That cursed turul statue

For months now the fate of the turul statue erected in Buda about three years ago has been in limbo. The turul is a mythical bird resembling an eagle or a falcon. According to legend there was a woman named Emese who was visited by an eagle/falcon in her dream. She became pregnant and gave birth to Álmos (in Hungarian dream is “álom”), the man who eventually led the seven Hungarian tribes to their new homeland in the Carpathian basin. The legend was most likely born when the Hungarians lived side by side with Turkic tribes because the word “turul” is of Turkic origin. As time went by the turul wasn’t so much the symbol of the Hungarian royal house as of power, war, and nobility in general. Such totem animals are well known the world over as parts of coats of arms; one can even find an eagle in the Great Seal of the United States. To this day the turul appears in the coat of arms of the Hungarian Army and the Office of National Security. So far, so good. So what’s wrong with that statue of the turul in District XII?

 

First of all, this particular statue was erected without a permit. The erection of a statue on public property must have the permission of a board whose members can decide about the artistic merit and the appropriateness of a particular work of art. The board wasn’t too taken with either the artistic merit or the appropriateness of this statue. One can certainly argue about the artistic value of this or that work of art, but when it came to the appropriateness of the statue there were grave doubts. The statue was supposed to commemorate the civilian victims of the district during the bombing and the subsequent siege of Budapest in World War II. But why use the symbol of the army as a memorial to civilian victims?

 

Then there was the problem that the turul had been used as a symbol of radical right-wing student organizations between the two world wars. In 1920 the right radical students of Budapest established the Turul Bajtársi Szövetség (Brotherhood Association of Turul) whose favorite pastime was beating up their fellow students of Jewish origin. The Turul Association had a very important part to play in the enactment of the law discriminating against Jews in admission to institutes of higher education (numerus clausus). A vivid description of the not infrequent “celebrations” of students of the Turul Association can be found in András Nyerges’s masterful account in “Március, kardlap, gumibot” (March, sword, night-stick) in the March 16, 2007 issue of Élet és Irodalom. The events described by Nyerges bear an uncanny resemblance to what has been going on in Budapest in the last couple of years. Rather frightening. In any case, the modern history of the turul was not something that was deemed appropriate as a memorial to the victims of 1944-45. In addition, early in the history of the Arrow Cross Party the turul was featured in the party’s emblem.

 

Turul5

 

Permission or no permission the Fidesz mayor of District XII went ahead and came up with a masterful plan. Not far from the turul statue the local government began building another edifice on which were carved the names of non-Jews who allegedly helped the district’s Jews in 1944-45. This was also erected without a permit. Upon completion, the chief rabbi and the Israeli ambassador were invited to unveil the wall on which the names appeared. That was a clever move. If the turul must be removed because of a lack of permit then surely the wall commemorating those brave non-Jews must also be removed. And who will do that? Who can do that? Of course, the whole thing could have been solved at the beginning: get the police out and prevent the erection of the turul and that’s that. But no, the huge statue remains, overwhelming the square. Occasionally groups keep watch to make sure that no one tries to remove it in the dead of night. Or sometimes those who oppose it give speeches about the necessity of removing it. This has been going on while the case has been dragged through the court system. The new mayor (also Fidesz) offered compromise solutions that were not accepted by the city. And finally, when it looked as if the court had finally put an end to the appeal process, two thousand people gathered to demonstrate against the turul’s removal. All in all, it is a real circus. One has the sneaking suspicion that the illegal statue will stay. By now nobody dares to remove it. Its removal, in the eyes of the right, would be the victory of a small minority (I guess that means the Jews) against the overwhelming majority of good Hungarians who are fighting for their national symbol. The whole thing, as usual, is a complete fiasco.

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[sic]
Guest

You mean District XII (Buda), not XIII (Pest). Also district XIII is the part of town preferred by Jewish intellectuals these days rather than District VII (which is still rather run down and lacks both proper investment and enough people to care about its preservation).

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

“You mean District XII (Buda), not XIII Pest).”
Thank you, lapse of memory. I fixed it.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
The Turul bird is a species of the avian order ‘Avis Mythologica’. Other members of this order include the aptly named ‘Coor bird’ (Avis Reversus), which (it is said) lives on red pepper (eros paprika) and for cooling reasons flies backwards. There is also the ‘Ouzalam-Ouzalam’ bird (Avis Frustraticus), which has one wing some eight times longer that the other. This causes the bird to fly round in ever decreasing circles until ‘Poof’ it vanishes. Within the order of Avis Mythologica there is a sub order ‘Monunentalis’ which includes not only the ‘Turul bird’ but also the ‘Liver Birds’ (Avis Livapudelensis) who are supposes make a low obeisance if ever a true virgin passes by. The earliest forms of the Turul take the form of a bird that British Tommies (soldiers) in the Middle and Far East hated. They called it the ‘Shite Hawk’ because of its habits of stealing their and anyone else’s food. All of this has nothing to do with the subject in hand. It is funny how the ‘rabid right’ and the ‘loony left’ always seized and pervert well-loved ancient symbols. If the statue was erected without the necessary legal documents why does not someone or… Read more »
Majom
Guest

Interesting. No word of the Soviet monstrosity on the ironically named Szabadság tér.
Wonder why?

