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Past for the Eyes

 | 
Oksana Sarkisova
, 
Péter Apor

Objects of Memory: Museums, Monuments, Memorials

The Redistribution of the Memory of Socialism

Identity Formations of the “Survivors” in Hungary after 1989

Zsolt K. Horváth

Texte intégral

THE UNFINISHED PRESENT: INTERPRETATIVE CONFLICTS OF MEMORY AND HISTORY

  • 1 Anna Szemere, Up from the Underground: the Culture of Rock Music in Postsocialist Hungary (Pennsyl (...)

1“Budapest is a city without time. If you visit here, you will not feel that you are in the nineties. (…) Here the politicians want to win World War I in Parliament.”1 This remark by Jenő Menyhart, underground musician and emblematic figure of the 1980s in Hungary, uttered in his subjective, sarcastic style, explicates the symbolic battle for possession of the past in post-socialist Hungary. Labeling the historical consciousness and political uses of the recent past of Hungary, he talks about a country which defines itself through its earlier historical conflicts, and not through current political, economic and cultural problems. At the same time, his statement provides an opportunity to focus our attention on the significance and motivations of this symbolic fight for the past: why, in what way, and to whom has the past become important? More precisely, which past gained significance after 1989?

  • 2 Following János Kornai, the term “socialist” (and not “communist”) will be used. As he argued, thi (...)
  • 3 The distinction between these forms of social memory has become a widely used conceptual tool foll (...)
  • 4 László Karsai, “Az igazsag bonyolultabb” [The truth is more complicated], Népszabadság (6 March 20 (...)
  • 5 This challenge for history is discussed by Giovanni Levi, “Le passe lointain. Sur l’usage politiqu (...)

2Most Hungarian historians consider the “socialist period”2 exclusively as a politico-historical period, as a subject of contemporary history (Zeitgeschichte, l’histoire du temps présent), and there have been complaints about the existence of a scholarly consensus in contemporary historical writing. At first glance, this is not a problem: history as an academic discipline has the right to talk about the past, even the recent past, applying the authority of institutionalized knowledge. However,—and this seems unique to the study of contemporary history—the history of the socialist period is far from being the exclusive intellectual property of professional, academic historians. Since there are many people still alive who lived through this historical era, the persecution suffered or, in contrast, the phenomenon of nostalgia simultaneously form part of “communicative memory” (based on intergenerational communication) and of systematic “cultural memory” (commemoration), as well as of history (as an academic discipline).3 Thus in this instance the role of historical consensus is quite ambiguous, and the authority of academic knowledge more fragile and more controversial than, for example, in the case of historical data from the eighteenth century. As the Hungarian historian László Karsai wrote in a newspaper article, historical “truth is more complicated,”4 in other words the consensus of professional historians about the past is more complex than an emotionally loaded judgment, and consequently more difficult to communicate to a broader public.5

  • 6 Francois Hartog, “L’historien et la conjoncture historiographique,” Le Débat 102 (1998): 4–10.
  • 7 Paul Ricœur, “The Narrative Function” in his Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences (Cambridge—Paris: (...)

3The reason for this is not the relative unavailability of historical sources. On the contrary, the difficulties of interpretation are caused by an abundance of radically different types of records, which is unusual for other historical periods and which, with respect to the recent past, is further complicated by the specific emotional expectations of those who lived through the period. For instance, a person sent to prison in the 1950s in Hungary could be rightly called both a “witness” and a “victim” today. In this case, even such a simple definition goes beyond the remit of academic history and becomes a public political, moral and aesthetic problem. As the French historian Francois Hartog argued, this is the “extended role” of the historian of the recent past.6 There is certainly no suggestion here that the survivors of persecution should be denied moral respect in the name of academic knowledge, but at the same time, it should be pointed out that the simultaneity of history and memory is an inevitable issue for a historian. In fact, the researcher is always embedded in an actual historical tradition, and thus sees the recent past as part of the memorial space created by survivors, historians and all remembering persons or institutions. According to Paul Ricœur, “we are members of the field of historicity as storytellers, as novelists, as historians. We belong to history before telling a story or writing history. The game of telling is included in the reality told.”7

  • 8 Pierre Nora, “Entre mémoire et histoire. La problématique des lieux” in Les Lieux de mémoire. Vol. (...)

4The French historian Pierre Nora, the leader of arguably the most influential collaborative study on memory, contends that the recent wave of investigation into the various forms of remembrance has contributed to the development of a clear distinction between history and memory. Nevertheless, the definition of the notion of memory itself is far from unambiguous. According to Nora, its interpretation changed significantly in the course of the last century. In France, at the end of the nineteenth century, memory was understood as a term close to history as a new academic discipline. Nora points out that Ernest Lavisse, the editor of the twenty-seven-volume Histoire de France, which also appeared in a shortened popular edition known as the “Petit Lavisse” and sold about a million copies, was a teacher of the nation, as well as an “evangelist of the republic.” In publishing his historical work, Lavisse’s goal was to confirm and consolidate the Third Republic in France. Nora’s essay concludes that nowadays, contrary to its classic function, history has become a purely academic discipline and lost its ability to construct national identity. The important implication of Nora’s argument is that professional history ceased to be the dominant means of producing interpretations of the past as socially constructed processes of remembering effectively penetrated this field. The sites of the complicated interaction of history and memory are the lieux de mémoire where representations of the past take shape in contemporary societies.8

  • 9 Márton Szabó, “A rendszerváltozás szemantikája” [Semantics of the transition], Politikatudományi S (...)
  • 10 Tamás Hofer, “Harc a rendszervaltasert szimbolikus mezőben. 1989. március 15-e Budapesten” [Symbol (...)

5This article will focus on four of these sites in contemporary Hungary, where the image of the socialist past has been re-shaped as a result of various social, political and cultural developments. It will be argued that this process should be understood as a predominantly symbolic struggle for the ability to define the meanings of the history of the socialist period. As was observed by a few political scientists, some of them active participants (as intellectuals or opposition politicians) in the Hungarian transition, the replacement of the communist regime was not marked by a conceptual ideological controversy between the classical traditions of Liberalism, Socialism and Conservatism, but by a veritable battle of metaphors. The Hungarian political scientist Márton Szabó argues that “(…) there is no ideological fight going on among the political actors of the transition, but rather a symbolic linguistic one. The citizen does not have to choose between overall ideological visions, but between ’fairly little words.’”9 Szabó claims that this symbolic struggle was a characteristic feature of the new democracies. He connects this phenomenon to the fact that the relatively underdeveloped democratic institutions in these countries, together with the legacy of dictatorial politics, endowed the symbolic field of political representation with extraordinary importance. Social interests and political identities were easier to articulate by ritual re-interpretations of the past than by formalized institutional processes. In 1989, the year of the transition, the politics of symbols played a crucial role. Political meetings and manifestations organized by the opposition to the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party (MSzMP) took place on important dates and holidays. These actions started on 15 March (the anniversary of the 1848 Revolution), when the existence of an open democratic opposition became manifest. They were followed by similarly important historical ceremonies on 16 June (the reburial of Imre Nagy, Prime Minister of the 1956 Revolution, on the anniversary of his execution in 1958) and on 23 October (the anniversary of the first day of that Revolution and the proclamation of the new Hungarian Republic in 1989). According to Tamás Hofer, the democratic opposition arranged its demonstrations to coincide with these emblematic dates of the past and used strong symbolic language against those in power.10 Nonetheless, after the transition, during the first years of democracy, symbolic politics appeared only sporadically. This fact was connected to the attempt of the political elite to bring the making of politics predominantly within the bounds of the democratically- based institutions.

