Within days after Jobbik sympathizer Zsolt Tyirityán delivered a speech about shooting Jews and persons of color in an apocalyptic showdown between the pure-bred forces of his Betyársereg and criminal gypsies backed by Israeli tanks; within days only after Jobbik-allied neo-Nazi leader László Toroczkai spoke of shooting the previous socialist prime minister of Hungary Utoya-island style (“we would have done a favor to Hungarians had we shot him while he was still in youth camp”), Gábor Vona, party-chairman of Hungary’s far-right party Jobbik also gave a speech. In Romania, he told his sympathizers about nothing less than a life and death struggle to arrive in the Carpathian basin.
The direct and immediate signification of these words is clear to the trained Hungarian ear: Vona was advocating irredentism of a militant kind. But Vona cleverly crafted this message in a mythical – if not apocalyptic – vision. Notably this mythical context imitated, and outdid even, a speech delivered just weeks prior to Vona’s by Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán at Tusnádfürdő (also in Romania), at an event very similar in structure to the event where Vona spoke.
For the Hungarian imaginary, the Carpathian basin stands for the glorious days of a Hungarian nation that reached far beyond the borders of contemporary Hungary. Hungarian nationalist sentiment (which is cultivated in equal degrees by Hungary’s governing party Fidesz) aims at the “unification” of the Hungarian nation, including significant numbers of voters falling under the political jurisdiction of Hungary’s seven neighboring countries. Vona’s invocation of the Carpathian basin as the “scope” of the “life and death struggle” is therefore impossible not to understand as insinuating the arrival of (or as the call for) a “life and death” struggle between Hungary and its neighboring countries. Four of Hungary’s neighbors, including Romania, are members of the EU, while a fifth is currently in the process of joining the EU.
Vona gave his remarks on August 13 at a summer festival (a combination of concerts, cultural events as well as political indoctrination, with over 12,000 in attendance, according to the organizers) in Gyergyószentmiklós, Romania. He painted a bleak picture of Hungarian-Romanian relations, even though some of the recent events he referenced as problematic, for example a controversial dedication of a Hungarian-language placard, were “protests” by Hungarian tourists on their way to Jobbik’s festival which did not have the endorsement of the local population.
Vona’s fellow presenter, István Szávay, who, like Vona, is also Jobbik’s representative in the Hungarian parliament criticized the priorities of Hungary’s foreign policy. Since 1990, Hungary’s governments had been interested in integration with the euro-atlantic community first, in good relationships with neighboring countries second, and only thirdly with the concerns of Hungarian living beyond Hungary’s borders. In contrast, Jobbik supports struggle(s) to obtain autonomy for Hungarians residing in neighboring countries.
Szávay participated in the panel as the Jobbik politician in charge of developing the party’s “national policy.” He went on to say that “Romanian diplomacy has always considered its national interest primary, while, for reasons incomprehensible, we strived for dialogue and partnership. We want to negotiate like Western-European civilized men in a country that plays by Balkan rules, and with people who are no gentlemen.” Diplomacy, in other words, is not Jobbik’s preferred means to support Hungarians living outside of Hungary.
Besides their interest in Transsylvania’s autonomy from Romania, Jobbik also has a lot to gain in pursuing these issues. In May of 2010, Hungary granted of citizenship to every person of Hungarian descent, which extended the voting pool, and apparently the geographical scope of the campaign for the next Hungarian elections. Originally the votes of the newly naturalized citizens were thought to “belong” to Fidesz, but with rhetoric like Vona’s, Jobbik might be in a unique position to them away.
As of right now, Vona’s party Jobbik is Hungary’s third largest parliamentary party. In 2010, they received more than 855 thousand electoral votes, which in that year amounted to 16.67% of the votes cast, and translated into 12.18% of the seats in the nation’s parliament. The party celebrated a considerable electoral victory however after paramilitaries loosely associated with Jobbik had descended on the small town of Gyöngyöspata to stoke the flames of ethnic tension between Romas and the rest of the population. After a special mayoral election held just two months after these events, Jobbik’s candidate is now mayor of this town with a comfortable margin of victory: the two far-right candidates running in the special mayoral election received over 44% of the votes, while the rest of the votes went to independents – none of the other political parties participated.
Courting what could become a significant voting base for the 2014 elections, therefore, Vona was sure to drive a wedge between Romanian Hungarians and Hungary’s current government. He did this first and foremost in outbidding the extremism of a speech delivered by prime minister Viktor Orbán just weeks before Vona’s in a similar festival setting in Bálványos in late July.
