The final frontier

When tens of thousands crossed the Hungarian border last summer, they walked right into a debate about what it means to be Hungarian…

Photo: Róbert Pölcz

“It’s not always the piece of bread or food or clothing they want, but some kind of relationship,” said Tibor Varga, a 59-year-old Protestant minister. He was standing on a quadrangle near a railroad crossing in Horgoš, a village in Serbia a few kilometers from the Hungarian border. It was a damp and blustery afternoon in mid-September, and the crossing was crowded with hundreds of people from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Nearly everyone was travelling light, with just a backpack, duffle bag, or plastic shopping bags.

Close by were two vans and a car, their trunks and hatches stuffed with food, clothing, and other essentials. At the front of a line for garbage bags was a tall, gangly youth whose eyes were magnified by thick glasses. He stood still without reaching for a bag; after several minutes a volunteer noticed him, apologized, and gave him one.

A couple of paunchy, older Serbian men handed out bread and tins of sardines. One of them wondered out loud what might happen if Hungary should manage to seal off the border. “Things must be very bad where these people are coming from,” he said, and then began a dialogue with himself: “Of course things were bad for us, too, during the war, but we stayed.”

Bread can be given or thrown

Tibor Varga is tall and broad shouldered, but with his scruffy baseball cap and broad smile, he is hardly imposing. During his time working with migrants and refugees in the region, Varga has learned enough of their languages to greet them and wish them well. It “breaks through the coldness, when they don’t yet know who and what we are,” he explained to the V4Revue in his native Hungarian. Unlike Hungarian police officers in the camps just across the border, Varga and his fellow volunteers didn’t wear sanitary gloves or medical masks when doing their work. “Bread can be given or thrown,” he emphasized, referring to a widely publicized video that circulated a few days earlier of Hungarian police throwing sandwiches to penned migrants at a transit camp in Röszke. “I was horrified when I saw that,” he said. “Incredible.”

Whereas for much of the world the “migrant crisis” only became a reality last summer, Varga had been distributing aid to refugees and migrants since 2011 for Eastern Europe Outreach. The organization is interdenominational but does not conceal its Christian character. Varga recited a passage from Proverbs 19: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done.” Although there are those who ascribe a biblical significance to the movement of people from the Middle East to Europe, Varga was unconvinced by the comparison, speaking instead of a “constant migration” that has undeniably turned “mass.”

Some arrivals had reached the Horgoš crossing on buses while others came on foot, following rails that stretch south to Belgrade and north to Budapest. On the quadrangle everyone was prudent with the offerings from Outreach. Loaves were torn into three pieces. Their cores were scooped out and eaten, and then stuffed with tinned fish to make a sandwich that could be easily shared while walking.

With a few deft tears, the gangly boy—let’s call him Feras—converted his black garbage bag into a rain poncho. Feras is a Circassian from Damascus who speaks Arabic, Circassian, and passable English. He said his parents and two younger siblings, a brother and a sister, remain in Syria, and that his parents sent him away because they feared he would be drafted into one of the growing number of militias, or that ISIS fighters would kill him. This was the second time they had sent him away. The first time was two years ago, when he went to Turkey and worked as a barber, waiter, and house painter.

“It’s been like this for a long time,” the trash collector declared in Hungarian. Photo:bRóbert Pölcz

“It’s been like this for a long time,” the trash collector declared in Hungarian. Photo: Róbert Pölcz

Falling in with a group of Circassians, Feras waved goodbye and headed north. On the quadrangle a village worker gathered trash that had been left in neat piles. The population of Horgoš is largely Hungarian, with some Serbs, Roma, and a handful of other ethnicities; over the last 60 years the village has lost a third of its inhabitants to internal and outmigration. “It’s been like this for a long time,” the trash collector declared in Hungarian, which he said he preferred to Serbian. “These aren’t refugees,” he added, watching the receding line of people. “This is a great migration of peoples.” 1

Man of the year

The trash collector likely picked up the expression “great migration of peoples”—directly or indirectly—from Viktor Orbán, the prime minister of Hungary. “We have to understand that this is a great migration of peoples and many millions are on the way,” Orbán said at a press conference last June.  2 “And we have to help these people without in the process destroying everything that we, our parents, and our grandparents built up.” The “many millions,” he emphasized, had not been part of the effort. “We built up this world for ourselves,” he continued. “Perhaps we were luckier than they, but even so this is ours […] and we must defend it, and we must be the ones who decide who can take part in it.”

