Right-Wing Extremists Cultivate Horthy Cult in Hungary
Hungary’s controversial new constitution, in force since the beginning of the year, evokes the spirit of a long-past era: the thousand-year-old Hungarian state that is represented by the Holy Crown of Saint Stephen I. The constitution pledges to “protect” the unique Hungarian language, Hungarian identity and national culture. It is a thinly veiled throwback to the spirit of the interwar period, when the country was ruled by Miklós Horthy, who established an authoritarian, ultraconservative nationalist and revisionist regime.
Now, under the leadership of conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, this spirit is more or less taking concrete form. In mid-May, a statue of Horthy was erected in Kereki in southwestern Hungary. It was something of a first in post-communist Hungary. After all, Miklós Horthy was a notorious anti-Semite and the leader of the White Terror, a wave of post World War I, anti- Communist violence which claimed many Jews as its victims. As head of state in 1944, he was responsible for the mass deportation of 400,000 Hungarian Jews who were murdered in Auschwitz.
A few days after the dedication of the Horthy statue, the reformed bishop Gusztáv Bölcskei unveiled a restored marble Horthy plaque at the Debrecen University of Reformed Theology in eastern Hungary. Then on Friday, June 1, Freedom Square in the town of Gyömrö, southeast of Budapest, was renamed after the right winger. More Horthy statues are set to be erected, also in Budapest — even though Horthy despised the city, calling it a “Jewish Bolshevik cesspool of vice.” A dedication is being in planned in October for a larger-than-life-size statue of Horthy on horseback in Budapest’s Castle Hill district. Journalist Gábor Czene says that there is a “creeping Horthy cult” on the rise.
But it’s not just the former regent who is being honored in Orbán’s new Hungary. The Hungarian Parliament is pushing for the reburial of the writer József Nyírö, who was once sought after as a war criminal, in his homeland of Transylvania in Romania at the request of the Hungarian minority party there. Nyírö was a prominent cultural ideologue under Horthy. He later served as a member of parliament during the reign of terror of the national socialist Arrow Cross Party from October 1944 to March 1945, a time when tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews were sent on death marches or massacred. Nyírö fled to Franco’s Spain after the war.