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Saint Stephen’s myth revised

August 20th, 2018

A pro-government political scientist challenges the established view that the founder of the Hungarian state opted for the West when he pledged allegiance to the Pope and  enforced Christianity in his nascent state.

In his Figyelő editorial, Tamás Lánczi suggests that the standard St Stephen’s Day speeches on 2 August are mistaken when they describe Hungary’s first king as someone who consciously allied Hungary with the West. In reality, he explains, Stephen never chose a camp from among the three neighbouring powers, the German-Roman Empire, Byzantium and the Venetian Republic. He accepted the crown sent to him by the Pope along with his missionaries whose task it was to convert pagan Hungarians to Christianity. Meanwhile, he wed several family members to members of the ruling families of Byzantium and Venice. He realised that Hungary needed allies in the world but rather then joining any of them he wanted to interest them in the survival of sovereign Hungary. His example, Lánczi continues, was to be followed later by all important Hungarian kings who sought allies in their efforts to bolster Hungary’s sovereignty but defended their country’s independence even against Western powers when necessary. St Stephen himself repelled an attempted conquest by German-Roman emperor Conrad in 1030. Lánczi does not extrapolate further – as to whether his Saint Stephen’s Day editorial has any relevance to present-day politics.

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