In my opinion nationalism is a nation-religion. Nation-religion is an outgrowth of the Judeo-Christian culture.  It is a secular religion.[1]

It shows the same characteristics wherever it developed. It assumes that the nation is a community.  It hallows this conceived community and creates the roles and symbols that were characteristic of the original world-wide culture.  The nation can have a father, a savior and a Judas. The nation can have a prayer (anthem), it can have an identity according to a combination of circumstances and it can have martyrs, saints, and sites considered sacred.  The nation-religion can have all the appurtenances pertaining to the original religion.

The most important feature is that one must believe in it.  It is this faith that activates it.

The nation and its symbolic contents, from the myth of its origins to the awareness of its mission, are the result and the subject of this faith.[2] Yet it is possible to have faith along a wide spectrum and on a variety of bases.

One can believe that the acceptance of belonging to the nation, i.e. identification, makes one a member of the nation.  One can believe that participating in a linguistic-cultural community makes one a member of the nation. One can believe that one becomes a member of a nation on the basis of genetics and race.  In the modern concept of nation, evolved since the eighteenth century, all the above beliefs were gradually incorporated.

Whatever the bases of the faith, they all share in giving an identity.  It is an important component of the concept of identity to know what one is not.  Not French, because one does not view oneself as being French.  Not Italian, because one does not speak Italian.  Not German because one is not an Aryan.

The nation-religion, as a creed, moves along a broad scale just like the religious denominations and to the same extent.  One person can be a bigot and the other a lukewarm believer. Somebody can be a fanatic reaching back to the depth of his faith (and identity).  Some might deny the nation-religion; figuratively speaking they are national unbelievers.  In this case there is the possibility that, instead of a nation-religion, there will develop another, also faith-based and religion-like, culture with its own way of thinking and behavior.

Historically nation-religion assumed the primacy of an identity culture that was originally universal. The original religious culture was not organized along the lines of national identity.  It contained fracture lines, like the Catholic-Protestant ones, and this was more important than the nation-religion. Universal identity, with all its division, did not disappear.  It only lost strength when the nation-religion gained primacy.  This is shown by the beginning of World War I, which the contemporaries called the Great War, not knowing that there would soon be a greater war.  At that time, the same denominational churches blessed the belligerents’ troops who were getting ready to massacre each other in the name of the nation-religion.

In contrast to the original religion, nation-religion is secular and particular.  This latter characteristic does not exclude it from being based everywhere on similar structural characteristics.  (Nation-religion even established a “church” which we call the nation-state.)

The similarities cover a multitude of differences.  The formation of the nation-religion is always unique even though the results are very similar. The differences in their history are what give the different national religions their particular flavor.

In my view, however, nationalism is different from nation-religion.  It is different and more. It is different because it is more. Nation-religion is the kernel of nationalism but the kernel is enveloped in a juicy pulp.

The nation-religion manifests itself in topoi, rituals, and symbolic concepts.

Nationalism is more than that.  It can create politics out of everything.  It can adapt the processes considered to be actual national goals to the symbolic contents of the nation-religion.  It can create a narrative technique, language and discourse for the tasks which are considered historically to be current.  Nationalism is a fruit that is both grown and consumed by politics.  It can retroactively modify the emphases of the nation-religion but cannot change them permanently.

I could say that while I consider the nation-religion to be linked to historical-cultural-anthropological modernity, nationalism is more of historical-political manifestation.[3] They are related but not equal.  One is identity, the other one is identity-politics and politics.

On this basis we might approach the general and specific characteristics of the Hungarian situation. The Hungarians began to shape their nation-religion at the end of the eighteenth century. The process gained strength in the middle of the nineteenth century and became fixed during the second half of that century.  The so-called long nineteenth century, lasting from the French Revolution to the Great War, is the great period of Hungarian nation-religion.[4]

There is nothing peculiar about this. The majority of the nations in Europe created their nation-religion at about the same time.

There is also nothing odd in the fact that the French example had a great influence on the Hungarian process. The French model was effective in many locations.

There is no great variation in the structures of the nation-religion.  Structural elements of varying weight appeared and were effective everywhere.  The Hungarians also had all of these: their anthem, their Messiah, the national colors, national religious holidays, betrayers, statues of their worldly saints and sacred places.

There are some elements, however, which individually are not very different in one country or another, but could exert unique influence when are combined.  These elements, in my opinion, exerted considerable influence on the potential political practice of Hungarian nation-religion, on Hungarian nationalism and on identity politics.

Let us begin with something to which, in my view, little attention has been paid. I am talking about what is generally referred to as a “gender problem.” During the first third of the nineteenth century the nation and the country took on a differing sexual characteristic.  In the pictures painted at the time, Pannonia, or Hungaria, the representative figures of the country were female. Generally young and, according to the tastes of the age, attractive. Similar situations prevailed elsewhere.  France had its Marianne.  The Russian spoke of “motherland” and in Russia, the symbolic figure is clearly a mother and not a young woman.  In Germany there was the figure of Germania, but there the gender characteristic is not clear because they also talk about the Vaterland [fatherland].  During the Age of Reform Hungary was depicted in Hungary as a young woman, mostly by Austrian painters, because this is what the patrons wanted and expected.

The nation, however, is a man.  When they speak of the nation as a person, whether in contemporary textbooks or poems, it is always in terms of masculine characteristics.  According to its own image of itself the Hungarian nation is knightly and chivalrous, warlike and magnanimous.  This is true elsewhere; it is not surprising or unique. The masculine role naturally had other requirements.  It had to be able to protect the female, i.e. the country.  If it is not successful in this, it must either sacrifice itself on the altar of unfulfilled roles or develop an eternal loathing for the attacker.  It might also develop a hatred for the woman, i.e. the nation and perhaps leave it for ever.  It might also act as though nothing had happened.  Not meeting the demands of the masculine role is an experience of failure and is followed by a feeling of frustration that can be coped with in a variety of ways.  Further on, this aspect will gain in importance.

Much attention has been paid to the next matter which binds it more tightly to the circumstances of the formation of the Hungarian nation-religion and of the cultural-spiritual climate of its life. We are talking about fear.

The Hungarians had created their own national identity but were fearful from the first moment on and gave voice to this fear. The principal reason for the fear was the possibility that the Hungarians could easily be overwhelmed by the mighty waves of the Germans and Slavs. Perhaps they could disappear in the ocean of Slavs. Perhaps they could come to an end by becoming Germanized. One of these possibilities was worse than the other.

In contrast to the gender issue, this factor might have received greater attention because at the time Hungarian nation-religion was created many who were later inducted into the pantheon of Hungarian secular saints spoke about it and did so frequently.  Count István Széchenyi struggled against the vision of national death just as much as Mihály Vörösmarty who in the Szózat [Anthem] described the funeral of the nation.

There were arguments in favor of the script for the death of the nation.  There was a trend toward Germanization and there were, in fact, many more Slavs in the country than Hungarians.  To date the death of nation has not taken place.  Yet the script is so reasonable that it might even be called a reasonable illusion which became deeply embedded in the reality of Hungarian nationalism.

