Hungary: Where is the Enemy?

In recent years, post-Communist countries like Hungary have seen an increasingly aggressive attitude towards Soviet memorial monuments. Although this attitude may at first seem unsurprising after decades of Soviet occupation, this destructive rage has become so ferocious that one must question the reasons behind its intensity…

by Magdalena Marsovszky

First, I will describe several attacks from recent years, as well as the contexts surrounding them; then I will analyze their underlying backgrounds, and attempt to demonstrate that these events have become loaded with rage because they carry antisemitic connotations, with the ultimate goal of “eliminating the enemy”.

The “autumn events” of 2006 and the storming of the Soviet memorial in Budapest on 18 September

In the autumn of 2006, the public learned a confidential speech given by Ferenc Gyurcsány Prime Minister at that time to members of the parliamentary caucus of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) who assembled in the village of Balatonőszöd back in May of that year, shortly after having won the parliamentary elections. In this vivid and fiery speech, he admonished his colleagues to take a frank look at the country’s financial situation and stop deluding themselves, while at the same time promoting internal solidarity and teamwork. When this speech emerged in the public arena, the “nationalist-oriented” media portrayed the Prime Minister as having admitted that his electoral success was based on lies and fraud, i.e. was not legitimate.

As a result, this has gone down in history as the “lies speech“1. Immediately after a couple of sentences of the long speech became known and the following days saw spontaneous riots and street violence in Budapest, including arson attacks at the national public television building on Szabadság Tér (Liberty Square), near the Parliament building in the city center2. This was the worst civil unrest in many decades, catching the police completely off guard; it was only after many hours and much destruction that they managed to push back the angry crowds, while at the same time themselves committing many abuses and violations. Around two hundred people were injured3.

This police misconduct was interpreted in the “nationalist-oriented” and “patriotic” media4 as a deliberate targeting of “revolutionary patriots” by an “illegitimate, lying government” bent on conducting a “manhunt”. This remains the dominant interpretation of the so-called “civic” (in truth: völkisch / ethno-nationalist) parties, such as Fidesz-MPSZ (Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Union) and KDNP (Christian Democratic People’s Party), then in the opposition, since May 2010 in government. A similar opinion is held by the right-wing radical Jobbik, a more recent party, since May 2010 in parliament, representing some seventeen percent of the voters. On 8 December 2008, Zoltán Balog (earlier Fidesz Chairman of the parliamentary Committee for Human Rights, Minorities, Religion and Civil Affairs, since May 2010 Undersecretary for Integration) presented Valéria Kormos’ book Manhunt on Command5 during an extraordinary parliamentary inquiry. This book’s title suggests, and its contents assert that the police assaults of autumn 2006 were clearly the result of direct orders from Ferenc Gyurcsány, the Prime Minister of the Socialist-Liberal government at the time. Therefore, when Kormos’ book was presented at Budapest’s “House of Terror” on 11 December 2008, Balog was inspired to draw a parallel between the Socialist-Liberal government’s treatment of the “victims of police brutality” and the Stalinist dictatorship’s treatment of Gulag returnees6.

However, let us return to the “storming of the television building”. In the weeks after the riots of 18 September 2006, demonstrations and protest rallies – often approaching the character of a lynch mob – took place every evening in front of the Parliament building. From a podium set in a sea of neo-Nazi Árpád flags with their red and white stripes, folkloric Magyar music of Hungarian skinheads blared late into the night7, occasionally interrupted by orators spouting antisemitic diatribes against Socialist and Liberal members of parliament, spitting on the them as they entered and left the building. Their names, photos and personal details, as well as those of despised left-wing liberal journalists, were posted on streetlamps in the style of wanted posters; furthermore, a list of fifty allegedly Jewish “traitors” (again, well-known left-wing liberal politicians and journalists) was read out loud8. A slogan was frequently called out: “Here is where you too will hang!” It was only after several weeks of public debate, concerning whether this type of protest was protected by the right to free speech, that the police succeeded in clearing the area in front of Parliament, in time for the official ceremonies on 23 October marking the fiftieth anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The demonstrations and disturbances continued somewhat farther away, including an incident on 23 October in which a tank on display was commandeered to drive alongside the demonstrators for a few hundred meters. The arrival of winter brought a gradual end to this wave of protests and violence, the largest in Hungary’s post 1956 history; however, riots still erupt every year on national holidays, as well as on the occasion of certain other symbolic events9.

The night of 18–19 September 2006 saw an attack on the Soviet memorial, just a few hundred meters away from the television building on Liberty Square. The memorial had been dedicated on 1 May 1945, bearing the Soviet coat of arms in relief and the inscription “In Honor of the Heroic Soviet Liberators”, written in both Cyrillic and Hungarian letters. Similar attacks had already occurred in the early post-communist years, but these did not draw much public attention until after 2006. About a half-year after the attack, there emerged on the internet a jingoistically edited private video, apparently made by a right-wing radical, which helps shed light on the attackers’ intentions10. The soundtrack features “the Marsaillaise, symbolizing the values of the French Revolution, thus signaling to the viewer that “freedom fighters” are at work here. The video first shows images of the storming of the television building, and then the attack on the Soviet memorial. The 2006 attack was choreographed to imitate well-known photos from the Revolution of 1956, during which the Soviet memorial was also attacked. These old photos are also edited into the video. In both 1956 and 2006, the Soviet coat of arms was similarly pried away with iron rods. There exist clear iconographic parallels. However, in contrast to 1956, the “patriots” of 2006 “ceremonially” carried the coat of arms to the Danube, singing the Hungarian anthem and “Ria-Ria-Hungaria”, before tossing it into the river11.

