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The Szekelys are to be pitied for many reasons, but most of all they are to be pitied for the 'Szekely anthem', which is sung increasingly often at political gatherings. The Szekelys deserve better.

For a start, it is hard to imagine a less Hungarian song. Everything (the rhythm, the structure), that Kodaly and Bardos once taught did not belong in the Hungarian musical tradition - it can all be found in the anthem. And it is hard to imagine a more ugly song. You might call it kitsch.

And the text! It claims our nation is led along a dark, windy road not by God, but by Fate. We call King Csaba to aid us, but it is not clear whether he will bring deliverance or merely lead us into exile. That windy road does not lead to victory beneath a starry sky but to the sea, a sea which rings (a ringing sea?) with the sounds of the nations fighting. There, the Szekelys turn into a rock - not the rock of the Bible, which represents solidity and security ("on this rock I build this church"), but a rock which, in the sea, will turn to sand.

So this crumbling rock is that handful of Szekely survivors. (But if there are just a handful, then surely Trianon and the loss of Transylvania was justified?) As if the crumbling were not enough of a problem, the waves of the sea are going to buffet those (stone?) heads over and over again. At least God, if he were to assume King Csaba's place, would not allow Transylvania to be taken away.

The Szekelys never had their own anthem. This 'anthem' was written not in Transylvania, but in Budapest. In the 1920s, "spring sacrifices"

were held in the Zugliget park, with torches, cupbearers and shields (on an azure field a bloody sword whose hilt is engraved, above its right a moon, a people on its left), and many other accessories. The related myths were built on Hunnish ideology.

Until recently, the 'Szekely anthem' was the property of a very small, odd group. It was opposed not just by the political powers that be, but by a sense of common values. In Transylvania, years of repression gave a certain frisson to the enjoyment of forbidden pleasures. But within the Transylvanian intelligentsia certain critical voices were raised. Some proposed an alternative Szekely anthem, proposing folk songs or works by Bartok. In Hungary, people who opposed the destruction of villages sung the anthem, dimly remembering it from their childhood. There is no question that for many it was the expression of a genuine feeling, even of national sentiment or of solidarity with Transylvania. It became more of a problem when it became a means of cynical political manipulation. There was little thought behind it. This is shown most clearly by the way this pagan song has found a home inside certain churches.

But if we see it as an expression of solidarity with the Hungarians of Transylvania, then where is the Upper Hungarian anthem? Where is the Vojvodina or Lower Carpathian anthem - or the Burgenland anthem? Would it not be better to have an anthem for all Hungarians? But we have one. And it begins: "God bless the Hungarians!"

László Dobszay
The author teaches at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music

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