During the summer, Orbán’s vilification of migrants made him a pariah to many European politicians. He threatened to detain migrants in internment camps and suggested that because Hungary had been ruled by the Ottoman Empire, it was not prepared to accept Muslim migrants. 3 But since the November 13th terrorist attacks in Paris, politicians in Europe once sympathetic to Angela Merkel’s sense of moral obligation to refugees have linked arms with Orbán. Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, has endorsed Orbán’s view that most people from the Middle East headed to Europe are not fleeing war but rather want better jobs. 4 In September, Tusk had rebuked Orbán for suggesting that the influx of Muslim refugees threatened European Christianity. 5 Even Sweden, which has a long history of welcoming refugees, announced in January that it is planning to reject up to 80,000 asylum applicants from 2015. 6 On December 9, Time magazine named Merkel “person of the year”; a few weeks later, the liberal Austrian newspaper Der Standard named Orbán “man of the year.” 7

Merkel’s humanitarian vision is not without shortcomings, but attempts to repair it are being overshadowed by a cynical politics that delights in exploiting the EU’s imperfections. In Hungary this politics is not new. In the words of the Hungarian intellectual and former dissident György Konrád, from his 2013 diary-novel, Vendégkönyv (Guestbook), Orbán “makes it so we can move away from Europe with our heads held high. Not too far, though, because most of the flashy domestic investments are made in European Union money.”  8

We were luckier than they…

This is the fray that Feras and his companions walked into when they crossed into Hungary a few days before the Hungarian government completed its fence along the Serbian border and introduced a state of emergency to further deter migrants from entering the country. The Circassians ended up spending the night outside the train station in Szeged, a city about fifteen kilometers from the border.

Szeged is famous for its university, paprika, sausages, and the flooding of the Tisza River, which, while no longer catastrophic, is still persistent enough to leave officious watermarks on the walls of riverside vacation homes. The city has also been distinguished by the variety of its transportation hubs: a railway station, a bus station, a tram network, and a spaceship station.

The latter, about the size of a fishing hut, was built from corrugated metal and outfitted with a blue awning. It advertised one-way flights to four destinations: Sirius, the moon, Ganymede, and Pluto. The structure sat on the banks of the Tisza until it was removed last year when the city began a riverfront reinforcement and beautification project. On his Facebook page, Mayor László Botka expressed his regret for the forced demolition of a signature achievement of his “opposition,” 9 a group of prankster artists and activists known as the Two-Tailed Dog Party. 10

The mock spaceship station was one of the Two-Tailed Dog’s earliest and proudest feats. The party’s leader, Gergely Kovács, began as a street artist in Budapest, but Szeged proved a more fertile terrain. Its 170,000 inhabitants and 20,000 university students had “twenty-seven hours of free time every day” to notice and admire street art, he recalled. The spaceship station was the only one of its kind in Hungary, although recently the Two-Tailed Dog has vowed to construct another in Orbán’s hometown of Felcsút, population 1,800, where the prime minister built a soccer stadium seating over 3,500 people.

When Orbán declared in June that Hungarians “built up this world” for themselves, his statement was misleading. Hungarians have built their world, but not without generous assistance from the EU. In Szeged, for instance, the railway station was renovated in 2006 with EU funds. Across from the station is an electric tramline, renovated in the early 2000s, along with the city’s entire public transportation system, all with EU funding. A five-minute journey on the tram takes you to a quaint historic downtown, also fully renovated with EU funds. “I could go on and on,” Mayor László Botka, the only socialist mayor in Hungary, told the V4Revue. Since Hungary joined the EU 11 years ago, such projects have totaled about a billion euros in Szeged alone, and similar projects have been undertaken in four other Hungarian cities of roughly the same size. 11

Tibor Varga had been distributing aid to refugees and migrants since 2011 for Eastern Europe Outreach. Photo: Róbert Pölcz

