Brainwashing explains actions of Hungarians in World War II and today

Géza Jeszenszky, Hungary’s former ambassador to Oslo under the second Orbán cabinet and the country’s ambassador to Washington under Viktor Orbán’s first term in power, suggested that Hungarians are being brainwashed today, which is why so many in Hungary fail to see the risk associated with the government’s pro-Putin and pro-Russian politics. Mr. Jeszenszky compared this to the brainwashing in World War II, when most Hungarians did not protest the country’s alignment with Nazi Germany.

Speaking at a conference on Hungarian sovereignty and Russian relations organized by, an organization associated with the Politics Can Be Different party (LMP – Lehet Más a Politika), Mr. Jeszenszky said:

“The brainwashing of the present day helps to understand how it was possible that during the Second World War, so many failed to understand that Hungary had to pull itself out of the War.”

Géza Jeszenszky. Photo:

In connection to the conference’s main topic of Hungary’s sovereignty, the former ambassador and also former Minister of Foreign Affairs under the conservative Antall government noted that complete sovereignty is not effective for Hungary. For instance, before the collapse of Austria-Hungary, most Hungarian elites realized that an independent Hungary would immediately recede to the position of a second or third rate power in Europe. Mr. Jeszenszky quoted an article from The Times, dating back to 1905: “Hungary’s national sovereignty would depend on the mercy of its aggressive and powerful neighbours that are hungry for territory and commerce, while at home and abroad most people attach little value to civil liberties.” He added for much of the 20th century, Russia was that aggressive neighbour that had little respect for civil liberties.

Mr. Jeszenszsky emphasized that most Hungarian political thinkers understood that Hungary was not in a position to “go it alone.” People like Prime Minister István Tisza saw Hungary as having sovereignty within the Habsburg Empire, while others saw Hungary as part of a Danubian federation of nations. Others still believed in Hungary remaining part of the Dual Monarchy arrangement. According to Mr. Jeszenszky, this had nothing to do with servility of the Hungarian elites, but was an example of cold, rational thinking. Hungarian elites, in large part, supported staying within the Dual Monarchy created at the time of the 1867 Compromise because this was Hungary’s best guarantee against Russia and other foreign enemies, as well as the threat posed by some Slavic nationalities within the Kingdom of Hungary who sought independence.

The implication of Mr. Jeszenszky’s comments were clear: today, Hungary cedes some of its national sovereignty within the European Union–a better term would be to say that Hungary “pools” its sovereignty–yet being a member of the EU is in Hungary’s national interest and it is also the best guarantee of its security.

“There is the European Commission, where we have our own representative. We can’t claim that we have no say. And then there is the European Council, where the Hungarian prime minister has a veto. At one point, we heard that he used his veto, only to find out that this was not true,” remarked Mr. Jeszenszky, referring to when the Hungarian State News Agency (MTI) falsely claimed that Mr. Orbán had vetoed the settlement of refugees then in Turkey to the EU.

Mr. Jeszenszky added that Hungary should focus on building a stable alliance with the Baltic states, with Croatia and expand on cooperation within the Visegrad Group.

“The opposite of being servile is not bullishness,” noted Mr. Jeszenszky pointedly, in clear reference to the Orbán government’s constant verbal karate against Hungary’s western allies.

“The concept that Brussels is today what Moscow once was is, in my mind, a joke,” added the former ambassador about insinuations from the prime minister that the EU is comparable to the USSR.

“It’s a sad reflection of one’s self if someone thinks that Putin is better than Merkel. We’re lucky that we have not yet declared NATO to be our enemy too…” remarked Mr. Jeszenszky.

Mr. Jeszensky, one of the most prominent conservative public thinkers and formerly supportive of Mr. Orbán has, over the years, become sharply critical of the government’s foreign policy. He is not the only supporter of Atlanticism to be alarmed at the government’s pro-Russian direction.

One Comment

  1. The problem with Jeszenszky is – too little, too late. He played a major role in the degeneration of democratic rule in Hungary, and actively assisted in letting the genie of autocracy out of the bottle, legitimizing Orbán’s excesses in Washington, Oslo, and within Hungary. Kaczynsky also hates Putin, but that does not make him a democrat. What all three have in common, is a preference for the past. They scorn the advocates of gender equality, look askance on the LGBT community, disdain those who argue for sustainable development, and despise those who tell us about the dangers of climate change, and the necessity to take action.

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