A distorted past haunts Hungarians

A few days ago an article appeared in HVG about the teaching of Hungarian history. The author rightly pointed out that it has been flawed for a very long time. I agree. Hungarians have a warped view of their country’s past.

The teaching of Hungarian history has been and still is, at least on the high school level, characterized by paranoia, a paranoia that instills defensive nationalism. Ironically, this nationalistic historical view became even more ingrained after the communist (and presumably internationalist) takeover. In 1951 the Rákosi regime published a book that had been written during the war years by a Stalinist quasi-historian, Aladár Mód. The title of the work is telling: Four Hundred Years of Struggle for Hungarian Independence. The book was a monster in more than one way. It was over 600 pages long and it was taught to high school students during their four years of studies. I learned history from it. Which meant that I knew no Hungarian history to speak of.

According to this view the greatest tragedy that befell Hungary was the Habsburg ascension to the Hungarian throne (1526). From there on Hungarians constantly fought for their independence. Even the serfs joined the ranks of the rebels of Ferenc Rákóczi II because of their burning desire for independence! Of course, I’m being sarcastic, but I would like to point out the totally unhistorical nature of this approach.

Kuruc-labanc encounter /  Wikimedia Commons

Kuruc-labanc encounter / Wikimedia Commons

It was at this time that even radio stations were named after Sándor Petőfi and Lajos Kossuth. Movie theaters as well. The first paper forints had pictures of Petőfi, Kossuth, and Ferenc Rákóczi II in addition to the 16th-century peasant leader György Dózsa. Movies made at this time and later on extolled the clever Hungarian historical heroes and contrasted them with the effete foreigners. The article in HVG notes that some of these films from the 1950s dealing with historical topics are still favorites of Hungarian viewers. And what are these films about? Their favorite themes are fictive stories about Hungarian heroes from the time of the Rákóczi Rebellion when Rákóczi’s men, the kurucok, fought the soldiers on the Habsburg side whom the Hungarians called labancok. The etymology of these words is murky. The former might have something to do with the Dózsa peasant uprising where those who eventually attacked the houses of the rich and famous were called together for a crusade against the Turks. Hence the Latin crux or cross. Labanc may have something to do with the wigs worn by the Austrian military leaders.

Why do I spend time on all this? Because Viktor Orbán often turns to the nationalistic pap that was shown in movies and on television in his childhood for inspiration. Since in Hungarian lore “kuruc” means patriot and “labanc” traitor, it is not surprising that the prime minister called opposition politicians who criticize him “labancok.” And the far-right website most likely run by prominent members of Jobbik is called kurucinfo.

Another favorite historical theme from the 1950s and 1960s was that Hungary was an Austrian colony. Of course, this was utter nonsense but it stuck, especially in the minds of those who, for example, carried the sign at the head of the Peace March last January declaring that “we will not be a colony.”

In this historical view there is only black and white. Good and evil. Here there are only good Hungarians and bad foreigners. Also missing are those non-Hungarians who made up more than half of Hungary’s population. In historical novels or movies about the Turkish wars there were only brave Hungarians fighting against the Turks at the border fortresses, as if only Hungarians were “defending Europe from the infidel.” But the truth is that there were many Croats and Serbs in those fortresses. And Vienna was defended by an international force led by a Pole that began the final expulsion of the Ottoman forces from Hungary. I bet that not too many Hungarians know that at that time the Hungarians of Imre Thököly’s army fought on the side of the Turks instead of rushing to aid Vienna.

One of the greatest rulers of the Austrian Empire who was also Queen of Hungary was Maria Theresa. Yet after World War II her statue was removed from Heroes Square. And the real hero of the final expulsion of the Turks from Hungarian territory was not a Hungarian but Charles V, Duke of Lorraine, brother-in-law of Emperor Leopold, but his name has been long forgotten in Hungary.

And finally, one more example of the many national myths: the uniform passive resistance after the 1848-1849 revolution and war of independence and the importance and effectiveness of the Kossuth emigration. Neither is true. Actually there was no serious resistance, and there was even a certain amount of collaboration of Hungarian politicians with Vienna. After all, that was the only sensible thing to do given the international situation and Hungary’s weakness. As for the Kossuth emigration, it had practically no influence on domestic politics. And yet nationalistic historians as late as the 1970s insisted that before 1867, the year of the Compromise, Hungary had a choice: revolution or continuing Hungary’s subordination to Vienna. The historian György Szabad, the first speaker of the House (1990-1994), wrote a book with the title Hungary at a Crossroads. Crossroads? There was no choice.