Tibor Varga had been distributing aid to refugees and migrants since 2011 for Eastern Europe Outreach. Photo: Róbert Pölcz

At Szeged Station

Once in Szeged, the Circassians found their way to the railway station, where the police directed them to a group of volunteers in the square serving coffee and sandwiches along with advice in various languages. As the group settled in for a night outdoors against the station’s wall, one of them smiled and said, “Hungary police good! Thank you!” The volunteers who greeted them were from a self-directed charity called MigSzol (Migrant Solidarity) Szeged that had organized itself through Facebook in June and worked out of a wooden hut in front of the railway station. (The hut was closed in late September after the completion of the Serbian border fence slowed the course of people into town.)

Throughout the summer months, food and water were stored inside the hut, and its exterior was covered with welcome signs and informational posters in various languages. There were lists of GPS coordinates and contacts for medical support, information about asylum in Hungary, and flow charts about traveling from Szeged to Austria or Germany by train. In mid-September, the hut and the square buzzed with volunteers smiling or wearing purposeful looks and routinely checking their smartphones. MigSzol/Szeged maintained an aid infrastructure of astounding efficiency, with a few hundred core volunteers and 2,500 occasional contributors making as many as 1,500 sandwiches a day, sorting huge quantities of donated clothing, toys, food and water, and staffing the hut around the clock.

In its own way the hut was a reincarnation of Szeged’s spaceship station, offering refuge in this world and free one-way passage to other ones. On Facebook, volunteers wrote of their interactions with migrants, or the police coming to donate their lunches to the aid effort. (One volunteer recalled an officer saying, “My father taught me to be a human being first, then a policeman.”) There were hopeful reports from favorites among those who had “made it” to their preferred destination, and bitterness toward people who refused to take food or advice from women on religious grounds. Some volunteers reported self-doubt about their own motivations. Were they truly helping people? Could they ever possibly do enough? Why hadn’t they helped others before? There were also expressions of exhaustion and pleas for backup staff and supplies.

The volunteers felt guilty when they were away from the hut, even for work or other necessary tasks. One night they had to contend with a group of around forty local right-wing thugs who encircled the hut and started taunting them before being dispersed by police. And they were wracked by despair when fellow Hungarians criticized them. “I get so much, so much flack for being here that it hurts,” one woman wrote to the MigSzol Facebook group. Others—also mainly women, who constituted the overwhelming majority of the most active volunteers—chimed in with insults they had heard. “Trash whore!” “Are you a Christian?” “May those unwashed Muslims fuck you in the mouth!” A couple of psychology graduates from Szeged University ran support group sessions for the volunteers.

At first Mayor Botka treaded softly, quietly donating the wooden hut and infrastructural support such as electricity, water, and toilets from municipal resources. (In those early summer days, Orbán’s wife, the jurist Anikó Lévai, also donated around 3,200 euros to the effort through the Ecumenical Aid Organization. 12) In his own statements, Botka praised the volunteers, but said he wanted “to avoid the impression that he was taking advantage of the situation politically.” “What is happening is a humanitarian and not a political issue,” he said. 13

Yet in late August and early September, as the gap in the border fence was closing, he began openly attacking Orbán for policies that brought “shame” to Hungary. “This whole thing could have been done by defending Hungarians, intelligently and in a European fashion, as we did here in Szeged, by doing the government’s work together with civilian aid workers.” 14 On September 15th, the local leader of the far-right Jobbik party declared that Botka and the volunteers were national traitors “on the side of the occupiers,” who wished nothing less than the “Islamization of Europe.” 15

A good Hungarian

Before he became one of the most eloquent defenders of Hungary’s governing party, György Schöpflin made his academic career in Britain as a political scientist writing about national identity. But when we asked him what made a good Hungarian, he let out a surprised laugh, paused before saying, “I don’t know,” then rephrased the question: “What makes a good Frenchman?” 16 His deflection may reveal something deeper than political prudence. One lesson to be drawn from Hungarians’ reaction to migrants and refugees is that what it means to be a good Hungarian, or a Hungarian at all, is not the slightest bit simple.

