It could start this writing like the traditional fairy tales with “Once upon a time the country…” – namely, following with the low that Hungary has drifted into today, I cannot do anything else but remember these people who took to the streets to demand faster change and finally started the Hungarian Revolution on October 23rd 1956. I will not now comment on whether the ultimate goal of these brave citizens was a revolution, or whether one act eventually led to another and this series of acts led to a chain of events we know as the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
Red Army T-34/85 tank that participated in the defeat of the Hungarian Revolution – on display in Helsinki during the 50th anniversary of the Revolution.
But today, as Hungary drifts further and further away from Western democracies and their values, I cannot help but remember my own childhood and how, reading the history books of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, I marveled at the courage of those people as they went to fight for their rights; and how then, in the late 1980s, I lived a reality in which the Soviet Union’s oppressive grip on Eastern Europe came to end and finally freedom came alongside the Hungarians to a large number of enslaved peoples who had lived under occupation for decades; sadly, now the clock is turning backwards, with Hungary shackling itself under the command of Viktor Orbán, and their country extending beyond its borders almost as ruthlessly as the Soviet state, against whose strangling grip the brave Hungarians rose in the past.
Many will probably point the finger at me at this stage when I compare the actions of modern Hungary with those of the Soviet state in the 1950s, and I admit that the comparison is not entirely justified, but Orbán’s Hungary is acting in a way that misleadingly reminds me of a totalitarian state that sees its right to act outside its borders and, if necessary, very ruthlessly. As unfortunate as the story is and unfortunate as it is to present one, it is also wrong to be silent and not to share one’s findings. Today, Hungary is striving to be bigger and more significant in size, the country is influencing others and wages information warfare on many fronts. How it happened and could it happen to some other country is a rhetoric questions.
We Finns have also, to a small extent, been able to play our part in the need for the Hungarian administration to influence beyond the borders of the country, when they believe that it is against Hungary’s interests. The Hungarian administration confirmed that it had sent shepherd’s letters to those who criticized the country’s emergency arrangements; in Finland, such shepherd’s letters have been sent to several researchers, the Coalition Party MEP Petri Sarvamaa, and Helsingin Sanomat have been approached by a shepherd’s letter, just like Yleisradio (Finland’s national public broadcasting company). The saddest thing about this whole case is (along with Hungary’s own reprehensible actions) that there seems to be citizens in Finland who think Hungary’s influence and pressure is acceptable – some even think the country’s actions are justified.
I will now try to recall the way in which the Finns who bowed humbly in the direction of Tehtaankatu were described, when the Soviet Union (or Russia) applied pressure to Finland or to the Finns… In the same way, now a number of Finns “bow” to the Hungarian regime. (My foreign readers, the Soviet Embassy, was located on Tehtaankatu, as is the Russian Embassy, too.)
At this point, we see that for some Finns, opposition to the European Union (perhaps even Western values) is so important and significant that this nationalism, which they promote, can be forgotten and supported by the words and even deeds of a totalitarian Hungary. And now comes to mind the idea that Alexander Dugin, a prominent representative of Russian neo-Eurasianism and Russian ultra-nationalism, has stated (and that he noticeably works):
”The most important factor should not be whether these groups are pro-Russian or not. What they oppose is of much greater importance here. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. It is simple and easy to understand. – – -”.
In my opinion, some Finnish “nationalists” work in exactly the same way. What is important to them is what this third party opposes, it determines their relationship to it, and while the current Hungarian administration clearly works against the idea of the EU, it is more than natural that a moderate number of Finnish opponents of the European Union (so called nationalists) will also support the Hungarian regime in its actions against Finns, which is even against Finland’s interests. That is such nationalism, but at the same time it is worth noting that the implementation of this same doctrine also drives Finnish “nationalists” on the far right to support Russia, because for them the European Union (and more often also Western values) appear to be a greater threat than totalitarian Russia, where civil rights are being trampled on and who is sending their assassins to third countries, and who is waging a war on the territory of another European state, Ukraine, while annexing part of it. Repetition is the mother of studies in that kind of “nationalism”.
However, Finland is not the only country targeted by the Hungarian administration. Russia’s illegal occupation and annexation of the Crimean peninsula has, for its part, also raised “superpower dreams” in the Budapest, although it should be noted that, as I understand it, they already existed before the Russian occupation of the Crimean peninsula in the late winter 2014, but Russia’s occupation of the Crimean peninsula has increased “superpower dreams” and dangerous nationalism in Hungary as well, as a result, the relocation of national borders may no longer be seen as such a negative issue – ideas have already shifted to talk. Is the next step to move from words to deeds?
Many Hungarian-speakers also live in the territory of Hungary’s neighbors, especially in those bordering Hungary, such as Ukraine’s Transcarpatia (Zakarpattia oblast), and they are influenced by the Hungarian administration through cultural and identity policies. But they also seem to be used by the Hungarian leadership, ruthlessly, as pawns in blackmailing the target states to bow to actions that are likely to contribute the most to the current Hungarian leadership than anyone else. This actions by the Hungarian leadership will also benefit Russia – Hungary’s actions will be “Divide et impera”, which Russia also uses in its own hybrid and influential activities, such as seeking an agreement with an individual member state of the European Union instead of negotiating with the European Union.
