Subtitled: Hungry in Hungary!
Fleeting impressions from a recent visit to Budapest are confirmed in this eye-opening analysis of the recent decline in Hungarian democracy and civil institutions.
Following the Russian invasion of Hungary in 1956 there was an infamous bloody clash in the pool at the Melbourne Olympics between their respective water polo teams. And as a young water polo player mentored by ‘reffos’ from Hungary in the Bronte club, I’ve had a tenuous link with that country.
Hungary has a population of only ten million souls, but four million live below the poverty line, and one million in extreme poverty. The economy is declining, and a kleptocracy under PM Viktor Orban is ripping off the country and unaccountable EU funds, while stirring up anti-Jewish, anti-foreigner sentiments.
The country was occupied by foreigners for 450 years, but under its leader Miklos Horthy, who was a faithful ally of Hitler, 437,685 Hungarian jews were sent to Auschwitz during WW2. Its modern history is tumultuous – later it contributed to the fall of the Berlin wall by opening its borders to fleeing East Germans.
The pseudonymous author also explains fascinating undercurrents of Hungarian society, drawing on two archetypes. The betyar or Robin Hood ideal of robbing the rich for the benefit of the poor, and the hussar sense of entitlement of the nobility without estates. Both feel above the law and justified in rorting the system. His conclusion is not positive.