A critique of a political analysis on Hungary by Stratfor’s George Friedman

In the last few months I have been getting a daily newsletter from Stratfor, a private intelligence and forecasting company. No, I’m not a subscriber, and I doubt that Stratfor has many individual subscribers. Its clients are mostly institutions that feel the need for economic, military, or political analyses and forecasting.

Stratfor’s daily newsletter offers one free analysis chosen by the company. Most of the topics lie outside my field of interest, but today’s “special” aroused my curiosity: “Borderlands: Hungary Maneuvers.” The article was written by George Friedman, founder and chairman of Stratfor. Friedman received his B.A. from the City College of New York and his Ph.D. from Cornell University. For almost twenty years he was a professor of political science at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. Then in 1996 he decided to quit academe and become a strategic analyst.

Friedman was born in Budapest to Holocaust survivors, but his parents left the country when he was a small child. What he learned from his parents sitting around the kitchen table was that “except for the Germans, the vastness of evil could not have existed.” In his parents’ lessons Miklós Horthy, the Hungarian regent between 1920 and 1944, pretty much got a pass. Friedman continues to believe the history his parents taught him. To his mind, Horthy was a wily geopolitical strategist who maneuvered between Germany and the Soviet Union for quite a while. Only brute German force, blackmail, and threats against Horthy himself opened the door to mass destruction of the Hungarian Jewry.

The first half of the article tries to convince the reader that his vision of Horthy is the correct one while the second draws parallels between the Hungary of today and the times of Horthy. As he says, Horthy’s “experience is the one that Hungary’s current leadership appears to have studied.”

I will not be able to cover the whole article in this post and therefore will concentrate on Friedman’s account of the Horthy era. The appearance of this “revisionist” appraisal of Horthy is especially ill-timed because it was only a few days ago that historians of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences unanimously declared at a conference that the monument Orbán is erecting, which is supposed to make Germany alone responsible for the destruction of Hungarian Jewry, is a falsification of history. Nothing like lending a helping hand to Viktor Orbán’s project.

Friedman’s Hungary was a small, weak country that helplessly floundered between the Soviet Union and Germany, all the while trying to remain independent. “Horthy’s goal was to preserve its sovereignty in the face of the rising power of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.” Friedman seems to think that Horthy viewed both great powers with equal contempt. But that was not the case. In fact, until the very last moment he refused to turn to the Soviets to declare his willingness to negotiate a separate peace, whereas he was indebted to the Germans for helping Hungary regain sizable territories in Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia between November 1938 and April 1941. (These territories are shown in the Wikipedia map below.)

"Hungary's

As for the Jewish issue, Friedman claims that “Horthy was no more anti-Semitic than any member of his class had to be.” First of all, I’m not sure why Friedman believes there was a social imperative to be anti-Semitic. Members of Horthy’s social class may have been anti-Semitic, but they didn’t have to be anti-Semitic.

Horthy as well as the majority of Hungarian politicians and high officials wanted to rid the country of its Jewish population. Horthy didn’t want an immediate “cleansing” because without Jewish capital and know-how the Hungarian economy would have collapsed. But eventually the Hungarian anti-Semites stripped the Jews of all their worldly possessions and deported them. These Hungarians, including high officials, didn’t particularly care what happened to the Jews once they were deported. There simply had to be “a changing of the guard” (őrségváltás). Non-Jews were to take over positions held by Jews in the professions, business, and manufacturing. None of this seems to have penetrated Friedman’s consciousness.

It is at this point that we reach the crucial date of March 19, 1944, which is described this way: “Horthy fell from his tightrope on March 19, 1944. Realizing that Germany was losing the war, Horthy made overtures to the Soviets.” Let me state right here that Horthy did not make overtures to the Soviets. A small delegation talked to American and British officials in Turkey. They were told to talk to the Russians, something Horthy was reluctant to do.

Friedman’s inadequate knowledge of history is evident in practically all the sentences he writes in this article. According to him, “Hitler forced the Hungarian leader to form a new government consisting of Hungary’s homegrown Nazis, the Arrow Cross Party.” Or, a few sentences later, he writes: “He [Horthy] did not crush the Hungarian Nazis, but he kept them at bay. He did not turn on Hitler, but he kept him at bay. What Horthy did was the dirty work of decency. He made deals with devils to keep the worst things from happening. By March 1944, Horthy could no longer play the game. Hitler had ended it. His choice was between dead sons and the horror of the following year, or living sons and that same horror.” Friedman’s “parents believed that Horthy’s critics were unable to comprehend the choices he had.”

We who are more familiar with the real story realize that the account Friedman heard from his parents in addition to bits and pieces he remembers from Horthy’s memoirs have nothing to do with reality. But Friedman cannot be deterred from his preconceived notions of German-Hungarian relations and the Hungarian Holocaust. He keeps going: “Once the Wehrmacht, the SS and Adolf Eichmann, the chief organizer of the Holocaust, were in Budapest, they found the Arrow Cross Party to be populated by eager collaborators.” Of course, this isn’t true either. The eager collaborators were in fact members of the Hungarian government appointed by Horthy.

The point of this hopelessly inaccurate history is to reframe the present debate about Viktor Orbán’s governance. On the one hand are people like his parents, who blamed the Germans “for unleashing the brutishness in the Hungarians.” On the other hand are nameless people who were harsher on Horthy. This debate, he writes, “has re-entered history through Hungarian politics. Some have accused Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of trying to emulate … Miklós Horthy…. This is meant as an indictment. If so, at the university of our kitchen table, the lesson of Horthy is more complex and may have some bearing on present-day Hungary.”

