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Not All the Past Needs To Be Used: Features of Fidesz’s Politics of Memory



Since the 2010 elections, the current Hungarian government has proven to be a very active and restless “memory warrior” (Bernard and Kubik 2014). The ruling party, Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz, shows both a neat understanding of national history and the ability to transmit it by the adoption of different tools. This politics of memory is instrumental in granting the government political legitimacy. By ruling out oppositional actors and their historical narratives from the public sphere, Fidesz presents itself as the primary champion of Hungarian national sovereignty. Hungarians is, then, portrayed as a nation that has long suffered from the yoke of external oppression in which the Ottomans, the Habsburgs, the Soviets and eventually the Europeans figure as the enemies of the Hungarians. Specific collective memories, including the Treaty of Trianon (1920), Nazi occupation (1944–5) and socialist period (1948–90), are targeted so as to enact a sense of national belonging and pride, as well as resentment against foreigners. Moreover, in its rejection of the pluralism of memories and yearn for the homogenization of national history by marginalizing unfitting elements, this politics of memory is consistent with the System of National Cooperation (Batory 2016) that Fidesz’s administration has tried to establish in Hungary. This paper carries out an in-depth analysis of Fidesz’s multilayered politics of memory by investigating both its internal and external dimensions separately. In the final section, conclusions are drawn up to summarize its key tenets. Official speeches, legislative acts, and four interviews with key historians of Hungary have been used as sources.