6In 1998, the new, young right-wing Alliance of Young Democrats— Hungarian Civic Party (Fidesz Magyar Polgári Párt, Fidesz–MPP) established the new government after winning the general elections. This government started a wide-ranging campaign to re-define political identities in the country on the basis of a well-defined politics of history. The adaptation of the newly emerged European term “cultural heritage” (patrimoine), taken from the French and British contexts and based on the appreciation of historical monuments, was among their first measures. They also planned to revive and finance the second “Millennium celebrations”—the first had taken place in 1896, ten centuries after the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian basin—in order to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the baptism of István, the first king of the Hungarians. The transfer of the Sacred Crown from the National Museum to the Parliament building was another of their projects. The same government also sponsored a large exhibition entitled “Dreamers of Dreams,” popularizing Hungarians who had acquired world-wide recognition. Last but not least, Fidesz’s most debatable project was the creation of the House of Terror, in downtown Budapest, which was a direct attempt to re-interpret the history of the communist system. I will examine the transformations of this symbolic struggle for the interpretation of Socialism in connection with four sites of memory: the Pantheon of the Labor Movement, the 1956 memorials in the Rákoskeresztúr cemetery, the Statue Park, and the House of Terror itself.

THE PANTHEON AND THE NOSTALGIC MEMORY OF THE KÁDÁR ERA

  • 11 Vilmos Tóth, “A Kerepesi úti temető másfél évszázada” [One and a half centuries of the Kerepesi Ce (...)
  • 12 Péter Apor, “The Eternal Body: the Birth of the Pantheon of the Labor Movement in Budapest,” East (...)
  • 13 The notion is from Melinda Kalmar, Ennivaló és hozomány: A kora kádárizmus ideológiája [Food and d (...)
  • 14 Péter Apor, Corpus Communismi Mysticum: History, Politics and Continuity in Communist Hungary (unp (...)

7The Pantheon of the Labor Movement came into existence in 1959, so strictly speaking, it has nothing to do with the appraisal of the socialist past. (Fig. 1) Nonetheless, although the Pantheon is completely neglected by politicians, personal attachment to the socialist past still flourishes at this site. Situated in the Kerepesi Cemetery, officially called the National Graveyard on Fiume Road, the Pantheon’s first aim was to integrate the communist movement into the symbolization and selfrepresentation of the nation. Following the model of the French Pantheon, the cemetery was built to preserve the memory of the “great historical figures of Hungary” (among others Batthyany, Kossuth and Deak).11 Hungarian Communists started to capitalize on its symbolic uses in the 1950s. In May 1956, the Council of the City of Budapest closed the cemetery and declared it a National Pantheon (decree 608/20 of the City Council of Budapest). Although the idea was first mooted in 1947, it was not until 1957 that the Central Committee decided to build the site for the martyrs of the communist movement, including the soldiers who had died during the Revolution in the autumn of 1956.12 The idea of creating such a place, and the date chosen for its inauguration, were not accidental. The Pantheon of the Labor Movement was inaugurated in 1959, on the 40th anniversary of the first Hungarian Soviet Republic. It consists of a number of different elements. The mausoleum, the central building containing urns with the ashes of cremated bodies, was built first. Later it was complemented by six pillars, designed to commemorate those who were buried outside the cemetery. In front of the central building is the so-called “main street,” which is considered the most prestigious burial site for those who were not cremated. Those buried here include, for instance: the philosopher György Lukács; Máté Zalka, a veteran of the Spanish Civil War; Erik Molnár, one of the most important historians and ideologists of the Party; and the victims of the biggest show trial put on by the Stalinist Rakosi regime, András Szalai, György Palffy, Tibor Szőnyi and László Rajk. After the Revolution of 1956, which was suppressed by the new Kádár government with the help of the Red Army, the regime had to redefine itself and, at the same time, prove its discontinuity with the former Stalinist leadership that had left traumatic memories behind. The effect of this “interpretative pressure”13 over the past was the construction of a historical continuity encompassing the labor movement of the first Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919, as well as the “heroic” illegal activities of Communists during the inter-war period.14 In the years that followed, the fate of the Pantheon did not change radically: the burial ground was enlarged to accommodate the other communist leaders and workers of the movement, and a new, modest, standardized design appeared: black marble graves, bearing the name of the deceased and a little star.

Fig. 1 The Pantheon of the Labor Movement (photo: Zsolt K. Horvath, 2006)

  • 15 Hofer, “Harc a rendszervaltasert,” 29–51.
  • 16 István Rév, “Parallel Autopsies,” Representations 49 (1995): 15–39. Republished in his Retroactive (...)

8The last communist addition to the Pantheon, the tomb of János Kádár, provided a paradoxical completion of the site and transformed the building into a memorial of the Kádár era itself. It is true that in 1989 there was no revolution in Hungary, not even a “velvet” one as in Prague, but the slow actions organized by the opposition led to the most important symbolic event of the transition: the official reburial on 16 June 1989 of Imre Nagy, Prime Minister of the 1956 Revolution, hanged by the subsequent Kádár regime in 1958.15 The ceremony took place in Heroes’ Square, in front of the Millenary Monument and the Hall of Arts (Műcsarnok). At that time János Kádár, First Secretary of the Party between 1956 and 1988, was already very ill; he died one month later. “It is worth mentioning,” writes István Rév, “that János Kádár died in exactly the hour when Imre Nagy was legally rehabilitated by the Supreme Court of Hungary. On television one could see a slip of paper with the news of Kádár’s death on it being passed down the benches of the courtroom.”16 It was obvious that Kádár should be buried in the Pantheon and it was also clear that a central location had to be found for him within the complex. Nonetheless, the time of his death also marked the beginning of the demise of his political personality as the regenerator of the country after the crisis of 1956. The reburial of Imre Nagy, in particular, had suddenly led to his name being associated with the murder of the leader of the Revolution. The last general secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party, Károly Grósz, had the idea of placing Kádár’s tomb in a new location, practically next to the mausoleum. Thus, the remains of the leader lie alone, set apart from the others, with the result that his tomb is part of the Pantheon, but at the same time keeps a distance from it.

9Nowadays, the Pantheon is a site of nostalgic memory of the Kádár era which focuses on the calm period of the late 1960s and the 1970s. The political urban legend in Budapest holds that there are always flowers on Kádár’s grave. As a matter of fact, observation confirms the rumors. During my research, I met elderly people putting flowers and wreaths on his grave, and mostly older women sitting on the bench in front of the grave, eating and talking. It is not surprising to see elderly people spending long hours and even eating in a cemetery: in private life, they will often visit the grave of their deceased partner. In fact, this is a sign of their emotional attachment to and a confirmation of their union with their partner—even beyond death. But in the case of a much-praised politician, the same morphological act, the visit, suggests not only a sentimental union, but also a political identification: the act of the visit and the rite of commemoration confirm a political conviction, a persuasion inscribed in one’s own life history. Its institutionalized form is the celebration of the anniversary of János Kádár’s death, which suggests that the Hungarian Workers Party (Munkáspárt), the known descendant of Kádár’s Hungarian Socialist Workers Party, does not commemorate János Kádár, the human being, but János Kádár, the political figure. His grave in the Pantheon is a political sign, a site of memory treasured by the last believers in Kádárism.

THE CULT OF HEROES VERSUS THE POLITICAL ONTOLOGY OF DEATH: THE RÁKOSKERESZTÚR CEMETERY

  • 17 Magyar Országos Levéltár [National Archives of Hungary] M–KS–276–65–341.

