Head of Gulag foundation opposes award to Bayer


wikimedia commons / andor elekes

The head of the foundation whose vice president nominated controversial journalist Zsolt Bayer to receive the Hungarian Order of Merit has publicly disowned the nomination, declaring Bayer unfit to receive it and questioning the very basis for the official citation, index.hu reported yesterday.

Zsolt Bayer. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Andor Elekes)

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, whose head János Lázár personally presented Bayer with the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit, the accolade was awarded “based on the initiative of the community preserving the memory of those who perished in the Gulags, in recognition of his activity as a journalist in uncovering and representing numerous matters of national interest, particularly in presenting, in an authentic and fitting manner, the fate of those held in the Gulag prison camps and the lives of Hungarians in Transylvania.”

As was widely reported Tuesday, the nomination for the award was submitted by Jolán Pintér, vice president of the Foundation to Preserve the Memory of Those Who Perished in the Gulags. Questioned by the daily Népszabadság, however, the foundation’s president, historian Tamás Stark, stated that he learned of the award only from newspaper reports and was unaware of Bayer’s writings on the Gulags.

In the interview with Stark, quoted by index.hu, the historian was asked if he agreed with the award, to which he replied: “No, I do not agree with it. In my view, Zsolt Bayer is entirely unworthy of a state award. […] On the one hand, because of the sometimes racist nature of his writings, and on the other hand because – as far as I know of his work – he supports a Russian system in his articles which does not face up to the crimes of Stalinism, attempting to trivialize and relativize them. It is precisely the memory of the Gulag’s victims which does not permit such a journalist to be honored.”

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