when the door opens, one mustn't hesitate. It doesn't matter how hard that wood seems, one must cut into it. We must keep in mind the new century of the Hungarians and the doubts must be discarded. We didn't win in the spring to leave everything as of old. The 56ers didn't sacrifice their lives, our parents didn't guard the truth during the dictatorship, we didn't go through with the regime change, we didn't manage to survive the last eight years so that when the door to the future opened we should balk, we should hesitate. Such an opportunity comes only once. This opportunity is ours. We fought for it and we mustn't allow anyone to take it away from us. They didn't allow it, we don't either.

"The nation said yes to complete change: the constitution, the laws, public morality, the taboos, the commands, the goals, the circumstances, the values, the media, the protection of the environment, the schools, and the procurement. Everything which is against man and against the nation. Everything that is irrational, immoral, everything which is against life. We must change the way we pay taxes and the way we treat our " brothers in nation" [nemzettestvér, a favorite word of the Hungarian Nazis in the 1930s and 40s and today of Jobbik, Applause]. If we raise our eyes and look through the ruins of the last eight years we can see the new century of the Hungarians. There will be a country before us where things happen according to our reckoning, according to our standards. Where a strong state will defend the public good and will cut the hydra's arms, tear the nets of masks and traps[?]. We will see a country where meaningless and stupid rules don't hinder those who work and who start a business. A country where foreigners pay the same taxes as Hungarians [applause], where the state guarantees the security of the pensioners and the value of their pensions, and where the state doesn't allow people to risk their pensions in the stock market. A country where those succeed who do an honest day's work, not those who earn their living by trickery and speculation. A country where it is worth bringing up a child, where people pay their taxes because the system is simple and transparent. We will have a century where we will take everybody along, even the vanquished of the earlier age … we are not leaving anyone under the ruins of the ancient regime. [Applause] We will have a century in which the world will respect the Hungarians again.

"But we are still at the beginning of the journey…. If Hungarians allow doubts to creep in, then they will lose tomorrow. I'm telling you, we have have only one year to swing into action, to finish the important changes, to remake the country. We have only one year to create the foundations of a successful Hungarian life… to turn around the age of decline and debasement and set the country on a rising path. Not hastily, but with circumspection and with quick steps.

"We mustn't listen to those who lament and croak and who are always unsure of themselves. Those who doubt our strength and talent, because these people wittingly or unwittingly become the defenders of the past. But we, Hungarians, don't want to be the defenders of the past but want to be the men of the future. We are those Hungarians who declared war on the Soviet Union. Those who fought against them with arms in hand. Those who eventually sent home their soldiers. And finally, without loss of life we saved our fatherland from the falling beams of communism. [Applause]

"So, we really know what difficult times mean. We know how the axe trembles in our hands when we hit hard wood. There were hard times after 1956, but we, Hungarians, are still here. There were hard times in the last eight years also. Four years ago on this very day the storm troopers beat peaceful demonstrators [indignant hooting] but we Hungarians are here, and they will soon be where they belong." [Cheers, applause and screaming]

"Hard times still may come but they will end and then we Hungarians will be here because hard times are never as persistent as tough men. Forward Hungary, forward Hungarians!"


  1. There is a saying attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”
    Hope he was right.

  2. An: “There is a saying attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” Hope he was right.”
    Meeting of the minds. Back in August I wrote a piece in Galamus in which I called Orbán’s attention to that saying. It seems that Ferenc Gyurcsány read it and liked it. He himself quoted it in his blog:

  3. I’m afraid that if he fools 40% of the voters all of the time and doctors the election rules in such a way that this is enough for Fidesz to keep at least a majority in seats, he will still be in power for a very long time.

  4. I’ve never understood why people are so keen on quoting pithy things other people have said, as if they were laws of nature or great truths.
    Something doesn’t become true or meaningful just because someone else said it, no matter who they are.
    OK, so technically, you can’t fool ALL the people ALL the time (in fact wording it like that just shows how pointless the original statement is). But even the briefest awareness of history will tell you that you CAN actually fool nearly all the people for long enough to do what you want to do.
    We elected Blair, we believed what Clegg said, the Americans elected Bush, even though that election was clearly corrupt, almost the whole UK government was convinced that invading Iraq made sense, for over a hundred years people have believed that an upper class man who’d never done a stroke of work in his life somehow understood the plight of the working people, and, for over two thousand years, vast numbers of people have believed that a man about whom we know almost nothing was our saviour, because another man said so.
    Not to mention the Roman Church and the fact that HItler was democratically elected.
    Clearly, you CAN fool ‘all’ the people ‘all’ the time.

  5. An: “Hope he was right.”
    Sure Lincoln was right; Hungarian population could be fooled for 8 years, but not longer.

  6. @Paul: Obviously the quote is an exaggeration and I was just expressing wishful thinking on my part.
    There is a hint of truth in it though, as deliberate deception is hard to maintain for a long period of time (but yes, you can maintain them long enough historically to practically do what you want). It takes a lot of work and leads to a distortion of reality, most likely making the person eventually believing in the world he made up himself. And not being able to see reality for what it is will cloud a person’s decisions and eventually will lead to mistakes.

  7. Apologies for this late post on the subject of the 56 ‘revolution’, but I haven’t had much time to read this blog over the last few days.
    I’ve just finished reading Under the Frog, and, by coincidence, I reached the bit about the outbreak of the revolution on the 23rd itself. As I was reading Éva’s reporting on Orbán’s speech, I was also deep in Fischer’s (seemingly accurate) recreation of the actual events.
    All of which led me to realise, that although I’ve read about the events of those few weeks in various history books, I’ve never seen any in-depth eye witness accounts in English. The nearest I’ve come are a few brief articles in the Hungarian Quarterly and Bob Dent’s excellent book on the sites of the 56 revolution.
    Do such accounts exist in English? If so, can anyone recommend some to me?
    One particular area of interest is how exactly people got out. This is somewhat glossed over in Fischer’s book, even though his story is presumably based on real events (his father’s escape?).
    On this particular area, I wondered if Éva might be prepared to share with us her own story of how she escaped?
    One last thing – if you haven’t read Under the Frog, do so asap, it’s an excellent book and a really good read. Much better than those of his later works I’ve read. Bob Dent’s book is also well worth a read.

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