In the new Hungarian Historikerstreit, right-wing commentators condemn mainstream left-liberal historians for denying what they consider to be the influence of freemasonry in producing the Trianon Peace Treaty. They maintain that the real controversy should be about the supposedly secret operations of internationalist liberal networks in our age.
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In June, Magyar Nemzet’s Árpád Szakács severely criticized leading historian Ignác Romsics who dismissed as “pure lunacy” the framing of the Trianon Peace Treaty as the result of a freemason conspiracy. Szakács, a hobby historian highly influential in Fidesz circles, quoted Ernő Raffay, a conservative historian who has authored several volumes claiming that many of the protagonists of the post-First World War peace treaties were freemasons. Szakács claimed that, in contrast with other freemason lodges in the neighbouring countries which put their national interest first, Hungarian freemasons as well as Communist and contemporary historians who deny the role of freemasons are ‘internationalist traitors’. Szakács also referred to a statement by a Romanian freemason who allegedly claimed responsibility for the territorial changes imposed on Hungary.
Szakács’ suggestions were dismissed by several historians and journalists. In Magyar Nemzet, Krisztián Ungváry responds that Szakács’s suggestions were totally unfounded and unscientific. Among others, he points out that the vast majority of Hungarian freemasons were nationalists at the end of the 1920s. He concludes that Szakács’s ideas are nothing short of a groundless conspiracy theory, and he labels Szakács an amateurish hobby historian. In an aside, Ungváry also mentions that Raffay used to be an informant of the Communist-era political police.
In a rejoinder in the same daily, Szakács accuses Ungváry of using his professional qualification as a trump card, rather than offering factual evidence. Szakács claims that citations, peer reviewed publications and conference appearances are just the stunts of a scientific cabal that serves to silence those who challenge their hegemony and dare to mention subjects which they regard as taboo. Szakács goes so far as to call liken contemporary liberal social sciences to the Inquisition. He accuses them of using dogmatism and exclusion to preserve the hegemony of their social science ‘rooted in the Stalinist heritage’.
In a long essay in Magyar Nemzet, Ernő Raffay claims that freemasons have been advocating an anti-Christian ideology ever since the French Revolution. The right-wing historian claims that Hungarian left-wing freemasons in the early 20th century as well as contemporary left-wing demonstrators target Christianity and want to replace it with their own ideology.
Magyar Demokrata’s editor-in-chief András Bencsik finds it telling that liberal historians become hysterical if freemasons are accused of being complicit in the Trianon Peace Treaty and the dismemberment of Greater Hungary. The pro-government columnist thinks that left-wing liberal historians want to downplay the influence of freemasonry in order to cover up the operations of ‘contemporary powers who operate secretly in the shadows’. As an example, Bencsik mentions criticism levelled by the European Union at Hungary, which he suspects is orchestrated by hidden cabals of contemporary freemasons.
Taking up Romsics’s defence in Magyar Hang, a group of historians reject the idea that Hungarian freemasons were responsible for the provisions of the Trianon Peace treaty as pure fabrication. They mention a study which shows, on the contrary, that Hungarian freemasons actually tried to convince their western counterparts to bring Hungary’s legitimate claims to the leaders of the victorious powers.
Balázs Ablonczy, a conservative historian and a leading expert on the Trianon peace treaty told Népszava that during World War One, freemasons in each of the belligerent nations opted to support their own countries.
Trianon: Instead of the principle on self-determination of nations, the victorious great powers re-drew borders according to their geopolitical interests – Interview with historian Balázs Ablonczy
In the featured photo illustration: the Grand Trianon Castle. Photo via Fortepan/MZSL/Károly Ofner