How can historians change these ingrained reflexes? It will be difficult. After all, people in their forties, like Viktor Orbán, still think in terms of a colonized country and four hundred years of incessant struggle for independence. They divide people into kurucok and labancok. What is even more frightening is that both Orbán and Jobbik consider themselves kurucok. 

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49 comments

  1. Dear Eva, not everything is a myth that we were taught.

    Hungary did lose its independence in 1526, this is not a myth.

    After the Turkish wars it became a Hapsburg colony with limited autonomy, didn’t it?

    Maria Theresa was the queen of counter-reformation, censorship, wasn’t she?

  2. While all the quoted examples are fully true, even if they are not necessarily the most glaring ones, the problem is much greater than the solution would be, in my opinion. This entire national navel-gazing could be eliminated in a few years, if the teachers of history would receive a decent curriculum and some guidance about what history actually is, and how it must be thought. That would take care of this poisonous problem in about 10-15 years.
    The obstacle in the way of this solution lies in the fact that the teaching of history forever is in the hands of political hacks, instead of professionals. Politicos dictate the whole process, based on opportunistically perceived interests, and the profession is willingly kowtowing to their demands.
    Nevertheless, interestingly, there is a large number of very respectable historians at least, that’s a mercy, only it is a mystery where on earth are they coming from, considering the circumstances.

  3. The kuruc bands often massacred Jews or robbed them. During the “liberation” of Buda the Buda Jews were robbed and killed by not the main army of Germans but kuruc units. The labanc units provide some protection for Jewish communities in western Hungary. After 1849 there was large scale collaboration. The Bach hussars were mainly Hungarian gentry folks.

  4. No, Dear Tappanch. All three of your claims are mistaken.
    Hungary didn’t loose her independence in 1526, the Turks only occupied Buda in 1541.
    No, Hungary remained an independent country, under Habsburg rule, severely reduced in territory, fighting the Turks for 145 years, on and off. Also preserving limited independence in Transylvania.
    The counterreformation has concluded approximately 100 years before Maria Terezia’s accession.
    Need we have any examples better then these, to show how correct and how convincing Eva’s article is?

  5. “What is even more frightening is that both Orbán and Jobbik consider themselves kurucok.”
    Then MSZP and DK are the labancok (traitors)? Ironic that you use the same stupid and simplified terminology in your blog.
    As for the teaching of history in Hungary: It’s pretty much the same in the neighbouring countries (Romania, Slovakia, Czech R. etc). I don’t say it’s good. I just say Hungary is no different (no more nationalistic, antisemitic, antiroma etc etc) from any other country in Central Europe.

  6. @Hidas
    There were no kuruc units at the siege of Buda in 1686. Thokoly’s kuruc troops supported the Turks. Most Jews were massacred by the Christian troops, German and Hungarian alike, some were spared for ransom. Read Isaac Schulhoff’s personal account on this.

    Rakoczi’s kuruc troops killed and pillaged Jews in Moravia. They were also anti-Catholic.

  7. @ambator
    The Turks permanently occupied Buda in 1541, indeed. But Hungary was torn into two camps (Szapolyai & Habsburg) and lost its independence and/or integrity in 1526.

    I know wikipedia is not an authentic source to decide a debate, but let me quote it now:

    “Maria Theresa regarded both the Jews and Protestants as dangerous to the state and actively tried to suppress them. The empress was probably the most anti-Semitic monarch of her time, having inherited the traditional prejudices of her ancestors and acquired new ones. This was a product of deep religious devotion and was not kept secret in her time. In 1777, she wrote of the Jews: “I know of no greater plague than this race, which on account of its deceit, usury and avarice is driving my subjects into beggary. Therefore as far as possible, the Jews are to be kept away and avoided.”

  8. Quote from EUROPA A HISTORY(NORMAN DAVIES) p.647 1996 Oxford Univ. Press
    “Hungary liberated from the Turks, fell victim to the despotic designs of its Habsburg Liberators. In 1687 the 700 years old elective monarchy was abolished.” ….

    What counts, is that citing or denying historic grievances do not count in the EU of 2012 anymore. Not nations, not countries but economic areas call the tunes in Europe these days.

  9. I may disagree with some of Ms Balogh’s points, but I agree with her main point: Hungarian history needs a more balanced treatment, more analysis. It also should be freed from politics and politicians, who hold it hostage to their benefit.

  10. The question is how did we and up with that one hundred thousand on the first peace march, crawling behind a well known anti-Semite, holding signs that support those who destroy their own future and protesting those who want to help them. Of course a lot has to do with the history teaching in Hungary. There was one sign that said something like “Hungary = 1000 years, EU = 20 years”. Why does a 20 year old group (since Maastricht I guess) dictate to the great Hungarian nation of 1000 years? Yeah, the wisdom shows ..

