Hungarian Watch

Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

The New York Times is talking Hungary…

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2012 at 10:58 am

Here are the two newest New York Times articles on the increasingly dire situation in Hungary:

Hungary’s Junk Democracy by Gyorgy Konrad  (a scathing op-ed about the over-reach of Hungary’s new Constitution, it’s impact on the Hungarian people, and the downgrading of Hungary’s debt by 3 leading credit rating institutions as “junk. A junk country, with a junk administration and a junk prime minister.”)

Hungary Misunderstood by Kim Lane Scheppele  (Thank you for bringing her to our attention, Paul Krugman!)

Ms. Scheppele is going to be in Budapest this week giving public lectures. If you are in Budapest and have the opportunity to see her speak, please do.

Her article begins…

“On Tuesday, January 17, the European Commission launched an urgent “infringement procedure” against Hungary for violating EU treaties with its new laws. On Wednesday, January 18, Viktor Orbán dramatically appeared before the European Parliament to defend his country’s new constitutional order.
Orbán’s defense could have been guessed in advance from what Fidesz government officials have been saying for weeks as they fanned out around the world to explain why they rewrote the Hungarian constitution. They claim that they have been misunderstood. And they repeatedly say that their many foreign critics do not understand Hungary.
In this post, I will take up the most frequent arguments that the government has made in its own defense. And, as I will show, its explanations for the new constitutional order are not credible.

The main government explanations are:
1. Fidesz has a popular mandate for change and democracy requires a government to give the public what it wants.

2. Fidesz has consulted with the public about the constitution and this is the constitution that the public approved.

3. Fidesz has consulted with European agencies and they have approved, too.

4. Fidesz is replacing a communist constitution, and finally closing the chapter on the communist period.

5. Fidesz is acting on the basis of Christian principles, like other states within Europe.

6. Everything in the new constitutional order can be found in other European countries.

I will take up each of these in turn.”

Do yourself a favor and read the full article.  Her talent for de-bunking is masterful.




Solidarity with Szabó’s Trafó

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2012 at 10:20 am

In light of the recent firing of György Szabó as the director of Trafó House of Contemporary Art, his supporters have begun a blog: Solidarity with Szabó’s Trafó.
Here, you can find statement’s of support from Szabó’s colleagues from all over the globe and articles in English on the changeover at Trafó.  The authors of the blog are encouraging people to send them letters of support for Szabó and his team at

One of the most interesting articles posted on the blog is an interview with choreographer Yvette Bozsik, who has been chosen by the government to replace György Szabó, and her artistic collaborator, choreographer Csaba Horváth, entitled:
We would make Trafó more open.”
In this interview, Bozsik stresses that it was the Hungarian dance community that urged her to apply to replace György Szabó at Trafó and to open up the institution to more Hungarian artists.  She goes on to say…

“…I don’t like this „taste-terror” which prevails at Trafó. I do not like that Hungarian companies are forced out of the institution. It has been 13 years that György Szabó’s taste determinates the communication toward other countries and the picture they create about us…György’s opinion has determinated the possibilities of the Hungarian companies about performing abroad. The above mentioned communication and adoption skills are the ones we would like to change. Consequently, if we win, we, referring to contemporary artists, would like to move into wider media and convey more projects abroad.”

Interesting.  She complains about Szabó’s “taste-terror” and how it has reigned at Trafó for the past 13 years.  The man is a presenter and a curator who runs a presenting organization.  His job is to have a specific aesthetic point of view and put that into practice in his programming.  That’s what a presenter does.  Now, Bozsik will be a presenter and it will be her “taste-terror” that rules Trafó’s programming.  But she has never run a presenting organization.