For history-conscious Hungarians, these events are reminiscent of the actions of the old Arrow Cross Party formed by Hungarian fascists. After coming to power in October 1944, Arrow Cross members executed tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews on the shore of the Danube, so that their corpses fell into the river. This is why the Holocaust memorial called “Shoes on the Danube Promenade” was erected in front of the Hungarian Parliament in 200512. The following analyses will verify the hypothesis that, with the Soviet coat of arms, the “Judaized government” (this was at that time the socialist government) was being symbolically tossed into the river.

1956–2006: How the myth of a “second coming” develops, and degenerates into antisemitic demagoguery

The Soviet memorial’s attackers see themselves as “freedom fighters”, and these “patriots” have nicknamed the nearby television building a “Bastille of Lies” that broadcasts a continuous stream of “racially foreign ideas”, regardless of the few “token goyim” who work within. According to a report of the “Magyar Self-Defense Movement” (MÖM), it was no accident that the angry crowds attacked in 2006 the television building, just like they stormed in 1956 the radio building, which was the “lies factory” of the day13.

As will be demonstrated, the attack’s ideological foundations had been laid long before by the statements of the oppositional, now governmental (völkisch/ ethno-nationalist) parties – Fidesz-MPSZ and the Christian Democrats (KDNP) – as well as the “nationalist-oriented” and “patriotic” media. Many months before the fiftieth anniversary of the 1956 Revolution, they were already working systematically toward establishing a new myth. On the one hand, the völkisch/ ethno-nationalist parties were (and are) constantly claiming that the Socialist-Liberal government was heir to the Communists, and that “the people” are therefore still suffering from a Bolshevist-Communist dictatorship of “the ruling class”. On the other hand, and as a result, long before the ceremonies of the fiftieth anniversary, the Hungarian right was already suggesting that 2006 would be a repeat of 1956. Even before 2006, references to the Revolution of 1956 were of strategic importance in the speeches of opposition leader Viktor Orbán (Fidesz-MPSZ) at that time. Thus, in his speech of 23 October 2005, exactly one year before the riots, he fired up the crowd by stating: “After a while, when the signal comes, we will look at one another, and come into eye contact […] and see that the same light shines in their eyes. And then in the silence, someone says just two words: That’s it! That’s enough! That’s really enough! We’re fed up with them and their petty games. It’s time for them to fold, because the cards are bad for Hungary. […] And then the people will need no more overseers, they will roll up their collective sleeves and dig in. […] The signs are there. […] Get ready for change!“14 In late 2005, Orbán even said that he and his supporters were strong enough to mob the government, and he could already smell gunpowder in the air15. Thus, the myth of a “second coming” was being established long before the autumn of 2006.

Real events later conformed to this prefabricated construct, although – as we saw – real events exceeded this construct in many respects.

The following years saw repeated demonstrations and attacks, in which the television building and the Soviet memorial were associated with one another as symbolizing the repression imposed by the “Judaized (socialist) government”.

Already on 4 November 2006, a demonstration took place at the memorial that was no longer spontaneous, but instead well-organized. József Tibor Bíber, back then the vice-president of the right-wing radical Jobbik Party16, gave a speech criticizing the socialist government, “whose tactics are borrowed precisely from the man they demonize, namely Adolf Hitler. Sixteen years after the fall of Communism, there is no place here for a government that still praises the glory of those who conquered and besieged us”, and in response, the listening audience chanted “Stasi, Stasi!” Bíber continued: “On Liberty Square, there must stand a memorial to Magyar Freedom, and this memorial to the siege must be erased! A specter is haunting Europe once again – the specter of the ex-Communists!” Following this paraphrase of The Communist Manifesto, he ended his speech with a mobilizing call: “Stand up, you ghost killers! The ghost of communism must be eradicated!“17

More demonstrations followed, with increasingly explicit antisemitic connotations. For example, one participant coaxed his comrades into take part, with the remark that one had to demonstrate “goyish unity, in this Judeo-Christian, Judeo-Romani Hungary“18.

On 20 September 2008, the memorial was once again subjected to a violent attack, with thrown shoes and Molotov cocktails. It had been surrounded by barricades since 2006, to protect it against everyday acts of aggression. As the Parliament building was also being barricaded on major national holidays, the “nationalist-oriented” and “patriotic” media began claiming that the people were “practically no longer free to celebrate” the national holidays19. These and similar statements helped to imply that “the people” today are living under a dictatorship just like in 1956, a dictatorship of “communists” who behave as now as back then.

Then in early 2008, a film was released in the cinemas, later to be broadcast on a few “nationalist-oriented” TV stations, in which all the aforementioned elements could be found.20 It was a kind of homage to Maria Wittner, the Fidesz-MPSZ parliamentary fraction’s grand dame who was associated with right-wing radical groups, and who had participated in the 1956 Revolution, which resulted first in being sentenced to death, and then to life imprisonment, before finally being released after thirteen years. In the opening scene, we see archival footage of the guest speech she gave before the Hungarian Parliament in 2001, on the occasion of the first “Memorial Day for the Victims of Communism”:

“I call upon the victims – both living and dead – to join us in indicting our executioners in socialist garb. […] I indict them because they plundered the land, and because they, utilizing the labors of the hardworking Magyar people – and by abandoning their principles – have now become red capitalists. […] Therefore, in the name of the victims, I declare that they will never be capable of acting as Hungarian politicians in the interest of and for the benefit of the nation. At this point I ask you: according to what moral code can they still be sitting in Parliament today, passing laws for a nation that they themselves have bankrupted, plundered, and brought low? In the name of the Doctrine of the Holy Crown of Hungary and in the name of the Hungarian nation, I declare them to be moral corpses.”

