Property swindle in Budapest’s District V

The revelations that surfaced about NET Holding in the last few days, thanks to 444.hu, exposed an intricate network of affiliated companies and described the complicated international trading in natural gas. The corruption case I will be talking about today is a lot simpler. Admittedly, the loss to the taxpayers is also a lot less, about four to ten billion forints over the last eight years. Small potatoes, you might say. But keep in mind that we are talking about the sale of one-third of all real estate owned by the municipality of District V, where property prices are the highest in the country. Moreover, these shady deals occurred during the mayoralty of Antal Rogán, considered to be the third most important politician in Hungary after Viktor Orbán and János Lázár.

Stories of corruption in District V, downtown Budapest, have been circulating for almost a year. Népszava learned in April 2014 that a city official demanded a bribe from a businessman who had just successfully competed for a site to open a restaurant. The brave man refused and went straight to the police, naming names. As is typical in Fidesz country, the deputy mayor who was most likely implicated in the affair did not end up in court but was simply removed from the scene and transferred to the ministry of foreign affairs where an “urgent” job was waiting for him. His replacement was Péter Szentgyörgyvölgyi, who became the district mayor last October. Soon enough it became known that Szentgyörgyvölgyi himself was a beneficiary of the shady real estate deals of the past few years. Under pressure, he decided to give his apartment back because “he just got tired of all the attacks against him.” Details of these revelations can be found in a post I wrote in December.

The force behind the investigations is Péter Juhász (Együtt), who was Szentgyörgyvölgyi’s opponent in the municipal election and who subsequently became a member of the city council of District V. He thus has access to documents that shed light on the means by which expensive apartments or business sites were passed on to political friends for a fraction of their real value. Juhász is a former human rights activist with vast experience as an investigator of corruption cases.

So, how was it done? The key concept in these transactions is preemption, the right of a tenant to purchase something, especially public property, ahead of anyone else. Ever since the 1990s a law has been on the books that allows the state or the municipality to sell its properties to tenants at a reduced price. The rationale behind this practice was that every year the tenants of these public properties were obligated to pay higher and higher rents and received no equity in return. The price abatement thus assumed a long-standing contract between owners and tenants. Moreover, as Antónia Rádi of Átlátszó.hu pointed out, three persons are needed for such a transaction: the owner, the person who intends to buy the property, and the current tenant. Apparently, in practice this particular rule is often dispensed with. That is, no outside buyer is necessary for the transaction. What happened in District V, however, went beyond both the law as it was written and the law as it was practiced. The transactions were, quite simply, illegal.

Let’s say an apartment or store front became vacant. The city officials notified their friends, political or otherwise, that these sites were available for rent. After a few months the happy tenants announced their desire to buy the property. The price was determined by two “independent” appraisers. One of the appraisal firms was owned in part by György Rubovszky, a Christian Democratic member of parliament and father of Csilla Rubovszky, deputy mayor of District V. In addition, Rubovszky, a lawyer, was employed by the district as an “expert” assisting the committee in dealing with properties owned by the district. The assessed prices were very low. They always agreed with the prices on the district’s books, most likely thanks to inside information by Rubovszky. Then came the bonus: a 30% reduction in the price.

Among the many cases Péter Juhász is pursuing, he found a tenant turned owner who within a few months sold his newly acquired property for double what he had paid for it.

Juhász is not only digging through property files. He also organized a walk through the streets where most of the questionable property transfers took place.

And how much did Fidesz steal from you? Péter Juhász leading the walk in District V

“And how much did Fidesz steal from you?” Péter Juhász leading the walk in District V

Rubovszky is just one of several people with Fidesz or government connections to surface in these real estate swindles. Péter Heim also handled some of the deals. He is now head of Századvég and as such may be on the list of individuals banned from entering the United States because of their involvement in corruption cases affecting U.S. businesses operating in Hungary. András Giró-Szász, undersecretary in the prime minister’s office, is also indirectly involved through his brother-in-law and business partner, Péter Serfőző.

