Fidesz internal politics and the Romanian Hungarian parties

The Fidesz bigwigs are divided on whether they want to support MPP (Magyar Polgári Párt) or EMNP (Erdélyi Magyar Néppárt) in Romania. But they definitely don’t want anything to do with Hunor Kelemen’s RMDSZ (Román-Magyar Demokratikus Szövetség) which according to the opinion polls is the strongest Hungarian party in Romania with about 80% of the ethnic Hungarian vote.

Fidesz politicians have been frequent visitors in Romania of late because of the municipal elections that will be held tomorrow. But they have been campaigning for different anti-RMDSZ parties. Tamás Deutsch campaigned for EMNP in Județul Bihor (Bihar megye) a week or so ago. A few days later, István Tarlós, mayor of Budapest, visited Odorheiu Secuiesc/Székelyudvarhely in Județul Harghita (Hargita megye) campaigning for Jenő Szász, the chairman of MPP. Tarlós actually went there to initiate a sister-city relationship between Budapest and Székelyudvarhely, but he refused to hand over the invitation to the current mayor who is affiliated with RMDSZ. Instead, it was deposited with the mayoral hopeful, Jenő Szász, an old friend of László Kövér.

László Kövér, Jenő Szász, and a perfect little Szekler

So, what’s going on? Most of the commentators are baffled and I am no exception. But one possible explanation is that the attitudes of Fidesz politicians toward the political formations of the Hungarian minority in Romania may be a reflection of a real political divide within the party.

More than a third of Fidesz voters could easily see themselves voting for Jobbik even though there is no question that Jobbik is a successor to the Hungarian Arrow Cross Movement of Ferenc Szálasi, a Nazi party. There is no sharp division between Jobbik and Fidesz. One seamlessly blends into the other.

This blending is possible because Fidesz, like any other large party that draws its membership from far and wide, includes people of diverse political views. That division also exists in the party leadership. I would definitely place László Kövér and Sándor Lezsák in the right wing of Fidesz while Tibor Navracsics and Zoltán Pokorni belong on the left. István Tarlós is not officially a member of the party but some of his utterances and decisions attest to his decidedly rightist political views. It’s enough to think of  his allowing one of the Budapest theaters to be directed by a Jobbik sympathizer and an anti-Semitic dramatist. Kövér is most likely responsible for the removal of the statue of Mihály Károlyi, and I suspect that the idea of restoring the square in front of the parliament building to its state prior to March 19, 1944 was his idea.

László Kövér spent a rather long time at law school because as a student he was also taking courses in history at the Faculty of  Arts, though as far as I know he didn’t get a degree in history.  But his historical studies seem to have been in vain. All the clichés about the causes of the Treaty of Trianon can be found in Kövér’s speeches, some of them delivered in Romania. Moreover, his sponsorship of József Nyirő’s reburial is not an accident. It follows a pattern. The party Kövér is supporting in Romania is considered to be a far-right party.

Sándor Lezsák is another Fidesz leader, one of the deputy speakers of the house, who can be seen promoting far-right organizations. He can be seen around a far-right “civic” organization that is rewriting early Hungarian history. At the moment, their members are proceeding on horseback to Kazakhstan. These are the same people who are enamored by runic writing and the uniqueness of the Hungarians’ genes.

It seems to me that it is this right wing of Fidesz that is behind Jenő Szász and MPP. Mainstream Fidesz, including Viktor Orbán, seems to be supporting László Tőkés’s new party, EMNP. Tőkés is definitely Orbán’s man. Although Tőkés became well known for his role in the outbreak of the Romanian revolution against Ceauşescu in 1989, his later political fortunes were aided by Viktor Orbán. The new party organized by Tőkés and most likely assisted financially by Fidesz came into being only this past February.

So, here is the odd situation that two leading members of Fidesz support two different Hungarian parties in Romania.  According to rumors Kövér and Orbán both have very strong views on the matter. An aside: It’s possible that one of Kövér’s problems with Tőkés is the Hungarian Reformed bishop’s “murky” private life. Only recently a book appeared about Tőkés in Hungary that shows the good bishop in a less than favorable light. Apparently the book is selling well in Romania, but it is hard to tell whether it will have an impact on the outcome of the election.

