What makes territorial revisionism against neighbouring countries relevant in Hungary to this day is the Trianon Treaty ending World War I. It created Hungarian minority populations abroad, with the “unjust” Treaty remaining a centrepiece of Hungarian national identity and history. The sensitivity of the issue was put on centre stage again in 2020, with Hungary commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Trianon Treaty as the “Year of National Togetherness,” while 67% of Hungarians are still supporting territorial claims against neighbouring countries.
Although the 2020 commemorations passed without significant scandals or provocations due to the Hungarian government’s concentrated efforts to prevent any foreign hostile interference with the anniversary, the vulnerability related to Trianon and historical territorial revisionism has been revived since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
There remains no and has been no official or mainstream revisionism present in Hungarian politics since the 1930s. The historical interpretation of Trianon and human rights issues of the Hungarian diaspora, however, provide the Hungarian far-right, the domestic pro-Kremlin media and ultimately the Kremlin with ample opportunity to drive a wedge between Hungary and other EU or NATO member states, including Ukraine in the region.
Since the start of the Crimean invasion in 2014, pro-Kremlin media in and outside Hungary have made deliberate efforts to weaponize Hungarian historical revisionismpresent in the Hungarian far-right subculture and media, which fits into a wider pattern of the Kremlin’s hybrid war waged against Ukraine and the Euro-Atlantic Community, or the West in general.
We were able to identify a total of 17 narratives directly or indirectly related to revisionism in Hungary which are spread by an incohesive network of pro-Kremlin websites and a more coordinated network of Facebook pages relying on far-right opinion-leaders, far-right movements and conspiracy theorists who entertain peoples’ fantasies and sense of historical justice.
Outright territorial revisionism is present only in far-right or pro-Kremlin discourses accounting for less than 10% (7.7%) of our sample. Nevertheless, the impact of such narratives cannot be underestimated, as they are directly related to inter-ethnic conflicts, the autonomy of the Hungarian diaspora or Crimea.
Hungarian revisionist ideas and attitudes expressed on fringe websites and social media pages have been amplified or radicalized by the establishment of a pro-Kremlin media network, the infiltration of Hungarian extremist movements and the hijacking of official commemorative events such as the Day of National Togetherness, the 2020 Year of National Togetherness. Their narratives about the Treaty of Trianon being “null and void,” Hungary getting back parts of Romania following the “example of the Crimean peninsula” and the revision of borders based on the Kingdom of Hungary all aim to incite hate speech against other nations and enflame inter-ethnic conflicts between majority and minority populations claiming national “self-determination” – a rallying cry for “separatists” in Eastern Ukraine.
Moreover, we witnessed a string of disinformation campaigns or “active measures” utilising these narratives, while targeting bilateral relations with Ukraine or Romania based on the actions of Hungarian extremists and the local pro-Kremlin media. As a result of hostile disinformation activities, far-right messages and conspiracy theories about revisionism are often found on pro-Kremlin sites, and almost all Hungarian far-right actors, parties, paramilitary movements and media outlets can be considered pro-Kremlin, anti-NATO, anti-U.S.A or anti-EU at the same time.
The dangers posed by revisionist narratives are, therefore, amplified by two primary factors. Firstly, revisionist conspiracy theories and disinformation narratives about Hungary or Ukraine are matched with extremist organizational potential proven to be infiltrated by Russian intelligence services and capable of exporting their views abroad. Second, the Hungarian government’s pro-Kremlin foreign policy after 2010, coupled with the country’s highly centralized media space dominated by pro-government outlets, makes Hungarian society vulnerable to Russian narratives and disinformation campaigns directly or indirectly.