Viking
Guest

Just checking one thing:
Is the whole permit-discussion just a question of the look-and-feel of the statue, or was other permits also missing?
I had the understanding that the exact spot, that ‘square’ is under City administration (or at least they must approve all changes) because of the 2 main roads that pass it.
Placing the memorial there will of course make it hard to fix the chaotic traffic situation there, which on the other hand makes problems going to/from XII district, so not so many other cares.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Majom (what a name again! Monkey?): “Interesting. No word of the Soviet monstrosity on the ironically named Szabadság tér. Wonder why?”
Very simple. Doesn’t belong to the topic.

Majom
Guest

@Eva
Of course it does.
Everyone else, but you, sees the connection between you, the Turul, the Szabadság téri szovjet emlékmű and symbolic meaning.
Irony lives on.

Majom
Guest

Although I can see where you would make the mistake, gumibot is nightstick, not night-club.

Viking
Guest

The only connection I can find between the two memorials is the factor of Rally Point for the Radical Right.
The “Szabadság téri emlékmű” is used as a rally point and the XII-district WWII was explicitly designed to be a rally point.
The questions are:
Should we allow the Radical Right, whose not is represented in Parliament, to make the Agenda?
When will Fidesz accept its responsibility in deliberately creating this flash-point?
When will someone actually care about what the WWII memorial is about, a memorial for a lost war that should not be used for today’s political maneuvers?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Toads, it seems, can easily become monkeys in the virtual world. Otherwise, thanks for calling my attention to the night-stick.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
Toads who transform themselves into monkeys in the virtual world should on no account visit Hartlepool in the UK (even in the virtual form). This borough has a reputation for disposing of simian primates in the town square. Some calls it the ‘town that hung the monkey’. The thing, which puzzles me, is if there were no planning permissions to erect the statue how did it get erected. A simple court writ served on those erecting the thing would have stopped it. If you let them both the ‘loony left’ and the ‘rabid right’ will always try to call the shots – if you let them. I keep asking myself ‘have not the people of Hungary learned anything about both extremes of the political spectrum, the hatred they generate and the pain they cause? Have the Hungarians forgotten the beastliness and brutality of dictators? Do they not remember the arbitrary arrests and the fear? Have they already forgotten everything and learned nothing?’ As Mr Viking says *** “When will someone actually care about what the WWII memorial is about, a memorial for a lost war that should not be used for today’s political manoeuvres”? (I see we are using different… Read more »
dave
Guest

Odin, you are right to ask the question about the Hungarians’ memory. The worst kind of atrocities were committed in the name of Turul and when one would have thought that this despisable symbolic bird went to the junkyard of history for good, it is resurrected by a supposedly “moderate right” party, the Fidesz.
Anywhere in Europe, this party would be rightly called an extreme right one. This post convinces me more that Fidesz plays in the same league as the British National Party!

Odin's lost eye
Guest
Dave You are right about the Turul bird. It seems to have started its mythical career as some sort of pervert and rapist. From there it seems to have gone from bad to worse. The Hungarians seem to be obsessed with the past. One survey showed that most would have preferred to have lived in the pestilence ridden and verminous days of Matthias than today. I do not know what it means, but it must give us some insight to the Hungarian psyche. As you rightly point out there is no equivalent of a slightly right of centre party in Hungary similer to the Tory, Republican and to some extent Democrats. It is equally difficult to find a true Centre left party such as Gyurcsany seems to be trying to create. Fides and its leader seem to have the same aspirations as Gombos and his supporters. This is to establish a fully-fledged right wing dictatorship. Unfortunately I cannot see a second Horthy to oppose him. There is however a bright light at the end of this tunnel. It is the EU! As the Bulgarians recently found out the EU are not paper tigers or smoke shadows. They will act when… Read more »
dave
Guest

Odin, you are spot on. Hungarians are obsessed with their past and I believe the reason is the over-emphasized historical education in the country! Pupils learn enormous amount of history lessons instead of working with computers or taking engineering-related skills!
For us, however, history provides guidance where the country may be heading if Fidesz (I would stay with the Hungarian spelling) grabbed the power. The similarities between Gyula Gombos and Viktor Orban are striking! Orban is very clever in his provincial, postcommunist way and I am sure he would stay just within the limits so that the EU could not intervene. In reality, however, democracy and human rights would be in jeopardy. It would be really as if Gyula Gombos came back in 2010 to finish what he started in 1932! Frightening prospect, indeed!

