Ukraine is running a controversial anti-Russian poster campaign in the Transcarpathia region, which lies in western Ukraine and is home to 150,000 ethnic Hungarians; however, the painting has been photoshopped and uses some dubious historical references.
What does the poster say?
The posters, which have gone up around the Transcarpathia region, claim that “Russia killed Petőfi,” referring to the Hungarian poet Sándor Petőfi, one of the iconic figures of the 1848-1849 Hungarian revolt against the Austrian Empire, which was eventually stifled with the help of Russia. The action earned the then Russian Tsar Nicholas I the nickname “Europe’s gendarme.”
Petőfi is a revered figure by Hungarians, but the circumstances of his death remain a mystery. All that is certain is that he disappeared after one of the revolution’s last battles against the Russian army.
Why did Ukraine use a photoshopped painting?
The posters, which denounce Russian aggression, contain an altered photograph of artwork from a 19th-century Hungarian painter.
According to Hungarian news outlet Magyar Nemzet, one version of the poster reads in Hungarian and Ukrainian: “Russia killed Petőfi – Russia is killing us,” with two pictures underneath.
The one on the right depicts a map of Ukraine under Russian missile attack, while the one on the left is László Hegedűs’ painting “The Death of Petőfi” However, the painting is not quite accurate. The poster features a photoshopped element. The yellow and blue flags on the spears in the original painting are replaced with a Tsarist eagle flag of white, blue and red. The reason for this is presumably that the colors of the Cossack flag and the Ukrainian flag are virtually identical, and therefore, the original painting may have convinced the Hungarians that it was actually Ukrainian soldiers that killed the poet.
The billboards denouncing Russian aggression and drawing historical parallels between the Hungarian Revolution of 1848-1849 and the 1956 Hungarian War of Independence and the Russian-Ukrainian War appeared in towns along the Hungarian-Ukrainian border.
Why is Ukraine running this campaign?
Although the ethnic Hungarians in the Transcarpathia region are Ukrainian citizens, there is deep distrust among them toward the Ukrainian government, which has enacted draconian restrictions on their language and culture. The Hungarian government has protested this repression for years and has signaled it will not approve Ukraine’s potential NATO membership without the government first respecting the minority rights of this population.
As Remix News previously reported, many of these Hungarians have died fighting for Ukraine after being conscripted by authorities, often by force. Some representatives of the community say that they believe Ukraine is targeting its population for conscription and frontline duty at high rates.
“If this continues, there won’t be any Hungarians left in Transcarpathia,” said Füssy Angéla during a report from the region for Hungarian news portal Pesti Srácok.
Hungarian news outlet Magyar Nemzet reports that the “Transcarpathian morgues are also full, and they are deliberately slowing down the release of victims.”