    The original article also mentioned a few other interesting facts. Obviously the peace marcher crowd who protested the foreign bankers had no idea that one of the national icons, the Chain Bridge in Budapest, was fully financed by foreign bankers (one third Jewish). And the money to finance those border fortresses against the Turks were also financed from abroad.

    This is a recurring theme in this blog. How did we end with so many clueless people who are not only ignorant but has absolutely no desire to learn?

    I believe this inflated fake heroism of the Hungarians in the history books actually re-enforces the biggest plague in Hungary, the inferiority complex. Because anybody who went to school on Planet Hungary always felt that something was wrong. These guys in the books are not us. Like we should not learn about ourselves because the truth would be horrifying. History classes stunk from the lack of honesty even if we didn’t know what was missing.

    Now with the education policies of the Orban government – that is the firm, centralized grip on the dispersed bullcrap they call history, the hope for a smarter generations seems to be even more diminishing.

  11. Mutt:”Obviously the peace marcher crowd who protested the foreign bankers had no idea that one of the national icons, the Chain Bridge in Budapest, was fully financed by foreign bankers (one third Jewish).”

    More importantly they have no idea that in the past years every single infrastructure investment was built on EU money…

  12. Miklos :
    As for the teaching of history in Hungary: It’s pretty much the same in the neighbouring countries (Romania, Slovakia, Czech R. etc). I don’t say it’s good. I just say Hungary is no different (no more nationalistic, antisemitic, antiroma etc etc) from any other country in Central Europe.

    Is this something to be proud of? Western Europe considers all these countries a waste of time, and the rest of the world could care less about backwaters like Hungary, or Romania or whatever.

    It’s a regional problem, but my community is Hungarian. We can do better.

  13. An important and implicit aim of the ‘kuruc ideology’ pursued by Fidesz is to provide a PR cover for Hungarian oligarchs to squeeze out foreign business interests, as they are ‘better and truely representing the interests of Hungary after all’.

    Simicska is all too happy to orchastrate this new strategy, just look at his steps in the energy sector (MOL, EOn etc.)

    Fidesz caucus this week has again rejected the motion by LMP to open up the communist-era secret service archives, thus effectively blocking the country’s ability to face its own history. It is not only Fidesz bigwigs who fear the consequences.

    So-called right-wing oligarchs, like Csányi, Töröcskei and Járai had all collaborated. You can imagine what would happen if their bolshevik activist past came to the limelight. The whole phoney kuruc ideology would collapse overnight!

  14. I would hope that Hungarians are taught about some of their greatest achievements. These are the writers, artists, scientists, photographers, cinematographers and architects who contributed (and are sometimes under noticed) to world culture. In that area Hungary has done more than many small nations and should be proud. Of course it’s sad that many of them felt they had to leave Hungary because of oppressive governments and poor prospects but still, Hungary educated and produced them. I would hope that soon Hungary will turn to an education that is less about ancient wars and myths and more to it’s real accomplishments like Kertesz, Moholy-Nagy, Moricz and Teller. I feel that sometimes you have to remember the positive and that is rarely in the realm of politics…anywhere.
    Idealizing past defeats and glorious lost wars is bad history but having said that I’m not sure if ignoring very real defeats will ever be possible for a small and essentially vulnerable nation. Hungary had been invaded by several foreign powers in the past century alone. Is it surprising that paranoia is easy to teach? Or that Orban touches a cord with many Hungarians? Because like it or not he does.
    I don’t say this because I agree with his “policies” such as they are but I think it’s important to understand why people do support him. To simply dismiss them as fools and dupes is not useful and underestimates them. Nostalgia for an imaginary past isn’t unique to Hungary. It holds a lot of power everywhere. Having said that I hope Hungarians turn to the future rather than to what is dead and gone.

  15. London Calling!

    I believe some (most!) of Hungary’s current problems with prominent Anti-Semitism and Racism are due to the ‘climate’ – social, educational and political.

    ambator is right when he says it will take 10-15 years to reduce the ‘navel-gazing’. If I understand him correctly this is one of the facets of the ‘humanity diamond’ which will take many years before the right ‘climate’ exists for a decent society in Hungary – one that is inclusive and respects all ALL Hungarians as equals.

    And history is a very important facet.

    Others are: Education (holistically); a responsible – and representative – Parliament; promotion of honesty and integrity; suppression of the social ‘cancers’ (we know what they are on here); and much more ‘International Trust’.

    Eva says:

    “The teaching of Hungarian history has been and still is, at least on the high school level, characterized by paranoia, a paranoia that instills defensive nationalism.”

    I believe the implicit message is that History is the fundamental underlying ‘foundation stone’ of a decent society – a decent ‘climate’ in Hungary today.

