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The Tusványos Festival: Where Politics and Music Collide

Gábor Sarnyai 2018.07.26.

Since the 1990’s, Tusványos has faithfully opened its gates; this week is no exception. Aside from being the biggest cultural and pop event designed for ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania, the festival also serves as a space for political discussion. In fact, Orbán’s annual speech given on the last day of the event is considered to be the festival’s biggest attraction. 

According to the founder’s reports, BBC journalist David Campanale was the mind behind the festival’s inception. His original aim was to foster solidarity between the democratic youths of Great Britain, Hungary and Romania. The Hungarian Fidesz and The Social Democratic Party (SDP) of Britain called for their governments to encourage a special United Nation committee investigation into a Romanian urban planning program. The program, named Systemization, was designed to demolish hundreds of villages (including hundreds of ethnic Hungarian settlements) in order to increase the number of cities.

The First Free University – as the organizers call the event – was held in Bálványosfürdő in the summer of 1990 by the Fidesz Minority Secretariat, the English Young Social Liberal Democrats and the Federation of Hungarian Youth Organizations in Transylvania. The list of lecturers included historian György Litván, politician György Schöpflin, lawyer László Lengyel, and British historian Norman Stone.

Tusványos has been criticized by many for its close association with Fidesz. Over the last eight years many state officials and major Fidesz politicians have been invited to roundtable talks at Tusványos, but typically in the past, aside from the green party LMP, no other opposition politicians have appeared at the festival. However, the socialist party MSZP recently expressed an interest in taking part in the event.

Via: Székelyhon.ro

The Hungarian government often uses the festival as a medium to discuss important matters. For instance, at today’s roundtable discussion, Finance Minister Mihány Varga expressed concern about the Hungarian SME sector. First, the Minister claimed that the average Hungarian worker is half as productive as their Dutch counterpart, and then continued by sharply criticizing the technological development of Hungarian Businesses; in an unusually honest manner, Varga stated that “many of them don’t even have a website.”

Another hot topic was discussed today on one of the festival’s stages. The discussion titled “Do we need a kulturkampf?” referred to a series of articles published in pro-government newspaper, Magyar Idők. The author, Árpád Szakács, criticized the state support schemes for cultural actors and called for state funding of liberal artists to cease.

Via: MTI/ Beliczay László

Tusványos probably owes much of its international fame to PM Viktor Orbán’s many speeches, particularly the well-known 2014 “Illiberal-state speech.” The PM is scheduled to give his annual speech on Saturday.

Politics aside, Tusványos is also a youth festival geared toward the ethnic Hungarians in Romania. Many young people visit the festival solely to listen to Hungarian pop and rock bands at night.

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