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1989-1990 interpreted as a revolution

December 28th, 2013

A conservative historian argues  that the democratic transition in Hungary has been a success story. She recommends that instead of constantly complaining, Hungarians should acknowledge their achievements and learn to show more determination in the pursuit of their interests.

In her Heti Válasz guest column, historian Mária Schmidt describes the epochal changes in 1989/1990 as amounting to genuine revolution.  As the Soviet Union’s geopolitical power weakened, Hungarians peacefully demanded democratic changes: free elections, private property and basic civil rights. The compromise between the “democratic opposition” and the Communist cadres resulted in a transition free of bloodshed, she writes. The Hungarian Communists did not defend the old regime: they wanted to make sure that they could keep filling key posts and benefit from the privatization of public property, Schmidt maintains. The compromise helped the new democratic system consolidate and helped to avoid a civil war, but the absence of lustration left Hungarian public life burdened with former party officials. As for the current state of the country, Schmidt believes that despite the widespread pessimism and disappointment created by what she considers unrealistically high expectations towards the market economy and the EU, Hungarians today are incomparably better off both in terms of democracy and welfare than they were before 1989. Instead of drowning in our sorrow, we should realize the merits and glories of the past quarter of a century of our lives, and stand up firmly for what is in our best interest, Schmidt concludes.

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