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

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