Thursday, March 15, 2007

All Hail the Hungarians!

Let me be the first to wish you Happy Hungarian Independence Day! On this day in l848, the poet Sandor Petofi climbed up the stairs of the National Museum to deliver his "National Song," which begins, "Talpra Magyar! Hi a haza!"--in the vernacular, "Arise, Hungarians! Your nation calls!" This was the beginning of the Hungarian revolution of l848, which started as a bid for autonomy within the Austrian empire, and ended in a full-blown declaration of independence in l849 and then a war with Austria which decided ultimately by the Imperial Russian army. The l8-year-old Emperor of Austria, Franz Josef, begged his Russian counterpart, Nicholas I for help putting down these upstarts, and Nicky was happy to oblige since he hated any and all revolutionaries. So this first campaign for independence ended badly.

On June 4, l920, as we all know(well, maybe we all do), Hungary got its independence--after 2/3 of its territory and citizens went to neighboring nations Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Romania. That was the "be careful what you wish for or you might get it" period of independence. As World War II neared, the Hungarians followed the revisionists, Italy and Germany, hoping fervently that those nations' rulers would return its lost territories. Instead, they were plunged into another war, which ended in the Russian occupation of Hungary and eastern Europe. In l956, Hungarians tried to throw off Russian rule by force of arms--another valiant but futile effort. Finally, when Mikhail Gorbachev proclaimed the "Sinatra doctrine" in eastern Europe--"I'll do it MY WAY"--the Hungarians jumped at the chance to hold truly free elections and proclaim something of a lasting independence. They have been building on that foundation ever since.

The Hungarians are a great group. I admire them tremendously because they, like the Irish and the Poles and a group called the Americans, knew they would have to fight for their independence, and they kept on fighting until they won. They've got courage, persistence, elan and lots of savoir vivre, as they say in the Hungarian consulate in Paris.

Long live Hungary and Hungarians!


jodmeister said...

All wasn't completely rosy according to this article about some Hungarian protests.

buckarooskidoo said...

That's right, and a great article. there are two things at work here: one is the immediate issue, i.e. the fact that this government admitted on tape it lied about the state of the economy in order to get elected. that went over like a lead balloon. the other is older-- the lingering socialist-nationalist animosity dating from the communist years...the socialists are viewed by some as successors to the communist governments, and therefore have a lot of detractors even when they do win the popular vote. not everyone likes free markets, privitazation, etc, but the people who do see those who believe differently as communists, and they really hate them. that's a real split in that culture dating back to l956, even before.

what is worrisome is the far right presence--the arrow cross did nothing but kill jews in budapest in '44-45. a friend of mine says there is a lot of anger in the "new east europe" at some of the changes--like privatization, like the emergence of millionaires while people's wages have remained stagnant, that type of thing. there are always unscrupulous people out there trying to direct people's free-floating rage at certain historic scapegoats...hungary isn't immune from that, though the people i know really downplay it.