A photo posted by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of a newly erected memorial of the Trianon Treaty sparked a diplomatic debate with southern neighbor Croatia on account of the Croatian press having had initially mistranslated the inscription of the plaque on the monument unveiled in the northern Hungarian town of Sátoraljaújhely.
The inscription on the plaque reads Tengerre Magyar, which translates to, “To sea, Hungarians”, and is a slightly adapted version of a famous quote from 19th century Hungarian nobleman, politicians and public writer Lajos Kossuth, later one of the key figures of the failed 1848-49 anti-Habsburg Uprising.
Like many of his more progressive peers, Kossuth was a fervent promoter of the modernization of then what an overwhelmingly agrarian Hungary.
In an 1846 article entitled “Tengerhez, magyar, el a tengerhez!” (Go to the sea, Hungarians!), he was encouraging the Hungarian youth to join the commercial navy. After losing much of its territory during the Trianon Treaty following World War I, Hungary became a landlocked country. However, before then, as a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Hungary had a single seaport on the Adriatic, Fiume, which is now Rijeka in Croatia.
Upon spotting the picture on social media, Croatian tabloid 24 Sata published an article entitled Orban provokes Croatia again: ‘Rijeka-Hungarian sea’ is written on the monument.
Whether by design or by accident, the Croatian portal mistranslated the inscription from “To sea, Hungarians!” to “Rijeka-Hungarian sea” in what made Orbán look like he was claiming the Croatian port for Hungary.
The article was quickly taken over by a string of other publications in Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia, with one Serbian news site, Informer, writing that “the Croatians will be enraged, Orbán has taken Rijeka away from them”.
In response to the mistranslation, the Croatian foreign ministry said it expected an explanation from the Hungarian ambassador while the Hungarian foreign ministry dismissed the press reports as fake news.
“The Hungarian government is naturally interested in good neighborly relations with Croatia, but it seems that some Croatian media have different goals,” Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade wrote on his Facebook page.
Title image: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the Trianon Treaty commemoration in Sátoraljaújhely on June 4. (source: Facebook)