I suggest that George Friedman take a refresher course.

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88 comments

  1. George Friedman is not alone in his views, but that does not make his views correct. What I cannot understand how some who would have been persecuted in 1920/44 can excuse and take a similar false attitude to the monument / stadium builders of 2014.

  2. The real problem with Friedman’s piece is that he doesn’t know the first thing about the history of the period he is talking about. Moreover, he draws conclusions on wrong pieces of information. This is one of the worst possible examples I have seen of bogus scholarship by someone who is supposed to give advice to policy makers on important issues of the day. It is a real shame.

  3. Maybe Friedman should talk to some of the Hungarian survivors of the holocaust. There are still a few around. I am hoping that he will be directed to this blog and in the memory of his parents he will take the small effort to visit websites like http://menetrend.postr.hu
    I have mentioned that Blog before, and allow me to re-post what I wrote before
    “There is a new blog only in Hungarian (unfortunately) on the Internet. The blog is run by historian, Andras Mink. ‘Menetrend’ (Timetable) is the title of the blog, and for 57 days it will feature the name of a village or town in Hungary where people were deported from to Germany (in wwii). They will also feature stories, the number of people deported and from where on the given day.
    The Germans wanted daily 1-2 cattle cars, while the Hungarians involved were eager to send 4-5 (and even 6) a day.
    Today is Nyiregyhaza’s turn:
    “Then the gendarme colonel shouted: – All aboard! The smaller batches added: – Get in the mother f***ers, can you hear me, Jews ” (Béla Zsolt: Nine suitcases (memories) (Magvető Kiadó, 1980, Bp. 243. l.)

    In each car thre were 75 people, one can of water, and one bucket for waste. From the Nagyvarad area between May 23 and June 27, 1944, nine transport were departed. 27,215 people were transported.”

    ——-

    The real problem with Horthy is the same as with Orban as far as the “Jewish issue” goes. Even if Horthy would be classified as pure and innocent, he created and allowed an environment to flourish where anti-semitsim became a standard. He allowed a society to exist where Jews, Gypsies, the mentally or physically handicapped, and homosexuals could become the target of the worst members of society. It is not different today under Orban. When Friedman so “gentlemanly” reaches out his hands with understanding, he silently approves the (non)actions of a government to protect all the citizens of Hungary.
    What Friedman is saying that his parents and all the Jews got the best that they could under Horthy. Maybe his parents deserved what they got, but my parents did not.

    If Freedman wants to take a look of the problem his attitude creates, he should just read the comment sections of any articles that deals with any Jewish issues in Hungary. It would be an eyeopener to him.

  4. This is a great reminder that “nobody knows anything”.

    Imagine that Mr. Friedman or his employees give advice on say China, Syria, Russia or Ukraine.

    I’m sure from time to time they write about something that is not public, which I guess is their added value, but can they really understand the countries, regions they write about?

    I have my doubts. Of course, his business is about getting a fee for a service (getting more subscribers) and not about trying to understand what they write about.

  5. Some 1 – The deportations you mention, according to my map, were not in Hungary but in Czechoslovakia and Romania. … Hungary Got It Right! – Horthy got it right! – Friedman got it right! – I got it right! . . . But you out of the loop Socialists/Communists got it wrong! That’s why the voters threw you out in the last election, and an even worse showing in this election. Seems to me the posterity of Bela Kun and Joseph Stalin are no more welcome than Hitler’s Nazis! . . . Hungary almost saved a million Jews – and miraculously did keep alive a quarter million. No one else saved so many with so little and with a remarkable manifestation of Hungarian EXCEPTIONALISM! . . . Read U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, Holocaust survivor, in the “Congressional Record,” May 26, 1964, on Hungarian courage in saving then Jews still in Budapest before the Nazi final takeover. . . . Nem, nem, soha!. . . Keep watching your Russian Communist partners. Like in Ukraine & Crimea – the barb
    arians come with tanks!

  6. I wonder if Mr. Friedman met with Orban himself for this article. Anyway, some of Friedman’s points about the present are fair, though. That said, many points are just off.

    “Orban’s strategy is to create an economy with maximum distance from Europe without breaking with it, and one in which the state exerts its power.”

    Hungary’s ties to the EU have probably never been stronger, it’s not only that Orban cannot create a ‘maximum’ distance, any distance there was did in fact decrease. In other words, Hungary’s economy is very much integrated into the EU. The opening towards the East (China, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Gulf-states et.c) has been a total failure. It is only enough to read the list of Hungarian businessmen and the companies they represent who accompanied Orban on his last Chinese visit (perhaps origo.hu published it) to realize there is nothing really they, well, Hungary, can offer to China. But these visits were mostly for show anyway, exactly to persuade observers like Friedman (and Hungarian voters) that we don’t just rely on the dreaded EU.

    The fundamental problem is that Hungary has little indigenous industries which it can offer to the world on a competitive basis. Geography is also very important. There are no seas (Spain), no mountains (Austria), no natural resources like in Russia or even Poland (which uses its own coal to make electricity which is a much better staring point than in Hungary when just to switch on your factory Hungary needs to rely on foreigners and start from indebtedness), and the Great Plain is slowly drying up.