Juhász is convinced that the city officials undertook these real estate deals as part of a private business venture and did so in a conspiratorial manner. Between 2008 and 2013 277 pieces of real estate changed hands in District V. The appraisers low-balled the value of these properties at a half or a third of their real worth. On top of that came the 30% abatement. If Juhász, who since then pressed charges against District V, can prove his claim, the people involved might end up in jail for years. Or, they should but, judging from other earlier cases, they most likely won’t.

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78 comments

  1. I saw the PBS Frontline program on Putin on the 13th when it first aired. While everything in it was true about the corruption of Putin and how he manipulates the oligarchy, it really never even touched on one of Russia’s most corrupt sectors, except to imply they were a tool of Putin. This sector is the military and even Putin has publicly admitted that vast levels of corruption exist in the military procurement system, the reason he admitted this was because he doesn’t get what he believes to be a fair cut of this corruption. It goes to the high command, former generals, and their various relatives as their perk.

    Former Defense Minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, was fired for corruption, because he probably did not pay tribute to Putin. What needs to be kept in mind when considering corruption in Russia, is that fraud is only prosecuted when it is politically convenient, or when the accused are politically at odds with the current leadership. The Defense Ministry corruption affair has led to 25 indictments. For instance, Boris Miroshnikov, a retired general, was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison in exchange for testifying against another woman indicted in the scandal, Yekaterina Smetanova, wife of Maxim Zakutailo, who is a former head of a Moscow air force depot. Serdyukov himself was only a witness in the process; no indictment has been filed against him.

    The Russian military knows it is no situation to take on the west as aggressively as Putin has and Putin’s leaning on their own area of corruption has not endeared Putin to the Russian military structure as much as they like getting the Crimea back. The majority of Russian general officers and Ministry of Defense officials engage in side businesses and own expensive property not commensurate with their income, which raises the well-founded suspicions of corruption. Many are reportedly very wealthy. These practices were tolerated until Putin signed new legislation in May 2013. The greatest threat to Putin may become his own corrupt military, not the non-military oligarchy or advocates for democratic freedoms that the PBS documentary focused on. This is why both Stalin and Hitler killed off numerous military officers, they posed the greatest threat to those dictators. The same could turn out to be true in Russia.

  2. Petofi: I don’t share your speculation about Orban’s motive. The rest of the Fidesz cabinet are not gypsies. I don’t support the romantic views of revenge. Mór Jókai wrote many excellent books and some of his hero and villains are such vengeful people.

    One angle I may be able to accept but only as a possible emotional motivation. Orbán is a peasant, by birth, by residence and in his mind and manners, he is a country bumpkin and a prick. Some uppity peasants look upon city people with disdain, because they don’t know how and from where does the food get on their table. Orbán is a primitive and half-educated hick, so he may have some resentments and he treats the capital city, Budapest with contempt and snubs Tarlós when there is a chance.

  3. @gybognarjr

    The whole Orban cabinet is not worth the wood they’re sitting on: everyone knows that not a one of them has dared to oppose Orban on any policty of action. The cabinet is there for the
    mulla. If they raise a voice, they’re gone. Orban is a genius at manipulating the morally-challenged Hungarians–they’re not only sheep; they’re unethical sheep.

    The problem I have in figuring Orban is that he is not doing the things–building the ‘infrastructure’–to keep his mafia state going long term. He’s doing things that will lead to disaster. He’s definitely steering the ship of state towards the rocks. And he’s not doing that
    because he’s ‘lost’ and doesn’t know what he’s doing..

  4. @Eva S. Balogh:
    No; he is right; he can not say more and I am sure the FIDESZ will not leave him alone.

    What I miss and feel seriously sad; that in Hungary there is _NO_ open discussion about the changes of the properties of FIDESZ party members ( or just leaders ).
    Any moment if someone would start such discussion is named as liberal jewish… “pretty normal”

  5. Petofi: I don’t live with prejudice, I don’t hate gypsies or anyone else based on race, religion, nationality. I don’t subscribe to inherited reasoning and/or motivation at all. When little Orbán was born, his mind was as empty as any other newborn’s mind and now it is full of some stupid things they thought to him and some he learned on his own, or from his mentors.