The first line of the Hungarian national anthem is “God bless the Hungarian.” Last summer a band of awkward young Hungarian rockers called Kozmosz (Cosmos), released a steam punk anthem called “The Land of the Smart Ones,” a riposte of sorts to the national anthem’s opening line. Decked out in a variant of Hungarian national costume with space-age accessories, the band catalogs the contradictions that make up Hungarian history: “We are the heroes and we are the casualties, the Nazis and the Commies were Hungarians, too. We are our own problem.” At the end of the song, the group pleads, “God wait for the Hungarian. We’ll get there someday, we’re just taking the long way.” 17

To reach their Promised Land, Hungarians have been doing a whole lot of leaving themselves, and not just recently. Izabella Füzi, who runs the Visual Studies department at Szeged University and was among MigSzol’s core volunteers, is one of several million Hungarians born outside the Hungary’s borders. In 1999, when the man who would later establish the elusive Two-Tailed Dog Party was leaving Budapest to start his studies in Szeged, Füzi came from Romania to start her PhD. It was also the year NATO bombed Serbia, sending another wave of Hungarians to join the tens of thousands who had already fled the Wars of Yugoslav Succession during the first half of the 1990s. Csaba Tibor Tóth, who graduated from Szeged University in 2010 with a degree in history, told the V4Revue “it was a time when Hungary wanted to show that it could uphold Western values.” He remembers praying in kindergarten that the Serbian army would not advance over the border.

From 1960 to 2001, the number of foreign-born individuals living in Hungary increased six-fold, and during the following decade it jumped by another 50,000 to over 140,000, more than half of them from Hungary’s “near abroad.” 18 Most of these refugees and economic migrants from Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine have settled in Hungary for good, no small number of them in Szeged, which is located fewer than 60 kilometers from both Serbia and Romania. Kovács recalls that many friends from his university years were Hungarians from Serbia.

But the new arrivals were not exactly Hungarians, at least not in the eyes of many “real” Hungarians. They had abandoned their posts on the fringes of Hungary’s pre-WWI boundaries, the thinking went, and besides, Hungary had its own economic troubles and here were these newcomers taking Hungarian jobs, using their public transportation, going to their schools and not paying any taxes. Füzi recalled that it was Orbán, after his party came to power with a two-thirds supermajority in 2010, who changed the tenor of the discussion by promising the recent arrivals citizenship and insisting they be treated as true Hungarians. The move secured the gratitude of many Hungarians from beyond the borders for the foreseeable future, and because his government had made them citizens, they could vote.

In 2014, Orbán’s Fidesz Party won its second supermajority with the help of these new voters, and Orbán marked the occasion at a symbolically charged summer camp in Romania for Hungarian students, where he has been a featured speaker since 1990. He recalled thinking “how beautiful it would be, how noble a form of revenge, if the political forces that voted against re-engaging the Hungarians living in the near abroad were deservedly punished by a majority, or even a two-thirds majority, made possible with the votes of those Hungarians from beyond the borders.” 19 And that’s what happened.

In this year’s speech, Orbán’s vengeful tone had not diminished: “In 2004 the Hungarian left rejected the Hungarians beyond the border, and now they embrace illegal immigrants with open arms,” he said. 20 According to a poll conducted by Publicus Intézet last May, 57% of Hungarians considered emigration a greater problem than immigration and only 23% believed the opposite. By July, sentiments had shifted: 42% thought emigration to be a greater problem, and 44% believed immigration to be a greater threat. 21 In September, Fidesz rolled out a billboard to consolidate its position: “The people have spoken: ‘The Country Must be Defended.’”  22

Some arrivals had reached the Horgoš crossing on buses while others came on foot, following rails that stretch south to Belgrade and north to Budapest. Photo: Róbert Pölcz

Some arrivals had reached the Horgoš crossing on buses while others came on foot, following rails that stretch south to Belgrade and north to Budapest. Photo: Róbert Pölcz

Fear of drowning

The undercurrent of Fidesz’s populist rhetoric about the “great migration of peoples” is the idea that there is a finite amount of resources to go around, and Hungarians must keep those resources for themselves if they are to survive. This scarcity argument acquired its own metaphor in late August, when a professor at Hungary’s largest state university, András Lányi, published an essay modestly titled “Ten Points on the Immigrants.” 23

After watching how the “Asian families” and the “young men who make up the majority” of the migrants had endured unbearably crowded conditions in a relatively “cultured” manner, Lányi found it unlikely that under comparable circumstances his own countrymen would behave so well. From this he concluded that the migrants and refugees—“well nourished, well clothed, behaving with dignity”—are better off than many Hungarians. How, then, could these people be true refugees? They must be economic migrants. Lányi then reiterated Orbán’s claim that Hungarians were witnessing a “great migration of peoples.”

