Author Archives: András Hanák

A Broken Water Main

The latest mishap

A few days before Christmas, a water main broke in a suburb of Budapest paralysing the water supply of three municipalities: Érd, Diósd and Törökbálint.  The population of these suburbs has grown steadily over the last decade, testing the already inadequate and neglected infrastructure of utility and water supplies.  During the last three years, the population of Érd increased from 50,000 to 80,000 residents.  Breakdowns of the power and water supplies began to occur regularly.

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December’ Children

A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs

This post is dedicated to the many young girls and boys who no longer have their abode in good old Buda – to be clear: vajjon s mikor lészön jó Budában lakásom?

There is a joint on the Buda side of this town still under Turkish rule after more than four hundred and fifty years of Ottoman occupation.  It is easy to find this place if you wish to contemplate the future and conjure up the past.  Both can be productive endeavours.

The café or pub goes by the name of Murok, and you can find it on Turk Street just off Main Street.  It is not an orthodox Muslim joint as alcohol of great selection is being served here for the evening crowds.  Turkish sherbet, too, is served for the faithful.  Jews who drink booze are also welcome for Hanukah.  They get hot latkes, and on this day only they can pay with Hanukah gelt.  You can light the second Menora candle on this Friday.  There is a schism here, as it always is with these smart Jews, between those who light the second candle adjacent to the first one on the left side and those who light the second one on the opposite right side of the Menora.  These are important traditions.  We see adherents of both lighting methods here.

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A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing

Recently, I was asked to review a new Bill before the Hungarian Parliament, coined as ‘In Defence of Hungarian National Sovereignty’.  There is an urgency to approve this legislation, we are told by Government outlets, as the heat is on.  Hungary’s sovereignty is under attack by dark forces, and the country needs an adequate response to repel all attacks by external and internal forces.  The Government outlets do not miss to name the targets against whom the new law would be used in defence of Hungarian Sovereignty.  Internal dark forces are all opposition parties that in 2022 acquired financing from foreign sources through crowdfunding and petty cash contributions from Hungarians living and working abroad.  Of the evil forces in distant lands, large billboards in city centres and on highways portray two dark knights: one being no other than Ursula van der Leyen, a Conservative German politician, now President of the EU Commission, and the other is Alex Soros, son of Satan George Soros. The billboard’s message is very clear (all printed in caps): we Hungarians should not dance to the tunes of catchy music that these dark knights whistle into our (Sovereign) Ears.

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The Death of a DJ

Underground Music Man Zsolt Palotai

On the very day of the award ceremony of Budapest’s Pro Cultura Urbis Award, Zsolt Palotai (a.k.a. DJ Palotai) died suddenly at the age of 62.  He was one of the awardees, but could not attend the award ceremony.  He came to be known in Budapest as DJ Palotai, but he was not a traditional disc jockey.  Clearly not for those true boomers who came to know disc jockeys as entertainers in old-style discos playing disco genre – whatever that music is.  From bubble gum to Ra-Ra Rasputin, from Sugar Sugar to the Roof that mother fucker roof.

In the 1990s, DJ Palotai turned to alternative music, underground and techno (whatever techno is).  First, he began playing discs in a hangout called Tilos az Á (the Hungarian version of Trespassers W – for clues: W stands for ‘Will Be Prosecuted’).  Then he was associated with an underground or alternative radio station, Tilos Rádio (Forbidden Radio), where he could experiment with many new styles of music.

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The Birth of a City

We Take a Walk On the Bright Side

We do, from time to time, revisit the question: what kind of city is this?  We have discovered many dark sides of the city which is contemporary Hungarian landscape.

This time, let’s take a walk on the city’s bright side.

On a foggy November 17th day in the year 1873, forward-looking Hungarian magnates, ambitious merchants, and city elders decided that Buda, Óbuda and Pest should form one metropolis.  Budapest, a city of slightly less than two million residents now is almost as diverse as it was in 1873.  Almost – is the operative word here.  Germans and Jews, Serbs and Greeks, Armenians and Slovaks formed the majority of the 1873 population.  Soon each group began to assimilate and become Hungarian.  This process suffered setbacks and led to the dark days of Budapest’s Jewish community in 1944, as the leftover shoes on the bank of the Danube offer testimony to tragic events.

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The Beat Goes On

Dismissal from Paradise Corvinus

In my previous post, I touched on the dismissal of Professor Zoltán Ádám from Corvinus University.  Since the publication of that post, we have been informed of a number of new developments which show that Corvinus University is now on the attack.  In an orchestrated communications campaign, university big wigs are putting the blame on Professor Ádám, the whistleblower, who was let go for a lightweight or outright fabricated cause.  The spin factory spit out an interesting narrative.

The first output of the factory was a press release and followup interview with the new, transient Rector of Corvinus University. Both took the offensive in connection with spelling out the party line, why Professor Ádám was fired for cause.  The gist of this counteroffensive is that while Professor Ádám, in one case, opposed the waiver of a student’s disqualification for an exam, in another case, he knowingly approved, or simply acquiesced in granting a similar waiver to another student.  Since University communication and press releases specify neither the names of students involved nor the names of professors granting and denying this waiver, I try to use fictitious names for the readers to be able to follow the arguments of Rector Szabó.

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Dismissal of (Professor) Adam from Paradise Corvinus

The fate of the wistleblower

Corvinus University has fired Professor Zoltán Ádám on murky grounds that we are given to understand to be violations of internal university rules pertaining to co-operation.  As the Orban regime is confessedly a system of National Cooperation on the national level (NER is the acronym we use here in Hungary), non-cooperation may well be a valid ground for dismissal from the workplace.  University officials have stated that the termination of Professor Ádám’s employment for cause was ‘one hundred percent’ lawful. As we have expressed this in an earlier post, we have no reason to question the lawfulness of this action, and many other similar actions. The final say over lawfulness or lawlessness in this country is in the hands of those university big wigs who make, or simply implement, this very decision: the man must go.