If the polls are correct and the Hungarian votes go to RMDSZ, Fidesz support of these two opposing parties is really irrelevant as far as Romanian politics are concerned. The divide over Hungarian parties in Romania may shed light, however, on internal divisions within Fidesz. Let us not forget that a few days ago when Ágnes Vadai (DK MP) asked about the emerging Horthy cult and the reburial of József Nyirő some Fidesz members of parliament joined their Jobbik colleagues in trying to drown her out. Jobbik and the right wing of Fidesz are often soul mates.

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45 comments

  1. The two parties (MPP and EMNP), although they have disagreements, agreed to not compete in tomorrow’s local elections in Cluj/Kolozsvar county and nominated only one common candidate for each place where they run. I guess their FIDESZ attachment won over their local disputes.

    I would like to add a not so trivial fact to this topic: the Hungarian government provides relatively substantial financial support to various Hungarian cultural and educational organizations in Romania. It should be obvious that the amounts received by organizations supported by RMDSZ (and not supported ny EMNP and/or MPP) had their support reduced in favor of those supported by the other two.

  2. Orban and his government just do what they do best, dividing Hungarians and tells everyone else to f::ck off. They try to buy political influence from Hungarians taxpayers money. THey are bullies and nothing seems to stop them. Poor Hungariand just cannot see the damage these clowns do for Hungarian reputation.

  3. I have several comments here.
    1) It is always a mistake to divide the Hungarian parties in the surrounding areas. It woudl be much better for Hungarians to speak with one common voice.
    2) I wish the Hungarian governments, churches, civic organizations would give fat least as much financial assitanse as erstwhie Rumania gave to the Transylvanian Rumanians.
    3) Just a question. Did or do any of the blog contributors support Csaba Bojtos’ humanitarian efforts in Rumania?

  4. @It is always a mistake to divide the Hungarian parties in the surrounding areas

    FIDESZ/Kover has very low opinion about RMDSZ :

    for instance Kover declared recently while visiting Satu Mare/Sztmar :

    “I did not come to Romania to argue with them (ie RMDSZ-leaders). I tell you, they are so insignificant for me that I did not want even to mention their names”

    If I understand his charges (there must be a text in Hungarian somewhere if you can find it and check) he implies that they (the RMDSZ leaders) are more Romanian than Hungarian.
    It looks as if Kover is a bit psychotic but I guess he is just attacking/insulting in a way which he thinks is very painful.

  5. Kovach:

    “2) I wish the Hungarian governments, churches, civic organizations would give fat least as much financial assitanse as erstwhie Rumania gave to the Transylvanian Rumanians.”

    The Romanian government distributes its tax revenues to all regions of the country in the form of entitlements (health care, pensions etc.) and other forms, as required by the laws of Romania. It is not done based on ethnicity of the recipients. The Hungarian government distributes money to Hungarian ethnic organizations that agree with the Hungarian governments opinions. There is no connection whatsoever between the two actions (other than both are about money).

    “3) Just a question. Did or do any of the blog contributors support Csaba Bojtos’ humanitarian efforts in Rumania?”

    Franciscan monk’s Bojte’s charitable organization has nothing to do with this topic. Anyway, I doubt that he is doing his charitable work based on ethnicity.

  6. some partial results from the local elections in Romania
    –the result of FIDESZ’s “Nyiro-Gambit” :
    Szasz Jeno(MPP) lost to Levente Bunta -RMDSZ (the acting mayor, Bunta opposed the Nyiro ceremony)

    http://itthon.transindex.ro/?hir=29522

    Overall RMDSZ did better than in 2008, it won 200 mayors (184 in 2008).

    It seems that RMDSZ won even in places where Hungarians are well under 50% ! (not really an extraordinary thing actually , for instance in Satu Mare/Szatmar the Romanians are 60% while Hungarians are 37% ( ~3% other Ukrainians, Gypsies, Germans, etc.) but since 2004 the mayor has been a Hungarian from RMDSZ (I.Ilyes) and may win again now.

  7. Ovidiu :

    some partial results from the local elections in Romania
    –the result of FIDESZ’s “Nyiro-Gambit” :
    Szasz Jeno(MPP) lost to Levente Bunta -RMDSZ (the acting mayor, Bunta opposed the Nyiro ceremony)

    That is especially warms my heart! Nyirő didn’t help. In fact, it might have had the opposite effect the whole circus intended to achieve.

