The conflict in Ukraine is arousing some long-dormant passions in parts of Europe:
A demonstration for Transcarpathia’s autonomy and the region’s separation from Ukraine was held in front of the Hungarian foreign ministry in Budapest on Friday evening.Participants carried banners reading in Hungarian and English “Autonomy for Transcarpathia!” and “Hungary wants Transcarpathia back!”Tamas Gaudi-Nagy, a Jobbik lawmaker who initiated the event, said that “it would serve historic juctice if Transcarpathia was separated from Ukraine.”Balazs Lenhardt, an independent (formerly Jobbik) lawmaker, said Transcarpathia is entitled to autonomy, similarly to Crimea. The 150,000 Hungarians living in that region in western Ukraine now expect help from the Hungarian state, he said.
This was not a serious demonstration—only 200-300 people showed up—but the mere fact that it happened points to some larger truths:The first is that Europe’s neo-fascist parties look to Putin as their Big Brother. Like them, he stands for a mix of assertive nationalism, hatred of Western democracy, paranoid suspicion of ethnic and sexual minorities, defiance of international law, and denunciation of Western hypocrisy.Second is that the ethnic hatreds and nationalist ambitions that made the first half of the 20th Century the bloodiest and most horrible period in European history are very much with us today, especially in countries like Hungary and Serbia where ethnic and historical grievances aren’t far below the surface. Putin’s latest moves have encouraged these people to once again give voice to their irredentist fantasies out in the open.And while at the moment the neo-fascists are mostly lurking on the fringes in Europe, growing public discontent with the economic situation in many countries and a rising dislike of the EU’s brand of bureaucratic cosmopolitanism are gradually bringing dangerous ideas back into the European mainstream.