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Memento Park—A Stroll Through The Propaganda Of A Bygone Era

2016.10.10.

Traveling out to Memento Park, the first thing one notices is how removed it feels from the noise and bustle of downtown Budapest. This park, full of statues and plaques commemorating the heroes of Communism and of the socialist era, is today almost a graveyard of sorts for that period of Hungarian history. Here, one can find statues raised in honor of international Communist ‘heroes’ such as Lenin and Marx, alongside plaques commemorating the defeat of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, described here, as it always was during the Communist era, as a criminal act perpetrated by ‘counter-revolutionaries.

Understandably, these particular statues, with their warped vision of history, were removed from many of Budapest’s main squares following the end of Communism and the arrival of democratic government. Rather than hiding them away or simply having them be destroyed, however, Memento Park was opened in 1993 in order to house many of the statues. And thanks to that decision, while they may have removed from their original context long ago, these statues are very much visible today, albeit in a very different context. Useful and interesting to both scholar and casual tourist alike, Memento Park gives visitors a glimpse into the propaganda and official narratives that dominated Hungarian public life for the better part of half a century.

The images posted below provide a quick virtual tour of Memento Park, one that will hopefully whet the reader’s appetite to see the park for themselves:

Main entrance

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The main entrance to Memento Park, with statues of Lenin (on the left) and Marx and Engels (on the right).

Marx and Engels

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A statue, located at the park’s entrance, portraying the founding fathers of international Communist thought, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Lenin statue

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Also located at the entrance, this statue portrays the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution and founder of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Ilych Lenin.

Sztalin boots

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The boots of Budapest’s infamous Stalin statue, which was torn down and destroyed during the events of the 1956 Revolution.

Turner Kalman plaque

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A plaque erected in memory of “Comrade Kalman Turner,” who, according to the Communist government, “was murdered by counterrevolutionaries on November 4, 1956” (when the Red Army returned to Hungary to crush the Revolution).

Bela Kun memorial

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This large statue was erected to honor Bela Kun and his short-lived “Republic of Councils,” the Communist government that seized power in Hungary for a brief period at the end of the First World War. Following the defeat of his government, Kun fled, and lived out the rest of his days in Moscow.

Dimitrov bust

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A bust of Georgi Dimitrov, Communist ruler of Bulgaria. This bust originally stood across from the Great Market, on a square that, from 1949 to 1991, bore Dimitrov’s name, and that today again goes by its pre-Communist name, Fővám tér.

Ellenforadalom martirjainak elmlekmuve

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A statue dedicated to the memory of “the martyrs of the counter-revolution,” a Communist-era term for supporters of the repressive, Soviet-backed regime who died fighting against the 1956 revolutionaries.

Nephatalom hoseinek emlekmuve

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A work dedicated to “The heroes of the peoples’ power,” which likewise memorializes the supporters of the Communist regime who fought against the 1956 freedom fighters.

Memento Park is located at 1223 Budapest, Balatoni road – Szabadkai street corner.

From the city centre, it can be most easily reached by taking the M4 Metro line until the Kelenföld Railway Station, then getting on either the 101B,101E, or 150 buses, and getting off at the Memento Park stop. There is also a bus operated by the park itself, that leaves directly from Deák Square every day at 11am (more information: http://www.mementopark.hu/)

The park is open from 10am to 6pm, and tickets cost 1500 forint (1000 forint for students).

via: mementopark.hu; budapestinfo.org

Photographs by Riley Dunbar—Instagram: @rileydunbarphoto; www.rileydunbarphotography.tumblr.combudapest.gotohungary.com