  8. A footnote to the above. You remember that Budapes mayor Tarlós wouldn’t hand the invitation for a sister-city offer between Budapest and Székelyudvarhely to the current mayor? Instead he gave it to Szász. Well, what will happen now? Szász will give it to the current and newly elected mayor, or the offer will be withdrawn? Knowing the Fidesz mentality I bet on the latter.

  9. Ovidiu :
    some partial results from the local elections in Romania
    –the result of FIDESZ’s “Nyiro-Gambit” :
    Szasz Jeno(MPP) lost to Levente Bunta -RMDSZ (the acting mayor, Bunta opposed the Nyiro
    Overall RMDSZ did better than in 2008, it won 200 mayors (184 in 2008)……..even in places where Hungarians are well under 50% !

    I guess the Hungarians across the Romanian border are much smarter than the Hungarians inside the border and were able to see through the BS. Hugarians in much better position across the Atlantic should take notice too.

  10. I think if it were possible to deduce from the limited susceptibility of (some) Hungarians in Romania and Slovakia to the weird world of OV about what went wrong in Hungary “anyaorszag”, something could be learned. This “psychopath” theory of OV or some psychological factors in Hungarians are not really helpful. So what could explain that Hungarians in Romania in their majority appear to favour a modern outlook? The conflict that is absent in Romania is this “was Kadar = all Communists good or bad” (Ceaucescu was for all practical purposes “bad”), but it is not Trianon or minority policies, or corruption and dubious transactions of politicians. Is there something in the ideas that are communicated between Hungarians in the neighbouring countries that they appear to be more immune against OV? Or is the difference that Romania and Slovakia do in some way protect the rights and freedoms of those Hungarians who have a more modern outlook – against their nationalist fellow citizens and their “seizure” by OV and the Hungarian nationalists…?

  11. Kirsten :
    I think if it were possible to deduce from the limited susceptibility of (some) Hungarians in Romania and Slovakia to the weird world of OV about what went wrong in Hungary “anyaorszag”, something could be learned. This “psychopath” theory of OV or some psychological factors in Hungarians are not really helpful. So what could explain that Hungarians in Romania in their majority appear to favour a modern outlook? The conflict that is absent in Romania is this “was Kadar = all Communists good or bad” (Ceaucescu was for all practical purposes “bad”), but it is not Trianon or minority policies, or corruption and dubious transactions of politicians. Is there something in the ideas that are communicated between Hungarians in the neighbouring countries that they appear to be more immune against OV? Or is the difference that Romania and Slovakia do in some way protect the rights and freedoms of those Hungarians who have a more modern outlook – against their nationalist fellow citizens and their “seizure” by OV and the Hungarian nationalists…?

    Well, the main difference is that they don’t live in Hungary, and hasn’t for almost a hundred years now. That means a different 100 years of history (one you point out yourself is the difference between the Kadar and the Caucescu regimes, but also the political regimes in the 30s in the two countries were different), and that could mean a different collective mindset. For example, they won’t have any nostalgic feeling neither towards the Kadar, nor the Horthy regimes. OV is actually building on both these nostalgic tendencies in the Hungarian society, openly displaying sympathies with the Horthy regime, implicitly building on sympathies with the Kadar regime (e.g. bashing foreign capitalists, increasing state control in the economy, “the state knows better” attitude).

    My hunch is that extreme right wing/nazi ideologies haven’t been as popular among Romanian Hungarians as in Hungary in recent years. I still do think that a lot of right wingers are directly coming from or supported by aristocratic Horthy fans who fled Hungary in the late 40s and in the 50s . Now, these families are either physically back in Hungary or exerting their influence from abroad (I have yet to see a Hungarian restaurant in the US that doesn’t display the Great Hungary map).

    Add to the mix that Romanian Hungarians haven’t been exposed to OVs divisive machination in full force for 20 years as Hungarians living in Hungary were (the groundwork for today’s political divisions and black-and-white thinking has been done while OV was in opposition). In short, they are in a different spot (geographically and figuratively).

