Address by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the inauguration of the Memorial to National Cohesion
20 August 2020, Budapest
Honourable President of the Republic, Speaker of the House, Generals and Officers, Honourable Fellow Celebrants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On 20 August, we need to remind ourselves that independent statehood which provides a home, land and one’s own country is not the natural condition in the life of peoples, but an exception. Even though it may not be obvious to the majority of our people, living as they do with the challenges of everyday life, a people that desires its own homeland, that seeks to arrange its life according to its own laws and customs – and its thousand years of history show that the Hungarians are such a people – must fight for its sovereignty and freedom every single minute. Throughout our history, comfort, narrow horizons, political superficiality, "living for the moment" and instant gratification have been recurring threats. This is what elevates the deeds of the founders of our state to the summit of Hungarian history. It is a rare mercy when all the strategic decisions of successive generations prove to be correct. The goal was the Carpathian Basin: Eurasia’s most defensible region for settlement. Instead of wandering they chose rootedness; instead of a loose alliance of tribes they chose a centralised state; instead of the beliefs of nomads they chose Western, Latin Christianity. They conquered what were probably more numerous peoples in the region, they crushed the attacking armies of Western empires, they broke internal revolt, and they began the breathtakingly audacious work of building a country. What times, what greatness, what glory, and what unparalleled achievement! To this day we still cannot locate the wellspring of this knowledge, this enlightenment for building a country, this talent for organising a state, and this profound, uplifting spiritual solemnity. We cannot locate the wellspring, but we do know that in moments of crisis, pushed to the edge of destruction, time and again our country forges ahead, surges up, and from who knows where sweeps together and deploys Hungarians for military action. And once again there will be greatness, there will be glory, and the country will make astonishing progress. Gratitude and thanks: on 20 August this is all we can say; but – remembering how much vigour, purpose, talent, blood, sacrifice and courage was needed for us to be able to stand here today – this is what we must say. Glory to Saint Stephen, to the King of the Hungarians!
I greet our officers, who have sworn their oath. Few of you here today know what an important role awaits you in shaping the future of a Hungary that is now regaining its self-respect, that is now breaking free from the captivity of a hundred years of Trianon, that is now rediscovering a taste for its old greatness and the path towards it, that is now casting off the miserable rags of defeatism and subservience. An important role awaits you not only because of the growing power of your weapons -although that should not to be made light of. More than that, it is so because from today you are the custodians of this old Hungarian wisdom: life is duty. This old wisdom is now fading, and contemporary fashion obscures it like rust which is so thick that soon even we do not know what lies under it. And yet it is this -even in the face of contemporary fashion -which will determine the success or failure of Hungary’s future. Life is duty. By your own personal example this is what you must restore to public consciousness, this is what you must bedeck in fine attire, this is what you must emanate and win popular support for. This simple truth will provide spiritual content for today’s economic growth. This will offer guidance to new generations: this will drive away the melancholy and the idle world-weariness that is obsessed with life’s meaninglessness; and this will usher in a new world which will crush the vain, complacent selfishness that has so enmeshed European life. Life is duty. This is what gives its beauty, gravity, and also freedom. Those who set out to fulfil their duty will never lose their way: they will never be tortured by insatiable desires, even if they are constantly tempted into thousands of the internet’s tunnels; they will never be ensnared by selfishness that is ever hungry for more; and they need not fear the bitter disappointments of illusory dreams. Yes, from today you are for us the embodiment of the male ideal, the idol that is the Hungarian military officer who will fulfil his duty with arms, and at the cost of his own life if necessary. And likewise we pay great tribute to our female officers, from whom we expect no less. And when you hear the surging marketplace noise of those without conscience, of the ignoble, of those who always seek the easier path, you must simply remember that you must fulfil a duty. And the fewer there are who fulfil that duty, the more you must do so. This is the mission that awaits officers of the Hungarian Defence Force. This is how and this is why we look upon you today with such favour, pride and great hope. We salute you, and on behalf of Hungary we thank your parents for having given the country such find young people.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today we bow our heads before the founders of the state and pay tribute to our newly inaugurated officers. But today we also inaugurate and consecrate the Memorial to National Cohesion. This looks towards – and even points towards – our national pride, the Parliament Building; and it fittingly completes the majestic panorama of Kossuth tér, the main square of the nation. This is as it should be, as we built the Parliament Building for the cities and villages – and for the people living in them, for their inhabitants – inscribed on the walls of the monument. Regardless of origin, religion or national affiliation, they are all heirs of the country of Saint Stephen. However erratic the path of history since then, this fact has remained unaltered.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable President,
I can declare to Hungary, and the members of the Hungarian nation watching us today, that we have fulfilled our duties undertaken on the one hundredth anniversary of the Trianon diktat. We declared the centenary year to be the year of national cohesion. We held our commemorative events with dignity, even though the pandemic made a complete commemoration impossible. Hungarian scholars, representatives of Hungarian cultural life, Hungarian communities living in severed territories, our churches, the Hungarian political elite – led by the National Assembly – confronted and reviewed the lessons of this century, of the loss of so much of the country. This stocktaking led us to announce the end of the one hundred years of Hungarian solitude brought about by Trianon. We stated that after the disintegration of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, we Hungarians form the Carpathian Basin’s most populous country and its largest economy. Finally we understand that for us unavoidable duties flow from this. We felt the lessons of a hundred years to be so grave and far-reaching that we could not shy away from them. This is why we promulgated the seven laws of the new era’s policy for the nation. And then – assessing the decades ahead to the best of our abilities – we announced an interest and the intention to participate in a Central European alliance based on the foundations of sovereignty, freedom and shared interests.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Commemorators,