    Hungary continues this ‘defensive nationalism’ (as shown by Miklos’ comparison with (his understanding) of co-offenders – the ‘others-do-it-so-that’s-all-right-then’ defence) with its refusal to face its past ‘near’ history.

    It’s refusal to open the archives referred to by Turkmenbas is yet another example – as is an honest (and contrite) review of Hungary’s part in WW2.

    Even on this blog – my reference to some of the darker aspects of Hungary’s contribution to WW2 have been met with a deafening silence. (Even if my interpretation is wrong, you haven’t put my hat on straight – just silence!)

    So yes when Hungary faces up to an honest analysis of it history – it can start to get the present ‘climate’ right – for a more equal and benign society – and be a more trusting partner in the Global Village.

    And be a better ‘partner’ in the EU.

    A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.

    Regards

    Charlie

  16. tappanch :
    Dear Eva, not everything is a myth that we were taught.
    Hungary did lose its independence in 1526, this is not a myth.
    After the Turkish wars it became a Hapsburg colony with limited autonomy, didn’t it?
    Maria Theresa was the queen of counter-reformation, censorship, wasn’t she?

    All great fiction contains an ample dose of reality… Look at Dan Brown’s success 😉

  17. Off topic but I have to share this one. Magyar Rádió has five regional substations. In the past these substations dealt with local issues in addition to music. Now, these substations will be transformed into Dankó stations. Pista Dankó was a famous Gypsy bandleader in the nineteenth-century. He composed songs that are called in Hungarian “magyar nóták” as opposed to genuine folksongs (népdalok). Apparently a lot of folks (I assume of the older variety) complain that there are no really available on the airwaves. I wonder what the younger generations will think! Here is one as an example:

  18. Dear Eva, the Danko Radio is only a new tool in Fidesz’s efforts to spread government propaganda (during breaks). Segmentation is the key marketing term here.

    They hope to get access to voters, whom they think they don’t already control or have access to (although you may note that the news sections of formally independent commercial, music radio stations, be that Jazzy or whatever, are supplied mostly by Magyar Hirlap and Magyar Nemzet).

    History is an interesting concept. Since the readers here (mostly) are not historians (including yours truly), you may once also tell us about the different conceptions of history and studying history.

    Those having grown up in Hungary (including our current leaders) think – mistakenly – that history is only a collection of dates and textual items about the lives of leaders (these days they would be called politicians or celebrities), made digestibale through a narrative effectively provided by politicians (according to their ideology).

    In other words, there is a general thinking that “everyone should know about 1526 or 1848 or 1914”, as if knowing the dates and a couple of sentences (as provided by the books written by current ideologues) about these years would mean something — in the absence of more profound thinking.

    History is so much more, and in general is a much more complex issue. But there seems to be a denial about the possibility of a critical and complex approach to history.

    Even at a high school level studying history should ideally be about studying and thinking about the history of (often very modern) concepts such as democracy, state, nation, borders, revolution, king, equality, human rights, power, citizen, subject etc. and not necessarily about the factual geneaology of the house of Árpád. In this the Hungarian system continues to fail big time.

  19. Breki,

    I really had to laugh right now – because that “factual geneaology of the house of …” was also an important part of our “history education” in the German gymnasium, only of course it was about the Prussian emperors and the Schwab kings …

    However it seems I forgot most of it – I don’t even remember the names of our Schwab kings!

    Einstein (of course …) is said to have been asked one numerical fact once – and of course he didn’t know it and said: I know where to look this up – that’s enough!

    As you wrote, the understanding of concepts like equality, human rights, separation of powers etc is much more important but I don’t know enough about the quality of education, whether it’s German, Hungarian or whatever …

    PS: We didn’t watch that documentary about Hungary on Arte – much too depressing probably.

  20. “Is this something to be proud of? Western Europe considers all these countries a waste of time, and the rest of the world could care less about backwaters like Hungary, or Romania or whatever.”

    Well, I’m sure every country has its myths to some extent. I once talked to a Brit who claimed that the world should have been more grateful for the British empire which brought civilization to barbarians. I’m sure, Indians and other colonials would beg to differ. In the US, you find plenty of examples too, for example how the war of 1812 lives in the public conscience is plain ridiculous, they even have it on license plates! I haven’t lived in more countries but I’m pretty sure that history is idealized to some extent everywhere.

    I also beg to differ on some of Eva’s points. I think you should actually read a current Hungarian high school history book, (like e.g the Herber-Martos-Moss-Tisza series). I read many back in the days, but for example none of them overemphasized Hungarian heroism during the Great Turkish war. I kind of liked that period and I absolutely remember learning about John Sobieski and the liberation was described as achieved by a joint European Holy League army.