The third matter was present in some areas of Europe and not in others.  It is thus not specifically Hungarian and the situation is present in Poland as well. It is not a specific characteristic. The matter is the issue of being the underdog.

The apostles of Hungarian national language could and did argue that they were torn by fate. They were groaning under the yoke of the Tatars, the Turks and the Habsburgs.  They could also list facts to buttress their claims. To be sure, the facts appeared in such a cultural-anthropological setting in which the past and the present were hard to distinguish. The past did not appear as history but as a retrograde extension of the present. This way of thinking is indicated by the fact that Széchenyi’s Hitel [Credit], published in 1830 was actually written against the fourteenth century law of entailment.

In his arguments in the 1860s for a Hungarian compromise with the Habsburgs, Deák considered an Act of 1723, almost 140 years-old, as a guideline. In an intellectual socialization, initiated by nobility, the past is considered to be a legal continuation into the present. This is the reason why the argumentative strategy of the political opposition of the Age of Reform is based on the notion that the demands for new directions are related to the present’s linkage with the past. The identity of the past with the present is true in other areas of life as well.  In Hungary the protection of ancient monuments and historic buildings was institutionalized only after 1870, indicating that until then the differences between past and present were not considered to be obvious.

In such a worldview the Tatar invasion of 1241 can appear as a painful event of the given present and attest to the existence and presence of the underdog situation. It is of interest that the Tartar invasion is specifically mentioned in the “Himnusz” [Anthem] written 582 years later in 1823.

The cultural context of facts was thus enlarged even though the facts remained facts.  Thus for instance, from the perspective of the evolving and developing nation-religion, and of the reinterpretation of Hungarian consciousness, it was taken for a fact that, since the occupation of Buda by the Turks in 1541, there were always soldiers stationed on the territory of the Hungarian kingdom whose loyalty was not to Hungary.

Over a long period of time the underdog status was very much in the consciousness of Hungarian political life.  The issue the Hungarian orders called “grievance politics” became the language of discourse.  As its nature suggested, it meant that they were always being oppressed and that their rights were being violated.  This forced them to assume a posture of self-defense.  The self-defense motif gave moral justification for their actions.

If we consider how the spiritual climate surrounding the Hungarian nation-religion evolved from the combination of the three above items, the unexpressed but real gender issue, the logic of fear and the underdog feeling, perhaps we might get closer to understanding the nature of Hungarian nationalism.  If we understand the cultural characteristics of the kernel, we might learn more about the fruit.

The summary has an interesting duality. On the one hand, the heroes and saints of the Hungarian nation-religion, Zrínyi, Rákóczi, Kossuth, Batthyány and Petőfi all became losers.  In this context I am using the term “loser” to indicate that all these men came to a tragic fate. (To document this, we could think of the street-names of the twentieth century Hungarian cities.  We can also call them the captives of illusion because they represented causes and that is why their fate was what it was.  The only truly successful member of the Hungarian pantheon is St. Stephen, but he was canonized prior to the development of the Hungarian nation-religion and for establishing a Christian state in Hungary.)

Those who represented the so-called “reality” were either accused of treason or were held only as a distant “memory.” Let us just think of Artúr Görgey who capitulated to the Russians in 1849 thus ending in defeat the 1848-49 Revolution and War of Independence, or of Sándor Károlyi who concluded the peace at the end of the Rákóczi rebellion.  Realism does not become exalted and does not exalt.

This is an existing duality in the “personal mythology” of the Hungarian nation-religion.  Yet, truth is here somewhat more differentiated, as it generally is.  There are also examples for individuals to become saints by success, even success in power politics.  I am thinking of Ferenc Deák.  He is the exception to the rule in this division of cultural emphasis.  The fabric of reality is always finer than the coarse materials of typifying and abstraction.

A similar, and related, duality can be seen in the tone and cultural resonance of the nation-religion.  The language of the nation-religion is despondent, self-pitying, and painful rather than activating, optimistic, and resolute.  The esthetic creations that have been elevated to the rank of symbolic self-expression of the Hungarian nation religion, such as the “Himnusz” of Ferenc Kölcsey and the “Szózat” [Appeal] of Mihály Vörösmarty, accurately reflect this cultural milieu.  The music these were set to reinforces this feeling.

The vision of a glorious death of the nation is one of the principal motifs of the “Szózat.”  All this is glorified by the moral values of unflinching loyalty to the nation.  Self-pity assumes an ethical standing that cannot be questioned and it becomes the elevated sentiment of the self-expressions of the Hungarian nation-religion.

In the “Himnusz” we find the nation suffering the fate imposed upon it.  While it is partly responsible for it, most of it was imposed by external forces.  This why it can be presented as though it was not primarily its own responsibility that it had to atone for the past and for the future.  It is therefore the obligation of God, the almighty Lord of the world, to assure a happy future for the nation.  The fate awaiting Hungary is God’s responsibility and not the nation’s.  The “Himnusz,” which also became the secular prayer of the nation-religion, is a poem of the despondent shunting of responsibility.

According to my best judgment, all this suggests that the fear, the underdog status and the awareness and the peculiarities of the gender role became a potential for a history of suffering.  On the one hand the history of suffering strengthens the sacred nature of the concept of nation. On the other, it couples a passive narrative with the nation-religion.  If we have to die, let us die with dignity.  If we have suffered it is up to God to assure us of a better future.

The consequences in terms of intellectual and mentalities history are evident.  Firmly attached to the concept of being Hungarian was the narrative which featured culturally acceptable grieving, morbidity, a refusal to confront our responsibilities, and instead of a history we can shape, a history of suffering.  It is likely that the “Himnusz” and the “Szózat” could rise to sacred roles because this was made possible by the emotional environment surrounding the formation and functioning of the nation-religion.  It means that the cause and the consequence are identical.

This interesting and characteristic duality can be found in the fact that while the cultural self-image of the nation-religion radiates a passivity filled with pain, the people engaged in its propagation were characterized by a high degree of activity.  For example, Kölcsey should be honored not only for his poetry but also because of his very courageous and active political work.  It can also be said about Vörösmarty that he should be honored not only for being a great poet but also for being one of the principal organizers of Hungarian literary life and for making Hungarian into a literary language.  Others were also highly active.  All the Hungarian national saints, from Zrínyi to Rákóczi, Széchenyi, and Batthyány were men of action and not of contemplation.

It does not ensue, however, that the Hungarian nation-religion was dressed in an activist narrative form.  Just the opposite, but once again, reality is not simple.  If we look at the third emblematic poem of the Hungarian national religion, Sándor Petőfi’s “Nemzeti dal” [National Song] we find no evidence of melancholy or of the cult of passivity.  It is replete with activism and is laden with the weight of personal responsibility.  A choice must be made.  Yet the “Nemzeti dal” did not become an anthem even though it was repeatedly set to music and had to be memorized by all children going to school.  Perhaps we are once again dealing with an exception that strengthens the rule and perhaps the fabric of reality is finer then the coarse material of typifying.

