It has been an open secret for weeks that something is definitely happening around us, and the silence was broken yesterday. The most important thing: the shares of our publisher, Index Zrt. remain in the property of Magyar Fejlődésért Alapítvány (Foundation for Hungarian Progress), controlled by László Bodolai. What changed is that the most important partners of Index – CEMP SH, that is selling our ad space, and the company that provides all IT services to us – are now in the hands of Gábor Ziegler and József Oltyán. The same two people, through companies they own, also acquired NP Nanga Parbat 17 Zrt. from Bodolai, the company which is the founder of the Foundation for Hungarian Progress.
There are two basic conditions which, if not met, Index cannot function properly. One is our editorial independence, meaning that our staff members – adhering to the journalistic standards we hold – produce whatever content they want. No outsider can have a say in our editorial decisions. The other condition is that no outsider can interfere with our decisions regarding which people work in the editorial staff.
In April 2018, Fidesz won their third consecutive parliamentary election, while more than half the electorate wanted a change in government. The System of National Cooperation (NER for short) seems stable even after eight years. For some, this seems natural, others find it deeply puzzling. The reasons go beyond the political map, but even beyond personal factors: there is a power structure which can only be understood with a perspective on the social order of Hungary. Those who think it's all about Orbán are deeply wrong, says Imre Kovách, the sociologist spearheading the research on Hungaran society, carried out by MTA TK's Institute of Sociology. We discussed the political ramifications.
Viktor Orbán took part in a public event, but his guards tried to hold off the press. When we got close enough to address him, Orbán called Index fake news.
Evidence suggests that an Israeli private security company has been hired to discredit Hungarian NGOs. The company with close ties to Mossad and many ex-spies on its payroll, applied illegal intelligence methods. Their targets had one thing in common: the Orbán administration has labeled them an enemy of the government.
15 kilometers of pure thrill in the Swiss Alps for those seeking the ultimate toboggan ride in the World. We tested it, including a punishing hike to gain an extra 1500 feet of altitude from the ski lift's top station. Watch it on video!
“He's an instinctive genius. It pains me to say this, but he is the smartest person I have ever known – that's including myself,” says a Hungarian billionaire when I ask him about Anthony Radev.
But who is behind this name? It should come as no surprise if you don't know him. The Hungarian elite sought his advice for decades, but he has always remained a sort of éminence grise.
The mayor of Budapest couldn't hide his frustration anymore. “This is some kind of a Murphy's law or a game of devilish powers”, István Tarlós told reporters at his weekly press conference in March 2017. He was laughing in disappointment: “Although I'm a believer, I'm absolutely sure Satan's hand is in this M3 metro line case”. Tarlós was referring to the newly arrived and constantly malfunctioning Russian metro cars, which kept breaking down since their first full day in service.
On Sunday night, Zoltán Szabó (a journalist and senior staff member at Index.hu, Hungary's leading news portal), was assaulted by a security guard working for the KFC on Király Street in downtown Budapest.
Stunned and shocked would be an understatement if we wanted to describe how quite a few seasoned counter-intelligence officers at Hungary's Constitutional Protection Office (AH) could have felt in April 2014. Going against their professional convictions, AH terminated an ongoing investigation and subsequently initiated a criminal case against a lesser-known far-right politician. The accusation was severe: spying against institutions of the European Union on behalf of a third country.
Security officers of AH were embarrassed, not because they weren't fully convinced that Béla Kovács, a notoriously russophile Hungarian member of the European Parliament – dubbed as KGBéla even by his own far-right comrades – broke the law and made illegal contacts with Russian intelligence officers, but because they wanted to make sure he could not escape justice and his web of contacts would be fully discovered.
In the tiny village of Őcsény, locals turned to intimidation to prevent an inn keeper from hosting a few refugees for a couple of days as a charity gesture. The people from the village have never met any refugees, they only know about them through the media.
