The chroniclers of the age of Viktor Orbán

While the negotiating partners of the Hungarian opposition are closeted in over the weekend trying to hammer out a compromise acceptable to all, I will turn to an entirely different subject. It is the ill-conceived governmental attempt to establish a monthly magazine that will carry only good tidings and will also be a heralding chronicle of the great age that was created by Hungary’s leading light and trustee of its future, Viktor Orbán.

You may recall a post of mine about Imre Kerényi, who became a close associate of Viktor Orbán. I believe I was too charitable in my piece, but I did indicate that I thought there was something not quite right with the man. Some call him a “futóbolond,” a nut, a madman, a lunatic. For some strange reason Viktor Orbán attracts and welcomes these characters.

Kerényi has been entrusted with large amounts of money for propaganda purposes in the field of culture. Originally, he convinced Orbán to endorse a propaganda campaign in connection with the new constitution. He was the creator of the ill-fated Table of the Constitution that had to be set up in every public building. He came up with the idea of ordering art work hailing important moments in Hungarian history. The pictures were, with few exceptions, atrocious. The whole project became a laughing stock. Yet Viktor Orbán didn’t get rid of him. On the contrary, Kerényi was handed more and more projects and more and more money. Millions were spent publishing a series of books Kerényi deemed “the core works” of Hungary’s “national literature.” He is still in the middle of erecting statues of great Hungarian conservatives who until now didn’t receive their due. The statue of István Bethlen is the first in a series of monuments Kerényi is planning to erect.

At the end of October HVG reported that Kerényi received another 340 million forints “to publish a monthly periodical.” It was only a one-liner, and its significance wasn’t apparent until January 6 of this year when a blogger ( reported that the government is planning a publication that will concentrate only on “good tidings.” It will be called Magyar Krónika, a title that at first blush seems not too imaginative but that, once one reads Kerényi’s half-mad letter to those one hundred writers, journalists, politicians, and historians whom he invited to contribute, gains special significance. It will be a true chronicle of an age. The age of Viktor Orbán. Just as medieval kings hired chroniclers to write about their achievements, this Magyar Krónika will serve the same purpose. According to Viktor Orbán, no public money will be used for the project.

What kind of a publication does Kerényi have in mind? It will be such an important publication that it will become a collector’s item, he claims. It will be a document that represents the age. It will be about “the people of the central political force,” in plain language those who built Viktor Orbán’s authoritarian regime. These people are “heroes” whose achievements must be lauded in an appropriate manner. Magyar Krónika will concentrate “on the good and on love.” It will report good news. For example, if someone notices that dandelions are in bloom, he should sit down and write about it. If in the organic market a duckling was nice and yellow, one should write about it. If utility prices decrease, naturally one should write about it. And it goes on and on.

Out of the 100 people invited maybe 30-40 showed up for a meeting on Thursday. Viktor Orbán, who is supposed to be on the editorial board, was there as well. Mind you, he was smuggled in by members of his anti-terrorist team via a side entrance because in front there was a fairly large crowd of demonstrators and reporters who had a jolly good time with their posters. The whole thing quickly became a huge embarrassment which, it seems, Viktor Orbán himself recognized. According to people present, Orbán called Kerényi’s letter “infantile and ludicrous.” He also expressed his misgivings about launching the project before the election.

But it is not easy to convince Kerényi not to proceed. Yesterday morning on ATV’s Start, he denied that he had been chewed out by the prime minister. He also claimed that the number of those who were reported to have declined the invitation is all wrong. He said that the first issue, which will be #0, will come out sometime in May, regardless of what Orbán said earlier. As for the letter, it was intentionally written in this ridiculous style because he wanted to call attention to the project in this way. The brouhaha will help the popularity of Magyar Krónika.

That newspapermen working for Magyar Nemzet, Magyar Demokrata, and Magyar Hírlap went to the meeting I can understand, but it is disheartening to see people with some reputation in their fields willing to become part of such a cheap propaganda stunt. For me, the most shocking was the presence of Gergely Prőhle, assistant undersecretary in the Foreign Ministry, perhaps because I met him in person in New Haven. He is considered to be a moderate conservative with a wide knowledge of the world, someone who served as ambassador to Switzerland between 2003 and 2005 and subsequently held a high position in the ministry until 2006. Keep in mind that his tenure in the ministry was during the socialist-liberal administration. And now the only thing he could say at the time of leaving the meeting was that in general he writes about foreign policy and he plans to do the same for Magyar Krónika? And Kerényi’s letter? “It is a question of style.” Sad.


  1. “For some strange reason Viktor Orbán attracts and welcomes these characters.”

    Am I the only one who senses that, fundamentally, Orban is out to mock the nation and its citizens…?

