Clashing Geographical Imaginaries: The Strange Co-Presence of Christian Bulwark and Eurasianism in Hungary

    • Cover Conference Prague
    • Presentation speakers
      • Péter Balogh, Department of Social and Economic Geography, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary


    While we are witnessing a rich set of often competing geographical narratives in many countries and perhaps even more so in the post-socialist world (Bassin 2012), Hungary is a particularly interesting case as it is characterized by what are two (seemingly) irreconcilable notions, Christian bulwark and neo-Turanism – a version of (neo-)Eurasianism. Whereas the idea of Hungary as an eastern outpost of the West is historically deeply rooted (Tazbir 2005, Száraz 2012), Turanism has since the late nineteenth century emerged as a counter-narrative whenever Hungarian national interest was perceived as conflicting with Western actors. That ideology emphasizes the eastern roots of ancient Hungarians and aims at orienting the country eastwards. It has for instance allied itself with Turkish Pan-Turanism or even Pan-Turkism during and after WWI, a period when Hungary searched for eastern links and markets following the national trauma of extensive territorial losses and concomitant economic recession (cf. Ablonczy 2016). While a taboo during the state-socialist period, Turanism has regained strength (Akcali & Korkut 2012) especially around the 2008 financial crisis when many Hungarians felt betrayed by foreign – often western – banks. A few years ago, the far right explicitly announced a Dugin-inspired Hungarian Eurasianism as its foreign policy program (Jobbik 2014: 62). The Hungarian government invoked Ottoman invasion to justify keeping refugees out in 2015 (Tharoor 2015) and has been using a harsh rhetoric and policy against Muslim immigrants ever since. Yet since launching its foreign policy of Opening to the East in 2012 (Kálnoky 2013) it has itself promoted links with various Asian (including Muslim-dominated) countries, supported Turanism-related festivals such as Kurultaj, and joined the Turkic Council as observing member. The paper’s preliminary conclusion is that these two orientations can today co-exist for two reasons. As elsewhere, Christian traditions and symbols in Hungary have maintained some pre-Christian (in this case Turanian) elements in order to remain popular among the wider masses. Secondly, and more important for today, the image of a liberal/multicultural West serve as a shared enemy for Hungarian Eurasianism and (political) Christianity alike.