    Of course Friedman’s statement that Orban wants to create an economy in which the state exerts its power is true, we see the result of that policy in the minuscule investment figures (eg, FDI sans the capital increases the foreign banks made due to losses on loans would have been actually negative in 2013, but of course no foreign observer will work that out from the obfuscating figures and statements the Statistical Office or the National Bank publish).

    I also have a fundamental question. When people repeatedly say that the EU is a failure, it has floundered, what does that mean? That it cannot act politically, like stand up against Russia or the US for that matter? That is true. But not even the individual member states do so, so this is not an EU problem so much as a general European problem. Western-Europe is far and they rely on Russia economically (energy and rich oligarchs). It’s like there is a 4-storey building without elevator. Obviously the people on the first and second floors don’t want to pay for the investment in the elevator as they will never use it. But without their contribution there is not enough money. Similarly, the West is just too far from Russia to give a shit about it. Hungary, pretty close.

    Or that the EU cannot grow for ever on finite natural resources and decreasing population? That it cannot grow forever without debt? As we see, not even Japan or the US can grow without indebting themselves crazily, so which one is the failure? In the US the ratio of people participating in the work force is constantly decreasing, the slightly decreasing unemployment ratio is a result of people withdrawing from the work force en masse (just as they did in Hungary in the early nineties after the collapse of the socialist economy). I don’t see that US would be a bigger success to he honest than the EU member states.

    The EU is a common market which has been oversold as something much more. It is a free trade zone in a system of capitalism.

    That is it. And in that people need to compete. And those countries which started the competition earlier, like Germany can better compete because their companies have been evolving for often 100-150 years and the market puts enormous value on provenance, especially in non-high tech industries. Anybody can distill whisky but Chinese want the Scotch brands because they have been making it for hundreds of years, so it must be better.

    The EU has not failed, as it cannot, it really is only a market place. It is just that a lot of countries unfortunately cannot compete.

    Capitalism is relentless and that is what people really hate, but capitalism became a doxa, the paradigm, which means that it is so normal and natural that people cannot realize it as a problem, as something that can be changed or something that exists separate from them. Thus people will look for somewhere else to blame, like the EU or the Jews. However, no American will ever criticize capitalism as it would be tantamount to being branded as unpatriotic.

    Hungary like many other CEE countries were just not ripe for a complete opening of the markets. It was a mistake for the EU to mindlessly insist on these market openings and the consequences of those openings are what people hate, at least in Hungary.

    If the EU (the West) was really so bad than those 500-600,000 Hungarian who work abroad would have gone to Russia or Kazakhastan or even to China, but instead they are in the UK, Germany, Austria etc. Somehow it seems life is better in the West.

    Not that this is any consolation for those who remain at home and see the decline and the disappearance of their future, as their kids will bring up their own children abroad, so they will hate “the EU” even more.

  7. George Friedman is one of the most knowledgeable and respected American analysts, still this site always blames the opponents in absence of elementary knowledge, and is ready to dispense an arrogant advice like this: “I suggest that George Friedman take a refresher course.” During 4-5 months that I am reading this newsletter, I have received a similar advice many times as well as everybody who dares to object.

    The problem with this site is that it revises the history. The major revision is your statement that Hungary did not lose its sovereignty on March 19, 1944, though she definitely did. About the 3-years’ period preceding this date, Ms. Balogh writes:

    “Horthy as well as the majority of Hungarian politicians and high officials wanted to rid the country of its Jewish population. Horthy didn’t want an immediate “cleansing” because without Jewish capital and know-how the Hungarian economy would have collapsed.”

    What did Regent mean under word “immediate”? 2-3 months? 2-3 years? In his famous “anti-Semitic” letter to Pal Teleki Horthy wrote that the Jews would be needed “a generation at least” – that means 20 years. Do you really think Horthy had expected the contemporary situation to last for 20 years? All what he wanted was to protect the Jews at that particular moment! The Jews remained safe, though economically limited. during all period of his and Kallay’s tenure until that March 19.

    Blaming Dr. Friedman that he makes historical errors and writes “this hopelessly inaccurate history”, Dr. Balogh writes:

    “It is at this point that we reach the crucial date of March 19, 1944… Let me state right here that Horthy did not make overtures to the Soviets. A small delegation talked to American and British officials in Turkey.”

    After March 19th? Come on! These negotiations were conducted by the Kallay’s government well BEFORE the occupation in 1942-44. After that, Horthy turned to the Soviets but not earlier that he regained a partial power and on August 24 replaced Döme Sztójay with Geza Lakatos as his prime-minister. Do you really know the history well Ms. Balogh?

    An about quarter mullion Hungarian Jews remained alive due to the Horthy-Kallay-Kerestes-Fisher’s policy. George Friedman wrote a remarkable phrase that, if I know it earlier, I would use as an epigraph for my article on Horthy (many facts from it I have reported here) – I will repeat it in all capital letters:

    “WHAT HORTHY DID WAS THE DIRTY WORK OF DECENCY.”

    I very much regret that we live in the era when “decency” has become almost a dirty word.

  8. Excellent analysis by George Friedman, the famous scholar and thinker. Friedman’s work is very important in understanding the historical role of Admiral Horthy. To me the most important sentence by George Freidman is:

    “My parents were grateful to Horthy. For them, without him, the Holocaust would have come to Hungary years earlier. “

  9. “Some 1 – The deportations you mention, according to my map, were not in Hungary but in Czechoslovakia and Romania. … Hungary Got It Right! – Horthy got it right! – Friedman got it right! – I got it right! . . . But you out of the loop Socialists/Communists got it wrong!”

