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The Hungarian Putin?

Viktor Orban and the Kremlin's Playbook

People take part in a protest against the Orban government in central Budapest, February 1, 2015. Laszlo Balogh / Courtesy Reuters

When, in 2010 and 2012, Hungary passed laws entitling Hungarians living abroad to Hungarian passports and then the right to vote in Hungarian elections, it seemed to fan dangerous nationalistic flames and fueled fears of secessionist movements in Hungarian communities beyond the country’s border. Indeed, Hungary’s illiberal Prime Minister Viktor Orban has frequently stated that the Hungarian nation does not end at the borders of the state; rather, it ends with those Hungarians who were stranded in Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, and Ukraine when the Treaty of Versailles lopped off two-thirds of the Hungarian territory. Given the parallels to Russia, where granting Russian citizenship to Ukrainians and Abkhazians has been a precursor to invasion, observers can be forgiven for feeling chilled.

Although Orban is certainly tapping into nationalist nostalgia when he talks about Hungarians abroad, his purposes are not the same as those of Russian President Vladimir Putin. More than irredentism,

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