John Lukacs on Paks

John Lukacs, the internationally renowned historian, was born in Budapest in 1924 but left Hungary at the age of 22 in 1946 when he foresaw that the Soviets would most likely force Hungary into a Soviet dominated eastern bloc of communist countries. A year later he joined the faculty of Chestnut Hill College where he spent forty-seven years until his retirement in 1994.

It is not easy to write a short introduction to somebody like John Lukacs who has in the last sixty years profoundly influenced historical scholarship on such varied topics as the history of the United States in the twentieth century, history and historiography, Adolf Hitler, George F. Kennan, Winston Churchill, and World War II, just to mention a few themes of his more than thirty books that appeared between 1953 and 2013. The scope of his scholarly interest is so wide that I can’t possibly do justice to it here. I’m sure that one day books will be written about him and his work. As it is, he has already been the subject of several scholarly articles.

John Lukacs is a conservative. In fact, he describes himself as a reactionary in the sense that he favors a return to earlier times. He dislikes mass culture and what goes with it. Lukacs’s bête noire is populism, which he considers to be the greatest threat to civilization; as he said, it gave rise to both national socialism and communism. A large portion of his scholarly works centers on Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler. In fact, he wrote a whole book on their struggle, The Duel: 10 May-31 July 1940: The Eighty-Day Struggle between Churchill and Hitler. But he also wrote separate volumes on these two men.

As a conservative he has been a favorite of Viktor Orbán and in general of the Hungarian right. During the first Orbán administration he was awarded the Corvin Chain, a decoration that was given out by Miklós Horthy between 1930 and 1943 to people for their achievement in the fields of science, literature, and the arts. Their number was limited to 12. It was in 2001 that Viktor Orbán revived the tradition. John Lukacs was among the first twelve recipients. But then Orbán lost the election and his successors decided to let the decoration lapse. In 2009 Lukacs received an honorary doctorate from Péter Pázmány University.

"A real Catholics cannot be a nationalist"

“A real Catholic cannot be a nationalist”

Considering that Lukacs finds populism and its practitioners abhorrent, I can’t imagine that he is too keen on what has become of Viktor Orbán. I can’t believe that the radical and abrupt changes that have been introduced into the Hungarian political system in the last four years are to the conservative Lukacs’s liking. But, as he says in his open letter translated and published here, it is not his task to comment on Hungarian politics. On the other hand, again as he himself remarks in the letter, even before 1988 he found that Viktor Orbán was no friend of the West. For a man who passionately believes in the mission of Western civilization, as Lukacs does, this attitude must be worrisome.

* * *

It was almost sixty-seven years ago that I left the country of my birth. Since then the fate of my country, my nation has often touched and gripped my heart, but I never dealt with or wrote about Hungarian politics.

Today, at the age of ninety, it is still not becoming. Yet something induces me to do it. I thought about this for two long nights.

The Russian-Hungarian agreement on Paks has been haunting me.

I don’t receive Hungarian newspapers. And only rarely Hungarian periodicals. In the mornings I click on Népszabadság for a few minutes. As far as I know, many Hungarians read this paper. That’s why I’m sending my letter there. Perhaps my words will reach a few hundred readers.

The present prime minister has honored me for many years with his attention and friendship. Still, I feel it my duty to address my opinion contained in this letter to him as well.  I have known his ideological inclinations for a long time, more than twenty years. The way I see it, even before 1989 he had a certain aversion to the so-called “West,” Western Europe and England.

But now he has reached a demarcation line. I don’t agree with those who talk and speculate about the economic consequences of the agreement on Paks. Will electricity be cheaper or more expensive in ten years when this project is completed (if at all)? My dear Hungarians, we have no way of knowing this, but even if we knew it, it is unimportant. The essence of a country, its fate is not an economic statistic. The essence of a country is who we are and where we belong.

History doesn’t repeat itself. That of nations rarely and only in small measure. The character of a man changes the least.  In the future perhaps this is the most profound question for Hungarians. Not just the dearth of Hungarian self-confidence. (Although that too!) But who we are, where we belong, which way to go.

