In‚ Hungary, most public holidays are a mix of religious days and anniversaries of historical events. October 23rd, marks the anniversary of the 1956 Revolution, which saw the Hungarian people rise up against the communist government, backed by Soviet Russia. While at first the revolution seemed to have been a success, with Soviet troops leaving Budapest, Moscow responded swiftly in early November, seizing control of Hungary and suppressing discussion of the event for over 30 years.
On this day, special attention is paid to the statue of Imre Nagy, Hungary’s leader during the revolution, who appealed to the West for help and hoped to bring democracy to his country. He was eventually arrested by Soviet officials. Two years later, after a show trial, he was found guilty of treason and executed. His body was dumped in a cemetery, face-down, with his hands and feet tied with barbed wire.
A short walk from the Parliament is Liberty Square, home to a controversial monument that remembers the Soviet liberation of Hungary in 1945. At all times, there are police nearby, to ensure that the monument isn’t vandalized. Until recently, there had been a security fence around the perimetre. On this day especially, the monument stirs up some strong emotions. Demonstrators voiced their displeasure with a protest banner. The impact of ‚ 20th century Eastern European history is still felt today.
The Hungarian National Holiday has a very different feel than Canada Day. It’s a solemn event. There’s no free concert at Parliament, people aren’t getting drunk. The ride on the metro today was very quiet.
On my way home, I came across political rally organized by Jobbik, which has been described as a far-right party. They have their own ideas about what this day means to Hungary.
Hungary is now in the midst of a four day long weekend. It will be a quiet few days here in Budapest.