Jim
Guest

When “majom” brings up a supposed parallel with the Soviet memorial, he is virtually admitting that the turul is, in fact, a fascist (or dictatorial) symbol – in contrast to the denials the far right tries constantly to make about this.

Adrian
Guest

Dave,
“Pupils learn enormous amount of history”
Yes, you’re right: History has an surprisingly important role in Hungarian Education, especially in the grammar schools. But it is – unlike British History lessons – exclusively focused on Hungarian history. In fact I admire the breadth of the Hungarian History syllabus. The problem is that of depth: Hungarians are primarily taught History as a series of facts, not that History is essentially contestable, or that critical thinking has to be applied to historical evidence.

Stan
Guest

The purpose of the Turul nonsense is to create anti-semitism. It seems to work.
Hungarians don’t take kindly to folks who mess with their national symbols. This gives the Gyurcsany gang a new agenda: fighting nazis. But we have no nazis. No problem, we’ll make a few. Provocation is a good start. Someone said on another blog: “There are no nazis in Hungary, but there’s a need for them”.
I think the radical left and right should just fight it out and leave the rest of us alone. Hungary is in so much trouble, why waste time on dividing issues like this bird?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Stan: “But we have no nazis. No problem, we’ll make a few.”
I beg to differ: there are neo-nazis in Hungary. They just call themselves something else.

Viking
Guest

Stan,
Of course we can all dissect the word ‘neo-nazi’ and have opinions if that grouping is enough ‘neo-nazi’ to be called that, or they are a variant.
So let us start with 2 old examples:
– MIEP (www.miep.hu)
– L88 (www.l88.hu/about3133.html)
The latter link is to what the write about Viktor Orban. Can be a good start. I could not find any of their English pages they had up 2 years ago.

Stan
Guest

Eva, “there are neo-nazis in Hungary”.
Depends on who we call a “nazi” or “neo-nazi”. There are groups that call themselves nazis everywhere, even in Israel. These groups are usually a bunch of kids who are low on IQ and high on testosterone, similar to soccer hooligans, only less violent and dangerous. Best to ignore them. Idiotic blogs, like the one called “nacivadasz” don’t do any good, it just gives them a good reason to hate others. Making the “nazi problem” the number one issue is yet another proof that Gyurcsany is trying to divide the country to strengthen his position. The country has so many serious problems, let’s deal with those first.

Majom
Guest

*******When “majom” brings up a supposed parallel with the Soviet memorial, he is virtually admitting that the turul is, in fact, a fascist (or dictatorial) symbol – in contrast to the denials the far right tries constantly to make about this.
Posted by:Jim | July 29, 2008 at 11:28 PM*******
@Jim
I admit nothing of the sort — virtually or otherwise.
I merely wanted to point out Eva’s biases when discussing symbolism and statuary in Budapest i.e. intentionally avoiding any mention of the memorial to Soviet oppression, oh whoops, I meant, ‘liberation’ of Hungary.
The turul’s symbolism, past and contemporary, can certainly be debated — the ironic monstrosity on Szabadság tér cannot.
It is symbol of Evil.

Majom
Guest

For the record, I fault Viki for being too cowardly to either destroy it or remove it when he was in office.

Kincs
Guest

Majom:
The issue concerning the Turul bird statue is the rule of law and whether it means anything. All the rest is just hype and hysteria.
The Soviet memorial was legally erected, albeit by a discredited regime. It’s understandable that you’re angry about it, but bringing it into unrelated discussions won’t solve anything.

Sandor
Guest
There are literally hundreds of turuls around the country. Most of them are the memorials of the first World War. They were all erected under legal circumstances, mostly with municipal funding. There are a couple of large ones; one in Tatabanya and an other in the Castle District in Buda. This latter one is outright beautiful. But the contentious one in the XII district serves no other purpose than to flex the right-wing muscle and irritate the majority. It is a flash point around which the passions can be whipped up. It was built purely to show off how daring the mayor of the district is, how strong, how bold. Then he took his leave and now it is the courts’ turn to show how strong they are. As the contest of strength is about to be lost, the ultra-right is trying to back out toward creating a national issue out of it, hoping that the nationalists will come to support them. But as you have seen, the numbers of the supporters are woefully low. The jig is pretty well up, the game is nearly lost. As one of the primitive nazis has written about it: “all who fail to… Read more »
Stan
Guest

Sandor thinks: “the numbers of the supporters are woefully low.”
Funny. How many people showed up to protest against the statue?