10After the ceremony of the reburial of Imre Nagy and his companions, another site, the so-called “plot no. 301” in the Rákoskeresztúr cemetery (Újköztemető) came into the focus of public discussions about the recent past. In fact, one should talk about three plots: numbers 298, 300 and 301. These sites have a very controversial meaning: according to the official version plot no. 298 contains the remains of the “victims” of the fabricated Stalinist show trials of the early 1950s, while numbers 300 and 301 were used to bury the corpses of the revolutionaries executed after 1956. However, on closer examination of the names one recognizes several dubious individuals among these victims. They include, among others, one of the most disreputable men of the inter-war period, a cruel police officer, Tibor Wayand, and Mihaly Francia Kiss, the “white terrorist” who was involved in the mass killings after the defeat of the first Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919/1920.17 Nevertheless, these three plots in the Rákoskeresztúr cemetery are considered in the collective and political memory exclusively as the resting place of the heroes of the 1956 revolution.

  • 18 The copy of this letter is available in János Rainer M. (ed.), Tetemrehívás: 1958–1988, Párizs–Bud (...)

11After the publication of the sentence in 1958 in Népszabadság (at that time the official daily paper of the Party) and the execution of Imre Nagy and his companions, nobody, including the relatives of the executed, had any information about where the corpses were buried. According to rumors, they were laid in unmarked graves next to the last plot in the largest Hungarian cemetery situated on the outskirts of Budapest. In the spring of 1988, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of their execution, the widow and the daughter of József Szilágyi, once a companion of Imre Nagy, officially asked the Hungarian authorities about the exact location of the remains without, however, receiving an adequate answer.18 To make up for the lack of a more appropriate opportunity to honor the memory of Imre Nagy and his companions, Ferenc Fejtő, an emigré writer and historian living in Paris, organized a commemoration in 1988 in the Pere Lachaise cemetery, where Ernő Nagy had prepared an installation based on an original conception by László Rajk. At the same time, in Budapest, the Hungarian police broke up a celebration organized by the democratic opposition.

  • 19 It is typical that some days later Szilveszter Harangozó, Deputy Minister of the Interior at the t (...)

12In the same year, Károly Grósz went to the United States, where he was requested to declare that the Hungarian authorities would respond to relatives wishing to know the exact location of the deceased. Thus, by a slow melting of the great taboo fabricated by Kádár, an opportunity appeared in 1989, and on 29 March of the same year, the remains began to be exhumed.19 A few months later, on 16 June, the official reburial of Imre Nagy and his companions took place in Heroes’ Square in central Budapest. After accepting the alternative political celebrations organized by the democratic opposition on 15 March, the Party and the government eventually supported this ceremony as well, and a huge audience was able to experience the event, as it was broadcast live on Hungarian television.

  • 20 For the history of the competition and the debates surrounding it see, Peter György, Néma hagyomán (...)
  • 21 Géza Boros, Emlékművek ’56-nak [Memorials to 1956] (Budapest: 1956-os Intezet, 1997).
  • 22 Eszter Radai, “Szövetkezni a jóra. Interjú Halda Alizzal” [Alliance for the good: An interview wit (...)

13Still in 1989, the decision was taken to erect a memorial on plot no. 300, where victims of the post-1956 communist repression were buried. György Jovánovics, a well-known avant-garde sculptor, won the design competition.20 His idea was to erect a site for personal mourning and not for political ceremonies. His avant-garde background enabled him to create something “original” in a period when celebrating the memory of the heroes became practically obligatory (a real heyday of memorial building),21 and the personal dimension became irrelevant. Aliz Halda, the companion of Miklós Gimes, who had been executed in 1956, complained that she was unable to empathize with the official, empty commemoration organized by the Hungarian state. According to Halda, the confrontation of political celebration and personal mourning resulted in ostentatious rituals: “Everything is transformed into a ceremony, with soldiers, orchestra, measured steps and official floral tributes. For one or two years, notables arriving [in Hungary] paid their respects to plot no. 301 [the resting place of Imre Nagy and his companions]: the Swedish King and his wife came here, Václav Havel and others as well. I was, of course, touched by these events, but they also made me nervous.”22

  • 23 Zsófia Mihancsik, “’Amit ott épitettem az nem emlékmű, hanem halálmű.’ Interjú Jovánovics Györggye (...)
  • 24 László Beke, “Polisz és nekropolisz. Szempontok Jovánovics György 1956-os emlékművének értékeléséh (...)
  • 25 Mihancsik, “Interjú Jovánovics Györggyel,” 203.

14Jovánovics’s innovation was to build a counter-memorial to the Revolution of 1956. As he said, “what I built there is not a political monument; it is a memorial to the dead.”23 For him, the main question was how to erect a “good memorial” of aesthetic value in a period when a tribute to the revolutionaries was almost obligatory. A memorial, on the one hand, talks about the importance of time and space, and on the other hand, organizes the mnemonic use of public space. Thus, its social and political (ab)use can result in a meaning which was not intended by the sculptor. According to art historians András Rényi and László Beke, Jovánovics’s answer to this challenge is the construction of a paradox: erecting a memorial and, at the same time, trying to avoid direct political abuse through a hidden symbolic language.24 As the sculptor said in an interview, “the memorial and the statue situated in a public space is something that is absolutely foreign to me, because it is exactly a representation of the dominant use of an idea suggested by the authorities.”25 Jovánovics re-defined the concept of memorial-building. The very material that he used could be considered as a paradox: the main component of all his monuments and memorials is a mixture of white cement and quartz sand that makes up a kind of white concrete resembling gypsum. Gypsum, a fragile, ephemeral, and short-lived substance, is a fundamental medium in Jovánovics’s earlier work and in this context it works against the monumental, eternal and solemn function associated with a “normal” memorial. (Fig. 2)

Fig. 2 György Jovánovics’s “Thanato-plastic” (photo: Zsolt K. Horvath, 2006)

  • 26 Quoted in István Eörsi, Emlékezés a régi szép időkre [Remembering the good old days] (Budapest: Ho (...)
  • 27 L. Földényi suggests the term “thanato-plastics” for Jovánovics’s work. László F. Földényi, “Séta (...)
  • 28 Géza Boros, “’Igazi’ emlekművek” [“Real” memorials] in his Emlék/mű. Művészet— köztér—vizualitás a (...)

15The memorial to the dead is divided into three parts: the open grave with a pillar exactly 1956 millimeters high ( the only allusion to the political context); the path leading the visitor to the “altar,” a site for personal mourning; and behind it, the “great rustic stone” which is a reference to the testimony by István Angyal, one of the most emblematic revolutionaries of 1956, who wrote in prison before his execution on 1 December 1958: “Let a great rustic stone be the memorial of the anonymous mob with which we shared a common fate, and with which we die. But brooding over the past is always stupid. Rather, forget us, forget us, it will be better.”26 Jovánovics, by using the great rustic stone behind the altar as a quotation of sorts and trying to be faithful to this message, is in fact creating another paradox, that is to say, a memorial based on the idea of forgetting. This memorial, as a work of art, is placed into a natural environment based on the careful organization of space: a bird’s eye view would show the little paths leading visitors into the symbolic church (the altar). While considering the plot in its entirety, Jovánovics’s work is a piece of land art, the memorial itself could be seen as an instance of conceptual art.27 In terms of its reception it could be identified as a counter-memorial. Despite the highly positive reaction of the experts, most of the former revolutionaries found Jovánovics’s work incomprehensible, abstract, obscure, and— as the art historian Géza Boros writes—they longed for another, a “real” memorial, because they felt unable to identify with the already existing one.28

  • 29 Melocco quoted by György, Néma hagyomány, 145.