The basic themes of Orbán’s speech reappear in Vona’s version, especially the narrative regarding the collapse of the West and the apocalyptic visions of a crisis of global proportions from which no other country except Hungary is to emerge victoriously. In Bálványos, Orbán thought that while other nations on the stormy waters of world history have yet to encounter the most treacherous reefs, Hungary is already on its way back from the dangers of the global strom. The reason for this is that Hungary’s citizens responded correctly to the challenges of the time: they instituted the revolution of the voting booths [which is Orbánian for the electoral sweep of 2010 that gave Fidesz practically free reign of the country]. As its reward, Hungary is going to emerge as the center of the new world order: once the crisis passes, she is going to become the catalyst of Europe’s economy, so much so that the West – this old world, Hungary’s “forced abode” – is going to turn to Hungary for advice. Hungary will then lead by the example of its already existing legislative wisdom, such as Hungary’s media law and public works projects.
None of this made sense to me before hearing the accents with which Gábor Vona spruced up the same narrative at Gyergyószentmiklós. I am not at all sure if Vona harkens back to Orbán or whether Orbán was the one who borrowed from the far-right/ new hungarist myth. Suffice it to say that Vona’s version of the arrival of a “new world order” in which Hungary is to play the most central role is way more informative about the ideology sustaining this myth than Orbán’s, though it is also of course considerably more frightening.
At Gyergyószentmiklós, just like Orbán Vona also spoke of a storm engrossing the West, but in his version, the storm is purposefully brought upon the Hungarian nation. Its cause is Hungary’s indebtedness to other nations. Money is not a primary goal of Hungary’s debtors; according to Vona, what they really want is dominion over the country. Hungary’s debtors want to seize the Carpathian basin and the national debt is the most straightforward means of achieving this purpose.
The international debtors are driven to the Carpathian basin by the global crisis. The collapse of the current world order is inevitable; soon the “blood circulation of the global economy is going to come to a temporary stop.” Only those are going to survive who are able to secure for themselves the most basic of environmental factors for survival – such as good air quality, water, soil and energy.
Weaving his telling of the myth through with the part so considerably embellished in Orbán’s version, therefore, Vona was able to fill in a particularly glaring gap in the logic of this end-of-the-world narrative. Why do “the debtors” want the Carpathian basin in particular? Because a combination of good air quality, relatively good water quality, excellent soil and energy resources is relatively rare. These important resources only exists in select locations around the globe, and among those, Hungary is the most vulenarable and defenseless [because its current government is oblivious to the nefarious intentions of Hungary’s debtors].
Have we maybe heard something about these same environmental resources in the 1930s, and was the word used for them not by any chance Lebensraum?
Sympathizers of Fidesz might feel that Viktor Orban is going to be able to arrive at an agreement with the powers operating in the background [in Hungary’s international exploitation], Vona continued. They secretly hope that an agreement can be arrived at that is good for the country. Such an agreement is impossible, however, because a life and death struggle is upon the world: the weak and those who show weakness will be trampled upon. According to Vona, in a critical situation there would be approximately 2 million people in the Carpathian basin who would know what to do [given the “dilemma” between looking for a diplomatic compromise, as opposed to embracing the struggle for survival]. The rest of them cannot even discern their friends from their enemies.
Later in his speech, Vona also talked about the Hungarian Guard [Jobbik’s SS-style paramiliatary organization that had been banned by the Hungarian courts], the significance of cooperation among all Hungarian youth of national sentiment [regardless of which country they live in], and the need for these youth of Hungarian sentiment to be ready “to fulfill their mission.”
Sources: if you speak Hungarian, a lengthier article by Parászka Boróka in the Hungarian news magazine 168 Óra focuses on the irredentist implications of Vona’s militant phrases and provides the context for understanding this aspect of the issue in much greater detail than I had time for.
There is no mention however in this article of the fact that, technically at least, Vona’s speech forecasts a life and death struggle not between Hungarians and their neighbors, but between Hungarians and their debtors. Vona’s version of the myth in which this claim is embedded is of course an item of pride on the extreme right’s news portals; in other words, it is widely available, if you have a stomach for the zeal with which it might be presented. Out of principle, I do not link to websites operated by the Hungarian extreme right, but if you google e.g. “élet halál harc kárpát medence” it should get you there. Look for reports dated August 13, 2011.