This is an unusual and special episode of BaerTalk. Originally, it was a session of a class I team-teach at Texas Lutheran University called “Democracies in Crisis.” I invited two experts, Dalibor Rohac and Eva Balogh, to speak to the class by zoom about the situation in Hungary. The day after our class discussion, Eva died unexpectedly of a heart attack.
Eva Balogh was an extremely important person for people who follow political developments in Hungary. She maintained a blog, Hungarian Spectrum, which provided daily analysis in English of Hungarian events. Because of its language, which is not Indo-European and difficult to learn, Hungary is an obscure country. Non-Hungarian speakers often have trouble understanding what’s really going on there. Eva’s blog made it easier for them. Although “only” a blog, Hungarian Spectrum was read regularly by diplomats, journalists, and scholars. It was frequently cited in international publications such as The Economist and The Wall Street Journal. It is even archived at the Library of Congress.
After the fall of European communism in 1989, Hungary appeared to undergo a successful democratic transition. It had many successful democratic elections, it joined NATO, and it became a member of the European Union. But in the last twelve years, under the leadership of a strongman named Viktor Orbán, the country has slipped into a new kind of soft authoritarianism. Hungary is an example of failed democratic transition.
In this podcast, Eva Balogh, Dalibor Rohac, and I consider why Hungary’s democratic transition has failed when it hasn’t in other former communist countries in Eastern Europe. We also discuss whether Hungary’s democratic opposition has a real prospect of restoring democracy in Hungary.
This podcast was recorded on November 29, 2021, late in the afternoon, less than twenty-four hours before Eva’s sudden death. Her comments to my class are among her last public thoughts about the situation in Hungary, and they are made available to everyone in tribute to her.
Eva Balogh, Hungarian Spectrum
Dalibor Rohac, “Transitions, populism, and democratic decline: evidence from Hungary and the Czech Republic” European Politics and Society (Sep. 2021)