Our St. Stephen wasn’t only a saint without peers but also a great founder of a state. At the time, more than a thousand years ago, the vast Greek Orthodox Byzantium almost completely surrounded the Carpathian Mountains. If Stephen had chosen accommodation with them he would have secured enormous advantages in the short run. But he didn’t choose that road. He chose Roman Christianity, papal legate, western wife, “Europe” (although that concept did not exist yet). It was this choice that shaped the faith, the character of Hungarian Christianity over the next one thousand years.

Western powers often did nothing or very little for us. And yet when Hungarian leaders a few times chose the “East” these ventures always ended in catastrophe. In the recent past the essence and origin of the tyranny that subjugated Hungary wasn’t communism but Russian occupation. At the end of the Second World War the great Churchill, who already knew that the Russians would occupy the whole of Hungary, repeatedly told Roosevelt (unfortunately in vain) that Hungary belongs not to Eastern but to Central Europe. The Hungarian masses rejected the East in 1956 and also in 1989.

What can we expect, what kind of reward from the Great Russian Empire? Nothing. Széchenyi and Kossuth already saw that. One must acknowledge and respect the Russians just as our distant relatives, the wise Finns, do. But we don’t have a place there. Accommodations with them cannot be the centerpiece of our endeavors. We honor their achievements, their great artists. But the spirit of the Hungarian mentality, the Hungarian intellect, Hungarian art and culture is western. Not Russian, not even American. Those who speak to us—in spite of all their greatness—are not so much Tolstoy or Dostoevsky as Dante, Shakespeare, Pascal, Goethe, and Tocqueville. The West was often our cross, but we must take it up because it is also our star. We should value our Russian neighbors but we must not accommodate them or fawn upon them because close association might be a lasting burden and a detriment to the Hungarian people for a long time to come.

Since 1989 we have been responsible for what we choose, what we do, and what we think. The Hungarian character and spirit are not eastern. Pax Vobiscum! These are the last words of the old Latin mass. Go in peace! But now Pax Nobis! Peace be with us!

58 comments

  1. Agreeing with much of his excellent books and also having his endorsement, that is on the back cover of a book that I recently edited, Transylvania Today: Diversity at Risk, I can say that as usual, John Lukacs has it right.

  2. John Lukacs is a great scholar. I am going to visit him. I want to be touched by his mind.

    This is crisis in old Hungary. A political meltdown is taking place. Are we going to see a rerun of the last days of WWII?

    All decent conservative and liberal citizens of Hungary must unite to oust this incompetent or just criminal Fidesz regime to save what is left from the better days of Hungary.

    A large part of Fidesz members can rejoin the new regime after a thorough cleansing.
    Let us salvage the good ones from the Orbanian purgatory.
    Self-criticism was the crazy buzz in the old times.

  3. Great letter.
    However, what matters is where the Hungarians think, or rather feel, that they belong.The same deal that Orban has made recently with Tsar Putin would have meant political suicide in Poland or in Romania.Those people don’t know either where do they belong but they know for sure- and they have known it for 200 years since the birth of the modern political nations-that they do not belong to the Russian sphere.
    The reaction would have been immediate, visceral, and popular.No need for letters from intellectuals to explain them such a thing.

  4. @Ovidiu: The beauty of the letter is not that it explains the dangers of “belonging” to Russia, but that it expresses how a lot of Hungarians feel.

  5. Another, I think more significant point: there is no ideology behind Orbán’s decisions, only interest, his interest of that. Therefor – with all due respect – the letter will have absolutely zero effect, and it isn’t Mr.Lukács to blame for.
    Unfortunately the addressee nearing his God-status and a voice of humans can not reach him easily, to the voice of humanists he’s already deaf long since.

  6. OT, but an interesting article from Budapost:

    http://budapost.eu/2014/01/anti-semitism-declining-but-still-at-average-european-level/

    Hungarian Jews claiming that anti-Semitism is actually declining in Hungary and that it isn’t much worse than in places like the UK.

    This is so very different from my personal experience as to be quite puzzling. In my experience, anti-Semitism is very widespread in Hungary, in fact it seems to be regarded as a perfectly normal ‘main stream’ opinion, not as something to be kept to be guarded about.