16The other plots also constitute sites of confrontation in aesthetic terms, but in a completely different manner than Jovánovics’s work. Plot no. 301 was re-designed in a thoroughly distinctive fashion by a team of artists called Inconnu. This group, whose previous artistic activity had aimed at eliminating the bond between political and aesthetic creation, constructed a conspicuously separate space in the cemetery by using special wooden grave markers (kopjafa) in an imagined Transylvanian Magyar style. (Fig. 3) In aesthetic terms—generating a sense of pathetic heroism—this part of the cemetery is radically dissimilar to and incongruent with the visual representation of Jovánovics’s work. Plot no. 298 was reconstructed only two years later. In 1991, members of the new Hungarian anticommunist, nationalist extreme right proposed and, subsequently, carried out the rebuilding of this plot. The simplest solution seemed to be for them to copy the design of plot no. 301, thus they too decided to erect wooden grave markers. But while the Inconnu group represented, from a bird’s eye view, a spiral, visitors are now faced with the uniform, clean-cut geometric arrangement found in military cemeteries in plot no. 298. A different concept of how to deal with the dead is implied here: while Jovánovics’s counter-memorial is dedicated to the singular, unrepeatable and irreplaceable character of the human being, in the “military conception” of plot no. 298, a dead person is no more than a cynically used occasion for political demonstrations. When, in the same year, the right-wing extremists erected a so-called Transylvanian gate (székelykapu)—widely used in the 1980s to symbolize the Hungarian demand for Transylvania—in front of plots no. 298 and no. 301, they retrospectively constructed a historical continuity between the revisionist nationalism of the inter-war years and the revolt of 1956, ignoring the socially and politically diverse composition of the participants in the events of October and November 1956. Though the gate has since been re-located to another side of the same plot, the inscription—“ do not enter through this gate, if you are not Hungarian”—still recalls the radical message. Nonetheless, this form of radicalism divides even the conservative right-wing. Miklós Melocco, a well-known Hungarian sculptor and an emblematic figure of Hungarian right-wing politics, whose father is buried here, described plot no. 298, with its wooden grave markers, as a “disgusting puppet cemetery.”29

Fig. 3 Plot no. 301 in the Rákoskeresztúr cemetery (photo: Zsolt K. Horvath, 2006)

IRONIC READING AND THE POSSIBILITY OF SELF-ANALYSIS: THE STATUE PARK

  • 30 Éva Kovács, “Terek és szobrok emlékezete, (1988–1990)” [Memory of squares and statues, 1988–1990], (...)
  • 31 László Szörényi, “Leninkert” [Lenin garden], Hitel 10 (1989): 27–8.
  • 32 Ákos Eleőd, “Szoborpark (műleirás)” [Statue Park: Description of the oeuvre], 2000 (July 1993): 60 (...)
  • 33 See Anne-Marie Losonczy, “Le patrimoine de l’oubli. Le parc-musee des Statues de Budapest,” Ethnol (...)
  • 34 Júlia Váradi, “Szoborpark-történet. (Beszélgetés Eleőd Ákossal)” [A History of the Statue Park. An (...)

17Prompted by the damage to and the destruction of some socialist statues located in public squares during the transition years, the literary historian László Szörényi proposed in 1989 that statues of Lenin should be preserved in a place outside the city.30 His article, entitled “Lenin Garden,” was the original idea on which the concept of the Statue Park was based.31 The proposal rapidly found favor with the authorities, and in 1992 the Gallery of Budapest announced a design competition. It was won by the architect Ákos Eleőd, who adopted a sensitive approach embodied in a plan for a clear structure for the Park with a relatively easily intelligible symbolism.32 His main idea was to avoid taking any physical revenge on the statues and to place them instead in a radically different, but still meaningful context. Neither a “park of shame” nor a place of ethical retribution, the moral impact of the design is based on irony.33 On the one hand, Eleőd’s proposal suggests both self-irony and self-control, because, as he says, everybody lived silently among these “propaganda objects” situated in the public spaces of Budapest until the transition years, so that there is no real reason to take symbolic revenge. If the Park were to join the revenge movement, it would become an instrument of counterpropaganda. On the other hand, if these de-contextualized representations can make visitors laugh at these statues, as elements of an ideological environment located in public spaces, they can laugh at the former socialist power and, partly, also at themselves.34

Fig. 4 The entrance of the Statue Park (photo: Zsolt K. Horvath, 2006)

  • 35 Tony Judt, “The Past is Another Country: Myth and Memory in Postwar Europe,” Daedalus (Autumn 1992 (...)

18Entering the park, one sees a huge socialist realist facade with statues of the Marx-Engels duo and of Lenin. But behind the facade there is nothing: it remains an empty promise. (Fig. 4) According to Géza Boros, it can be understood as a genuine metaphor of Socialism: at first sight, a great, enticing promise, but never to be fulfilled; a monumental but empty construction. On the gate, there is an extract from a poem by Gyula Illyés, written in 1950, published for the first time in October 1956 under the title “One Sentence on Tyranny.” The poem’s most important line is: “everybody is a link in the chain,” meaning that the dictatorship was present everywhere. This highlighted use of the quotation from the poem implies a confrontation of the former “I” with the present one, and excludes the possibility of symbolic revenge or the shifting of responsibility onto others. (As demonstrated by Tony Judt, the sentence “they did it” was the key motive of the appraisal of Nazism.)35 After entering the Park, the visitor is led by a main avenue to a great wall, representing the “end station” of Socialism, which is completed by three subsequent paths, forming a sign of infinity, where the statues are placed.

Fig. 5 Communist heroes in the Statue Park (photo: Zsolt K. Horvath, 2006)

19Ákos Eleőd’s artistic conception combines three main themes. The first is the friendly relationship between Hungary and the USSR during the socialist period, and the expression of the gratitude of the Hungarian people for the liberation of their country. Among others, this aspect can be seen in the statue of the Soviet soldier with a flag at the moment of liberation; in a bas-relief representing the joy of liberty; or in the statue of friendship featuring a Hungarian worker and a Soviet soldier as representative figures of their countries. The second theme deals with the heroes of the communist movement: among others, Endre Ságvári, a clandestine communist activist killed by a policeman in 1944; or one of the greatest figures of the labor movement’s mythology, Béla Kun, the leader of the first Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919. One sculpture, considered to be one of the most valuable in the Statue Park, shows Béla Kun giving commands to the soldiers of the Hungarian Red Army. All the elements of the installation confirm the “revolutionary” ambience: guns, a street lamp beside Kun, the strength of the army, and so on. Another work stresses the heroic role of Kun; here he can be seen in an intellectual pose as he explains the strategy of the Communist Party to the workers in Csepel. The third theme encompasses all the important events and key terms of the communist movement: for example, Memorial to the Spanish Civil War, which was, of course, one of the most important myths of the labor movement (not only in Hungary but for all Communists throughout the world); a conceptual work of art, Provision for Humanity; one example of the hundreds of statues of Lenin, which stood in the main square of practically every town; and a three-dimensional embodiment of the well-known political recruitment poster Fegyverbe! Fegyverbe! (“To Arms!”) made in 1919 by Róbert Berény. (Fig. 5)

  • 36 Mikhail Bakhtin calls grotesque laughter the weapon of the powerless in turning hierarchies upside (...)
  • 37 Géza Boros, “Szoborpark. Interjú Eleőd Ákossal” [Statue Park: Interview with Ákos Eleőd], Élet és (...)

