Another day of remembrance in Hungary: November 4, 1956

Hungarian revolutions and wars of independence have never been victorious. Therefore their anniversaries, unlike the Fourth of July or Bastille Day, cannot be happy occasions. Instead of celebrations, there is mourning. Moreover, not only are the days of the outbreak of these revolutions, like March 15 and October 23, remembered but the even sadder occasions of their crushing. Thus, although it is not an official holiday, October 6 is a day of mourning commemorating the execution of thirteen generals who took part in the wars of independence of 1848-49 in the city of Arad (now in Romania).

The Hungarian public had just barely recovered from their fear that the events of October 23, 2006, might be repeated one year later when they started worrying again: What will happen on November 4, a day of renewed mourning, when the Soviets crushed the short-lived and briefly victorious uprising? However, Hungarians cannot give up the idea of official remembrances of these days.

People were worried, but the disturbances were not really worth the mention. The "lunatic fringe," the men of Kossuth Square headed by László Gonda, gathered on Szabadság Square with three huge crosses (straight from Calvary) symbolizing the "sufferings of the nation under the yoke of the descendents of the Soviet regime." Of the 200 about 70 went to Heroes’ Square where the official government program took place. There they shouted some obscenities about Ferenc Gyurcsány. That was all.

The other part of the remembrance involved paying respects to the fallen revolutionaries. Their graves are in stark contrast to those in the most "elegant" cemetery in Budapest–the one alongside the road toward the town of Kerepes. An awful lot of famous people are buried there, and some rather spectacular statues can be also found alongside the graves. A nice collection can be found here http://www.agt.bme.hu/staff_h/varga/foto/kerepesi/kerepesi.html The Pantheon of the Working Class Movement is also here, of course, and János Kádár and his wife are buried in this cemetery. Perhaps it will be new to my readers that the Kádárs’ grave was desecrated not long ago. Some bones disappeared. The people responsible were not found.

Anyway, to go back to the main thread, the revolutionaries did not receive such elegant burial. The corpses of the famous and less famous participants of the revolution were thrown, unmarked, in a helter-skelter fashion in the rather modest Rákoskeresztúr Cemetery. It took considerable time to identify the bones and bury them properly. On November 4 political leaders as well as ordinary people visit this cemetery and place flowers on the graves. Imre Nagy’s grave is marked by a simple slab. On it one reads only: "Imre Nagy, prime minister, 1956." A tour of the revolutionary graves can be seen here: http://www.agt.bme.hu/staff_h/varga/foto/ujkozt/ujkozt.html

Today László Sólyom placed flowers on the graves of the most important political and military leaders of the revolution. So did Ferenc Gyurcsány and Ildikó Lendvai.

All in all, the day went off with a reasonable modicum of dignity. Perhaps for a while everything will be quiet. After all, there are no more official remembrances. On the other hand, similarly to the United States, the Christmas shopping season has begun.