    And, again, in my personal experience, anti-Semitism in the UK is practically unknown. We still have or share of racism and bigotry, but you almost never hear any of this directed at Jews.

  7. An :
    @Ovidiu: The beauty of the letter is not that it explains the dangers of “belonging” to Russia, but that it expresses how a lot of Hungarians feel.

    I don’t dispute that this IS how many (perhaps most) Hungarians feel, but the more important point is surely that, whilst feeling this, they do nothing about it.

    Where is the “immediate, visceral, and popular” reaction that Ovidiu would expect (I think quite accurately) from other countries in the same position?

    They may not like it, but they accept it. Why?

  8. John 1:46
    “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”

    John Lukacs
    Can any good thing come out of Russia?

  9. @Paul #7

    I gave the details of the poll a week ago, see
    January 21, 2014 at 5:32 am | #24

    “Somewhat anti-Semitic: 35-40%
    Hard-core anti-Semites 15-16%”

    I do not think the numbers are great.

    One can also argue this way:

    although a sixth of the people would repeat the Holocaust,
    but half of them do not show antisemitic prejudice to the researchers.

  10. “Those who speak to us—in spite of all their greatness—are not so much Tolstoy or Dostoevsky as Dante, Shakespeare, Pascal, Goethe, and Tocqueville.”

    What is wrong with Tolstoy?

    Unfortunately, almost no Hungarians have read or even heard of Tocqueville.

    School children should have been taught since 1990
    about the importance of checks and balances,
    about the role of the free citizenship, where citizens are not servants of State.

    The 6-year old children of 1990 are 30 this year.
    But they were not taught of the Sacred Principles of Democracy, only about of the Sacred Crown.

    Yes, the Golden Bull of 1222 contained a “ius resistendi”, a resistance clause against a king that breached the Bull.

    But only the apparatchiks of the era, the bishops and noblemen were given this right.

    How many times was this article #31 exercised before it was withdrawn in 1687?

  11. Because the Golden Bull of 1222 is the basis of the Fidesz constitution, let me quote some paragraphs from it.

    III.
    Clergy and noblemen cannot be taxed.
    XXIV.
    Muslims and Jews cannot hold office.
    XXVI.
    Land cannot be sold or given to foreigners. If it was sold then it should be repurchased.
    XXX.
    [Except four, enumerated office holders, ] no person can hold two offices at the same time.

  12. Paul :
    OT, but an interesting article from Budapost:
    http://budapost.eu/2014/01/anti-semitism-declining-but-still-at-average-european-level/
    Hungarian Jews claiming that anti-Semitism is actually declining in Hungary and that it isn’t much worse than in places like the UK.
    This is so very different from my personal experience as to be quite puzzling. In my experience, anti-Semitism is very widespread in Hungary, in fact it seems to be regarded as a perfectly normal ‘main stream’ opinion, not as something to be kept to be guarded about.
    And, again, in my personal experience, anti-Semitism in the UK is practically unknown. We still have or share of racism and bigotry, but you almost never hear any of this directed at Jews.

    I’m a bit skeptical about the TÉV study itself, and even more about the comparative statements made by the researcher regarding other EU countries.

    Anyway this study doesn’t measure how Jewish people themselves perceive anti-Semitic discourse, threats or discriminations. On that subject, the EU-FRA conducted last year a multi-country survey according to which Hungary fares much, much worse than the UK…

    Click to access fra-2013-discrimination-hate-crime-against-jews-eu-member-states_en.pdf

  13. Dear Eva, you should post/ share Mr. Bela Liptak’s very brilliant evaluation on the Paks project instead. Needless to say he is against the whole lot but rather than based on ideological reasons he stands on solid technical grounds. As you know I have very little in common /politically speaking/ with these two gentlemen; nevertheless I believe that Dr. Liptak’s opinion is more relevant. It’s not about “crosses” but rather about reactor cores and cooling systems. Just a suggestion: Peter Litvanyi.

  14. INVOLUTIONAL IRENICS

    “[T]he fate of my country, my nation has often touched and gripped my heart…”

    “The present prime minister has honored me for many years with his attention and friendship…”

    “Our St. Stephen wasn’t only a saint without peers…”

    “Western powers often did nothing or very little for us…”

    “Pax Vobiscum!…Pax Nobis!…”

    A rather exalted way to say Hungary shouldn’t cosy up to Russia.

