Posted on May 20, 2022

The European Country Where “Replacement Theory” Reigns Supreme

Zack Beauchamp, Vox, May 19, 2022

On May 16, just days after the deadly mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, motivated by conspiratorial fears of white Westerners’ “Great Replacement” by minorities, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán endorsed the shooter’s ideology in a nationally televised speech.

“Part of the picture of the decade of war facing us will be recurring waves of suicidal policy in the Western world. One such suicide attempt that I see is the great European population replacement program, which seeks to replace the missing European Christian children with migrants, with adults arriving from other civilizations,” Orbán said.

Orbán is a close observer of American politics; the speech literally contains an exhortation to “make Hungary great again.” It is implausible, as the Guardian notes, that he was unaware of the concern in Washington over “Great Replacement” ideology — a conspiracy theory that posits a shadowy plan to “replace” the white Western population with immigrants and the children of nonwhites.

But Orbán is not adopting this language in response to events in America: It has been a central element of his ideology for years.

“I think there are many people who would like to see the end of Christian Europe,” he said in a representative 2018 radio interview. “They believe that if they replace its cultural subsoil, if they bring in millions of people from new ethnic groups which are not rooted in Christian culture, then they will transform Europe according to their conception.”

In contemporary Hungary, we see a country where “Great Replacement” theory dominates not just official rhetoric but also policy. Migrants are treated cruelly at the border, while the government casts LGBTQ minorities as a threat to Hungarian birthrates and pushes a message to convince women to take up “traditional” roles as homemakers and mothers. Advocates for immigration and immigrant rights, like the Hungarian American Jewish philanthropist George Soros, are described as enemies of the state and attacked accordingly.

Meanwhile, Republicans are increasingly seeing Orbánism as a model. Currently, the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) is holding a major conference in Budapest. Orbán gave a speech Thursday morning; both Tucker Carlson and Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows will be giving addresses by videoconference. The event serves as ratification of a trend I’ve been writing about for years: the GOP’s evolution into an illiberal faction that closely resembles Orbán’s Fidesz party.

At the conference, my colleague Noel King met with István Kiss, the executive director of the Danube Institute, a government-sponsored think tank with links to prominent Western conservatives. She asked Kiss directly whether his government’s embrace of replacement theory bothered him. He said, more or less, that it didn’t.

“If Hungary changes, then Hungary no longer exists,” he says. “If you have a society or civilization which is unwilling to reproduce themselves, then that shows that there’s something wrong within our societies. Because that’s strange; that’s kind of suicidal.”

These are the ideas spreading out from Budapest to Washington. And the implications for America are more than a little ominous.


In the United States, replacement theory has been popular with the racist fringe — people like the Buffalo shooter and Charlottesville, Virginia, marchers — for decades. Only recently has it made its way into the GOP mainstream, due in no small part to the influence of Carlson’s Fox show.

In Europe, the idea is widespread among both neo-Nazis and the continent’s far-right political parties, like the Netherlands’ Freedom Party and Germany’s AfD. {snip}

But nowhere has the idea been more influential than Hungary, where Orbán and his increasingly far-right Fidesz party has engineered the political system to give itself a virtual hammerlock on power without parallel in the European Union. The Hungarian prime minister has elevated fear of demographic replacement into a central governing ideology, serving as justification for a policy agenda that demonizes minorities and helps cement his hold on power.

Orbán’s vision goes like this: Hungary is a small country of about 10 million people, with a unique culture and language, that has been repeatedly invaded and subjugated throughout its history. Today, the biggest threat to this nation’s continuation is low birthrates: “Hungarians are an endangered species,” as he once put it.

Immigration to Europe from the Middle East and Africa is, in this worldview, the principal reason for this “endangered” status. Because Orbán sees “Hungarianness” as defined in ethnonational terms, there is no sense that the children of migrants could ever become Hungarian. By bringing in their own cultures and languages, he believes, they pose an existential threat to the Hungarian nation’s future.

“We do not need numbers, but Hungarian children. In our minds, immigration means surrender,” as he put it in a 2019 speech. “If we resign ourselves to the fact that we are unable to sustain ourselves even biologically, by doing so we admit that we are not important even for ourselves.”


“What they want is that henceforward it will increasingly not be we and our descendants who live here, but others,” he said in a speech commemorating the country’s 1848 revolution. “External forces and international powers want to force all this upon us, with the help of their allies here in our country.”

The upshot of this conspiracy theory is that Orbán and his allies in Fidesz are justified in doing nearly anything — however cruel and authoritarian — in service of preventing migration. They have built a fence on the border with Serbia to block migrants from entering; when I visited there in 2018, I saw a detention center, with some migrants stuck in a miserable processing system while others slept in squalid tents on the Hungarian side.