Athena Institute

Magyar

Successful Network Building in Serbia by Hungarian Extremists

2014-04-04
Amongst the Hungarian extremist groups, the Szeged-based Sixty-four Counties Youth Movement (SfCYM) is the most active in the neighbouring countries. The group has solidified its influence in the ethnic Hungarian political scene in Serbia by concentrating its efforts on places of Serb-Hungarian conflicts.

This investigative piece of the Institute was published by Index on EUrologus (in Hungarian).

Amongst the Hungarian extremist groups, the Szeged-based Sixty-four Counties Youth Movement (SfCYM) is the most active in the neighbouring countries. The group has solidified its influence in the ethnic Hungarian political scene in Serbia by concentrating its efforts on places of Serb-Hungarian conflicts.

The organisation was founded in 2001 and it was led by László Toroczkai (until his formal resignation after having been elected mayor of Ásotthalom). It is active in Romania, Slovakia and in Serbia too. Toroczkai has been arrested and banned from entering these countries on multiple occasions. Most recently he was denied access to Romania in October, 2013, at the Méhkerék-Nagyszalonta border station; and he previously had been denied access in 2005 and 2009 too. He was banned from entering Serbia for a year in 2004 for the first time after participating in a fight at Palić (Palics). In 2008 he was banned from the country again for two years with two other SfCYM members after another fight. Amongst all other countries that the group is active in, the SfCYM has been arguably the most successful in Serbia. The group could not really build on the atrocities against ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia after the attack on Hedvig Malina, unlike in Serbia where they managed to build a network successfully, especially in Temerin, a town that is arguably the focal point of Serb-Hungarian conflict, and at other settlements with ethnically mixed populations. Members of the group also infiltrated the local Hungarian community life.

Temerin, a ticking time-bomb

Until the South Slav Civil War the majority of Temerin's population consisted of ethnic Hungarians. Since the mid 1990s – when Serb refugees arrived from Kosovo and Bosnia – racially aggravated assaults against local Hungarians became commonplace. However, the authorities always handled these attacks as bar fights between youngsters. In 2004, however, following a similar incident when a Serb man was beaten by Hungarian youths after an altercation, an unusually severe punishment was handed down by the court and the so-called “Temerin boys” were sentenced to 61 years in prison altogether, for attempted murder. The number of analogous incidents has not dropped since, it has only fluctuated at best, whilst nationalist organisations have gained popularity on both sides and far-right subcultures have become very prominent amongst the local youngsters. On the Serb side Obraz (Otačastveni pokret Obraz, Dignity Nationalist Movement) and on the Hungarian side the SfCYM extremist group started to organise in this small town of 20,000. The local chapter of SfCYM operated openly between 2005 and 2010.

On 11 September 2011, a group of fifteen ethnic Hungarians, using batons according to witnesses, beat five 15-16 year old Serb boys. The incident happened in front of a venue called M1 on Népfront Street and the motives behind the fight are still a cause of controversy amongst the locals. After this incident – that many link to the SfCYM – the Obraz organised a “patrol” at the settlement as an intimidation tactic.

In October, 2012, after a party, a group of local ethnic Hungarian youths entered a restaurant where they greeted each other with the Nazi salute. That led to a fight, during which a group of 20-30 Serbs started chasing the Hungarians, threw bottles at them and tried to run them over with a car. The police only arrested the Hungarians. According to the press, the “new Temerin boys” were wearing the logos and symbols of the SfCYM and the authorities found weapons and SfCYM propaganda materials in the flat of one of them.

After the incident, a Serb party from Vojvodina (Vajdaság) demanded a ban on the group. In reaction Toroczkai told the Hungarian Telegraphic Office that “the SfCYM has not been present in Serbia for years, thus the organisation has nothing to do with the incident in Temerin”. During 2011, the contact information of the group's chapters in Serbia indeed disappeared from the organisation's website and the SfCYM seemingly has less of a presence in the region than it had 8-10 years ago. However, the group's Serbian chapter is still active on social media sites, although that can be the work of a person independent of the organisation. The circle of friends of members of the Hungarian far-right subculture in Vojvodina (Vajdaság), who are around or under 20 – that were minors in 2004 and 2006 – seems to suggest that they nurture personal relationships with known leaders and Szeged-based members of SfCYM.

According to our source in Temerin, there has not been an incident in months. About the role of extremist groups, such as the Sixty-four Counties, in the previous incidents he said: “This is more like a mentality of a group of people, the SfCYM is not a legally registered association in Temerin, they don't even have an office. You should ask the youngsters why they wear such t-shirts.”

From the Sixty-four Counties to the Hungarian National Committee

The SfCYM's chapter in Vojvodina was officially established in 2004. Several sub-chapters were also founded in Ada, ÄŒoka (Csóka), Mali IÄ‘oš (Kishegyes), Kanjiža (Magyarkanizsa), Opština Bečej (Óbecse), Bačko Petrovo Selo (Péterréve), Subotica (Szabadka), Srbobran (Szenttamás) and most importantly in Temerin. During this time the SfCYM tried to build connections with local ethnic Hungarian parties such as the Democratic Community of Hungarians of Vojvodina (DCHV) and the Hungarian Democratic Party of Vojvodina (HDPV). According to the group's website, they had joint candidates with these parties in the local elections, although these connections were later denied by András Ágoston, president of the HDPV.

