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Hungarian far-right politician and writer dies

FILE - A Monday, Oct. 23, 2000 photo from files showing the leader of the far right Hungarian Truth and Life Party (MIEP), Istvan Csurka, making an addresses in Budapest on the 44th anniversary of the outbreak of the Hungarian revolution. Hungarian far-right politician and writer Istvan Csurka has died. He was 77. Csurka's death was announced by his family. He had been hospitalized in recent weeks with an undisclosed illness, but no other details were immediately available. FILE - A Monday, Oct. 23, 2000 photo from files showing the leader of the far right Hungarian Truth and Life Party (MIEP), Istvan Csurka, making an addresses in Budapest on the 44th anniversary of the outbreak of the Hungarian revolution. Hungarian far-right politician and writer Istvan Csurka has died. He was 77. Csurka's death was announced by his family. He had been hospitalized in recent weeks with an undisclosed illness, but no other details were immediately available. (AP Photo/MTI, Attila Kovacs, File)
February 4, 2012
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BUDAPEST, Hungary—Istvan Csurka, a Hungarian anti-Soviet dissident playwright and later far-right nationalist politician who was criticized at home and abroad for his anti-semitic articles, died Saturday at age 77.

Csurka's death was announced by his family. He had been hospitalized in recent weeks with an undisclosed illness, but no other details were immediately available.

Often compared to France's xenophobic National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, Csurka opposed Hungary's membership in NATO and the European Union, but his political activities dwindled after a stinging defeat in the 2006 elections. Still, he kept writing vitriolic articles in his Magyar Forum publications.

Just weeks ago, he spoke at a rally in the southern city of Szeged in defense of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government, which has been severely criticized by the European Union for laws seen curtailing civil liberties and upsetting the democratic system of checks and balances.

Csurka also hit the headlines late last year when his nomination -- later withdrawn -- as artistic director of a Budapest theater was criticized in Hungary and abroad by theater professionals and Jewish groups.

On Thursday, a letter from Csurka was read to the staff of the New Theater by Gyorgy Dorner, who took over as director this month, in which he asked members of the theater to work together in harmony despite their political differences, state news wire MTI reported.

One of Csurka's last works, "The Sixth Coffin," a play about Trianon, the post-World War I treaty which forced Hungary to give up two-thirds of its territories and half its population, is planned to be staged at the theater later in 2012.

Born in Budapest on March 27, 1934, Csurka wrote more than 20 plays, some satirizing the communist regime and especially former dictator Janos Kadar, and published many volumes of essays and short stories. His newspaper and magazine articles often blamed Jews and international powers for Hungary's problems.

After the 1956 anti-Soviet Revolution, he spent six months in an internment camp for leading a college militia during the uprising.

During his detention, Csurka was recruited as an informant for Hungary's secret police. Shortly after the fall of the communist regime, Csurka was among the very few who admitted having been part of the dreaded network who often informed on friends and relatives, claiming he had been coerced into accepting the role and had never written any reports.

The secret police eventually declared him unfit for the task because of his refusal to cooperate.

Csurka was twice silenced by Hungary's cultural authorities during communism, first in 1972 for anti-Semitic and subversive statements.

In 1986, while on a tour of the United States, he published an article in the emigre press dealing with the plights of the ethnic Hungarian minorities living in Hungary's neighboring countries -- a mostly taboo subject during communism -- for which he was given a year's ban.

By this time, he was openly part of the dissident underground and democratic opposition.

Csurka was a founding member of the Hungarian Democratic Forum, a conservative party that led the first post-communist government in 1990-1994. He was expelled from the party in 1993 and later formed the nationalistic Hungarian Justice and Life Party, which was in Parliament between 1998 and 2002.

One of the party's best-known slogans was "Neither right, nor left -- Christian and Hungarian."

Csurka is survived by a son and two daughters.

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