She goes on to describe what her “taste-terror” will look like:

“I have always integrated different art fields during my work because I do not care about dance by itself. We would not change the profile of the Trafó, however, we would like to open toward the direction of experimental children theatre, baby theatre and highlight the integration of disabled artists and problems of the society. We would like to support international coproduction, invite choreographers from abroad to work with Hungarian companies. We would like to make the theatre field wider as well, to bring in stand-ups, improvisation theatre and support everything that moves the Hungarian artists’ situation forward…And if we win, we would not like to let only one person’s view determinate the work in Trafó, he/she could have whatever kind of strong characteristic.  We would establish an art council in which several opinions could discuss with each other.”

Baby theater? Stand-ups? An art council?  All who love Trafó, say bye-bye.

Here’s what the current Hungarian populist movement most love most about Bozsik’s “taste-terror”:

“Trafó would set up and have a link to the Hungarian countryside as well. We would invite the award winning performances of Veszprém Dance Festival and we would keep an eye on the Hungarian workshops beyond the Hungarian borders, and not only theatre from the West would be introduced but from the East as well.”

There you have it.  She says all the right things to consider her a willing puppet.  She never once mentions bringing the most cutting-edge international work TO Trafó.  But she mentions Hungarian work…a lot.  A lot, a lot.

The end of an era…

In Uncategorized on January 18, 2012 at 7:11 am

In another shocking political maneuver, the Budapest city government has ousted  György Szabó as the director of Trafó House of Contemporary Arts and replaced him with choreographer Yvette Bozsik.

Here is why this decision flies in the face in intelligence and decency: György Szabó is a phenomenon.  He is beloved in the fields of contemporary performing and visual art and has grown Trafó to become one of the most internationally well-respected presenting houses in Europe.  György Szabó and Trafó are one in the same; it is impossible to imagine Trafó without Gyuri and vice versa.  He has mentored and nurtured countless artists, opened the doors to international collaborations between people and venues across borders, introduced Hungarian audiences to some of the most exciting, ground-breaking work from across the globe, and introduced international presenters and audiences to some of the most sophisticated, exciting Hungarian work.

György Szabó is a visionary with impeccable taste and a passion for increasing the profile of Hungarian performing and visual artists.

Is Yvette Bozsik a choreographer who is talented and makes fine work? Yes. Has she ever run a presenting organization with a multi-faceted artistic profile? No. Does she have ANY experience as a presenter? No. Does she know anything about contemporary music, visual arts, or theater? We’re not sure. Is she in the pocket of the current Hungarian government. She seems to be.  Will she end Trafó’s international profile? YES. All the better for this government.

We are, frankly, stunned by the transparency of this decision. The ruling Fidesz government gets bolder and bolder in their actions that scream–Silence the artists! Stop communicating with the mean horrible terrible EU and the US! Fire anyone who is too progressive or who wants to talk to and, god forbid, collaborate with the outside world! Hungary is only for the Hungarians! It’s pathetic…and frightening.

For more information on the details of this decision and to find out how to support György Szabó, please join the Solidarity for Szabó’s Trafó group on Facebook.

Thank you, Paul Krugman

In Uncategorized on January 2, 2012 at 11:00 pm

It appears Mr. Krugman has created some much needed media momentum with his December 2011 op-ed “Depression and Democracy,”which highlighted the deterioration of democratic values in Hungary.  One of his sources, Kim Lane Scheppele, seems to have been given some regular space on the NY Times blog to devote to the situation in Hungary.  Her first post, Hungary’s Constitutional Revolution, appeared on the blog on December 19th.  Her second post, The Unconstitutional Constitution, went up earlier today.  In it, she decimates the new constitution of Hungary, which became law of the land yesterday.  You get the picture from the first paragraph…

“On New Year’s Day, the new Hungarian constitution became law. The Hungarian parliament has been preparing for this event by passing a blizzard of “cardinal” – or super-majority – laws, changing the shape of virtually every political institution in Hungary and making the guarantee of constitutional rights less secure. In the last two weeks alone, the parliament has enacted so many new laws that it has been almost impossible to keep up. And to top it off, there was also a huge new omnibus constitutional amendment – an amendment to the new constitution even before it went into effect. By one commentator’s count, the Fidesz government has enacted 359 new laws since it came to power 18 months ago.”

