Big week for Hungary, there was big national celebration over here. We even got a shout out from G.W. Bush himself. It is unfortunate that his staff lacks a fact-checker, but it was nice of him to think of Hungary.
It’s like this:
On March 15th the Hungarians celebrate the revolution of 1848. It was a revolution against the Hapsburg Empire. The history of that revolution is loaded with great stories, the best one being the life and death of Sándor Petöfi. He was a revolutionary poet, meaning he incited an actually military revolution with his poetry, and then he went to fight and die in that revolution. How many poets can claim that?
Anyway, on the 15th, while addressing congress, Bush thanked the Hungarians for their contributions to democracy. He specifically cited the Revolution of 1956. That revolution took place on October 23rd. It is another moment in Hungarian history filled with incredible stories. And although everyone over here was happy to get a thank you from the US, it did seem a strange day for Bush to be acknowledging the ‘56 revolution.
See, the Hungarian awareness of its own history is profound, and that is something of an understatement. This country’s history is one of the few things it’s got left. Less than one hundred years ago the winners of WWI took away 70% of Hungarian territory and 60% of the nation’s population. This affected the side they eventually took in WWII, the wrong side. And as a result they spent the second half of the 1900’s under Soviet control, and the last 16 years of recovery haven’t exactly been easy.
So when Bush spoke of the 1956 Revolution on the anniversary of the 1848 Revolution, Hungarian’s were confused… Well, not really confused, they just assumed Bush had no clue about Hungarian history. Something most reasonable Hungarians could accept; it’s a small country without much clout. Still, the President’s gesture was read as inappropriate by most over here.
Hungarians like getting props from the Commander in Chief as much as the next NATO member. It is a shame, however, that this time it felt more like patronization then actual acknowledgement.