20The symbolic logic of the Statue Park is simple but efficacious, as it gives visitors the opportunity to laugh at the remnants of the socialist system. It aims at generating an instance of Bakhtinian “laughter,”36 a weapon for powerless people, as well as a space for self-analysis. Since its inauguration in 1993, the Statue Park has remained incomplete—a few architectural elements have never been built—because, as its architect recently explained, there is no longer the political will to emphasize and develop this ironic perception of the memory of Socialism.37 Usually, the competition between different memories is not an accidental, innocent event, but is embedded in a given political situation. Indeed, whereas the next subject of my analysis, the House of Terror, benefited from exceptionally generous government funding, the unfinished and deteriorating Statue Park barely scrapes by.

TRAGIC REPRESENTATION AND THE MEMORY OF VICTIMS: THE HOUSE OF TERROR

  • 38 Katalin Sinkó, “A nemzeti emlekmű es a nemzeti tudat változásai” [The National monument and the ch (...)
  • 39 Kovács, “Emeljunk emlekszobrot hőseinknek!,” 109–10 and 116–7.

21According to Katalin Sinkó and Ákos Kovács, the birth of memorial building is tied to two specific events in modern Hungary: firstly to the celebrations of the Millennium in 1896 and secondly to World War I.38 In 1915, to help the government’s war propaganda, the National Committee for Preserving the Memory of Heroes (HEMOB) was founded and later, at the beginning of 1917, the Hungarian Assembly passed a law about “preserving the memory of heroes who fought for the country during this war.” After the war, in 1924, the Assembly officially founded the Memorial Day of Heroes.39

  • 40 Reinhart Koselleck,”Diskontinuitat der Erinnerung,” 213–22.

22Arguably, World War I was a traumatic experience, and the loss of fathers and brothers who died in battle could be as painful as it was to be twenty years later. It is also evident that the Second World War was bloodier and thus more terrible than the First, but the proportionate increase in casualties (soldiers and civilians included) alone does not explain the radical change in the uses of the term “victim.” Why, after 1918, did the survivors and relatives of fallen soldiers commemorate the heroes, and not the victims? According to Reinhart Koselleck, before and shortly after World War I, monuments and memorial days were created for heroes, and if a soldier was named on a monument as a victim, this meant an actual sacrifice (e.g. “fallen for the country”). After World War II this view changed radically. The notion of victim began to signify a passive person suffering from an aggressive action.40 This semantic change extended the connotations of the concept of victim(hood): after 1945, anyone could have become the victim of Nazism, and according to the same logic this kind of retrospective judgment was extended to the victims of Communism after 1989. The silence about the past or the transformation of the past according to personal interests— which are characteristic of the uses of collective memory—results in certain interpretative conflicts: if everybody is considered as a victim, then who were the executioners?

  • 41 Decree of the Hungarian Parliament on the Memorial Day for Victims of Communist Dictatorships, 58/ (...)

23It is in this particular context that decree no. 58 was passed in 2000, establishing the Memorial Day for the Victims of Communist Dictatorships (sic).41 On 24 February 2002, the eve of the second Memorial Day of the Victims of Communist Dictatorships, Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of the right-wing government, inaugurated the House of Terror Museum with the following words,

We closed the museum door on the long, pompous and awful twentieth century at the last moment. At the last moment, because it threatened to continue as before. (…) Now, we are putting the pain, the hatred behind bars, because we want them to have no longer any place in our lives and in the future. We put them behind bars, but we will never forget them. The wall of the house that, until now, was the boundary between the interior and the street, from now will become the wall between the past and the future. (…) What is inside belongs to the past and we shall become part of the future.42

  • 43 Niklas Luhmann, “The Future Cannot Begin,” Social Research 43 (1976): 130–52.

24It is not by chance that the essence of this speech is based on the juxtaposition of the “past closed up in the museum” and “the perspective of the future.” The moral surplus of the construction of the House of Terror, as the Prime Minister said, is the fact of “regaining the independence of the nation and the liberty of our citizens” without any bloody, aggressive action. During the parliamentary elections of the same year, the past/future contrast became the central theme of the rhetoric of the right-wing party. Remarks such as “you have a choice not between two parties, but between two worlds,” or “where does the past end, and where does the future start?” or expressions like “forces of the past,” were closely bound up with the right-wing election strategy. The entire process began with the opening ceremony of the House of Terror. Subsequently, the main campaign slogan of Fidesz–MPP (Hungarian Civic Party), “The future has begun,” contrasted sharply with “forces of the past,” which was an allusion to the Socialist Party (MSzP). In an article entitled “The future cannot begin,” the sociologist Niklas Luhmann considers the past and future as time horizons, whose starting points are always, and necessarily, in the present. In these terms, the future always remains inaccessible because it is constantly “slipping” from the actual present. In this sense, the future is by definition unreachable.43 In the Fidesz-MPP conception, the reference to the future is a representation of wishes and aspirations, and the usage of present perfect tense (past perfect tense in the original Hungarian) suggests the real possibility of reaching it.

  • 44 Julianna Bodó, Zoltán A. Biró, “Szimbolikus térfoglalási eljárások” [Symbolical occupations of spa (...)
  • 45 “Az áldozatok emléke” [The memory of victims], Magyar Nemzet (26 February 2002): 1, 3.

25On 24 February, for the occasion of its inauguration, practically all the political parties in Parliament formulated statements concerning their relationship to the site in open street demonstrations.44 The extreme right-wing group, the Party of Hungarian Truth and Life (Magyar Igazság és Élet Pártja, MIÉP) organized a demonstration in front of the headquarters of the Hungarian Socialist Party (a descendant of the former state party) which they regarded as “the real house of terror.” The placards they brought to the demonstration, containing the names of the enemies of “real Hungarians,” evoked a historical continuity from Mihály Károlyi via László Rajk, Stalin, and Ferenc Munnich to the contemporary socialist Prime Minister, Peter Medgyessy. Later on, marching with their placards from the socialist headquarters, they arrived at the House of Terror in order to unify the forces of the right-wing parties. Thus, they produced a continuity not only of names, but also of sites. According to this political symbolism, if one displays the names of the enemies and victimizers then their victims should be revealed as well. Three days after the opening of the House of Terror, the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs delivered a speech in Budafok in front of a memorial erected to the 1956 revolution: “The most horrifying thing of all is not even the number of victims, but the silence. That is why we are also victims, because we did not know what was happening to us.”45 Thus, everyone is or can be a victim, even those who did not live at the time of Socialism.

26The project of the House of Terror is even more radical: there is a database on its official website where anybody can sign in and add a description of the suffering inflicted on them, as well as the name of the perpetrator. In this sense, it is could be seen as the exact opposite of the Statue Park: as a site for symbolic revenge. On the other hand, the responses to the inauguration of the museum of the two left-wing parties in Parliament, the Alliance of Free Democrats (Szabad Demokraták Szövetsége, SzDSz) and the Socialist Party, are also interesting. These parties refused to articulate their opinion about the right-wing interpretation of the socialist past even in symbolic terms. The Free Democrats organized a farewell party for the right-wing government in Heroes’ Square, some 200 meters from the House of Terror. The Socialists arranged no public meetings, but asked their supporters to stay at home and not to participate in these demonstrations. What is remarkable here is that the opposition concentrated on current practical issues of politics, leaving the political representation of history to the ruling conservative right wing.

Fig. 6 The House of Terror (photo: Zsolt K. Horvath, 2006)

  • 46 This part of the present article summarises an earlier, much longer analysis: Zsófia Frazon, Zsolt (...)

