Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Archive for the ‘hungarian nationalism’ Category

Farewell for another year, Búcsú

Posted by Andy Hockley on 28 May, 2007

Well, it was hot for the pilgrimage. Very very hot. And since the culmination of the event involves climbing up a fairly steep slope in order to take part in the mass in the saddle of a hill, it was quite brutal. Pilgrims are not necessarily athletes, and there were some people who really looked like they were suffering (a couple of very overweight blokes I saw looked like they were about to keel over even before the climb started). At the top, the bloke who was speaking over the PA system pre-mass kept telling people to respect the sanctity of the event and to please not take all their clothes off. But not that many people were paying attention, or at least, they felt the statue of the virgin would understand their need to cool off a tad.

The mass was a bit of a laugh because the priest giving the sermon was such a grumpy old sod. Here he has 400,000 people all there ready for him to fill them with passionate love of the catholic faith and joy at being in the presence of such a huge communcal gathering. But no. Instead he goes off on one about how people (ie his audience) were coming for the wrong reasons and young people were just there to do drugs and party wildly for the weekend and that all those listening were in fact a bunch of miserable sinners who all ought to be seriously penitent and then some.

I guess I really just don’t get this strand of guilt and abuse in the Roman Catholic church (and in many others it has to be said). What does it say about human nature that so many people in the world are Catholics? Are we really all just a bunch of masochistic vagrants who are desperate to be taken in hand by a strict father figure who’ll give us a metepahorical seeing to with his belt? I suspect I’ll never understand humans.

To some extent he wasn’t wrong though (though he might need a sense of humour transplant) – this supposedly sacred experience does have all sorts of other extraneous bits attached. Many of these pilgrims, it is true, did not actually come for the opportunity to be especially holy in any way. Yes, there are a bunch of young people who show up and camp out on the hill and have a weekend party (though I suspect most of them who do are fairly religious and partying is done in a low key and catholic way), and yes there are many for whom the weekend is less about religion and more about Hungarian identity and nationalism (witness the presence at this year’s event of László Tőkés, who is pretty much the accetable public face of Hungarian nationalism in Romania, but who is a bishop in the Reformed Church – why was he at an RC mass?).

If the priest had been that fussed about people not according the pilgrimage its proper respect, he should have made a point about how it wasn’t supposed to be used for nationalistic purposes. But he didn’t. Funny that. Not that the church (any church/mosque/temple/synagogue) is ever guilty of siding with nationalists, obviously, no sirree.

The town is still full of cars registered in Hungary – I think today (Monday) is a holiday in Hungary, so people are taking their time going home. Overheard in a cafe yesterday:
Group of young Szekely blokes: Welcome! Where are you from?
Older couple: Debrecen, in Hungary.
Szekely blokes: And you speak Hungarian? Wonderful. You speak it so well.

(This references the possibly apocryphal but often told story about Hungarians from here going to Hungary and having people surprised that they speak Hungarian “so well”. The conversation above was all light hearted, though, and ended up with the groups joing for a beer together)

Posted in csikszereda, hungarian nationalism, traditions | 1 Comment »

Farewell for another year, Búcsú

Posted by Andy Hockley on 28 May, 2007

Well, it was hot for the pilgrimage. Very very hot. And since the culmination of the event involves climbing up a fairly steep slope in order to take part in the mass in the saddle of a hill, it was quite brutal. Pilgrims are not necessarily athletes, and there were some people who really looked like they were suffering (a couple of very overweight blokes I saw looked like they were about to keel over even before the climb started). At the top, the bloke who was speaking over the PA system pre-mass kept telling people to respect the sanctity of the event and to please not take all their clothes off. But not that many people were paying attention, or at least, they felt the statue of the virgin would understand their need to cool off a tad.

The mass was a bit of a laugh because the priest giving the sermon was such a grumpy old sod. Here he has 400,000 people all there ready for him to fill them with passionate love of the catholic faith and joy at being in the presence of such a huge communcal gathering. But no. Instead he goes off on one about how people (ie his audience) were coming for the wrong reasons and young people were just there to do drugs and party wildly for the weekend and that all those listening were in fact a bunch of miserable sinners who all ought to be seriously penitent and then some.