Hungarian nation-religion in its structure does not differ much from other European nation-religions. It does differ in its cultural emphases particularly if these strengthen each other and meld together. This milieu is capable of functioning both as a culture and as a counterculture. By counterculture I mean that it, by its duality, is able to countervail actual historical events and to place itself into a position opposed to the logic of events. This, by itself, does not stimulate illusionism but is open to it. The openness, potentiality, is manifested by attaching a different cultural orientation and narrative technique to itself than what is indicated by the activities of its sainted key figures. The ethically justified tragedy of the narrative and the dynamism of the actors cause tension by themselves. Yet all of this can also be considered to mean that failure is justifiable, that success is suspicious and that it is morally either unjustifiable or to be condemned. Whoever is true and is a true Hungarian shall perish, suffer or commit suicide. It is only then that he can become an icon of the nation-religion. Those who become successful in this cultural context become “people of the moment” who, in Endre Ady’s words, usually carouse around. The ordinary Hungarian continues to suffer. The concept of counterculture can be interpreted to mean the culture of the opposition.

Let us stop here for a moment.

Just as I have done in discussing the concept of illusion and reality, it is almost impossible to determine which is which. This is partly because what seems illusion today might become reality tomorrow and illusion again the day thereafter. The symbolic figures of the nation-religion were made heroes by their tragedy of one kind or another. It was partly this that made them the ethically elevated key figures in the Hungarian emotional environment of the underdog. They were heroes who failed but were brave in implementing the demands of the masculine roles assigned to them by the nation-religion. The narrative technique associated with them could be the expression of both the evil fate and of the struggle against it. They became lasting icons and this was made easier by their being defined as having been opposed to the powers. Thus, in one cultural trend they could be considered to be heroes who were referred to as being a counter-culture.

If we look at the fate of the emblematic figures of power, ever since the evolution of the nation-religion, the situation is no better from the perspective of their personal fate. It is no better than for the fixed stars of the nation-religion.

Let’s look at them. These men, without exception, gave their name to an era, for a moment or for decades, as the characteristic controllers of power. They are all men because politics itself is masculine.

Count István Tisza, the former all powerful prime minister of Hungary, was assassinated at the end of October, 1918 in Pest by armed soldiers in his rental villa on the Hermina Road. Count Mihály Károlyi, prime minister at the end of October, 1918 and, after January 11, 1919, president of the republic, emigrated after the Hungarian Soviet Republic came to power on March 21. He returned home in 1946, became ambassador in Paris and then resigned in protest against the Rákosi regime. In his second emigration he died in Vence, on March 19, 1955, an exile.

Béla Kun, who took over from Károlyi, was the commissar of foreign affairs, and commissar of war in the Hungarian soviet government and was the real power in the country.  After the fall of the dictatorship he emigrated first to Austria and then to the Soviet Union.  He became one of the leaders in the Comintern. His comrades arrested him and he was executed in 1939 (?). Thus he was murdered.

The lasting consolidation after the Hungarian Soviet Republic, the stable government and the restructuring of Hungarian economic life are associated with the name of Count István Bethlen. He was prime minister for more than ten years and after his resignation remained one of the leaders of Hungarian political life. During World War II, when Hungary was a German ally, he personified the orientation toward the Anglo-Americans and he was a strong advocate of a separate peace. After the occupation by the Soviet army he was taken to the Soviet Union where he died in 1947 (?). (Was he killed?)

After the Hungarian Soviet Republic, Miklós Horthy, the soldier-politician, rose to the highest legal position. He became the regent. It was in this position that he experienced the German occupation of the country and, after the unsuccessful attempt to gain an armistice on October 15, 1944, he handed over the power to Ferenc Szálasi. In exchange, he was permitted to leave the country together with his family. He eventually settled in Portugal and died in Estoril on February 9, 1957. He was an émigré.

Ferenc Szálasi, the Arrow Crossist Führer, was captured by the Americans at the end of the war and was returned to Hungary. The People’s Court sentenced him to death and he was executed in 1946.

After a short democratic intermezzo Mátyás Rákosi ruled over Hungarian politics.  A former commissar of the Hungarian Soviet regime fought his way to the peak of the Hungarian Communist organization while still in the Soviet Union. Beginning in 1945 he held high governmental positions, and, being a faithful follower of Stalin, aggressively endeavored to gather all powers into his hands. Achieving his goal he became, in effect, the dictator of the country and the most inhuman years of the Hungarian Communist experiment are linked to his name. The waves of the Soviet de-Stalinization reached Hungary and at the beginning of July 1956 he was relieved of his position as first secretary of the Party. He departed for the Soviet Union. In 1962 he was stripped of membership in the Party. He died in 1971 in Gorky, today’s Nizhny-Novgorod. He thus was an exile.

The fall of Rákosi bought his political adversary, Imre Nagy, to power. The 1956 Revolution handed Imre Nagy the prime ministership, which he had already held between 1953 and 1955. Because of stance for a democratic political system and for national independence, he was brought to trial after the failure of the revolution. He was sentenced to death and executed in June 1958. He was murdered.

The leader of the country was now János Kádár who assumed the key position in November 1956. He carried the full political responsibility at the time of Imre Nagy’s trial and execution. Until May 1988 he was the leader of the communist Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party which monopolized Hungarian politics. Not long after Imre Nagy and other executed leaders of the 1956 Revolution were ceremoniously reburied. Kádár died in 1898. He and his system came to end at the same time.

It can be stated without exaggeration that the above list is shocking and tragic. The stories do not end with death, mainly because the way in which most of them came about.

Tisza was buried in the family crypt in Geszt. The crypt was broken into by unknown vandals in the 1980s and the skull of the count was taken. We still do not have an explanation for this bizarre event. Count Károlyi’s remains were brought back to Hungary in 1962. Nobody knows where Kun is buried.

Count Bethlen was re-interred in 1994 not far from the grave of Count Lajos Batthyány, the first Hungarian prime minister to suffer a martyr’s death. Horthy’s remains were brought back home in 1993 to rest in Kenderes. The re-interment caused considerable turmoil because seven of the current ministers attended as a gesture of respect. The reinterment became a major political issue.

Rákosi’s remains were returned very quietly and were buried in the Farkasrét cemetery, considered to be the resting place for representatives of the “Popular Front.”

Imre Nagy was buried as a criminal under enormously undignified conditions. His re-interment on June 16, 1989, was truly the symbolic end of the Kádár regime.

Kádár was buried in the Kerepesi Road cemetery, which had been the cemetery of the leading personalities for over a hundred years. They found a place for him there in the Workers’ Movement plot, close to the Pantheon of the Workers’ Movement.

It is to be hoped that the dead will not be moved again and that they will rest in peace. The fact that they all were re-interred suggests that their death and its circumstances and its political contexts caused unrest and the feeling of an unresolved situation. This is why there had to be a reassessment.