27The building of the House of Terror, located at 60 Andrássy Avenue, used to be the headquarters of the Hungarian Nazi Arrow Cross Party until the end of World War II, and after the liberation of Budapest in 1945 became the command center of the political police of the Hungarian Communist Party.46 During the war, a large number of Jews were killed on the banks of the Danube by Arrow Cross men, and after the war many people were tortured and killed within the walls of this building by Communists. Thus, the building itself is associated with traumatic memories of lived experience. (Fig. 6)

  • 47 Gábor Csillag, “Little house of terror. The premises and practices of the ’House of Terror’ Museum (...)
  • 48 Gottfried Korff, “Läβt sich Geschichte musealisieren?” Museumskunde 60 (1995): 18– 22.
  • 49 Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage (Berkeley: Univ (...)

28Although the House of Terror as an institution is formally a museum, its reputation and political significance are not the same as those of an ordinary museum exhibition.47 According to the German museologist Gottfried Korff one should ask whether history needs to be conserved in a museum.48 The task of a museum is to collect, keep, look after and present its objects. In fact, preserving, accumulating and keeping the traces of the past, along with their classification, presentation and finally their interpretation, permit the process of remembering. This whole process of archival collection constitutes the institutionalized basis of the museum.49 That is the reason why the authenticity of the exhibited objects should be guaranteed. Authenticity in this regard is seen as an intellectual relationship between the “reality” of the past and the artificial context of the museum. The authentic object must be considered as a fragment of an earlier world’s reality which, in a museographic context, by its mimetic function, is able to produce a general meaning.

  • 50 Ferenc Donáth, “(T)error iratok” [(T)error documents], Élet és Irodalom 67 (21 March 2003): 8–9.
  • 51 István Ihász, “Gomb és kabát. A profán valóság bemutatásának kísérlete a Terror Háza Múzeumban” [B (...)
  • 52 Rényi András, “A retorika terrorja. A Terror Háza mint esztétikai probléma” [The terror of rhetori (...)

29The House of Terror lays claim to the realistic and faithful representation of the socialist past in a neo-positivist understanding of historical studies.50 The exhibition displays three different categories of objects. The first group includes authentic historical material, the second consists of copies of original historical items, and the last includes actual objects of contemporary everyday life, whose role, meaning and place in the context of the exhibition remains unclear. The museum in general uses even its authentic materials in a way that further increases the uncertainty concerning their interpretation. Typically, there is so little information attached to objects that it is often very difficult to decide whether they are really the genuine remnant of an actual historical moment or simply objects that represent a historical interpretation. This transforms the exhibited material into mere illustrative accessories of a dramatized story. In addition, the museum constantly blurs the distinction between real and fabricated objects as it displays them in the same installation, without any further explanation. The profound lack of historical contextualization, of clarity and of methodological consistency ultimately undermines the credibility of the representation of the past. Thus, the museum fails to satisfy the critical role of history as an academic discipline. According to József Ihász, a distinguished interior designer, “this paucity of objects is compensated for by the artistic installations” made by the architect, Attila Ferenczffy Kovács.51 Ferenczffy Kovács’s conceptions are deeply influenced by one of the most celebrated contemporary French artists, Christian Boltanski, above of all in the Wall of Victims.52 But what suffices for Boltanski in an exclusively artistic context is not enough for Ferenczffy Kovács in a historical museum which could rather be defined as a memorial representation with a teleological function, whose main purpose is the affirmation and confirmation of a political identity.

  • 53 Katalin Sinkó, “A megsértett Hungária” [The injured Hungária] in Tamás Hofer (ed.), Magyarok Kelet (...)
  • 54 Ibid., 278–9.
  • 55 Ibid., 279.

30What is at stake in this fight for the past and in the importance of the term “victim” as the basis of a new self-representation? It is well known that during the nineteenth century, the representation of a nation by a symbolic figure, usually a woman, was common throughout Europe. Pictures of Bavaria, Helvetia, Bohemia, Polonia and Hungária as national geniuses were common. According to Katalin Sinkó, these women were sometimes portrayed in a tortured pose, sometimes in full dignity and well-being, representing the actual political situation of the nation in question.53 The presentation of a mutilated national figure always signified territorial occupation by another power. In Hungary, in the nineteenth and at the beginning of the twentieth century, until the Trianon treaty, the socalled “Hungária enthroned,” representing the grandeur of the nation, was the predominant form of pictorial representation of the country. After 1920, a radical change took place: Hungária, the national genius, began to disappear from visual representations and, at the same time, a cartographical representation of Greater Hungary became more frequent. This process is connected to the spread of the sacralized concept of the territory, soil and landscape. During the inter-war period “anthropogeography” and “cultural morphology” played a predominant role in the formation of Hungarian identity. For instance, the schoolbooks of the time contain the picture of Greater Hungary covered with flowers and a sword representing the struggle for the country; the prayer for Greater Hungary is represented as a halo around a little girl’s head. The concept of a sacred country and, at the same time, the impression of menace are both equally present here. Katalin Sinkó maintains that there is a strange continuity relating to the self-representation of Hungary, because around the transition years the horrifying and self-tortured conceptions appeared again.54 On the occasion of a popular design competition entitled “Hungary can be yours,” organized by the Artpool Art Research Centre in 1984, most of the Hungarian artists’ entries were based on tragic cartographic representations of the country, while foreigners tended to use puns (“Buddha-pest” for Budapest, “Hungry” for Hungary, etc). These associations clearly show the widespread stereotypes or patterns relating to the representation of the country.55

31The House of Terror renewed the cultural tradition of tragic self-representation, including the conception of mutilation. The first room in the museum is the so-called “Occupation Room,” which implies that everything that happened in Hungary after 1920 was due to the influence of foreign countries and powers. In this regard, one can see how the sacred territory of Greater Hungary was mutilated by the Western Powers in 1920, how the Third Reich occupied Hungary on 19 March 1944, and how the USSR took over the country a year later. This point of view supports the innocence of the Hungarian population, and thus automatically rejects any responsibility for what happened. In fact, the House of Terror is not really a museum of the communist period, but rather a tragic self-representation of the recent past. On the other hand, it is true that the suffering caused by Communism is the leitmotif of the exhibition; indeed, it could be maintained that the House of Terror with its cultural, symbolic context is a political allegory of Hungary injured by Communism. It keeps the structure of the former representation of the suffering nation; according to its content, suffering and victimhood have become the two keywords of this conception. The previous religion civile has been changed by the image of a demonized Communism.

CONCLUSION

32These four sites of memory established particular links with the recent past, manifested in a political cult of heroes or victims, personal mourning, or an ironic attitude to objects. The moral relationships which were generated through the interaction of these sites and the past included irony, active forgiveness, accusation and tragedy, which could be expressed in either a majestic or a rather mundane style. The study of memorials, and in more general terms the anthropology of politics as such, usually presupposes that the initiative for a communication with the past comes exclusively from the realm of high politics. This understanding, however, ignores those forms of popular remembering that exist outside the frame of reference of political consensus, but are kept alive by the will of successors. For instance, the nostalgic memory manifested in the cult of the dead Kádár is an actual attitude towards the recent past, even if no political party or credible political force is inclined to come to terms with it. The analysis of a politics of symbols, therefore, must not be limited solely to the field of high politics, for if it is thus confined, it will fail to register other significant means of identifying with the past generated by social practices.

