The year 1989 in East and Central Europe was the year of democratic revolutions, of
reforms flowing into revolutions and revolutions infused with reforms. Ideas of
national independence and sovereignty were combined with a democratic,
European transformation oriented towards the West.
A new history
the first nationalist ethnic „revolutions“ came along as early as 1990-1991,
proclaiming another kind of regime change, secession and separation, and attacking
national minorities. It began with a pogrom in Romania’s Târgu Mureş, was followed
by the break-up of Yugoslavia and the coarsely velvety splitting up of
Czechoslovakia, and it ranged from Csurka’s ideology of international
conspiracy in Hungary to the busybodies of zealotry in Poland. This first wave
of nationalism involved anti-Soviet, anti-Russian grievances, a hatred of
Germans, anti-Semitism, exclusion of national minorities and a heaping of curses
on Europe, America and the Western world.
anti-liberal and anti-privatisation passions were mixed with historical
grievances and anger. The anger was about the fact that what arrived instead of
Western affluence was unemployment, high inflation and insecurity.
history was beginning to be written: an aggrieved and exceptionalist history, the
only truthful and superior Czech, Croatian, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian,
Slovak, Serbian, Ukrainian history. New
states, symbols, anthems and uniforms emerged. All of this floated to the
surface from the deep well of the past, and yet everything was born anew. The history of the former Yugoslav nations was
written in blood. Elsewhere history was
written in words that had murderous power.
A double-edged promise
wave of nationalism ebbed away in the mid-nineties. It was replaced by
a kind of double-edged promise: on the one hand - europeanization, the
desire and possibility of joining NATO and the European Union, and on the other
- the left-wing politicians’ belief that they could restore the certainties of
the Kádár, Husák, Tito or Gierek regimes. A velvet,europeanizing and
modernizing restoration.You just calm
down, sort things out among yourselves, let the minorities be, stop bad-mouthing
the Jews, and then we can start talking about EU membership: this was the
message from Clinton’s America and Kohl’s Germany.
preferred European affluence to national misery. The competition for the membership in the
European club began.
threshold of the new millennium, when not just the Czech, Slovak, Polish and Hungarian
politicians but most in their societies realized that NATO and EU membership were
assured, there set in a sense of a loss of purpose, as well as of a disenchantment
by the ceaseless effort required to pursue it. A merciless zero-sum game ensued in
a majority political style marked by contradictions, aimed at the
appropriation of European countries’ political, economic, media and spiritual
spheres and at their permanent ownership. A ruthless battle broke out
between the nationalists and aliens, modernists and anti-modernists, supporters
of Europe and euro-sceptics. And at the same
time those who seemed to be excluded from Europe
were waiting for some new impulse, similar to the year 1989, so that they,
too, could join in and make themselves visible. All this was happening simultaneously
with the powerful nationalist and fundamentalist Christian wave that crested
in America in the wake of 11 September 2001 and that was more than happy to
support the „colour revolutions“, from Yugoslavia through Georgia toUkraine.
The war of “the bronze soldier”
ethnic-nationalist wave came along, reaching its peak in Hungary in the
spring of 2002 which actually touched the masses. In March and April of that year, thousands
ardently wore a cockade in national colours, while others were ardent
about not wearing it, and the two sides engaged in a deadly battle of minds. The
Right saw everywhere liberals and Bolsheviks devoid of nationalist feeling, while
the Left warned of an impending invasion by twenty million Romanian workers.
But then the policy of social populism arrived, covering everything with its
sediment and camouflaging every Hungarian politician as a Kádár and his
central and local party committee secretaries. That is why Orbán’s FIDESZ
failed with its referendum on double nationality in 2004, at a time when
the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” was just reinvigorating politicians and, to
some extent, the populations of the Baltic states, Poland
Kaczyński brothers arrived on the crest of this tumultuous wave in the autumn
of 2005, as the mood in the Baltics was turning more and more nationalist. In
the spring of 2007 the Estonian-Russian “bronze soldier” war broke out and thus
was born the ideology of “defensive nationalist democracy”, directed at Russia and the
Russian minorities.However, the success
of the moderate Right in the Polish general election, a fragile balance
between President Kaczyński and Prime Minister Tusk, as well as the fact that
the Romanian extreme right lost all its seats in parliament and Hungary’s
extremists had been marginalized, seems to point to an ebbing tide. Robert Fico, too, has been adding only just enough
nationalist spice to the Slovak political soup to ensure a majority for
his coalition and social populism. The Georgian-Russian war, whatever the
politicians intended, left the masses unmoved.
Who is to blame?
be wrong. Although at a meeting of Hungarian and Slovak intellectuals Rudolf
Chmel spoke of cycles of nationalism linked to political forces, Péter
Tölgyessy from Hungary and László
Szigeti from Slovakia
both argued that a steady rise in nationalism can be observed since the
regime change. It is linked to society’s
illusions: people expected to achieve Western standards immediately but they are further and further
away from achieving them. Nationalist
voters are not produced by nationalist politicians but vice versa: it is
nationalist voters who produce the Ficos, Slotas, Kaczyńskis and Orbáns.Politicians merely respond to voters’
demands. In the future, in international relations too, we will see growing
nationalism and xenophobia all around the world, László Szigeti concluded. He
might be right.
concerns me, however, is a „third wave“ of nationalism. It will well up from
the depths of the economic crisis.The rising
middle classes will lose the ground under their feet. Modernizers, supporters
of a rapid europeanization, leading industrialists, people who have been
buying flats on Swiss mortgages, have already started losing their jobs.
time Brussels and Berlin,
Milan and Vienna,
are not heeding their call for help. This time it’s not the riffraff, fans of
a losing football team who are asking who is to blame, it is the erstwhile
victors, who have been vanquished. This time it is the forint nationalists,
disappointed by the forint and their leading roles, the zloty nationalists,
disillusioned by the zloty and their dreams of a position of a medium-size
power, the euro-sceptical Czech crown nationalists who refer to themselves as
Western Europeans, as well as the Slovak nationalists, legitimized by the euro,
who will cling on to national flags in Győr, Poznań or Mladá Boleslav.
This time it is bank officials, engineers in car factories, well-heeled proprietors
of real estate and respected judges, who might discover inside them the tribal
Hungarian, the real Slovak, the Polish aristocrat, the Czech patriot. Now they
can regard the Jew, the Gypsy, the Pole, the Czech, the Slovak, the Hungarian,
the European, the American, and anyone else, as the scapegoat who is
responsible for their lot, for the Treaty of Trianon, for everything. It’s
always someone else’s fault. There is no future, but if there were, it would be
a Hungarian future. Or Czech. Or Polish. Or Slovak. Happy 2009.
salon.eu.sk je neziskový projekt a prístup k bezplatnému čítaniu má každý. Chceme Vás poprosiť, aby ste nám pomohli udržať ho finančným príspevkom v ľubovoľnej výške, ktorý nám môžete poslať prostredníctvom služby PayPal, s ktorou je možné efektívne posielať aj malé dary bez toho, aby sa niečo pri prevode strácalo.
Každý príspevok je pre nás veľmi dôležitý.
Podporiť nás však samozrejme môžete aj prostredníctvom nášho účtu: 2922815184/1100.
Ďakujeme Vám v každom prípade za priazeň.