    Having said that, I agree though that the culture of the romanticized tragical self image that actually started in the reform age of the 19th century (just look at our anthem) is indeed harmful and naturally leads this ridiculous levels of paranoia.

  21. P.S. When I said you should take a look at current high school history textbooks, I meant it serious, I feel like we are discussing the subject based on preconceptions about what might be taught in the Hungarian High Schools without actually looking at it. Of course, what the teachers might add as an extra material is a completely different issue.

  22. Hungary’s best days started with Ferenc Deak and ended with him.
    99% of the history lessons should deal with him.
    The rest can be covered in 1% of the time.
    I would go even further.
    Rename Hungary to Deakland.

  23. One very dreadful aspect of this distorted nationalism is that it isolates and “ghettoises” Hungary. Outside Hungary, there were (and are) only envious enemies, and for some strange reason all our neighbours hate us (except perhaps the Austrians, who merely look down on us). Tóta W. Árpád in his usually acid post a few days ago (http://hvg.hu/w/20121128_A_magyarok_istenere ) put it very well (in my doubly non-native translation): “the problem with naïve nationalism is the same as with “World of Warcraft”: what in a stupid little subculture counts as a gigantic “achievement” or “level up”, doesn’t mean a thing for girls or for grown-ups”.
    I can’t help thinking of a comment by a Hungarian reader to a very critical article in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (http://www.nzz.ch/aktuell/international/antisemitismus-macht-ungarns-juden-zu-schaffen-1.17469384 ) a few months ago . The article was about the rise of Anti-Semitism in Hungary, and this Ms Kovács, in somewhat clumsy German, sang the usual song about an international conspiracy against poor Hungary. “Do you know who Horthy was?”, she asked. “Do you know who Attila the Hun was? Or St Stephen?” In other words: You should know the Hungarian history, the Hungarian “patriotic” version of it, because it offers something like a transcendental, irrational explanation or legitimation for everything that is happening.

  24. Interesting comments – which I haven’t yet had time to read properly!

    But, in the meantime, something entirely OT:

    My wife liked a Facebook post about Törőcsik Mari’s 77th birthday, so it appeared on my FB. Whilst idly trying to translate it in my head, I realised that ‘lájk’, as in “Lájk, ha boldog születésnapot kívánsz neki!” meant ‘like’.

    Language evolution in progress! (Not one for the purists though.)

  25. the first page of the updated history lesson book should hold petofi1’s remarks:

    Petofi1
    December 5, 2012 at 12:30 am | #16
    Quote

    Real PR :
    The small antisemitic attacks are perhaps not the problem.
    The task is to unite the people against all immoral acts in the society.
    The bad administration, the oppressive police, the high food prices, the impossible real estate market, poor medical service….
    These approach can unite the people, and all will work happily in the reformed Hungary.

    You forget the raw truth of the matter: the culture is rooted in cheating, lying, sleight-of-hand, con artistry, greed, etc. Everyone is waiting to move up the food chain any way they can. Proof of the pudding: why hasn’t any government taken the necessary steps to stop government corruption? Because they in turn will do the same. Anti-corruption laws and procedures are full of loopholes.

    Cheating & lying are at the heart of the reality. Look at the doings of the Catholic Church. Why haven’t they spoken out on any one of ten different situations: the Csatary case; the Garda activities; the systematic deconstruction of Democracy; the theft of pension moneys? Oh, I hear someone say the Church is not political. Really? So why do we have calls from the pulpit to pray for the ever-hardworking Viktor Orban?

    This country’s sly history is dove-tailing into its destiny: the price will have to be paid eventually…
    Petofi1
    December 5, 2012 at 12:51 am | #17
    Quote

    Mutt :
    I think everything was part of a sinister plan, including Gyöngyösi’s speech. Many in Hungary suspect that Gyöngyösi is some kind of FIDESZ sleeper agent in the JOBBIK. I can imagine that the befehl came straight from the fuhrer to give the speech on the day of the signature of the new election law. Rogan’s speech was probably written way before that.
    I know, I sound the most belligerent here, but seriously, the FIDESZ whipped up the antisemitism in Hungary. How can I assume that this speech is honest?
    Orban is already thinking of the 2014 elections. He didn’t want to piss off the cardholder nazis, he will need their votes in the parliament after 2014. That’s why the lukewarm reaction.

    When considering Hungary, you can rarely err in thinking the worst.
    In a nation where its citizens suffer from a massive inferiority complex, and major neuroses, the anti-Roma, anti-jewish sentiment is a much needed tonic for sick minds.
    The Church and the politicians well know this.