Due to the propaganda campaign that the Orbán government has been running for two years, people believe that refugees rape women and children, rob their houses and kill people. In a heated village hall meeting, locals threatened the owner of the motel and the refugees. The locals’ accusations against refugees resonate with the state-run propaganda campaign: George Soros is responsible for the refugees wave in Europe, and all migrants are terrorists.
Such was the panic that the mayor was forced to resign. He had been the village leader for 11 years and had brought investment and prosperity to the community. The once peaceful village has become a place of conflict and fear.
The refugees who would have stayed at the motel were women and children with asylum status issued by the Hungarian authorities. After the incident, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán defended the illegal actions of the locals.
The original version of this video (without English subtitles) was published on September the 29th, 2017.
The streets of Mosul are covered with the traces of air raids. It appeared as though the collapsed buildings were trying to illustrate the varied aesthetics of the devastation. Some of the houses were transformed into a Laocoon group of rubble, ferroconcrete iron and wires, while some others were opened up along the lines of gaping wide cracks, or the roof was leaning gently deep down to the ground level, eliminating any difference between the inside and the outside. In this deconstructed space, cramped vehicle wreckages crammed into buildings once used as homes.
“Sixty people were killed when the assailant blew himself up with the car” – said the woman in the black scarf with the children crowding around her, dragging me back to reality. Indeed, the wreckage piercing into the wall was not a decorative object but the remains of a car that had been fully loaded with explosives and metal shards with the purpose of driving it into the residential building at full speed.
I did not expect that I would have a first-hand experience of the pressure that makes Afghan people set off towards Europe. I spent less than five days with an Afghan family living in Iran, and I would already have undertaken the march in the desert of the Turkish-Iranian borderline accompanied by some evil-looking human trafficker. I felt so, even though I did not starve, I was not deprived, there was a roof above my head, my Afghan hosts looked after me and catered for me. In spite of all these, or rather because of these, the claustrophobic feeling settled on me.
Have you ever wondered if freedom of the press actually persisted in Viktor Orbán's ill-famed illiberal democracy? The outlook for independent news outlets is murky, but that makes reading them all the more exciting. Now you can check things out about Hungary for yourself!
This is the English section of Index.hu, Hungary's leading, iconic news website. We translate our most important stories and analyses on a timely basis, to provide non-Hungarian audiences an access to the best of our coverage, as well as an overview of the most important current developments in Hungary.
With the upcoming general elections in Spring 2018 and the current government's peculiar role in the EU amid the migrant crisis, Hungary is expected to remain in the focus of international attention. We believe that our English section can serve as a prime source for in depth understanding of ongoing issues in Hungary.
Donald Trump has declared war. Not on terrorism, nor on the “cheating” Chinese, not even on Mexico. Instead, the US President appears to have decided that his main international adversary will be a loyal ally to the U.S.: Germany. Recently, Berlin has had to bear the brunt of Trump's anger on international trade and security, through which, at least according to the President, the United States is supposed to be taken advantage of.
At the end of May in Brussels, Trump essentially kicked down the door on unsuspecting European leaders by turning a NATO summit designed to appease him into a tirade against Germany and its ‘very bad' export policies. The problem according to Trump: Germany ‘exports too many cars to the United States, and that needs to be stopped. (The majority of German-brand cars sold in the US are actually assembled in America. The same is true for Japanese automobiles.)
This article was originally published in Hungarian (Nyolc pont Horthy Miklós történelmi felelősségéről, 06.30.2017). Ádám Kerpel-Fronius is research fellow at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Ferenc Laczó is assistant professor in history at Maastricht University.
Miklós Horthy wasn´t planning on becoming a politician; his political interests and abilities were rather limited. It was the collapse of Hungary at the end of WWI that unexpectedly brought him to power. Even though he took power in the age of ideologies, Horthy did not possess a coherent political ideology himself; he was the representative of an illiberal and ethnically-based but otherwise rather confused conservatism. A Hungarian brand of conservatism opposed to modern revolutions and also to ideas of democracy and equality. His leadership cult notwithstanding, Horthy was an impressionable and opportunistic politician rather than an assertive statesman with a clear vision.