    Nyiregyhaza is in Czecholslovakia? Nagyvarad is in Romania today, by a few kilometers, but it was under Hungarian control again at that time, thanks to Horthy’s policies. I think you might need a new map.

    And anyone who disagrees with your interpretation (and map-reading) is a communist? A black and white vision of the world is comforting, but it is almost never accurate.

  10. I don’t think bringing in your parents’ opinions is a good way to objectively analyse anything. Why would anyone be convinced by that? Didn’t you people learn critical thinking in school?

  11. Like it was written about here, Orban is heading towards the Sandor Palace (the office of the president, which originally Orban renovated for himself but had to give up when he lost the 2002 elections).

    If Orban is elected by the Parliament as president in 2017 (with an increased scope of powers, of course), he can remain the top dog for years to come even his party loses some places in the Parliament. He will be second Horthy, who never stood for any election but held ultimate power even though his prime ministers kept changing.

    Orban is getting a bit tired, like Erdogan is, but he will never give up power, only responsibility.

    http://nol.hu/belfold/orban-feljebb-lephet-1463211

  12. Why are some people so anxious to defend Horthy against all criticism?

    Those Hungarian soldiers and the Jews and others who died in WW2 probably didn’t care much who was responsible: Horthy, Szalasi or some unnamed Hungarian officer/gendarme/whoever.

    Hungarians did all the dirty work – not those Germans!

    It’s like some of our Germans used to defend themselves: Hitler was an Austrian – so it wasn’t us! At least most of my compatriots know that we were responsible – even if you did nothing yourself.

    The whole defence rests on the idea “We have to get back what we lost in Trianon” and we will do whatever is necessary – even if it’s a pact with the devil!

    Again I invite everyone to read Steve Colman’s book about his days in Budapest as an eyewitness – thanks again, steve397!

  13. @Dan

    Yep, Friedman must be a great analyst. After all he and his Stratfor pals correctly predicted the Arab spring or the annexation of Crimea or the fall of communism etc.

    He surely is a great businessman and obviously is very good at collecting diplomatic rumors which newspapers don’t dare to or want to publish and combining them with traditional journalism and selling the product for good money, but does he understand Orban or Hungary?

    Only a tad better than your average clueless American or European politician, I am afraid.

  14. Stratfor is a consultancy business, emphasis is on the business part. You can deal with them as you can deal with any business. Knowing Orban, I would not be surprised if he, as part of his efforts to get a better publicity abroad, besides enlisting lobbying firms, country branding advisors and suchlike, would be trying to be friendly with Stratfor too. He or his minions would talk to Startfor, give it non-public info, purchase subscriptions etc. and surprise-surprise Orban could get a favorable treatment. I mean which company would be critical of its clients? Some of Friedman’s points are useful and do ring true or at least plausible, but is this article profoundly better than any analysis you read in Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, Der Spiegel, project-syndicate etc.?

  15. I was truly appalled at Friedman’s analysis, which was based mainly on heresay and bits and pieces of information he received from his parents. More importantly, the admiration of Horthy by some of the Jewish population did not stand the test of time.

  16. I guess Csaba is right. The Hungarian government could be very well paying Mr. Friedman for his services as a token Jew. If subject matter were history, I would rather trust Eva Balogh, Krisztián Ungváry, and László Karsai than a consultant businessperson.
    Even when Horthy was ruling and mainstream ideology of Hungary was “national-christian” (a code word for revisionist and anti-Semitic) they used token Jews in order to justify their anti-Semitism. I found such articles in the “Györi Nemzeti Hirlap” (1936-45)
    Therefore, Mr. Friedman says what Orbán and his ilk want to hear. It has no relevance. Even if Ferenc Kumin is complaining, Los Angeles Times did not publish Mr. Friedman’s letter to the editor. Probably it was a rabbi Friedman and not the consultant Friedman. All the same, if we want to be operated we will go to a Doctor med and not to a Dr. of philosophy or of History. So let us learn from Historians about History and not from somebody who is peddling hearsay.

  17. Totally OT, although not that much if we think about it:

    “Once a truck carrying a load of nuts crashed into a tree. A family of squirrels living in the tree discovered this new resource and began to live the high life on the nuts they had just found. But as their population grew, so did their demand for nuts.

    But that truck crash was a one-time event, and the squirrels were depleting their nut windfall as their population grew, and they were making a mess by leaving their discarded nut shells everywhere. The squirrels failed to adequately plan for the day that there were no longer enough nuts to feed everyone. Recently, they were able to frack open a hidden compartment in the truck to find a few more nuts, but being squirrels they failed to use this brief reprieve to plan for a future without as many available nuts.”

  18. Is it not interesting that two of the contributors in this discussion and taking a differing view to the majority are people who were not experiencing the benevolence of Horthy, Szalasi and others (such as Keresztes Fisher under whose direction the 1941 deportations took place, or Miklos Kallay who arranged the last anti-Jewish law before the deportation of 437,000 Jews, both of whom were both anti Nazi and anti Semite) who might not have been outright murderers, but have nevertheless done their part in (a) ruining a nation by supporting the anti Communist war on the side of Germany and (b) by their anti-Semitic stance have enabled the Hungarian Holocaust.

    It seems to me that the more removed one is from what happened in the 1940’s in Hungary, the more you believe yourself entitled to form an opinion and to hell with those who experienced those days or who are professional and acclaimed historians of the period.

