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Hecklers disrupt ceremony

Relations between Slovakia and neighbouring Hungary may have improved dramatically since the Dzurinda government came to power last October, but an ugly incident last week involving the Hungarian Ambassador proved that nationalism is far from dead in Slovakia.
Local authorities in the central Slovak village of Necpaly had planned on November 8 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of Necpaly's native sons - Hungarian General Gyorgy Lahner. The event had been organised in co-operation with the Hungarian Embassy to Slovakia, and was attended by Hungarian Ambassador Miklos Boros.


Nationalist MP Móric (right) demanded that Hungarian Ambassador Miklós Boros (centre) stop his speech.
photo: Courtesy of TV Markíza

Relations between Slovakia and neighbouring Hungary may have improved dramatically since the Dzurinda government came to power last October, but an ugly incident last week involving the Hungarian Ambassador proved that nationalism is far from dead in Slovakia.

Local authorities in the central Slovak village of Necpaly had planned on November 8 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of Necpaly's native sons - Hungarian General Gyorgy Lahner. The event had been organised in co-operation with the Hungarian Embassy to Slovakia, and was attended by Hungarian Ambassador Miklos Boros.

The event was also attended by a raucous group of Slovak nationalists led by Víťazoslav Móric, a member of parliament and chairman of the opposition Slovak National Party (SNS). While his 20-odd elderly supporters sang songs and yelled to disrupt the Hungarian Ambassador's speech, Móric walked up to Boros and, standing nose to nose with the diplomat, demanded that he leave Slovak soil.

"Frankly, my feeling at that moment was very unpleasant. When I arrived in Necpaly, I had no idea that such a provocation was going to happen," Boros told The Slovak Spectator on November 15. "But this event won't have any negative impact on Slovak-Hungarian relations, which are developing well," Boros said.

For all that Boros seemed to take the incident in stride, the Slovak Foreign Ministry was apparently embarrassed by Móric's display, and hastened to make amends.

Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan told The Slovak Spectator on November 16 that a top ministry official had spoken to the Hungarian Ambassador about the event. "It wasn't an official apology, but we said quite clearly what we thought of Móric's behaviour in Necpaly," Kukan said.

Digging up old history

Gyorgy Lahner was one of the leading Hungarian generals during the 1848 revolution, which brought the Hungarian monarchy out of the feudal era and towards an early form of capitalism. Lahner was executed on October 6, 1849, together with 12 other Hungarian generals after the revolution was put down by the Habsburg monarchy.

Boros gave his Necpaly address in Hungarian, with simultaneous translation into Slovak. The Hungarian Ambassador said that Lahner had led a movement towards independence and civil society, aims supported by all of the nations which were then under the control of the Hungarian monarchy. "The message of this revolution for us today is that Hungarians and Slovaks share a common interest in strengthening civil society and integrating our countries into a modern and democratic Europe," Boros said.

However, for Móric and his supporters, the 1848 revolution and the subsequent backlash of repression caused serious damage to the Slovak nation, which was forcibly assimilated into the Hungarian empire. "This revolution was a national catastrophe for Slovaks," Móric said to the SITA press agency on November 8.

Necpaly Mayor Peter Majko told The Slovak Spectator on November 16 that the idea of commemorating Lahner's birth had been raised by the Hungarian Embassy about one month ago. "There was nothing wrong with this idea," he said. "If Móric says that Lahner was Slovak and Hungarians shouldn't commemorate his birth date, he could bring flowers as well," Majko said

Latent nationalism

Footage of the Móric incident was broadcast nationwide on the private Markíza TV station on November 8. Many government politicians expressed shock the next day that a Slovak MP had behaved in such a boorish manner, and vowed that Móric's views were not those of ordinary Slovaks.

However, Peter Priadka of Ethnic Relations Foundation, a Slovak NGO, said that the Slovak government had not taken sufficient steps to eradicate the more extreme forms of nationalism in the country. "Not only does the government not fight nationalism seriously enough, but government political parties even use nationalism to achieve their political goals," he said.

According to Priadka, nationalism in Slovakia could only be curbed by a long-term educational programme beginning in primary schools across the country. "It's a question of generational change," Priadka said.

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