Regardless of the government’s various talking points concerning its reasons for cracking down on CEU, the real question here is why Viktor Orbán decided to attack the university right now. There are very few people who have insight into the Prime Minister’s thought-process, but even then, they can only discuss it as outsiders because they are neither fans nor employees of the Prime Minister. We sat down to talk about this with sociologist István Hegedűs, Orbán’s former man-at-arms.
We’ve heard a variety of plausible explanations regarding the government’s problem with CEU. The attacks on CEU aren’t just targeted, they also appear to lead to pointless international confrontations. Why did the Prime Minister feel that now was the time to attack CEU?
The fight against real or imagined adversaries always played a very important role in Viktor Orbán’s mind. Similarly, a negative identity also plays a significant role in Fidesz’s own self-image. Orbán keeps track of who his enemies are, who has done him harm, and who he hates, just as he keeps track of those who – in his mind – have tried to destroy him. This group changes and expands, but Orbán will always treat the leftist European elite, the liberal intellectuals, and media as his own enemies. This worldview has been with him since 1993, which is when he believes everyone turned against him.
Index: What can we know about your career?
Ferenc Katrein: I worked for the Hungarian National Security Office (NBH) and then for the Constitution Protection Office (AH) between 2000 and 2013. My main areas of expertise were extremism, mainly the far-right and international terrorism, and counter-espionage. The highest-ranking position I reached was executive head of operations, I later became chief adviser to the director general. I currently live abroad as a civilian.
Did you tell your family about your job?
My close relatives knew where I worked. But they had no idea what exactly my job was, and they didn't know why and where I had to travel from time to time. This interview will surprise them too.
Why did you leave the service?
Covert agents and deep cover illegal operatives ('illegals'): The quasi-legal representatives of intelligence are those covert agents (spies) who are usually disguised as diplomats, soldiers etc. and are delegated to a foreign country, for example to an embassy. They are openly working for a foreign state and only their real activities are hidden. On the contrary, illegal agents completely infiltrate the given country’s society, often even the fact that they are foreigners is hidden.
Military and civilian national security agencies: In most countries, the military and non-military (civilian) national security agencies work as separate organisations. The former is usually overseen by the military, the general staff and the Ministry of Defence, while the control and structure of civilian agencies can be more varied.
The services may deal with foreign intelligence (spying, influencing, etc.) or domestic issues (counter-espionage, counter-terrorism, countering groups threatening the constitutional order), and there are integrated secret services as well, which do both at the same time.
Hungarian civilian intelligence agencies, AH, NBH, IH: The Hungarian civilian counter-intelligence agency was the National Security Office (NBH) between 1990 and 2010, which the Fidesz government renamed to Constitution Protection Office (AH) in 2010. Their even earlier predecessors before 1989 were the Ministry of Interior’s III/II department (counter-espionage) and the III/III department (internal security).
The tasks of the AH: “It reveals and counters foreign secret service efforts and activities harming or threatening Hungary’s sovereignty, and its political, economic, defence or other interests; reveals and counters undercover activities aimed at changing or disrupting Hungary’s constitutional order with illegal tools; reveals and counters efforts to commit terror attacks by foreign powers, organisations or individuals”.
Counter-terrorism operations were transferred to the establishment of the Counter-Terrorism Centre (TEK) in 2010, the competences of different organisations have not been clear since then.
The Hungarian foreign intelligence agency is called Information Office (IH).
Hungarian military services, KNBSZ, KFH, KBH: Since 2012, Hungary’s military secret service has been the Military National Security Service (KNBSZ), which was established by a merger.
From 1990 to 2012 military intelligence or espionage worked separately, this was the Military Intelligence Office (KFH). “It obtains, analyses and passes on knowledge on military policy, military industry and military-related information affecting security policy originating from abroad or related to foreign countries that are needed for governmental decisions” – this was the task of the independent KFH.