  19. I just remembered where I had stumbled upon Stratfor re Orbán. There was a report discussed last year here:

    http://www.politics.hu/20131014/u-s-institute-says-orban-is-a-good-geopolitical-strategist/

    “Modern Hungary is often puzzling to the international observer. The unorthodox policies of firebrand Prime Minister Viktor Orban have elicited hope, outrage and ridicule ever since he was elected to a second term in 2010. But as his speech at London’s Chatham House on Wednesday shows, Orban is a very serious thinker faced with very serious problems. The six theses he argued contain a fair amount of political whitewash, but ultimately they are the clearest explanation of the morally troubling but geopolitically consistent logic that drives his Fidesz party’s controversial policies.

    The weight of history remains a heavy burden for Hungary, a country situated in the heart of Central Europe that has been torn between the great powers of the West and the East for much of its history. In these kinds of disputed borderlands, radical change rarely brings good news, and the countries in these areas are particularly attuned to geopolitical dynamics.

    In its current form, Hungary sits right on the edge of a declining European Union and a resurgent Russia. Of course, this description oversimplifies the situation; Russia is beset by its own vulnerabilities, and Europe remains a powerful pillar of the global system. Nonetheless, with Western Europe preoccupied with its own existential crisis, Russia has become relatively stronger and more assertive.

    Hungary is not a particularly wealthy or powerful country. It is a landlocked country with few natural resources that tends to gravitate, sometimes willingly, to more powerful regional actors. (The Hapsburg and Ottoman empires and the Soviet Union all come to mind.) Western Europe and its European Union were the economic and political allies with which post-communist Hungary fervently aspired to align — in his speech, Orban called them the “desired West.”

    Four of Orban’s six theses were dedicated to showing the failure of the post-national European model and its inability to offer the economic and political stability it had promised. Not coincidentally, Orban chose to deliver this address in the United Kingdom, traditionally a source of Euroskepticism, where anti-European rhetoric has resurfaced in the past few months.

    Orban did not mention Russia in his speech, but the specter of Moscow has been all too familiar throughout his political career. Led by Vladimir Putin, another master strategist, a more fragile Russia has tempered its erstwhile-unsophisticated intimidation tactics and has instead opted to buy strategic commercial assets in Central Europe as a means to regain influence in its former periphery.

    Orban correctly assumes that with an increasingly distant European core and without any powerful patron to replace it, Hungary cannot avoid an eventual negotiated confrontation with Russia. Orban’s most controversial policies — the appropriation of private pensions, the attempted neutering of the judicial branch, the ongoing nationalization of strategic energy assets, for example — are all designed to concentrate power in the state’s hands. Centralizing power will improve Budapest’s negotiating position for what Orban sees as an inevitable opening to the East.

    Orban and the Fidesz party’s policies consistently clash with the liberal ideals enshrined in the European Union and have therefore incurred the ire of Brussels. However, knowing that Hungary can no longer ward off Russia by integrating further with the European Union, the disapproval of the Western elites matters far less to Orban than his ability to sustain Hungary’s sovereignty in the long term.

    The geopolitical reality from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea is thus: Europe is disintegrating, Russia is reasserting itself and the United States is mostly ambivalent. The Hungarian experiment is only the first of its kind — Orban even called Hungary “a laboratory” in his speech — and if successful, it could become a template for other Central European leaders to follow. This is a less than thrilling prospect for Western commentators and European bureaucrats, who labored for decades to bring these former Soviet satellites under the aegis of the European Union and who have since used such words as “totalitarianism,” “dictatorship” and “authoritarianism” to describe Hungary.

    But as our own Chief Geopolitical Analyst Robert Kaplan recently wrote, geopolitics is value neutral. The adage is particularly applicable to Orban, who is neither a power-crazed Nicolae Ceausescu nor a celebrated herald of liberal democracy like Vaclav Havel. Rather, he is a more complex and nuanced figure who for all his faults understands the inconvenient realities of geopolitical dilemmas and is willing to pursue their equally inconvenient solutions.”

  20. OT re the new theme:

    When I decide to get a larger text on the screen by pushing “CTRL +” two or three times then the whole right hand sidebar with the list of latest comments and the blog roll moves below the comment section – that was my irritation at first.

  21. The Horthy apologists were well rebutted by others, but I would like to add a couple of small notes: just because the Hungarian government did things in areas that are not currently part of Hungary is irrelevant – what is important is that it was the government committing the acts in what it considered to be Hungarian territory, regardless of who controls that territory now. The Horthy government was expelling Jews into Poland to their deaths long before the Germans occupied the country, and some of those Jews had lived in Hungary for many generations. That is historically accepted fact, but people ignore it when they want to absolve Horthy of blame.

    Also, since when is a 20-year reprieve for ethnic cleansing meant to be a sign of humanitarianism? If I declared that all ethnic Hungarians should be expelled from Romania next week or 20 years from now (which of course I would never declare), would the reaction be much different? Somehow, many people seem to think that anti-Semitism is perfectly allowable, as long as it’s not too extreme, yet those same people will call for war to be declared the moment one Hungarian is attacked in Vojvodina for speaking Hungarian. The hypocrisy, racism, and inhumanity that passes for political discourse in this country should be shocking to any civilised, educated person, yet even the EU has stopped being shocked. This is the true triumph of Fidesz, and bodes ill for the future of Hungary.

