Budapest 9

Thursday 1st October 2015, Budapest
We are now seriously checking off our list of “must see” places before we pack up and leave this delightful flat behind. This morning we headed out to the Memento Park. This is where all the Soviet statues that used to adorn the city have ended their days. A bus runs from the city out to the park but we wanted to find our own way there. Even so we reached it before the special tourist bus. We took a tram through parts of the city we’d never seen before which deposited us at a huge suburban bus station set in a wilderness of road construction and building projects. There will be a whole new suburb here before long. Finding the bus we needed was easy and the driver cheerfully volunteered to push us out as he drove past.

The park lies outside of the city up in the hills. There was nobody around when we arrived and bought our tickets. The statues are displayed in three distinct areas with a star-shaped flowerbed of red begonias at the centre, representing the Soviet flag. At the entrance stands a statue of Lenin and another of Marx and behind him, presumably Engels. High on a plinth are the massive boots of Josef Stalin, all that is left from the eight metre high statue that adorned Heroes’ Square until it was pulled down in the 1956 uprising and smashed by protesters.

At least they have been saved as part of the country’s history. In Tallin, back in our early days with Modestine, we chanced on a pile of stones at the back of an old building we were exploring in the suburbs and discovered they were actually a dump of statues from around the city, left there to be lost amongst the weeds when Latvia finally broke free from Soviet domination. Ian, it transpired, had been standing on Stalin’s nose! We also spent a night on a campsite in Lithuania beneath a statue of Lenin, somehow transported there by an enterprising campsite manager with an eye for the future. By now it will perhaps have made his fortune!

Memento Park was built in stages between 1994 and 2004. Here we show a selection of these friezes and statues.

On the central door is etched the poem "Where seek out tyranny" published after the 1956 uprising

Photo of a military parade held in Heroes’ Square around Stalin’s Grandstand. In 1956 protesters toppled the statue and smashed it

Recreation of Stalin's Grandstand which stood on Parade Street near the City Park and Heroes Square. During the uprising protesters toppled Stalin's statue, leaving only the boots. The figures on the façade were also looted and the tribunal was later dismantled

The Grandstand was inaugurated on 1 May 1952. The reliefs were badly damaged in 1956 and later removed. They depicted Soviet man saying farewell to his family, loading his weapons, throwing grenades, marching and fighting, and finally liberating a Hungarian family. Now they lie recumbent, waiting to rise again on the reconstructed grandstand, not so much monuments but sepulchral effigies.

Lenin, by Makrisz Agamemnon. Loaned by Eger City Council for a temporary exhibition, nobody appears to be in a hurry to collect it

Marx-Engels by Segesdi Görgy, 1971. Jászai Mari tér

Lenin, by Pátzay Pál, 1965. Dózsa György út (Felvonulási tér)

Liberating Soviet soldier, liberation monument, by Kisfaludi Strobl Zsigmond, 1947. Gellért hegy. This statue once formed part of the Liberation Monument that still dominates Gellért Hill

Hungarian Soviet friendship

Liberation monument, by Kiss István, 1971. Thököly út 141

Soviet heroic memorial, by László Péter, 1951. Széchenyi hegy, Rege Park. The inscription says something to the effect of: Everlasting praise for the freedom of the Soviet Union, for its independence, and for its fallen heroes in the battle to liberate Hungary

A Hungarian and Soviet woman set free the doves of peace. The inscription reads: Our freedom and peace is based on the enduring Hungarian-Soviet friendship

Soviet heroic monument, by Mikus Sándor, 1970. Rákosszentmihály, Hösök tere. Reminiscent of the figure on top of the Liberation Monument on Gellért Hill

Hungarian worker and Soviet soldier doing their exercises

Soviet heroic memorial, by Kalló Viktor, 1965. Béké Tér

Soviet heroic memorial, by Megyeri Barna, 1948. Rákosliget, Kastel A. u. 4

Lenin relief, by Szabó Iván, 1970. Lenin (Erzsébet) körút

Dimitrov, by Jordan Kracsmarov, 1954. Dimitrov (Fövám) tér. The Bulgarian leader from 1946 to 1949. In 1956 protester put a noose around the neck of the bust and hanged him from a tree

Dimitrov, by Valentin Sztracsev, 1983. Dimitrov (Fövám) tér. A gift from the workers of Sofia (just what they always wanted)

Kun Béla ; Landler Jenö ; Szamuely Tibor memorial, by Olcsai Kiss Zoltán ; Hecseg Kára ; Farkas Aládar, 1967. Kun Béla (Ludovika) tér

Lenin, by an unknown Soviet sculptor, 1958. It once stood at the entrance to the industrial complex at Csepel

Kalamár József, by Tamás Gyenes, 1957. Csepel, Kalamár József (Szent István) ut

Kreutz Róbert plaque. 1963. Hámán Kató (Haller) utca

Kun Béla, by Kalló Viktor, 1989. Csepel, Tanácsház (Szent Imre) tér.
Kun (1886-1938) fought for Austria-Hungary in 1914-18, was captured by the Russian army and was converted to communism. He returned to Hungary and formed the Hungarian communist party