33Nonetheless, the degree to which a mode of remembering is able to shape the broader arena of social memory depends to a great extent on its potential to become institutionalized. These four sites of memory have radically differing opportunities in this respect. The antiquated symbolism of the Pantheon of the Labor Movement is equal to its profound physical deterioration, while the cult around Kádár’s grave, exclusively by elderly people, presages that this site will not be able to go beyond the limits of generational communicative memory because the experiences it conveys are irrelevant outside this group. The memorial designed by Jovánovics and the Rákoskeresztúr cemetery are incorporated into a broader context and form part of the general process of remembering and forgetting the 1956 Revolution. Although it is still uncertain today whether the political legacy of the Revolution can continue, as is reflected in the mixed nature of its representations in the cemetery, the site remains important due to the legitimacy it obtained in 1989. Nevertheless, its effects are weakened by the constant political controversies about the memory of 1956 and by its location on the outskirts of the city. The spatial situation also seems to determine the status of the Statue Park. From a significant form of remembering connected to a cultural community, it has been gradually transformed into a tourist attraction, and thus marginalized as a site of memory. The concept of the past represented by the Statue Park, the self-irony taking responsibility seriously, is being excluded by a politics of national identity based on injuries, which is inscribed into a more traditional concept of the nation. This is embodied in the House of Terror, whose central location and ability to attract political rites provides a crucial role for the space of memory and history in contemporary Hungarian politics.

Notes

1 Anna Szemere, Up from the Underground: the Culture of Rock Music in Postsocialist Hungary (Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001), 193.

2 Following János Kornai, the term “socialist” (and not “communist”) will be used. As he argued, this term refers to the realised form of the system, while the notion “communism” would be applied to the idea as a utopia. See János Kornai, The Socialist System: The Political Economy of Communism (Oxford—Princeton: Clarendon Press, 1992), 35–6.

3 The distinction between these forms of social memory has become a widely used conceptual tool following the synthesis of Jan Assmann. See his Das kulturelle Gedächtnis: Schrift, Erinnerung und politische Identität in frühen Hochkulturen (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1992).

4 László Karsai, “Az igazsag bonyolultabb” [The truth is more complicated], Népszabadság (6 March 2002): 10.

5 This challenge for history is discussed by Giovanni Levi, “Le passe lointain. Sur l’usage politique de l’histoire” in Jacques Revel, Francois Hartog (eds.), Les usages politiques du passé (Paris: EHESS, 2001), 25–37.

6 Francois Hartog, “L’historien et la conjoncture historiographique,” Le Débat 102 (1998): 4–10.

7 Paul Ricœur, “The Narrative Function” in his Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences (Cambridge—Paris: Cambridge University Press—Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 1981), 294.

8 Pierre Nora, “Entre mémoire et histoire. La problématique des lieux” in Les Lieux de mémoire. Vol. 1: La République (Paris: Gallimard, 1984), xvii-xlii. The project was published in three volumes: Pierre Nora (ed.), Les Lieux de mémoire, vols. 1–3 (Paris: Gallimard, 1984– 1992). See also Nora, “Lavisse, instituteur national” in Lieux de mémoire, Vol. 1: La République (Paris: Gallimard, 1984).

9 Márton Szabó, “A rendszerváltozás szemantikája” [Semantics of the transition], Politikatudományi Szemle 4 (1993): 178.

10 Tamás Hofer, “Harc a rendszervaltasert szimbolikus mezőben. 1989. március 15-e Budapesten” [Symbolic battle for the transition: the 15th of March 1989 in Budapest], Politikatudományi Szemle 1 (1992): 29–51.

11 Vilmos Tóth, “A Kerepesi úti temető másfél évszázada” [One and a half centuries of the Kerepesi Cemetery], Budapesti Negyed 7 (Spring 1999), Special Issue on the Kerepesi Cemetery, vol. 1, 3–126.

12 Péter Apor, “The Eternal Body: the Birth of the Pantheon of the Labor Movement in Budapest,” East Central Europe 31/4 (2004): 23–42; and Tóth, “A Kerepesi úti temető,” 93–4.

13 The notion is from Melinda Kalmar, Ennivaló és hozomány: A kora kádárizmus ideológiája [Food and dowry: The ideology of early Kádárism] (Budapest: Magvető, 1998); K. G. Faber, “The Use of History in Political Debate,” History and Theory 17 (4 1978): 19–35.

14 Péter Apor, Corpus Communismi Mysticum: History, Politics and Continuity in Communist Hungary (unpublished PhD dissertation), Florence, European University Institute, 2002.

15 Hofer, “Harc a rendszervaltasert,” 29–51.

16 István Rév, “Parallel Autopsies,” Representations 49 (1995): 15–39. Republished in his Retroactive Justice: Pre-History of Post-Communism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005), 19–51.

17 Magyar Országos Levéltár [National Archives of Hungary] M–KS–276–65–341.

18 The copy of this letter is available in János Rainer M. (ed.), Tetemrehívás: 1958–1988, Párizs–Budapest [Autopsy: 1958–1988, Paris-Budapest] (Budapest: Bibliotéka, 1989), 68. Until the clandestine archival research of historian János M. Rainer conducted at the beginning of 1980, and published in samizdat under a pseudonym, even the exact number of those executed was unknown. Elek Fényes [= János M. Rainer], “Adatok az 1956- os forradalmat követő megtorláshoz” [Data on the persecution following the 1956 Revolution] (1986), republished in Fanny Havas et al. (eds.), Beszélő Összkiadás, vol. II (Budapest: AB-Beszelő, 1992), 649–63.

19 It is typical that some days later Szilveszter Harangozó, Deputy Minister of the Interior at the time, prohibited the release of even the slightest details to the relatives. 1956-os Intézet [Institute for the History of 1956], Oral History Archives No. 261, interview with József Pajcsics conducted by András Hegedűs in 1991, 91.

20 For the history of the competition and the debates surrounding it see, Peter György, Néma hagyomány. Kollektív felejtés és kései múltértelmezés: 1956 1989-ben [A silent Tradition. Collective oblivion and belated interpretation of the past: 1956 in 1989] (Budapest: Magvető, 2000), 281.

21 Géza Boros, Emlékművek ’56-nak [Memorials to 1956] (Budapest: 1956-os Intezet, 1997).

22 Eszter Radai, “Szövetkezni a jóra. Interjú Halda Alizzal” [Alliance for the good: An interview with Aliz Halda], Élet és Irodalom 43 (2003): 7. In connection with this question, see also her novel entitled Magánügy [Private issue] (Budapest: Noran, 2002) and Gimes’s biography: Sándor Révész, Egyetlen élet. Gimes Miklós története [Only one life: The story of Miklós Gimes] (Budapest: 1956-os Intézet–Sik, 1999), especially 417–26. Additional information can be found in the documentary film directed by the younger Miklós Gimes entitled “Mutter” (2003).

23 Zsófia Mihancsik, “’Amit ott épitettem az nem emlékmű, hanem halálmű.’ Interjú Jovánovics Györggyel” [“What I built there is not a political monument: it is a death memorial”: An interview with György Jovánovics], Budapesti Negyed 3 (1994): 203.

24 László Beke, “Polisz és nekropolisz. Szempontok Jovánovics György 1956-os emlékművének értékeléséhez” [Polis and necropolis: Perspectives in the interpretation of the 1956 memorial by György Jovánovics], Magyar Építőművészet 85 (1994): 6, 24–9; and András Rényi, “A dekonstrualt kegyelet. Jovánovics György 1956-os emlek/műve és a posztmodern szobrászat” [Deconstructed piety. The memorial of 1956 of György Jovánovics and post-modern sculpture] in his A testek világlása. Hermeneutikai tanulmányok [The light of bodies: Studies in hermenutics] (Budapest: Kijárat, 1999), 173– 217.

25 Mihancsik, “Interjú Jovánovics Györggyel,” 203.

26 Quoted in István Eörsi, Emlékezés a régi szép időkre [Remembering the good old days] (Budapest: Holnap, 1989), 178.

27 L. Földényi suggests the term “thanato-plastics” for Jovánovics’s work. László F. Földényi, “Séta a 301-es parcellában. Jovánovics György thanatoplasztikája” [Walk in plot no. 301: The thanato-plastics of György Jovánovics], Jelenkor (November 1992): 900–15.

