The Trianon Memorial: a monument to Hungarian revisionism

The Trianon Memorial: a monument to Hungarian revisionism

 

A few days ago it was officially announced that the government is embarking on a five billion forint project, the creation of a Trianon Memorial. It will be constructed at the end of Alkotmány utca, facing the parliament building. It will consist of a 100-meter-long ramp, signifying the 100 years that have gone by since the Treaty of Trianon, that slopes downward. The walls of the ramp will be made of black granite, on which almost 13,000 place names of historical Hungary will be engraved. At the end of this four-meter-wide ramp will stand a large broken granite block, accompanied by an eternal flame.

Recently Mária Schmidt, the court historian, gave an interview to Origo on the occasion of the appearance of another book of hers titled A new world was born: 1914-1922. In the interview Schmidt declared that “not even one thousand years are enough to process such a tragedy.” On the other hand, when Index’s article on the new memorial was posted on Facebook, Blanka Nagy, the fiery high school student from Kecskemét, commented, “Let’s get over it.” The far-right Pesti Srácok was shocked. This 18-year-old girl has already been poisoned by the left when, in fact, with the exception of the Demokratikus Koalíció, the opposition parties dutifully voted for all the bills introduced by the Orbán government related to the Hungarian minorities in the neighboring countries, mostly out of fear that otherwise they would be viewed as unpatriotic.

The few editorials that have appeared on the Trianon project have been uniformly negative, with the exception of course of the government publications. Even András Gerő, the historian who is a great friend of Mária Schmidt and who has played an inglorious role in the controversies surrounding the House of Fates, finds the concept objectionable. Gerő argues, and not without reason, that since Hungary before 1920 was a multi-national state, the inclusion of all place names, regardless of the national composition of the municipalities, means “a return to the revisionism of the interwar years.” Moreover, “it creates a nostalgic illusion which leads nowhere.” Instead, he suggests engraving Hungarian family names inside and outside of Trianon Hungary. That would strengthen the original concept of the Orbán government in 2010, which emphasized “national belonging.” In addition, by including the names of Slovak, Romanian, Croatian, and Serbian names of Hungarian families, the Orbán government could demonstrate the multinational nature of historical Hungary.

Gáspár Miklós Tamás, known as TGM, who before he emigrated to Hungary had been a member of the Hungarian community in Romania, also worries about the message, which he considered deeply flawed. So far he hasn’t written an essay on the subject, but he talked at length about it on György Bolgár’s call-in show Let’s Talk It Over. He gave an accurate picture of the anti-nationalities positions of the Hungarian governments between 1867 and 1918, which resulted in a hatred of Hungary in Great Britain and France. As he put it, Hungary “was morally the chief enemy of the Allies.” Moreover, after the cruel treatment of the non-Hungarians, “it’s no wonder that Hungary received such treatment.” This memorial is a provocation of the neighbors and might further inflame nationalism in the region.

The harshest and most penetrating criticism came from Tamás Bauer, an economist who often comments on political matters. He calls the memorial “a real political scandal.” Like Gerő and TGM before him, he considers it a provocation against Romanians, Serbs, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Croats, Slovenes, and Austrians. Bauer has been watching Fidesz’s “soft revisionism,” which began as early as 2001 when “the Orbán government created a link between the Hungarian state and Hungarian individuals living as minorities in the neighboring countries.” He points out that when the Hungarian government offered citizenship to Hungarians outside of the borders of Hungary, “it unilaterally violated the peace treaties.” This is what Bauer calls “soft revisionism.” In addition, the Orbán government created an organ called the Hungarian Permanent Conference that makes decisions in Budapest which are then extended to Hungarian parties in the neighboring countries. By engraving all place names as of 1913, the government “sends a message to the whole world that it considers not only members of Hungarian minorities part of the Hungarian state, but all municipalities in historical Hungary,” which in the final analysis is “the symbolic expression of a ‘total recreation’ of pre-World War I Hungary.”

Perhaps Bauer overstates the significance of the memorial’s design, but his conclusions are hard to refute. An editorial in Magyar Nemzet tries to explain the meaning of the memorial, but the interpretation is not convincing. It claims that “the memorial is not about the losses of the last century but about national belonging.” The fact that the list of place names comes not only from the ceded territories but also includes municipalities in today’s Hungary signifies that belonging. Unfortunately, it is hard to know whose belonging the editorial is talking about. It vaguely refers to “all of us,” but I very much doubt that “all of us” would include the former ethnically non-Hungarian citizens of the Kingdom of Hungary.

All three authors agree that the memorial sends a “revisionist” message and that it might be considered a provocation which could offend the governments as well as the people of the neighboring countries. One is inclined to echo Blanka Nagy’s comment: “Let’s get over it.”

 

Source: Hungarian Spectrum

 

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