Hungary Is Turning Into Russia

On the CEU, Orban Mimics Putin

Hungarians protest against the government's anti-CEU bill, Budapest, April 2017. Laszlo Balogh / Reuters

On March 20, the Arbitration Court of St. Petersburg in Russia revoked the license of European University at St. Petersburg (EUSP), leaving its small body of mostly Russian students in limbo as to whether they will be able to complete their studies. The decision came after unscheduled inspections revealed 120 violations of the building code and other regulations. Apparently, renovations had been made without the right city filings, there was no fitness room, and the required pamphlets against alcoholism were missing—not to mention that the number of “teacher-practitioners” in the political science and sociology departments failed to meet the requirements set by the Russian Federal Service for Supervision in Education and Science (Rosobrnadzor).  

Appalling as this incident is, independent centers of thought with ties to the West expect such government harassment in Russia. One would not expect the same type of behavior in an ostensibly democratic member of the European Union, but that is precisely what is currently happening in Hungary. The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban is poised to put Central European University (CEU), founded and funded by the Hungarian-American investor George Soros, out of operation. With his support for refugee charities and progressive causes, Soros is the nemesis of the current government, notwithstanding that in 1989 Orban himself spent a semester in Oxford on a Soros scholarship.

Unlike their Russian counterparts, Hungarian authorities are not bothering with bureaucratic trivialities. On April 4, the Hungarian government rushed a bill through parliament that will make it all but impossible for CEU to continue operating in the country. Less than a week later, President Janos Ader signed the bill, popularly known as the Lex CEU, into law.

CEU is a much larger and arguably more prestigious university than EUSP. It is home to the best programs in humanities and social sciences in the former Soviet bloc (ranking 42nd worldwide in political science and international studies), it boasts a world-class academic press, and it is a focal point for researchers and intellectuals throughout central and

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