It’s not so much that I am a born Hungarian. My purpose is to fathom Hungary’s dealing with the 1920 Treaty of Trianon taking two-thirds of the “Lands of the Crown of Saint Stephen” from it and leaving millions of compatriots in the diaspora. ’Nem-nem-soha’ (no-no-never) will some accept this!

Margaret MacMillan (2001) writes on the settling of accounts after the Great War. US President Wilson had called for self-determination. But rather than to its various nationalities, Hungary wished to apply the principle to the country as a whole. But it had a poor reputation on account of its semi-feudal structures coupled with its treatment of those that were not Magyar. So, Trianon was an afterthought. Serbian, Czech and Romanian claims took priority. Flirtations with Bolshevism did not help. Riding on a white horse, Admiral Horthy moved, quelling the rebellion with foreign support and becoming regent without a king in the wait. Much territory was eventually regained due to an, ultimately fateful alliance with Hitler, with my father a victim. The country became, first a tragic and later an eccentric Soviet satellite until that empire, too, collapsed. Hungary – and young Viktor Orbàn – having given a helping hand, it was natural for her to be in the first wave of new EU members.

The historic map of Hungary is widely on display, but Orbàn knows better than playing the irredentist card. His two-pronged policy is to re-unite people, not territories and to groom Hungary for a leading role in the Carpathian Basin. His slogan is ending ‘One Hundred Years of Hungarian Solitude’ uttered in the run up to, and during commemorations of 100 years of the Treaty of Trianon.

Diaspora Hungarians can become Hungarian citizens with the right to vote. There are also personal benefits and there is support, cultural or otherwise for those living in neighbouring countries. Hungary is also the EU champion in cross-border cooperation, having set up – with government support – the largest number of European Groupings of Territorial Cooperation.

There is concern amongst neighbours, with Ukraine the latest to allege interference, but Hungary also invests in relations with them – including planning cooperation. (Dühr, Belof 2020) Is this nationalism without territorialism? And will a Hungary aiming to become the regional hegemon run into opposition? There seems to be more to watch than the vilification of George Soros (I have seen the posters) and the closure of the Central European University (I have been for a conference before it left).


Dühr, S., Belof, M. (2020) ‘Social learning in transnational spatial planning processes: An analysis of the ‘V4+2’ cooperation on spatial development’, Planning Practice & Research, 35 (2) 148-168.

MacMillan, M. (2001) Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World, Random House, New York, NY.

The figure shows Hungary prior to the Great War.

Please follow and like us: