Friday, March 6, 2015


At the end of September 2014, when I sat down to write this entry, my inclination was to leave it blank, because of the risk that anything posted online about Hungary would become subject to an Internet Tax that was about to be introduced. An Internet tax is similar to the Restaurant tax that exists in the USA, where bar, café and restaurant owners bill you for the food that you have eaten and the drinks consumed, but not for the staff who prepare and serve it; they do not bill you for these, as they do not pay them; it is not their responsibility to pay them; it is you, the customer, who is expected to pay them, with a gratuity as it is still called - gratuity comes from the Latin "gratis" and means "without charge" or "free", as in "voluntary", though apparently Americans are unaware of this - though in fact the amount is normally included in your bill and, unless you look carefully, generally also offered in the form of advice elsewhere on the bill, so that you can pay it twice. Internet tax, like Restaurant tax, is categorised as "con", "swindle" and "scam" in most dictionaries, though strangely the Restaurant tax is the one tax that Americans never try to avoid paying (a sentimental nostalgia for the morality that used to exist in that country, from the days before AynRandism eliminated altruism and overthrew Judeo-Christian values).

However, just before October 2014 came to an end, the Hungarian leaders realised the damage to their re-election hopes that would be done by introducing such a tax, and calculated that the income from it now was not worth the loss of income later (most tax revenues in Hungary end up in the pockets of the leadership eventually), and so this "valuable contribution to the development of culture and civilised society" has been dropped, and an entry in this blogbook may safely be written.

Hungary is a former participant in the Soviet Union, whose voluntary inclusion was so highly regarded in the Kremlin that, for their 1956 membership renewal celebrations, the Kremlin sent its entire military to the march-past. Prior to this, Hungary had been a kingdom for a thousand years, though latterly it was associated with Austria as Austro-Hungary, and note that Austro comes first in that term, and Hungary second. The re-drawing of the maps of the world by the victors in World War 1 reconstituted Hungary behind somewhat reduced borders – a mere 39% of its former territory being retained, which meant somewhat less than half of its population. Then came the Soviet era, when it really didn’t matter anyway, we are all global comrades now, that kind of thing…

Hungary's decision to remove the barbed-wire fence along its border with Austria was hailed in newspapers and western Parliaments as "the first tear in the iron curtain", a phrase I feel the need to question, as a tear is a tear, but a tearing down is a tearing down, and anyway no one shed any tears when it happened, including the Hungarian Communist Party, because when the rest of the Iron Curtain disintegrated and it became the Republic of Hungary, guess who carried on running the show; though to be fair they did agree to elections in 1990, and accepted with dignity when they were torn apart by the voters. This was actually an astute move. Trying to build a country, and especially an economy, from the zero in which Moscow had left Hungary, was like trying to scale the Carpathian mountains on a velocipede; after years of dismal effort, that first freely elected government was just as freely diselected, and the Socialist Party came to power – with, how odd, most of the members of the old Communist Party in its ranks. The back-and-forth from left to right has gone on ever since, as has the gradual tendency towards Europe – Hungary joined NATO in 1999 and the EU four years later. Comrade Putin is well aware of these facts. Fortunately for Hungary, there are issues in the Crimea, Ukraine and Georgia occupying Comrade Putin at the moment, so another march-past in Budapest is probably still a decade or two away.

There is much more to Hungary, thankfully, than just Stalin, Kruschev and Putin. There is also the music of Franz Liszt and Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, and the writings of Antal Szerb, who wrote one of the strangest works of great literature anywhere in the world ("Journey by Moonlight" is its title), and Imre Kertész, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002, but of whom no one in the West has even heard, and this despite the splendid work of English translator Tim Wilkinson to make him better known. Speaking of Jews, Hungary also hosts the largest synagogue in Europe, and also the largest medicinal bath in Europe, the third largest church in Europe, the second largest abbey in the world, the second largest Baroque castle in the world, and the largest early Christian Necropolis outside Italy, all of which may suggest why Hungarians were not all that excited about becoming part of the atheist Soviet Union.

Marks for: 6

Marks against: 4

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
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The Argaman Press

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