  12. London Calling!

    I don’t want to put the cat amongst the pigeons – but are the Hungarians stranded in Trianonland really Hungarians?

    Trianon was based on Hungarian-‘SPEAKING’ demographics.

    In 1848, for example Romanians and Slavs were effectively forced to learn only Hungarian in school. (When Latin was the official language too?)

    It is entirely likely that multi-lingual inhabitants would have felt it necessary to say Hungarian was their first language.

    So Hungarian-speaking non-Hungarians! (Who don’t give a hoot about OV and Hungary proper?)

    So will we ever know the true picture?

    Regards

    Charlie

  13. So, if all these Romanian Hungarians were forcefully Hungarized, why didn’t they just switch back to Romanian identity? Not to mention that Romanians were just as keen on “Romanizing” Hungarians … though later.

    By the same logic, only a small percentage of people living in Hungary is really Hungarian (as there was so much mixing with other people even in recent history, with Slavs, Germans)

    And what about you own homeland? Who is English, really?

    This really does not add anything to the point; let just people define their own ethnic identity. If these people identify themselves as Hungarians, then they are.

  14. There have been a few misunderstandings concerning Romanian role in Horthy’s appearance on the political scene in 1919 fall. I will need a little more time to set things straight. I did a lot of research on the subject but mostly from American, British, and Hungarian sources. In those days it would have been impossible to gain excess to Romanian archives. But, in short, the Romanians didn’t help Horthy at all. On the contrary, if they could have they would have gotten rid of him. But more details later.

  15. gdfx. In the various contributions I was referring to the pre 1914 monies flowing into the Rumanian churches schools and civic organizations from Rumania (ASTR, etc.), versus the current reverse flow from Hungary

    Re my question, I was just wondering if the blog contributr are charitabla……without ethnicity!

  16. Dr Balogh. You realized this only now????? I have never found any evidence of Rumanian assistance to Horthy, just as there was no evidence of Serbian assistance to him. Although the Horthy regime was born of a trifecta Arad, Szeged, Vienna. Both Arad and Szeged were under quasi French control and in those days not Rumanian or Serb.

  17. This really does not add anything to the point; let just people define their own ethnic identity. If these people identify themselves as Hungarians, then they are.

  18. London Calling!

    An(na) – Yes precisely!

    That’s why so few have re-located to Hungary. That’s why no conclusions can be drawn – let Trianon be!

    Yes I am English! And would choose nowhere else to live – I enjoy Scotland, Wales and Ireland – even with an Anglo-Saxon/Celt/Pict DNA, I have no urge to live there!

    Regards

    Charlie

  19. Maybe the RMDSZ should organize a party in Hungary and compete in the next parliamentary election against Fidesz!

  20. Intervention of Fidesz abroad against a party is a sure guarantee for success. This happened in Slovakia and Serbia and now in Romania.

  21. Na, your suggestions are quite convincing. In particular that those who were the most opposed to living “abroad” will have moved to Hungary. I still have hopes that the Hungarians in Romania and Slovakia could be of use for Hungary proper, in exactly the opposite way of what Laszlo Köver may envisage. Currently at least their example shows that one can easily discard the idea of subservience, culturally or otherwise.

  22. “In 1848, for example Romanians and Slavs were effectively forced to learn only Hungarian in school”

    Sorry, I know we were note exactly nice to the nationalities living in Hungary during the times of Austria-Hungary, but I had to look this one up… especially that compulsory schooling for the public started in 1868… so in 1848, probably a lot of the nationalities (and poor Hungarians) were not even going to school, and those who were, probably were going to church schools.

    So in 1868, when they made schooling compulsory, there was no restriction as to the language of instruction. Later, the government made attempts to promote the Hungarian language, so in 1879 they made the teaching of Hungarian compulsory in schools (not as the language of instruction, but as a school subject). So minorities could still get schooled in their native language, but they had to learn Hungarian on top of that.

    Then in 1907 the law became even stricter (creating an outcry among nationalities), having stipulations, such as:

    “According to Article 18 the language of instruction at the schools of the nationalities would continue to be determined by the organization sponsoring the school, but where there was no school with Hungarian as the language of instruction, yet at least 20 students spoke Hungarian as their mother tongue, they must be taught in Hungarian even in the denominational school. ”
    http://www.hungarianhistory.com/lib/biro/biro11.htm

    Still, there is no word about having the instruction solely in Hungarian.

