In February 2017, at the state of the nation address, Viktor Orbán, the prime minister of Hungary and the leader of the far-right, anti-immigrant Fidesz party, offered his vision for the country in the coming year. “We shall let in true refugees: Germans, Dutch, French, and Italians, terrified politicians and journalists who here in Hungary want to find the Europe they have lost in their homelands,” he proclaimed.
In reality, Orbán’s “refugees” have been moving to Hungary, and Budapest in particular, for years. A small clique of Identitarians, or aggrieved nationalists from Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and elsewhere, all motivated by their disdain for their home countries’ commitment to liberal values, have found an ideological match in his Hungary, where two extreme far-right parties, the governing Fidesz and Jobbik, the largest opposition party, make up most of the National Assembly. Jobbik is the first European political party to champion a border wall. Its members frequently express open anti-Semitic and anti-Roma sentiments, and prioritize the preservation of “Hungary for the Hungarians.”
This transformation has allowed a system of far-right culture leaders to flourish in Budapest. Coming from all over Europe and the United States, they have created a structured propaganda circuit, in the hopes of spreading their ideas far and wide.
At the center of the scene is a publishing house called Arktos Media. It is routinely referred to as the preeminent publisher of the alt-right by those within the movement and experts who study it, and is known for translating many canonical alt-right texts into English, including the first full-text English translations of Russian theorist Alexander Dugin—characterized variously on the left and right as “the intellectual guru of Putinism,” and “Putin’s Rasputin.” Dugin’s “ethnonationalism,” a belief in the creation of ethnically homogenous nation states, has been championed by white nationalists, who argue that Europe and America are innately white nations. Arktos titles largely promote a viewpoint it characterizes as “alternatives to modernity” that are critical of liberalism, human rights, and modern democracy.
Arktos originally began operations in India in 2010 when a Swedish businessman named Daniel Friberg absorbed a “traditionalist” publishing house run by American editor-in-chief John B. Morgan. Both lived in India for the first years of the company’s existence. In early 2014, both Friberg and Morgan moved to Budapest to continue to expand Arktos from within the European continent. (Morgan has since left Arktos and now works for Counter-Currents, a white-nationalist publishing house and website also partially based in Budapest.) Friberg, whose vision is central to Arktos, sees its mission as changing “metapolitics,” a term appropriated from 20th-century Marxist intellectual Antonio Gramsci. In Friberg’s book The Real Right Returns, he argues that multiculturalism and liberal human rights—what he calls “cultural Marxism”—have been the dominant culture since the fall of Nazism, and outlines how transforming this culture space is necessary for political and social change.
Peter Kréko, a Hungarian political analyst and academic researcher of populism and extremism at Indiana University Bloomington, said that the timing of Arktos’s move to Budapest was no accident. In 2014, Jobbik’s popularity surged, thanks to a platform that pledged to preserve Hungarian ethnic purity. That year, Orbán was also re-elected to a second term, and Jobbik won 20 percent of the national vote and 47 seats in the parliament, while Fidesz grabbed a super-majority. The Identitarians “are happy that they feel that in Hungary there is a leader that represents their values. These are people with an almost medieval view on the world and they find a safe haven in Hungary,” Kréko told me.
It is difficult to tell where Arktos’s ideas end and Jobbik’s begin. For both, multiculturalism is the supreme enemy. Both believe in draconian immigration laws based on ethnic and racial preservation. The *pro-government newspaper Magyar Hirlap (which translates to Hungarian Newspaper) has published articles sympathetic to members of Friberg’s circle. Gabor Vona, Jobbik’s leader, wrote an introduction to Arktos’s translation of 20th-century intellectual fascist Julius Evola’s A Handbook For Right-Wing Youth, a collection of Evola’s essays targeted at young people interested in the radical right. Evola, who White House chief strategist Steve Bannon quoted in a 2014 speech at the Vatican, is considered by academics as “possibly the most important intellectual figure for the Radical Right in contemporary Europe.” Numerous Facebook posts show Friberg shaking hands with Vona and dining with Marton Gyöngyösi, another key politician in Jobbik credited with calling for all Jews in Hungary to be registered on a list.