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Some Commemorate to Remember, Some Remember to Forget

1956, Revolution and national holiday

On October 23, Hungarians commemorate the heroic revolt of the ‘people’ in 1956 against the Hungarian-Communist rule backed by the Soviet Union.

The revolt, which did enter the annals of history as the Revolution, had been crushed by Soviet tanks on November 4.  János Kádár was installed by Soviet party bosses as the new gauleiter; and thereafter, for almost a decade, the dark days of the Kadar regime loomed over this country.  In the weeks following the defeat of the revolt, more than 200,000 Hungarians left the country, mainly through Austria, to the many host countries that received the Hungarian ‘freedom fighters’ and simple refugees with open arms.  The Communist leader of the short-lived new Government, Imre Nagy, was tried for treason and hanged in June 1958.

I am at loss when I want to tell my foreign audience what specifically Hungarians do to commemorate this day.  Around 1989 and 1990 it was relatively clear – a revolt by the people against a brutal and oppressive regime.  Since then, the memory is fragmented.  This would be fine, as truth is fragmented in our world; however, the message of the 1956 Revolution is increasingly tailored to contemporary political agendas.


Recently, when Russia comes across as a decent supplier of oil and gas, the ugly historic record with Russia and the Soviet Union has been forgotten in the narrative of present-day Hungarian leadership and its supporters.  In sharp contrast to prior years, this year Viktor Orbán will not appear in public at a carefully orchestrated public demonstration in Budapest.  His spin doctors have not yet invented a new narrative for a Russian friendly message for October 23.

The ‘people’ who do not buy this nasty propaganda and just want to remember the many colors of the revolt, resort to simply recollecting their own private stories.  So does my fellow editor Sándor in his unique post and podcast.

I have my own stories of those chilly October days.  I was 5 years old, at the beginning of childhood.  Half the age of Sándor in 1956.  Our Buda house was far from the battles and violent skirmishes, but not so distant that we could be spared from congregating in a cellar apartment from day three or four of the eleven-day revolution.

We spent the first days in one room of our apartment.  My father was on the streets, he delivered the university students’ pleas for reform to Communist Party headquarters where he was injured on his leg by the shards of a hand grenade.  He was treated in hospital for a few days.  I recall the Hungarian Radio’s program on October 23, there was little news, if any; mostly Beethoven’s Egmont Overture was played for hours.  For many Hungarians the revolt is still associated with this musical experience.  When we had just had enough of Egmont, I would ask for playing a vinyl record which, on the A side, had Isaak Dunayevsky’s light composition that I still call Red Poppy.

The children of six families spent a few days in a cellar apartment which served as an air raid shelter.  We loved those shelter days, as no one asked us to stick to our daily routine.  We had limited facilities for cooking, even fewer supplies, but somehow, we found a small cookstove on which red bean and leftover goose leg was prepared as cholent.  I have not had any better cholent since those days.  We played a bit, talked a lot, and there are odd erotic experiences from those nights that come out of the dark cellar of my memory.  The only thing I can say after all these years is that something happened.  So, I would often call these days the best times of my childhood.

My father came home in the last days of October; he decisively turned his back to his Communist years, and then the drab years of the Kadar era began.

From “darkness at noon” before 1956, Hungary entered the era of drab greyness day and night.

András Hanák

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Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła

“Poland is not yet lost”

So goes the opening line of Poland’s Mazurka style national anthem.  As long as we live Poland will not be lost.  And this is how much we know for sure about the Parliamentary elections in Poland held on October 15.

Furthermore, and quite honestly, this is the takeaway from a European perspective.  The final result will eventually allow three opposition parties to form a coalition government, which will end two dark four-year terms of the Law and Justice Party (PiS) rule in Poland.  Poland would once again play a constructive role in the European dialogue for a more perfect Union.  The country of almost 40 million population may take its decisive role in pursuing a constructive European agenda.

From the Hungarian perspective, there will be a host of other conclusions and takeaways as to how all this may impact Hungarian politics and public discourse about the restoration of a democratic order.  Our Hungarian Perspective will attempt to address some of the ramifications of the defeat of the born-again nationalist PiS rule.  Our Blog will assess the outcome of the Polish vote and the prospects of the new government in other posts too, soon to come.

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Is Something Rotten in Sweden, too?

The ratification of Sweden’s accession to NATO has been delayed repeatedly over this last year by the Hungarian Parliament.

Why is this so?  Is there anything wrong with Sweden? We know that something is, literarily speaking, ”rotten in Denmark.” Is then something rotten in Sweden too?  Do Hungarians have good reasons to withhold, hand in hand with Turkey, their consent to the timely accession of Sweden to NATO?  Hardly so.

Who among the Hungarian decision makers (to be sure there are only a handful) hold grudges against the Swedes?  No one, we venture to say.  This game must be about something else than against the very country from whom Hungary had procured SAAB Gripen fighters which make up the entire air force fleet of Hungary.  Yes, the whole Hungarian Air Force was manufactured in the country which the Hungarian Government does not see fit to join the NATO military alliance.  And yes, in September 2001, Minister Matolcsy (then Minister of Economy) and Defense Minister János Szabó (does anyone remember this military talent?) announced that Hungary was to purchase its fleet from SAAB in an offset program.

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