MICHAEL TOOMEY – History, Nationalism and Democracy: Myth and Narrative in Viktor Orbán’s ‘Illiberal Hungary’


Abstract: This article studies the relationship between nationalistic discourse and Hungary’s ‘illiberal turn’ from the election of Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party in the 2010 Hungarian elections up until 2015. It begins by examining the arguments of authors such as Jeffrey Alexander, Quentin Skinner, and Tapio Juntunen in order to establish a theoretical framework for how political actors construct and manipulate historical myths for their own political purposes. It then goes on to examine how Orbán specifically uses and constructs narratives sur- rounding the Treaty of Trianon and Miklós Horthy, the interwar leader of Hungary. This article argues that in addition to allowing Orbán to build a defensive shield against criticism from international and domestic actors, these interpretations of Hungarian history restore to prominence the interwar-era ‘populist-urbanist’ cleavage, and allow Orbán to create an exclusionary image of Hungarian nationalism. Thus, this serves to legitimize Orbán and Fidesz, while denying opposition parties from both the right and the left the opportunity to stake claims to being true representatives of the Hungarian people.

Keywords: Fidesz, Hungary, Nationalism, Trianon, Horthy, Orban, Myth, Narrative, Democracy