Trianon commemorations in the shadow of Crimea


The significance of Trianon

The Treaty of Trianon of 1920 and its aftermath, the presence of Hungarian diaspora located in neighbouring countries have always been high on the Hungarian foreign policy agenda, especially in times of right-wing governments. 2020 proved this yet again, as the 100-years anniversary of the Treaty was commemorated widely in the neighbouring diaspora communities and by the Hungarian National Assembly in the frames of the “Year of National Togetherness” amid the COVID-19 epidemic in and outside of Hungary.

Despite the relevance of the memory and commemoration of Trianon in the Hungarian national discourse, revisionism has not officially been a part of Hungarian foreign policy after 1945 and even less so after the country joined NATO and the EU. Still, the political and communication vulnerability related to Trianon and historical territorial revisionism has clearly been revived since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Political Capital has pointed out previously in numerous studies how the Kremlin transformed European far-right parties and extremist organisations harbouring age-old territorial or other grievances against other countries into pro-Russian political assets since the early 2000s.[i] Hungary proved no exception to this phenomena in the wake of the Crimean annexation, which manifested itself in numerous Hungarian far-right and paramilitary groups being infiltrated by the Russian military intelligence agency GRU and the establishment of a Hungarian-speaking pro-Kremlin fringe media network embedded into the Hungarian far-right subculture.[ii] Moreover, Hungarian far-right circles’ vulnerability to Russian active measures or disinformation campaigns were enhanced even more by their ideological affinity towards the Kremlin and President Putin, whose aggressive, ethnocentric militarism they admire, and their view of Russian revisionism as a “historical chance” for Hungary to contest the borders laid out in the Treaty once again.

For this reason, Political Capital and its partners researched Russian disinformation campaigns related to the 2020 Trianon commemorations to see what messages utilising revisionist attitudes and movements animate this 21st Century revisionism in terms of narratives and sources in the Hungarian media space.

The far-right “hijacking” official commemorations

The analysis of the mainstream and fringe communication around the commemoration of the Treaty of Trianon revealed how far-right groups capitalise on official commemorative events to promote their revisionist causes, mobilise followers and ultimately play into the Kremlin’s active measures targeting bilateral tensions with neighbouring countries. In the Hungarian far-right subculture, “Trianon is not a case closed,” so official commemorations are used to argue for the revision of borders.

The radicalization of the 2020 commemorations by extremist movements were in plain view during March and June of 2020. On the 100th anniversary of Miklós Horthy becoming regent of Hungary, the revisionist Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement (HVIM), the anti-Semitic Our Homeland Movement (Mi Hazánk Mozgalom), the paramilitary neo-Nazi Army of Outlaws (Betyársereg), and the most prolific anti-Semitic portal, along with other smaller extremist organisations, praised Horthy for the successful territorial revisionist military actions between the two World Wars and called for the annulation of the Trianon Treaty.[iii] The same organisations held a march protesting against Trianon on the Day of National Togetherness on 5 June 2020.[iv] Their statements about revisionism were simple and blunt. In an interview given to the Army of Outlaws, the leader of the Sopron organisation of the Our Homeland Movement Gábor Gőbl stated:

“(…) borders should have been drawn based on referendums. It is still not too late to do this even after 100 years!!! There would be a need for borders based on ethnographic (data) in the Carpathian Basin to this day! In this case, Hungary would control approx. 115,000 square kilometres of land today and its population would be around 11,500,000.[v] [vi]

During the June 2019 commemoration and protest in front of the Slovak Embassy in Budapest, the HVIM announced the forming of an “action group” to organise street protests and other activities to free the “Szekler terrorists”[vii] and force the Romanian state to sit at the negotiating table for further talks.[viii]

Narratives of revisionism

By demanding the release of the “Szekler terrorists,” Hungarian extremists directly linked their revisionist ideas to legitimate human rights issues, such as the autonomy of the Szeklers (Székelyek) in Romania, which point to a wider set of Hungarian nationalist narratives used to make the case for the revision of borders. Based on an analysis of a representative sample of Hungarian website articles, Hungary had the highest number (18) of narratives among all the countries under review (Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine and Serbia) that directly or indirectly connected to the issue of Trianon and revisionism. It turned out that the three aggressive territorial fringe narratives present in far-right and pro-Kremlin media, as seen in the table below, are supported by different nationalist mainstream narratives that supply the Hungarian far-right with inter-ethnic and diplomatic conflicts, for example between Romania and Hungary or Hungary and Ukraine to argue for revisionism.