  26. My in-laws have a “Nota” channel (in a village in eastern Hungary). You should see their faces when they skip over it while they are channel surfing. Yuck!

    By the way good gipsy bands can play anything you want. We were in place in BP once. It was a farewell party for an American colleague. The band leader came up to our table asking what to play (oh, I hate that). So I explained what the occasion is and suddenly I added “she is from Scotland originally”. Big smile … and the gipsy band started to play “Scotland the Brave”…

    @Arany 2nd Do you want a Dr. title? Why are you copying other people’s posts?

  27. Nice to see you all attacking Hungary and Hungarian history, you are all a bunch of patriots, aren’t you?

    If you hate it and us so much, why don’t you leave?
    “Petofi” (something like Shlomo would be better suited for this Hungarian hater) can always move to Israel, while the rest of you can freely go somewhere else.

    Don’t you have anything better to do than ridicule and insult Hungarian history?

  28. Csaba: “Nice to see you all attacking Hungary and Hungarian history, you are all a bunch of patriots, aren’t you?”

    Attacking Hungarian history! Interesting concept. There is HISTORY, the sacred that comes only in one variety. So, if one historian thinks that interpretation A is better than interpretation B he/she is attacking HISTORY that is naturally written in stone. How primitive.

  29. Tota W. wrote recently something similar about the FIDESZ economic policies:

    “Arithmetics are politically unacceptable.”

  30. We are a bunch of patriots! I for one know that Hungary was invaded time and again, suffered more than any other country in the world, suffered that much that all its future sins also are already atoned for, that all evil came from foreigners, that Hungary is constantly under attack from foreigners, and that even a part of people who consider themselves Hungarians are in actual facts foreigners harming Hungary (but this I tell you only in secret, there are so many people in the world who hate Hungary and these out of incomprehensible reasons object to that althought these are undeniable truths). Have I missed something?

  31. Let me explain what happened in 1526. In 1515 a meeting took place in Vienna. The king of Poland (Sigismund) , the Holy Roman Emperor (Maximilian), and the Hungarian-Bohemian king (Ulászló II) made a dynastic pact. The young Louis, son of Ulászló was to marry the granddaughter of Emperor Maximilian, Mary. It was also decided that in case of Ulászló’s death Sigismund and Maximilian will be the guardians of Louis. In addition, Maximilian adopted Louis as his son.So, Ferdinand’s claim to the Hungarian and the Bohemian thrones was pretty solid.

    Such dynastic arrangements were common in those days. A good example would be how Louis the Great of Hungary inherited the Polish throne. In 1370 the Polish king died without an issue and according to an arrangement signed in 1339 in such a case the Hungarian Charles Robert and/or his son Louis would inherit the Polish throne because Louis’s mother was a Polish princess.Louis didn’t care a fig about Poland and sent his mother back to Cracow to rule in his stead. Poles remember those twelve years of Louis (the not so great) with horror.

    Now for the Habsburg connection. One of the Hungarian myths is that those wretched Habsburg purposely left Hungary to be occupied by the Turks. They didn’t move a finger. As if they were almost happy that a large junk of their lands is under Turkish occupation. The sad fact was that even if all the European forces got together sometime in the 16th century and tried to expel the Turks they couldn’t have done it. The Ottoman army was truly formidable.

    I would go even further. If after Louis’ death in 1526 John Szapolya won the Hungarian throne, the whole of historical Hungary would have been occupied by the Turks and then the Hungarians could have shared the happy times of Turkish occupation until the 19th century together with Serbia, Bosnia, and other Balkan states.

    As for the colony issue. Do you really think that the kings of Hungary purposely robbed their country blind? That wouldn’t make much sense. It is true that by the 18th century, after the expulsion of the Turks, Vienna set up a tariff barrier between Hungary and the rest of the Empire but not because they wanted to cripple the country. They had to do something because the Hungarian nobility refused to pay taxes. Some money had to be collected from Hungary somehow. The result was devastating for Hungarian economic development but if we can blame anyone it should be the Hungarian nobility.

    Tappanch’s other points have been answered by ambator.

  32. muttdamon :

    BREAKING NEWS
    The Klubradio talks about Eva and the post about the Rogan speech! Tune in now!

    Thank you for noticing. There were three people who were interested in the topic. I found it interesting that according to the second caller Rogán told practically the same speech at an earlier occasion. During the Walk for Life in one year when he was one of the speakers.

  33. London Calling!

    Csaba! – don’t call me a patriot – I hate Hungary.

    Us Londoner’s like nothing better that sticking our noses in other people’s business and telling you what to do – how to spend our cohesion money – and how to run a proper parliament.

    You haven’t got a clue.