What follows is an extremely clear and detailed description of what has been folded into this new constitution and how the majority Fidesz government is moving at warp speed to centralize power and ensure their reign for generations to come…democratically, of course.  Perhaps Orban has Putin on speed dial?  Read her assessment.

We like this Kim Lane Scheppele.  A lot.  Thanks for introducing her to us, Mr. Krugman.  We look forward to hearing more of what she has to say.

Culture is good…right?

In Uncategorized on January 2, 2012 at 10:37 pm

István Csurka

Spiegel Online recently posted an incredibly poignant, terrifyingly candid article on Hungary’s Right-Wing War on Culture by Philipp Oehmke.

It’s worth a close read.  In it, Mr. Oehmke describes the takeover of Budapest’s popular New Theater by a pair of notorious anti-Semites, György Dörner and István Csurka. In his hasty, thrown together application to be the new director of the theater, Dörner wrote of his intention to rid the institution of “degenerate, sick, liberal hegemony.”  Csurka, a famous poet and playwright, founded the nationalistic, anti-Semitic Hungarian Truth and Life Party and spends his spare time worrying that Zoinists are planning another Jewish homeland in Hungary and railing against those who are “foreign-hearted,” mainly liberals and Jews.

In his article, Mr. Oehmke describes his attempts to interview both György Dörner and István Csurka and digs deep into the right-wing mentality of not only the new leaders of the New Theater but the entire rightest movement in Hungary, even interviewing “zombie” Sándor Pörzse, “one of the most prominent members of Jobbik, he is also a member of parliament, the editor-in-chief of the party magazine Barikád and a founding member of the party’s paramilitary organization, the Hungarian Guard, which is now banned.”

An excerpt from the article…
“In addition to being a poet and a politician, Csurka publishes a weekly newspaper called Magyar Fórum. The editorial offices are in downtown Budapest. A man who looks like a bouncer in a bar is standing at the reception desk. He has a hanging eyelid and is wearing a Jack Daniel’s T-shirt stretched tightly across his enormous stomach.

‘You again. I recognize your voice,’ he says. ‘You’re the one who’s been calling all this time. I told you that Mr. Csurka has no time for you.’ He reaches for the phone, speaks with someone and then shakes his head.

Here at his weekly newspaper, Csurka has recently begun writing commentaries under the headline Ascher Café, diatribes filled with hate and accusations. ‘People make fun of our application,’ Csurka writes, ‘because in it we expressed national thoughts and not their liberal consensus.’

The commentary’s title Ascher Café is a reference to Tamás Ascher, perhaps Hungary’s most famous film director, the Director of the Academy of Drama and Film, and a Jew. For Csurka, Ascher symbolizes the Jewish-liberal coffeehouse cultural conspiracy he has been fighting for decades. Csurka writes: ‘It isn’t just the social-liberal cultural policy, but also the Ascher Café’s dominance over the theater that is so oppressive. We are withdrawing culture from the control of Tamás Ascher, the head of the café, the great director, who also directs films in Los Angeles and is, with all certainty, descended from a family of Ashkenazi Jews from Odessa.’ ”

These are the new cultural leaders in Hungary.  These guys.  They’re running things now.

What will they think of next?

Orban’s New Pen Pal

In Uncategorized on January 2, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Hillary Clinton wrote a letter to Prime Minister Orban on December 23rd…maybe it was a Christmas present.  Maybe it was intended to be a stocking stuffer.  Maybe she hoped he would actually read it and then actually take action.  In any case, we wonder if he will be responding any time soon.  Or maybe he’s too busy annihilating the basic tenants of democracy in his country.  (I bet that’s what she wrote about in her letter!)

Click here to read the letter in full…

And take a moment to read Clinton concerned over democracy in Hungary-report on

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