The Military Security Office (KBH) was responsible for counter-intelligence, its tasks were as follows: “it reveals efforts suggesting an offensive intention aimed at Hungary; reveals and counters foreign secret service efforts and activities harming or threatening Hungary’s sovereignty”.
The established practice is that the military security agency monitors and neutralises those in “uniforms”. For example, they deal with agents of foreign military intelligence (like Russia's GRU) as well as paramilitary extremist groups.
Russian secret services, KGB, SVR, FSB, GRU: The Soviets’ civilian secret service, the KGB has several successor organisations in contemporary Russia, these often compete with each other. The most important of them: the SVR is dealing with classic foreign intelligence activities, and the FSB, which originally specialised in domestic preventive activities but has since overextended its competences considerably, is really active and aggressive in the “near abroad” and elsewhere.
The other agency of the USSR was the GRU, the military secret service of the Soviet Army General Staff, which survived the democratic transition organisationally as well and it currently counts as the largest foreign-focused intelligence agency of Putin's Russia. It was mostly the GRU behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the US, but they also had a huge role in the occupation of Crimea. In Hungary, it was also them who were in contact with the neo-Nazi organisation named Hungarian National Front (MNA) that became famed for its role in the murder of a police officer in Bőny. The two sides regularly held joint drills.
We introduce spectacular analyses on the schemings of Russian secret services. Czech analysts found after investigating 22,000 Russian-language online sources that Moscow’s propaganda started two years before the military intervention in the case of Ukraine and four years in advance concerning Syria.
Koba lives in an Eastern Hungarian city and as a civilian he works at the local government, but in the online world he is the “editor in chief” of one the most important Hungarian pro-Kremlin online initiatives, the We stand with Russia (Kiállunk Oroszország Mellett) Facebook page. Although this was also Stalin’s pseudonym in the Communist Party, the Hungarian Koba is a radical nationalist, a Jobbik activist and a committed monarchist, the proponent of the restoration of the Hungarian monarchy. The Facebook page has 24 thousand followers today. Just like the majority of the site’s former and current admins (administrators, handlers), Koba edits the page without revealing his real name.
A study found in last April that over ninety websites and blogs fitting into the concept of Russian information war were operating in Hungary at the time. In the majority of cases it is hard to decide whether they do it on their own or they are part of a larger disinformation network. No similar summary and investigation of Hungarian-language Facebook sites has been produced so far. Therefore, discussions on the operation of the site, the views of the editors and their motivation with current or former editors of We stand with Russia in the past few months was very enlightening to us. Naturally, we also inquired about their contacts with the representatives of Russia or – if they do not have any – about critical points through which Russians are able to influence “useful idiots”.
Battle-wise soldiers back from the Syrian war were sitting opposite me, and we all felt ill at ease. The three veterans because they did not feel comfortable sitting on the couch that served as the spectacle of the apartment. I, on the other hand, did not understand why the soldiers who have combated the Islamic State were not telling stories about their experiences on the battlefield.
The far-right paramilitary organization led by the police officer’s killer at Bőny, Hungary had ties to Russian diplomats, sometimes they even held joint airsoft drills.
In the red light district of Bremerhaven, the unsuspecting onlooker can easily imagine that they are in Hungary. Practically everybody speak Hungarian, and the only pizzeria offers Hungarian dishes on its Hungarian-language menu. The sex workers, who actually do not like to have sex with strangers at all, are also Hungarian.
Erzsébet runs a red light district in Germany where sex workers await clients in shop windows. She has worked for years as an employee in a lawfully operating business. Her job is punishable in Hungary by as much as ten years of imprisonment.
We travelled to Malta, the frontline of the migrant-wave, to face two surprising facts.
Malta is a tiny island at the very centre of the migration route across the Mediterranean Sea, near Lampedusa. An interesting feature to it is that while migrants flood Lampedusa, the situation in Malta is as quiet as if it was still the 1990s, when migration was not Europe's major concern.
But the country can embody the dream of the Orbán government for several other reasons too.
