Hungary is marking a centenary of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on June 4, 1920, with the country flags at half-mast.
It was on that day, soon after World War I, that a treaty was signed in the Trianon Palace in Versailles, France, defining Hungary’s new shrunken frontiers after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
The date is carved into a triangular column marking the spot where the Hungarian, Romanian and Serbian borders meet.
Flags are at half-mast in the village of Kubekhaza, which is located beside the tri-border, Mayor Robert Molnar told AFP news agency.
“The Trianon borders split up villages and families,” Molnar said, pointing at church towers across the fields – each in a different country.
Hungary, as part of the defeated Austro-Hungarian Empire, was forced to sign away two-thirds of its territory, and half of its multi-ethnic population.
At a stroke, more than three million ethnic Hungarians – or Magyars – a third of the total, as well as key economic resources and several historic cities became part of neighborhood states.
‘Betrayed by the West’
“The great powers led by France unjustly punished Hungary, no matter the cost,” Csaba Pal Szabo, director of a state-financed Trianon Museum, told AFP at the museum’s archive in the city of Szeged near the Serbian border. “We were betrayed by the West.”
Szabo objects to what he says were unfairly drawn borders “not reflecting ethnic populations on the ground”.
Among the historical maps and memorabilia on display are 1920s propaganda material proclaiming “No! No! Never!” – and calling for territorial revision.
Hungary’s interwar leader Miklos Horthy later allied with Nazi Germany, partly in a bid to reclaim lost lands. But another treaty in 1947 confirmed the borders set out at Trianon.
During the subsequent four decades of communist rule, any mention of Trianon was taboo in case it riled fellow socialist states.
This was despite widespread discrimination endured by Magyar minorities, especially under Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu.
European Union membership for Hungary and most of its neighbors has since 2004 brought more cross-border freedom of movement. Even so, moving on from Trianon has proved difficult.
On coming to power in 2010, Orban adopted an assertive “national policy” aimed at uniting Hungarians after what he calls the “dismemberment”.
Orban, 57, swiftly declared June 4 a “Day of National Cohesion”, and has since sent lavish financial aid to schools, cultural and religious groups in the diaspora.
He also granted dual citizenship and voting rights to more than a million non-residents – many of whom have voted for his Fidesz party in Hungarian elections.
A “National Cohesion” monument is due to be unveiled in Budapest bearing the Hungarian-language names of villages, towns and cities in pre-WWI Greater Hungary.
After historians spotted that many of the localities listed on it were never populated by ethnic Hungarians, a government official denied the edifice expressed a desire to turn the clock back.
Orban’s fondness for Greater Hungary nostalgia encourages an idealized picture of relations between Hungarians and other ethnic groups before WW1, according to analysts, and appeals to ultra-nationalistic voters in particular.
In recent speeches, he has made what appear to be more conciliatory calls for regional cooperation to “build Central Europe”.