  15. Lets be clear about what we have here: We have a Philosopher’s letter to a plain Crook
    They are on 99.9% different wavelengths.

    One is a Guru of History and Western Civilization Studies, the other is a bank-robber, a self-appointed feudal baron, not of the most brilliant mind in intellectual matters.

    I do hope Orban listens and asks Lukacs for some additional practical advice as he is digging a terribly deep hole for himself and the country he’s come to ‘lead’…

    The likelihood of any genuine request for advice is unlikely. Oban’s only advisors are in electioneering – on how to dominate and win elections – and I doubt he is strong enough to admit that he could use some additionhal know-how in cultural, economic or similar, refined matters.

    Orban is not so dissimilar to the vast majority of Hungarians!!! The only thing that really matters for most is their private life and family and a few friends left over from the old school days. The rest of the people are not really worth lifting a little finger for !!!

    Mr Lukacs: Nice try! Be forewarned: Do not be disappointed if you fall on deaf ears… and an intellectually not inquisitive mind!

    We have been through this advice routine here, already! And to NO avail! Orban refuses to listen to good sense.

    The Russian roulette routine is the latest one that happened to catch your attention. But hes been treating us to one nightmare after another!!!!

  16. Eva: You have an unfortunate typo saying, Hungarian self-cionfidence. Figured you want to correct it before any of the trolls pick up on it.

  17. It is nice to see Lukacs come out and stands on principle. It is unfortunate that so many conservatives-like Lukacs- continued to believe for so long in Orban and FIDESZ because, I suppose, they were blinded by ideological labels. Real conservatives should be the most horrified by what is happening in Hungary. As you noted, populism (and in this case also radicalism) only leads to extreme forms of government and inevitably to a loss of freedom, and at least since the beginning of the 20th century, to huge losses of human life.

  18. nwo, for every argument there is a counterargument.

    Pat Buchanan asks whether “Is Putin one of us?” (ie a paleo-conservative).

    So some conservatives must agree with Orban even on ideological grounds.

    http://townhall.com/columnists/patbuchanan/2013/12/17/is-putin-one-of-us-n1764094/page/full

    This issue is absolutely not about conservatism vs. liberalism or anything like it. It is about common sense.

    The decision of Orban and his sycophants/oligarchs is a tragic decision which deliberately ties our future to an autocratic empire ruled by siloviki for the next 60 years at least and which allows Russia to control Hungary in various ways, in fact in many more ways than Russia currently has a leverage over us. And this is when Russia wants nothing else from countries like Hungary (Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Gerogia etc.) than to control them, not overtly, it would probably be too obvious, but it will ask for some favors from time to time (besides making us pay like a katona tiszt).

    Why? Because Orban needs some leeway to control energy prices (of which the Index revealed MOL-related games which also involved Russian oligarchs is only one part) to get reelected (and remain so) and to take advantage of the business of the century (Paks 2), I am sure Orban is sad that we cannot host any Olympic games. That fact that Orban dislikes the West helped but was probably not dispositive.

    Putin or any of his possible successors such as Igor Shechin is not a creditor any sane person would want to be indebted to (especially not in foreign currency, which means should HUF depreciate, the debt increases obviously), just like it is always a bad idea to be indebted to a mafia boss (and Putin is much more than that).

  19. The voter registration of the new citizens without Hungarian address has been accelerated.

    November 1, 2013: 48 thousand
    January 7, 2014: 100 thousand
    January 27, 2014: 130 thousand

    Their notification address is in

    e-Landia 30.5%

    Romania: 42.6%
    Serbia: 15.2%

    Hungary: 1.3%
    Slovakia+ Ukraine+ Austria: 1.0% (“countries forbidding dual citizenship”)
    Germany: 0.9%

    not yet processed: 5.5%
    All other countries 3.0%

  20. “Those who speak to us—in spite of all their greatness—are not so much Tolstoy or Dostoevsky as Dante, Shakespeare, Pascal, Goethe, and Tocqueville.”