  6. Gybognarjr:

    I don’t hate gypsies either. I do hate when Budapest gypsies attack, or gull, the infirm and the old.

    But what is this liberal, knee-jerk reaction whenever someone says something critical of a minority?

    In Toronto, the Jane/Finch corridor was infested with Jamaican drug dealers yet one could neither read the word Jamaican or Black, in newspaper reports? Why?

    Recently, Charles Barkley and a black football player came out against the Blacks marching, looting, and burning, in Ferguson–a very rare example of educated persons not following the
    tribal line.

    Let’s be careful about accusations of racism. In California, Black students marched against white professor because he marked all the grammatical errors of a black student. Blacks
    considered that ‘demeaning’. Ridiculous.

    If one tells the truth about a sensitive subject, why is that immediately construed as racism?

  7. Petofi: I am not going to explain to you reverse discrimination. It is easy to look it up.

    What you are not practicing is a careful construction of your thoughts and sentences, whereby one should never assume, that because someone belongs to a given race, religious group or nationality, that is why he/she is doing anything. One can simply not make that assumption.

    Just think of Mawgli, the Indian boy raised by wolves. If you looked at him, he looked like an Indian boy, yet he thought and behaved like a wolf. We are what we learn and not what we were born with, which is always ZERO!

    If a group of people are mistreated for many decades simply because of their race, religion or nationality, when this mistreatment stops, the hard feelings and anger will not stop with it.

    Europeans are also very good at keeping tabs on each other’s history, good and bad deeds and in arguments some of them treat others as hundred years old enemies.

    When will the Hungarians stop hating Romanians in general? When will the French stop being distrustful of Germans. When will the Dutch ever be friendly with the Germans? When will the Flemish and Walloons mingle and party in the same pub?

    Here in the USA we still working on integration and in my 45 years we have progressed enormously, yet there is a lot of time and work needed. Blacks and whites still have their differences at times and there is a lot of reverse discrimination and there are lots of bigots on both sides and stupid red necks too.

    In time there will be less and less, I know for sure. However we have little to worry about nationalities bringing here their Old World historical differences. Here we are ALL Americans.

  8. @petofi:

    I think Orban, by birth, is at least 1/2 Roma. (His original name was ‘Orsos’ which he changed a long time ago.) Orban’s shenanigans–his complete neglect of rule of law…of traditional practices…of accepted etiquette…smacks of the rebellious, traditional, Roma ways.His mission is several, but in his heart of hearts, I suspect he wants to punish Hungarians fora 1000 years of abusing gypsies. He wants to be the Vajda who has hit back for the many injustices perpetrated on his people. It’s not the king of Hungary that he wants to be remembered, but as the great Vajda who brought vengeance and retribution for his people. He knows that if he destroys Hungary–and he’s well on his way to doing it–he will be remembered by gypsies the world over for the next 1000 years…

    That’s it. I am no longer reading petofi’s postings. I used to think his heart was in the right place, and that he was just somewhat over the top at times. But if I give him the benefit of the doubt even after a mean-spirited bit of conspiracy theory like this one, I would be betraying the very reasons Orban and Fidik need to be opposed. (Perhaps for the next racist rant petofi might want to consult this, on the “fact” that on his non-cigany half Orban is a kike. There’s a limitless supply of this kind of repugnant venom from the Jobbik sources from which petofi ought to be distancing himself, rather than emulating.)

  9. @Istvan:

    Here in Chicago American Hungarians got sucked into what they thought was cheap Hungarian property only to see the values collapse.

    In general my community here is not being sold on the idea of a quick turn around in values, but rather in rental incomes. The expectation is a 6% rental yield which is a good amount for these small investors owning only one or two units. If Orban continues his hostility towards the EU the large number of ex-pats who work in Budapest for multinationals will drop and this rental market will crash.

    Very interesting to read your impression of this market from the “other end of the telescope” as it were. I’m at the other end, being a foreigner renting a flat in Budapest; and from this end my impression is the same as yours.