That is to say, all what Orbán's government is striving for has been implemented in Malta. And it happened in the way that, while in the world's eyes Malta is one of the symbols of the immigration crisis, migrants have not arrived in Malta for years. And nobody talks about that. In a recent article for example, the BBC publishes a long discussion of what effects the migrants' tragedies at sea make on Malta, not mentioning that the problem yielded by the refugees is a thing of the past.
It was obvious in the first minute that something had happened to the island of Lampedusa. In a hotel of an island with palm trees, encircled by turquoise sea, the lucky guests are welcomed with a cocktail, the less fortunate with the leaflets of lame folklore programmes. But the receptionist's smile turning into a grimace surprised me even though I had known the story of the island. “Please write what a beautiful place Lampedusa is,” – said the tanned girl, having heard that I was a journalist. “Tourists are scared to come here, but there is nothing to be afraid of at us.”
The southern Italian island is, indeed, magnificent. The sky stretches over the cactus-covered hills in a way that it is clear even without any knowledge of geography: I am at the end of the world. The feeling of isolation is only enhanced by the sensation when, some hours later, standing at one of the highest points of the island, I catch sight of the sea on both sides.
Astonishing conditions prevail around Keleti railway station. If you have been there recently, you understand that it is impossible to speak about the situation without the use of strong adjectives. Hundreds of migrants have settled down in the subways and squares surrounding the railway station. Entire families are living their lives in the covered passageways; children run around among the people hurrying to the metro, and a lot of people eat there sitting on the ground, while others sleep in rows by the wall.
It is no use going into details yet, please, click on the photos before reading on, it will make more sense after that.
Of course we were afraid at the sea. Some of us had not even seen a river before. We didn't know when we would be rescued.
The Gambian boy does not only counterpoint the story but also the bizarre situation in which we are talking. The boy is among about 150 of his fellows, sitting in dense rows on the ground, on one side of an iron fence, and I am talking with them squatting outside. The situation brings out the worst associations of me: black people crouching on the dock, a huge ship is just mooring before us. But, in our case, the reason for happiness is this ship exactly.
We are in Lampedusa, the southernmost island of Italy, which is situated closer to Africa than Europe. The migrants who get as far as here on their boats are taken to refugee camps for a short while, then they are transported to Europe from this port. For those sitting on the concrete slabs of the dock it means the end of months- or even years-long migration; of course, they are happy.
It is true that I had never crossed any border illegally, but I had not imagined the action would start with irresolute running about in the dark. But of course, coming to think of it, the hesitation was not without reason.
I had spent only half a day among the migrants hiding on the Serbian-Hungarian border, but I had made certain that these people only knew two things for sure: where they came from (in my case from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan) and where they were going (Germany, France, Sweden, Italy). The route between the two, however, they were less certain about.
Refugee crisis at the Hungarian-Serbian border.
How did you get the idea of organizing a commemoration for Boris Nemtsov in Budapest?
Anna Vellikok is 23 years old, born in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. She is an MA student at CEU, Political science department. Anna is a researcher of federalism and electoral systems, and also a political activist.
I saw the news only several hours after the assassination. I was shocked and couldn't sleep. I've been reading all the reflections on Facebook by my friends who knew him, so there is a lot of personal attachment to this. I just realized I need to organize something where people can leave their flowers and mourn. But I also knew that it wouldn't be right to do it at the embassy, which represents the power structure that, in my opinion, killed him. Then I just wrote my Russian speaking friends at CEU, Kristina, Tatiana, Kirill, Ivan and Ludmila, that we need to do this. It took an hour and a half to organize everything.
How well-known and popular was Nemtsov? Opinion makers connected to the Kremlin say he wasn’t an important figure at all.
You can judge how many people supported him by looking at how many people turned up at the commemoration marches. The regime created the discourse that he was marginalized, and the leaders of the opposition are all facing this problem. The majority of voters see them as foreign agents, enemies of Russia and so on. But Nemtsov was extremely popular, he was a federal politician since the ‘90s. He even could have become the successor of Jelcin who really considered this option. Imagine how different it could be if he'd chosen him instead of Putin!