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EDITORIAL

Chasing the Turuls away

JÁN Slota has a grand plan. The Slovak National Party (SNS) boss wants to plant massive 12-metre Lorraine crosses (so-called double crosses like the one on the country’s flag) in different parts of Slovakia – most importantly in southern Slovakia, so that the Hungarian minority never forgets, not even for a moment, where it actually lives.

JÁN Slota has a grand plan. The Slovak National Party (SNS) boss wants to plant massive 12-metre Lorraine crosses (so-called double crosses like the one on the country’s flag) in different parts of Slovakia – most importantly in southern Slovakia, so that the Hungarian minority never forgets, not even for a moment, where it actually lives.

It’s not like masses of Hungarians would live under the delusion that Komárno and Dunajská Streda are located on Hungarian territory if they didn’t have Slota’s crosses. Still, Slota is treating the issue like one of his party’s priorities.

The SNS leader, known for his controversial statements on Hungarians, Roma, homosexuals and other minorities, said that 2008 should be the year of Lorraine crosses, the symbol of Slovakia’s statehood.

“We will build Slovak Lorraine crosses all over Slovakia, even in the south, so that we do not have to see idiotic Hungarian Turuls (a giant falcon from Hungarian mythology) flying over southern Slovakia,” Slota said, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

Slota has already proudly erected his first concrete cross in Čerhov, which is the southernmost village in Slovakia.

“We will be erecting Lorraine crosses, these symbols of our national statehood, so that no Turul totems scare us here,” said Anna Belousovová, the deputy chair of the SNS.

A couple years ago Slota publicly called Belousovová a “mad cow,” and she repaid it in kind with her own unflattering name for Slota. Today they are united again in their crusade against Turuls.

Political scientist Miroslav Kusý told the Sme daily that building Lorraine crosses in southern Slovakia is a sign of an inferiority complex.

“It is disgusting,” said Kusý. “A developed nation does not need to mark its territory like wild animals.”

Why is it so newsworthy that a party has decided to sow crosses all over Slovakia, a reader might ask. Well, the SNS is not a regular party. In fact, the presence of the nationalists in the government cost Smer its membership in the Party of European Socialists. The ruling party had its membership suspended after Prime Minister Robert Fico’s political marriage with Slota, who has turned out to be a pretty loyal partner.

Political analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov said that Smer gives the SNS’ nationalist agenda free rein in return for its loyalty, and it seems that even some Smer representatives have been enchanted by this trend.

Government parties are now implanting some of their radical standpoints into the public discussion, setting a trend that many politicians will happily follow – especially if they think it will get them votes.

There is a whole archive filled with outrageous statements from Slota – intellectual pearls like “we will get in tanks and level Budapest” - and it is rather difficult to take anything that he proposes seriously. But political life is saturated with signals and symbols and there are messages everywhere, even where it was not intended.

That is why the fact that, for example, Robert Fico celebrated the anniversary of the Cuban revolution makes a segment of the population nervous. After he received massive criticism for doing that last year, Fico has once again accepted an invitation from the Cuban embassy to attend a reception marking the anniversary of Fidel Castro’s communist revolution.

“I see absolutely nothing wrong with it,” Fico responded to critics, who pointed out that Cuba has expelled two Slovak activists over the past two months. “It is an expression of respect towards an actual people, an actual state.”

Non-governmental organisations active in Cuba, like Pontis and People in Peril, told SITA that the prime minister’s presence at the reception made a mockery of their work. They say Fico should carefully consider the events he attends, along with the character of the regime of the organising state.

It is very likely that Fico has attributed the news reports about his Cuba fiesta to media hostility and the fact that most Slovak journalists are out to get him, in return for a free ski trip or at least free sandwiches at press conferences hosted by evil corporations.

President Ivan Gašparovič has already suggested that the government needs its own media, which would present the decisions and positions of the parliament freely “without someone re-evaluating their statements.”

Yet Gašparovič has not said who would pay for this media, nor has he revealed its form, size or how often it would disseminate the true government news. If he had made this statement on New Year’s Eve in the whirlwind of festivities, journalists would have taken it as a joke. But the president was serious.

It’s surprising that Gašparovič’s brainchild has not yet received any massive support from the government. Fico has never hid his contempt for most Slovak media, while many journalists are definitely on the personal blacklist of Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) boss Vladimír Mečiar, Fico’s other coalition partner.

If they did support the move, as Kusý said, it would be a road to hell. A road decorated with concrete crosses to scare away “idiotic Turuls”.

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