Érpatak: a Hungarian town living under far-right terror

I imagine that most of our readers have not been to, and perhaps never even heard of the northeastern Hungarian town of Érpatak (population: 1,700). The small town is run by far-right mayor Mihály Zoltán Orosz, who made a national name for himself by causing a scene at last year’s Gay Pride parade in Budapest, where he showed up dressed in traditional Hungarian folkloric clothing and a hat with a large feather sticking out of it, and demanded to be allowed to join the float.

That’s Mr. Orosz’s eccentric, but generally harmless side. As the mayor of Érpatak, however, he has implemented a system over the past 10 years, which is widely seen as being based on instilling fear within the local population, in an effort to maintain “order” and keep out any political rivals or “liberal” community activists. The far-right, especially the Jobbik party, praise the Érpatak Model as being exemplary and something that other towns in Hungary should adopt. This “model” of local governance is based on cutting off all welfare payments and other forms of assistance to those who local authorities deem to be “anti-social,” and in contrast rewarding all those who toe the line.

Unofficially, the model also includes brutally beating up activists of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ), such as Gábor Szőllősi. In 2013, Mr. Szőllősi received a phone call from a woman who said she was a researcher from the University of Szeged, asking the activist to agree to an interview on his work. He was asked to meet her and her team at a bus stop, located near Érpatak’s cemetery, but nobody showed up, except for a hooded man who ran up to Mr. Szőllősi and began punching him. A few days earlier, the neo-Nazi Kuruc.info website published an article on Mr. Szőllősi, calling on readers to teach him a lesson, because he is critical of Mayor Orosz. The extremist mayor has had a long and sometimes public dispute with Mr. Szőllősi. In one instance, while the town commemorated Nazi soldiers who fought during World War II, Mr. Orosz appeared dressed in military fatigues and a helmet, and began yelling abuses at Mr. Szőllősi, who was protesting the ceremony, and at a journalist, who was reporting on it. Mr. Orosz inappropriately used local police to have both the journalist and the activist ejected.

Mayor Orosz, in his signature military fatigues. Photo: Hir24.

Mayor Orosz, in his signature military fatigues. Photo: Hir24.

But in Érpatak, retribution doesn’t stop with a “simple” beating or verbal abuse. The house of a local rival, Ferenc Polyák, was firebombed using Molotov cocktails, almost burning him and his wife alive inside their destroyed home.

In 2011, Érpatak police removed two elderly Roma from their cabin on the edge of town. where they had been living peacefully, albeit in abject poverty, for 10 years. While the Roma men were in police custody, their modest home was torched by unknown arsonists. All of their family photos, few possessions and saved-up forints were destroyed in the attack. The arsonists were never found.

Pál Nagy, a researcher who has studied the far right in Hungary for 20 years and has followed Érpatak especially closely, summed up Mr. Orosz’s remarkably patriarchal worldview on the Roma minority like this:

“He considers those Gypsies to be honest, who accept that they were born into the pits of society and who accept that they belong there, and won’t rebel against this. He expects them to follow the path laid out for them by those who are better and stronger.”

Mr. Nagy argues that the Mayor of Érpatak is a cross between a “false prophet” and Prussian officers, “who occasionally massacred women in Prussian villages who were fishing half naked, along with their children, in order to prevent them from committing future sins.”

But now, as part of Jobbik’s attempt to “moderate” the image of the far-right in Hungary and their campaign to win the national elections of 2018, even Mr. Orosz is getting a make-over. Jobbik’s online news site, Alfahír, sent out one of its journalists, the young, bright-eyed Adrián Magvasi, to clean up the image of a mayor associated with a history of scare tactics, repression, verbal abuse of opponents and, it would seem, even violence.

Mr. Magvasi is the epitome of Jobbik’s new image and style. He’s a relatively soft-spoken, Polo shirt wearing twenty-something young man who seems to avoid overt antisemitism and racism in his writings, but is nonetheless deeply involved in one of Europe’s most fascistic political parties. We have written about Mr. Magvasi and Jobbik’s changing image before. In fact, upon reading my earlier piece in HFP, Mr. Magvasi expressed his displeasure to me in an email.

This time, Mr. Magvasi went on a field trip to Érpatak, with the mission of whitewashing this singularly extremist mayor, who now showed up dressed in a suit and tie, as opposed to military fatigues or folkloric garb. He and Mr. Orosz toured a traditionally poverty-stricken and crime-ridden part of the town colloquially called Chicago, home to the area’s Roma population.  Mr. Orosz recently decided to move into Chicago and Alfahír clearly thought this was a nice, feel-good story, in line with Jobbik’s new image. Here’s a mayor who has been accused by liberals of being a virulent racist, moving into a Roma-majority part of the town, which he managed to “clean up” thanks to his law and order style of politics.

