Magazine article The Spectator

Here in Transylvania, It Feels Okay to Be Proudly English

Magazine article The Spectator

Here in Transylvania, It Feels Okay to Be Proudly English

Article excerpt

Miklosvar, Transylvania

It is very easy for the majority Hungarian population in this most wild and beautiful quarter of Europe to define their essential Hungarianness: they are defined, principally, by what they are not. They are not Romanian, for a start -- a rather backward people, they feel, a confused, hysterical, limping hybrid of two mutually exclusive racial types, the Slav and the Latin. Imagine an unsuccessful Neapolitan thug marrying a penniless whore from Novgorod and their issue would resemble something equating to your average Romanian. That, I ought to add, is how the dispossessed Hungarians see it. And the Hungarians are certainly not gypsies -- a people whom they (and the Romanians, so far as I can tell) consider to be indolent, stupid and dishonest.

The Hungarian language, which is more closely related to Finnish than anything emanating from the Balkans or points further east, also marks them apart from their neighbours.

As does, to a lesser degree, their cuisine, which is vigorously, irrepressibly unhealthy -- consisting almost entirely of fried pork -- and without the fresh whiff of the south which predominates in the restaurants of Constanta and Bucharest. There is their history, too, which has been at times a grand thing, around about the time of Franz Joseph, and at times a tragic thing. Then there is religion -- primarily, they are not Orthodox, like the Romanians; but dig much further than this and we reach a problem because they are not exclusively Roman Catholic, either.

There are sad pockets of Unitarian Magyars, persecuted by the popish majority, living alone in their Unitarian villages. There's a complex and highly entertaining hierarchy of racial and religious loathing in this part of the world; there are Romanian villages, gypsy villages (which they've nicked from the departed Saxons and cheerfully ruined), Hungarian Catholic villages and blue-nose no-surrender Hungarian proddy villages. The differentials go way beyond race; but nonetheless, the Hungarians know they are not Romanian or, far worse, gypsy, and that seems to be good enough as the basis for a national identity around here.

This tiny pocket of the world, with its prowling wolves and bears and vaguely shocking profusion of horses and carts, may yet achieve autonomy from the supposedly alien Romanian regime which has ruled it for the past 60-odd years, and there is a mild independence movement pressing the case right now. And this is the other thing which helps the Transylvanian Hungarians define themselves: a sense of grievance and a concomitant aspiration, nurtured for decades under foreign rule. Now they look towards Brussels in hope; arriviste 'Western' Europeans who have, for good pragmatic reasons, no attachment to the notion of a nation state -- something which will please the EU because it, too, thinks the nation state a redundant concept.

Those boundaries which are familiar to all of us, and which on the Continent were drawn up almost arbitrarily before even the smell of cordite had departed from the collective European nostril, are winnowing away.

If the EU wishes to become a superstate then, of course, the nation state -- its natural enemy -- has to go. In its place comes a vast phalanx of somewhat ill-defined racial types, clamouring for recognition -- from Catalonia, the Basque region, Flanders and the two Galicias, from Transylvania, from Friesland, Brittany, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, ad infinitum. And lastly, not quite sure why they are there at all, or how they might be defined, that quietly clamouring horde from England. The English.

Do you have a St George's flag to hand?

They have become most fecund of late, and not just at football matches or tattooed upon the hollow skull of an NF skinhead. St George -- and 'Englishness' -- have been rescued from the far Right, so we are told. As Britain dissolves and across Europe an ever-growing number of hitherto unheard-of nationalities proclaim their identity and their pride, it has become sort of OK for us English to do the same. …

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