FYI: A documentary on Putin sheds light on Orbán’s Hungary

This is an extra post, actually just a note, calling readers’ attention to a fascinating documentary, Putin’s Way, aired on Public Broadcasting Corporation’s weekly program “Frontline” on January 13. PBS is the American public television station, funded for the most part by corporate donors, foundations, and ordinary viewers. It is, unlike MTV, decidedly not a state TV station.

The documentary is based on a recently released book by Karen Dawisha, Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014) which is hailed as brilliant. A review in The New York Times summarizes the main points of the book. Dawisha, who received her Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, is currently the Walter E. Havighurst Professor of Political Science and Director of the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.

The book has quite a history. Originally, it was supposed to be published by Cambridge University Press, but in the last moment the publisher, fearing stringent British libel laws, changed its mind. The details, including an exchange of letters between CUP and Dawisha, were published in The Economist.

The documentary is available on PBS’s website as well as on YouTube. The former is in larger format and, I think, of better quality.

Anyone who’s interested in the workings of the political system developed by Viktor Orbán should find this documentary educational. Russian kleptocracy and the Hungarian mafia state seem to have a lot in common.

Two views on today’s Hungary: Al Jazeera and Dokuworld 2013 (Germany)

Hungary’s liberal world is buzzing with news of the documentary shown on Al Jazeera, an independent television station broadcasting from Doha, Qatar.

I received the following from our friend S.K. this morning:

Unexpected irony from an unexpected corner: Hungary on Al Jazeera

The neo-Nazi Jobbik party is known for its frequent sympathy demonstrations towards Arabs and specifically towards the Palestinians, using this as a cover to express their anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments, if not hatred. This was surprising at first, but due to the relentless repetition, has become customary by now, at least to the Hungarian public. This is why it strikes me as a most unexpected and profound irony that the Al Jazeera network, Arab-owned and financed, operating throughout the world, devoted a twenty-five minute long documentary to depict Hungary’s state of affairs a few days ago.

The piece doesn’t need much commentary at all; it speaks for itself most eloquently. The only surprising thing about it is the thoroughness and depth of the insight the filmmakers were able to muster during their very short time spent in the country. And, of course, how ironic it is that even the Arabs, who are enjoying the dubious “patronage” of Fidesz and Jobbik, can see through the screen of government propaganda and skullduggery, and present the facts concisely, irrefutably and devastatingly.

Anyone with any doubt about the fatal developments in Hungary should urgently view this report and take it to heart.

I can only send my thanks and congratulations to Glenn Ellis, the maker of the film, for this remarkable work.

Unfortunately in its current configuration is unable to embed this video, but I urge everybody to take a look at it. It is in English and lasts only twenty-five minutes.

Those who know German can view another documentary on Hungary, part of a series called Dokuworld 2013. Even those whose German is not fluent but who know the present Hungarian situation will enjoy its summary of the growth of the far right in the country and Fidesz’s ambivalent attitude toward democracy. More and more foreign observers consider Hungary a country that is quickly slipping into one-party dictatorship.

For those who’ve had enough of a weighty subject on a holiday weekend in the U.S., here’s some news about the “Are you free for a dance?” extravaganza. Although the event in Budapest and in other larger cities is still going on, early reports have already appeared online. If I read these reports correctly, Miklós Soltész’s brainchild is a colossal flop. The few people who showed up are not youngsters looking for spouses. Rather curious old folks. Professional dancers demonstrated the steps, but when invited to join in, the few people there fled.

A number of “provocateurs” also wanted to attend, but the police originally didn’t want to let them in. They wore signs like “Hello, I’m X.Y. I’m looking for a squire with a large landholding or for an owner of a tobacconist shop.” The authorities eventually relented. There were others who decided to dance with people of their own sex after they learned that Soltész announced that gays are welcome. All in all, those who were bent on making fun of this whole harebrained idea seem to have prevailed.

At the height of the excitement at the "national mixer" in Budapest /

The height of the excitement at the “national mixer” in Budapest /

In Szeged the situation was even worse. There the reporter of the newspaper Délmagyarország did not see a single person who was looking for a dance partner. There were only a few children and their curious grandparents. If these party hacks just knew how ridiculous they are.  But I guess they live in a world of their own and refuse to see reality. I wonder how long it will take them to wake up to the fact that their activities are injurious even to their own cause.