Viktor Orban Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Europe’s New Appeasers

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has such a tight grip on power that Hungarians must depend on external pressure to stop the slide into authoritarianism. And yet even Germany, the only country that can exert significant influence, has failed to stop Orbán's latest attack on democracy.

WARSAW – Back in the 1990s, in the early days of Central Europe’s post-communist transition, Poland’s current de facto ruler Jarosław Kaczyński inelegantly exclaimed, “It’s our fucking turn” (Teraz kurwa my). More recently, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s commissioner for culture, Imre Kerényi, himself a communist before 1989, said much the same thing: “It’s our turn.”

Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Culture Piotr Gliński has just removed the internationally renowned artist Jan Klata as director of Kraków’s Teatr Stary, one of Poland’s preeminent cultural institutions. In Klata’s place, he has installed Marek Mikos, a former theater critic with no experience managing a theater or directing plays. More than 80 directors, including such luminaries as Krzysztof Warlikowski, Krystian Lupa, and Mariusz Treliński, have already united to boycott working with the theater’s new leadership and, more broadly, to protest the government’s cultural policy.

In Hungary, the government has long had complete control over theaters and public universities. But it is now setting its sights on a private institution: Central European University.

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