    Furthermore, I am familiar with George Friedman’s work, though I had no idea he was Hungarian. I was given his book, The Next Hundred Years, as a gift a few years ago, and became flabbergasted that anyone would pay good money for information from Stratfor. As the title suggests, he predicts the future of geopolitics 100 years into the future. That is truly arrogant, of course, but he seems to have a very high opinion of himself, so it is not surprising. What is surprising is how badly he does it. He extrapolates present trends far into the future, essentially betting that history travels in straight lines. He is especially exuberant about Turkey, forecasting it to become a regional political and economic superpower. Of course, anyone who follows the news knows that Turkey has had a run of setbacks since Friedman’s book was written, during the height of foreign minister Davutoğlu’s policy of “zero problems” with Turkey’s neighbors. I would argue that such problems were inevitable, given the leadership of Erdoğan, which was becoming more authoritarian even back then. Friedman seems to have been caught completely unawares, which makes me wonder how he retains his reputation.

    Certainly, everyone makes mistakes, and I am not always right about how things will go in the future (I invested in Hungary, to my consternation). Being wrong is not the problem, but how one goes about it. Friedman makes a big show of knowing what he’s talking about, but he doesn’t seem to care about doing the research and getting advice from people with evidence and local knowledge. Therefore, his bombast about Horthy is regrettable but not astonishing.

  22. I am saddened by the amount of hate, radicalism, extremism implied in some of these comments. It shows not only lack of respect, but lack of intelligence if someone cannot tell George Friedman the scholar and Andrew Friedman the rabbi apart. Is it really that confusing? And why would anyone say they are the same without checking?

    And then the insane crazy accusations. There is a scholar and famous expert who is not agreeing with some of you, so let the mudslinging and discrediting attempts start immediately. He must have been paid!! These Friedmans, they are very suspicious… By the way do you think the company founder thinks what internet people think of him, because he dared to have a different opinion? And then bringing up the old antisemitic sterotype, about “greedy jews” about him getting paid. Not having his own thoughts, only motivated by Money. Well that must have been the cause here. Because he was not frothing at the mouth and expressing pure hatred against Hungarians, he must have been paid. Brilliant logic.

  23. Dan: “Excellent analysis by George Friedman, the famous scholar and thinker. Friedman’s work is very important in understanding the historical role of Admiral Horthy.”

    I’m so glad that you liked it and it doesn’t bother you that his Horthy story is crawling with factual errors. What a pity from a “famous scholar and thinker.”

  24. Geo, you seem to be saying that accusing someone of being greedy, if that person happens to be Jewish, is tantamount to “hate, radicalism, extremism” and anti-Semitism? What if the person just happens to be greedy? What if the accuser is Jewish as well?

    The criticism here is directed at a Horthy apologist who happens to be Jewish. If anything, people are upset with him because he’s ignoring (or ignorant of) history while fervently defending the same person that the likes of Jobbik feel should be exalted to hero status. The fact that he is Jewish exacerbates the mistake, because his actions are supporting those who seek to do harm to Jewish people. One very likely reason for this is money, and there are greedy people of every ethnicity and religion, just like there are reasonable, fair, and incorruptible people of every ethnicity and religion. I reserve the right to criticise people for being greedy, even if they are Jewish, without being labeled an anti-Semite for doing so, just as I reserve the right to criticise the actions of the hateful, radical, extremist, genocidal settler movement in occupied Palestine known as “Price Tag”. I should be able to say that Rabbi Meir Kahane was evil, while also supporting Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and not be labeled an anti-Semite by oversensitive obfuscators such as yourself. If you accuse everyone who criticises Jews of anti-Semitism, that word loses its potency, and your cause loses support.

  25. After reading Steve937, and Karl Pfeifer, it is clear that Stratfor was paid for this PR article.

    “Karl Pfeifer
    May 21, 2014 at 3:58 am
    I guess Csaba is right. The Hungarian government could be very well paying Mr. Friedman for his services as a token Jew. If subject matter were history, I would rather trust Eva Balogh, Krisztián Ungváry, and László Karsai than a consultant businessperson.
    Even when Horthy was ruling and mainstream ideology of Hungary was “national-christian” (a code word for revisionist and anti-Semitic) they used token Jews in order to justify their anti-Semitism. I found such articles in the “Györi Nemzeti Hirlap” (1936-45)”

    Has Stratfor quoted the works of Ungvary and Karsay?

    Was his work based on the Szakaly’s input?

    Most probably the work was fostered out to a young Hungarian, with mediocre education from Orban’s Hungary.

  26. Klubradio had to close down its Gyöngyös broadcast yesterday.
    (I admit I did not know they were still allowed to broadcast there)

    http://www.klubradio.hu/cikk.php?id=16&cid=174009

    Klubradio network in 2009:

    Timeline of the closure of the frequencies of the only opposition radio station in Hungary:

    2011.10.14: Ajka, Balatonfüred, Keszthely, Pápa and Veszprém
    2012.11.27: Esztergom & Tatabánya
    2014.05.21: Gyöngyös

    The only remaining town outside Budapest where Klubradio can still be heard is Debrecen,
    (Earwitnesses :-), please tell me whether Klubradio still broadcasts in Kecskemét)

  27. I don’t know where Jonas and Googly have come from but they’re welcome additions…

    As for Friedman, I certainly wouldn’t put it past Orban to have met with him and romanced him to a good opinion. Hungary (Orban) seems to be particularly successful with english-speakers like the Brits to foster good opinion (whether it’s paid for or not, who’s to know?).