When I spoke with Gyöngyösi, he voiced his admiration for Evola. Jobbik’s resistance to immigration, he said, is limited to people from “Africa or the Middle East,” because they do not share the same “cultural values” as Hungarians, as opposed to the “Austrians or Polish or American people who come to our country and who share the same civilization, the same religion, or the same values or way of life.” But despite Jobbik’s ideological overlap with the Arktos scene, Gyöngyösi denied that it has any influence over the party.
Prior to Arktos, Friberg also had long-standing and prolific ties to far-right extremists in Sweden. As a teenager, he was heavily involved with neo-Nazi groups and, at the age of 28, helped construct and manage the online forum Nordisk.nu, a 22,000-member-strong gathering place for Scandinavian national socialists, including Anders Breivik. Friberg also served time in prison for various offenses from 1995 to 2010, including for possession of a stolen AK4 rifle (a rifle formerly used by Swedish army) and other illegal weapons.
More recently, Friberg has sought to obscure his violent transgressions under a cover of intellectual legitimacy. With an MBA from Göthenberg University and work experience at Wiking Mineral, a company founded by far-right political backer (and fellow Budapest resident) Patrick Brinkmann, Friberg now sports a “fashy haircut” and suits. He prefers to mingle with coiffed intellectuals and politicians in lieu of skinheads. He has spent his far-right career repackaging eugenicist ideology by rebranding the same or similar material with words such as “identitarian,” “traditionalist,” or “archeofuturist.” His partner, U.S. white nationalist Richard Spencer, has been criticized for doing the same thing by hate-watch groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.
While Gyöngyösi admits to knowing Friberg, he claims he knows nothing of Friberg’s criminal history. Gyöngyösi was skeptical before I read from his arrest record, and ultimately admitted that he is “not particularly happy ... about any criminal from any country living in Hungary.” But most important to Gyöngyösi is “that nobody from outside imposes on Hungary some social model that is not welcome in Hungary.”
In Budapest, Arktos is surrounded by alt-righters who have made the trek to the increasingly illiberal Hungary. Michael Polignano, co-founder of Counter-Currents, moved to Budapest in 2016, and joined the nationalist scene. After moving to Hungary in January 2017, men’s rights activist Matt Forney wrote: “Imagine there’s no leftists. It’s easy if you try. No protests in the streets, and in front of us, only cute white girls. That world exists, and it’s called Hungary.” Ferenc Almassy, a French nationalist, has worked as a translator for Jobbik. He helps other French nationalists new to Hungary acclimate to their haven. Popular American far-right YouTube and Twitter personality RamZPaul, who has lived in the Hungarian capital off and on since 2013, tweeted in February to nearly 35,000 followers: “Budapest is like Paris of the 1920s. #Hungary.”
In addition to Friberg’s clique, other nationalists have also moved to Hungary. Although former British Nationalist Party leader Nick Griffin has claimed he is not affiliated with the “alt-right” ex-pat community, he has been deeply involved with a radical Christian organization called “The Knights Templar International,” which has offices in the U.K. and Hungary. (His Twitter profile lists Budapest as one of his locations, and many articles published in March of this year commented on his plans to move there.) The Knights Templar were invited to inspect the Hungarian border in 2015 by Jobbik party member and mayor of Asotthalom, Lazsló Toroczkai, and have started a resettlement campaign called “Operation Ark” for “refugee” South African Boers to relocate to rural Hungary.
But perhaps Griffin and company shouldn't get too comfortable: on Friday, authorities expelled him from Hungary, calling him and his organization a “threat to national security.” While it is certainly premature to think that this represents some national reckoning, perhaps the country’s far-right ex-pats’ days are numbered.
For now, these groups will continue to expand their vision beyond Hungary’s party politics. In January 2017, Arktos’s team and Spencer officially cemented their partnership when they teamed up to create AltRight.com, a “one-stop shop” for the emerging movement. Even Washington-based Breitbart is now rumored to be opening a Hungarian office in the near future, after acquiring the domain name Breitbart.hu. From their vantage, the possibilities of cross-border exchange look promising. In flocking to Budapest, these nationalist internationals are creating a sanctuary from which to broadcast anti-globalism across the globe.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.