“Unfriendly, uncivilised and barbaric” on one side and “unacceptable and provocative” on the other were just a few of the adjectives to fly between Hungary and Romania after Hungarian Parliament Speaker László Kövér criticised Romania for not allowing the reburial of a controversial Hungarian writer on its territory at the weekend.
The ashes of Transylvanian writer József Nyírõ, born there but who died in Spain, had been due to be conveyed in a ceremonial train to Odorheiu Secuiesc, where they were to be buried in a ceremony attended by Hungarian officials. Following the refusal of Romanian authorities to grant the necessary transport and burial permits, the interment was cancelled at the last minute and replaced by a smaller memorial ceremony on Sunday evening addressed by Kövér.
On his return to Budapest, Kövér described the Romanian government’s opposition to the reburial as similar to Ceausescu-era practices, adding that cars had been searched to prevent the illegal transportation and burial of the ashes. “We will soon find a solution in line with Romanian laws and the spiritual expectations of Nyírõ’s admirers,” he said.
Romanian PM Victor Ponta condemned both the speech and the ceremony, which he said aimed to honour “someone who is officially recognised as a man of anti-Hungarian, anti-Semitic and pro-fascist attitudes”. He will discuss the issue with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán during a conference in Bucharest on EU cohesion funds this Friday.
Besides the decision to transport Nyírõ’s ashes to Budapest, where several hundred admirers gathered in a ceremony before the planned burial in Romania, recent rehabilitation efforts by the Hungarian Parliament include the incorporation of his works in the national curriculum. But he remains a divisive figure for many critics, who point to his pro-fascist, anti-Semitic writings and political attitudes during his tenure as MP during the conservative Horthy and fascist Szálasi regimes, which caused Nyírõ to flee Hungary after the end of the Second World War.