The apparent need for post facto correction of all these “irregularities” and unresolved issues were both sensed and recognized. These individuals represented eras that needed reexamination. They also indicated major personal tragedies. Regardless for how long these men were in power they were unable to control their life with any degree of serenity and, while they were guiding a country and a nation, they became helpless pawns to their fate.

One could say that the Fate was the fate of the country and that the actors only symbolized the course of events.  In some respect this is obviously correct.  A person’s life is always more incidental than the life of the country or of society. Just because the Dualist system was coming to an end it did not mean that Tisza’s murder became inevitable. If, for example, the Communist Béla Kun emigrates to the Soviet Union it does not ensue as a matter of course that he will be executed. (It did not happen to Mátyás Rákosi.) If Hungary loses the World War it is not an inevitable consequence that its erstwhile prime minister, who resigned in 1931, is taken to the Soviet Union to perish there. It can therefore not be said that these men just “depicted” the turns of fate of the country.  No, these are all very personal fates but which, when put together as a series, do develop a certain mystique. Predestination is manifested in the not even always rational repetitiveness. Power, at least in Hungary in the twentieth century, makes its possessors into alarmingly unfortunate people.

Interestingly but understandably, this power-linked fate contributed to the somber cultural coloration of the Hungarian nation-religion. Here the hero and the traitor are equally miserable.  Here the representatives of both good and evil eventually come to ill fortune. Here reality becomes surrealism and surrealism becomes reality.

In my opinion, the cultural context of the Hungarian nation-religion was fundamentally affected by this experience. The opening characteristics, gender roles, fear and underdog psychology remained, were preserved and even coalesced.

The gender separation which made the nation masculine and the country feminine and the repeated rape of Lady Hungaria gave rise to a frustration that was severe, not admitted and poorly treated. The need for compensation might have risen from fear and it was the underdog psychology which led to the glorification of failure.

All this could be measured and became manifest in the political implementation of the nation-religion, i.e. nationalism. It was there that it could be ascertained whether illusions could become reality or not.




I must preface my comments with two claims. One is that I view the Hungarian nation-religion as a historical success. As I had indicated, the nation- religion is a secular faith and identity. It is fully formed and has acquired a structure.  It has functioned and is functioning.  Just as in the case of any other country where the people became a nation, it was the nation-religion that created the image of a historically novel type of community. It developed its own characteristic flavor. I consider this a success because if it has a separate identity it must become different.

The other claim is that I consider the history of Hungarian nationalism to be fundamentally a history of failure. Nationalism, in my opinion, is identity politics, or rather, politics. Consequently it is measured by its ability to convert the values and interests created by the national identity (nation-religion) into successful practice. Can it elastically adapt to changing circumstances? This means, can it create a feeling of simple proportion between its goals and the pressures of circumstances? This manifestation could also be called a readiness to compromise in successfully pursuing its interests. In my view Hungarian nationalism became a history of failure because its goals where illusions and because it clung to its goals in an illusory fashion. By doing this it made itself into a reality and therefore it became a notable history of failure.

I would like to soften the coarseness and the summary nature of my statement. Not only because in its nakedness it is misleading but also because in a historical sense it is not uniformly valid during the various time periods.

Hungarian nationalism had a very favorable start. Initially, it endeavored to create a nation-religion and attempted to assure its political realization. We call this period the “Age of Reform.” In essence, at this time, everything that had to happen did happen and what Hungarian nationalism accomplished and what over time proved to be irreversible, became a lasting success.

A few examples. In order to create a Hungarian cultural identity the national language had to be renewed. Enthusiastic intellectuals accomplished this but to give language legal powers, i.e. making it an official language, became a political task and was not accomplished until 1844.[5]

For the identification of the nation-religion the national colors, red, white and green, were required. They evolved about the same time and it was an Act of 1848 that linked Hungary to the colors. It had a message and the three colors, entered into law on the French model, carried an intrinsic value that was well recognized at the time. In order, the three colors mean strength, faithfulness, and hope. These three values, largely forgotten today, are the Holy Trinity of Hungarian identity.[6]

The new modern concept of nation evolved, replaced the former ”Natio Hungarica ” of the nobility and defined the new structure as a community of Hungarian culture and freedom. The 1848 Kossuth song “Long Live Hungarian Freedom, Long Live the Country” summarizes it very succinctly. These intellectual and political endeavors of the Age of Reform became enacted in 1848 and the concept of Hungarian freedom included the compulsory manumission.

The church of Hungarian nation-religion got under way with the thought about the creation of a modern Hungarian state, and political activity. The breakthrough in this area also came in 1848. In the history of the country there was popular representation for the first time and there was also a responsible government for the first time.[7] There had to be, of course, substantial compromises to achieve what we might call independent Hungarian statehood, but compared to the past these were significant advances and the participants could well consider these as the successes of Hungarian nationalism.

I do not wish to describe the Age of Reform as more beautiful and better than necessary and I do not wish to suggest that this segment of the past had an esthetic grandeur. The era had its downside, there was considerable selfish behavior and naiveté, illusionism and stupidity frequently masquerading as national endeavors.

In my view, this is all beside the point. The important matter is to ask what did the participants set as their goal and did they achieve it with lasting effect?

The goal was the creation of a nation. They would not have called this a nation-religion and they would have said that they just wished to give humanity a nation. It was their goal that this endeavor be institutionalized and enacted into law. They attained both of their goals in such a way that they became irreversible. The had faith in it, they accomplished it, They had enough strength, loyalty and hope.  It all became red, white and green.

This is why I believe that the starting period of Hungarian nationalism was successful.  Realization of the goals set at the time attest to the validity of my claim.

The Age of Reform, however, is only the beginning of the story. The successful beginning is no warranty that the subsequent history will also be successful. Yet, the history of Hungarian nationalism which began at that time, is still continuing.




I will stop here for a moment to make a content-methodology comment.

It is evident that as we advance in time nation-religion and particularly nationalism begin to show an increasingly complex and complicated picture. This is partly due to the fact that as the process becomes extended more participants and generations become interested in it and, naturally, they all wish to endow it with their own coloration. The conditions and the concrete situations also change and this enriches the potential reactive and responsive curriculum of nationalism.

Knowing the increasing multiplicity, I wish to simplify the problem in some of its aspects. If I consider nationalism as a political manifestation, then for me politics becomes the important arena. In this area I will consider those issues as determinant which can be grasped as representing the mainstream of the particular period.

The Age of Reform and 1848-49 have left a heritage for Hungarian nationalism. The Hungarian nation-religion became increasingly fixed but could nevertheless be enlarged. It immediately incorporated the 1848-49 Revolution and the War of Independence and made the principal personalities instant members of the national iconostasis. The memory of Petőfi became surrounded by legends, Kossuth became the nation’s savior as early as the autumn of 1848. 1848-49 became the emotional turning point of the nation-religion – it became a mass faith.

This led to a direct political inheritance and it did so with axiomatic vigor.