Back then, in 2001 (and up until May 2002), the völkisch/ ethno-nationalist Orbán government was in power; it was also the period which saw plans for the future “House of Terror”, which opened in February 2002. Therefore, it is no accident that the film also features another speech from that memorial day. It was given by László Balázs-Piri, a pharmaceutical technician who is the vice-president of the “Committee for Historical Justice”, one of the motivators behind the “House of Terror”, and the president of the supervisory board of the “Foundation for the Research of Central and East European History and Society”, which maintains the “House of Terror“21. He spoke of former members of the Hungarian Young Communist League (KISZ)22 as being the “heirs of their masters”, who now “held key positions.” He declared that these were “people with the particular physiognomy of the germ carriers of the dictatorship”, who were using new solutions to seek new confederates23. Recently, on Fidesz-allied “Hír TV”, during the anniversary of the 1956 Revolution on 23 October 2009, he even said that the “degenerate, Soviet-nurtured left-wing” and the “communists” were like the “most rampant weeds”, impossible to eradicate.24

However, let us return to the film.

The film shows Maria Wittner once again, as she recounts:

“What eases my situation is that the Holy Crown of Hungary is stored in this building. When the caucus chamber becomes too much for me, then I go to visit the Holy Crown, praying to it and asking for guidance. Here in the Hungarian Parliament, the Holy Crown has its own personality. Anyway, the Parliament is only there so that we can pretend that Hungary has a multi-party system. […] Since 1990, I have often thought about how we live here in a plundered land, and asked myself who plundered it. It was THEM. They nationalized everything, first plundering the land that way, and now they are doing it again, except under the label of privatization. They became rich by taking everything from the people, everything that the people had earned together in forty years. They lived from what they had nationalized, like parasites on the body of the nation; then came the so-called ‘changeover’, and those who had learned how to exploit these methods have now become the billionaires of today. Just as János Kádár was a traitor, so is Ferenc Gyurcsány also a traitor. In this respect, they are the same”.

The end of the film features a poem from a rock opera created in 200025:

“What was 1956, my friend? The past? A people that died? […]
Have you forgotten what we did? […]
We fought for freedom […] tore down the red star, toppled the memorial [meaning the Stalin memorial – M. M.] […].
Back then, you really thought, […] that freedom was coming, and you would have your future back […].
Did you really think, little Magyar, that the mighty would forgive you? You didn’t ask for much, only your life, and hoped that THEY in return would at least deduct your spilt blood.
Blood – Ritual – Murder […].
Instead, your head was stomped again into the ground. That was the price for the beautiful days […].
What was your life? The question is meaningless […].
You can be proud if you remain a small cockade in the buttonhole of the world.” 

Background: antisemitism and the ethnicization of national memory

These quotations are filled with antisemitic stereotypes. Above all, one sees a dichotomization between “us” and “them”, or a differentiation between “we”, the small, industrious, working people, and “those up above”, who make up the exploitive ruling class. This “we”, the people, is not seen as an entity capable of making decisions, but rather as being powerless and chafing in a cage, yearning to shake off the yoke of the “new dictatorship”. In this view, the old and the old-new dictatorship has been burdening the Magyar people for many decades, with the “so-called changeover” failing to remedy the situation. This expression, “so-called changeover”, dominates the overall rhetoric of völkisch/ ethno-nationalist thought. In the polarized society of today’s Hungary, the use of this expression alone is enough to signal one’s ideological leanings. According to völkisch/ ethno-nationalist thinking, the changeover was not a real change because the “ruling class” (i.e. the Socialists) from before is the same as the one of today; the only difference is that their actions are now called “privatization” instead of “nationalization”, but this basically amounts the same thing, because they only “privatize for themselves” anyway. Therefore, the current masters are the same old communists, even if they now call themselves capitalists. In other words, capitalists in “red” costumes, acting against the good of the nation, because they protect the interests of “globalized capital”. The claim that they have been borrowing from the tactics of Hitler is ultimately an accusation that they are actually fascists. According to ethno-nationalist thought, today’s rulers are all traitors, who can even be recognized by their particular physiognomy. Here, one can also see the biologization of antisemitism, with the expression “germ carrier” carrying the implication that “those up above” are like a disease that needs to be combated, excised, and eradicated. Sentiments which a few years ago were only subliminally suggested in public discourse, are now being explicitly stated, as when socialists are characterized as “degenerate”, or equated with “weeds to be eradicated”. Furthermore, they are already “moral corpses”. This terminology could be seen as signifying an anticipation of real-life murder, as a mental image. The reference to the blood libel (“Blood – Ritual – Murder”) harkens back to an old anti-Jewish stereotype, implying that the blood of the Christian Magyar people was sacrificed in 1956 for “Jewish” communism.

One can see how alive the notion of blood libel is in Hungary today, in regards to the former Socialist government, and even regarding a European Union portrayed as an “imperial” power, by looking at the title of an article published in the Fidesz-leaning newspaper Magyar Nemzet in September 2008: “The Architects of Imperium Europae. Blood-ritual Murder Against the Nation-State: the Attempt to Realize a Super-Government in Brussels“26.

In this worldview, the solution is to be found in the “freedom fighters” who, demonstrating their “goyish unity” under the protection of the “Holy Crown of Hungary”, must take action to shake off the yoke.

These examples demonstrate that antisemitism in Hungary is not to be strictly interpreted as a hatred directed towards a demographic group that exists in reality. The animosity is directed instead against symbolic “Jews”, against “foreignness itself”, more against politicians and media figures (especially Socialists and Liberals) than against actual Jews. Hungarian antisemitism can be interpreted as a “cultural code“27, a “worldview“28, an “earthly metaphysics“29, or a “universally projective identification“30, directed against those who – in contrast to the myth of the “Magyar31 fatherland” and the “native soil soaked in our own blood” – embody cosmopolitanism, urbanity, and intellectualism.

