Imre Kertész (on the left) and Ernõ Rubik at the award ceremony of the 2014 Order of St. Stephen in Budapest | Attila Kovács / MTI

Renowned Hungarians receive controversial award

August 22, 2014

The President of the Republic János Áder presented internationally acknowledged Nobel Prize-winning author Imre Kertész and internationally renowned inventor Ernõ Rubik with the Order of Saint Stephen at the proposal of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

The award is presented “in recognition of the most prestigious special merit in the interests of the country, an outstanding life’s work and significant honors acquired within the international arena.”

The Order of St. Stephen, named after Hungary’s first king (1000-1038), was established by Queen Maria Theresa in 1776 and it was abolished in 1946 when Hungary was declared a republic.

After 1940, the recipients included German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop; his Italian counterpart (and son-in-law of Mussolini) Gian Galeazzo Ciano or German Marshal Hermann Göring.

Analysts suggest that by awarding this order to Holocaust survivor Kertész, PM Viktor Orbán wishes to improve his image abroad following his less than successful handling of the Hungarian Holocaust Year. It is also noted that Kertész was largely neglected Orbán’s Fidesz party and the far right in Hungary before.

The 2014 recipients

Imre Kertész was born in Budapest in 1929. He was interned in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps at the age of fourteen, and returned to Hungary following their liberation in 1945. His most famous work, Fatelessness (Sorstalanság), was published in 1975 and immediately won great acclaim both in Hungary and abroad. In 2002, he was the first ever Hungarian to receive a Nobel Prize for Literature for Fatelessness, from which a film directed by Lajos Koltai was produced in 2005.

Ernõ Rubik was born in Budapest in 1944. In 1974, while working as a professor of architecture at a Hungarian college, he invented the world famous three-dimensional puzzle, the Rubik's Cube. On the 40th anniversary of this invention, a major exhibition, titled “Beyond Rubik's Cube” has opened at the Liberty Science Centre in New Jersey, with financial support from the Hungarian government.


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