Hungary’s territorial unity and integrity became the unquestionably basic tenet of Hungarian nationalism. This had not existed before for several hundred years but now became an axiom. The other basic tenet was that Hungary had to be governed and directed by Hungarians. According to the third basic tenet this could only be achieved if the country was… The word evidently needed here is “independent.”

Yet the conclusion, which seems intellectually and emotionally logical, falters because of the historical power equations. It falters because the political experiment, conceived from the now axiomatic tenets of Hungarian nationalism, led to a civil war with some of the other nationalities. The Hungarians could have defeated these nationalities but against the armed might of the Habsburgs and the Romanovs there was no hope. Hungarian nationalism had become a reality but here and now it came face to face with a reality over which it had no control.

The frontal clash did not lead to the abandonment of the axioms. It came about that 1848-49 and the strength, loyalty and hope associated with the basic tenets enabled Hungarian nationalism to achieve everything, or almost everything, it desired.

This “almost everything” was the compromise of 1867. The territorial unity of the country was established. Hungary was ruled by Hungarians. They announced: “Nationalities did and could live here but in a political sense there was only one Hungarian nation.” Yet, Hungary did not become independent.

The lack of independence became manifest in several areas. The country had a common ruler with the other parts of the Habsburg empire. It had no foreign policy. This, incidentally, was not made legally possible by the 1848 structure and hence the first responsible Hungarian government did not have a minister of foreign affairs.  It did not have its own currency because the same currency was used throughout the entire Monarchy. The army was joint and the Hungarian army [honvédség] was in an auxiliary role even though the Hungarian government had a minister of war. Hungarian economy existed in symbiosis with Austria and this had more advantages than disadvantages for the country.

Hungarian nationalism could score a major triumph in the Compromise. It permanently reached the outer limits in the area of implementing its political axioms. To accomplish this, it was essential to gather under its wings the nationalities which constituted a majority of the population and which were building their own nation-religion and nationalism.  Even though the Hungarians slowly became a majority, some of the nationalities had the backing of the neighboring countries. The Romanians had Romania and the Serbs had Serbia to support their demands. These were the shadows falling on the success of Hungarian nationalism.

The success of the ’67 nationalism generated energy and strength. It can be stated that almost everything hoped for was achieved and that everything was achieved that was achievable. The country grew economically and Hungarian culture was in full bloom. The only thing left for Hungarian nationalism was to protect all that it achieved. Its was its proof. The lack of independence, however, stimulated the development of another trend in nationalism which also became a mainstream. Vis-à-vis the power in control, it became the opposition.

Its basic demand was directed toward the third axiom, independence.  It referred to it as a constitutional law of opposition and it was so known.  In fact it was a nationalist type of opposition and was constitutional only in its form.  It argued that the Compromise and the limited sovereignty were insufficient and that it was a betrayal of the nation’s cause.  It claimed that the 1848 laws had to be adhered to and that, in their view, only the person of the ruler was shared between Austria and Hungary, i.e. there was only a personal union.  It was for this reason that they called themselves and the various party formations ’48-ers, or independents.

This form of nationalism appeared to be loyal, at least on the surface, because it accepted that that the House of Habsburg would rule over Hungary. In this way it distanced itself from 1849 move to dethrone. In fact it demanded something that conflicted in several areas with the political realities and the other axioms of Hungarian nationalism.[8]

First of all, 1848 did not represent a personal union state of affairs and legally it reflected a major compromise. Thus, as mentioned earlier, the government had no minister of foreign affairs.

Secondly, it was an open question whether the Hungarian’s political supremacy in Hungary could be maintained in view of the popular majority of the nationalities and their backing by the neighboring countries of their kind.

Thirdly, ’48 was a learning experience for both the Habsburgs and for the Hungarians and it was the common acceptance of the lessons that led to the Compromise. Why did the independents believe that the Habsburgs had to make greater adjustments while they could get away with less?

This, however, was only one side of the coin. The alternative nationalism proved to be totally useless in power politics. It was in a position of power only once in its entire history, between 1906 and 1910 and at that time it achieved none of the goals it set for itself. It entered history as a complete failure.

Its expertise was limited to raising its political impotence and its cult to a popular feeling and to an existence that could not be questioned. It was in this way that it created its own reality.

It built on the underdog feelings that were a part of the Hungarian nation-religion culture. It believed that we could rise above our present situation if… we were not oppressed, if Vienna would not dictate everything and if there were no Hungarians who approved of this and who were therefore bad Hungarians. The underdog feeling became a moral category and the Compromise became a betrayal.

The fear motif gave rise to a false image which overestimated the Hungarian position of strength and which even went so far as to dream of a Hungarian realm of thirty million people.

Filtering it through their own nationalism, they wished to turn the Hungarian nation-religion into a converting religion and, from their position of power, made an attempt to bring this plan to practical implementation. They wished to turn the nationalities into Hungarians.  Needless to say that politically this endeavor was a complete failure unless we consider it a success that the endeavor gave an impetus and increased strength to the nationalism of the minorities.

The greatest source of energy for the alternative nationalism arose from its emotional content. This emotional content was composed of several elements. Opposition was important in itself but if it was given an anti-Habsburg stigma it could be listed with the hallowed Hungarian independence traditions. Emotional legitimacy was strengthened by keeping in close contact with Kossuth who became the Messiah of the Hungarian nation-religion, even though, ever since 1849 he gradually lost his grasp on political realities. Kossuth, having been turned into a Messiah, recognized his own hallowing and the lack of a political arena and placed himself into the position of a prophet, representing the point of view of complete independence and dethronement. For this reason he always emphasized his being apart from the domestic independents. He linked democratic political values to his own nationalism because thus he could soften the unacceptable coarseness of two of axioms of the nationalism that he had created, Hungarian supremacy and the territorial integrity of the country.  Kossuth’s emotional impact was not affected by the isolation imposed by the realpolitik and just as in enshrining ’48 on the flags, in Kossuth’s case the true facts had no place.

The emotional identification was so strong, however that, in the period after the Compromise, in the areas inhabited by Hungarians the independence nationalists regularly obtained majorities at the elections.

To have this emotional strength it also needed to have a ’67 nationalism which was emotionally arid. The ’67-ers could only bring up the realistically possible in their arguments, talk about economic progress and civilizing innovations but were unable to create an identity that was acceptable on an emotional level.  It is not possible to love a compromise. One can accept it but it is very difficult to identify oneself with it.

This situation had several consequences. First, everybody attempted to behave rationally because the consolidated realpolitik situation favored this comportment. The independents also acted within a proper framework and also made compromises. Not so much in words as in deeds.

Secondly, being of two minds became an organic component of the Hungarian world. The Hungarians soberly accepted what there was but, after a few glasses of wine, toasted Kossuth. Long live Francis Joseph, long live Lajos Kossuth! This became the frequently voiced credo of the two-faced Hungarian nationalism.

