Doctoral Dissertation

24.5.2019 FM Ville Häkkinen (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, general history)


24.5.2019 12:00 — 15:00

Location: Seminaarinmaki , H320
FM Ville Häkkinen defends his doctoral dissertation in general history "From Counterrevolution to Consolidation? Language of nation-building in the Hungarian parliamentary debates, 1920-1928".

Opponent university teacher, docent Heino Nyyssönen (University of Turku) and Custos Professor Pasi Ihalainen (University of Jyväskylä, Department of History and Ethnology).

The doctoral dissertation is held in Finnish.


This dissertation analyses the use of political language related to nation-building in the Hungarian Parliament between 1920 and 1928. After defeat in the First World War, the domestic revolutions and the Peace Treaty of Trianon that had caused considerable territorial losses, the Hungarian counterrevolutionary government had to stabilize the political situation in the country and regain its legitimacy. The tool for this stabilization was an increasingly nationalist and exclusive conceptualization of the Hungarian nation, as well as reliance on national history. The societal groups deemed suspicious, such as Socialists and Jews, were not only excluded rhetorically from the sphere of patriotic, loyal and politically competent Hungarians, but also through legislation and oppression barred from being equal members of society.

The government-led history politics appropriated the memory and ideals of the most renowned statesmen, yet gave them strictly counterrevolutionary contemporary redescriptions; as an example, Lajos Kossuth, the hero of the 1848 Revolution, was promptly redescribed as a moderate reformist. In foreign policy, the revision of the Treaty of Trianon, the need to regain the lost territories, was conceptualized as a national mission; the lost unity of historic Hungary was to be restored and the Hungarian brethren suffering under foreign rule reunited with the fatherland. To achieve this, the government was ready to resort to both international co-operation and clandestine activism. 

The analytical approach to political language applied in this study is based on how the Members of Parliament rhetorically constructed arguments and to which values, shared experiences and historical references they appealed. Empirical study indicates that even almost a decade after the revolutionary years the conservative government mainly relied on the counterrevolutionary rhetoric; the Communist threat was a constantly applicable tool to discredit the opposition. The results challenge the established historiographical view of István Bethlen’s premiership (1921–1931) as an era of reformist and ‘conservative-liberal’ politics.

The concept of ‘consolidation’ linked to Bethlen in no way signalled the abatement of the confrontational political atmosphere, but instead Bethlen himself repeatedly appeared in Parliament in order to maintain and renew the rhetoric of exclusion against his political opponents. The preponderant role of revision in foreign policy led already in the late 1920s to a considered collusion with Mussolini’s Italy, which rendered Hungary economically and politically dependent on the Fascist state. 

The rejection of political pluralism eventually served to undermine the ostensibly secure position of the government when faced with the challenge of the extreme Right. In the 1930s the only way for the government to respond to this challenge was to make concessions towards the radical Right. Thus, ‘consolidation’ proved to be a rhetorical tool to which the government resorted when the need arose, but which in no way contributed to the actual, long-term stabilization of the regime.