A little more than a week has passed since National Cohesion Day on June 4th. Speeches have been spoken, commemorations held, and a library’s worth of patriotic poetry has no doubt been recited. Alongside the somber commemorations was the usual overt nationalism that tends to accompany anything to do with Trianon in Hungary. Besides the many maps of Greater Hungary posted all over social media, groups such as the right-wing Mi Hazánk party called for the government to officially reject the signing of the Treaty of Trianon, as if that would magically fix everything. This sort of extreme posturing has sadly become normalized regarding Trianon, people clamouring for revenge, as if redrawing borders is an everyday thing.
National Unity Day was made official in 2010, with the goal of reconceptualizing the way Hungary and Hungarians deal with the Treaty of Trianon and its aftermath. The interpretation of this event has significantly changed over the years, from the initial chants of “No, no, never!”, and “Everything back!”, through the ignorance and denial of the communist regime, to the present. June 4th, as a sort of national remembrance day, began to gain traction after the fall of the Iron Curtain, when the topic of Hungarians living across the borders was no longer taboo. The following years saw a hodgepodge of different approaches to dealing with Trianon, mostly from the political right, ranging from solemn commemorations to all sorts of revisionist fantasies. While the radical element persists through parties such as the Our Homeland Movement, there is a gradual transition taking place in how the global Hungarian community commemorates this date.
There are signs that National Choesion Day events are becoming more and more positive, centering on Hungarians communities in the present, not the past. A great example of this is the Campfire of Unity. This is an initiative by the Hungarian Scouting Forum, comprising all of the Hungarian scouting organizations within and outside of Hungary’s borders. At 20:21 on June 4th, thousands of campfires were lit around the globe by Hungarian scouts, symbolizing their togetherness no matter where they are in the world.
Another excellent example of positive commemoration was the online performance “Tiszán Innen, Tengereken Túl”, co-hosted by multiple Hungarian organizations from Canada and the United States. The organizers assembled an impressive cast of musicians, folk dancers, actors, and other performers from Canada, the United States, and the Carpathian Basin, virtually connecting Hungarians living in these communities across thousands of kilometers.
We need more of this. More positive examples of how Hungarians stick together as a community in the world. What happened on that fateful day 101 years ago was not the death knell of a people, far from it. It was little more than the drawing of lines on paper.
Hungarian communities that had the border shift over their heads did not disappear, they have persevered to this day, and it is up to us as a nation to ensure our communities will be just as resilient, if not stronger, 100 years from now.
It is high time to pay less attention to that old piece of paper and instead focus on the amazing and unique culture that we have the privilege of being a part of.
The Treaty of Trianon caused a deep, deep trauma in the Hungarian psyche that we are far from getting over. Endlessly repeating slogans from the last century, agitatedly pointing at maps, and blaming others for our problems cannot be the focus of National Cohesion Day. The good news is, there are many individuals and organizations who have taken it upon themselves to change the way we commemorate this day, turning it from one of sadness to a celebration of the bonds between Hungarians around the world, bonds that transcend borders, wherever they may be.
Featured photo illustration by Nándor Veres/MTI