Antisemitism in Hungary always emerges within social groups that, rightly or wrongly, suffer from insecurity; the ideal of a strong, ethnically homogenous nation promises security and progress, thus fulfilling a pseudo-religious function. This völkisch/ ethno-nationalism is reinforced by a long tradition of religiously motivated anti-Jewish prejudice, as well as that of anti-Zionism or “left-wing antisemitism“32, which is no less völkisch/ ethno-nationalist in its prejudice. Left-wing antisemitism, which is particularly characteristic of formerly socialist countries, frequently directs its catchphrase anti-capitalist sentiments against “globalization” and the Western “multinationals”. Also widespread is so-called “secondary antisemitism”, motivated by the desire to deflect guilt by inverting the roles of culprit and victim.

Among the antisemitic stereotypes prevalent in today’s Hungary is that of the “Jew” as villain, embodying all the prime enemies: (“Jewish”) Liberalism, (“Jewish”) liberal intellectuals33, (“Jewish”) Bolshevist Communism, (“Jewish”) capitalism34, and (“Jewish”) Social Democracy. The comparison with Hitler is also routine, casting them as “enemies” by going through the detour of anti-Zionism to accuse them, along with Israel, of orchestrating a “Palestinian Holocaust“35.

The process of globalization itself is seen as the “systematically managed extermination” of Magyar culture, traditions, values, and ultimately the entire nation and people, implemented by Jews. “Globalists” and “globalization” are universally known antisemitic codes, often used as synonyms for Zionism36. Insinuations are made that the former socialist government was entangled in this “Jewish” globalization plot, and is therefore “foreign-ruled”. Harking back to the stereotype of the “Judaized government”, the economist László Bogár referred to socialist government members as the “most devoted domestic vassals of the global capital structures“37. Recently, a local politician dubbed the Hungarian Parliament “the synagogue on Kossuth Square”, which needed smoking out. When asked what he meant, the politician replied that this is how the Parliament was referred to in everyday speech38. All these examples help confirm the hypothesis that the democratically elected former socialist government39, seen as a “Zionist Occupied Government” or ZOG40, has become the main target of antisemitic stereotyping. Today, among völkisch/ ethno-nationalists, the Social Democrat Ferenc Gyurcsány is public enemy number one.

How is it that the Soviet coat of arms has become a proxy for the “Judaized government” of Hungary, to be tossed into the Danube in a symbolic gesture of eradication?

From the 1920s up until the present day, antisemites have agreed that the gravest dangers facing Hungary (and all of Europe) are represented by Liberalism (from the West) and Bolshevism (from the East), both invented by “Jews”. According to this logic, the bugbears are (“Jewish”) liberals and (“Jewish”) Bolshevism, so that Liberalism mutates into a “Jewish undermining” of the national community, and world revolution becomes a “Jewish revolution”. Liberals and Jews on the one hand, and Soviet Communists (symbolized by the memorial) and Jews on the other, are tacitly equated as synonymous41.

The constant claims alleging that the small Liberal party is a minority reigning over the Magyar majority, and that the current Socialist party represents a historical continuum with the pre-1989 Communist one (whose rule by terror could be further traced back to Bolshevism), are all hallmarks of traditional antisemitic demagoguery in Hungary42, and these views are continually repeated by the so-called “civic-minded” media. Therefore, if this logic can insist that the former Socialist government stands in historical continuity with the Bolshevists, and that the Soviet Communists were also descended from the (“Jewish”) Bolshevists, then it follows that Soviets and Hungarian Socialists/Liberals could be declared synonymous with Jews.

Similarly, during a major demonstration against “Magyarphobia” on 20 September 2008, Krisztina Morvai, now a Member of the European Parliament for the radical right Jobbik Party, declared: “My final advice to the Liberal-Bolshevist Zionists who have plundered our land, is to start thinking of where to flee and hide! Because there will be no mercy!“43

Important factors for antisemitism in Hungary are the “nationalist gaze” and “methodological nationalism“44, which have defined large parts of the narrative in Hungary, and incidentally dominate large parts of Hungarian academe as well. These factors have encouraged the “ethnic closure“45 of society, thereby transforming it ultimately into an ethno-national collective, with its ideal of homogeneity nurturing exclusionary tendencies.

This occurs especially through the “ethnicization of national memory“46. Here, the Hungarian national victim narrative is brought to the fore. The national victim myth is a major component of the ethno-nationalist thought that prevails in Hungary, and is strongly associated with the phenomenon of “cultural pessimism”. Both these elements are important building blocks in the structures that foster antisemitism47. In both phenomena, we experience an ultimately antisemitic identification with the Magyar nation (here defined in the völkisch/ ethno-nationalist, racial sense of communally shared ancestry). This cultural pessimism emerges from a fear of losing long-standing traditions, beliefs, and social relationships that seem threatened by modernization and reform. It also stems from a psychologically determined perception of one’s own alleged marginalization48. One fears the loss of “national unity”, and dreads the “death of the nation”. There is a sense of being victimized by modernization, and by European integration in general.

This victim myth also means the deflection of guilt and remembrance, as well as the projecting of crimes onto “the other”, “the foreign”, which are ultimately characterized as “the Jew”. The national victim myth tries to deny any crimes committed that may result in one’s own sense of guilt. This is nothing less than an inversion of guilt, in which the perpetrators take their fear of being collectively incriminated, and project it onto the victims. Researchers have recognized this inversion of the perpetrator-victim relationship as a typical manifestation of antisemitism49.