I guess I really just don’t get this strand of guilt and abuse in the Roman Catholic church (and in many others it has to be said). What does it say about human nature that so many people in the world are Catholics? Are we really all just a bunch of masochistic vagrants who are desperate to be taken in hand by a strict father figure who’ll give us a metepahorical seeing to with his belt? I suspect I’ll never understand humans.

To some extent he wasn’t wrong though (though he might need a sense of humour transplant) – this supposedly sacred experience does have all sorts of other extraneous bits attached. Many of these pilgrims, it is true, did not actually come for the opportunity to be especially holy in any way. Yes, there are a bunch of young people who show up and camp out on the hill and have a weekend party (though I suspect most of them who do are fairly religious and partying is done in a low key and catholic way), and yes there are many for whom the weekend is less about religion and more about Hungarian identity and nationalism (witness the presence at this year’s event of László Tőkés, who is pretty much the accetable public face of Hungarian nationalism in Romania, but who is a bishop in the Reformed Church – why was he at an RC mass?).

If the priest had been that fussed about people not according the pilgrimage its proper respect, he should have made a point about how it wasn’t supposed to be used for nationalistic purposes. But he didn’t. Funny that. Not that the church (any church/mosque/temple/synagogue) is ever guilty of siding with nationalists, obviously, no sirree.

The town is still full of cars registered in Hungary – I think today (Monday) is a holiday in Hungary, so people are taking their time going home. Overheard in a cafe yesterday:
Group of young Szekely blokes: Welcome! Where are you from?
Older couple: Debrecen, in Hungary.
Szekely blokes: And you speak Hungarian? Wonderful. You speak it so well.

(This references the possibly apocryphal but often told story about Hungarians from here going to Hungary and having people surprised that they speak Hungarian “so well”. The conversation above was all light hearted, though, and ended up with the groups joing for a beer together)

Posted in csikszereda, hungarian nationalism, traditions | 3 Comments »

The UDMR

Posted by Andy Hockley on 10 May, 2007

I’m in the middle of writing a long (long) post about nationality and nationalism and identity and all that stuff for my extremely occasional series about Szekely Autonomy, and hope to have it done soon, but in the meantime, I was thinking about the UDMR (political party representing ethnic Hungarians in Romania), and what their purpose is.

You see, in broad terms, I don’t really get it. I can see one or two benefits in their existence (which I’ll get to in a minute or two) but in general I think they can act (on a national level) against the interests of the Hungarian community rather than for it.

Let me try and explain. Locally, they hold a fair amount of power – county and city authorities in Harghita and Covasna and probably elsewhere are typically run by the UDMR with a virtual lock on power. But why? The Hungarian electorate will tell you that they need to stick together in order to ensure that local government is not taken over by Romanians with a Bucharest agenda. Which, to en extent, makes sense. But as a single issue party (yes, they have economic policies, and so on, and are technically not single issue, but people vote for them not because of their policies on investment or what have you, they vote for them because they are the UDMR and “we have to stick together”), it’s a little bit odd to have them in power for years and years.

[At this point I have to say that I think it’s quite impressive and amazing that the UDMR has managed to position itself as the sole representative of the entirety of all 1.6 million (ish) Hungarians in Romania, with no major internal political ructions. I mean if I were Hungarian Romanian, who would I vote for? The UDMR is basically centre-right on most things, and I’m not really a big fan of what economic policies they do have – and the fact that they are aligned with the UK Tory party in the “European People’s Party–European Democrats” grouping in the European Parliament is all I need to know about their political leanings outside of the national question]

On a national level, I think (aside from one crucial element) their role is even less clear. Their existence actually ensures that the bigger Romanian parties need say or do nothing to appeal to Hungarians. There’s no votes in reaching out to the Hungarian population so why bother doing it? If the UDMR ceased to be, or ceased to play on the national stage, presumably the bigger parties would want those votes – 7-8% of the population is a huge voting block, and would represent something that would hugely benefit whichever party could best attract them. Look at the work that parties in the US do, for example, at attracting the various ethnic minorities. Likewise they (the UDMR) don’t actually have to achieve anything for people to continue voting for them. They are, in effect, acting against democracy to some degree.

