Monument to the Terror: Red or White?

A statue of Imre Nagy was erected on the southeast corner of Kossuth Square in 1996, to commemorate the 1956 Revolution he led as the Communist leader of his country and for which he gave his life.  He is standing on a bridge looking towards the Parliament building.  That bronze sculpture stood there until the fall of 2018 when Viktor Orbán had it removed.  He could not destroy it, so he had it placed in Jászai Mari Square where now Nagy is inexplicably looking towards the hills of Buda.

That move was part of Orbán’s nationalistic ideology to whitewash Hungarian history.  By vilifying Communists and Socialists, he can blame all leftist and liberal opposition as part of an international conspiracy intent on destroying the proud Christian, military, family, and patriotic tradition of St. Stephen.

The new reconstructed monument commemorating the victims of the Red Terror.

The rewriting of history is to be found in all places, all monuments.  One of the leading right wing newspapers is Pesti Srácok (The boys of Pest).  The reference is to the teenagers who fought against Soviet tanks in October 1956.  The message is clear: it was the boys of Pest who fought the revolution, not Imre Nagy, Pál Maléter nor the revolutionary councils of intellectuals.

In his efforts to recreate the glorious past, Orbán constantly returns to the halcyon days of Horthy, who started his reign as governor in 1920 following the bloodbath of his terrorists and ended it with being a willing ally of Nazi Germany, responsible for the annihilation of the Second Army on the Eastern front and the facilitator of the deportation and murder of half a million Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in 1944.

To celebrate those years and remind his countrymen of the glories of Horthy he replaced the Imre Nagy statue with a copy of the one that occupied that square from 1934 to 1945, commemorating the victims of the Red Terror that took place under the Soviet Republic in 1919.  Horthy’s prosecutor put the figure of the victims at 587.  Historians now agree that the victims of the White Terror that succeeded it, leveled largely against Jews, were 2-3 times as many.

October 31 will be the one year anniversary of the dedication of that monument.

In 1942 a statue was erected to Gyula Gömbös, the right-wing prime minister between 1932 and 1936, in Buda.  Two years later it was blown up by members of the resistance.  I wonder how long the Monument to the Victims of the Red Terror will remain.

Statue of Gyula Gömbös was blown up by members of the anti-Nazi resistance in 1944 .

Steven Kovacs


  1. Avatar András B. Göllner says:

    There is only one cluster of people missing from this otherwise important reminder to us from Mr. Kovács: The real heroes of 1956.

    It needs to be retold, rather than forgotten: 1956 was not a revolution against the ideals of socialism, but against those who chose to abuse Hungary’s working classes under the label of socialism. It was the revolting assault on Hungary’s working men and women, with the aid of the sacred word – Socialism – that blew the lid off the Soviet Union’s Hungarian “power-plant” on October 23, 1956. This was not the bourgeoisie striking back at the dictatorship of the proletariat. It was the children of the industrial and agricultural labourers and their parents in the cities, towns and villages of Hungary who turned on their abusers. As in 1919, they are the unsung heroes of Hungary’s second social revolution of the 20th century. Workers Councils sprang up miraculously and in an utterly spontaneous manner throughout Hungary at the end of October 1956 demanding the same rights for working men and women as their predecessors did 37 years earlier. The Councils’ leading role in the revolution was fully and publicly embraced by the revolutionary government of Imre Nagy at its last official cabinet meeting. The workers’ councils of Hungary during the 1919 and 1956 revolutions had the same message for the Bolsheviks as they did for the advocates of Capitalist restoration: “Our factories and land belong to the people, and we will never surrender them.” Nothing scares the current kleptocrats in charge of Hungary more, than the mention of this indestructible revolutionary spirit. It is fear and trembling that forces them to slander the working class heroes of 1919 as “Red Terrorists”. It is this fear that compelled Viktor Orbán to move the monument honoring Imre Nagy away from the vicinity of Hungary’s Parliament just before the centennial of the 1919 Revolution and to replace it with one from the Horthy era that honors the victims of the 1919 “Red Terrorists”.
    The following are references that support the above: Bill Lomax, Hungary 1956. London, Allison & Busby, 1976 and István Kemény and Bill Lomax (eds.): Magyar munkástanácsok 1956-ban. Dokumentumok (Hungarian workers’ councils in 1956: Documents). Magyar Füzetek, Paris, 1986. Also: Mike Haynes. “Hungary: Workers’ Councils Against Russian Tanks” International Socialism. Autumn, 2006. Tamás Krausz. “The Hungarian Workers’ Councils of 1956” Workers’ Liberty. Oct 31, 2006. If I can be forgiven for promoting the collective work of group of scholars I invited to work with me on setting the historical record straight on 1919 , please look at: András B. Göllner (ed) The Forgotten Revolution. Black Rose/University of Chicago Press. Fall, 2020.

  2. It will be great news when the “German occupation” statue on Szabadsag
    ter (Freedom sq.) and the Turul bird will be blown up in the 12th district. It is bound to happen………

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