    A Budapest flat may look like a great investment from over there in Chicago, because in $ terms the investment is relatively tiny: what’s 10-15 million HUF in USD? Sadly, the low price might act to draw in investors with less to invest, and thus less incentive to or extra cash to pay for some due-diligence investigation. An American buying a similar property in say Chicago would pay astronomically more; would spend more money and time really checking out the deal; and would have more accurate intuitions about the local market to start with.

    I’ll assume the rental market in the US is vaguely similar to the market in the UK which I’m familiar with. The market in Budapest, to the extent that it exists at all, is nothing like either. Unlike in the UK, where many people rent, and where it’s possible to work reasonably hard on minimum wage, rent an OK property and have an OK life (outside London!), here no-one rents if they can help it.

    Fun facts:
    – None of the Hungarian friends we asked could tell us anything about what rental prices are like: because they’ve never dealt with living in a rented place;
    – Not one of my colleagues in my last job (at a multinational, paying better-than-average salaries) rents a flat at market rents; they either rent in some kind of grey area (inaccessible to a recent immigrant, let alone to a remote investor on the other side of the Atlantic), or pay low to no rent thanks to family or friends while they save up to buy their own place.
    – When I hear someone talking about renovating their (spare) property, the aim is usually to put it out into the AirBnB market. So the highest-quality properties don’t even appear in the long-term rental market.

    When we were looking for a flat, I came up with a theory of separate ecosystems proceeding in parallel. You’ve got the expat-on-Western-salary ecosystem. You’ve got the foreign-student ecosystem. And then you’ve got the majority: Hungarians working for Hungarian salaries. (The fourth ecosystem – short-term AirBnb-style tourist rentals – is priced so far above any of the others that it’s in a completely separate category, whose effect on the other ecosystems is only to remove even more supply of properties from them).

    Crazy outcome 1: as someone working in a professional position on a Hungarian salary, you’re outbid by students! Because of Hungary’s proximity to the Eurozone, many students bring in their (relatively low, back home) student incomes in EUR.

    Flats for rent in Bp have no connection whatsoever with the third, majority group (working Hungarians). I’m not sure whether no-one rents because the prices are so astronomically high relative to income; or whether it’s the other way round, with no-one renting for other reasons to do with culture and habit and prices consequently being high because there’s no money to be made trying to rent to locals so no-one bothers. Chicken and egg. But the fact is that salaries in Hungary are low relative to the cost of living that is utterly inconceivable to an outsider (e.g. an American investor with Hungarian roots): I’d heard a lot about this but didn’t have any real understanding of the magnitude of the mismatch before actually living here for a while.

    I’m lucky in that I have some IT skills which are rare in Hungary; so I’ve moved to another job which pays enough for me to afford the (by general Bp standards) astronomical rent I’m paying until the tenancy contract expires. Without that, I’d be straddling two ecosystems, with one foot in the Hungarian-salary stream, and the other in the rental-price-for-foreigners stream. No fun at all.

    Since I’m a recent immigrant, I think I can put my finger on the illusion that is probably being sold to foreign investors: it’s that a flat in Budapest, with rent set for a 6% return, is going to be entering a thriving market of potential tenants, in the way that it would in a city in the UK or (I guess) the US. It isn’t. The return on investment in a Bp property depends on a tiny, volatlie, fragile market of foreigners, rather than on a broad base of local tenants who can afford the rent. As you say, all it takes is a few multinationals to close down their Bp operations, Hungarian universities to raise their fees to foreigners, or Eurozone states to reduce their funding for students, and – the market is gone.

    This puts a new angle on Kocsis’s recent idea of charging a tax on properties owned by non-residents in the VIIIth (another risk in itself!). Perhaps I was blinded by the constant “bring the money the evil foreigners are making off our toil back to Hungary” rhetoric here. For a start, most of these “evil foreign investors” probably aren’t even making money from Hungarians, who can’t afford to rent from them: it’s a foreigner-foreigner transaction, taking place in Hungary.

