Social media and Hungarian history in English
Let us face reality: in the 21st century, many people do not read books very often. In fact, most of us read blogs, webpages, or posts on Facebook or in other social media. In Hungary, only 13% of the people read books, according to a survey from 2021. Also, according to my new blog’s data, 25% of my readers use their desktop computer or laptop, 7% tablets and 69% use their phones.
Yes, many of us still love real books, and yes, there is a demand for paperback books – but we get lots of information from social media and blogs, too.
One may say that there are plenty of academic books in English that properly cover the topic of Hungarian history and the Ottoman wars. Verily, there are excellent books that can be spotted and ordered easily. How many ordinary people have ever read these difficult books, written by historians? Why not read a few “lighter” books, to start with?
Where could non-Hungarian speakers find information about Hungarian history?
I was often told how little had been mentioned about Hungary during history classes in school in English-speaking countries. Second or third-generation Hungarians were told fragments about it, though. Mainly, these were about the Mongolian invasion in 1241, then King Matthias Corvinus and his Black Army, the Battle of Mohács in 1526, and the siege of Eger in 1552. Many of them heard about Rákóczi and Kossuth, the Hungarian Hussars fighting against the Habsburgs in 1848. The most well-known events were Trianon (the partition of the country after WWI) and the famous freedom fight against the Soviets in 1956. Perhaps family stories from the Don River, 1943 where almost 150,000 were lost. Period.
As for our Romanian, Serbian, Croatian, Slovakian, and Ukrainian neighbors, the situation can be even worse. On the one hand, they know more historical details from school and from their family. On the other hand, this information many times has served as nationalistic propaganda. Talking about our history with them is like walking on eggshells. Even the age of anti-Ottoman struggles includes touchy topics even though it was the historical period when these nations were still fighting on the same side, at least more or less. Just read the summary of Professor Fodor’s lecture who listed the national aspects in his lecture. Here you can find it: https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/spreading-hungarian-history/
Hopefully, the internet and the more open-minded thinking of the 21st century might create the frames for a better understanding.
Are popular history TV channels helpful?
The answer is a definite NO. On the contrary: these channels are rather poisoning us with superficial and misleading information. One of their series triggered me to launch my Facebook page “Hungaries 1632” in 2016 because I was unable to endure their ignorance. (Recently, I have changed the name to “Hungarian History 1369-1699”)
If these “history channels” were just ignorant, it would be better for us but they are many times manipulated by their creators. When it comes to Hungary or the Ottoman wars, their messages are:
1. the rule of the Ottoman Empire was the best thing that could ever happen to the Europeans who are killing each other due to their wicked nationalism;
2. it was the Habsburgs who saved Europe from the invasion of the Turks;
3. no, it was Vlad Tepes, father of Dracula who outsmarted the Sultan…
All in all, these cheap budget films just made the world a worse place so as to make money and spread their dubious messages. One thing is for sure: if Hungarians are ever mentioned in them, they are either belittled or portrayed in a negative way.
Note: Wikipedia’s English articles are vastly written by non-Hungarians and the Youtube videos are abysmal, too.
One may ask the natural question: what the heck the Hungarian state and its NGOs and institutions are doing to fend off the above-mentioned phenomenons? The last grand-scale movie called “Egri csillagok” (Stars of Eger) was made in 1968.
Luckily or not, we can make a long list of the films made by our Romanian, Croatian, Slovakian, and Polish friends that they had produced about this topic.
Why has Facebook been a great place for finding quality information?
Facebook used to be like a dream: a place where liberty and democracy ruled, and not only for the rich.
One was able to find groups and pages where valuable information was being shared. Simply, it was relatively easy to find what we wanted and we had been notified of the new posts or comments. Friendships were made, questions were settled, and I have acquired not one Slovakian, Romanian or Austrian friend, not to forget the Turkish and Asian ones.
But every good thing is coming to an end in one day.
I have built an FB page in order to spread Hungarian history in English and I have reached almost 21,000 followers so far. It was done by hard work, without buying any ads from FB. I shared my posts in groups where people appreciated this topic because of their Hungarian roots or just for the love of history. In the meantime, I also launched two FB groups where altogether about 17K members discuss this historical period.
It is not my sometimes erratic use of the English language or my personal style that has attracted so many people to this topic. Yes, my dedication might count but honestly, there are not too many social media pages in English that are focusing on this period between 1368-1718. In fact, there are no similar projects according to my best knowledge.
It has worked well for a time. Now, FB is limiting this kind of activity and one gets banned for sharing posts in many groups, without paying fees to FB, of course. I have never paid for such ads on Facebook simply because I didn’t have the money.
What is next, then?
The launching of my self-hosted webpage was a necessity. Here I can store all the information I had shared on Facebook and do not have to be afraid that the whole page could be deleted by Facebook on a cloudy day. Without any warning and without giving any reasons.
The good news is that against all the odds, Facebook could remain a channel for sharing information about this topic. According to FB’s new trend, it is encouraged “that people should strengthen their friendships with each other by exchanging messages”.
So it means that I do not need to act like a lonely knight against the dragon, after all. The followers of my page and the members of the groups can have their share in distributing Hungarian history on English-speaking social media – nobody will do it instead of us.
On the other hand, it would be nice to have the support of some foundations or institutions whose goals and objectives include the spreading of our heritage. (Update: in 2022 I received small support from NKA and I could buy a laptop.)
At large, compared to their financial resources and other possibilities, the Hungarian institutions and NGOs, regardless of their political ideology, do not seem to have done much about making this part of Hungarian history popular in the English language as far as social media is concerned. Prove me wrong, please.
Having learned from the mistakes of not spreading Hungarian history effectively enough before 1918, by now, 2019, they must know how important it is to spread the country’s cultural heritage among those who do not speak Hungarian.
Perhaps we could make them more aware of the importance of social media in the 21st century by simply sharing posts with them, too.
Thank you for your interest in Hungarian history. You can read my report on my activity between 2016 and 2022 here:
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