  2. Four of the Nazi Parties had 42 MPs in 1939. Only 3 of them were Lutherans, 15 Calvinists and 24 Roman Catholics.

    This number does not include individual Nazis outside parties, like Ferenc Rajniss, Jenő Szöllősi, or well-known Nazi members of other parties like Andor Jaross, Béla Jurcsek, Kolosváry-Borcsa, Reményi-Schneller or Imrédy.

  3. I know this is not so important, just to satisfy my curiosity.

    The family description above mentions Vilmos Prőhle (1871-1946), linguist. What it does not add that Vilmos was a high school teacher in Nyíregyháza from 1899 to 1919, a leader of several anti-Semitic organizations from 1920 (Etelközi Szövetség, Ébredő Magyarok Egyesülete), and died in Berchtesgaden.

    mek.oszk. hu/00300/00355/html/ABC11587/12472.htm

    (also search for “Prőhle” in Google to find a .pdf file by Mária T. Nyiri about Vilmos that mentions he had a son named Sándor.)

    Sándor Prőhle (1900-??), the Arrow Cross MP, was born in Nyíregyháza, according to the Almanac of the 1939-1944 Parliament.

    Unless there were two different Sándor Prőhle’s born in Nyíregyháza around the turn of the century, we can conclude that the Arrow Cross MP was the son of Vilmos, who is admittedly related to Gergely.


  4. Matolcsy, Prőhle, perhaps Perényi.

    Names of politicians around Orban in 2014,
    names of politicians in 1944.

  5. Our fathers failed the nation.
    We are failing the nation again.
    Our fathers have not demonstrated against the crimes of the Horthy regime.
    We are not demonstrating against the crimes of the Orban regime.
    Who is guilty?

  6. tappanch writes: “I do not know whether this family is related to another Lutheran pastor,
    Sandor Prőhle, who also dubbed as a Arrow Cross (Nazi) MP in 1939-1944.”

    Even if he was, it is unfair to besmirch Gergely Prőhle’s name with the sins of an uncle. When you do that you are no better than those who bring up the communist past of other current politicians. Some of the socialist politicians since 1989 were also high ranking members of the Communist Party and the Communist Government. (Medgyessy and Horn, for example). Their own personal political history is fair game for discussion. But accusing someone because they had an uncle, who was an Arrow Cross MP before Prőhle was born? We are each responsible for our own actions.

  7. It is not about Pröhle’s family. It more about the idea present in some foreign observers’ minds that Pröhle, Baán (director of the Museum of Fine Art and head of the giant and highly questionable Museum Project), Szájer, Martonyi, Navracsics are ‘moderates’. We can talk to them. They are cultured. They know the world. They are not like that.

    Unfortunately, they are. All of them. They are loyal to the last bullet Fideszniks. Otherwise they would have been fired long time ago.

  8. “They are loyal…”

    ‘Loyalty’ is not a word that should be used in gangsterism. Rather, it is ‘fear and trembling’
    at being left off the generous payouts–in other words, ‘greed’, and the fear of losing once place in the feeding line.

  9. Somehow, this reminds me of what Ruth Wodak in a very recent book has called the “perpetuum mobile of right-wing populism”. As we see it in Austria all the time: somebody connected to the right-wing populists says something simply unacceptable about minorities, migrants, gays, etc. and provokes a debate in the press – any publicity is good publicity. Then, the party “distances itself” and “apologises” in a lame and half-hearted way, sending between the lines a message which the loyal hardliners will understand: OK, they are compelled to say that, but in their hearts, we know, they are with us and agree that all Muslims/Jews/immigrants/gays etc. should be exterminated. Whatever the media do will work to the benefit of the populists.
    In this case, Orbán has nothing to lose. The most loyal idiots, those who would be willing to support Kerényi’s idea, will remain on board anyway, no matter how harshly Orbán has told off Kerényi. And those who are somewhat less stupid can comfort themselves: whatever we think of Orbán, at least he is not THAT stupid. Above all, everybody will understand that Orbán has shown Kerényi his place. The Godfather has spoken and shown that he is still wielding the power and it is worth while to stay with him.

  10. Meanwhile at the state-owned Duna Television lunatic Nazi, Jobbik-related ‘intellectuals’ supply programs.

    Fidesz, of course and despite what it says abroad, has a wide range of ‘goodwill operations’ towards Jobbik sympathizers/Jobbik politicians (the holdudvar, the halo), of which this is only one.

    Fidesz and Jobbik work together just fine in dozens of local municipalities all around Hungary and since these municipalities have not much power left the decisions invariably concern setting up statutes for important issues like Trianon, dead Hungarian soldiers, politicians from the 1930’s etc.

  11. I think it’s important to point out that the internet has been mercilessly mocking Kerényi’s letter as well as the very idea of this publication all week. It’s been pretty relentless and the whole thing has been a blow to Fidesz’s image and I think they’ve felt it.

    In fact, I think the segment on M1’s Híradó that I linked to yesterday was their reaction to the whole thing – a news story claiming that the whole Hungarian-language internet has been making fun of the foibles of the democratic opposition, when in fact the real truth is something different.