Majom
Guest
*********The issue concerning the Turul bird statue is the rule of law and whether it means anything. All the rest is just hype and hysteria.********* You can kid yourself but don’t kid me. *********The Soviet memorial was legally erected, albeit by a discredited regime.********* Who cares about whether it was ‘legally’ erected? If a swastika had been erected ‘legally’ in WWII, would you not favor its removal? We care about the Soviet monstrosity’s symbolism — just as we care about the Turul’s symbolism. *********It’s understandable that you’re angry about it, but bringing it into unrelated discussions won’t solve anything.********* Don’t patronize me. It is clearly related to the discussion. You’d feel differently if there was a tremendous swastika on Szabadság tér for the fallen German soldiers. The Swastika’s meaning cannot be debated. It stands for Evil. As does the Hammer and Sickle. The memorial should have been removed in 1989 — but alas, we are not as honest and brave as the Estonians — http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6598269.stm The Turul’s symbolism is much more muddy — for most Hungarians it means nothing more than a symbol and tie to our ancient tribal past — for others, it is clearly a symbol of anti-semitism.… Read more »
Kincs
Guest

Majom:
*********The issue concerning the Turul bird statue is the rule of law and whether it means anything. All the rest is just hype and hysteria.*********
“You can kid yourself but don’t kid me.”
I’m not kidding. Failure to enforce the law is a serious problem in Hungary, as I’m sure you know, from everyday matters to high levels of government. The turul statue falls somewhere in between.
“My initial point was that Eva intentionally did not tie in relevant data into her post.”
Few, if any, of the various discussions of the turul statue that I have read or heard mention the Soviet memorial. So Eva is hardly exceptional in leaving it out here.
Maybe the memorial should have been removed in 1989. Maybe it will be someday – though a lot would have to change first. In the meantime, erecting statues without permits elsewhere is not going to bring that day closer.

Viking
Guest

Mr Ape: “The memorial should have been removed in 1989 — but alas, we are not as honest and brave as the Estonians”
‘honest’? What is the simple truth? That War Memorial is regulated in a state agreement with today’s Russia. Any changes to it, must be agreed with the other contract partners.
As you are well aware of, that agreement covers Hungarian Memorials in the domain of Russia. Do you propose that Russia destroys those memorials?
The Estonians were not brave – they had nothing to lose then there are no Estonian War memorials in today’s Russia, so it was a rather single-sided affair. They were a bit stupid though, because the move just fueled internal problems with the Russian minority. The official reason for the move was a bus stop.
You make everything very easy for yourself, like all opportunists and populists do. Of course the memory and honor of the people who actually died is never important for you guys, just to make cheap points.

Majom
Guest
***********Mr Ape: “The memorial should have been removed in 1989 — but alas, we are not as honest and brave as the Estonians” ‘honest’? What is the simple truth? That War Memorial is regulated in a state agreement with today’s Russia. Any changes to it, must be agreed with the other contract partners.*********** Who cares what the Russians think? They were an occupying and oppressive force — their so-called ‘liberation’ lasted 50 years! ***********As you are well aware of, that agreement covers Hungarian Memorials in the domain of Russia. Do you propose that Russia destroys those memorials?*********** Russia can do whatever the hell they want to do with any Hungarian memorials. ***********The Estonians were not brave – they had nothing to lose then there are no Estonian War memorials in today’s Russia, so it was a rather single-sided affair. They were a bit stupid though, because the move just fueled internal problems with the Russian minority. The official reason for the move was a bus stop.*********** Official reason…LOL. You really, really, really think that they would rub the Russians the wrong way, both the ethnic minority as well as the Bear next door, for a bus stop? If so, you… Read more »
Viking
Guest
Mr Ape: “Russia can do whatever the hell they want to do with any Hungarian memorials.” Thank you, this shows that you have no thoughts about the people who died in the service of Hungary. This is how you thank them. They are just disposable pawns in your little political game called ‘Blame Everything On the Communists (BEOC)’. Typical game for opportunists and populists like you and Bela (GPP). Your answer clears all uncertainty why you support the XII-district Turul Statue. The meaning of the memorial has nothing to do with the WWII victims. They are also just pawns in your game. Of course you miss the true meaning of the Soviet Memorial. Hungary attacked the United Nations. Hungary lost and now you have to look at that memorial, until your defeaters decide differently. Serves you right! For revanchist and deniers of history it is of course a bit hard to look at it. That is why it is there. To answer your silly question – I personally would have no problem with that, if it was a symbol that German Military Forces would have. For some reason they do not have that. Could maybe have to do with the… Read more »
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