    Mr Lukacs seems to dismiss my generation (the 45 plus) who were brought up on Tolstoy, Puskin, Gogol, Dostoevsky and Constantin Simonov and Jevgeniy Yevtushenko just to name a few Russian literary greats.

  21. “In the recent past the essence and origin of the tyranny that subjugated Hungary wasn’t communism but Russian occupation.”

    Professor Lukacs calls attention to an important dichotomy here:

    Soviet Union as the biggest Communist country in the 1948-1989 period.
    vs
    Soviet Union as a cover for the Russian Empire.

  22. Orban gives a retroactive pay raise to policeman on March 1 .

    In a speech today, he declares that the “jogállam” (constitutional state) was restored in 2010!

    I think Fidesz cynicism knows no limit.

  23. tappanch (re 27):

    one important issue to note is that Hungary (not even Csonka-Magyarország) had never been part of the Russian Empire/orbit until 1945.

    Hungary became part of the Soviet/Russian ‘sphere of interest’ only after WWII. I guess the SU/Russian Empire has different preoccupations until then.

    Once however the Russians got used to the idea the Hungary became a natural part of its empire/sphere of interest over which it had ‘legitimate security interests’ that became the default situation.

    Edward Lucas’s post shows that it now became mainstream even in Germany to think that Russia should have a say in the fate of Central-Europe, as a quasi ‘stake-holder’ (to use this idiotic term).

    Why?

    Well, just because this is what people, Western politicians got used to after WWII.

    Moreover, Germany will do anything for Russia (remember what a pal Schröder is to Putin, for example) on which it depends for its traditional energy resources, which acts a huge and logical market for Germany and because Germany has a now DNA-ingrained bad consciousness towards Russia. So Germany will be very understanding towards Russia’s ‘concerns’ whatever those may be. This is how generations of German intellectuals, politicians were socialized; they have to apologize before Russia and must appease it. If it includes letting Russia control Hungary or Slovakia or Ukraine (through whatever means) then so be it, Germany will not oppose Russia (not that Germany would seriously oppose anything).

    It is a crazy paradox. Orban hates the West, like the rest of the right-wing, partly because of capitalism which comes from West and in which Hungary cannot be expected to compete and win realistically, but partly because the West always sold Hungary: at Trianon, after WWII, in 1956. But the last two fundamental turning points had to do with Russia. So he hates the West because they sold us to Russia, but because of this hatred he turns to Russia, which actually wants us. Sure, Russia has its ulterior motives, but it wants us genuinely (for its own interests, that is), while the West does not really want us for anything (ok, we can be markets, we have to open our markets as part of the deal to be accepted in the West).

    Of course, Hungary cannot really be a Western country, as it has never been that. But it has never been an Eastern-European country, either. We should stay a Central-European a köztes-európai country, which we always have been. Orban, by clearly choosing sides gave that opportunity up. He wanted to be wanted (the expected monies from Paks did help).

  24. Ed Teller visited Paks and spoke highly of the plant, safety, etc. He has a bronze bust erected in his honour. (So far he hadnot asked to remove it) Finnland is also cooperating with Russia in the nuclear field. Not to lose the eastern market is popular in Hungary.

  25. Joe Simon :
    Ed Teller visited Paks and spoke highly of the plant, safety, etc. He has a bronze bust erected in his honour. (So far he hadnot asked to remove it)

    Edward Teller died 10 years ago. Like so many great Hungarians of his generation, he lived in the U.S. because Hungary was for so many years totalitarian.

  26. nwo
    January 28, 2014 at 4:37 am | #21 Quote
    “It is nice to see Lukacs come out and stands on principle.”

    It is nice to read the words of NWO. All people needle moral. NWO has got a good dose of it.

    The immoral people, unfortunately, are the majority.

    We have to fight them with all of our tools.

  27. @Joe Simon:

    Do you have a source for this re Teller?
    Afaik he was a very strong opponent of Russia and a proponent of SDI btw – and a fighter for Israel’s nuclear weapons also …

  28. THE GODFATHER AND THE UNDERSTUDY: FAUSTIAN PAKS

    In case you haven’t seen it, there is an insightful analysis of Viktor Orban’s role-model: the Don Don of Dons, Vladimir Putin:

    If you want to preview a few steps ahead of where Orban is now, and where he is heading, inexorably, it’s described in Hill & Gaddy’s Brooking’s Focus book “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin.”