    Although, I have noticed a depressing tendency lately that Hungarians of foreign lands have are
    buying into Orban’s visions and suspect that, in return, efforts are being made to treat these
    people as ‘special’ by those in power in Hungary. This probably takes the form of invitations
    to Budapest and special treatment on arrival.

  28. @ Curly: Just to clarify I did not write what you quoted as my text! It was a reply to me from the Rev. for my link
    ““There is a new blog only in Hungarian (unfortunately) on the Internet. The blog is run by historian, Andras Mink. ‘Menetrend’ (Timetable) is the title of the blog, and for 57 days it will feature the name of a village or town in Hungary where people were deported from to Germany (in wwii). They will also feature stories, the number of people deported and from where on the given day.”

    The Rev. Albert W. Kovacs – UCC
    May 20, 2014 at 9:39 pm
    “The deportations you mention, according to my map, were not in Hungary but in Czechoslovakia and Romania. … Hungary Got It Right! – Horthy got it right! – Friedman got it right! – I got it right! . . . But you out of the loop Socialists/Communists got it wrong!”

  29. @ Rev. : Let’s get one thing straight. Nyiregyhaza is in Hungary, and never ever belonged to any other country! Second, I find it peculiar that you always peak in here with very dubious claims with no facts whatsoever, and when facts presented to the contrary to your opinion you choose to disappear. Your comments should not be taken seriously, as you certainly not take seriously those who actually take the time to present you with factual information.

  30. Dan
    May 21, 2014 at 12:49 am
    Excellent analysis by George Friedman, the famous scholar and thinker. Friedman’s work is very important in understanding the historical role of Admiral Horthy. To me the most important sentence by George Freidman is:

    “My parents were grateful to Horthy. For them, without him, the Holocaust would have come to Hungary years earlier. “
    ———————
    To me on the other hand, the most important s sentence by my own father is: “Horthy started the ball rolling with his first Jewish law, way before the Germans did to much to Hungary. If not for Horthy, some Hungarians would not turn into animals”.

    And for your, the Rev. and Friedman’s education, some FACT:
    The first Jewsih law in “1938 stipulated that the proportion of Jews in the chamber of the press, in the chamber of the theater and film, in the chambers of lawyers, engineers and medical doctors as well as in the professional jobs of certain companies should not go beyond twenty percent. In the following year, two other laws, relevant to our subject, were passed by the Hungarian legislation. The National Defense Law of Two 1939 gave the government special powers “in times of war or in times of the danger of war threatening the country.”4 After March 19, 1944, when the Germans occupied Hungary, the new pro-Nazi government of Döme Sztójay referred to various articles of this latter law when issuing its decrees.”
    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/hungholo.html
    THere you have it, some facts versus some blah-blah-blah.

  31. Of course, Rev. Kovács, as usual, is completely off. The cities mentioned were then and some still are in Hungary. It is really sad that people with no knowledge make pronouncements based on totally wrong facts. The deportations began in the north-east corner of Hungary of the day. Some of these territories today are in Ukraine and in Slovakia. But they were part of Hungary then.

  32. Some1 – I didn’t mean to imply that it was you who wrote that. It’s clear that the reference was to the Rev.’s comment (do ministers really write such stuff?). But the quote function isn’t there and I just quickly copy/pasted the reference.

    Sorry.

  33. @ geo: People can have a different opinion, but you cannot have different historical FACTS on the same subject. Opinions are derived after looking at the facts, and as courtesy to others you back-up your opinion with facts. Many of Horthy defenders quote other people’s opinion as truth, but they lack the facts.

    Just because someone is famous and respected, that does not mean that his/her opinion is fact.
    Unfortunately that is the trap that Hungarians fell in over and over. They decide what they want to believe. then they find people who also believe in the same distorted opinion. THese are the people who willingly or not become revisionists.
    One of the recent similar attempt happened in France, when a French law recognized colonialism as a positive value (2005).

  34. Some posters suggest we should rather trust the businessperson Friedman or rabbi Friedman when subject matter is history. This is also the view of the wise leader of Hungary and his acolyte Historians like Raffay who says that Jewish survivors are oversensitive and Szakály.
    So because I assume, that a Mr. Friedman (one person) was paid for his services to the Hungarian government I am accused to use an anti-Semitic stereotype.
    Taking the twisted logic of Orbánbelievers into consideration, this would amount to the following: Those few Jews who are repeating Orbán’s mantra must not be criticized, but it is right to call me in a moderated blog of Fidesz controlled Magyar Hirlap a (gas) oven deserter.

  35. Orbán’s cronies try to emulate Horthy and his feudalistic ruling class by their love for animal massacres, a.k.a “hunting” too.

    His Chief of Staff Lázár ordered 2500 to 3000 dead pheasants in Bohemia for November 7 and 8, 2014. The problem is that Lazar personally does not have the 75,000 to 90,000 euros needed for this joyous event, unless he committed fraud in his yearly “wealth return” that every MP has to hand over.

    Last December Lázár participated in a hunt that resulted in 913 dead pheasants in Hungary.

  36. I found that most Americans understand terms like “race” and “religion”, but cannot comprehend ethnic and class differences in other countries.

    Before the second world war, Hungary had a society where class membership gave sharp limits to an individual. Before 1939, a rich Jew, mistakenly, could think of himself as belonging to the ruling class. He usually thought of himself as having very little in common with poor Jews.