    We especially like laughing at those pot-bellied Magyar Guarda – who couldn’t punch their way out of a paper bag.

    And that Matolcsy bloke! – Laugh a minute! Honest!

    We are trying to colonise you with our Tesco’s and other businesses – repatriating the profit back to the UK.

    And we love downgrading Hungary through our ratings agencies now and again – we’re just waiting for someone to start a run on the Forint so we can get revenge for what George Soros did to us.

    Patriot? You must be kidding! I hate Hungary!

    Regards

    Charlie

  34. Jano :
    Well, I’m sure every country has its myths to some extent. I once talked to a Brit who claimed that the world should have been more grateful for the British empire which brought civilization to barbarians. I’m sure, Indians and other colonials would beg to differ. In the US, you find plenty of examples too, for example how the war of 1812 lives in the public conscience is plain ridiculous, they even have it on license plates! I haven’t lived in more countries but I’m pretty sure that history is idealized to some extent everywhere.

    Having said that, I agree though that the culture of the romanticized tragical self image that actually started in the reform age of the 19th century (just look at our anthem) is indeed harmful and naturally leads this ridiculous levels of paranoia.

    I was having a conversation with a bunch of Guineans (as in Guinea-Conakry in West Africa) about promoting civil society in the country. A Nigerian was there, and she made a very articulate and reasoned statement that Guinea’s problems all go back to European colonizers. The Guineans were too polite to attack this, but I know their attitude: They generally accept that they have nobody to blame for their problems except themselves. Guineans don’t fit the stereotype of Africans who blame everything on colonizers.

    Nigerians often strike me as wonderfully well-spoken and educated, but their internal conflicts make most other countries seem simple.

    So just in West Africa alone, I can point to some wildly different approaches to history, and not everyone idealizes their past.

    History is a blunt weapon in the United States as well, with the Tea Party trying to tie their ideology to some mythic American past. They may have prevailed in 2010, but they failed to elect a candidate for president in 2012.

    So history can be a fickle tool.

    I’d be curious how it has been fickle in Hungary as well. It was seen in the West as a symbol of resistance against tyranny after 1848 and before WWI. Somehow everything changed after WWI.

    On an unrelated note, all this talk of history has left out one important area: Transylvania, which is often seen as the heart of true Hungarian culture. But I thought that Transylvania has its own identity separate from Hungary. And it also is remarkable for its history of religious tolerance, something that to me seems at odds with Orban’s Hungary. Anyone have thoughts on that?

  35. London Calling!

    Now about that ‘Folk’ music Eva!

    It IS folk music – as folk as folk can be, even if written by one bloke in the 1800’s.

    The woman is dressed in folk-type attire and the band of vamping piano, violin players and blowy thing! (might be a a clarinet) – are playing that frantic gypsy stuff.

    I like ‘Gypsy stuff’ as folk music in small doses – it’s an acquired taste! And it seems to make up most of so-called ‘Hungarian folk’.

    They – and the audience – seem to be having a right old knees-up. Not unlike some of our ‘St Patrick’s Night’ celebrations in a typical pub in England – towards the end of an evening!
    As you suggest there is an absence of young people in the band – and I suspect in the audience. We all need some ‘infra dig’ occasionally to preserve our humility!

    Even true Hungarian folk tunes like the one I’ve just discovered, are strange to a western ear – “A Csitari Hegyek Alatt” – becomes a beautiful lament (when sung as a slow lament rather than a pop tune) when you get over the strange syncopations which seem to follow the Hungarian polyphony of the language – where you seem always to emphasise the first syllable (and continue to do so when speaking English!).

    Ditto ‘Erdo, Erdo, Erdo’.

    If your folk music is to survive, the traditions have to be kept alive – and have a regular turnover of young people.

    Whilst your clip is keeping the traditions alive – I doubt it will be attractive to youngsters – as you imply.

    In England our folk music is enjoying a very strong ‘revival’. Folk festivals are definitely ‘IN’ and, as I have said before, the beautiful Sidmouth coastal resort of Devon comes alive once a year in Summer – swamped – with folk players of all ages – not just those sandal-wearing, tankard-dangling cider-quaffing, real-beer specialists with suspicious odours!

    Have a look at the festival website:

    http://www.sidmouthfolkweek.co.uk/

    The one area of Hungary that has disappointed me is the music, I have found nothing like Sidmouth – I just assumed Hungary was a cradle of home-made music played in villages and meeting houses – as a large ingredient of Hungarian culture. A bit like Ireland.

    Sadly no – maybe because so many youngsters are leaving – and the traditions are dying in the hands of older people.

    Or I just haven’t been to the right places?

    Thanks for the clip though, Eva.