    I think, informed by what you see from over there in Chicago, that contrary to the rhetoric, there is a lot of money being made on these deals right here in Hungary: by the property-management companies; and Kocsis has simply sniffed out some money being made and wants a part of it. In other words, it’s nothing to do with the poor oppressed Hungarian János Doe!

  10. Some1: Thank you. I hate to lecture people about discrimination, reverse discrimination and prejudice. The fact is, that many people can learn it, but don’t believe in it, so all they do is suppressing their feelings because they know, that it is not acceptable to show them. They act as if they were not prejudiced and racist, but they are not genuinely so.
    Those of us, who were raised from a young age not to be prejudiced, not to discriminate and lived through the progression from the Civil Rights Movement to date and hopefully remain for a while to see more progress, treat others as individuals and express ourselves as such without hidden and suppressed feelings. It comes automatically and with a higher sensitivity of detecting racism and prejudice in others. (Generally, non-smokers are more sensitive to smoke, than smokers)
    One can hide prejudice and racism for awhile, however, it will appear sooner or later, when they are not on their guard.

  11. gybognarjr Wholeheartedly agree. As I wrote in this blog before my children has not slightest prejudice or racism in them. They do not see skin colours or economical demographics. Whe they refer to people, they never use easily identifiable traits, like black, white or Asian. They never say poorly dressed or the girl with the dyed blue hair. They use other personal characteristics, like shy, tall, short, happy, they always use something that is not offensive. I love it. It comes naturally to them not to use offensive terms. In fact my older daughter has a friend who is “they”. Now, I have trouble with that because in my speech pattern I always mix up he an she (never the der, die, das), so I often refer to this friend in the masculine or feminine way, and my daughter takes exception to this, as I supposed to use they….

  12. Some1: Thanks. I live in the US now for over 45 years, my wife is American, I have no relatives here, I have very few Hungarian speaking friends, so I speak Hungarian only when I call friends, family in Hungary and I still make a mistake once in awhile, with the he/she being mixed up in a sentence. I guess, the der/die/das is a little different, because you have to learn them with each noun. It is like city and state names for us. In the US, one always mention the state after the name of the city, except like L.A. or New York, so eventually one keeps the two together.

  13. fusion:”I think every Hungarian patriot can be happy that the mortgage loans were converted before the Swiss franc disaster. Not because it had anything to do with the government, but because it would have been Hungarian families that could have been ruined. ”

    This has nothing to do with patriotism. The FIDESZ government forced the banks to convert the Swiss Franc loans into HUF loans, thus eliminating the currency risk that every borrower assumed when they asked for and received Swiss Franc loans. The borrowers lucked out but had the process been the other way (that the forint gained value against the Swiss Franc), they would have lost money. In a free market economy the government has no business getting involved in contracts between individuals and banks (or other private institutions) if those contracts are lawful. When one signs a contract, one is responsible for all consequences resulting from that contract.

  14. Yes, I posted a pungent theory on Orban’s motivation. I tried to build a psychological basis for actions. It received some strong emotional reaction…
    But interestingly, no one has addressed themselves to the crux of my submission: Orban’s actions don’t jive with a kleptocrat wishing to keep his kleptocratic state going–he’s doing unnecessary things (such as attacking Merkel and the US) that make no sense whatsoever.

    So again, why is Orban steering the ship of state, directly and quickly, for the rocks?

  15. Petofi: The reaction you are getting from me is NOT emotional, it is RATIONAL.
    You were not building anything psychological. You were describing an unknown person’s (I don’t think you are personal friend of the viktor) behavior and motivation based on your racist theory.

    I will not address any evaluation, opinion, explanation you present, which is based strictly on a person or persons race, nationality or religion. Assuming that these are the main and/or only motivations any person can have is completely false.
    I don’t say that such primitive persons with single source of motivation don’t exist, but they don’t make it through the University exams, they run for elections and they seldom make it past the civil service exam, EXCEPT as state executioner or torturer.