    Where did you get your info?

  23. I checked the link…don’t really like it, seems like another Wass Albert crowd…. but I assume they do quote the 1907 law true to the original, as I read similar info on Hungarian sites as well. Just included here because it was in English. Other than the quote, nothing else is from that site.

  24. London Calling!

    An(na) – Your homework is very illuminating – and didactic – thank you! I hope I didn’t offend you.

    But I may have inadvertently set a hare running.

    The bit you focussed on was preceded by the words: ‘for example’ – and it may not have been a good one.

    The point I was making is that the Trianon treaty has been analysed against the information available at the time – namely census data which was based on ‘Hungarian-speaking’ self-selecting data series.

    As you better expressed the point – this is not necessarily an indication of nationality – the true definition is “If these people identify themselves as Hungarians, then they are” – as you say. But of course this is un-measurable.

    You are also correct in saying that ‘imposed-lingua-franca’ was occurring all around the region and may well have resulted in a zero sum gain – or not.

    As for the date – I thought that the Romanians had voted ‘reluctantly’ for Hungary rather than Austria in 1848 – and assumed that ‘Hungarianisation’ had started then.

    Yes education and language teaching was taught mainly by the churches at that time (I read that too somewhere!) – and from my knowledge of English history – they can be fiercely nationalistic. ‘Effectively forced’ – may have been a bit strong but if you don’t teach other languages – and society ostracises you in ‘language-ethnic cleansing’ – then this is virtual compulsion.

    I am an innocent when it comes to ‘Language Nationalism’ – I am amazed at the hostility of Slovakians for Hungarians and vice versa even today.

    I have used Bratislava airport with my partner and can sometimes feel the hostility in the airport staff. In addition Hungarians don’t give the Slovaks the time of day when it comes to place names in Slovakia. They obdurately stick to the old names! When I hire a Slovakian car for use in Hungary – how can I put it? – the driving experience is quite different from driving a car with English or Hungarian plates!

    On a more relevant note I believe that national borders should be respected – even the Trianon ones – and no government should interfere in another’s politics unless expressly invited – as Orban’s government is doing.

    Your vote should only count if you are paying taxes and are resident in the country at the time of the elections – and fulfil the same voting criteria as other residents. Except for a responsibility to be able to communicate with the natives – – language shouldn’t enter into it.

    I find the history of Hungary fascinating – it’s even more bloody and Machiavellian than the English brand!

    But maybe I should leave the historical analysis to Eva (and other professionals)!

    Regards

    Charlie

  25. An :

    so in 1848, probably a lot of the nationalities (and poor Hungarians) were not even going to school, and those who were, probably were going to church schools.

    I’m just reading a fascinating book, A tiszaeszlári dráma by György Kövér. It is a great deal more than the title suggests. It is a thorough socio-historical study of this particular village in the 19th and 19th centuries. Kövér very thoroughly studied each social group from the nobility down to the landless servants. From 1843-44 he cites a list of people who bought fire insurance. Out of the 10 7 couldn’t read or write and signed with an X. I should add that all of them had Ns. in front of their names which meant they were of noble origin. Mind you, these nobles were as poor as as any of the feudal tenants.

    That’s not all. After 1868 when schools had to be maintained attendance was more than sporadic. The qualifications of the teachers questionable. Two schools were set up, One was maintained by the Catholic Church and the other by the Hungarian Reformed Church. By the way, the local Jewish children also attended these schools. Mostly the Calvinist one.

