On the 97th Anniversary of the Treaty of Trianon, Hungary Holds Day of National Cohesion
This past Sunday, Hungary marked its Day of National Cohesion, which is held each year on the anniversary of the signing of the 1920 Treaty of Trianon. This treaty was the formal conclusion of Hungary’s participation in the First World War. In addition, under the terms of the treaty, Hungary ceded over two-thirds of its territory and roughly 64% of its population (including over 30% of ethnic Hungarians) to neighboring countries.
The ceremonial raising of the Hungarian flag in front of the Parliament, in the presence of President of the Republic János Áder, on Hungary’s National Cohesion Day (Photo: MTI- Balázs Mohai)
As a result of the treaty, millions of ethnic Hungarians suddenly found themselves minorities in new, often hostile countries, without having moved an inch.
Commemorating this tragic event in Hungary’s history, the ruling Fidesz party’s group leader Lajos Kósa said that the past years have shown Hungarians’ “capacity for national renewal,” even in the face of a tragedy of the scope of Trianon. Kósa added that “We believe in the strength of national cohesion, because only a strong nation can stand up for itself in the world.”
Speaking to Hungarian state radio, Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén claimed that, since the Fidesz-KDNP coalition came to power in 2010, support for Hungarians living outside of the country’s borders had “risen by a factor of ten.”
Semjén noted that, in addition to providing cultural and educational support, the Hungarian government has made grants and preferential credit available to these Hungarians.
At a memorial event, Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) chief János Lázár told attendees that “it was high time” for the leaders of Europe to acknowledge the fact that Hungarians and the Hungarian nation were victims of the Treaty of Trianon, not the cause of the treaty.
The PMO head also said that European leaders and the governments of neighboring countries have no place telling Hungary to move pass old grievances in reference to this historical injustice.
Hungary’s “National Cohesion Day” was, also, ironically enough, an occasion for significant outbursts of political division as well.
István Hollik, a Member of Parliament of the coalition partner KDNP party (Christian Democrats), said that lawmakers who in 2010 failed to support the law on dual citizenship for ethnic Hungarians residing outside of the country should be ashamed.
He noted that former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, who currently leads the left-wing opposition group Democratic Coalition, as well as the Socialists’ candidate for prime minister László Botka, and the leader the far-right Jobbik party, Gábor Vona, had all declined to support such legislation.
Opposition Party Statements
Responding to such comments, Jobbik said that it was “a shame” that Viktor Orbán and Fidesz had left the parliamentary chamber in 1990 when “they should have been commemorating Trianon.”
Going further, Jobbik claimed that the Fidesz-KDNP ruling coalition had compounded this “dishonor” last week, when they rejected a proposal to declare 2020 (the 100th anniversary of the treaty’s signing), as the Trianon Memorial Year.
Hungarian Green Party LMP (Politics Can Be Different) said that, on the Day of National Cohesion, it is important to remember that “it is everyone’s joint responsibility to learn from the mistakes of the past.”
The Greens added that Hungary needs to implement policies that offer ethnic Hungarian communities outside of the country the greatest degree of support, while at the same time respecting their right to self-determination.
Left-wing opposition party Együtt (Together) said that the treaty could not tear apart members of the Hungarian nation, despite the “pain it causes even today.” In addition, the party argued that the true lesson of Trianon is that “minorities living among us are just as much a part of the nation as the majority: if we suppress them, we only hurt ourselves.”
The opposition Dialogue (Párbeszéd) also argued that the impacts of the Treaty can be felt to this very day. Dialogue added that Hungary needs to be a country “where everybody counts,” as well as one that supports Hungarians who have emigrated in their efforts to maintain their identities.
A Push to Annul the Benes Decrees
Addressing another historical tragedy faced by Hungarians in the 20th century, State Secretary for Hungarian Communities Abroad János Árpád Potápi said that Hungary will spare no effort to achieve the annulment of the post-WWII Beneš decrees that deprived Czechoslovakia’s ethnic Hungarians of their rights.
At a commemoration marking the 70th anniversary of the deportation of ethnic Hungarians from what is now Slovakia, Potápi said that “The memory of those deported obliges us to pass the flame of the cohesion of the torn-apart Hungarian nation to the next generations.”
The state secretary noted that, in 1947 and 1948, nearly 100,000 ethnic Hungarians were forced to leave Czechoslovakia, and that between 1945 and 1949 another 50,000 fled to Hungary.
Named after Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš, the decrees were passed immediately after the end of the Second World War. They deprived Czechoslovakia’s ethnic Hungarians and Germans of their citizenship and property on the basis of collective guilt, and led to brutal mass deportations to Hungary and Germany.
The Hungarians deported or sent to labor camps under the decrees have never received compensation.