  16. gybognarjr and Stevan Harnad,

    While I agree with you completely when you reject racism as a basis for rational analysis, and that Petofi’s theory is not sound, I think that he is not speaking of Orbán’s genetic makeup, but the environment in which he was raised (and ideas that he may or may not have developed on his own over time). Also, “rebellious, traditional Roma ways” is not a slur, in my opinion, and describes a culture, not all the people within that culture. Perhaps generalisations are the lazy person’s approach to describing the world, but virtually everyone here employs them, especially when denigrating Hungarians as an ethnic group (Mike Balint, I’m referring to you, among many others).

    In cases that could be racism, it’s probably better to overreact, but I don’t believe that it’s necessary to stop reading Petofi’s posts just because of this one unfortunate idea of his. He clearly is less racist towards Roma than the average Hungarian, and at least he isn’t saying that Orbán is evil because he’s possibly part Roma, he’s saying that Orbán is looking to avenge all the injustices perpetrated against Roma. Let’s give him another chance.

    If someone has dyed his or her hair blue, I think that person would like you to refer to him or her as “the blue-haired person”. Why dye your hair blue if nobody notices? 🙂

  17. Orban’s alleged gipsy origin is being way overemphasized to the point of ridiculousness.

    Orban just like all of the Bibo people (who provide the core of his power structure, which cannot be divided) come from small towns.

    These towns lack anything remotely polgári (bourgeoise, resembling a citizenry, citoyens) and are all essentially bigger villages based on agriculture and low added value industries. The power structures of this world are feudalistic, pre-modern, clan-based which cannot easily be reconciled with the Western, capitalist, rational approach to things. Independent (from the state) power structures outside Budapest couldn’t emerge even 25 years after the fall of communism.

    (As to gipsies, in fact the Budapest-based gipsies very much differ from rural gipsies, which are anyway made up of at least three distinct tribes, so I think it’s not the alleged gipsy background which is dispositive here but the rural, feudalistic background).

    There are very few urban (from Budapest) influential people within Fidesz, those whoe are from Budapest are mostly from KDNP, who are hard-core loyalists of Fidesz because they are religious, anti-liberal people to begin with. For Orban, Budapest-born people are suspicious, they are too open to liberal ideas and the West in general and are too independent. At least in the rural world, people still respect authority and know what discipline is. Moreover, they are hungry and ambitious people, who really want to make it. Budapest-based people are like Westerners, too well-off and lazy according to Orban.

    Orban and his people correctly resemble and reflect the world of small towns.

  18. Hmmm….rather odd: no one has yet touched on the actions of Orban which are considerably less ‘reasonable’ than the man himself. That’s my query. Is there anyone out there who also sees this discrepancy and tries to theorize what is really going on?

  19. @Googly

    While I appreciate your even-handedness, I totally reject the notion that generalizations are “the lazy man’s way of describing the world”. Whatever happened to the ‘reader’s responsibility’ to
    understand the writer’s meaning? I’m channeling Professor Mortimer Adler’s great tome, “How To Read A Book”. Reading is hard work: one must make several efforts to understand a writer comprehensively.

    So, too, with ‘generalizations’. Nothing wrong with them, but the reader must work on seeing what the positives are as well as parroting the accepted mantra of today that, ‘generalizations are false’.

  20. Googly: Thank you for your reply.
    I do not know Orban, I think none of us knows him personally and we are not privy to his childhood and how he was raised, except from what he described at times and what other writers wrote about him. Therefore it is idle speculation and without base, that we could determine his personal, emotional motivation of doing anything, based on personality traits and a strong and decisive ethnic cultural upbringing.

    One should look at the person’s actions, speeches, writings and deduct from those, what can be expected and what do those manifest about his ideology, find similarities in history and in the present to compare.

    We can do that, because politicians, especially those with limited education, knowledge and intelligence tend to copy a great deal from predecessors and contemporaries they admire or want to emulate.

    In the case of Orbán, this is these are the important issues and not his assumed ethnicity, since we have no proof what it is, and even if we had, I don’t believe it is a determining factor.
    From ALL signs and manifestations of Orbán’s political career, his personality, his methods, his visions and his goals can be characterized and even his future actions can be predicted with a fair amount of certainty.

