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Weeklies on the anniversary of the 1848 revolution – and Ukraine

March 18th, 2024

As every year, commentators mark 15 March with attempts to apply the lessons of the 1848 revolution to the present era .

In his anniversary speech on Friday, Prime Minister Orbán identified the need to safeguard national sovereignty as the main legacy of 1848. He said Hungary would in this spirit resist foreign attempts to ’re-educate our children, impose masses of immigrants on Hungary and pressurise us to join the war’ in Ukraine. DK shadow Prime Minister Klára Dobrev accused the Prime Minister of having transformed Hungary from the most promising country of the former Soviet bloc into one lagging behind the rest. Péter Magyar, the divorced husband of former justice Minister Judit Varga announced his intention to set up a centrist party in front of a surprisingly large crowd for a newcomer in politics – one significantly larger than the attendance at rallies held by the governing or opposition parties.

In Élet és Irodalom, János Széky laments that at present, Hungary lacks the kind of people who made the revolution 176 years ago – who knew in theory and in practice what a thriving European country free of tyranny and based on liberal representation and a market economy looks like. A unique situation has developed in Hungary, he suggests, whereby no change in government is possible,  ’at least until sometime around 2174’.

Although in a very different vein, Mandiner’s Milán Constantinovits also believes that the opposition hasn’t learned the lesson of 1848 – or of the 1956 revolution, or again that of the 1989 regime change. Namely, it doesn’t concede that restricting the nation’s elbow room, this time by Brussels, is unacceptable. Until there is national consensus on that, he writes, the heritage of the past is not deeply rooted in Hungarian souls, he concludes.

By contrast, Magyar Hang’s Szabolcs Szerető accuses the government side of forgetting the legacy of 1848. In fact, he explains, its representatives refused to honour Russian dissident Alexei Navalny after his death in a detention centre in February. People who poke fun at someone sacrificing his life for his convictions cannot consider themselves heirs of the 19th-century revolutionaries, he writes.

In Demokrata, Gábor Bencsik approves the government’s position that there is no military solution to the war in Ukraine. He calls it immoral to demand that people make sacrifices for a goal that simply cannot be attained. He finds it obvious that Russia cannot be forced to its knees nor do the sanctions imposed on it work. He therefore agrees with Pope Francis who urged leaders to muster the courage to take up the white flag and start negotiating.

In Magyar Narancs, on the other hand, Mihály Bak finds it feasible for the democratic world to finance Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression. It would take just 0.8% of GDP from Germany and about half of that ratio from the USA and Great Britain. Since after the war, rebuilding Ukraine would require an almost $500 billion boost in technological and building outputs, he believes helping Ukraine is not only an investment in the West’s security but also in its economic prosperity.


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