The “ethnicization of national remembrance” is also reflected in the myth of the “Holy Crown of Hungary” which plays a pivotal role in all völkisch/ ethno-nationalist discourse. All right-wing nationalist factions consider the “Doctrine of the Holy Crown of Hungary“50 to be the basic law, instead of the democratic constitution. This Crown has been a politically and mystically loaded icon since the nineteenth century, and especially between the two world wars, it became an object of sacred veneration. The “resacralization” of the Crown occurred in 2000, during the tenure of the Fidesz-MPSZ Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, when the Crown was transferred by law from the National Museum to the Parliament building, in a ceremony marking the new millennium. The act reaffirmed the ethno-nationalist interpretation of the “Doctrine“51, as the Crown was once again more than just a museum piece, and now served in Parliament to symbolize the “(völkisch-ethnic-racial) unity of the nation”, in accordance with völkisch/ racial-ethno-nationalist ideals and to the dismay of democrats. The Crown also serves a special function in “völkisch/ racial-ethno-nationalist ceremonies”, as members of numerous völkisch/ racial-ethno-nationalist groups swear an oath of allegiance before the “Holy Crown of Hungary”.

Causes of ethnicization and antisemitism after the change of regime

After the change of regime, Hungary – like other post-Communist societies in general – was abruptly confronted by the phenomenon of globalization. West European corporations invaded the East European market, contributing to the emergence of an unbridled capitalism and the disintegration of local economic structures. At the same time, preparations for EU integration were driven apace. However, local citizens saw this less as a negotiation process, and more as an imposed list of conditions forcing heavy social cutbacks. Therefore, it is no wonder that many Hungarians experienced globalization as an invasion or a siege, and EU integration as a decree, a colonization, or at best simply a switch from “EU East” (the Soviet Union) to “EU West” (the European Union). Democratic structures (e.g. the democratic protection of interests afforded by labor unions) were not fortified during this overall process. Hungary, like the other post-Communist states, was basically left at the mercy of market laws, which had been imported by West European companies. So it is hardly surprising that what the locals experienced as “globalization” and the “EU integration process” was actually nothing less than “unbridled capitalism“52. For them, EU integration was not a process of democratization, but of exploitation and colonization by the laws of the market. The nation felt itself “humiliated”.

The answer was to be found in ethnicization. The old “love of the West” from the Communist period has been gradually transformed into a widespread negative attitude toward the West. “Anti-globalization”, “anti-capitalism”, and “economic patriotism” are on the increase, although this negative attitude is only applied to “western cosmopolitan” foreign capital. Völkisch/ racial-ethno-nationalist billionaires remain welcome53.

One could even say that this ethnicization is a way of protecting one’s own interests, in a society that has never learned how to resist democratically. People fall back on old “ingrained” behavioral patterns.

Regardless of the universalist ideals of socialism in Hungary (and in all the post-Communist states), ethnicity, and with it the model of an ethnic cultural nation, had been instrumentalized in an effort to stabilize the system54. Therefore, with this “nationalist face“55, Communist governmental cultural policies developed over the decades a much stronger affinity to ethno-nationalist ideas than to the ideas of liberals, social democrats, or Reform Communists, whose supporters in their critique of socialism wanted to pursue the path of Western liberalism.

Therefore, with the fall of Communism, a large part of the social elites (including politicians and völkisch/ racial-ethno-nationalist intellectuals) were hoping for an racial-ethno-nationalist changeover.

Thus, on the one hand, völkisch/ ethno-nationalist tendencies in Hungary are not to be seen as a kind of “post-accession syndrome”, but are simply characteristic of closed cultures and closed societies which Hungary and other formerly Communist countries still are.

On the other hand, not only were the process of ethnicization and the growing antisemitism played down by the West, völkisch/ racial-ethno-nationalist tendencies were even nurtured.56 During the process of acceding to the European Union, the post-Communist states were encouraged by the West to maintain the old model of ethnically defined cultural nations, as had been previously promoted by the socialist system. Rather than suggesting an alternative definition of the “nation” (especially in light of the devastating wars in Yugoslavia), the model of the racial-ethnically defined cultural nations (and its misuse under the old socialist regimes) was allowed to stand without any critical examination57.

As society becomes more radicalized, the phenomenon of dehumanizing the enemy has also been appearing with increasing frequency, as a typical phenomenon foreshadowing an escalation in violence58. In 2006, it was just the slogan “Gyurcsány: cockroach!” that was chanted at demonstrations. Later, the right-wing radical press and internet sites began including graphics and photo collages portraying left-wing liberal politicians as worms. In May 2007, Jobbik’s monthly periodical included a large-format poster insert, depicting government members as parasites to be eradicated59. Finally, in January 2009, radical nationalist “EchoTV” compared the well-known writers Imre Kertész, Péter Esterházy, and György Spiró, as well as the already deceased István Eörsi, to rats60, also needing eradication. Animal metaphors are a favorite stylistic device of antisemitic agitation.

When “freedom fighters” throw the Soviet coat of arms into the Danube as a proxy for “the Jewish enemy”, this symbolism needs to be taken seriously. It is incumbent upon us to recognize that in the European Union of 2009 many people have a very real cause for fear, because individuals and groups are being attacked on the basis of their alleged cultural or sexual otherness (cosmopolitanism, homosexuality61 ), or due to supposedly “racial” characteristics (darker skin color); such people have become today’s victims of “ethnic violence“62.

