Orbán’s plan to re-revolutionise Hungary

On March 15, Hungarians commemorated their Revolution of 1848. This year, however, the image of the historical revolutionary Kossuth has faded into the background behind that of the current Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán.

Published on 1 April 2011 at 15:06
Andrej Bán / Týžděň |  Budapest, March 15, 2011. Commemoration of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

A solemn glass of champagne and brand-new passport of the Hungarian Republic in hand, twenty Csangos [members of the Hungarian minority in Romania] have just been granted dual nationality. All of them have dressed up in their traditional costumes, and most have tears in their eyes.

Nothing surprising there — these are people from the depths of the history, and not just because of the thousands of miles they had to travel from their districts along the Moldovan-Romanian border, where they have lived for a thousand years.

A new citizenship law introduced by Orbán is a generous one: it contains a clause which, in many cases, dispenses with the requirement to trace one’s lineage back to the Hungary that existed before 1918. Csangos benefit from this exception: showing the Hungarian names of their parents and grandparents on a simple birth certificate is enough to prove their Hungarian origins.

“Brussels will not dictate to us”

Budapest is happy to indulge its distant cousins. Three days before the Csangos, it was the turn of Hungarian Croatians of Mohács to be honoured, and the day before them it was the turn of the Hungarians of the Vojvodina and Transylvania, from Subotica, Koloszvár and Csíkszered. All swore an oath of loyalty to their new homeland, Hungary, to serve it and to defend it.

Before the first Csangos were swore their oaths, prime minister Orbán addressed a crowd of more than twenty thousand people from the steps of the National Museum: ”We Hungarians have sworn on these steps never again to be slaves.”

Everyone in the crowd knew the significance of these words, proclaimed to mark the 163rd anniversary of the anti-Habsburg revolution of March 15, 1848, when the fathers of the Hungarian Revolution forced the imperial governor to accept the twelve demands of the Hungarian revolutionaries, among them freedom of the press and the abolition of censorship.

“The oath of 15 March commits us. This oath means that each Hungarian has sworn to stand by every other Hungarian, and we will all stand together for the sake of Hungary.” Orbán took full advantage of the symbolism of March: “In honouring our oath, we did not submit to the dictates of Vienna in 1848. We rose up against Moscow in 1956 and in 1990, and today we will not let anyone dictate to us from Brussels or from anywhere else.”

New name, new constitution

On the eve of this major speech the governing coalition parties submitted a draft reform of the constitution to parliament, already called “the Easter Constitution” – which they feel symbolises the rebirth of the Hungarian nation.

The Hungarian Republic will now be called simply Hungary. Despite the dismay expressed by the opposition on the left, Orbán’s Fidesz party has declared that the constitution will be the fruit, not just of reflection by politicians alone, but of the entire nation. A few weeks ago every household in Hungary received a questionnaire comprising twelve questions: for example, would they agree that a life sentence should be served in full?

Some 800,000 Hungarians have already responded. Their answers will have to be processed in record time if the the new constitution is to be approved by Parliament by mid-April – and then be solemnly signed by the President of the republic, Pál Schmitte, on Easter Monday.

Hungary’s uneasy neighbours

All this could just be a purely internal affair but for one clause: “Hungary, guided by the ideal of the Hungarian nation, taking responsibility for all Hungarians living abroad” — a form of words that extends a long way from Budapest. Unsurprisingly, neighbouring states are less than delighted with Hungary’s sense of responsibility for its new citizens who live beyond its own borders.

The new constitution is perceived to be for the Hungarian nation as a whole. Consequently, it is intended to guarantee voting rights to freshly naturalised Hungarians living abroad. According to some media, however, dissension persists within Fidesz on the matter.

The draft constitution also revives the outdated terminology of imperial Hungary. The Supreme Court, for example, should now be called “Curie”.

National, Christian, imperial, revolutionary: that appears to be the new Easter Constitution of Viktor Orbán.

Translated by Gabriela Kukurugyova

View from Bratislava

Budapest’s covert advances

The Hungarian Prime Minister has for the first time admitted that he wants to give Hungarians who live abroad the right to vote, notes Hospodarske noviny. It is “the most natural way” to bring together Hungarians in every country, affirmed Viktor Orbán at the end of March. For his part, the leader of the Hungarian minority party in Slovakia, Béla Bugár, considers that Hungarian government’s proposal will help “involve the Hungarian minority living in Slovakia in Hungarian political debate.“ As it stands, his party has not succeeded in modifying a recent law introduced by the Bratislava parliament which deprives anyone who applies for a Hungarian passport of Slovak nationality. Ethnic tensions between Budapest and Bratislava have recently cost Hungary’s ambassador to Slovakia his job: SME points out that the diplomat’s declaration that “the Slovak people were simply Hungarians who had been assimilated for a number of decades” is “very close to the attitude of the [Hungarian] government, or at least a reflection of the opinion of most of the members of Fidesz,” which is the ruling party in Budapest.

Are you a news organisation, a business, an association or a foundation? Check out our bespoke editorial and translation services.

Support independent European journalism

European democracy needs independent media. Voxeurop needs you. Join our community!

On the same topic