Thirdly, rationality and emotional identification found themselves on two opposing sides which meant that one could enthuse about the irrational and that the rational could always be denigrated. I could also say that the existing could always be held in low esteem while the imaginary and illusionary could be held in high honor. This peculiarity made the “monotone droning of complaints” culturally possible and acceptable. The term coined by László Arany, who was the creator of the hero of the mirage, the harebrained Balázs Hübele, could also be described as the culture of complaints.

Fourthly, the interrelated coexistence of the two arms of Hungarian nationalism made it impossible that they be rejuvenated, individually or in combination. Speaking figuratively one could say that they were “each other’s captives” and this made it impossible to rethink the axioms according to the demands of the changing times. The nationalism of the ‘67-ers became rigid in preserving the status quo, while that of the ’48-ers became pickled in their political impotence. This was not a stimulus for the revision of the to-some-extent mutually held basic tenets but only for both sides to compensate for their emotional and political deficits with intransigence. This is shown clearly when Emperor and King Charles in October 1918, in the last days of the Monarchy, belatedly announced the move to a federal system pertaining only to Austria, because the Hungarian nationalisms of ’67and ’48 converged in their opposition to such a solution for Hungary.

When nationalist reconsiderations started, they affected mostly the concept of being “Hungarian” and some of these became important only at a later date. (I am thinking here mainly of the racial interpretation of anti-Semitism which was introduced by the Antiszemita Párt [Anti-Semite Party] and of the Christian interpretation which was expressed by the Katolikus Néppárt [Catholic People’s Party].)

The two varieties of Hungarian nationalisms held on to each other, would not let go and wasted all their energies on this activity.

Fifthly, both versions of nationalism paid societal-national dividends. The Hungarian nation-religion did not work as a forceful converting movement but, as a voluntary “conversion,” gave many people an opportunity to become Hungarians. The German speaking Budapest gradually became Hungarian speaking. The German and Czech workers became Hungarians. Masses of Jews became Hungarians as well and consequently, after 1900, the Jews claiming to be Hungarians became a majority within the Jewry in the Hungary of the day.

The most important consequence, however, was that Hungarian nationalism managed to inveigle itself into an intellectual and political arena where it became increasingly possible in several areas to have a frontal encounter with external realities. It became a reality turned into an illusion which lost all its flexibility. It became a loser. The story that started as a triumph became increasingly a failure. This was not entirely the world’s fault.




Following the Great War one of the axioms of Hungarian nationalism, independence, became reality. It happened with the assistance of the Great Powers. The Habsburgs disappeared and so did the union with Austria.

What appeared to be an illusion for a long time became reality. Hungarian nationalism would have reason to rejoice and would have a reason to view its efforts of many decades to be historically justified. Yet Hungarian nationalism did not rejoice.  In fact, it experienced the coming of independence as a disaster.

It experienced it as a disaster because its two other axioms were ignored by reality. Historic Hungary broke apart and its territorial integrity was a thing of the past. Consequently, Hungarian superiority also disappeared. In the mutilated Hungary, Hungarians could rule only over other Hungarians. In the neighboring countries, however, the nationalities formerly ruled by the Hungarians, could now rule over the Hungarians who lived there. The nationalism of the neighbors triumphed over Hungarian nationalism.

Knowing the intellectual-political framework of Hungarian nationalism, this could be viewed as though the cultural milieu of the nation-religion had become living reality.

The fears and the ill fate came true. Lady Hungaria was raped repeatedly and by a number of rapists. The Hungarian underdog was truly “way under.” The two varieties of Hungarian nationalism, the ’48-er and ’67-er, both of which evolved into mainstreams jointly and separately, came to a frontal clash at Trianon. It would have been possible to rethink the entire matter. The Hungarian nation-religion offered references for that.

In the “Himnusz,” which evolved into a national prayer, Hungary is not mentioned. The poet speaks only of the Hungarians. It is for them that he asks for and demands, God’s blessings. Only they can sin and atone, because they are human. In the “Nemzeti dal,” the Hungarians say,


By the God of the Hungarians

We swear,

We swear that captives

We’ll no longer be!


The God of the Hungarians is none other liberty. The Hungarian community is a community of free people, at least in the dogmas of the nation-religion. It is the liberty of the Hungarians that makes the country the homeland. Being Hungarian is simply having an identity and the political basis for this identity is liberty.

Such an approach, related to the nation-religion, could have made it possible to rethink the principles of Hungarian nationalism. This reconsideration should have started during the second half of the nineteenth century and then, perhaps, it might have been possible to turn these dominant ideas into reality.

Yet it was precisely the opposite that occurred. The previous cultural content of Hungarian nationalism, still trying to function as a mainstream activity, seemed to be justified in retrospect and the political and intellectual reactions could be formulated in this spirit.

If the nationalism of the nationalities triumphed, the answer was to flaunt Hungarian cultural superiority. If historic Hungary was dismembered, the answer was that the formerly existing political unit was greater than itself, it was a unit formed by nature itself.

Hungarian nationalism refused to relinquish any of its axioms. It declared, “No! No! Never!” Also, “Rump Hungary is not a country, greater Hungary is heaven!”  It said that, “If the world is God’s hat, Hungary is the flower on it.”[9] It said that it was a moral obligation to have faith and believe all this. It said that this faith gave it strength and hope. It said that one must believe in one God, one must believe in one homeland and in God’s eternal justice which was the same as Hungary’s resurrection. It was no longer a matter of the Hungarians referred to in the “Himnusz,” but of Hungary. It was no longer a matter of liberty building a community but of the eternal Divine justice.

Hungarian nationalism, replete with territorial revisionism, used the French example and created its own Alsace. In order to create a symbolic point of identification for the territorial losses it created the Transylvania myth and the Transylvania mythology.

It said that Transylvania was the real Hungary, completely ignoring the fact that since the eighteenth century Transylvania had a Romanian majority. The true Hungarian was the Székely and it was forgotten that in the nineteenth century the Székelys were the first large group of immigrants from Hungary, because their fate seemed to be a matter of indifference to the Hungarian government. The “Székely Himnusz” became incorporated into the Hungarian ritual and myth according to which a handful of Székelys stand in the great tempest.

Transylvania became fashionable in Hungary, being of Transylvanian heredity added to a person’s value. It was forgotten that the Hungarian aristocracy had traditionally looked down upon Transylvanian aristocracy.

Transylvania was promoted to become the political and cultural depository of Hungarian history, while for some incomprehensible reason, Imre Mikó disappeared from Hungarian national memory even though he was both the Széchenyi and the Deák of Transylvania.

Erdély became the moral, historical and esthetic justification of revisionism. The traditional, i.e. the backward, was made into an esthetic concept and became the real Hungarian character. For all this we had a direct mandate from the Almighty.

Faithful to its first axiom, Hungarian nationalism set the reestablishment of Historic Hungary as its goal. It did much, very much, for the practical achievement of this goal. In many of its details this activity was not without results. It convinced a sizable portion of the Hungarian people of its validity and after 1938 it recovered considerable territory in four separate steps. Not all, but much. Thus, there were naturally more nationalities in Hungary and thus it was again possible to flaunt Hungarian superiority. Not like in the past but nevertheless hopefully convincing.