    Ethnicity in NOT an overriding and determining factor for bahavior, education IS! But ethnicity with ethnic upbringing and environment can be a serious influence, if it is coupled with ethnic culture. Unfortunately this is the tragedy with the gypsies living in squalor, excluded from society, getting no education and having no chance to get work for lack of skills and transportation. The Hungarian society, where racism and prejudice is still a prevailing factor, doomed most of them to have only this fate. Borsodd-Abaúj-Zemplén, Szabolcs-Szatmár states have Romani population with 80-90% unemployment and no social net.

    But let’s see where ethnic culture can be a strong influence. Trust me it is NOT mainly in politics, engineering or space exploration, but usually in arts or creativity.

    Examples, which can be easily understood in the context of petofi’s thinking:
    Any child, gifted with musical ability and hearing, growing up with a family of good, professional musicians, very likely will get from them musical training, join the family in making music and have a great possibility for a musical career. Now this child can be of any ethnicity. Examples are many, J.S. Bach, Richard Strauss, Roby Lakatos, classical violinist from the Lakatos family who gave many musical talents to the World, or in the past Panna Czinka, her father was a court musician and composed the Rakóczi March and it is said, that she was a grand daughter of well known Romani musician, Mihály Barna, or János Bihari, etc.
    Just a little side note:
    There are even times, when famous “gypsy” musicians were not gypsies at all. Mark Rózsavölgyi and his famous gypsy band were not comprised of gypsies, but jewish musicians. Mark Rózsavölgyi was born Mordchele Rosenthal and he is credited with the new musical movement to create the Hungarian flavored folk music, “magyar nota”.

  21. Wow! A lot of interesting background info in the last two days – almost too much for me, but thanks everybody!

    Not too much OT:

    The Fidesz mafiosi always complain that the NGOs are financed from abroad and often the name Soros comes up, he seems a kind of “Schreckgespenst” for them – like Gyurcsany …

    The famous debunking site snopes.com (where lots of urban legends have been unravelled ..) has this on Soros. Seems he’s involved in many conspiracy theories:
    http://www.snopes.com/politics/business/sorosferguson.asp

  22. Petofi,

    I agree, reading is hard work, if you’re trying to find meaning rather than just enjoying yourself. I also agree that generalisations are often very useful. However, I find that they are misused by intellectually lazy people who want to see the world in black and white and not understand the nuances of people’s behaviour. Therefore, to truly understand what I was trying to say, you could have asked yourself some probing questions, such as “does he mean that generalisations are always for lazy people?” and “what does he usually write about – what is his rhetorical style?”. You might then have come to the same conclusions that I have about the misuse of generalisations, rather than thinking that I am condemning them en masse. I, on the other hand, could try harder to write more clearly, so that I am not misunderstood.

    Not only are generalisations often useful, they are essential shortcuts that allow humans to not spend too much time and memory on getting the details about everything they encounter. If you don’t generalise, you would cease to function, because you would need to approach every part of every situation you encounter with your full attention. Since that’s not possible for anyone I know, we’re fortunate to be able to use blanket assumptions about everyday occurrences, freeing us up to focus on the really important subjects, such as why Orbán does the things he does. The important thing is to not let the generalisations take over your life, especially when it comes to treating people with respect and understanding until they prove that they don’t deserve it.

  23. gybognarjr,

    I agree, ethnicity is not usually the strongest factor in behaviour, but your ethnicity has a significant impact on what education you receive, both formal and informal. Nearly everything you are is heavily influenced by those around you, including your family and friends, neighbors and teachers, role models and authority figures. All of those people are usually part of your ethnic group, especially in a home-centered place like Hungary. If Orbán’s father really is Roma, or even his grandmother, it certainly influenced Orbán’s upbringing at least a little, and possibly quite a lot. If Orbán identified as such growing up, it’s not beyond my imagination that he could have seen the unequal treatment of other Roma people and become convinced that they must be avenged.