  26. CharlieH :
    London Calling!
    An(na) – Your homework is very illuminating – and didactic – thank you! I hope I didn’t offend you.
    But I may have inadvertently set a hare running.
    The bit you focussed on was preceded by the words: ‘for example’ – and it may not have been a good one.
    The point I was making is that the Trianon treaty has been analysed against the information available at the time – namely census data which was based on ‘Hungarian-speaking’ self-selecting data series.
    As you better expressed the point – this is not necessarily an indication of nationality – the true definition is “If these people identify themselves as Hungarians, then they are” – as you say. But of course this is un-measurable.
    You are also correct in saying that ‘imposed-lingua-franca’ was occurring all around the region and may well have resulted in a zero sum gain – or not.
    As for the date – I thought that the Romanians had voted ‘reluctantly’ for Hungary rather than Austria in 1848 – and assumed that ‘Hungarianisation’ had started then.
    Yes education and language teaching was taught mainly by the churches at that time (I read that too somewhere!) – and from my knowledge of English history – they can be fiercely nationalistic. ‘Effectively forced’ – may have been a bit strong but if you don’t teach other languages – and society ostracises you in ‘language-ethnic cleansing’ – then this is virtual compulsion.
    I am an innocent when it comes to ‘Language Nationalism’ – I am amazed at the hostility of Slovakians for Hungarians and vice versa even today.
    I have used Bratislava airport with my partner and can sometimes feel the hostility in the airport staff. In addition Hungarians don’t give the Slovaks the time of day when it comes to place names in Slovakia. They obdurately stick to the old names! When I hire a Slovakian car for use in Hungary – how can I put it? – the driving experience is quite different from driving a car with English or Hungarian plates!
    On a more relevant note I believe that national borders should be respected – even the Trianon ones – and no government should interfere in another’s politics unless expressly invited – as Orban’s government is doing.
    Your vote should only count if you are paying taxes and are resident in the country at the time of the elections – and fulfil the same voting criteria as other residents. Except for a responsibility to be able to communicate with the natives – – language shouldn’t enter into it.
    I find the history of Hungary fascinating – it’s even more bloody and Machiavellian than the English brand!
    But maybe I should leave the historical analysis to Eva (and other professionals)!
    Regards
    Charlie

  27. Charlie, I never liked what OV is doing in terms of the Hungarian minorities; I absolutely hate the idea that they are given the right to vote and that OV is meddling with the affairs of neighboring countries. I hate this renaissance cult of Trianon, and I agree with all of you that the country should just move on.

    That said , I have an issue with painting the Hungarians in this 200-300 years of history (since nationalism appeared in Eastern Europe) as the sole bad guys who only got what they deserved. Atrocities, forceful”nationalization” (Hungarianisation, Slovakisation, Romanisation), disrespect of minorities had happened on all sides over the years.

    I wish Hungarians, Romanians, Slovaks, etc… could just come together, look at the grievances they hold against each other, apologize and move on.

    I know Wikipedia is not the most reliable of sources, but just checking out these entries may give you an idea of the complexity of the issues:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magyarization
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanianization
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slovakization

  28. London Calling!

    An! I don’t understand why you have done this?

    Is it a mistake? (If it is – then I haven’t cracked the ‘quote’ function either!)

    But it appears to have no follow-up (yet!)

    My response was too long in the first place! – It’s really troubling to see it taking yet more space.

    What is your point please?

    Regards

    Charlie

  29. Kirsten :
    This “psychopath” theory of OV or some psychological factors in Hungarians are not really helpful.

    Obviously there are some other contributing factors, but we are talking about why someone with an alternative agenda gets so much support, and who is the person.
    History produced some freaks throughout Centuries like Nero, Caligula, Stalin, Hitler. It is not that I compare what they did or fought for with Orban’s fight, but do not forget what were the geographical “boundaries” for those maniacs and what is the same for Orban. Hungary is small potato, and the nations surrounding Hungary are not week or without allies. If we would not have the EU, I am sure Orban would play a much dirtier game. So, yes he is psychopath. Hi is prone to lying, he has his great lack of empathy, his lack of moral is well known, and he is a narcissist. These are all well known signs of a psychopath. So that is that.
    Those across the border who wanted to get Hungarian citizenship would of voted for him at a heartbeat, and not because they believe in everything he says, but because of their personal interests. Orban says what the masses want to hear (hence changing to liberal to conservative to supporter of far-right ideas), but he cannot deliver. His hands are tied.
    As far as Hungarians across the border, they simply do not want to stir things up. After all they are under a different government. Of course things can be improved across the borders, but Hungary is not the motor of economical progression either. The rights of all Hungarian citizens are also not really well protected in Hungary. Those Hungarians who moved into Hungary from Romania also found themselves in resistance from those Hungarians who lived inside already and were looking for jobs and opportunities. I think the HUngarians across the border realize that they have a better outlook by working with their own communities than following the Fairy tail that so far only proved to divide Hungarians, alienate other nations, and make the rich richer at the expense of the poorer demographics.