    An excellent one-hour audio summary is here.

    Two reviews are here and here.

    (Gaddy stresses the KGB training, methods and resources, tracing them all the way back to czarist Russia: Orban has the Hungarian homologue, AVO and its successors.)

    This fully confirms Magyar Balint’s warnings about Orban’s post-communist Mafia state — clearly a parallel case, but this time in the very heart of the European Union.

    A juggernaut, and (as Gaddy notes) very hard to imagine how it can be stopped in Russia by anything short of a violent revolution, if that.

    But surely in the EU there are other pressures that can be brought to bear…

  29. @Stevan Harnad

    One can even make an argument for TEMPORARY dictatorship in a large, non-homogeneous state like Russia that would break apart without it. But a small, homogeneous country like Hungary does not need dictatorship, and definitely does not need a malevolent kleptocracy we are experiencing.

    I was reviewing Hungarian history in my mind. There were corrupt practices in the dualist Monarchy, under Horthy. But I think the level of wholesale theft of public and private properties in 2010-2014 has parallels only in 1939-1944, when the Jewish population was robbed of their assets..

  30. My first thought on reading this letter from John Lukacs was an odd thought – was the Austro-Hungarian Empire eastern or western, or possibly a hybrid? My grandfather and grand uncle both were soldiers of the Empire and did not necessarily see Orthodox Christianity and Russia as enemy #1. From their ancient perspective that honor had to be laid at the door of the Ottomans and Islam. I have to agree with Stork, Hungary has never been a western nation, but it has continually aspired to be western.

    The Empire went to war against both east and west, culture played little role in who Hungarians fought in the name of the Empire until it all fell apart. I think this simple east/west.world view is profoundly out of touch with the current global economic structure of the world. In fact it is out of touch with our hybrid past which was part of a fusion of Central European cultures and Austrian German hegemony over the region.

    The current Russian economy, state capitalism linked in many ways to organized crime, has much more in common with many Central European economies than they have with the German, French, and UK economies. The question comes down to choosing one’s economic master, or does it come down to seeking to create a new economic block composed of the former states controlled by the USSR.

    Here is part of the very sick reality of the Hungarian economy, one of our most viable sectors is the porn industry and sex trade. Most of us know prostitution is internationalized in Hungary. There are a lot of people who visit Hungary for its sex tourism, and there is even a calendar of nationalities during different seasons. During Christmas, for example, we get an influx of Italians. Formula One attracts a lot of Germans, so we organize our general assembly to coincide with the races,’ Hungarian prostitutes also tend to work abroad in Italy, Greece or England for short periods, having to move on quicker because of legal reasons. 50 were arrested in the UK only several weeks ago.

    The Hungarian Docler group, which controls the interactive porn industry also owns il Bacio di Stile luxury department store on Anddrassy ut. What western nation has one of its very highest end department stores controlled by the porn industry? Like it or not the reality of Hungary is not western.

  31. Speaking about ‘The West’, OECD’s Economic Survey of Hungary 2014 is out.

    http://www.oecd.org/economy/economic-survey-hungary.htm

    Among many things it appears that more than 25.7% of the country’s population now falls under the ‘economic deprivation rate’ (see page 20 of the electronic document).

    It’s the worst result of all OECD countries, and the situation has dramatically worsened since 2009 – now bordering very close to that of Romania, while at the same time the rate significantly decreased in both Poland and Slovakia, who are now better off than Italy or Greece.

  32. @Istvan: There is no clear demarcation line between East and West; in fact, the more East you go, the more “Eastern” countries become, in a sense that features associated with the East are becoming more and more pronounced. So Hungary is, and always has been, a combination of eastern and western features and traditions. The question is not whether Hungary is eastern or western, but whether Hungary aspires to move toward western or eastern models, whether the country wants to build on and strengthen its western or eastern features. And I agree with John Lukacs, histrionically whenever Hungary looked to the East, that never resulted in any good.

