Budapest, Hungary: October 23, 2009 Commemorations

DSCN0546DSCN0547Due to the violence that erupted in 2006, the government held a private ceremony at the parliament in Budapest, with heavy police presence surrounding the area. Onlookers could not get very close, although we could hear the music. This was about a 15-minute ceremony with a military band, and soldiers on horses that paraded through the square. The band played the national anthem as the flag was raised, and followed with a military march as the performers and invited guests walked toward the Imre Nagy monument, for a ceremony there.

A small group representing the Hungarian Guardists (a right-wing nationalist group which dresses in black) protested the ceremony, yelling “Liars!”, “Thieves!”, and “You had nothing to do with 1956!”       DSCN0596

One woman who was late for the ceremony as an invited guest tried to get access to the event at the monument, showing her invitation, but the police would not budge. She was adament and upset, saying “My father died in ’56.”

Gradually, more and more Hungarian Guardist members arrived, usually in groups, many bused in from other parts of Hungary. They held a service in a Protestant church near the Parliament, but the church was full, so others formed a growing crowd outside. They gathered into a march-style formation, and at one point they performed a military salute (without weapons). One member sported a Hitler-style mustache. I am told that the Guardist uniform is illegal in Hungary.

Later, a major rally took place in central Budapest near Deak Ter, lasting several hours. This event, complete with a stage, showcased the militant wing of the right-wing nationalist party, Jobbik, which now has 3 seats in the European Union Parliament as a result of the last elections. The Guardists are the private army of this party. Speakers included representatives of right-wing nationalist parties from other European countries, including Western Europe. But Jobbik boasted that it is the leader of nationalist party acivity in Europe. Several hundred people stood at attention in the street, most dressed in the black Hungarian Guardist uniform. Many of these carried gasmasks. There were several hundred additional onlookers–most supportive. The party calls for a return of former Hungarian lands where Hungarian minorities live, including Romania and Slovakia. The speakers made blatant anti-semitic statements, and are also opposed to Roma (Gypsy) rights. The mood was both angry and celebratory; there was a clear feeling of pride in the growing success for the party.

Although Jobbik and the Hungarian Guard have dominated the public anniversary “sphere” in Budapest (along with the characteristic symbol of the flag with the hole in it), I also saw the signs of broader remembrance of 1956 by Hungarians. Here is a new monument to 1956 (note the rust — similar to the Iron Curtain monument):

Lisbon England Budapest 284

Lisbon England Budapest 285

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