Hungary and Turkey On Finding Common Ground in the Past, Present and Future
Gábor Sarnyai 2018.10.09.
The Fidesz-government started looking for new international relations eight years ago. The Eastern Opening has been a big part of the Hungarian foreign economic strategy, but Fidesz ushered in a new era in Turkish-Hungarian and Middle-Asia relations by promoting the theory of Hungary’s Eastern-origins and renovating symbolic places of Turkish history, such as Gül Baba Tomb in Buda.
Gül Baba’s octagonal tomb (türbe) is located on Mecset (mosque) Street, Budapest in the district of Rózsadomb. It was built by Ottoman authorities in the early years of the occupation, between 1543 and 1548.
The panoramic Islamic pilgrimage point was previously closed to visitors due to renovations of the monumental mausoleum, and the project included the renewal of Gül Baba Street, as well. The renovations have been over for many months, but, according to the press, the opening was delayed because authorities wanted to have the Turkish president present at the ceremony.
Photo: Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI
The reconstruction cost 2.5 billion HUF (8 million EUR), which was co-financed by the Hungarian and Turkish state. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs hired the Gül Baba Türbéje Örökségvédő Alapítvány (Tomb of Gül Baba Heritage Foundation) to renovate and maintain the memorial. The foundation is related to a Turkish billionaire, Adnan Polat, who has a cordial relationship with Viktor Orbán and many investments in the country.
The Gül Baba tomb is not the only Turkish-Hungarian memorial project. In Szigetvár, there is also the Turkish-Hungarian friendship park, which was built in 1994. The park includes a symbolic grave for Sultan Suleiman’s intestines, a symbolic marble türbe, large sculptures of Szigetvár’s coat of arms and the tughra of Sultan Suleiman. The Turkish President is also expected to visit the Szigetvár during his time in Hungary.
The Fidesz-government recently tried to reinvent the country’s memory regarding its heritage and has encouraged the theory that promotes Eastern-roots. Fidesz has begun to support the idea that the Turks and Hungarians are kindred people, and this year they seem to have been increasingly making cultural exchanges. A Speaker of the Parliament traveled to Kurultáj in August and gave a speech about the spiritual connection between Hungarians and the Turkic people. PM Viktor Orbán also participated in an Asia-wide event called the World Nomad Games.
Hungary has always focused on the cooperation of Turkic speaking states which nurture their language, culture and traditions even in the modern world. Hungarians consider themselves late descendants of Attila, of Hun-Turkic origin, and Hungarian is a relative of Turkic languages”
Until recently this friendship was one-sided. Turkish curriculums teach that the Hungarian tribes were part of the Turkish people, but moved West and didn’t follow the main group to Anatolia, therefore the remembrance of a common history is stronger in Turkey. Among Hungarians, the Uralic Theory is more widespread. Many observers say that Orbán’s government uses Turkish sympathy to build stronger economic relations with Turkey and the Middle-Asia region.
The relation is energized by the Russians
The two countries share a common ground when it comes to energy supplies as the Russian nuclear plant is going to be built in Turkey. The financial construction differs from the Paks II. Hungary receives 10 Billion EUR in Russian loans to build the plant. In Turkey, Rosatom will become the owner and the Turkish side has an obligation to buy electricity from them. Russian gas pipelines between Turkey and Hungary are also important. Failure of South Stream has been taken as a putsch against Hungary. Therefore, in the case of prolonging the Turkish stream, Orbán would see it come through Hungary. Turkish billionaire, Adnan Polat, told the Turkish Forbes that he is planning to invest 700 million dollars in solar plans in Hungary and is thinking 1000 MW capacity overall, which is half the future performance of Paks II.
The plans are ambitious, but the money’s running low
Despite big plans, the current business activities aren’t yet intense. Turkey is just Hungary’s 17th trade partner. This year, 218 Turkish owned businesses operated in the country, which is a small number in comparison with Turkey’s economic importance. However, two-thirds of these companies were established in the last 2 years, and, overall, Turkish companies generated 85 billion HUF value in the last year and employed 1533 Hungarians.