Yet, shadows were cast on the successes of revisionism. While the first Vienna Arbitration Award of 1938 that returned the Hungarian inhabited parts of Slovakia was internationally recognized, the subsequent territorial restorations had very limited international support and the last one took place during a war where it became likely that Hungary might not be on the winning side.

The partial revisions of the mutilated country became associated with the illusionism of a total revision and with the pragmatism of illusionism. Much pragmatism was needed for the partial successes. There was also much pragmatism required to make the concepts of revisionism adapt to the changes in the international situation. This was not very successful although an attempt was made. And, if somebody felt that the concept of revision, held sacred by him, in no way stood the test of reality, he could always choose suicide as indeed it happened in the case of Count Pál Teleki.

Revision was only one of the reactions of Hungarian nationalism that aimed to reinforce its unchanging axioms. The other reaction was a redefinition of being Hungarian using specific criteria. This redefinition actually began in the last third of the nineteenth century but became truly significant only between the two wars.

According to the second axiom, the Hungarians were entitled to their supremacy in their own country. As long as there were a number of nationalities living in Hungary this was not a problem for the Hungarian nationalists. They considered those to be Hungarians who claimed to be because there were a number of people who did not consider themselves Hungarians at all.  This was the group over which the Hungarians could rule. There was an excess of such people and this was the reason for the forceful nation-religion proselytizing.             All those who wished to become Hungarians on their own initiative were viewed by Hungarian nationalism as assets of great value. The volunteer converts increased the ratio of Hungarians and their conversion seemed to show that the Hungarians were entitled to political leadership by virtue of their cultural superiority. The voluntary conversions were largely limited to Germans and Jews. For this reason, restrictive attitudes were not in the interest of Hungarian nationalism even though these “conversions” were viewed with considerable prejudice.

When Hungary became small and independent, the nationalities largely disappeared from society and the image of internal ethnic enmity ceased to exist. Without an image of internal enmity, however, nationalism like any identity viewing itself as a collective function is a one-armed giant.

For nationalism the image of internal enmity means that a group is excluded from the concept of nation, of being Hungarian.  If people belonging to a group were on the inside they had to be pushed out in order to legitimize and energize the fight for supremacy and the triumph of this fight. What had been a welcome goal suddenly turned and became the opposite. The Jews had to be excluded from the magic circle of the nation-religion.[10]

Based on its own history and on its axioms, which had become illusionary, Hungarian nationalism decided to do this. In this it had much help. It was helped by international models and internationally existing arguments. It was helped by the fact that “Jew” could be used metaphorically and the term could be applied to everything that was disliked. It was further assisted by the fact that anti-Semitism could be anti-capitalist and anti-communist. The Jew could be the personification of both capital and anti-capital. It could be the symbolic figure of internationalism.  It could naturally also be the target of the anti-Judaism so deeply embedded in Christianity.

I am aware that anti-Semitism is not a Hungarian invention.  But here and now I am trying to find an explanation for the reason why Hungarian nationalism endeavored to redefine the concept of “nation” on the basis of anti-Semitism. For me the intellectually important organizational concept here is not anti-Semitism but Hungarian nationalism.  I must discover why anti-Semitism, which was not originally a part of the frank Hungarian nationalism, suddenly became a manifestation which was organically attached it to it and became a fixed component of it. Because this is what had happened.

Some of the manifestations which could not be considered to be part of the mainstream prior to the war suddenly became precedents.

The definition of a Hungarian suddenly included the term Christian. Practically this meant to be non-Jewish. The one who is not a Jew is a Hungarian. More accurately, the one who is not of the Jewish faith is a Hungarian.

This did not affect people of German, or by chance of Slav, origin who had become Hungarians. Between the two wars they could become anything, including generals and prime ministers. The mainstream of Hungarian nationalism did not wish to exclude them from the nation. It is a different issue that starting in the 1930s some of these Germans responded to the call of “dissimilation” and began to refer to themselves as “ethnic Germans.” This was the reason for the numerical increase in the Volksbund membership.

The use of the word Christian in its anti-Semitic connotation took shape in the legislation limiting the access to social-educational opportunities for those of Jewish religion.  The “Christian national” regime could be called an anti-Semite regime. As far as its content was concerned this is a more accurate definition.

The structural fusion of Hungarian nationalism and anti-Semitism could be only temporarily loosened by a few men who were in a position of power and who saw its bad aspects.  One such man was Count István Bethlen.

The trend of the movement proved to be unalterable and finally reached a highly differentiated state extending to the deprivation of rights, fortune, and finally life. At this point being a Jew was no longer a religious matter but one of descent and race.

Accordingly, independently of identity or religion, Hungarian and Jew became two opposing concepts where it became the Hungarian’s obligation to rule, restrict and in every way dominate the Jew. He was entitled to this by the fact that he was a Hungarian and the other was a Jew. This, of course, is the classic example of frustration and compensation. The Jews were the ones against whom Hungarian nationalism could become triumphant.

It became the goal of Hungarian nationalism to make life impossible for the Jews, depriving them of their rights and oppress them. The axiom of Hungarian supremacy thus completely and totally turned against the freedom-centered dogma of the nation-religion. It did, of course, create for itself a new nation-religion that was based on a myth of pagan origins.

They did much, very much, to achieve their goal. They addressed the problem pragmatically including assisting in the physical liquidation of the Jews whom the sovereign Hungarian state had already humiliated and deprived of their property. Hungarian nationalism reached the point where from its own free will it made the mutilation of the nation into a reality.

Mutilated nation, mutilated country. This is not an illusion, it is a reality of the absurd. There is no reason to speak of a success story.




Whatever the actual constitutional situation was, the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century were the age of Hungarian nationalism. This era reached its end.  Its fragments survived and are living among us but the nationalist era is over. What is left of it is not the same even though occasionally it appears to be.

The nationalist era evolved its axioms and did everything to turn them into reality.  Regardless of how hard it tried, it never really succeeded. This allows us to conclude that in its entirety it was illusionary.  From another perspective it proved to be the strongest possible reality although other realities were even stronger.

The age of nationalism disappeared because historic Hungary no longer existed, Hungarian supremacy disappeared and the independence of the country was also lost. What remained of the country, it first came under German and then Russian occupation and the Hungarians came to a position of subservience. Hungarian nationalism lost everything it considered important and could not consider anything important other than what it had lost.  This is why it is a loser.

The nation-religion, however, never disappeared, not even for a moment. Its success is unbroken even though its intensity and strength changed. Not everybody believes it firmly but everybody believes in it sufficiently so that it is this practice of the nation-religion that makes them view themselves as Hungarians. Generally the believers are not overly pious but the true non-believer is very rare.

It is an interesting affair: what is imaginary, like the nation-religion, is very well, thank you. Its strength varies. But isn’t this true for everything? Policy made into reality appear to be determinant but then it falls apart as though it never hade any strength at all. It appears that spiritual constructions are more lasting than power or political ones.

