In the 32 years since then, Hungary has undergone its own dramatic transformation.
Once considered the most entrepreneurial and Western-friendly of the former Eastern Bloc nations, it has, of late, become a poster child of nationalism, illiberalism and the erosion of democratic values, offering a political vision that has been emulated in Poland and admired by populist figures in France, Italy and the United States.
Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, now the longest serving elected leader in Europe, has steadily consolidated power by rewriting the Constitution, overhauling election laws to favor his Fidesz party, undermining the independence of the courts and bringing most of the country’s media under the control of his political allies.
The influence of his autocratic tendencies has also seeped into the country’s civic and cultural life, leading to the expulsion of a liberal university and affecting the leadership and offerings at theaters and museums.
I sensed some of the troubling undercurrents within minutes of my arrival, when László, on our drive from the airport, began echoing Kremlin-friendly conspiracies about the war in Ukraine, which have been widely disseminated via the state-owned media and pro-government news outlets.
Eastern Bloc, Fidesz
Hungary, Poland, France, Italy, United States, Europe, Ukraine