Lányi argued that the liberal left and the migrant-devotees who avow their human compassion and material support to those in need are ideologues deluded by their belief that what happens to the least of us on this planet can happen to us all. The trouble with this “spaceship earth” metaphor, he claimed, is that it does not accurately describe the current global predicament. We are not on a spaceship, he insisted; instead, due in no small part to global warming, we are on a life raft, and there is only room for so many of us. If too many people board the raft it will sink and we will all drown. In order to prevent total catastrophe, some people will have to go under. Civilizations, he warns, do not perish from wars waged against them, but by disappearance, not by a “dying out” but by a “mixing” or a “dissolving into.”

The fear of “drowning,” of being assimilated by a non-Christian invader, is nothing new to Hungarian politics. But whereas now it’s Muslims who are the feared intruders, earlier it was Jews. During and just after WWI, when Jewish refugees from Austrian Galicia came pouring into Hungary, the response of many Hungarian politicians and intellectuals was strikingly similar to Lányi and Orbán’s views on what they have called “the migrant question.” These people are not at all like us—not Christians. Many of them could be terrorists. They will assimilate us into their ranks and that will be the end of us.

A nagging remnant of anti-Semitism in some of Fidesz’s political rhetoric once compelled several Hungarian Jewish intellectuals to criticize the party. Among the most famous of those critics were two eminent writers, the dissident philosopher György Konrád and the novelist Imre Kertész, both Holocaust survivors. Konrád inveighed against Orbán’s “junk democracy” in the op-ed pages of The New York Times, 24 and Kertész, who in 2002 was awarded the Nobel Prize for work that, “upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history,” 25 has compared Orbán to János Kádár, the Communist leader of Hungary. 26

Later, when explaining why he chose to stay in Germany rather than return to his native Hungary, Kertész characterized the situation in Hungary as one in which “the word of the extreme right and the anti-Semites is the one that counts.” 27

Yet recently there has been a convergence of viewpoints on the migrant issue between the three men. In The Final Tavern, a book of fictional sketches and diary entries published in 2014, Kertész wrote, “I’d like to talk about how the Muslims are flooding, invading, and destroying Europe, and how the Europeans are reacting to all of this: with suicidal liberalism and stupid democracy.” 28 Konrád threw his moral support behind Orbán when he told an Italian journalist in September that the Schengen border should be “better defended against this tsunami.” 29 In December Konrád reaffirmed his position in an interview with The New York Times: “It hurts to admit it, but on this point Orbán was right.” 30

Yet while some braced for a tsunami, others caught the wave. Csaba Tibor Tóth, who had volunteered for a week in a Kurdish refugee camp in southeastern Turkey last spring, joined the refugees and migrants on their 175-kilometer march on September 4th from the Keleti railway station in Budapest to the Austrian border. “I still can’t get my mind around what sort of day this has been,” he wrote on Facebook, “a biblical scene. I will never, ever forget it.” Tóth likened the arrival of the migrants and refugees to the theme of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film, Solaris. As he told us, “You are met with something that you don’t quite understand, and your life will never be the same after that.”

Taking the long way

One night in early September, Tibor Árki, a member of the Two-Tailed Dog Party, had a dream. He was giving a migrant girl a strange fruit, something between a pear and a quince. The scene took place at the Frankfurt train station, which Árki has never visited. Migrants and their dreams had found their way into his, even though neither he nor any of the other core party members had had much direct contact with them. Nor had Fidesz representative Schöpflin, who admitted that although he had seen some migrants around Budapest, he hadn’t had a chance to speak with any of them. Even Izabella Füzi, who volunteered long hours at the wooden hut nearly every day of the week during the summer, cannot recall a single individual from among the thousands of people she helped. For her, doing relief work was an “unchoreographed experience,” a rare instance of social solidarity among the volunteers, and a mad scramble to make sure every person who came to the hut received a sandwich and a cup of hot coffee.

