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Tag: Hungary

Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán’s xenophobia rejects the country’s multi-ethnic history

By Pál Nyíri    My son and I have come to see the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble’s show An Evocation of Subcarpathia. According to the introduction to the venerable troupe’s new show, it wants to showcase the multicultural musical and dance heritage of the Western Ukrainian region that formerly belonged to Czechoslovakia and, before then, Hungary, and had a mixed population that included Ruthenians, Slovaks, Hungarians, Romanians, Jews, Gypsies, and Hutsuls. That heritage – juxtaposed rather than hierarchically arranged, the text emphasises – is displayed in the folk dresses of the performers and the languages they sing in (including, counterfactually, Hebrew). But the photos projected on the wall mix nostalgia for a bygone time of diversity with nostalgia for Greater Hungary that is the bread and butter of contemporary Hungarian nationalism.

Photo: Laszlo Balogh/Reuters
Photo: Laszlo Balogh/Reuters

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Hungarian Association for Migrants condemns PM Orbán’s take on the Charlie Hebdo killings

In a response to the Charlie Hebdo killings, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán recently did a television speech in which he made some rather far-reaching statements on immigration in Europe which caused consternation among some – even though he probably also earned the approval of others. Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology staff member Pál Nyiri is a member of Menedék, the ‘Hungarian Association for Migrants’, which released a press statement on Orbán’s speech. We publish the statement here in its entirety.

MENEDÉK Hungarian Association for Migrants Press Statement

Budapest, 12 January 2015

Menedék – Hungarian Association for Migrants deems Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s views concerning immigration in the wake of the Paris massacre, expressed on Sunday, 11 January in the news broadcast of Hungarian public service television channel M1 and elsewhere, unfounded and unworthy of a responsible state leader.

We agree with the Hungarian Prime Minister that “immigration and the cultural concerns it raises need a much more open, honest and straightforward discussion than what we have seen so far.” It is precisely one of the basic goals of our Association. We have worked to create an open, fact- based and responsible dialogue on the topic in Hungary and in Europe for nearly two decades.

We firmly oppose, however, alongside with the European Commission and Europe’s political leaders, the PM’s view that “economic immigration is a bad thing in Europe, it shouldn’t be viewed as if it had any use, because it only brings trouble and peril to the European man, so immigration must be stopped, this is the Hungarian position.” Even David Cameron acknowledged the benefits of immigration in his recent West Midlands speech. It reflects a grave misjudgement and lack of political wisdom to reiterate anti-immigration stock phrases on the day of remembrance of the victims of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, spreading the misconception that immigration is in any way to blame for the dread of terrorism, and curtailing, or even banning immigration is the way to get rid of the terrorism.

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Putting Wilders in perspective

Gypsies performing (photo: stevenimmons)

By Pál Nyiri I watch with a certain envy how my colleagues take part in discussions of and protests against the PVV’s growing strength and its position on immigration. After a year in the Netherlands, I do not yet feel confident enough to participate in these debates myself, and there may be no need for it: anthropologists are perhaps represented with enough voices.

For the time being, I feel more closely connected, and more responsible, for what is happening in Hungarian politics, my country of birth, although I am growing increasingly alienated from it because I feel that the space in which any reasoned discussion of immigration is possible has shrunk to naught with the rapid shift of public discourse to higher and higher levels of nationalism and xenophobia.

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Hungarian nationalists claim Eastern origins

2nd century BC statue of a Scythian youth (picture by Covilha)

‘Hungarian Party campaigns for recognition of Scythian heritage’, Pál Nyiri recently wrote on the Culture Matters blog. Here we reproduce his post, which raises many interesting points about the politics of ethnic identity and the relationship between nationalism and academic writing.


According to Hungarian newspapers, the xenophobic, anti-Semitic party Jobbik (“The Righter”), which has three seats in the European Parliament, has launched a campaign to expunge from textbooks the accepted theory according to which Hungarians are a Finno-Ugric people, and replace it with one according to which they are related to the Huns, Avars and Scythians, Indo-Iranian nomads that inhabited large parts of the Eurasian steppe in the first half of the first millennium C.E.