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Islam, Anti-Communism, and Christian Civilization: The Ottoman Menace in Interwar Hungary

  • Paul Hanebrink


On 4 October 1948, József Cardinal Mindszenty preached a sermon for the rosary feast in front of 35,000 Catholic faithful. He began by reminding his congregation of the origins of the feast day that they were celebrating: the victory of Europe's Christian states over the Ottoman Turkish fleet at the naval battle of Lepanto in 1571. This great victory in the struggle of universal Christendom against the infidel enemy recalled to Mindszenty a second, more particularly Hungarian parallel: the victory of Habsburg forces over the Ottoman Turkish enemy at the battle of Temesvár in 1716. “Hungarian history recalls too such a rosary victory—the Hungarian Christians won it over the Turks in 1716 at Temesvár.” Both military victories represented moments when Europeans had repelled a force seen at the time, and ever after, as hostile to Christian civilization.



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1 Mindszenty, József Cardinal, Four Years Struggle of the Church in Hungary: Facts and Evidence Published by Order of Josef, Cardinal Mindszenty, Prince Primate of Hungary, trans. by Breitenfeld, Walter C. (London, 1949), 178–80.

2 Kenez, Peter, “The Hungarian Communist Party and the Catholic Church, 1945–1948,” Journal of Modern History 75 (December 2003): 864–89; Szabó, Csaba, Die katholische Kirche Ungarns und der Staat in den Jahren 1945–1965 (München, 2003).

3 Asad, Talal, Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity (Stanford, 2003), 169.

4 van Melis, Damian, “‘Strengthened and Purified Through Ordeal by Fire’: Ecclesiastical Triumphalism in the Ruins of Europe,” in Life After Death: Approaches to a Cultural and Social History of Europe during the 1940s and 1950s, ed. Bessel, Richard and Schumann, Dirk (New York, 2003), 231–42.

5 See, for example, Sezer, Yavuz, “Hungarian Orientalism, Turanism, and Károly Kós's Sztambul (1918),” Centropa: A Journal of Central European Architecture and Related Arts 7, no. 2 (2007): 136–52.

6 See, among many other titles: Vámbéry, Ármin, A magyarság keletkezése és gyarapodása (Budapest, 1895).

7 Nagy, Éva Kincses, “A turáni gondolat” in Őstörténet és nemzettudat, 1919–1931, ed. Nagy, Éva Kincses (Szeged, 1991), 4449. [, accessed 15 January 2008]

8 Szabó, Miklós, Az újkonzervativizmus és a jobboldali radikalizmus története (1867–1918) (Budapest, 2003), 292–97.

9 Prohászka, Ottokár, A diadalmas világnézet, in Prohászka Ottokár összegyüjtött munkái, ed. Schütz, Antal (Budapest, 1927).

10 Prohászka, Ottokár, Kultúra és terror. A társadalmi kérdés, vol. 9, in Összegyűjtött munkái, ed. Schütz, Antal (Budapest, 1927), 270.

11 “Üzlet Gül Baba körül,” Magyar Kultúra 18, no. 23 (5 December 1931): 462–64.

12 Hanebrink, Paul A., In Defense of Christian Hungary: Religion, Nationalism, and Antisemitism, 1890–1944 (Ithaca, 2006).

13 This view has been articulated most recently in Paul Lendvai's well-received survey of Hungarian history: The Hungarians: A Thousand Years of Victory in Defeat, trans. Ann Major (Princeton, 2003), 98–102.

14 See, e.g., Némedi, Dénes, A népi szociográfia, 1930–1938 (Budapest, 1985).

15 Balogh, Margit, A KALOT és a katolikus társadalompolitika, 1935–1946 (Budapest, 1998).

16 Vezérkönyv agrárifjúsági vezetők számára, ed. György Farkas (Szeged, 1937), 85.

17 Clark, Christopher, “The New Catholicism and the European Culture Wars,” in Culture Wars: Secular-Catholic Conflict in Nineteenth-Century Europe, ed. Clark, Christopher and Kaiser, Wolfram (Cambridge, 2003), 1146.

18 Boyer, John W., “Catholics, Christians, and the Challenges of Democracy: The Heritage of the Nineteenth Century,” in Christdemokratie in Europa im 20. Jahrhundert, ed. Gehler, Michael, Kaiser, Wolfram, and Wohnout, Helmut (Vienna-Cologne-Weimar, 2001), 2359, see esp. 40–44.

19 There is a rich literature on this topic in the Hungarian context. Among the most important interpretations is Gal, Susan, “Bartók's Funeral: Representations of Europe in Hungarian Political Rhetoric,” American Ethnologist 18, no. 3 (1991): 440–58.

20 Sík, Sándor, “Pázmány és Erdély,” Jelenkor 2, no. 19 (1 October 1940): 56.

21 Szekfű, Gyula, Magyar Történet. A tizenhetedik század, vol. 5 (Budapest, 1935–1936), 292–93.

22 “Vargha László a falu elhagyatottságáról,” Nemzeti Újság (7 October 1936): 17–18.

23 Album Congressus XXXIVi Eucharistici Internationalis (Budapest, 1938), 135.

24 “Speech by the monarchist poet José María Pemán,” in The Spanish Civil War: A Cultural and Historical Reader, ed. Alun Kenwood (Providence, 1993), 58–62. Originally published in ABC, Seville edition, 23 July 1936; broadcast over Radio Sevilla, 15 August 1936. Trans. Alun Kenwood.

25 Mitterauer, Michael, “Politischer Katholizismus, Österreichbewusstsein, und Türkenfeindbild. Zur Aktualisierung der Geschichte bei Jubiläen,” Beiträge zur Sozialkunde 12 (1982): 111–29, citation from 118.

26 On Biró's intransigence, see: Bahlcke, Joachim, “Frederick II of Prussia, Austria, and the Hungarian Protestants: Bishop Márton Padányi Biró of Veszprém and the Enchiridion de Fide,” Austrian History Yearbook 31 (2000): 1532.

27 József Cardinal Mindszenty, Memoirs, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York, 1974), 11.

28 Mindszenty, Four Years Struggle, 124.

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Austrian History Yearbook
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