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Pleas for a more balanced approach to the Horthy renaissance

June 23rd, 2012

After an angry and passionate exchange of opinions about a supposed revival of the cult of Miklós Horthy, leading columnists from both left and right call for a less opinionated approach, and caution against the over-politicized simplification and distortion of controversial and sensitive historical issues.

The Horthy regime was not a dictatorship, but the Kádár era was. … It makes no sense to debate this,” comments Sándor Révész in Népszabadság, on the interpretation wars about Hungarian history (see BudaPost June 21 through May 21). According to the left-wing columnist, all major historians agree that the Horthy era was neither a democracy, nor a dictatorship: “Horthy had less power than a dictator, and citizens had much less power and freedom than they would have had in a democracy.”

According to Révész, Horthy tried to walk a tightrope between autocratic parliamentarians, and racist extreme right-wingers, and thus “express the unity of the nation.”. The liberal commentator accuses the main governing party of wanting to restore the cult of Horthy,  in an attempt to lump together the enemies of democracy: “the autocratic right and the dictatorial radical right.” Révész warns that those who exaggerate the threats and warn today of impending dictatorship, undermine the credibility of Orbán’s reasonable critics.

In Magyar Hirlap,  György Vámos cautions against the politicized simplifications of controversial historical figures. He points out that Horthy had strong anti-Semitic feelings, but pragmatically realized that he needed the help and support of Jewish businessmen. He imprisoned Ferenc Szálasi, leader of the National Socialist Arrow Cross Party, who after the German invasion became Prime Minister, but, on the other hand, for long months did not even try to intervene to prevent the deportation of Hungarian Jews initiated by the Nazi occupiers, Vámos notes.

“Those who consider Horthy an icon should take into account that the revival of his memory would open up painful wounds in people who cannot forget their suffering or the loss of their families,” the pro-government commentator concludes.

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