Trianon commemoration has no place in North America

Many of us in North America are surprised (and dismayed) by the recent revival of Trianon symbolism in Budapest.  It is part of the Orbán Government’s attempt to re-establish Miklós Horthy’s far-right nationalism of the last century.

Far-right Trianon rally at the Romanian Embassy in Budapest.

Several events were planned in Budapest on June 4, the 100th anniversary of the Trianon Treaty. Due to the pandemic some have been called off while others will go online or postponed.  President János Áder will address Parliament on June 4th and PM Viktor Orbán will also speak.

It was announced last year that the centerpiece of the commemoration would be the inauguration of a huge Trianon Monument in downtown Budapest.  This event is now postponed indefinitely.   Trianon and the heightened emotions around it is uniquely Hungarian.  It has deep symbolism with various interpretations and for nationalists Trianon has a defining role in the Hungarian identity.

After WWI as part of the Paris Peace Treaties the controversial Treaty of Trianon (named after the Trianon Palace) was signed by Hungary in 1920.  Hungary’s ruler, Admiral Horthy and his supporters started a narrative that the treaty was “imposed on Hungary by the victorious allies” and it was unjust because “it stripped Hungary of two-thirds of its territory and half its population.”  They portrayed the country as a helpless victim of history which was forced to sign the treaty against the will of its people.

The propaganda accused the French, the Romanians, the Slovaks, the President of Czechoslovakia Eduard Benes, Béla Kun, Mihály Károlyi, the Communists and the Jews for the ills of the Treaty.  Rarely did they mention the sins of Hungary’s retrograde feudal nobility, the merciless exploitation of nationalities, the corrupt bureaucracy of the Monarchy, the forced “magyarization,” and the fact that Romanians and Slovaks couldn’t use their language or practice their culture.  Don’t misunderstand me, the Trianon Treaty was far from perfect but it was certainly not “criminal” and not the result of a “conspiracy” against Hungary.

Recently installed Trianon marker in a Hungarian village

Americans were stunned when Hungarian right-wingers labelled President Woodrow Wilson, one of the primary negotiators of the Treaties, “anti-Hungarian.”  Recently Fidesz founder Mr. Zsolt Németh claimed that Americans were also responsible for Trianon.

In 1928 the Horthy regime rented the ocean liner Olympic to send a 525 member delegation to the unveiling of the statue of Kossuth on Riverside Drive in New York City.  The statue was a present and the delegation was supposed “to bring to the United States a message of fraternity and good will.”  In reality, they promoted Horthy’s nationalist agenda.

After arrival they were up for a nasty surprise. Demonstrators waited them carrying banners like “Get Out, You Bloody Murderers of Hungarian Workers and Peasants!” and “Kossuth Monument-Horthy Monument!”  The demonstrators demanded that Mayor Walker should not receive the delegation.  In order to protect the visiting dignitaries more than a hundred policemen, detectives and a bomb squad were called out.

1928 – Horthy delegation was not welcomed in New York

The Trianon Treaty narrative today is again part of the nationalist propaganda.  Instead of attacking other nations and people Hungary should promote a more balanced view of the Treaty and its historical context.  Here is the “American view” published as the New York Times editorial on June 30, 1918.

György Lázár


The Real Hungary

Hungary’s past as every schoolboy familiar with Kossuth’s visit knows, is one of the reasons why Hungarians should wish the Central Powers defeated – The Evening Post

Instead of being nourished on the Kossuth legend and the false fable that the Magyars are friends of freedom „every schoolboy” ought to know the facts about modern Hungary.  He ought to know that of the 22,000,000 in Hungary only some 9,000,000 are Magyars and 13,000,000 are non-Magyar races, treated by the Magyar magnates and ruling caste with systematic injustice, oppression, and cruelty.

He ought to know that this Magyar minority is not distributed among the various provinces of Hungary so as to be, save in a single province, a majority.  In the Puszta, on the middle Danube and the Tisza, dwell from seven to eight ninth of the Magyar population.  The rest are dispersed among the other provinces, holding the offices, controlling the courts and police, ruling majority races.   In Transylvania and the Bánát, scattered little island of Magyars lord it over four to five million Rumanians.  In Southern Hungary are from five to six million of South Slavs, in the North 2,000,000 Slovaks.  It is the inexorable Magyar plan to Magyarize these peoples, to crush their national aspirations, their language and moral identity, to keep them forever from the racial and political States to which they belong in heart in history.

It is the past of Hungary in the last two generations, it is the present Hungary that “every schoolboy” should know.   The Magyars of the ruling class are a bold, chauvinistic, domineering race. By the cord and the sword they have long oppressed the nationalities subject to them.  There are few more curious myths than this myth of Magyars of Hungary as lovers of liberty other than their own.  Doubtless Americans of Magyar descent are familiar with the character and achievement of this caste. 

(Source NYT archive)


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