% in sample


Territorial revisionism against neighbours





Territorial revisionism related to Trianon





Crimea is part of Russia




Table 1. Aggressive revisionist narratives in Hungary by discourse type and percentage share (The percentage share represents the share of messages of each narrative in the representative country-samples of website articles.)

Despite Hungarian revisionist narratives being confined to fringe discourses and amount only to a little over 7% of messages in the Hungarian media based on representative sampling, their relevance is strengthened by two key factors. First, Hungarians still express one of the highest proportion of revisionist attitudes in Central and Eastern Europe according to a 2020 Pew poll, which found that 67% of Hungarians support territorial claims against neighbours. Far-right narratives clearly draw their support from those attitudes being present in the general population. Secondly, the Kremlin has executed a string of active measures over the years that utilised far-right groups, communication to create bilateral tensions between Hungary and neighbours, clearly playing the revisionism card to further destabilise the region around Ukraine.

Active measures and revisionism

One such incident in 2019 started out as a simple inter-ethnic conflict between representatives of the Hungarian minority, a minority-led Romanian municipality and a Romanian municipality over the status and commemorative use of an international World War One cemetery in the Valley of Uz (Valea Uzului in Romanian). While the Romanian and Hungarian nationalists and diplomacies clashed over the issue, and the Hungarian foreign ministry summoned the Romanian ambassador in protest,[ix] pro-Russian communication quickly hijacked the conversation in both countries. Gábor Stier, a Hungarian pro-Kremlin journalist claimed on his personal blog that the “script was presumably written by players of big politics”, and “everything was aligned to spark (…) a new ethnical clash like the one of the black

March of 1990” – a clear reference to a bloody clash between Hungarians and Romanians in the ‘90s.[x] Other pro-Kremlin fringe media, the anti-Semitic relativized the “heroic death” of Romanian soldiers of WWI,[xi]and demanded the suspension of any collaboration with Romania within NATO,[xii] while the Hungarian version of Newsfront controlled by the Kremlin wrote about the “attack against Hungarians reminding us of the darkest years of the 20th Century.”[xiii] These are the same media that floated the idea that the conflict “could spark an ethnic war (News Front),”[xiv] Hungarians or Szeklers should get back “lost territories” following the “example of the Crimean peninsula,”[xv] or that President Trump would return Transylvania to Hungary based on an alleged “backroom deal” reached with President Putin at the yearly G7 summit.[xvi] One of the main pro-Russian conspiracy sites ‘A Világ Titkai’ floated the same “backroom deal” conspiracy in 2018, 2019 and 2020, gathering more than 47000 interactions on Facebook according to Crowdtangle.[xvii] Meanwhile, the Russian mouthpiece covered the conflict in multiple articles in coordination with some of the far-right organisers of the protests on the ground in Moldova,[xviii] one even claiming that the Hungarian minority is following a revisionist agenda orchestrated from Budapest.[xix]

Consequently, a loosely coordinated disinformation campaign of pro-Kremlin or anti-West outlets successfully escalated the incident in three countries (Romania, Moldova, Hungary) by targeting mostly the Romanian and Hungarian general public through pro-Kremlin fringe actors and media. While elements of the conflicts on the ground (protests, counter-protests, desegregation of graves) were real, domestic aggressive or victimhood revisionist narratives on both sides were activated and injected into the public scandal by pro-Kremlin actors that was widely covered by Hungarian and Romanian national media.

The Uz-valley disinformation campaign, thus, laid bare the Hungarian and regional vulnerability related to revisionism. Nationalist groups either promoting territorial revisionism or, in the case of Romania, fearing revisionist interventions can quickly turn simple and mundane inter-ethnic conflicts into a toxic mixture of conspiracy theories that started to metastases uncontrollably on social media, and official Russian mouthpieces – further fuelling conflicts between EU or NATO member states. According to Russia and geopolitical expert András Rácz, the annexation of Crimea not only proved that Russia is “ready to upend the security policy (setting) of Europe after World War II,” it is also pursuing a “permanent logic of destabilization:”

“Russia knows NATO is stronger in terms of military and economy, so it tries to counter this (weakness) with a classic, asymmetric response that creates tension and unnerves the opponent.”

Therefore, governments’ in Central-Eastern Europe should be vigilant as to not to give room to or fuel high-level inter-ethnic and cross-border conflicts over minority rights that are instantly hijacked by far-right revisionist movements and pro-Kremlin media. Instead, Central-European states should enhance permanent cooperation, for example in the form of policy or scientific working-groups, with neighbouring governments over well-known historical, national issues to diffuse diplomatic conflicts, defend our critical communication infrastructure and present a united front against Russian disinformation campaigns.