  12. Of course, it is incredible that a television station whose political programs are supposed to be balanced spends this much time on mocking one side without giving equal time to the Internet reactions to Kerényi’s Krónika. I don’t know but I wouldn’t be surprised if the latter made a bigger splash than the story about the renegotiation of the MSZP-Együtt14 arrangement..

    One thing is sure. These newest developments on the left worry Viktor Orbán.

  13. @ Eva

    Why should Orban be worried? Hasn’t he learned well the lessons of Papa Stalin….one of which goes like this: “Democracy is not about voting; it is about WHO counts the votes.”

  14. Sackhoes writes in relation to Gergely Prőhle’s family that we all are responsible for our own actions. But to a very big degree we are all influenced by the family that raised us. Hungarian Arrow Cross members who escaped the peoples courts or were not executed and released, once in the USA, Austria, New Zealand, and other countries maintained contact with each other for many years. Documents released by the US CIA in 2006 due to the Nazi War Crimes Declassification Act indicate there was a network of 3,000 former Arrow Cross or fellow travelers around the world in contact with each other well into the 1960s.

    In fact the CIA used some Hungarian fascists in relation to the Cold War. As I have said Chicago where I live was a hot bed of anti-communist emigrants who were also once fascists themselves. Aside from Hungarian fascists, Polish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Serb, Croat fascists we even had Nazi collaborators from Greece here. It was very rare for children raised in these families to become anything other than conservatives. Sometimes children from these families would become radically non-political in response to their upbringing, but I never saw one of the children fro these families move to the left.

    So when we are dealing with children of fascist families, yes history matters. BBC2′s “Hitler’s Children” discussed the real breaks from the past child of prominent German Nazi’s had to experience in order to achieve some level of mental health. Many more if not most of these relatives and children go into one or another from of denial.

  15. I see your point Istvan. Yes, the family background can have an influence on a person. In Gergely Prohle’s case I don’t see any evidence that he is an anti-semite or a fascist. Innocent, until proven guilty, I guess. I also believe that in the small, emigree hothouse environment, where the larger Hungarian world does not enter, it is more likely for sons and daughters to pick up their parents prejudices, especially in the pre-internet age. In Hungary, I feel, this is less likely.

  16. I tend to agree with István about family influences.As to Sackhoes Contributor’s comment of Prőhle. Of course, he is not an anti-Semite or a fascist but István didn’t say that the children of the Chicago Nazis all became Nazis. He just said something about conservatism and anti-communism. Csurka’s father was an anti-Semitic far-right newspaperman in the late 30s and early 40s. We all know the saying about the apple and the apple tree.

  17. I agree, Eva, Istvan did not make that suggestion, which is why I wrote that I see his point. Tappanach’s comments, however, made a strong suggestion. As far as the apple and the tree is concerned, the BBC program “Hitler’s children” showed that the children of senior nazi leaders for the most part tried to distance themselves from their parents, so much so that one of them made it his life’s work to visit schools and talk about nazi war-crimes and his own father’s guilt.

    I am not trying to generalize that this is always the case, but the reverse is also not the norm.

    As far as Gergely Prohle is concerned, his own political vies and affiliations are fair game for discussion. Dragging his uncle in is no better than Jobbik’s antisemitic bullsh*t.

  18. “What can you do in a country where theaters became stadiums?”

    We fence with the centralized euphemism of the country”

  19. Well, I have contrary experience, when children decidedly turned against heir parents ideological view, but mostly from the ‘other side’. Actually I know quite a few child of “communist” functionaries, who turned against the very systemwhat their parents srved.
    Even if we skip scrutinizing just how much communists they really were, it isn’t always conclusive, that the child follows the path of the paretns.
    One publicly known such figure comes to my mind – László Földes, better known as Hobo – who left a well to do cosy family home for ideological reasons, but there is quite a few more just whom I know.

    I would certainly advise not to draw conclusions, whatsoever, even if there are certainly exceptions – you better know it for sure, instead to make ‘educated guesses’.1

  20. A bout the subject:
    As I see it, Orbán find it mandatory to reward the active players of his propaganda-machine. Whoever supported him in the past, have gotten their well paid positions in the present, Kerényi only one of a kind. A rather delusional lunatic, but its beside of the point.
    The important part is – at least, how I see it – that the propaganda-machine is working, and doing its job.

    And it doesn’t really matter, just how stupid overall what they write/broadcast, the important part is, that they include and repeat possibly endlessly certain keywords with certain predefined message in order to influence the readers/audience in a certain way.
    As long as the communication is within the framework, everything OK.

    Did anyone ever have heard Gabriella Selmeczi to refer any other way as “the fallen left” (a bukott baloldal) to the opposition, even once?
    That’s what I mean.

Comments are closed.