Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s address at the academic year opening ceremony of the Tokaj-Hegyalja University
25 September 2021, Sárospatak

Esteemed Rector, Esteemed President, Esteemed Government Commissioner, Esteemed Member of Parliament, Esteemed Senate, Esteemed Lecturers, Esteemed Students, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We came to Sárospatak to inaugurate a university. The inauguration of a university is an extraordinary event in itself, but it is at least equally uplifting if we’re finally able to reassuringly settle an old debt. And it is an especially fine gift from the Lord if these two things happen at once: we’re inaugurating a university and settling a debt at the same time.

It is nothing short of scandalous that an independent university is only now being established in a place which was once referred to as the Athens by the River Bodrog; it’s almost a sin, it is a mistake that so far there had been no independent university in the town where Hungarian spirit has found home for so long. The reasons for the accumulation of this debt should be sought in the past. If we want to sum up the Hungarian history of the past one hundred years in a single image, we have every reason to call it a history of one hundred years of Hungarian solitude. During the years of this solitude, Hungary forgot about the countryside. It all began with a lost World War and Trianon. It happens in wars that the balance between the capital and the countryside becomes upset. In the midst of military efforts, the country’s leadership is concentrated in the capital, and the countryside serves more as a theatre of war or a base for war logistics. Trianon then delivered the final blow: regions that had once belonged together were torn apart and became peripheral. We were left here with a countryside that was ripped asunder and was lagging behind, and a capital that was built for a country three times its size. And that was not the end of it yet. The forced industrialisation of communism and socialist urbanisation all took place at the expense of the countryside. Villages became depopulated, flourishing intellectual centres were left provincial. The attitude of the day was that if members of the ruling class didn’t like someone, they banished them to the countryside to teach, to take up office, to work, as a kind of exile. For the communists the country was the capital, and they looked upon the countryside as second-class Hungary. Regrettably, neither did the change of regime rectify this historical injustice. The national ideal and the countryside were never important for the twice returning communists, understandably because they always envisaged globalised metropolises. Therefore, the important debates were conducted in the capital, developments took place in the capital, intellectual power centres operated in the capital. As a result, after the fall of communism, the decline of the countryside couldn’t stop, didn’t stop, but continued.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We’d like to put an end to this. The national, Christian democratic governments look upon the world differently. For us the countryside is not the edge, not the periphery of something, but the centre, the core of something. In our eyes the capital and the countryside constitute a whole as a man’s nervous system, too, consists of two parts: one part is responsible for actions, the other part is responsible for regulating our physiological functions such as breathing and the beating of our hearts. We tend to forget about the latter because it does its job without being noticed, as a duty, without drawing attention to itself. The Hungarian countryside, too, plays this essential role in our country’s life. Its duty is to ensure the natural and healthy state of Hungarian existence. It is therefore time to finally settle Hungary’s debt to the countryside. We must restore the dignity and the strength that were taken away from the Hungarian countryside. We must finally give the Hungarian countryside its due.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Citizens of Patak,

They say that city air makes you free. This may well be true, but it is at least equally true that country air makes you patriotic. The Hungarian mindset, attitude and habit that constitute the basis of our survival are still alive here, are still deeply rooted here. This is what Hungarian sense of purpose feeds from, the awareness that gives our lives meaning, serves as the basis of our rights, imposes obligations on us and designates our goals. This is perhaps not understood better and by more people anywhere than here of all places, in Hegyalja.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is a special region of Hungary. Here the spirit of the place is that this is a place of the spirit. And what spirit! Prince Ferenc Rákóczi II was born only a few kilometres from here, in the village of Borsi. Cum Deo pro patria et libertate! Together with God for the country and liberty. It is this desire that defines the direction of Hungarian politics to this day, and Hungarian politicians, too, regularly come here to take courage so that they can do what they have to in order to protect Hungary’s freedom. This is what I do myself today. Sárospatak is the uncompromising bastion, height and peak of Hungarian Reformation, and this world here is also the cradle of the modern Hungarian language. Our language is the basis of our specific Hungarian mindset which is typical only of us, the mystery of speaking Hungarian. Our language sets us apart from other nations, but inseparably ties us together whichever part of the world we may live in. The final resting place of Ferenc Kazinczy in Széphalom is only a stone’s throw away from here; it is to this day a national shrine, and deservedly so. And we have the wine here. Perhaps, I should have begun with that first. It steels one’s patriotism, strengthens one’s courage, it is proof of God’s existence, and helps to find one’s tongue. Without doubt, for those living here it is the source of the spirit of the place.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In light of this, the fact that a university that teaches the craft of winemaking, pedagogy and the conservation of cultural heritage is established here in Patak by a freedom fighter, Christian democratic government is, well, nothing other than the embodiment of necessity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Here in the Tokaj-Zemplén region great things will happen soon, also beyond the university. Dozens of road development, urban reconstruction, tourism, agricultural and industrial projects will be launched. Development will start on a level which has been unprecedented in the past one hundred years. We don’t need to be smarter than the old ones were, but we can’t be any more foolish either. We read the text that the founder of the Patak College had engraved on the wall of the castle. They are words of admonition from the Book of Proverbs: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. Though the quote on the wall of the castle ends here, in the Holy Scripture it continues like this: “but fools despise wisdom and instruction”. And we Hungarians are not fools. I wish for us all that we refrain from behaving like fools. We’ll have elections soon, too, let’s keep our wits about us. Until then, I wish that you may seize the opportunity; be the citizens of an ever stronger, ever more self-confident nation whose members are thirsty for wisdom and instruction.

Soli Deo gloria!