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Weeklies on the anniversary of the 1956 revolution

October 24th, 2022

Opposition-leaning weeklies excoriate the Prime Minister’s latest remarks comparing the war in Ukraine to the Russian invasion of Hungary in 1956. A pro-government commentator advises Hungarians to draw strength from the example of the revolution in facing today’s hardships.

In his first page editorial, Magyar Narancs finds the Prime Minister’s attempt to liken the Russian invasion in Ukraine to the one in Hungary 66 years ago decidedly strange, and even more peculiar his remark that ‘our Zelensky was hanged’ in the wake of the 1956 revolution. The editors recall that in his October 23 speeches for the past few years the Prime Minister never once mentioned Imre Nagy, (the then Hungarian Prime Minister) whom he now calls ‘our Zelensky’. Pro-government pundits, Magyar Narancs writes, usually describe the role of reform communists like Nagy as marginal in 1956 and refuse to consider him as ‘the Prime Minister of the revolution’.

In Jelen, liberal sociologist Mária Vásárhelyi, a passionate opponent of the government, looks back on election night last April when the Prime Minister cited the Ukrainian president as one of the critics of his policies. At that time Mr Orbán suggested that his government was voted back to office, despite Mr Zelensky’s attacks. This time, during a conversation with German journalists in Berlin, he said he appreciated the heroism of the Ukrainians and struck a positive tone about Zelensky himself. Vásárhelyi wonders how the Fidesz faithful will manage to follow that shift in the Prime Minister’s narrative about recent events in Ukraine.

In an even more venomous column in Heti Világgazdaság, Árpád W. Tóta pokes fun at the Prime Minister’s idea that immediate peace talks should begin between the United States and Russia on Ukraine. He ghost-writes a text in which the Prime Minister approves the decision of the United States in 1956 to ‘leave Hungary in the lurch’, instead of sending weapons to help Hungarian resistance fighters. To have helped Hungary militarily at that time ‘would only have prolonged the killing,’ Tóta writes, parodying the position of the government on Ukraine.

In Mandiner, Milán Constantinovits describes how his family bore the brunt of the persecution that followed in the wake of the Russian invasion in November 1956. One relative died in the fighting, another had to leave his job as a researcher for having been the leader of the revolutionary committee in a clinic. The regime change brought Hungarians an illusion of infinite liberty, he writes, while they soon found themselves in the crosshairs of new kinds of forces, including the recent pandemic, the current energy crisis and the war in a neighbouring country. Meanwhile, he continues, the world is facing ‘merciless’ climate change, with Europe caught in the midst of an identity crisis which is weakening its immunity system. As he sees it, survival as both Hungarians and Europeans doesn’t come without a major effort.

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