The only way that it does actually work is the way they put forward a candidacy for the presidency, who (obviously) picks up the statutory 5 or 6 % of the vote in the first round and then those votes can be “sold” to whichever of the runoff candidates promises more to Hungarians. (Though once elected there is nothing to ensure that the president will actually do anything for that community)

The exception, the positive side to their existence mentioned above, is presumably unintended. That is, that by controlling the balance of power, they can ensure that the odious PRM are not part of the government. That at least appears to have been the primary function of the (national) UDMR over the past ten years. They become part of the coalition, the coalition does nothing particularly to support or promote the rights of Hungarians, but at least the government doesn’t actively target them (as it presumably would if ever Vadim Tudor or Becali or any of those other vile wankers ever got a sniff of power). So, yes, they do have a function, and an important one, but is that all there is to it?

I’d be grateful if anyone out there more clued in than I could offer any suggestions as to what the real purpose of the party is, and what they actually achieve on a national level (other than the above “not being the PRM” acheivement)

Posted in hungarian nationalism, politics, romania | 11 Comments »

The UDMR

Posted by Andy Hockley on 10 May, 2007

I’m in the middle of writing a long (long) post about nationality and nationalism and identity and all that stuff for my extremely occasional series about Szekely Autonomy, and hope to have it done soon, but in the meantime, I was thinking about the UDMR (political party representing ethnic Hungarians in Romania), and what their purpose is.

You see, in broad terms, I don’t really get it. I can see one or two benefits in their existence (which I’ll get to in a minute or two) but in general I think they can act (on a national level) against the interests of the Hungarian community rather than for it.

Let me try and explain. Locally, they hold a fair amount of power – county and city authorities in Harghita and Covasna and probably elsewhere are typically run by the UDMR with a virtual lock on power. But why? The Hungarian electorate will tell you that they need to stick together in order to ensure that local government is not taken over by Romanians with a Bucharest agenda. Which, to en extent, makes sense. But as a single issue party (yes, they have economic policies, and so on, and are technically not single issue, but people vote for them not because of their policies on investment or what have you, they vote for them because they are the UDMR and “we have to stick together”), it’s a little bit odd to have them in power for years and years.

[At this point I have to say that I think it’s quite impressive and amazing that the UDMR has managed to position itself as the sole representative of the entirety of all 1.6 million (ish) Hungarians in Romania, with no major internal political ructions. I mean if I were Hungarian Romanian, who would I vote for? The UDMR is basically centre-right on most things, and I’m not really a big fan of what economic policies they do have – and the fact that they are aligned with the UK Tory party in the “European People’s Party–European Democrats” grouping in the European Parliament is all I need to know about their political leanings outside of the national question]

On a national level, I think (aside from one crucial element) their role is even less clear. Their existence actually ensures that the bigger Romanian parties need say or do nothing to appeal to Hungarians. There’s no votes in reaching out to the Hungarian population so why bother doing it? If the UDMR ceased to be, or ceased to play on the national stage, presumably the bigger parties would want those votes – 7-8% of the population is a huge voting block, and would represent something that would hugely benefit whichever party could best attract them. Look at the work that parties in the US do, for example, at attracting the various ethnic minorities. Likewise they (the UDMR) don’t actually have to achieve anything for people to continue voting for them. They are, in effect, acting against democracy to some degree.

The only way that it does actually work is the way they put forward a candidacy for the presidency, who (obviously) picks up the statutory 5 or 6 % of the vote in the first round and then those votes can be “sold” to whichever of the runoff candidates promises more to Hungarians. (Though once elected there is nothing to ensure that the president will actually do anything for that community)

The exception, the positive side to their existence mentioned above, is presumably unintended. That is, that by controlling the balance of power, they can ensure that the odious PRM are not part of the government. That at least appears to have been the primary function of the (national) UDMR over the past ten years. They become part of the coalition, the coalition does nothing particularly to support or promote the rights of Hungarians, but at least the government doesn’t actively target them (as it presumably would if ever Vadim Tudor or Becali or any of those other vile wankers ever got a sniff of power). So, yes, they do have a function, and an important one, but is that all there is to it?

