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For and against Horthy

May 22nd, 2012

An editorial in Népszabadság protests against what it calls an emerging cult around Miklós Horthy, Regent of Hungary in the interwar years and during the Second World War. A right-wing commentator argues that left wing historians and columnists attack Horthy in an attempt to hurt Viktor Orbán.

On 9 May the municipality of Gyömrő passed a resolution which changed „Liberty square” into „Miklós Horthy square”. A statue of Horthy was also erected in Kereki, in southern Hungary. In the famous Calvinist College of Debrecen, the 1938 plaque commemorating Miklós Horthy as a former pupil was restored. In all three settlements, several local citizens protested against these developments.

In a front page editorial, Népszabadság chastises right wing commentators for emphasizing the „mitigating circumstances” for the Hungarian disaster during the Second World War, and „the constraints” under which Horthy had to operate. The left-wing daily argues that denying Horthy’s responsibility for the death of Hungarian citizens, soldiers, Jews, gypsies, and civilian casualties, is just as immoral as it would be to deny  the trauma of Trianon (the post-World-War I peace treaty which dismembered historical Hungary). The Debrecen ceremony is part of the grand old tradition of falsifying history and self-deception in Hungary —the newspaper concludes.

In Magyar Hírlap Ferenc Sinkovics issues a call to arms to defend Horthy against his detractors, in a long opinion piece. Who is the real target here? He asks. He compares present day Hungary with the era after the 1919 Commune and the Trianon Peace Treaty, and concludes that the situation today calls for a strong political hand. Horthy, he argues, stands for Orbán in the leftist dictionary. Just as Horthy was supported by the majority of Hungarians, insulted by the loss of so much of their country, a two thirds majority that favours a firm order stands solidly behind Orbán. Leading historians, he suggests, let their work be hijacked by leftist commentators who blame Horthy for Hungary’s drift into an alliance with Germany, and for the discriminatory laws against Jews. The same commentators attribute the post First World War stabilization exclusively to István Bethlen (the conservative prime minister under Horthy). Works that represent a different point of view are studiously ignored. Plaques and statues are secondary questions – the Horthy issue is really about Orbán and his politics – he asserts.

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