Bálint László, member of the Hungarian National Committee in Serbia, founding president of the Hungarian Hope Movement (HHM) that seceded from the HDPV, used to be one of the leaders of SfCYM in Vojvodina until 2006. He left the group when the SfCYM supported a candidate of the DCHV, whilst the party cooperated with Vojislav Šešelj's Serb Radical Party (Srpska Radikalna Stranka, SRS). Despite the infighting in SfCYM, caused by the cooperation with the Serb radicals, his ties with the group were not completely severed. He participated in the opening of the “House of Hope” in Torda (Torontáltorda) – an initiative that was funded with money collected by the SfCYM – together with László Toroczkai and Gábor Vona in 2011. The “House of Hope Programme” is the SfCYM's activity across the border, aimed at network building and propaganda purposes. One of the vice presidents of the HHM, Gábor Zubcsik also started his political career in the SfCYM and Attila Varga-Somogyi, a Temerin Council member of HHM used to be the president of the Temerin SfCYM. Until 2011, Szilveszter Kispalkó was also an official of the HHM, who had been the former president of the Vojvodina SfCYM and was a member of the group's leadership at the time. According to our sources, László is one of the organisers of the Délvidéki Civil PolgárÅ‘rség (Civil Guard of Vojvodina), which – just like the Hungarian Guard and its successor groups – regularly carries our intimidating actions, called “patrolling” in the parts of settlements in Vojvodina that are populated by the Roma.

According to our information, the delhir.info that is edited by HHM and SfCYM members regularly publishes articles on “Gypsy criminality”. Its editor-in-chief is Viktor Vadalcsevity, who is a Subotica-based (Szabadka) member of the HHM's Financial and Disciplinary Committee. “They do not want to integrate, they are not even trying to adhere to the written and unwritten rules of cohabitation brought about by the new environment. Instead they are slowly becoming the dominant group and reign over the village with their arrogant and dominant behaviour. It is common for them to be the primary cause of the decaying public order, and since they cannot be touched from a certain point of view, and thus they are above the law, they can do whatever they want” - they write on the website in their article on the Gypsies “who were led here from Kosovo”, titled “Raging Gypsy-criminality in Vojvodina”.

Summary

The SfCYM exploited the Serb-Hungarian conflict in the region and the cracked trust of the local ethnic Hungarian community in the Serb state successfully when the group appeared in Serbia. It can be argued that the Serb state were not able to defend its ethnic Hungarian citizens. Actually the local Hungarian communities experienced hostility and bias during the ethnically charged street fights, which kindled the already existing conflicts further and created a welcoming environment for the extremists who came pushing into the cracks. Although the SfCYM has been less active in the region in the past two or three years, at least under this alias, a group of about 15-20 youths who consider themselves SfCYM members or Hungarists still exists. Furthermore, the HHM that has an active role in the local municipalities and the delhir.info website that can be linked to the HHM and incites ethnic hatred are both strongly connected to the Sixty-four Counties. The seeds that have been sown by the SfCYM are ready to be reaped.


Slovakia

In May, 2006, in Komoča (Kamocsa), during the 3rd Hungarian Island of Felvidék festival, members of the Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement got into an altercation with members of the Národný odpor Slovensko (Slovak National Resistance, NOS). The police had a strong presence at the event, hence no severe incidents happened. During the summer of the same year, unknown assailants – presumably members of NOS – attacked Hedvig Malina, an ethnic Hungarian girl. To protest the attack, the SfCYM organised a demonstration in Bratislava (Pozsony) in September. The demonstration was banned by the authorities. Toroczkai, who appeared alone at the place of the demonstration was arrested and banned from Slovakia for five years.

In 2009, the SfCYM organised multiple events in several places in Slovakia to recruit new members. György Gyula Zagyva and László Bedécs, president of the Rimavská Sobota (Rimaszombat) chapter of the group and – according to our information – president of the organisation in Slovakia participated in their Dolné Zahorany (Magyarhegymeg) event. Until the recent changes in the group's leadership, Bedécs was a member of the SfCYM's board of leaders. According to the Slovak authorities, recruiting events were held in Dunajská Streda (Dunaszerdahely), Šamorín (Somorja), and other similar events were going to be held in Fiľakovo (Fülek), Moldava nad Bodvou (Szepsi) and Košice (Kassa). The Slovak authorities kept their eyes on these activities and checked the identity of György Gyula Zagyva at Rožňava (Rozsnyó). The chapters of the group in Košice (Kassa), Šamorín (Somorja) and Rimavská Sobota (Rimaszombat) are still active. The Šamorín (Somorja) chapter of the group, led by Attila Búss holds film screenings and organises presentations on an almost monthly basis. They also participated in the Day of Honour propaganda action and several other propaganda events of the SfCYM in Hungary.

Toroczkai, after his five year long ban had expired, held a recruiting event in Komárno (Komárom) in 2011. According to the Hungarian media at the event Toroczkai said that “I wouldn't exterminate all Slovaks, I would thin a few of them out, but not all.” And that he does not intend to carry out a “massacre, a Breivik-like massacre, a mindless massacre. At least not in Slovakia.”

Croatia

The SfCYM regularly holds memorials together with the Croatian HÄŒSP
(Hrvatska čista stranka prava, Pure Croatian Law Party) at one of the locations of the South Slav War, in Laslovo (Szentlászló). The HÄŒSP openly identifies itself as the successor of Ante Pavelić, leader of the Croat puppet state during World War II and founder of the National Socialist Ustasha movement. The SfCYM does not have a local chapter in the country, the participants, who represent the group at these events arrive from Hungary.