Hungarian regime replaces science with militarism

7 June 2011.

The present Rightist government in Hungary is not satisfied with just racism … with just attacking gay people … with just attacking workers … with just attacking free speech.

They are attacking science as well.

Ludovika building

From Nature:

Hungarian natural history under threat

Historical collections given marching orders as government plans military university at museum site.

Marian Turner

Looking for a new home: 200 human mummies from the eighteenth century, the remains of rare European dinosaurs and 10 million other artefacts currently at the Hungarian Natural History Museum, which is facing eviction later this year. The Hungarian government plans to turn the historic Budapest building given to the museum after the fall of communism in 1989 into a university to train the military or the police.

So, apparently, Viktor Orban’s Rightists don’t know yet whether they will drive the scientific collections away for the military or for the police.

Maybe they don’t even know the difference between armed forces and police? Like the NATO puppet regime in Afghanistan, where police in practice are auxiliaries of the warlord army and of NATO.

Scientists in Hungary and abroad are shocked by the move because the imposing 1836 Ludovika building has been extensively renovated for the museum, and curators are still moving the collections in. They say that the museum has not been offered an alternative site, and fear that the collections will have to be stored in crates until a new home is found.

“When the government announced the new university in February, they described the Ludovika as a long-neglected building. That came as a surprise to those of us who work there,” says József Pálfy, a member of a joint research team between the museum’s palaeontology research group and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. But the government justifies its decision by saying that parts of the building need further renovations and that using the Ludovika for the new university is in keeping with tradition — the building contained a military academy until 1945.

The museum employs more than 70 scientists and publishes around 50 papers a year in international journals. In addition to the mummies — which were found in a church crypt in Vac in central Hungary and used to study the history of tuberculosis — it houses fossils found in western Hungary from ceratopsian dinosaurs, which were previously thought not to have lived in Europe.

The collections, some of which date back to 1802, had been scattered around the city before the museum was granted the Ludovika buildings in the early 1990s. The buildings were in disrepair, but the Hungarian government invested around 10 billion forints (US$53 million) to refurbish them. The buildings now give the museum 5,000 square metres of exhibition space, as well as modern research laboratories and three underground levels for storage.

András Jávor, state secretary for the Hungarian Ministry of National Resources, which is responsible for the museum, says that no jobs or resources will be lost in the reorganization, and that his ministry “is consulting with the museum about its future location”. But Attila Ősi, a palaeontologist in the same research group as Pálfy, whose discovery of the ceratopsian dinosaur fossils led to a Nature paper last year (A. Ősi et al. Nature 465, 466–468; 2010), says that research will suffer if they are forced to pack up their specimens again.

About 100 inter­national researchers use the collections every year, and those contacted by Nature echo the concerns of their Hungarian colleagues. “The collections at the museum are unique, and moving them again would create huge problems for multinational research collaborations,” says Gareth Dyke, a palaeontologist at University College Dublin in Ireland, who is currently working at the museum.

Museum staff had just started to get comfortable at the Ludovika.

“The scientists here are still spending time checking inventories to make sure all the objects have survived moving in,” says Ősi. “After 200 years we got a central building for our museum,” adds István Matskási, its director-general, “and now we do not know where we will have to go.”

Jake Blumgart, Toward Freedom: “Across Eastern and Central Europe, as unemployment surges and the European Union dithers, nationalist conservative and far right parties are on the march. Emboldened right-wing leaders are resurrecting debates around abortion and other reproductive services, even in countries like Hungary, one of the first European countries to explicitly legalize abortion”: here.

16 thoughts on “Hungarian regime replaces science with militarism

  1. Roma film wins Berlin gong

    GERMANY: A film about attacks on Hungary’s Roma community won the prestigious Jury Grand Prix at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival at the weekend.

    Hungarian director Bence Fliegauf’s movie Just The Wind features a non-professional cast of Roma actors as a family struggling to survive in a shack in a wood where several other Roma families have already been killed.

    Mr Fliegauf said that he was compelled to make the film after a series of vicious attacks on Roma between 2008 and 2009 in which six people died and others, including children, were seriously injured.


  2. Just the Wind

    Just the Wind (Czak a Szél) by Bence Fliegauf is a feature film based on the pogroms conducted against Hungarian Roma between 2008 and 2009. During that period Roma families were targeted by well organised death squads that hunted them down like animals. Six Roma were shot to death, including a five-year-old boy. Five others sustained serious injuries following a series of attacks carried out in nine Hungarian villages in which entire homes were burned down.
    Just the Wind

    In Just the Wind Fliegauf carefully recreates the existence of a Roma family over the course of 24 hours while the pogroms are in full swing. In interviews, Fliegauf made clear he was concerned to avoid stereotypes in presenting the Roma community and there is nothing romantic in his depiction of their everyday life.

    We watch the mother leaving the family’s ramshackle home early in the morning to start one of her two jobs, clearing rubbish from the side of the motorway. Her young daughter hurriedly prepares a meagre breakfast for her grandfather and then leaves for school. Before she leaves, she tries to wake her younger brother, still asleep in the single bed shared by the whole family. The young boy prefers to sleep longer and skip school.

    Having completed her shift on the roadside, the mother travels to her second job, cleaning floors at her daughter’s school. There, the mother is subject to racist insults from her overseer, her daughter’s teacher. In addition to exploitation at work and racist taunts, the family lives in continual fear of the gunmen who have already claimed victims in their community. The most telling scenes are those featuring the young children wandering through the woods. A jeep cruises by slowly on the nearby road. The young boy quickly falls to his knees in the grass and pretends to tie his shoelaces, thereby making a smaller target. The jeep drives on.

    In another disturbing scene, two policemen inspect the burnt-out ruins of a Roma house. The police captain deplores the murder of the Roma. He knew this family, he tells his fellow officer, they were hard-working and their murder sends the “wrong message”. The ones who deserve to die, he continues, are those who rob and steal. His gruesome statement certainly leaves open the possibility that Hungarian state forces were involved in the pogroms.

    At the end of the film, the family make a fatal mistake and dismiss the rustling in the woods as they prepare to go to sleep as “just the wind”. Fliegauf has made a compassionate and compelling film detailing the privations of the Romany minority in Hungary.

    There are also serious weaknesses in Fliegauf’s own understanding of racism, which account for the fact that the political authorities are not mentioned in his film. In his film notes, Fliegauf declares that “racism is nothing more than a fatal series of mistakes in reason, i.e. inanity”. This conception is false and serves to whitewash the policies of successive governments that have deliberately and repeatedly played the racist card in Hungary to further their own ends over the past two decades.

    After a great deal of prevarication by the police and the Hungarian judiciary, four men were eventually arrested and are currently on trial in Budapest accused of carrying out the attacks between July 2008 and August 2009. Given the broad political consensus which encourages anti-Roma sentiment in Hungary, it remains uncertain that the truth behind the pogroms will ever emerge.


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