Politics in Hungary

By Peter A. Toma; Ivan Volgyes | Go to book overview
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The Political Culture

To believe in God when there is no God. That's great, that's East European.1

Perhaps no greater difficulty exists for a political scientist than that of delineating the political culture of a society without empirical evidence. 2 Yet, for those political scientists who study closed societies, the gathering of hard data remains an almost impossible task. They have to rely on published information, literary evidence, personal experiences, and impression; they must measure and analyze the orientations of the citizenry through the old and not very scientific method of fingerspitzengefuhl. The difficulties of generalizing about the political culture of a Communist state are compounded by the tenuous relation between published evidence and reality. The conclusions of this chapter are based upon published data, literary evidence, and the personal experiences of the author, together with empirical data from 300 interviews conducted by the author in 1970-1971 and in 1974-1975. The evidence thus obtained should provide a reasonably accurate composite picture of the Hungarian citizenry's "modal patterns of orientations toward specific political objects." 3 In all political cultures, citizens manifest a variety of attitudes toward the political system, but in Hungary, because of the relative homogeneity of the population as well as the small size of the country and the common historical experience of the people, an identifiable composite sociopolitical orientation does exist. By and large, the Magyar population still accepts various stereotypes of itself a tendency decried by Akos Kertesz in his novel Makra, one of the most significant works of the late 1960s.

He who is black is a GYPSY. And what kind of [a man] is a gypsy? He steals, lies, knows how to play music, [is] subservient and underhanded. He who talks in a dialect is a PEASANT. The peasant is stupid, but cunning, and always complains. He whose grandfather is a Jew is a JEW. Erger- Berger-Sosberger, every Jew is a gangster. He whose hands are calloused is a WORKER. He who lives in Lorinc is a PROLI from the OUTSKIRTS.


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