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Leonid Bershidsky

The Fight in Hungary Is Over George Soros's Legacy

The billionaire wanted to open up Eastern Europe, but instead built a system of ivory towers.
Builder of ivory towers.

Builder of ivory towers.

Photographer: Olivier Hoslet/AFP/Getty Images

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has long avoided effective censure by the European Union, even though he has long since stopped adhering to the bloc's common values, denouncing liberalism and adopting an authoritarian style of government. But his attempt to close down the Central European University in Budapest, funded by George Soros, seems to be the last straw; the EU intends to sue Hungary over it, and sanctions may follow unless Orban leaves the CEU alone.

It's remarkable that the controversy over the Soros project is what has brought European unhappiness with Orban to a boil. But then, the stakes are especially high for the octogenarian philanthropist: This may be his final stand in a region where he has accomplished so much -- and yet seen at least as much failure.