The popular writer Sándor Márai noted somewhere in his World War II diary that somebody could do the biggest favor for the Hungarians if he could make them believe that they are no bigger than they really are.

I agree.

[1] The concept of the nation is interpreted by many and in a variety of ways.  In the international literature, the ideas of Benedikt Anderson are the closest to my way of thinking. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities.  Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 1991). The term “nation-religion” was used by Elemér Hankiss as the title and the subject of an essay written in 1984. See Elemér Hankiss, “Nemzetvallás” [Nation-Religion], in Monumentumok az első világháborúból [Monuments from World War I], ed. Ákos Kovács (Budapest: Corvina, 1991), pp. 64-90.  It was in this way that he interpreted the concept of “civil religion” as it appears in American publications in the field and applied it to the European-Central European context.  See Robert N. Bellah. Varieties of Civil Religion (San Francisco: Harper,1980); M.W. Hughey, Civil Religion and Moral Order (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983); Charles S. Liebman, Civil Religion in Israel (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983); and G.A. Kelley, Politics and Religious Consciousness in America (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1984).

I am very much in favor of the ideas of Clifford Geertz, the great representative of American cultural anthropology, according to whom it is unnecessary and even impossible to give a general theoretical framework to interpretation.  The success of interpretation is the function of the sensitivity of the specific situation and of the specific individual, meaning that we either understand something or we do not. Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (New York: Basic Books, 1973).

[2] Anthony D. Smith wrote three comprehensive books about the nature of the nation. The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford: Blackwood, 1986); National Identity (London: Penguin Books, 1991); and Nationalism and Modernism.  A Critical Survey of Recent Theories of Nations and Nationalism (London: Routledge, 1998). He sees the nation as a carrier of modern culture. He considers the flag, the anthem, the emblems, the holidays, the customs, the national currency, the oath, the parades, the concept of the national area, the ancestral myths, the national dress and the linguistic codes as parts of the symbols of the nation. The so-called sacred sites are also part of the picture.  His approach of considering the nation as modern culture is important but differs from my historical perceptions and my ideas about nation-religion. His interpretation renders the concept of the nation practically limitless while my concept of the nation-religion is capable of being limited to essentials.

[3] In the international literature the ideas of George L. Mosse are probably the closest to mine. See George L. Mosse, The Nationalization of the Masses.  Political Symbolism and Mass Movements in Germany from the Napoleonic Wars through the Third Reich (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1975). Mosse deals primarily with the needs of mass politics and relies less on the religious analogy. He uses the term “political symbolism” in lieu of “symbolic politics.” His areas of investigation are primarily within the esthetizing power of political symbolism. So far as the historically analyzed dimensions are concerned, they are furnished primarily by national monuments and by mass movements, including the contributions of the workers’ movements and of Nazism.  As regard Mosse’s analysis, see R. A. S. Nye, “George Mosse and Political Symbolism―The language of cultural crisis,” In Political Symbolism in Modern Europe.  Essays in Honor of George L. Mosse, ed. Seymour Drescher, David Sabean, and A. Sharlinn (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1982).  See also W. Siemann, “Fahnen, Bilder, und Medaillen. Medien politischer Kommunikation im 19. Jahrhundert,”  Socialwissentschaftliche Informationen 15, no 3 (1986).

[4] I have written a separate monograph on the Hungarian nation-religion and on its symbolic political projection. This monograph also contains an international comparison. See András Gerő, Imagined History. Chapters from Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Hungarian Symbolic Politics (Boulder, CO: Social Science Monographs, 2006). The train of thoughts of the text is based on the topos analyzed in this book.

[5] The official state language status of Hungarian increasingly became reality from 1790 to 1844. The following statutes were the stations of language policy: Act XVI of 1791 ordered that no foreign language should be used for official matters and that Hungarian should be preserved.  Act VII of 1792 addressed the teaching and usage of Hungarian.  Act IV of 1805 addresses the use of Hungarian.  Act VII of 1830 addresses the use of the national language. The Acts III, of 1836, VI of 1840 and II of 1844 address the Hungarian language and nationality. Our current information is summarized in Géza Berczy, Loránd Benkő, and Jolán Berrár,  A Magyar nyelv története [The History of the Hungarian Language] (Budapest: Tankönvkiadó, 1989).

[6] “Act XXI of 1848.  On the national colors and coat of arms.  Para. 1.  The national colors and the national coat of arms are restored to their ancient standing. Para. 2. Therefore, the tricolor cockade having again become the popular symbol it is mandated that the national flag and the national coat of arms be displayed on all public buildings on all holidays as well as on all Hungarian vessels.  Furthermore the attached parts having been left their freedom it is hereby granted that their own colors and coat of arms may be displayed alongside of the nation’s colors and emblems.”  In Magyar törvénytár [Hungarian Code of Laws] 1836-1868 évi törvénycikkek [Annual Acts 1836-1868] (Budapest, 1896), p. 244.

[7] Act III and V, 1948.

[8] This matter is analyzed in my book The Hungarian Parliament 1867-1918. A Mirage of Power (Boulder, CO: Social Science Monographs, 1997). The train of thoughts in the present volume is based on the above book.

[9] For revision in the national consciousness see Jenő Gergely and Pál Pritz,  A trianoni Magyarország 1918-1945 [Trianon Hungary 1918-1945] (Budapest: Vince Kiadó, 1998);  Jenő Gergely, Gömbös Gyula. Politikai pályakép [Gyula Gömbös. A Political Career Model] (Budapest: Vince Kiadó 2001); Ferenc Pölöskei,  Horthy és hatalmi rendszere (1919-1922) [Horthy and His System of Power, 1919-1921]  (Budapest: Kossuth Kiadó, 1977);  Tanulmányok a Magyar Radió történetéből 1925-1945  [Studies from the History of the Hungarian Radio] (Budapest: Tömegkommunikációs Kutatóközpont, 1975) The essays of Ferenc Glatz and Miklós Stier analyze the pertinent political and ideological reflections. An original and plastic image of the narrower interpretation of national consciousness is shown through the activities of one person by Mária Ormos, Egy Magyar mediavezér: Kozma Miklós. Pokoljárás a mediában és a politikában (1919-1941) [A Hungarian Media Tsar: Miklós Kozma. Probing Hell in the Media and in Politics, 1919-1941] (Budapest: PolgArt, 2000), 2 vols; Balázs Ablonczy, Pál Teleki (1879-1941). The Life of a Controversial Hungarian Politician (Boulder, CO: Social Science Monographs, 2006); and Miklós Zeidler, Ideas on Territorial Revision in Hungary, 1920-1945 (Boulder, CO: Social Science Monographs: 2007).

[10] The most comprehensive work on this subject: János Gyurgyák, A zsidókérdés Magyarországon.  Politikai eszmetörténet [The Jewish Question in Hungary. A Political History of Ideas] (Budapest: Osiris, 2001); and Tamás Ungvári, The “Jewish Question” in Europe: The Case of Hungary (Boulder, CO: Social Science Monographs, 2000).