[i] Lóránt Győri, ‘Larger than Life - Who Is Afraid of the Big Bad Russia? Grassroots Vulnerability to Russian Sharp Power in Hungary Country Report’ (Political Capital, May 2019),

[ii] ‘Far-Right Murder of Hungarian Police Officer: Pro-Russian Radicalization in the CEE’, Political Capital, 4 November 2016,

[iii] Barbara Fábián Tamás, ‘Toroczkai: Hatályon kívül fogjuk helyezni Trianont’, 1 March 2020,

[iv] ‘100. évforduló: nem marad el a Trianon Felvonulás! Június 5. 19:30 Hősök tere | Betyársereg’, accessed 30 July 2020,

[v] ‘Gőbl Gábor rockzenész gondolatai Trianonról | Betyársereg’, accessed 30 July 2020,

[vi] „Igazságos béke alapfeltétele kellett volna legyen 1920-ban és 1947-ben is az, hogy a népfelség elve alapján, népszavazásokkal kellett volna megrajzolni a határokat! 100 év után sem lenne túl késő mindenhez!!! Mind a mai napig néprajzi alapján meghúzott határokra van szükség a Kárpát-medencében! Ez esetben Magyarország a jelenben cca 115 ezer négyzetkilométernyi területre terjedne ki, lakosság száma pedig 11.500.000 fő körül alakulna.”

[vii] As we have discussed in detail in our 2017 study: „Two members of the HVIM, István Beke and Zoltán Szőcs, have been charged with attempting violent acts in Romania with revisionist intentions (in 2016). According to charges filed by attorneys of Romania’s Directorate for the Investigation of Organised Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT), Beke and Szőcs wanted to blow up a section of a natural gas pipeline leading to Bucharest near Târgu Secuiesc. Romanian prosecutors – likely highly exaggerating – maintained that the firecrackers found on the two men could have been used to produce lethal explosives; at the same time, news portal, which had obtained access to the indictment documents, suggested that the authorities were attempting to influence the judges emotionally by emphasising the anti-Romanian sentiments of the defendants.  According to DIICOT, members of the HVIM had established ties with groups such as Basque separatist group ETA, the IRA or the National Democratic Movement of Moldova; following the planned explosion, they were said to be looking to Russian organisations to support a subsequent attack.” For more please see:

[viii] ‘Akciócsoportot hirdetett meg a Vármegye az idei Trianon felvonuláson (+videó) | Betyársereg’, accessed 30 July 2020,

[ix] Rita Palfi, ‘Tensions Flare between Romania and Hungary after Cemetery Incident’, euronews, 7 June 2019,

[x] “Black March” is a reference to a violent clash between the Hungarian minority and Romanian majority in the city of Târgu Mureș (Marosvásárhely in Hungarian) sparked by Romanian nationalists, which was one of the bloodiest inter-ethnic incidents of the post-communist era in Romania. ‘Târgu-Mureş: Conflictul Din Martie 90 a Fost Forţat Şi de Presă | Adevarul.Ro’, accessed 29 July 2020,

[xi] ‘ - Magyar haditemetőt gyaláztak meg az oláhok: betonkereszteket állítgattak ott, ahol egyetlen bocskoros sem esett el’, hírportál, accessed 12 November 2020,

[xii] ‘ - A soviniszta atrocitások ellen tüntettek a román nagykövetségnél, Szijjártó petíciót kapott’, hírportál, accessed 12 November 2020,

[xiii] ‘Megdöbbentő provokáció az úzvölgyi katonai temető meggyalázása’, Tájékoztató ügynökség, 8 June 2019,

[xiv] ‘Trianon nem lezárt ügy, de az etnikai háborúval mindenki megégetheti magát’, Tájékoztató ügynökség, 3 July 2018,

[xv] ‘ - Nem díjazták a megszállók, hogy Petrás bocskorosnak nevezte őket - kitiltották a Kárpátiát Erdélyből, a Jobbik kiállt mellettük’, hírportál, accessed 14 September 2020,

[xvi] ‘Trump szerint Trianon igazságtalan volt, és Székelyföld visszacsatolható lenne?’, A világ titkai | Rejtélyek, paranormál, ufo, összeesküvés, és minden, amit nem mondtak még el..., accessed 14 September 2020,


[xviii] Infruntarea din Valea Uzului,, last modified 7 June 2019,

[xix] Marin Teodora, ‘Nagy Attila-MIHAI: Valea Uzului și antiromânismul presei românești. Alianțele trădătoare ale politicienilor’, Cunoaste lumea (blog), accessed 5 November 2020,


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