One hundred years after defeat in the First World War and the Trianon diktat, today we stand on the stage of European history as champions of survival. There is no other nation of the world that could have endured such a period of one hundred years. And from the vantage point of this one hundred years we must now speak loud enough to be heard from the very last house in the most distant Hungarian village. And even beyond that, in the remotest corner of the Carpathian Basin. And beyond that still, in all the far-away parts of the world where Hungarians live. We must spread the word that Hungary has not only survived and is not only here to stay, but – raising its flag high again and regaining its self-respect – it stands on the threshold of great times and is winning. Hungary is a safe home which welcomes back everyone who wants to be a part of the country-building redolent of the great periods of our history. We must spread the word that one hundred years of toil have led us to finally understand that the Hungarian people can never again afford the luxury of weakness.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As nature and the paths of stars have laws, so does survival. And once we have understood them, we must carve them onto the pillars that support Hungary, so deeply that no longer can a single generation avert their gaze from them. A country exists only for as long as there are people who love it. Every child is a new guard station. Without strength, truth is worth little. Only that which we can defend is ours. No contest will be over until we have won it. Only a country has borders, not a nation. Not a single Hungarian stands alone. These are the seven laws of Hungary’s 21st century policy for the nation written in tears in blood and in sweat.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
While we Hungarians celebrate our national cohesion, the ship of our wider home, Europe has run aground. The global political and trade position it built through centuries has faltered. Production, investment and trade grown to global dimensions have equipped countries with means of economic competition which have now overtaken those of Europe. The unquestionable dominance of European peoples, the European spirit and technology is now a thing of the past. The advantage inherited from colonisation has evaporated. Europe, and in fact the entire Western world, is no longer able to direct the huge flows of the world economy’s resources and benefits towards its own waters. We must compete. We are facing a test of strength and character. Will European leaders be able to renew the policies and economies of our continent? And if so, will the peoples of Europe understand this? And if so, will they accept everything that follows from this with respect to their own daily lives? Will they find their way back to the realm of hard work, rational economy and a responsible way of life? We are being tortured by the profoundest doubts. Today not because of our country, but because of the future of European civilisation. To make matters worse, the nations of our continent are following diverging paths. Western Europe has renounced the skyward forces that powered the greatness and successes of a thousand years, it has renounced life’s spiritual depths, the happiness given by marriage and offspring, and the spiritual energy of national culture. In other words it has renounced Christian Europe. In place of this it is experimenting with a godless universe, with the rainbow reshaping of families, with migration and with open societies. Meanwhile the peoples of Central Europe are in the process of restoring to their rightful place the time-honoured instincts for life, the liberating power of Christianity, the honour of work, national pride and duty towards our parents and children. We are defending our borders and we aim to leave our country to our own children and not to migrants.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are sailing in uncharted waters. In our eyes the West has lost its attraction, and in their eyes the world of Central Europe does not seem to be a desirable one. Europe must find its future in such a way that neither side forces its own life and worldview on the other. This is the alpha and omega of European unity today. Europe must find its future in such a way that neither half imposes its own view of life and the world on the other. Today this is the alpha and omega of European unity. The work to be handed over now to the populace is not only a memorial site, but also a call to action – indeed it is an urgent cry. Those peoples of Central Europe which envision their lives in a renewed Christian world must find the path of cooperation. They must find a construction which simultaneously guarantees our national independence and the confederacy of Central European peoples, and which also contributes to European unity. This is possible. But it is only possible if we understand that Central Europe – the area between the German and Russian worlds – must be configured by us, by Central Europeans. In the past this task has been taken up by the Turks, the Habsburgs, the Germans and the Soviets. Today there are other candidates. But we also know that unbidden assistance rarely ends well. When outsiders organise the life of Central Europe, what prevails will be division, hostility and a feeling of subjugation: they will reap the benefits of our superb resources, our valuable work and our world-class intellectual achievements; they will reap the benefits and use them to increase their own power. The last occasion on which such a splendid opportunity presented itself to the nations of Central Europe to determine their own fate – cleverly arranged around the Polish flagship, from the Baltic Sea all the way to the Balkans – is lost in the mists of time. Today all we Hungarians can do is prepare for cooperation and urge on our friends, reminding them that this lucky alignment of planets will not last forever.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable President,
This memorial unites us, and is a symbol of the fact that we are joint heirs of the world-class achievements of the Hungarian people: all that which our ancestors built in the Carpathian Basin, all that which they gave to humanity in the realms of culture, science, business and sport. This heritage belongs to us all, to every Hungarian, wherever in the world they may live. Let us be proud of it, let us preserve it, and let us make our own contribution to it. Finally, we express our heartfelt gratitude and highest appreciation to our severed national communities for having stood their ground for one hundred years, and for their loyalty to the Hungarian nation and their native land.
Hungary before all else, God above us all!
Go for it Hungary, go for it Hungarians!