Hungary’s national anthem feels to Hungarians as if it were a message from every Hungarian who had ever lived throughout the country’s history, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Sunday, marking the Day of Hungarian Culture. It feels like a message “not only for us Hungarians living today, but to every Hungarian that will live in future”, Orbán told an ecumenical worship service in Szatmárcseke, in north-eastern Hungary, where Ferenc Kölcsey penned the Hungarian national anthem in 1823. He said it was “worthy and just” for the Day of Hungarian Culture to be observed on the day of the birth of the national anthem. “No other work over the last 1,000 years lifts the hearts of Hungarians the way the national anthem does,” Orbán said. If Hungarians had to find a work that expresses everything that is Hungarian “and makes Hungarians Hungarian, we would have to choose the national anthem”, he said.
Noting the funeral of Miklós Duray, a recently deceased ethnic Hungarian politician in Slovakia, this past Tuesday, where he last sang the national anthem, Orbán said the singing of the anthem had been meant not as a goodbye, but to “lift him … into the pantheon of Hungarians”.
Though the national anthem is a prayer that would “demand a posture of penitent humility”, Hungarians sing it standing with their heads held high rather than on their knees with their heads bowed, he said.
The national anthem contains “that mysterious and elusive thing … which we can call Hungarianness, Hungarian fate and Hungarian genius,” the prime minister said. “It is the form and quality of creation and existence that only we Hungarians are capable of.”
“The national anthem reminds us that we Hungarians — like all Christian people who understand sin and forgiveness — have a good reason to repent,” Orbán said. “We Hungarians are not without sin, either. Our faults and shortcomings are also numerous. The only question is what to do with this recognition and admission,” he added. “Should we take the knee in the middle of the football pitch? Or tear down the statues of our great ancestors?” Orbán said. “Should we disown and erase our thousand-year culture? Or should we let the self-appointed, stateless and liberal censors sift through and rewrite the history of Hungarians?”
“In the most important sentence of Hungarian literary history, Kölcsey says otherwise: ‘This nation has suffered for all sins of the past and of the future!'” Orbán said, quoting the anthem. But in a Christian reading this is “not a carte blanche” to commit more sins, the prime minister warned. “With a Christian soul, this sentence means that though the number of our sins may be high, God hasn’t wiped us from the face of the Earth,” Orbán said. “Even if he has punished us, he lets us continue our history. And the only reason being is that our virtues and merits are also numerous.”