  30. The language question in general and in the Hungarian censuses in particular is rather complicated. The question is how do we determine ethnicity. On what basis? Let’s face it, it is close to impossible. Here are a couple of examples. The ethnic origin of the great Hungarian hero, Lajos Kossuth, judging by his name was Slovak. Indeed, another branch of the Kossuth family ended up Slovak speaking Slovak patriots. On the other hand, the Slovak poet, Pavol Országh, judging by his name again, had Hungarian ancestry and in fact was bilingual. He first wrote in Hungarian and only then he switched to Slovak. Thus, whether one belongs to this or that national community depends on personal choice and also circumstances.

    What do we mean by “mother tongue”? I assume someone’s first language but that language can completely disappear from someone’s life later. I had a childhood friend whose mother was Austrian married to a Hungarian. The couple settled in Pécs. At the time my friend was born, her mother didn’t know Hungarian. Thus, my friend’s mother tongue strictly speaking was German. Today, she speaks German as much as any Hungarian who learned German in school. Even mother’s German got a bit rusty after half a century in Hungary.

    The rapid Magyarization of Slovaks was achieved through two channels. (1) migration to cities from the countryside. The German inhabitants of larger cities rapidly assimilated. A good example of Buda and Pest where within fifty or so years the cities became Hungarian. Another great example is Pécs that had been settled by German immigrants at the beginning of the eighteenth century. In this respect I can even mention my own family on my mother’s side. There you cannot find a Hungarian name among the ancestors. Yet, by the time of my grandparents the movement toward Hungarian began. My grandparents were still bilingual but their daughters knew as much German as they learned in school. (2) The Hungarian government’s decision to close the only Slovak-language high school. This forced Slovak parents who wanted to educate their children to send them to Hungarian schools. As one Hungarian politician cynically remarked: “These high schools are like sausage fillers. Little Slovaks go in and adult Hungarians come out.”

    I guess, that was one of the reasons the Hungarian census takers asked for “language one speaks most fluently and often.” Because what about the off-spring of a Hungarian-speaking mother and a Slovak-speaking father emigrated from the northern Slovak-inhabited areas and settled in Budapest. What is this “mongrel” supposed to say? I guess, one other way around this problem would have been to ask the question: “What do you consider yourself? Hungarian, Romanian, Slovak, Serb?”

  31. Charlie, don’t know what happened here. My reply to this post is posted above (under your original post, under #24). In fact, now that I look at it, my reply is “awaiting moderation” (?), so it probably didn’t post. Don’t know why, I didn’t use any bad language, I can assure you 🙂

  32. Ok, decided to repost:

    Charlie, I never liked what OV is doing in terms of the Hungarian minorities; I absolutely hate the idea that they are given the right to vote and that OV is meddling with the affairs of neighboring countries. I hate this renaissance cult of Trianon, and I agree with all of you that the country should just move on.
    That said , I have an issue with painting the Hungarians in this 200-300 years of history (since nationalism appeared in Eastern Europe) as the sole bad guys who only got what they deserved. Atrocities, forceful”nationalization” (Hungarianisation, Slovakisation, Romanisation), disrespect of minorities had happened on all sides over the years.
    I wish Hungarians, Romanians, Slovaks, etc… could just come together, look at the grievances they hold against each other, apologize and move on.
    I know Wikipedia is not the most reliable of sources, but just checking out these entries may give you an idea of the complexity of the issues:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magyarization
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanianization
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slovakization