Adrián Magvasi chatting with Mayor Orosz in Érpatak. Photo: Alfahír/Zsuzsanna Nagy

Adrián Magvasi chatting with Mayor Orosz in Érpatak. Photo: Alfahír/Zsuzsanna Nagy

The mayor invited Mr. Magvasi to his home for lunch, but before they could eat, the young journalist toured Chicago with the mayor and met with local Gypsies. And, under the patriarchal gaze of their mayor, the Gypsy men and women quoted in the paper heaped praise on Mr. Orosz.

“We’re happy that the mayor is coming to live amongst us. We like the mayor. We’re not angry with him, like the other Gypsies, who behave like scoundrels. It’s good that he keeps order in the village. This way, there’s no theft or burglaries,” said one Gypsy woman interviewed by Mr. Magvasi.

“I have no problem with him. If I need to see him, he helps me. And those who moved away don’t need to be pitied,” said a father of three. “You just have to know how to behave,” chimed in a young mother from across the street.

Mayor Orosz shares a friendly greeting and moment with local Roma.

Mayor Orosz shares a friendly greeting and moment with local Roma. Photo: Alfahír/Zsuzsanna Nagy

In this atmosphere of intimidation, vulnerable men and women were exploited by Adrián Magvasi and the extremist mayor in a truly disgusting fashion. They are the far right’s Uncle Toms: Hungary’s docile, passive Negroes, who know their place in society. This is Jobbik’s new style of communication and public relations, and it probably resonates well in many quarters of Hungarian society.

Meanwhile, as local Roma families move away and as the mayor moves in and “reclaims” Chicago, those who remain in Érpatak (Roma and non-Roma peasants, workers, the unemployed and pensioners) are completely beholden to the whims of a mayor who presides over a town, where beatings and arson are used to send clear messages to opponents.

8 Comments

  1. Arpad Kovacs says:

    Where there is No law and order there is no functioning society. This mayor created law and order the best way he knew how. His tools to do that may have been deplorable but the end result is the same. Law and order.

    • Yes, but what kind of law? He only created order and discipline.

      One day you yourself will be submitted to the kind of “law” that a privileged minority created for the benefit of a group of people that might reject you without any explanation.
      Today you feel strong and wise tomorrow you’re nobody.

  2. Arpad Kovacs,

    Joseph Stalin created law and order too…with his iron fist. Do you approve of that as well?

  3. Robert Szucs says:

    What a dirty, intimidating fascist mayor this guy is.
    Everybody missing those good old times when the brake-ins, robberies,
    theft, and rapes was everyday occurance.
    And “causing a scene at last year’s Gay Pride parade in Budapest,” by dressing up in hungarian clothes instead being naked like the proud gays:—intolerable!

    • Actually he is dirty, he was stealing grants from the government by registering bogus churches to obtain funds. He grossly exaggerates the crime in the town prior to him becoming mayor to make it look like there is such a big change in the town. The only change is that he has people in his town afraid of him and his thugs. He rules the town like a POW camp and often dresses like a military leader. For your information, Erpatak did not have a big crime problem and also for your information there has NEVER been any reported rapes there. All of the circus is just a show. The fact you eat it up like it is Gods word is what is really wrong in Hungary.

  4. Nope. Érpatak was living under the terror of crime. As this mayor appeared, the town is now peaceful again – he wiped out of crime.

    If he made as big terror as you speak about, why was he re-elected?

  5. It looks like many of the posters can’s really get Chris’ gist.
    The same happened at on other board the

    “It’s in Hungary’s interest to accept more refugees and immigrants”

    where they missed the point that the Syrians refuges and immigrants are actually properly or highly qualified ones. Now here again, totally missing the point.

    A lot of pro-Orban or pro-Jobbik spam could even make sense if they could show some intellect, yet that’s not gonna happen as the source is the same as I described it in my posts on the comment board of

    “Hungary’s Orbán is far more dangerous than Jobbik or any other extreme right movement”

    posts “August 2, 2015 at 11:45 pm” and “on August 2, 2015 at 11:58 pm” and “on August 3, 2015 at 6:27 am “.

  6. Pingback: Erpatak: Far right terror in a small Hungarian town - rroma.org

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