Next Wednesday is March 15th, which is a big day here, and this year promises to be a bigger day than normal. March 15th is the national day of Hungary ( I think, though I’ve also heard it referred to as the national day of Hungarians living outside Hungary.) Anyway, it’s marked on all the calendars, and for many here it’s an official holiday. It’s a bit nationalistic, but then all national days are a bit nationalistic, and so in essence it’s not greatly different from December 1st.
This year, however, some Hungarian nationalists have taken it upon themselves to make trouble. They have organised a rally in Udvarhely (Oderheiu Secuiesc) to proclaim the independence of the Szekely region and launch some kind of autonomous entity that presumably will exist only in their heads. This event (as I understand it) has been championed by the Mayor of Udvarhely, who has just been described to me as a Hungarian version of Vadim Tudor (leader of the extremist Romanian nationalist party). [Udvarhely, by the way, is the most Hungarian city in all of Romania, being 98% Hungarian].
Now, frankly, the best way to deal with this kind of provocative rubbish is to ignore it. A few hundred blokes gather in a field, proclaim independence and drink palinka, and go home feeling proud of themselves while the world pays them no attention or at best laughs at their delusions of grandeur. But this, sadly, will not happen next week. Because of course, never shy of taking an opportunity to make himself look important, and full of hysterical rhetoric, Vadim Tudor has sent out a call for action from proud Romanians everywhere, and asked for 100,000 people to descend on Udvarhely to stage a counter demonstration. (Romania has a less than proud tradition of violent outsiders being bussed in to start fights and suppress dissent – In the early months of the post-Ceausescu regime, a group of miners were bussed in by Iliescu (allegedly) to violently bust up a student protest; and in 1990 in Targu Mures a Romanian nationalist group stirred up anti Hungarian feeling in the villages and bussed in an angry mob to attack a group of Hungarian students demonstrating for a Hungarian language faculty, resulting in riots and deaths)
And thus, the situation could become tense, and, in the worst case scenario, violent. And once again the fact that broadly speaking Hungarians and Romanians live together fairly successfully and without rancour, will be obscured by a bunch of nationalist scum – Vadim Tudor will get his publicity, as will the Szekely Autonomists, and everyone on the extremes is happy. Everyone caught in the middle gets screwed. Of course the media will be complicit in the whole affair and will send camera crews to whip the thing up even further. And while it won't start a civil war, it will put the cause of equality and understanding back a good decade. Nationalists, eh? Wankers, all of them.
Wih luck it will be a completely freezing day - two days ago here it was -24 again, only to be back up to zero again the following day, which is an insane temperature swing - and everyobody will stay home and the camera crews can just film the normal people of Udvarhely celebrating their national day with no politics attached.