  33. Joe Simon:

    the myth of conquering the Eastern markets is warmed up by each and every Hungarian government. I am sure it will reappear every couple of years until the end of time. We will again sell the apple from Szabolcs, (undrinkable) wine from Bács-Kiskun and Globus-branded canned food to Russia. The government will again promise that this time really, we will export, say, the world-famous Pick salami and Hungary will regain its former glory.

    Right.

    The Russians import a lot of food (even though they should be self-sufficient, and they will be) but not Hungarian stuff, because by and large Hungarian industrial food products are worse quality than the comparable products made by our competitors and, noch dazu, more expensive. Russian customers will not all of a sudden just because we purchase their atomic reactors realize that they actually prefer Hungarian salami over the cheaper and better Italian variety or Hungarian wine over the significantly cheaper Argentinian/Chilean wines which are also mostly better.

    Re Finland:

    Finland entered into a market-based agreement with the Russians after the Finnish have a power plant currently under construction by Areva.They want to diversify and that is their business. Actually Finland have already operating Russian reactors as well as Western made ones — even in the past they diversified. This does not sound like Hungary to me.

    But in any case, it is clear that any electricity the Russian-made Finnish power plant may produce will cost at least 2 times as much as it costs now (note that the current prices are higher in Finland than in Hungary but the break even price will most likely similar, although depending on which ‘extras’ one includes in the calculations, payment for taking back the spent fuel rods etc.)

    With Paks that is one of the issues.

    There is no way, however cheap the Russian loan will be (it will not be), to produce the electricity cheaper in Paks II than twice the current rates, more like 3 times, and that calculates with a HUF 3,000 bn budget, without overrun.

    If the electricity prices will be as they are now, Paks II power plant will continue to make gigantic losses (it will likely break even at 3 times the current rates).

    In other words, the rich Hungarian tax payers will have burnt perhaps as much as HUF 1.000 bn forints of which 40% will have gone to Simicska and co.

    All the while Hungary became indebted to Mr. Putin to the tune of at least EUR 10bn.

    And all they while we do not need the electricity. It is crazy.

    Now this is most definitely not the deal the Finnish concluded, especially as they do not have to dam up their biggest river to ensure continuous cooling water and do not need to create a gigantic security reservoir to ‘store’ energy.

  34. This blog is wonderful for a number of reasons, not least because people like Egerke help to flush out the facts for us unknowing ones.

    It is quite clear that Paks II is nothing less than the placing of the country into subservience to Russia for at least 60 years. Hungary will be the Trojan Horse in the EU, continuing–nay, vastly increasing–the level of obstinacy and intransigence to harass the guys in Bruxelles.

    One thing is certain: if the elections will confirm the Fidesz victory and the Paks agreement,
    then the EU will have no choice but to expel Hungary from the EU…

  35. TRIBUTE TO TAPPANCH

    Dear Tappanch, I don’t know who you are but I would like to express my appreciation and admiration for your contributions. I understand the need for anonymity under present-day conditions, but if ever the clouds disperse and the sun again shines on Hungary, your fact-based and level-headed postings during these difficult times will merit open credit to your true identity. (I’m afraid I can’t say the same for some of the more hot-headed anonymous posters, even though I often agree with their underlying sentiments…) — SH

  36. An :
    @Istvan: There is no clear demarcation line between East and West; in fact, the more East you go, the more “Eastern” countries become, in a sense that features associated with the East are becoming more and more pronounced. So Hungary is, and always has been, a combination of eastern and western features and traditions. The question is not whether Hungary is eastern or western, but whether Hungary aspires to move toward western or eastern models, whether the country wants to build on and strengthen its western or eastern features. And I agree with John Lukacs, histrionically whenever Hungary looked to the East, that never resulted in any good.

    In my opinion there is a clear demarcation line between Core Europe and Fringe Europe. Core Europe is everywhere you can reach by car on uninterrupted motorway. The European network of motorways is an immensely strong integrating factor. Among Central and East European countries Hungary, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia are Core European countries. Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria are Fringe European countries.

    If Hungary leaves the EU it will loose subsidies – but much more important – it will leave Schengen and the Core. The nightmare of border control with hour long waiting times as in the good old Kadar era will be re-established. This will hit the Hungarians hard, maybe hard enough to wake them up.