If, in modern Hungary, the “present-day descendents of the Bolsheviks”, liberals and “Jews” have all become synonymous, and the message is propagated that this concerns a matter of “life and death”, then one can ultimately expect a bloody end, with clearly identifiable targets and culprits. This is a “zero-sum conflict” which is likely to be carried out with particular violence63.


On 3 November 2009, Budapest’s municipal high court heard the case of a man who instigated the riot that took place on the night of 18-19 September 2006. The defendant was György Budaházy, a well-known right-wing extremist and self-declared “patriot”. In the courtroom, he was hailed as a hero by his sympathizers, among them Lóránt Hegedüs, a prominent right-wing radical pastor of the central Budapest church group “Homecoming”, since May 2010 Jobbik Member of Parliament. The star lawyer of the right wing, Dr. Tamás Gaudi-Nagy, Managing Trustee of the “Foundation for National Legal Protections“64, also in Parliament since May 2010 for the Party Jobbik, said in his defense statement that the Soviet coat of arms had found its rightful place when it was tossed into the Danube. After the trial, Budaházy’s sympathizers chanted “blood judge, blood judge” at the presiding judge, which was an expression dating back to the period after the 1956 Revolution was crushed. This expression referred to the judges who had sentenced insurrectionists to death after a sham trial65.

Budaházy has now been in pre-trial custody since mid-June. Since then, one sees stickers everywhere in the city (for example on cars, even on some police vehicles), bearing his portrait, the neo-Nazi Árpád flag, and the slogan “Freedom for Budaházy“66. In the “nationalist-oriented” media, he is portrayed as the victim of a staged political trial. Krisztina Morvai, Jobbik Member of the European Parliament for the right-wing radical Jobbik Party, wore a T-shirt with this motif during a parliamentary session67; in late October 2009, she called upon Hungary’s chief prosecutor to free this “political prisoner”, while at the same time filing charges against Hungary’s Minister of Justice at that time, Tibor Draskovics68; and during a parliamentary session on 12 November, she once again criticized the “outrageous passivity” of the EU in regards to “opposition activists“69.

Updated version of the original text, published in: Die fremde Besatzung ist weg, doch der „Freiheitskampf“ geht weiter. Und wo ist der Feind?, in: Osteuropa – Schlachtfeld der Erinnerungen, hrsg. Thomas Flierl und Elfriede Müller, Berlin: dietz, 2010, 71-90; Translated from German by Wayne Young; I have to thank for the advices of Eva S. Balogh.

Magdalena Marsovszky is member of the board of the Villigster Forschungsforum zu Nationalsoziaismus, Rassismus und Antisemitismus e.V. (Villigst Research Forum on National Socialism, Racism and Antisemitism).

