This content is not available in your region

Momentum Movement: how Hungary’s youth is rising up against Russian influence

Access to the comments Comments
By Chris Harris
Momentum Movement: how Hungary’s youth is rising up against Russian influence

Vladimir Putin’s visit to Budapest today has shone a light on a burgeoning political party making waves in Hungary.

It is only small but the actions of the Momentum Movement have already had a big impact.

It is credited with spearheading a campaign to stop Budapest bidding for the 2024 Olympic Games, claiming it was a waste of money.

Why has Momentum come to light now?

The party looks towards Brussels, rather than to Moscow, and Putin’s second visit to Hungary this year has stoked anti-Russian sentiment.

Hungary was under communist rule from the end of World War II until 1989, with Soviet Union troops leaving shortly afterwards.

Momentum organised several stunts to coincide with the Russian president’s arrival and make it clear it didn’t want to see the country slip back under Moscow’s sphere of influence.

It included changing some Budapest street names back to what they were called during the communism era.

They also handed out replicas of communist-era newspapers and on Monday evening they planned to project the EU flag from a hill overlooking Budapest.

What do they stand for?

Momentum burst onto the political scene last winter when it helped collect 250,000 signatures demanding a referendum on Budapest’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics, forcing Hungary prime minister Viktor Orbán to abandon the plans.

It is a small, youthful party that is pro-European and anti-Russian. It is also liberal, conservative and nationalist.

Momentum tries to capture some of the anti-establishment magic that worked so well for Brexit and Donald Trump. It does this by painting current political parties as the enemy, insisting it will not go into coalition with any of them.

Critics have say only ‘banal cliches’ are behind Momentum and that its leader, András Fekete-Győr, ‘doesn’t have a clue about politics’.

Why are they anti-Russian?

Hungary was under Soviet influence for more than four decades after World War II and many of the young people that make up Momentum’s ranks would have been born in the early 1990s when communism fell.

They would have generally seen Hungary move closer to Europe during their lifetimes and may feel that state of affairs is now under threat.

Momentum cite things like Russian money being behind the expansion of Hungary’s only nuclear facility as evidence Budapest is looking more towards Moscow. There is also concern over a Russian company refurbishing some of Budapest’s metro trains.

Orbán has been a thorn in the side of the European Union and the fact Putin is again visiting Hungary will have raised suspicions.

Putin is in town for the Judo World Championships but it is also about strengthening ties with a rare EU-ally.

Brussels has also expressed concern over Orbán’s relationship with Putin, fearing it may weaken Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over Crimea.