    Some of these people, if they were in Budapest and got personal exemption from the anti-Jewish laws by Horthy before October 15, 1944 (some three thousand in number), continued to remain apologetic about him after the war.

  37. This is rather typical, when people have nothing to say in essence, then they ask an ugly question: who is bribing their opponent, because, of course, honest opinions cannot be different from mine!

    This site is published in the USA, not in Hungary, and, as I understand, the majority of the participants are emigrants who do not live in Hungary. May I ask: who is paying for this site and for its hateful anti-Hungarian and anti-governmental propaganda?

  38. tappanch
    May 21, 2014 at 9:15 am
    >Some of these people, if they were in Budapest and got personal exemption from the anti-Jewish laws by Horthy before October 15, 1944 (some three thousand in number), continued to remain apologetic about him after the war.

    Some quarter million Jews were saved by Horthy’s actions. Nobody in the world saved more Jews than Horthy did. The truth will eventually find its way.

  39. Mr. Rabinovich. Here on this blog a retired professor of History (Yale University) is publishing. She is a professional historian. Do you want to tell us, that the flawed opinion of a businessperson about Hungarian history is more relevant than the facts presented by a Historian, who is a specialist of Eastern European History?
    You parrot the antidemocratic opinion of those in Hungary who qualify criticism of the present Hungarian government as “anti-Hungarian”.

  40. Eliezer, “Nobody in the world saved more Jews than Horthy did”. And nobody in the world presided over a quicker deportation and extermination of 437 thousand people. The one is not mitigated by the other. Shame on you

  41. Karl, as I read it Eliezer was attacking a type of thinking that suspects bribery, funding and background financiers in every corner. By indirectly asking you, Karl if you are paid for your opinions you express. As I understood it, this topic has nothing to do with Eva because it was you who accused Friedman of forming his opinion for money and not her. But I may have misunderstood too, but this is what I decoded.

  42. Some quarter million Jews were saved by Horthy’s actions. Nobody in the world saved more Jews than Horthy did. The truth will eventually find its way.

    It’s been 70 years now … and your truth still didn’t find it’s way. What’s wrong Elizer? The world is not buying the anti-Semitic agenda?

  43. This site is published in the USA, not in Hungary, and, as I understand, the majority of the participants are emigrants who do not live in Hungary. May I ask: who is paying for this site and for its hateful anti-Hungarian and anti-governmental propaganda?

    This blog has thousands of foreign readers. This blog is one of the main sources of information and a de-facto standard on analysis on Hungarian politics.

    Now imagine what do these foreigners think about us when you, who’s so proud of your 4 digit Hungarian zip code, burps up some outrages anti-Semitic propaganda here. Can you please stop making us Hungarians look like fascists? Thank you!

  44. Mr Rabinovich (if that is really your name), this site is a free wordpress blog. No one is being paid to write for it, except perhaps those commenters coming from either the Prime Minister’s office in Budapest or the FSB who, like you, accuse the owner of this blog of being anti-Hungarian. Dr Balogh is profoundly pro-Hungarian: she wants Hungary not to be a mediocre state but rather to be a leader among the mainstream democracies of the world with a successful economy and high standard of living and education for all of its citizens. When she disagrees with the policies of this or previous governments (and followers of this blog will know that she has had plenty of criticism of other Hungarian governments as well!), she is doing exactly what (small d) democrats do: call attention to errors, incompetence and corruption in governance and openly discuss alternatives so that the people can have a better government.

    The real anti-Hungarians are those who believe that this Hungarian government or any other government before it is so immune to error, incompetence and corruption that it can never be wrong and that it can govern without the benefit any independent fact-checking, criticism, or transparency. A truly strong Hungary is a Hungary that thrives on open and serious discussion, based on facts rather than emotions and ideology and soberly working through the alternatives rather than blindly accepting the program dictated from above without question. The one great lesson of both the Horthy era and the Era of Soviet domination was that authority needs to be questioned at all times, and that transparency and complete democracy are essential or else one has stillstand and tragedy.

    The Hungarian nation is composed of all Hungarians, not the partisans of one faction or another another. And only when all sides can sit down together in open and civil discussion and search for optimal policies for Hungary can Hungary use its significant human resources optimally. Anything less than that is anti-Hungarian.

  45. kommentelo
    May 21, 2014 at 10:16 am
    I did not write that Mr. Friedman is bribed. This is what I wrote:
    The Hungarian government could be very well paying Mr. Friedman for his services as a token Jew. If subject matter were history, I would rather trust Eva Balogh, Krisztián Ungváry, and László Karsai than a consultant businessperson.

    It happened that the Hungarian government and Mr. Orbán were praised by the former Israeli Chief Rabbi Metzger. Now the Israeli police started procedure against Mr. Metzger.
    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/177356#.U3y5_ihkx8E

    Now c o u l d it be that Mr. Metzger was bribed? So could it be, that Mr. Friedman who is a businessperson is getting money for his services from the Hungarian Government? Or do you exclude such possibilities?
    For your information: I am a 85 year old journalist, who was during the Kádár-period four times expelled from communist Hungary and I am paid for my articles if they are printed. Most of them are published on Websites.

  46. Karl I don’t exlude anything but I also do not believe anything without evidence. So far I have seen no evidence that money had anything do with any opinions here or elsewhere. Why were you expelled so many times, at the risk of being off topic I will ask you to give a link or explain more, now I am interested.

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