In 1956 Hungary was the first country within the Iron Curtain to revolt against the communist regime. It ended in 1989 when the Iron Curtain fell off and the country was able to quickly integrate in major Western organisms: NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004.

However, it has lately embraced autocracy (source):

many fundamental institutions of democracy have been demolished in Hungary, and an autocratic regime has come out on top. [..] Hungarian prime minister introduced the concept of illiberal democracy into public discourse at Tusnádfürdő

The same author tells us that "autocracies do have a tendency to turn into dictatorships".

Question: Why does Hungary seem to favor dictatorship in spite the recent past actions towards Western values (anti-communism, joining NATO, EU)?

  • 2
    I don't know much about Hungary, but my guess is that it has as much to do with economics as anything else. The countries of the former Soviet Bloc, though in the EU, enjoy nothing like the prosperity of Western Europe. As well as curtailing markets the Soviet system also inhibited democratic movements. When was Hungary last democratic? In philosophical terms Hobbes precedes Locke.
    – WS2
    Commented May 20, 2017 at 7:47
  • @WS2 - I am not very familiar with Hungary's history, but I know it had very little democracy in the past. But this is also true for Romania (eastern neighbor that shared the same communist past). For Romania it was harder to enter EU and has more economical problems (it is dangling at the bottom of EU along with Bulgaria) and still it has less euro-skepticism than many EU countries. Almost no politician speaks about illiberal democracy and there were massive protests when politicians tried to blatantly weaken the fight against corruption).
    – Alexei
    Commented May 20, 2017 at 8:15
  • I don't know enough for a full answer, but poverty is certainly part of it. Hungary has been hit very harshly by the 2007 crisis which is still going on, and is the 3rd poorest EU country after Romania and Bulgaria.
    – Bregalad
    Commented May 20, 2017 at 10:51
  • @Alexei It is manifestly in the interests of the former eastern bloc countries to remain in the EU. Because of the need to bring their economies up to convergence with the western countries, they are permitted negative net contributions to the EU coffers. Indeed this was one of the cries of complaint of the Brexiteers in Britain (the second-largest contributor). However some Remain voters like me took the view that it was worth making the effort to help them, and thereby to solidify the eastern border of the EU. Their populations also participate in "free movement" around the EU.
    – WS2
    Commented May 20, 2017 at 16:50

1 Answer 1


"Favor dictatorship"? I think that's too strong phrase, more "don't mind illiberal democracy".

1) EU/NATO - For practical purposes EU could be perceived as free trade area, free movement area with perks (like structural funds). From purely practical perspective there are clear short term gains of joining it. Its convincing enough for masses, while the rest is mostly perceived as ideology for elites. NATO - a club for countries that don't want to be woke up by Russian tanks... by Little Green Men.

2) Left wing proved itself inept enough, thus they are not greatly missed

3) Hungary borders are quite unfortunate, if European borders were redrawn to simply reflect ethnic realities, Hungary would be much bigger. No one would do it, but it useful situation for any nationalists.

4) Hungary was indirectly hit by Refugee Crisis, and Orban nicely positioned himself as last defender of European borders, while EU elites failed to provide any working solution. (thus it's not hard to use in political debate this argument that his policies are right, while its EU which is wrong)

5) There is already wave of mixture of nationalism and populism flooding both EU and USA, (Brexit, Le Pen, Kaczynski, Trump, etc.) so luckily for Orban he does not stand out so much. What matters in country with properly rooted democracy, one Trump can not rewrite constitution, while in Hungary Orban managed to do that.

  • I did not mean to be harsh, that's why I use the "safety net" of "tendency". Thanks for the detailed answer. Indeed, refugee crisis is a big difference between Hungary and Romania, as Romania was virtually unaffected by the refugees crisis. Also, nationalists voice in Romania is not very strong as borders are almost the best Romania can hope for (Moldavia Republic was part of Romania for a short period between WWs, but the matter is very complicated).
    – Alexei
    Commented May 20, 2017 at 15:07
  • 2
    @Alexei: "nationalists voice in Romania is not very strong" On which world are you living? Romanian day-to-day politics is full of scaremongering against their Hungarian minority, entire political parties and organizations have their primary goal of suppressing or even exiling Hungarians (see Noua Dreapta and plenty others), up to and including the prime minister threatening Hungarians with lynching. But the ruling party is called "liberal" at least in name (even if it doesn't really holds itself up to liberal concepts as understood in the West), so the Western media doesn't really care.
    – vsz
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 20:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .