Thursday, October 29, 2009

Monument Park, the House of Terror, and Soviet Memory



A web exclusive for Prospect magazine, to commemorate 20 years since Hungarian independence on 23 October 1989.

After the England Writers' Team secured a satisfying 1-1 draw against the Mighty Magyars (match report here), I spent several days wandering around socialist realist theme parks, taking Communist Walking Tours, and accidentally stumbling on neo-fascist paramilitary groups honouring their nationalist heroes.

The red-and-white striped badges worn by the group were the colours of the Árpád dynasty of Hungarian kings; tellingly, the Arrow Cross party were also fond of this flag. Later that night, I returned to the statue, where a candelit vigil had begun for the execution of Count Batthyány and the 13 martyrs of Arad, the rebel generals who died with him. In attendance, along with the tattooed bikers and youths in combat trousers, were smartly-dressed middle classes. After the speeches, as the people dispersed, Árpád flags tucked under their arms, two young men gave out small slips of paper adorned with the names of those 14 icons of Hungarian nationalism.

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