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Memory-Politics and Neonationalism: Trianon as Mythomoteur

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 February 2020

Margit Feischmidt*
Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Research Center for Social Sciences, Minority Studies Institute, Budapest, Hungary
*Corresponding author. Email:


Analyzing the newly emerged Trianon cult, this article argues that the current wave of memory politics became the engine of new forms of nationalism in Hungary constituted by extremist and moderate right-wing civic and political actors. Following social anthropologists Gingrich and Banks, the term neonationalism will be applied and linked with the concept “mythomoteur” of John Armstrong and Anthony D. Smith, emphasizing the role of preexisting ethno-symbolic resources or mythomoteurs in the resurgence of nationalism. Special attention will be given to elites who play a major role in constructing new discourses of the nation and seek to control collective memories, taking their diverse intentions, agendas, and strategies specifically into consideration. This “view from above” will be complemented with a “view from below” by investigating the meanings that audiences give to and the uses they make of these memories. Thus, the analysis has three dimensions: it starts with the analysis of symbols, topics, and arguments applied by public Trianon discourses; it continues with the analysis of everyday perceptions, memory, and identity concerns; and finally ends with an anthropological interpretation of memory politics regarding a new form of nationalism arising in the context of propelling and mainstreaming populist right-wing politics. The main argument of this article is that although the Hungarian Trianon cult, identified as national mythomoteur, invokes a historical trauma, it rather speaks to current feelings of loss and disenfranchisement, offering symbolic compensation through the transference of historical glory, pride, and self-esteem within a mythological framework. This article is part of a larger effort to understand the cultural logic and social support of new forms of nationalism in Hungary propelled by the populist far right.

© Association for the Study of Nationalities 2020

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