Ságvári Endre, by Baksa Soós György, 1949. Városhaz utca 9-11

Szakasits Árpád, by Marton László, 1988. Szakasits Árpád (Etele) út

Kun Béla memorial by Varge Imre, 1986. Vérmezö Park. Intended to commemorate the centenary of Kun's birth it shows him directing the workers' fighting force of the red Army while the bourgeoisie in fancy clothes and with parasols seek safety. The lamppost next to Kun could be significant. In Hungarian literature it is a metaphor for the gallows, and Kun was ultimately executed in the Stalinist purges of the 1930s

Münnich Ferenc, by Kiss István, 1986. Néphadsereg (Honvéd) tér

Demonstration of the workers' militia, by Kiss Nagy András, 1973. November 7 tér (Oktogon)

Workers' movement memorial. The hands hold a sphere representing the ideals of communism, originally decorated with a red star

Memorial to the Hungarian fighters who fought in the Spanish International Brigade, by Markisz Agamemnon, 1968. Néphadsereg (Honvéd) tér. This relates to the Spanish Civil War in which many British volunteers also fought on both sides

Republic of Councils monument, by Kiss István, 1969. Dózsa György út (Felvonulási tér). The communist worker leaps into the future waving the red flag - or is it, as many of the citizens of Budapest quipped, a thermal bath attendant running after a customer who had forgotten his towel?

Republic of Council pioneers memorial plaque, 1969. Pasaréti út 169. When not being indoctrinated at meetings, the pioneers built the children's railway in the Buda Hills

The heroes of people's power memorial, by Kalló Viktor, 1983. Köztársaság tér. A long frieze, parts of which are reminiscent of Picasso's Guernica

Monument to the martyrs of the counter-revolution, by Kalló Viktor, 1960. Köztársaság tér. A memorial to those who died suppressing the 1956 uprising

Buda Volunteers Regiment memorial, by Mészáros Mihály, 1976. Tárogató út. The figures and the red star have been hacked off, leaving an interesting modern abstract sculpture

Captain Stainmetz, by Mikus Sándor, 1958. Vöröshadsereg (Üllöl) út. Killed by a Nazi land mine

Ilja Ostapenko. Shot under mysterious circumstances as he returned from a successful summit meeting

Apart from the statues there is a cold, dark shed where we could watch a series of training films secretly produced by the Hungarian government of the day. These were quite astonishing. They explained how to bug and search a flat, how to follow and observe a suspect, and how to force somebody, by blackmail for any former peccadillo, to work as a police informer. The techniques they used were so crude they would be laughable if it were not for the human tragedy of those involved.

Still from "Life of an agent", a montage of AVO training films

Still from "Life of an agent", a montage of AVO training films

Still from "Life of an agent", a montage of AVO training films

Still from "Life of an agent", a montage of AVO training films

Still from "Life of an agent", a montage of AVO training films

Still from "Life of an agent", a montage of AVO training films

Still from "Life of an agent", a montage of AVO training films

Still from "Life of an agent", a montage of AVO training films

Still from "Life of an agent", a montage of AVO training films

Having spent a fascinating morning we returned to the city, musing on whether Communism could have survived the current electronic age. Techniques would need to be very different. Surveillance would need to be sophisticated and that was something quite lacking in the techniques used by the Hungarian police who seemed chiefly to exploit fear and ignorance. A suspect would need to be pretty stupid not to spot he was being followed everywhere he went by an agent standing with a large bag, obviously containing a hidden camera.

The uprising of the Hungarian people in 1956 seems to have been mainly carried out by young people who fought without training or experience. However, even without weapons but buoyed up by a sense of justice, they improvised weapons and produced Molotov cocktails which, when hurled at the military tanks, managed to cause as much damage as conventional weapons. The uprising was unsuccessful and thousands fled Hungary while thousands more were interrogated, tortured and imprisoned. Over 200 were sentenced to death. It is all part of this country’s sad history and the Memento Park has its place in recording it for future generations.

Just to lighten the mood...

Jill discovers a crumbling Trabant in a corner of the Memento Park

A new role for Lenin

Come back Mr. Maxted. You’ve forgotten your towel!

We returned to the city and made our way once more up to the Buda Hills on the steep little cog-wheeled railway for a walk in the woods and some fresh air away from the streets of the city. The Children’s Railway was deserted today though still officially operating. We assume the children are allowed time off school to do their duties as guards, engineers and railway bureaucrats. Before returning we treated ourselves to coffee and chocolate pancakes on the terrace of a wayside csárda (bar) enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sunshine.

Jill waiting for the cog-wheel railway down from the hills

Back down in the city we found the Millenaria Park for a stroll beside the lake where massive goldfish were swimming. The park was established in the grounds of the factory buildings of the Ganz foundry, whose museum we visited a few days ago. The factory building is now used for art displays and special exhibitions while the grounds are freely available for public enjoyment. We saw a granddad and his young grandson racing each other around the lake each on an appropriately sized scooter. A man after Ian’s own heart.

Millenaria Park

Millenaria Park