The Hungarian National Holiday – October 23rd

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Hungarian Flag with the communist coat of arms cut out – Revolutionary symbol

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.

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Statue of Imre Nagy

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.

Ceremonial Guards Stand Watch at the Parliament
Ceremonial Guards Stand Watch at the Parliament

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.

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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.

Candles are lit in remembrance
Candles are lit in remembrance

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.

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Jobbik Rally

Hungary is now in the midst of a four day long weekend. It will be a quiet few days here in Budapest.

A Working Saturday for Hungarians Ahead of the National Holiday

IMG_2127 copyToday, Saturday, October 18th, was a work day for many Hungarians.

The reason for this is because next Thursday is a National Holiday, commemorating the events of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. By working today, Hungarians will enjoy a four day long weekend next week. The National Holiday on Thursday, the earned day off from today’s work on Friday, followed by a normal Saturday and Sunday off.

It’s a clever‚ way to handle an awkward, middle of the week holiday. I can’t recall anything like this happening in Canada around July 1st. I wonder how many people would be willing to go along with a working Saturday in June if it mean a four day long weekend the following week?

On the topic of the National Holiday, I’ll be paying close attention next week, when the ceremonies of remembrance take place. The Hungarian Revolution was a tragic event, where a country thought it had gained its freedom, only to be swiftly and brutally crushed by the Soviet Army days later. The event generated headlines around the world.‚ Time Magazine named the Hungarian Freedom Fighter its Person of the Year for 1956. Even Elvis Presley took notice, using his appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, to urge Americans to make donations to Hungarian Relief funds.

The turbulent 20th century history of European countries, especially those caught between Germany and Russia, is astounding. Communism and Fascism must never be allowed to return.