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Hungary's Political Alignments: In Search of Totalitarian Ally

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Photo: Collage The Gaze
Photo: Collage The Gaze

For historians, the repeated alignment of Hungary with totalitarian regimes over the course of the last century is a pattern that's hard to overlook. To understand this phenomenon, we need to delve into the country's tumultuous past.

In the early 20th century, the Treaty of Trianon in 1920 drastically reduced Hungary's territory and left it in a state of disillusionment. The nation, feeling disenfranchised and marginalized, was drawn towards totalitarian leadership, which promised a return to its former glory. The image of Greater Hungary was born, and it is still used by populistic politicians.

During World War II, Hungary initially tried to maintain neutrality but was drawn into the conflict due to its alliances. Eager to reclaim lost territories, Hungary allied with Hitler's Germany, which promised to restore its borders. Hungary's alignment with Hitler was largely pragmatic and based on nationalistic aspirations rather than shared ideological beliefs. The results of WWII didn’t give the country desired territories, and public opinion was left unsatisfied.

Following the end of World War II, Hungary found itself under Soviet occupation. The country was declared a People's Republic, and a Soviet-style political system was imposed. It's important to note that Hungary's alignment with the USSR was not a matter of choice but a consequence of wartime geopolitics.

The 1956 Hungarian Revolution was a potent display of public dissent against Soviet control, brutally suppressed by the USSR. The event revealed a deep-seated desire for freedom and sovereignty among Hungarians, challenging the notion that Hungary was inherently inclined towards totalitarianism.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Hungary has moved towards democracy, joining the European Union in 2004. However, its relationship with Russia remains complex. Hungary is heavily dependent on Russia for energy supplies, which influences its foreign policy decisions.

Recently, under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Hungary has been accused of democratic backsliding.

Orbán's government has been accused of democratic backsliding, with concerns raised about the consolidation of power, curtailment of press freedom, and controversial legal reforms. While some critics have drawn comparisons between Orbán's leadership style and the authoritarianism seen under leaders like Hitler and Putin, it's crucial to note that these comparisons are often hyperbolic and meant to underline concerns rather than suggest direct equivalencies. The contexts, scales, and impacts of their leadership are significantly different.

While these actions may seem to align with the historical pattern, it's important to remember that Hungary's current situation is a product of unique domestic and geopolitical circumstances, not a predetermined destiny.

Historical Circumstances and Geopolitical Pressures: Hungary's historical experiences have often left it feeling marginalized and wronged, particularly following the Treaty of Trianon. This sense of grievance has made the country susceptible to alliances with powers promising to restore its past glory. Additionally, Hungary's geographical location in Central Europe has subjected it to significant geopolitical pressures, leading it to align with more powerful nations for protection or survival.

Economic Dependencies: Hungary has been heavily reliant on other countries for resources, particularly energy. This dependence has had a significant influence on its foreign policy decisions. For instance, Hungary's dependence on Russia for energy has led to a complex relationship with the country, despite international concerns about Russia's political actions.

Nationalistic Aspirations: Nationalistic sentiments have played a significant role in Hungary's political alignments. The desire to reclaim lost territories and regain national prestige has often led to alliances with totalitarian regimes promising to fulfil these aspirations.

Hungary appears to be the weak link in European democracies, and totalitarian states and leaders use this soft spot. Manipulating with popular myths and desires of whole nation gives possibility to blackmail neighbours. These manipulations are conducted in different ways, not only economically.

For example, a public opinion poll conducted by the Nézőpont Institute found that the majority of Hungarians believe that the Russian-Ukrainian war could escalate into a world war. Specifically, 54% of Hungarian voters believe that there is a real danger that the regional conflict in Ukraine could become global (among those who support the Hungarian government, 72% believe that the continuation of the Russian-Ukrainian war risks starting another world war). Furthermore, 55% of Hungarians believe that there is a risk of nuclear weapons being used in the continuation of the Russian-Ukrainian war. Logically 70% of voters who agree with the work of the Hungarian government consider the use of nuclear weapons to be a real threat, while only 28% do not believe so.

Meanwhile if you investigate neighbourhood Romania, the situation is absolutely opposite. More than 70% of Romanians believe that Russia is to blame for the war in Ukraine, and only 21.9% of Romanians agree with the statement: “Russia will use nuclear weapons in Ukraine to win the war“, while 73.5% do not believe that Russia will use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Such different attitudes couldn’t be described only by nationalism or economic dependencies of Hungary. We should look deeper into media landscape and psychological methods that totalitarian Russia uses today towards European democracies.

Regarding the question of whether this could be dangerous for united Europe, it's important to note that any erosion of democratic principles within a member state can be a concern for the European Union, as it challenges the shared values of democracy, human rights, and rule of law that the bloc upholds. If democratic backsliding continues unchecked, it could potentially undermine the unity and integrity of the EU. However, it's also crucial to remember that the EU has mechanisms in place to address such concerns, including legal action and the possibility of sanctioning member states that violate EU laws and principles.

In summary, the reasons behind Hungary's alignments with totalitarian regimes are multifaceted, involving historical, geopolitical, economic, nationalistic, political, and societal factors. It's a complex interplay of circumstances that has shaped Hungary's political history and continues to influence its present. But blaming Hungary will give the opposite effect, because of suggestive model that Russia built with it: “They blame you because they do not like you. I am your only friend”.

That is the model of abuser and its victim. But Hungarians need time to understand that, just as it took time for them to finish with previous allies, Hitler and Soviets.


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