“One would have to be deaf and blind not to see that there are big problems. All one has to do is open a newspaper.”
(For English subtitles activate closed caption by clicking on “CC” in the lower right-hand corner of the screen).
In an exclusive interview, Hungarian Spectrum author Éva Balogh tells the Beacon “shouting about Trianon is pointless” because “nothing can be done about it”.
The former Yale professor of East European history argues that her former countrymen’s obsession with the loss of roughly two-thirds of greater Hungary’s territory and one-third of its ethnic Hungarian population after WWI fuels irrational debate that is often counterfactual. Furthermore, it gives rise to “ridiculous” spectacles, such as Szeklers (Székely) attending 1956 commemoration events in national costume. “What do the Szeklers have to do with 1956? It’s insanity!” remarks Balogh, who fled Hungary in December of 1956 after “getting mixed up in all kinds of ‘revolutionary activities'”.
Balogh fears the Orbán government seeks to impose a revisionist history of the twentieth century on future generations, pointing out that it is in a position to do so, having nationalized both public education and the textbook publishing industry. In her opinion, “very serious” history was written during the second half of the Kádár era and there is “no need whatsoever for an alternative history.”
She questions whether, given his penchant for statistics and genealogical trivia, “Veritas” Institute for Historical Research director Sándor Szakály deserves the mantle of historian. “Historians needs be able to interpret things,” argues Balogh.
She identifies Budapest House of Terror Museum director Mária Schmidt as the source of many of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s ideas about history. “Everyone I’ve spoken to believes she has a strong influence over Viktor Orbán”.
Balogh says Schmidt herself was the first to argue that Hungary was invaded by its wartime ally, Nazi Germany, on 19 March 1944. In addition to furnishing the theoretical underpinnings for the controversial memorial to the “victims of the German invasion” erected in Budapest’s Freedom Square in April of this year, Schmidt’s lost sovereignty theory became official dogma with the adoption in April 2011 of Hungary’s new Fundamental Law, according to which Hungary’s self-determination was lost on 19 March 1944 and not restored until 2 May 1990.
Critics of this “crazy historical somersault” argue it exonerates the government of Hungary for crimes committed against its own citizens after 19 March 1944, including the deportation and murder of two-thirds of the pre-war Jewish population of Hungary.
Balogh calls “totally ridiculous” praise lauded on Orbán by Republican New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith as a great defender of human and minority rights. “One would have to be deaf and blind not to see that there are big problems,” she says. “All one has to do is open a newspaper.”
Balogh says most Hungarian-Americans are “completely apathetic” when it comes to Hungary. She claims the majority of those who take an active interest in Hungary suffer from a kind of “schitzophrenic condition”. Having left Hungary under communism, most Hungarian-Americans are highly susceptible to communist name calling and finger pointing, says Balogh.
Balogh rejects claims on the part of various American-Hungarian organizations that they speak on behalf of the American-Hungarian community which, she says, consists of numerous small communities, the majority of whose members are disinterested and uninformed about what is actually going on in Hungary.
Since launching Hungarian Spectrum seven years ago, Balogh has published some 2500 articles about Hungary, penning 99 percent of them herself.