I’d be grateful if anyone out there more clued in than I could offer any suggestions as to what the real purpose of the party is, and what they actually achieve on a national level (other than the above “not being the PRM” acheivement)

Posted in hungarian nationalism, politics, romania | 7 Comments »

Iskola (2)

Posted by Andy Hockley on 19 September, 2006

The mayor of Csikszereda, one Raduly Robert, is basically a cretin. His name is more or less a joke in the town, and I’ve yet to meet anyone with a kind word to say about his term of office (I think he’s been in about 2 years now). When the Hungarian consulate was opened here he managed to get in to a fight on the street with someone at the ceremony, and his ability to do things like fix the shamefully decrepit roads and stuff (you know, the kind of thing a mayor ought to be doing) is apparently non-existent. (They are now being fixed, by which I infer he’s up for reelection next year).

However last Friday he surpassed himself – we (the town) were paid a visit by the Minister of Education himself (since it was the first day of school and the country was gripped by a teachers strike, one might be tempted to ask what the hell he was doing here of all places, but anyway..) His plan was to make a speech at the Octavian Goga High School (that’s the Romanian one – see previous post), but because everyone there was on strike he instead made his speech at a Romanian elementary school instead (not sure of the name). While there he was asked by the teachers if they could introduce an optional Hungarian language course onto the curriculum as they felt it was important for their students to be able to speak (or at least given the chance to learn) the majority language of the town and area. Very cool. Anyway, subsequently he went to the Marton Aron High School (the most well known of the Hungarian High Schools) to speak there too. There he was met by our esteemed mayor who decided that he would speak to the guest in Hungarian and Hungarian only since this was a Hungarian school (although of course he does actually speak Romanian too, and the Minister doesn’t speak Hungarian – there being no real reason why he should). So of course an interpretor had to be drafted in to translate for the minister.

I have no idea why. He probably feels he was striking a blow for Hungarian nationalism, while everyone I’ve spoken to is just dead embarrassed by the whole thing. I imagine there are some people who think he was right, but I’ve not met any of them. Sadly, the way politics in this town works, if he is the official UDMR candidate for the mayorship next time round he’ll probably get elected again, even though everyone thinks he’s a git. It’s up to the UDMR to boot him out I reckon.

In more political news, Hungary is racked by riots (if Euronews is to be believed) since the Prime Minister admitted that he lied to get elected (imagine that! a politician lying! Blimey). However, the story on Euronews (which was my source), despite being the lead today, was very uninformative, and instead if anyone’s interested, I’d definitely recommend Pauls’ post here – it certainly put it all in a different light for me.

Posted in csikszereda, hungarian nationalism, news, romanian | 1 Comment »

Iskola (2)

Posted by Andy Hockley on 19 September, 2006

The mayor of Csikszereda, one Raduly Robert, is basically a cretin. His name is more or less a joke in the town, and I’ve yet to meet anyone with a kind word to say about his term of office (I think he’s been in about 2 years now). When the Hungarian consulate was opened here he managed to get in to a fight on the street with someone at the ceremony, and his ability to do things like fix the shamefully decrepit roads and stuff (you know, the kind of thing a mayor ought to be doing) is apparently non-existent. (They are now being fixed, by which I infer he’s up for reelection next year).

However last Friday he surpassed himself – we (the town) were paid a visit by the Minister of Education himself (since it was the first day of school and the country was gripped by a teachers strike, one might be tempted to ask what the hell he was doing here of all places, but anyway..) His plan was to make a speech at the Octavian Goga High School (that’s the Romanian one – see previous post), but because everyone there was on strike he instead made his speech at a Romanian elementary school instead (not sure of the name). While there he was asked by the teachers if they could introduce an optional Hungarian language course onto the curriculum as they felt it was important for their students to be able to speak (or at least given the chance to learn) the majority language of the town and area. Very cool. Anyway, subsequently he went to the Marton Aron High School (the most well known of the Hungarian High Schools) to speak there too. There he was met by our esteemed mayor who decided that he would speak to the guest in Hungarian and Hungarian only since this was a Hungarian school (although of course he does actually speak Romanian too, and the Minister doesn’t speak Hungarian – there being no real reason why he should). So of course an interpretor had to be drafted in to translate for the minister.