I saw with my own eyes the manifestations of the influence of this Hungarian cultural policy during my visit to Zakarpattia oblast, Uzhhorod and Mukachevo a couple of years ago, how, as a result, the Hungarian administration seeks to influence the Hungarian-speaking population of the region in Ukraine in a number of ways, such as by funding the restoration of cultural sites and a language policy that feeds nationalism. In my view, in part as a result of this influence, some native Hungarian speakers in the region are now refusing to study Ukrainian, perhaps even longing to look in the direction of Budapest and hoping that Hungary will take over the region. At the time, I also wondered whose money Hungary and the Orbán administration would end up operating? Whether the money would come directly from the state budget or whether some structures would allow, for example, EU aid to be channelled into such activities, much like anti-EU groups in Slovakia make use of European Union funding for its anti-EU activities.
Hungary’s activities are reminiscent of Russia’s similar cultural and linguistic influence in different countries through various organizations, such as the pro-Kremlin organization Finnish-Russian association RUFI (Suomalais-venäläinen yhdistys RUFI) in Finland or Suomenvenäläisten etujärjestö ry (OSORS).
Hungary’s influence on Ukraine alone is not visible in the field of culture and language policy, in the same way the country is ready to throw “sticks at the wheel of Ukraine” in the security policy. Ukraine has been cooperating closely with NATO for many years, one of the fruits of which is Ukraine’s recent acceptance to the inner ring of NATO’s partnership program, i.e. the Ukraine is now an Enhanced Opportunities Partner, Finland, Sweden, Australia and Georgia, as well as Jordan, have previously achieved the same status. It must be remembered, however, that Ukraine’s possible membership of NATO is overshadowed not only by war with Russia but also by Hungary’s actions. Hungary vetoed NATO’s Ukraine statement last autumn in this case an apple of discord was, at least ostensibly, the Hungarian minority living in Ukraine and their status, but many suspect there are Russian motives in the background. The use of the veto last autumn was timed just after the visit of the Russian state leadership.
Russia’s active involvement in Hungary and co-operation with various groups and individuals belonging to the far right and the far right are well known, eg in late 2016 a pattern of co-operation between the Russian state and the far-right group was revealed. Extremists from the Hungarian far right also fight at war in Ukraine on the side of Russian proxy forces, such as the Legion of Saint Stephen linked to the Jobbik party, Hungarians are fighting against the Ukrainian government. The Legion of Saint Stephen actively supports the sovereignty of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine in the Zakarpattia оblast, support has also been given to violent extremists.
At least the actions of the Hungarian state leadership will not reduce the use of language and identity policies as part of the hybrid war against the Ukrainian state, rather the other way around.
In Uzhhorod, Zakarpattia Oblast, Ukraine, there were two attempts to set on fire the Zakarpattia Society of Hungarian Culture in February 2018. At the time, the Russian propaganda media blamed Ukrainian nationalists for the attack, gaining background support for their propaganda also from Hungary, as well as from numerous European pro-Russian websites spreading disinformation. Since then, the investigation has uncovered members of the Polish pro-Kremlin far-right organization, which was behind the attack. Michał Prokopowicz a member of the Polish pro-Kremlin Obóz Narodowo-Radykalny -group (Engl. the National Radical Camp group) and Falanga group, as well as member of the Zmiana party, was also charged.
The perpetrator of the attack is suspected to be Manuel Ochsenreiter, the German far-right Zuerst! editor in chief. He works in the office of Markus Frohnmaier, a Member of Parliament for AfD‘s German Bundestag. As regards to Ochsenreiter, the proceedings have not yet begun.
Ochsenreiter has been working for years for the Russian regime. He has been a very active supporter of Russian policy and a mouthpiece at least since 2014, participating in the “observation” of the “referendum” on the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula in March 2014 and the “observation” of the “elections” in the autumn of 2014 in the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine and also acting as an “election observer” in Russian-occupied Crimea in March 2018.
Ulrich Oehme (AfD), Finnish pro-Kremlin activists Johan Bäckman and Manuel Ochsenreiter as “election observers” in Russian-occupied Crimea in March 2018.
Viktor Orbán’s speech at the Trianon centenary peace celebration can be considered a poison for European cooperation as well as for neighboring countries:
“The West raped the thousand-year old borders and history of Central Europe… We will never forget that they did this”.
Does this act as a catalyst in the transition from words to deeds? Hungary, a troublemaker of Ukraine’s Transcarpatia, wants more in the context of the “mainland” than the Uzhhorod and Mukachevo regions of Ukraine. And in order to avoid criticism of the country’s domestic politics, the country’s leadership seems to be resorting to the means of totalitarian states — precisely those against which the people rose in October 1956.
The article is a supplemented version of my blog “Unkari, tuo häirikkö Taka-Karpatian kupeessa”:
A list of sources can be found on the blog.