Thursday, July 3, 2014

Budapest - Memento Park

Based upon the advice of our friend Imo, we knew we wanted to see Memento Park.  In an earlier post I mentioned that the Soviet war memorial in Freedom Square was the last memorial left in Budapest.  The Hungarians took them all down and away after 1989.  Freed of Soviet oppression, they were also freed of their really terrible art.
The park was designed by Akos Elod and opened in 1993.  He designed it as a clear eyed look at the art of the times and the history it represented.
These are Stalin's boots.  They are what's left of a 8 meter (24 feet) high sculpture.  The boots are currently standing on a full scale replica of the reviewing stand where the communists stood and people marched by to show support for the party's ideals.  It's an enormous thing.  In October 1956, during the first uprising, the people sawed the statue off at the boot tops and pulled it down.  It was never replaced.  The boots were brought here and stand at one end of the park.

This is part of the frieze that was on the reviewing stand walls.  They're on the ground now, and because of their height, they're hard to photograph.

The world's only cubist style statue of Marx and Engels.  It's granite, it's large.

Soviet Heroes' Monument.  The inscription reads "In eternal praise of the freedom and indepence of the Soviet Union and in memory of the heroes who fell in the war for the liberation of Hungary 1945-1965." 

Liberation Monument. This inscription reads "Eternal glory for the freedom and indepence of the Soviet Union and for the heroes who fell in the war for the liberation of the Hungarian people. 1945-1965."  Twenty years worth of liberation!  Such a deal.

I don't remember what this represents.  He looks excited, waving his gun over his head.

Bela Kun Memorial.  This is an interesting installation.  1986 was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Bela Kun, who was the founder of the short lived (133 days) Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919. Following the fall of the Hungarian revolution, Kun emigrated to the Soviet Union, where he worked as a functionary in the Communist International bureaucracy.  During the Great Purge of the late 1930s, Kun was arrested, interrogated, tried, and executed in quick succession. He was posthumously rehabilitated in 1956, following the death of Joseph Stalin and the critical reassessment of Stalinism.
The communist party decided his birth needed to be celebrated with a statue.  He seems to be leading a military charge, while hanging on to a lamp post, waving his hat. During the fall of communisim, people wrapped up this statue and put a jester's hat on Kun's head.

I don't remember who this guy is.  Look at the size of his arms.  He must have been a worker of some sort or a basketball player.

These are the peace envoys.  In December 1944 Miklos Steinmetz and Ilia Ostapenko were dispatched to tell the Hungarians to surrender to the Soviets.  Steinmetz was killed during his return by driving over a mine, and Ostapenko was killed by his own men.  The Soviets staged a "murder" and blamed the Hungarians for their deaths. Statues were needed to celebrate their heroic deaths.  Ostapenko is the statue on the left.  They were not close to each other in Budapest until they were brought to the park and placed in their current positions.

These are the Young Pioneers.  There was a youth program to instill the Communist ideals of spying on your parents, ratting out the neighbors, and etc.  They also had summer camps, and ran the Children's Railway, with adult supervision.

These are the border guards, sailors and radio girls who protected the flower of communist youth.

We loved this guy.  He is the monument to the Hungarian Soviet Republic.  He was the subject of much derision on the Pest side.  The statue became known as the "cloakroom attendant", who was running after someone yelling "Sir, you forgot your scarf!"

Memorial to the Hungarian Fighters who fought in the Spanish International Brigade.  Hungarian soldiers went to Spain to aid the government in the fight against Franco, who won.  Some visitors to the park identify these statues as people talking on their cell phones.  There are three statues, and three cell phone providers in Hungary.

Workers' Movement Memorial.  The ball was originally plastic, and was defaced by the populace.  In 1982 it was replaced with a granite ball.  The ball is supposed to represent the perfect ideology which has been fought for and perfected by the workers' movement.  The hands are defending and protecting this fragile treasure.

This is classic Lenin..

This Soviet soldier was a part of the liberation monument on top of Gellert Hill.  He, and a woman holding a palm frond were visible from anywhere in the city.  The soldier stood on a plinth in front of a 22 meter high obelisk where the woman stood.  During the 1956 revolution, the soldier was knocked off the plinth.   After the crushing of the revolution, it was replaced with an exact copy in 1958.  After 1989 he was removed again.

The woman with the palm frond, now known as the Spirit of Freedom, remains on Gellart Hill.   Her Soviet soldier is gone, but she remains.

My text has borrowed heavily from a book we bought at the visitors' center, In the Shadow of Stalin's Boot's.  If you go to Budapest, you should go to Memento Park.  Buy the book on the way in, it will help you understand what you are seeing.  It's not an easy place to reach.  You can get there by bus, but it takes awhile.  We took a cab.  Upon arriving, the driver announced that he would wait for us, because it would be virtually impossible to get another cab.  That was a good thing, it made getting there and back painless.

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