  37. @ Jean P

    “This will hit the Hungarians hard, maybe hard enough to wake them up.”

    Unfortunately, the order of events will be, a) expulsion….and b) wakeup.
    The realization will then do little good.

  38. @Stevan Harnad
    Thank you for your kind words. Eva can give you my e-mail address to correspond privately.

  39. tappanch :
    Orban gives a retroactive pay raise to policeman on March 1 .
    In a speech today, he declares that the “jogállam” (constitutional state) was restored in 2010!
    I think Fidesz cynicism knows no limit.

    I guess he watched some broadcast from Kiev, and want to buy some loyality in advance.
    Good thinking.

  40. Financial situation of Hungary, 2013.12.31 vs 2010.05.31.

    EUR/HUF, 297.11 vs 275.13, +8.0%

    Foreign reserves of the Central Bank, MNB: 33.881 vs 34.857 billion euros, -3.1%

    Gross national debt: 21998 vs 19933 billion forints, +10.4%
    Gross national debt: 74.040 vs 72.451 billion euros, +2.2%

    Private Retirement Funds, MaNyuP, 133 vs 2945 [2013.10.31 vs 2011.05.31] billion forints, -95.5%
    Private Retirement Funds, MaNyuP, 0.448 vs 11.045 billion euros, -95.9%

    Balance on May 31, 2010 = +34.857+11.045 -72.451= -26.549
    Balance on Dec 31, 2013 = +33.881+ 0.448 -74.040= -39.711

    Deterioration of the balance sheet of the central government= 49.6%

    Debt takeover from local governments in 2012 and 2013 reported as 700 billion HUF= 2.356 billion HUF

    Deterioration of the balance sheet of the entire government= 37.4%

  41. A few new developments.

    ATV Egyenes Beszéd dealt with the “kötelet” (hanging rope) shouting at the Mesterházy speech which was captured on video http://coub.com/view/jl4d . They found an MSZP activist who is willing to claim that he was shouting “Börtönt” as well and saying that Mesterházy was referring to his shouting. The thing that is bothering me that without a video proof of the “börtönt” shouting, this very much looks weak. The word of an unknown activist will not convince anyone one way or another. But I can’t imagine that an event this importnat weren’t recorded on video cameras, mobile phones, TV stations from dozens of angles and points. The “börtönt” shout has to be there it just needs to be found otherwise it is incompetence.

    The other issue is much more important I was actually a little shocked by it. There seem to be extreme tensions within the Jewish community. In Egyenes Beszéd, hétfő edition there was an attack that is so far unparalleled in its ferocity. Feldmájer, the former leader of Mazsihisz was called a traitor (áruló) on national television. I didn’t fully understand the issue that prompted this but apparently it was an apology that Feldmájer issued for remarks that took place at an earlier Mazsihisz press conference. László Karsai was the speaker to be exact and Feldmájer sent an apology in his stead and for Mazsihisz. Can anyone shed some light on the background of this issue? I have never heard accusations of treason (árulás) levelled against a high ranking leader of the Jewish community before. Ever.

  42. @Mr.Paul

    January 21
    Historian Karsai said at the MaZsiHiSz press conference that
    “appointing M. Schmidt to lead the House of Fates is like asking moral advice from the madam of a brothel.”
    “The Jewish leadership in 1944 failed because they did not try to resist.
    If the current Jewish leadership collaborates with the falsification of history,
    then it will share responsibility in Holocaust denial.”

    Former MaZsiHiSz chairman Feldmajer reportedly wrote to M. Schmidt expressing his “horror” about Karsai’s words three days later.

  43. Interesting comment by John Lukacs. But strange at the same time, because why is Paks now making a difference? Viktor Orban has been trying to pull Hungary out of the “West” since 2010 at the latest and people have by and large not protested. Instead lower electricity prices were welcomed. Hungary cannot stand alone despite its national myths of actually being so abandoned, and Russia stands ready. It is heavily trying to dominate other EU countries in the region also. People have to be told and have to understand why the named Western authors should matter for them (because they should wish and be able to participate in and control the political process, which is ultimately also deciding about public investment). That economic interests related to energy issues can be very powerful, is not alien to “Western” countries also.

Comments are closed.