  1. Michael Ehrke: „Ungarische Unruhen – ein Symptom der zentraleuropäischen Beitrittskrise?“ In: Internationale Politikanalyse. Politik Info der Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Oktober 2006., 2. []
  2. The television was located untill April 2009 in the building of the previos Hungarian stock market on Liberty Square in Budapest-district 5. In April 2009 the Hungarian Television moved into district 3. []
  3. Magdalena Marsovszky: „Budapest: Völkische Revolution?“ In:;1171 (23. September 2006). []
  4. I use the term “nationalist-oriented” and “patriotic” for those media wich are close to the so called „civic“ parties and organisations. They are in reality „völkisch“ and extremist. Magdalena Marsovszky: „Völkisches Denken, antisemitische Mobilisierung und drohende Gewalt in Ungarn.“ In: Jahrbuch für Antisemitismusforschung. Ed. Wolfgang Benz. Frankfurt/Main 2009., and Magdalena Marsovszky: „Antisemitism in Hungary. How an ideology threatens to become violent,“ in: Antisemitism in Eastern Europe, ed. by Samuel Salzborn & Hans-Christian Petersen, Peter Lang, Innsbruck, 2010, 45-63. []
  5. In Hungarian: Embervadászat utasításra, Budapest 2008, Emberi jogok Magyarországon [Human rights in Hungary]. In: Homepage of the party Fidesz-MPSZ ( []
  6. The presentation of the book is to bee seen in: ( []
  7. Bernhard Odehnal: Die Bühne der Skins. In: Die Zeit, 40/2008 ( []
  8. Rainer Girndt: Das Budapest-Syndrom. In: Splitter und Balken. Das Informationsportal für den Linken Niederrhein ( []
  9. Peter Bognar: Nationalfeiertag wieder von Krawallen überschattet. In: Website Ungarn Info Board ( []
  10. To bee seen in Videoportal Youtube under: []
  11. It is not known whether during the revolution 1956 any coats of arms would have been tossed into the river (personally information from the historian László Eörsi, Institute for Researches on the Revolution 1956 ( []
  12. Informations about the Holocaust memorial in: []
  13. Report on the homepage of Magyar Önvédelmi Mozgalom [Movement Hungarian Selfdefense], documented in: []
  14. Orbán Viktor ünnepi beszéde [Celebratory speech of Viktor Orbán], HírTV, 23. Oktober 2005 ( See also: Gáspár Bence Tamás: Orbán 56-ról beszélt, de Gyurcsányt kiáltott [Orbán spoke about 1956 but meant Gyurcsány]. In: index-online, 23. Oktober. []
  15. Orbán: érzem a puskapor szagát [Orbán: I can already smell the gunpowder]. In: ma-online, 3. Dezember 2005 ( []
  16. Informations about the party Jobbik in: Marsovszky: Völkisches Denken, antisemitische Mobilisierung und drohende Gewalt in Ungarn. []
  17. The demonstration can bee seen in: []
  18. Report on the homepage of Magyar Önvédelmi Mozgalom [Movement Hungarian Selfdefense], documented in: []
  19. So the well known journalist Katalin Kondor in the program „Napi aktuális“ [Daily News], EchoTV, 14. Oktober 2009. []
  20. A Wittner film – Hóhér vigyázz! [The Wittner Film – Executioner bee careful!] by Beatrix Siklósi und Gábor Matúz, Budapest 2008 ( []
  21. The homepage of the institute: []
  22. In Hungarian: Kommunista Ifjúsági Szövetség. It was a communist youth organisation similar to the FDJ in the German Democratic Republik. []
  23. Quoted in: ‚Emlékezés a kommunizmus áldozataira’ [Commemorating the victims of Socialism]. In: index-online, 25. Februar 2001 ( []
  24. Péntek 8, HírTV, 23. Oktober 2009 ( []
  25. Szilveszter Jenei/András Adorján/Mihály Kocsis L.: 1956 – Aki magyar… (velünk tart) [1956 – Magyars … (follow us)]. Budapest 2000. []
  26. Károly Lóránth: Európai birodalomépítök. Vérvád a nemzetállam ellen: Kisérlet a brüsszeli szuperkormány létrehozására [The architects of Imperium Europae. Blood-ritual Murder Against the Nation-State: the Attempt to Realize a Super-Government in Brussels”]. In: Magyar Nemzet online, 20. September 2008 ( []
  27. Shulamit Volkov: Antisemitismus als kultureller Code. München 2000. []
  28. Klaus Holz: Nationaler Antisemitismus. Wissenssoziologie einer Weltanschauung. Hamburg 2001. []
  29. Endre Kiss: Antiszemitizmus mint metafizika [Antisemitism as an earthly metaphysics]. In: Homepage Kiss Endre/ Judaisztika [Judaistik], online, 29. November 2004 ( []
  30. Márta Csabai/Ferenc Erös: Testhatárok és énhatárok. Az identitás változó keretei [Boundaries of Body and Ego: The Changing Frameworks of Identity]. Budapest 2000, 120. []
  31. In recent times a consensus has been reached, that the word Magyar will be used for Hungarians in an ethnic sense. Joachim von Puttkamer: Schulalltag und nationale Integration in Ungarn. Slowaken, Rumänen und Siebenbürger Sachsen in der Auseinandersetzung mit der ungarischen Staatsidee 1867–1914. München 2003 (11). []
  32. Thomas Haury: Antisemitismus von links. Kommunistische Ideologie, Nationalismus und Antizionismus in der frühen DDR. Hamburg 2000. []
  33. Ingeborg Nordmann: Neunzehntes Bild: Der Intellektuelle. In: Julius H. Schoeps/Joachim Schlör (ed.): Antisemitismus. Vorurteile und Mythen. München, Zürich 1995, 252-259. []
  34. Avraham Barkai: Einundzwanzigstes Bild: „Der Kapitalist“. In: Schoeps/Schlör (Ed.): Antisemitismus, 265-272. []
  35. Thomas Haury: Der moderne Antisemitismus. In: In antisemitischer Gesellschaft. Ein Reader zweier Veranstaltungsreihen 2005/2006 in Darmstadt, Erlangen und Frankfurt am Main. Ed. von der Jugendinitiative gegen Antisemitismus und Rassismus in Europa (Jugare), Erlangen/Nürnberg und Gruppe zur Bekämpfung des Antisemitismus heute, Frankfurt am Main. 2006, 22-29 (28). []
  36. Sándor Kövesdi: A Globalizáció a cionizmus fedöneve [Globalisation is the code for Zionism]. In: Hunhir online. 28. Juni 2007 ( []
  37. Péntek8, in: HirTV online, 1. Mai 2009 ( []
  38. Rajka város önkormányzati képviselöje pogromra buzdít. Ahol zsinagógákat füstölnek, ott nácizmus van [Der Local Politician of Rajka calls for Pogrom. If somewhere sinagogues are smoking out, then it is nazism.], Public letter of the John Wesley theological college an the Hungarian evangelic Brethren. In: MTI online, 22. Februar 2009 ( []
  39. The liberal party SZDSZ left the coalition spring 2008. Since then there was a minority government by the Socialists, tolerated by the Liberals. April 2010 Fidesz MPSZ and Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) won the elections. []