In a sense, the migrants and refugees floated past. One member of the Two-Tailed Dog Party went to Keleti just after hundreds of them had set out walking to the Austrian border. He found the station strewn with children’s toys, untouched sandwiches, bottles of water and other donations that had been left behind. At the railway station in Szeged, Feras appeared to be carrying nothing but the clothes on his back, his glasses and a smartphone. When he was asked if he needed anything, he politely refused.

Because Feras and tens of thousands like him were just passing through, because their places of origin were unfamiliar or unknown or both, they existed for many Hungarians only as an abstraction. They were a mass or crowd or ribbon of bodies either waiting for trains, or gazing out of bus windows or moving through on foot. At Keleti, locals gathered at the upper platform outside the station and peered down onto the floors below, where migrant children playing soccer skillfully avoided the policemen in medical masks and the volunteers distributing provisions.

Incomprehension has taken many forms around this issue. Keleti is one of three major train stations in Budapest. All the migrants and refugees knew about it was that the trains going west to Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium leave from there. But the word “keleti” actually means “eastern.” What’s more, trains from the Nyugati (western) station, go south to Szeged, and those from the Déli (southern) station travel west. When the members of the Two-Tailed Dog Party were asked to explain the puzzle, they paused for a moment; although they knew which trains left from which stations, they had never realized the seemingly capricious and comical obfuscations of the stations’ nomenclature. “It’s that kind of country!” one laughed. “It’s a progressive remnant of original disinformation.” The conversation then moved to how ridiculously long it takes to get from Szeged to Miskolc by train and that you’d be better off flying to London.

It was nearly midnight. Budapest sparkled in the distance, and members of the Two-Tailed Dog Party were sitting around a table outdoors drinking beer and talking about politics. A man named Tamás stood apart, leaning against a balcony railing. When asked later what he made of the conversation, he said he was weary of the way Hungarians try to explain themselves to outsiders.

Tamás began his studies in Szeged in 1994, five years before Kovács and Füzi. He has since returned to do doctoral work. In the interim he sought employment in London both to improve his fortunes and to break into a new career. He found a job twice, first at a multi-national corporation, as part of the first wave of Hungarian outmigration following the 2008 economic crisis, and then again last fall, clearing the grounds after soccer matches in Tottenham. Like many Hungarians, Tamás had taken out a mortgage on a flat in Swiss francs that went under when the crisis hit. However, while working his first London stint, he was able to sell the flat and pay off the mortgage during a brief window of financial relief provided by the Orbán government. Tamás says he pursued both work experiences in London for his own reasons, but ultimately chose to return to Hungary.

How odd it must have been for a nation “taking the long way,” as the Kozmosz sing, to watch a group of tens, even hundreds of thousands pass through looking for their own shortcut to the promised land. “They want to go where the Hungarians wanted to go, but couldn’t,” said Tamás. 31 Of course individuals can and do leave the country, he explained, but after the transition from communism Hungarians had expected their country to become like Europe’s center, a place of opportunity and gravitas. (György Konrád echoed these sentiments with a heavy dose of irony when he wrote: “Of course we will be the center of the very center. Once the offices of the EU move from Brussels to Budapest, then we can warm to it.” 32) The migrants represent this profound “misunderstanding,” Tamás stressed, and it still hurts. It was as if the migrants and refugees, coming ashore from their dinghies, had encountered another group at sea in the Hungarians, who could only watch them float by.

The following night, while standing outside the Szeged railway station opposite the benches where the Circassians were sitting, Tamás was approached by the police and asked whether he’s Hungarian.


The next morning, the rainclouds over Szeged had lifted and sunlight filled the station’s square. Feras and the others had moved on. A few volunteers gathered at the wooden hut, chatting as they unpacked cases of bottled water. Near the city center a man shouted at an indifferent grocer, but only one word of invective was intelligible across the tram tracks: “migrants.” Outside a modest flat in another part of town, a bird pecked at grapes on an arbor near a kitchen window. Izabella Füzi was in the kitchen, talking about how we are all on the same spaceship, and globalization means that a problem that emerges anywhere in the world affects us all. She was interrupted by a voice from the courtyard. It was her neighbor, calling out to tell her that she had left the gate open again.