    Regards

    Charlie

  36. Yes, thanks for the clip. I don’t know the difference between variations in Hungarian and/or Roma music but it’s fascinating. I picked up some random music in Hungary including some by the group Kalyi Jag. There is a song I find very beautiful called Ketri, ketri.Here’s the URL for it on YouTube.

    Well, hope someone finds it interesting

  37. gardonista :On an unrelated note, all this talk of history has left out one important area: Transylvania, which is often seen as the heart of true Hungarian culture. But I thought that Transylvania has its own identity separate from Hungary. And it also is remarkable for its history of religious tolerance, something that to me seems at odds with Orban’s Hungary. Anyone have thoughts on that?

    Just my two Forints: Trianon became a curse for Hungary not in the way most nationalists argue, but because it encouraged an intolerant “identity fallback”, with the strange notion of a ‘pure magyar’ nation…

  38. Eva S. Balogh :
    Csaba: “Nice to see you all attacking Hungary and Hungarian history, you are all a bunch of patriots, aren’t you?”
    Attacking Hungarian history! Interesting concept. There is HISTORY, the sacred that comes only in one variety. So, if one historian thinks that interpretation A is better than interpretation B he/she is attacking HISTORY that is naturally written in stone. How primitive.

    Its not about debating history, that is fine, but it is about the outright mockery that is going on.

  39. London Calling!

    CarlosD Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

    Your folk track sounds almost Spanish – but clearly more Romanian – and with younger people! Hooray!

    As an exercise – and for the delectation of HS readers (!) – I have created a YouTube entry to hear the beautiful Hungarian lament I mentioned earlier:

    “A Csitari Hegyek Alatt”

    In addition I have added a beautiful English folk tune ‘Bygone Days’ – so you can compare them!

    Yes, I know – it’s apples and pears.

    My partner loaded the photos from her archive – I’m not sure of the relevance of the Pogácsa picture – but anyway I made them from her Mother’s recipe – and they were delicious – very much like our scones – only better!

    I hope you don’t mind, Eva.

    So – whether do you prefer the Hungarian tune – or the English?

    Fight!!!

    Regards

    Charlie (and Aniko!)

  40. London Calling!

    Eva, I think Csaba means me!

    I fed the troll.

    His sarcasm in “you are all a bunch of patriots, aren’t you?” – and assumption that we are all attacking Hungary – and the assumption too that “If you hate it and us so much, why don’t you leave?” – was such a warped interpretation of the contributor’s here – I just saw red.

    His “you have anything better to do than ridicule and insult Hungarian history?” was the last straw for me. So I gave him some justification.

    Csaba – you clearly don’t read Eva’s blog – or you have such a blind knowledge of what’s really happening in Hungary. Eva is a historian – with a more objective eye on Hungary than any of your sad substitutes.

    The ‘Hate’ comes from you and your ignorance – open your eyes.

    Many of us from other democracies can see Hungary going to the dogs. Corruption and lack of integrity are rife. And a festering democracy and a festering society too – why are so many youngsters leaving?

    You need to wake up and smell the coffee – and shave off that ridiculous moustache!

    And even if I don’t understand your ‘Petofi’ comment – I know you are a racist.

    Lastly – you should understand that everyone on here loves Hungary (excluding the trolls) – I am certain of that.

    I love Hungary – almost as much as I love England – my home country.

    I have a house in Hungary and am often a visitor – and the real Hungarians are very decent people – I know. Just as many of your compatriots are over here in England – ALL of them weeping for Hungary. Truly.

    So remove the moat from your own eyes and find out what is really happening to Hungary.

    Really – you must. In the best advice of a friend of Hungary.

    But why do I know this will fall on deaf ears? I just do – you have your head in the sand.

    Regards

    Charlie

  41. @CharlieH
    I second your comments. I can’t imagine wasting my time reading this blog if I didn’t have a love of Hungary. I absolutely do and I find it a fascinating place. However, history is complicated and some just don’t want to deal with that fact. I don’t live there but I’m proud of my Hungarian heritage. The fact is that Hungary is going down a sad and dangerous road that will just lead to more isolation. Eva writes/translates information that just aren’t available to non-Hungarian speakers. I don’t agree/have knowledge of everything she writes but I really do appreciate her blog. Glad you like the YouTube song!

  42. Ottoman-Hungarian WARS: The vast majority of the seventeen and nineteen thousands Ottoman soldiers in service in the Ottoman fortresses in the territory of Hungary were Orthodox and Muslim Balkan Slavs instead of ethnic Turkish people.[6] Southern Slavs were also acting as akinjis and other light troops intended for pillaging in the territory of present-day Hungary.[7]

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