After World War II, the USSR claimed that they had “liberated” Hungary, after they drove the German Nazis out of Budapest and Hungary. The problem was the Soviets never left. They immediately began to set up new laws. They took over factories, and businesses began to produce for the State.
Hungary had a law that no building could be higher than the church. The Soviets placed a red star on top of the Parliament building, making it taller than everything else including the church, symbolically raising government to the highest place.
Church attendance was highly discouraged, as Lenin famously stated that “religion is the opium for the masses.”
The fellow on the sculpture is Imre Nagy. He was Hungary’s leader during communism and specifically during 1956, when Hungary attempted revolution to overthrew the communists. The revolution was quickly thwarted by the Soviets after only 2 weeks.
The sculpture was interesting in that he is standing on a bridge, which you can walk across, and it’s rough and slippery. As you walk on it, you fall backwards as you gradually move forward. He is looking forward towards the Hungarian Parliament building. His back is to a Soviet monument commemorating their “liberation.” He was executed by the Soviets after the revolution and never given a proper burial. Later, he was properly buried by his supporters many years later.
There is an interesting battle that is going on with monuments in Budapest. The obelisk above was donated by the Soviet Union and commemorates their liberation. This monument is extremely controversial. At different times people have protested around it and defaced it. It is currently being guarded by the police. If the Hungarians hated communism so much, then why keep the monument? Because the Russians would not allow the removal without seriously affecting relations.
Hungary gets 89% of their crude oil and 57% of their natural gas from Russia. They are actually on pretty good terms.
Putin has punished Estonia in the past when they removed a monument, so it is a bit touchy.
Interestingly the monument is right next to the US Embassy. Some say the monument from the embassy looks like the top of a hand, giving us the middle finger.
Furthermore, there is a statue of Reagan, the warrior against the Soviets, walking full stride towards the monument. Hungary reveres Reagan for his role in defeating the Soviets in the Cold War.
This picture above is a Cold War Era bomb shelter which the Communists built to protect government workers in the case of nuclear attack.
This is the wonderful architecture of the Communist Era. Beautiful.
We attended Palm Sunday mass here in St. Matthias Church, in Hungarian.
So in 1989 Hungary ended communism and is now a republic. There remains high levels of bureaucracy and some corruption; but like the statue, they are moving along the slippery and difficult road towards democratic rule.