  1. Translated from the Hungarian, népvándorlás.
  2. (June 26, 2015).
  3. Robert Mackey, “Hungarian Leader Rebuked for Saying Muslim Migrants Must Be Blocked ‘to Keep Europe Christian,’” The New York Times, September 3, 2015,
  4. Andrew Higgens, “Hungary’s Migrant Stance, Once Denounced, Gains Some Acceptance,” The New York Times, December 20, 2015,
  5. Benjamin Novak, “Tusk Gives Orbán Lesson on Christianity,” Budapest Beacon, September 3, 2015,
  6. David Crouch, “Sweden Send Sharp Signal with Plan to Expel Up to 80,000 Asylum Seekers,” The Guardian, January 28, 2016,
  7. Paul Lendvai, “Orbáns Jahr,” Der Standard, December 28, 2015,
  8. György Konrád, Vendégkönyv – tűnődések a szabadságról – naplóregény (Budapest Európa könyvkiadó, 2013), p. 657.
  9. Dr. Botka László, Facebook post, Mar. 26, 2014,
  10. Holly Case and John Palattella, “Is Humor the Best Weapon Against Europe’s New Wave of Xenophobic Nationalism?” The Guardian, January 6, 2016,
  11. Written exchange with Dr. László Botka, September 29, 2015.
  12. Vince Ballai, “Megindították az afgán fiút a jólelkű szegediek,” abcúg, July 3, 2015,
  13. Written exchange with Dr. László Botka, September 29, 2015.
  14. Dr. Botka László, Facebook post, September 17, 2015,
  15. Tóth Péter, Facebook post, September 14, 2015,
  16. Telephone interview with György Schöpflin, September 6, 2015.
  17. Kozmosz, “Az okosak földje [official video],”
  18. Központi Statistikai Hivatal, 2011. Évi Népszámlalás: 4. Demográfiai adatok (Budapest, 2013), , pp. 51-52 (see also pp. 140 and before).
  19. “Orbán Viktor teljes beszéede,” mno,
  20. Viktor Orbán, “Európa még a fegyvertelen menekültekkel szemben sem tudja megvédeni határait (tusványosi beszéd),” mandiner, July 27, 2015, ; Szabolcs Panyi, “Orbán ügyes csapdát állított a baloldalnak Tusnádfürdőn,” index, July 25, 2015,
  21. “Hungarian Public Opinion on the Government’s Handling of the Refugee Crisis,” Hungarian Spectrum, September 20, 2015,; “Refugee Crisis: Hungary, a Divided Country,” Publicus Research, September 19, 2015,
  22. “Hírnarancs, Az emberek döntöttek: Lázár marad még egy kicsit,” Magyar Narancs, September 17, 2015, 
  23. András Lányi, “Tíz pont a bevándorlókról—Migráció és mi VII,” Mandiner, August 31, 2015,
  24. Gyorgy Konrad, “Hungary’s Junk Democracy,” The New York Times, January 18, 2012,
  25. “The Nobel Prize in Literature 2002: Imre Kertész,”, October 10, 2002,
  26. Florence Noiville, “Imre Kertész’s Hungary: a country on the wrong side of history,” The Guardian, February 12, 2012,
  27. MTI, “Kertész Imre nem köti magát Magyarországhoz,” mandiner, November 8, 2009,  
  28. Márk Herczeg, “Megszólalt a Kertész család,” !!444!!!, September 7, 2015,
  29. “Konrád György védelmébe vette Orbánt,” atv, September 11, 2015,
  30. Andrew Higgins, “Hungary’s Migrant Stance, Once Denounced, Gains Some Acceptance,” The New York Times, December 20, 2015,
  31. Pseudonym used at interviewee’s request.
  32. György Konrád, Vendégkönyv – tűnődések a szabadságról – naplóregény (Budapest Európa könyvkiadó, 2013), p. 649.
Holly Case

Holly Case

teaches European History at Cornell University.

John Palattella

John Palattella

is the literary editor of The Nation.