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Hungarian Suicide Song Redux

July 12th, 2012 - 7:49 am

Hungarians are disappearing faster than any other nationality. Ethnic Hungarians, according to unpublished government data, have a fertility rate of 0.83 — fewer than one child per woman, after the high birth rate of the local Roma population is excluded. If the Roma are included, the fertility rate is just 1.28. In the global ranking of suicide rates, Hungary ranks sixth out of 107 countries where data is available, at 40 per 100,000 population per year — a four-way tie with South Korea, Guyana, and Kazakhstan (only Lithuania is noticeably higher).

Hungary’s best-known pop culture export, appropriately enough, is the so-called suicide song “Gloomy Sunday.” The term “cultural pessimism” doesn’t begin to describe the Hungarian view of the world. Built as a capital to rule a territory with 25 million under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Budapest is a hydrocephalic changeling, a pantheon rather than a capital for the mere ten million people left in present-day Hungary.

At Jewish Ideas Daily, Elliot Jager reports on an eruption of Hungarian nostalgia for the kind of wartime leaders that the rest of the world thinks of as war criminals, along with the resurgence of extremist nationalism and anti-Semitism. A recent Bloomberg story reports on a new fashion for building statues to Hitler’s wartime Hungarian ally Miklos Horthy, who helped the Nazis murder half a million Hungarian Jews. Jager observes:

Security is tight at all Jewish institutions. Unlike in Western Europe, the threat stems less from Islamists than from locals. In fact, Muslim visitors have not been immune to attacks from local thugs while the Roma (Gypsy), the perennial bête noire of South-Eastern Europe, again find themselves under attack from the far Right. Indeed, the populist-oriented government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban finds it politic to kowtow to Gabor Vona’s ultra right-wing Jobbik Party, which holds 46 out of 386 parliamentary seats.

While I was in Budapest last month, Elie Wiesel repudiated a Hungarian state award he had received in 2004 because government officials recently attended a ceremony for World War II-era Nazi sympathizer Jozsef Nyiro. For the same reason, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin disinvited his Hungarian counterpart, László Kövér, from a Jerusalem ceremony honoring Raoul Wallenberg. Instead, President Janos Ader will represent Hungary.

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