Facing the Shadows of the Past During Transitions: The Role of the Constitution in the Case of Hungary

One of the greatest challenges facing Hungary is coping with the grievances left by the authoritarian and totalitarian regimes in the 20th century. The question of how to settle the pro-Nazi and communist pasts of the country was first raised during the democratic transition in 1989. This paper discusses how the democratic 1989 constitution of Hungary and its judicial interpretation given by the Constitutional Court dealt with the problem of transitional justice, and how this approach influenced reconciliation and democratic consolidation. The paper introduces those legal solutions. Retroactive justice, responses to state security measures and the regulation of compensation for wrongdoings in the past are also examined. Recently, the question of settling the past has been brought up again as part of the country’s shift toward authoritarian rule. Therefore, the unsettled past has continued to be the bedrock of political fights in the present. It also discusses the 2011 constitution.