  40. Thomas Grumke: Die transnationale Infrastruktur der extremistischen Rechten. In: Angelika Beer: Die Grünen/ Europäische Freie Allianz im Europäischen Parlament (ed.): Europa im Visier der Rechtsextremen. Berlin 2009, 9-25 (10). []
  41. The connection between antisemitism and bolshewism see Wolfgang Benz: Zum Verhältnis von Ideologie und Gewalt. In: Samuel Salzborn (ed.): Antisemitismus. Geschichte und Gegenwart. Giessen 2004, 33-50, (45, 46). []
  42. Peter Niedermüller: Zweiundzwanzigstes Bild: „Der Kommunist“. In: Schoeps/Schlör (Ed.): Antisemitismus, 273-278. []
  43. To bee seen on []
  44. Ulrich Beck: Der kosmopolitische Blick. Oder: Der Krieg ist Frieden. Frankfurt/Main 2004, 39. []
  45. Samuel Salzborn: Claus Gatterer und der Ethno-Nationalismus. Zur Theorie und Psychologie des „totalen Nationalismus“. Vortrag beim Symposium zum 20. Todestag von Claus Gatterer. Universität Innsbruck, 19. Oktober 2004 ( []
  46. Gerhard Seewann/Éva Kovács: Halbherzige Vergangenheitsbewältigung, konkurrenzfähige Erinnerungspolitik – Die Shoa in der ungarischen Erinnerungskultur; Krisztián Ungváry: Der Umgang mit der kommunistischen Vergangenheit in der heutigen ungarischen Erinnerungskultur. In: Bernd Faulenbach/Franz-Josef Jelich (ed.):„Transformationen“ der Erinnerungskulturen in Europa nach 1989. Geschichte und Erwachsenenbildung. vol. 21. Essen 2006, 189-200, 201-220. []
  47. Samuel Salzborn: Antisemitismus und nationales Opfermythos. In: Psychosozial 29, Heft II (Nr. 104), 2006, 125-136; Fritz Stern: Kulturpessimismus als politische Gefahr. Eine Analyse nationaler Ideologie in Deutschland. München 1986 (Original: The Politics of Cultural Despair. University of California Press. Berkeley 1961). []
  48. To the term „In-between Peripherality”, created by Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek in: Comparative Cultural Studies and the Study of Central European Culture. In: Comparative Central European Culture. Ed. Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek. West Lafayette 2002, 1-32 (8). []
  49. Klaus Holz: Demokratischer Antisemitismus, in: Klaus Holz: Die Gegenwart des Antisemitismus. Islamistische, demokratische und antizionistische Judenfeindschaft, Hamburg: Hamburger Edition 2005, 54-78 (56).; Klaus Holz: Brückenschlag. Die antisemitische Verbrüderung der europäischen Rechtsextremen, in: Claudia Globisch/ Agnieszka Pufelska/ Volker Weiß (Ed.): Die Dynamik der europäischen Rechten. Geschichte, Kontinuitäten und Wandel, Wiesbaden: VS 2010, coming soon; Haury: Antisemitismus von links, 115 ff. (antisemitische Verkehrung von Täter und Opfer). []
  50. The völkisch „Doctrine of the Holy Crown of Hungary“ can be read on the homepage: Szentkoronalovagrend ( [chivalric order]). []
  51. Sándor Radnóti: Az üvegalmárium. Esettanulmány a magyar korona helyéröl [Glass Cabinet. Case study about the depository of the Hungarian Crone]. In: Beszélö, 6. November 2001 ( []
  52. Eszter Rádai asks the sociologist Erzsébet Szalai: Igazságos globalizációt! [Fair Globalisation!]. In: Élet és Irodalom, 26. Januar 2001. ( []
  53. E.g. media investor Gábor Széles, who was for a while the promising candidate as a minister of economic affairs in the Fidesz government. []
  54. Christian Giordano: Ethnizität aus sozialanthropologischer Sicht: lokalisierender Abgrenzungsprozess und globalisiertes Konsumgut. In: Wilfried Heller/Jörg Becker/Bernd Belina/Waltraud Lindner (Ed.): Ethnizität in der Globalisierung. Zum Bedeutungswandel ethnischer Kategorien in Transformationsländern Südosteuropas. Südosteuropa-Studien, ed. im Auftrag der Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft von Gernot Erler. vol. 74. München 2007, 123-140 (125). []
  55. Magdalena Marsovszky: Neue völkische Bewegung und Antisemitismus in Ungarn. In: Samuel Salzborn (ed.): Minderheitenkonflikte in Europa. Fallbeispiele und Lösungsansätze. Innsbruck, Wien, Bozen 2006, 201-221 (210) and in the shortened version in: []
  56. First of all Georg Brunner, Hungarian by birth, between 1984 and 2002 head of the Institut für Ostrecht on the University of Cologne, whose close collegue the present President of Hungary László Sólyom was. Both published a number of articles together. Brunner wrote even 1996 about a justified wish on the revision of the Hungarian borders according to ethnical principles in favor of Hungary: Georg Brunner: Nationalitätenprobleme und Minderheitenkonflikte in Osteuropa. Strategien für Europa. Gütersloh 1996, 161. []
  57. Sabine Riedel: Instrumentarien des Minderheitenschutzes in Europa. In: Salzborn: Minderheitenkonflikte in Europa, 241-258, hier 253. []
  58. Roland Eckert/Hellmut Willems: Eskalation und Deeskalation sozialer Konflikte: Der Weg in die Gewalt. In: Wilhelm Heitmeyer/John Hagan (Ed.): Internationales Handbuch der Gewaltforschung. Wiesbaden 2002, 1457-1480. []
  59. E.g. Poster „Védekezz a Kártevök ellen“ [Beware of parasites]. In: ‚Magyar Mérce’, Mai 2007 ( []
  60. While showing the portraits of writers, one could hear the tale „A patkányok honfoglalása – Tanulságos mese fiatal magyaroknak“ (Colonization of rats – educational tale for young Magyars) written by the antisemitic poet Albert Wass from 1944, in Éjjeli Menedék [Night asylum], EchoTV online, 23. January 2009 ( []
  61. Magdalena Marsovszky (in cooperation with Katrin Kremmler): Ungarn: freie Bahn für die Feinde der Demokratie. In: hagalil online, 22. Juli 2008 ( []
  62. Andreas Wimmer/Conrad Schetter: Ethnische Gewalt. In: Heitmeyer/Hagan (Ed.): Internationales Handbuch der Gewaltforschung, 313-329. []
  63. Ibid., 316. []
  64. The foundation offers judicial review in cases, in which the rights of „national mindet patriots“ are beeing injured (advocats defend the „rights“ beside Budaházy also members of the paramlitary Hungarian Guard and members of neonazi organisation „Lelkiismeret 88“ [conscience 88]. []
  65. Fotos about the hearing: mit dem Bild des Einsatzwagens der Polizei: []
  66. E.g. Video in Youtube, clip about the sitting of the EU Parliament: []
  67. To bee seen on Youtube: []
  68. []
  69. []

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