What can this mean today?
23 October 2016 and the 60th anniversary of the student
demonstration in Budapest triggering the events in 1956 that came to
be known as the Hungarian Uprising, or Revolution, or
Counter-Revolution, take you pick.
Time was when it has been relatively unproblematical for the Western media to report this – you know brave, decent, unblemished and freedom-loving little nation standing up to the mighty Soviet Empire and then being ruthlessly suppressed, while we Brits with others were busy elsewhere knocking spots off Egypt (not that we could or would have done much if anything anyway to help out Hungary).
That aside, we and the rest of 'the West' were soon doing the decent thing for the thousands of refugees who fleeing their re-oppressed homeland. We took them in, and that was something that have been able to look back on and celebrate, unproblematically.
In 2016, however, things are a bit different. Whatever virtues and achievements of that little country, most people frankly know very little of it, though that there has been rising awareness in the Western media that all might not be well, and that Hungary might not be quite the brave, decent, unblemished and freedom-loving little nation once believed.
A 60th anniversary is quite a milestone, but so far this one has been little recognised in the West, at least if in so far as the English-speaking media round the world are concerned. The short-lived withdrawal of Soviet power in 1956, especially it final act and aftermath, will soon give other sixtieth anniversaries from 1986, so doubtless we may soon hear a little more.
For a time, when I was a lad, the words 'Hungarian' and 'refugee' often came together in a single breath. This year, however, reminders by Western media of what happened in Budapest in 1986 may occur but rarely without explicit reminder that the words 'refugee'' and 'Hungary' now have ironically different associations.
The bubble reputation
I recall being told by Mátyás Domokos Hungarian Ambassador to London from 1984 to 1989 that the national publicity in the United Kingdom in 1986 and the years that followed,generated by the campaign to introduce Conductive Education, with its associated events, had done more for Hungary's reputation than anything in the thirty years since 1956. As a mere Brit, but one closely involved with that,
I think that he was probably right! I doubt, though, that there is anything nowadays that could tip the weight of public opinion in Hungary's way in media circles (and yes, I do know about Kazakhstan).
The bubble has burst.