I have no idea why. He probably feels he was striking a blow for Hungarian nationalism, while everyone I’ve spoken to is just dead embarrassed by the whole thing. I imagine there are some people who think he was right, but I’ve not met any of them. Sadly, the way politics in this town works, if he is the official UDMR candidate for the mayorship next time round he’ll probably get elected again, even though everyone thinks he’s a git. It’s up to the UDMR to boot him out I reckon.

In more political news, Hungary is racked by riots (if Euronews is to be believed) since the Prime Minister admitted that he lied to get elected (imagine that! a politician lying! Blimey). However, the story on Euronews (which was my source), despite being the lead today, was very uninformative, and instead if anyone’s interested, I’d definitely recommend Pauls’ post here – it certainly put it all in a different light for me.

Posted in csikszereda, hungarian nationalism, news, romanian | 1 Comment »

March 15th (Part 2)

Posted by Andy Hockley on 15 March, 2006

Just came home from a little tour of the festivities, which basically involved a lot of speeches outside the city hall. Couldn’t understand the full text of the speeches, but the themes were all about reaching out between communities in the spirit of brotherhood (In one ten minute spell, I must have heard the word “testveriseg” (brotherhood / fraternity) about 7 times. I think most of the real nagy sajtak were just over the mountain in Udvarhely though so ours was a fairly subdued affair. They even had László Tőkés at their do. (The Bishop from Timisoara who sparked the 1989 revolution which brought down Ceausescu. Because he is a bishop for the Hungarian Reformed Church, whenever they refer to him in print in English he is referred to as a “Reformed Bishop”, which amuses me greatly)


The City Hall – notice both Romanian and Hungarian flags

Petofi Sandor – poet, revolutionary, and now, statue

Nicolae Balcescu – also adorned in flags and wreaths

Posted in csikszereda, hungarian nationalism | 2 Comments »

March 15th (Part 2)

Posted by Andy Hockley on 15 March, 2006

Just came home from a little tour of the festivities, which basically involved a lot of speeches outside the city hall. Couldn’t understand the full text of the speeches, but the themes were all about reaching out between communities in the spirit of brotherhood (In one ten minute spell, I must have heard the word “testveriseg” (brotherhood / fraternity) about 7 times. I think most of the real nagy sajtak were just over the mountain in Udvarhely though so ours was a fairly subdued affair. They even had László Tőkés at their do. (The Bishop from Timisoara who sparked the 1989 revolution which brought down Ceausescu. Because he is a bishop for the Hungarian Reformed Church, whenever they refer to him in print in English he is referred to as a “Reformed Bishop”, which amuses me greatly)


The City Hall – notice both Romanian and Hungarian flags

Petofi Sandor – poet, revolutionary, and now, statue

Nicolae Balcescu – also adorned in flags and wreaths

Posted in csikszereda, hungarian nationalism | 2 Comments »

March 15th

Posted by Andy Hockley on 10 March, 2006

Next Wednesday is March 15th, which is a big day here, and this year promises to be a bigger day than normal. March 15th is the national day of Hungary ( I think, though I’ve also heard it referred to as the national day of Hungarians living outside Hungary.) Anyway, it’s marked on all the calendars, and for many here it’s an official holiday. It’s a bit nationalistic, but then all national days are a bit nationalistic, and so in essence it’s not greatly different from December 1st.

This year, however, some Hungarian nationalists have taken it upon themselves to make trouble. They have organised a rally in Udvarhely (Oderheiu Secuiesc) to proclaim the independence of the Szekely region and launch some kind of autonomous entity that presumably will exist only in their heads. This event (as I understand it) has been championed by the Mayor of Udvarhely, who has just been described to me as a Hungarian version of Vadim Tudor (leader of the extremist Romanian nationalist party). [Udvarhely, by the way, is the most Hungarian city in all of Romania, being 98% Hungarian].

Now, frankly, the best way to deal with this kind of provocative rubbish is to ignore it. A few hundred blokes gather in a field, proclaim independence and drink palinka, and go home feeling proud of themselves while the world pays them no attention or at best laughs at their delusions of grandeur. But this, sadly, will not happen next week. Because of course, never shy of taking an opportunity to make himself look important, and full of hysterical rhetoric, Vadim Tudor has sent out a call for action from proud Romanians everywhere, and asked for 100,000 people to descend on Udvarhely to stage a counter demonstration. (Romania has a less than proud tradition of violent outsiders being bussed in to start fights and suppress dissent – In the early months of the post-Ceausescu regime, a group of miners were bussed in by Iliescu (allegedly) to violently bust up a student protest; and in 1990 in Targu Mures a Romanian nationalist group stirred up anti Hungarian feeling in the villages and bussed in an angry mob to attack a group of Hungarian students demonstrating for a Hungarian language faculty, resulting in riots and deaths)

And thus, the situation could become tense, and, in the worst case scenario, violent. And once again the fact that broadly speaking Hungarians and Romanians live together fairly successfully and without rancour, will be obscured by a bunch of nationalist scum – Vadim Tudor will get his publicity, as will the Szekely Autonomists, and everyone on the extremes is happy. Everyone caught in the middle gets screwed. Of course the media will be complicit in the whole affair and will send camera crews to whip the thing up even further. And while it won’t start a civil war, it will put the cause of equality and understanding back a good decade. Nationalists, eh? Wankers, all of them.

Wih luck it will be a completely freezing day – two days ago here it was -24 again, only to be back up to zero again the following day, which is an insane temperature swing – and everyobody will stay home and the camera crews can just film the normal people of Udvarhely celebrating their national day with no politics attached.

Posted in hungarian nationalism, nationalism, transylvania | 17 Comments »

March 15th

Posted by Andy Hockley on 10 March, 2006

Next Wednesday is March 15th, which is a big day here, and this year promises to be a bigger day than normal. March 15th is the national day of Hungary ( I think, though I’ve also heard it referred to as the national day of Hungarians living outside Hungary.) Anyway, it’s marked on all the calendars, and for many here it’s an official holiday. It’s a bit nationalistic, but then all national days are a bit nationalistic, and so in essence it’s not greatly different from December 1st.

This year, however, some Hungarian nationalists have taken it upon themselves to make trouble. They have organised a rally in Udvarhely (Oderheiu Secuiesc) to proclaim the independence of the Szekely region and launch some kind of autonomous entity that presumably will exist only in their heads. This event (as I understand it) has been championed by the Mayor of Udvarhely, who has just been described to me as a Hungarian version of Vadim Tudor (leader of the extremist Romanian nationalist party). [Udvarhely, by the way, is the most Hungarian city in all of Romania, being 98% Hungarian].

Now, frankly, the best way to deal with this kind of provocative rubbish is to ignore it. A few hundred blokes gather in a field, proclaim independence and drink palinka, and go home feeling proud of themselves while the world pays them no attention or at best laughs at their delusions of grandeur. But this, sadly, will not happen next week. Because of course, never shy of taking an opportunity to make himself look important, and full of hysterical rhetoric, Vadim Tudor has sent out a call for action from proud Romanians everywhere, and asked for 100,000 people to descend on Udvarhely to stage a counter demonstration. (Romania has a less than proud tradition of violent outsiders being bussed in to start fights and suppress dissent – In the early months of the post-Ceausescu regime, a group of miners were bussed in by Iliescu (allegedly) to violently bust up a student protest; and in 1990 in Targu Mures a Romanian nationalist group stirred up anti Hungarian feeling in the villages and bussed in an angry mob to attack a group of Hungarian students demonstrating for a Hungarian language faculty, resulting in riots and deaths)

And thus, the situation could become tense, and, in the worst case scenario, violent. And once again the fact that broadly speaking Hungarians and Romanians live together fairly successfully and without rancour, will be obscured by a bunch of nationalist scum – Vadim Tudor will get his publicity, as will the Szekely Autonomists, and everyone on the extremes is happy. Everyone caught in the middle gets screwed. Of course the media will be complicit in the whole affair and will send camera crews to whip the thing up even further. And while it won’t start a civil war, it will put the cause of equality and understanding back a good decade. Nationalists, eh? Wankers, all of them.

Wih luck it will be a completely freezing day – two days ago here it was -24 again, only to be back up to zero again the following day, which is an insane temperature swing – and everyobody will stay home and the camera crews can just film the normal people of Udvarhely celebrating their national day with no politics attached.

Posted in hungarian nationalism, nationalism, transylvania | 17 Comments »