  33. Hah, tried to repost, but still doesn’t show up (awaiting moderation)… must be some really bad stuff 🙂

  34. A source that might be considered biased by some (RW Seton Watson, Racial problems in Hungary) states that after the adoption of the Primary Education Act in 1868 “all efforts were concentrated on the Magyarization of secondary schools, and primary education was allowed to lag behind.” He gives a relatively high number of communes without a school, which was also the consequence of a too low number of qualified teachers. “The backward state of primary education… must be directly ascribed to Magyarization. It is useless to erect schools unless there are teachers to fill them, and since the Magyars only form half the population of Hungary, it is clear that the supply of Magyar-speaking teachers (and only such are now appointed) cannot be adequate for the needs of the population as a whole. The non-Magyar Churches are too poor to erect fresh schools in any numbers, and Church autonomy restricts each sect to the erection of schools among its own adherents. Hence the gaps can only be filled by State and communal schools, and as the former appoint exclusively Magyar, the latter mainly Magyar teachers, the increase in teaching staff is necessarily slow.”
    Whether Magyarization was intended to proceed in this fashion or whether it was the outcome of other decisions, I do not know. But the effect was that because of the overriding idea that all people living in Hungary are “Hungarians” implicitly expecting that unity should prevail also linguistically, national development of the other nationalities was thwarted. I think this is meant by forced Magyarisation. (And by that I do not want to suggest that other nations were necessarily more generous, in particular at that time. Slovaks also objected to the education policies of the Czechs after 1918 and Czech teachers sent to Slovakia.)

  35. Kirsten :

    A source that might be considered biased by some (RW Seton Watson, Racial problems in Hungary) states that after the adoption of the Primary Education Act in 1868 “all efforts were concentrated on the Magyarization of secondary schools, and primary education was allowed to lag behind.” He gives a relatively high number of communes without a school, which was also the consequence of a too low number of qualified teachers. “The backward state of primary education… must be directly ascribed to Magyarization.

    I don’t think that a direct connection can be drawn between Magyarization and the poor state of schooling after 1868. Tiszaeszlár’s population was Hungarian-speaking and yet the situation was pretty grim. One would have to do thorough investigation of Magyar and non-Magyar village schools and determine whether there were appreciable differences between them. But I have a few books I could consult on the subject.

    Seton-Watson although he was trained as a historian was more of a propagandist. Even his son Hugh admitted that much to me when I had an opportunity to be sitting next to him at a dinner. He certainly didn’t do any research to speak of on matters he was talking about.

  36. Éva: “I don’t think that a direct connection can be drawn between Magyarization and the poor state of schooling after 1868.”

    Perhaps I should have left out this particular sentence. The problem is that the poor schooling in Tiszaeszlár has “only” led to the social problems within Magyars (exclusion of some segments of society, limited size of middle class, dominance of the nobility, franchise), while the poor schooling in areas with a majority of non-Magyar speakers has intensified the national conflict. I even doubt that this type of Magyarisation was done intentionally or was intended in that way by all, equally I do understand why many leading Magyar politicians wished a more linguistically united political nation. But it is a problem if national aspirations, defined linguistically, are overriding for one nation and doubted in the case of the other nationalities. After all, despite a realm of 1000 years, some of the other linguistic groups on Hungarian territory have been around before the Hungarians and then it was not that difficult to apply Hungarian national reasoning also to the other ethnicities. Then such education policies, even if perhaps accidentally, can be interpreted as Magyarisation (and this was also done).

  37. London Calling!

    When I said I didn’t want to set the cat among the pigeons – I think I did just that.

    The subject is much broader than I realised and the dialogue has been fascinating.

    Thank you Eva – your personal experience throws such a spotlight on the issues – and as an outsider I didn’t realise how short a time lapse this ‘melting pot’ of languages transpired.
    If only the censuses had asked the questions you suggest……. (I fear if they are incorporated in any future census it would start a propaganda war!)

    And An – I owe it to you to bog up on the links you posted – for a better understanding of the issues. I never thought Hungary was the lone transgressor in the region – but as my focus is on H S I may have an unbalanced view – which I will correct! Thanks for the links.

    I respectfully withdraw from the fray – or pick the cat up and have a strong word!
    No milk for you tonight, Tumble!

    Regards

    Charlie

  38. A few days ago we discussed education in multinational Hungary and I mentioned in a comment that public education right after the Compromise started off rather slowly. Not enough teachers and although schooling for compulsory for six or seven years attendance was sporadic in the villages.

    At this point I added that I don’t know much about it but I’m just reading a fascinating book on Tiszaeszlár and if I find out anything about the situation in that village in the 1880s I will report. Since then I learned that well over 65% of the women and over 55% of the men were illiterate. Nationwide only 50% of the children of school age attended school in the 1870s-1880s,

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