    I personally don’t believe that this is what happened, only that it’s not such an outlandish theory. One needn’t be a racist to see the theory as having merit. I would only say that his treatment of Roma up to this point does not support the theory very well.

  24. Googly: The Hungarian society is very homogenous, but very polarized and there is not much cross traffic. You can be Magyar, Gypsy, Other than Magyar and Gypsy.

    This is why the ethnicity can be seen as more influential for some people, who live there. In general, Hungarians don’t want to do anything with Gypsies, since childhood, they learn and cite only the worst examples and it is extremely hard to find anyone who is NOT prejudiced against the Gypsies. The most you get; “I don’t hate the gypsies, but…..” and there comes a long list of complaints. My mother does it, even thought she knows my views. Most Hungarians don’t even notice those Gypsies, who rose above the “lazy, dirty, alcoholic, freeloaders” and don’t “look and act like the gypsies” people don’t like.

    Therefore, I take it with a grain of salt, what a Hungarian person, especially if he/she lives in Hungary or Europe (unless specializing in Romani culture and trying to integrate the gypsies) tells me about them.

    The average Hungarian does not want, and simply cannot “walk in their shoes” to try to understand what it is to be Gypsy. Most Hungarians rather feel sorry for themselves and cite their own hard life as example, and state proudly, that the overcame all the hardship, yet the Gypsies cannot do the same, therefore they are no good people. Yet at the same time, they don’t know that Gypsies live their entire life with only disadvantages, they are hated almost by everyone as soon as they leave the ethnic surrounding, the family and Gypsy friends. Hungarians don’t care much about the fact, that most Gypsies tried many times to obtain education (even if segregated in school) and/or applied for jobs, every time they are being chased away or being lied to, that someone else already got the job. Such a person cannot maintain the motivation forever to succeed and gives up sooner tor later to become part of the society. Nobody wants him/her anyway.

    Even id a Gypsy succeeds, he/she always going to be a “filthy gypsy,” in every argument, even, when he/she is a doctor or engineer. There is no sympathy for the gypsies.

    Many Hungarians live their lives without responsibility about their own big mistakes in their jobs, in their lives, let alone feel responsible for excluding and shutting out the gypsies from the society, forcing them to be lawless, since they cannot get justice and never make a serious and consistent, long term effort to integrate them into society. Hungarians never made long term efforts to teach the Gypsies how to take care of themselves better and still allow them to be gypsies, accepting their good differences, being able to learn from them the good things. Hungarians don’t understand that integration means that there has to be exchange and acceptance of the good things from each other’s culture and allow people to be DIFFERENT! They want to see the Gypsies to become good Hungarians and forget their worthless, no good, gypsy culture.

    To most Hungarians it does not even occur, that they should look at the work and methods other countries employed to integrate different ethnic groups.

    I hate to bring up the integration that is going on in the US, but one can see, that there are many, many artist, creative people, sport figures, engineers, doctors, who are afro-americans and the white people learned some very valuable good things. To a degree we assimilated to them and they assimilated to us, we accepted that they are different and so did they, that we are different.

    With the prevailing negative attitude toward Gypsies in Hungary, I will not give credence to an explanation of a megalomaniac, lying S.O.B.’s motivation simply with gypsy ethnicity. Or, let’s say, some of the victor’s ancestry were Russian, would that be the reason, why he is such a terrible person? The rest of his regime are NOT comprised of gypsies, or Russian, the don’t even have cannibals in their ancestry, they are all Hungarians and still they are the worst lying, thieving, brigands, one can find on any Continent and in any country.

    So, I am sorry, but I just look at the person, Orbán, the history of his deeds and statements he made and I can see as he changed and became what he is now, in about 15-17 years, since his career in the Fidesz party. I seriously doubt, that he got a lots of Gypsy influence there.

    P.S. There is no Gypsy ancestry in Lázár, Rogán, Szijártó, Kósa, Kövér, stb., they seem to be of “good Hungarian stock”, if so, why are they are such thieving criminals, ethnicity does not explain it?

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