28 Géza Boros, “’Igazi’ emlekművek” [“Real” memorials] in his Emlék/mű. Művészet— köztér—vizualitás a rendszerváltozástól a Milleniumig [Memory/al: Art—Public space—Visual conceptions from 1989 to the millenium] (Budapest: Enciklopedia, 2001), 53–5.

29 Melocco quoted by György, Néma hagyomány, 145.

30 Éva Kovács, “Terek és szobrok emlékezete, (1988–1990)” [Memory of squares and statues, 1988–1990], Regio 1 (2001): 68–91.

31 László Szörényi, “Leninkert” [Lenin garden], Hitel 10 (1989): 27–8.

32 Ákos Eleőd, “Szoborpark (műleirás)” [Statue Park: Description of the oeuvre], 2000 (July 1993): 60–1.

33 See Anne-Marie Losonczy, “Le patrimoine de l’oubli. Le parc-musee des Statues de Budapest,” Ethnologie française 29/3 (1999): 445–52; and “Deux figures museales de la memoire en Hongrie postcommuniste: museification du passe recent entre deux regimes” in B. Jewsiewicki Koss (ed.), Travail de mémoire et d’oubli dans les sociétés postcommunistes (Bucharest: Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti, 2006), 64–81; Peter Apor, “Le ’socialisme a visage humain’: le Parc des statues de Budapest,” La Nouvelle Alternative 20 (October–December 2005): 189–93.

34 Júlia Váradi, “Szoborpark-történet. (Beszélgetés Eleőd Ákossal)” [A History of the Statue Park. An Interview with Ákos Eleőd], Magyar Építőművészet 85/2 (1994): 19–23; István Schneller, “Szoborpark: egy korszak lezárása, egy új korszak kezdete” [Statue Park: the end of a period and the beginning of a new period], Magyar Építőművészet 85/2 (1994): 23–4; Tibor Wehner, “Nyilvános, idényjellegű szobortemető” [A public and seasonal statue cemetery], Balkon (April 1994): 16–7.

35 Tony Judt, “The Past is Another Country: Myth and Memory in Postwar Europe,” Daedalus (Autumn 1992): 83–118; Reinhart Koselleck, “Diskontinuität der Erinnerung,” Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 47 (1999): 213–22. Henry Rousso, “L’épuration en France: une histoire inachevée,” Vingtième Siècle 33 (1992): 78–106.

36 Mikhail Bakhtin calls grotesque laughter the weapon of the powerless in turning hierarchies upside down. Mihail M. Bakhtin, Rabelais and his World (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984).

37 Géza Boros, “Szoborpark. Interjú Eleőd Ákossal” [Statue Park: Interview with Ákos Eleőd], Élet és Irodalom (19 December 2003): 6.

38 Katalin Sinkó, “A nemzeti emlekmű es a nemzeti tudat változásai” [The National monument and the change of national consciousness] in Ákos Kovács (ed.), Monumentumok az első háborúból [Monuments from World War I] (Budapest: Corvina, 1991), 9–45; Ákos Kovács, “Emeljünk emlékszobrot hőseinknek!” [Let us erect a commemorative statue to our heroes!] in Monumentumok az első háborúból, 104–24.

39 Kovács, “Emeljunk emlekszobrot hőseinknek!,” 109–10 and 116–7.

40 Reinhart Koselleck,”Diskontinuitat der Erinnerung,” 213–22.

41 Decree of the Hungarian Parliament on the Memorial Day for Victims of Communist Dictatorships, 58/2000 (VI. 16.) számú Országgyűlési Határozat “A kommunista diktatúrák áldozatainak emléknapjáról,” Magyar Közlöny 58 (16 June 2000): 3360. There are at least two hidden messages in the title: its date, i.e. the anniversary of the execution of Imre Nagy and his companions, and the plural of the communist dictatorships. The second is an allusion to the first Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919.

42 Available at http://www.orbanviktor.hu/old/index2.html, accessed 23 August, 2002.

43 Niklas Luhmann, “The Future Cannot Begin,” Social Research 43 (1976): 130–52.

44 Julianna Bodó, Zoltán A. Biró, “Szimbolikus térfoglalási eljárások” [Symbolical occupations of space] in Márton Szabó (ed.), Szövegvilág: Írások a szimbolikus és diszkurzív politikáról [A world of texts: Studies on symbolic and discursive politics] (Budapest: Scientia Humana, 1997), 305–32.

45 “Az áldozatok emléke” [The memory of victims], Magyar Nemzet (26 February 2002): 1, 3.

46 This part of the present article summarises an earlier, much longer analysis: Zsófia Frazon, Zsolt K. Horváth, “A megsértett Magyarország. A Terror Háza mint tárgybemutatás, emlékmű és politikai rítus” [The injured Hungary: The House of Terror as presentation of objects, monument and political rite], Regio 4 (2002): 303–47.

47 Gábor Csillag, “Little house of terror. The premises and practices of the ’House of Terror’ Museum, Budapest,” Transversal 1 (2002): 18–46; Mark Pittaway, “The ’House of Terror’ and Hungary’s Politics of Memory,” Austrian Studies Newsletter 1 (Winter 2003): 16–7.

48 Gottfried Korff, “Läβt sich Geschichte musealisieren?” Museumskunde 60 (1995): 18– 22.

49 Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 18–34; Gottfried Korff, Martin Roth, “Einleitung” in G. Korff, M. Roth (eds.), Das historische Museum: Labor, Schaubühne, Identitätsfabrik (Frankfurt/M: Campus, 1990), 9–37.

50 Ferenc Donáth, “(T)error iratok” [(T)error documents], Élet és Irodalom 67 (21 March 2003): 8–9.

51 István Ihász, “Gomb és kabát. A profán valóság bemutatásának kísérlete a Terror Háza Múzeumban” [Button and coat: The attempt to display mundane reality in the House of Terror Museum] in János Pintér (ed.), Történeti Muzeológiai Szemle. A Magyar Múzeumi Történész Társulat Évkönyve [Review of historical museum studies: Annales of the Hungarian Association of Museum Historians] vol. 2. (Budapest, 2002), 100.

52 Rényi András, “A retorika terrorja. A Terror Háza mint esztétikai probléma” [The terror of rhetoric: The House of Terror as an aesthetic problem], Élet és Irodalom 47 (4 July 2003): 3, 11–2; Sándor Radnóti, “Mi a Terror Háza?” [What is the House of Terror?], Élet és Irodalom 67 (24 January 2003): 15 and 20. For the critique of the simplifying concept of history by Radnóti, see Zsolt K. Horváth, “Uber ’Lieu de Mémoire,’ ’Trauma’ und ihre Bedeutung in Ungarn. Gedächtnisforschung aus begriffsgeschichtlicher Sicht” in Amália Kerekes et al. (eds.), Leitha und Lethe. Symbolische Räume und Zeiten in der Kultur Österreich-Ungarns (Tübingen–Basel: Francke, 2004), 37–49.

53 Katalin Sinkó, “A megsértett Hungária” [The injured Hungária] in Tamás Hofer (ed.), Magyarok Kelet és Nyugat közt. A nemzettudat változó jelképei [Hungarians between East and West: The changing symbols of national identity] (Budapest: Néprajzi Múzeum–Balassi Kiadó, 1996), 267–82.

54 Ibid., 278–9.

55 Ibid., 279.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1 The Pantheon of the Labor Movement (photo: Zsolt K. Horvath, 2006)
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/681/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 544k
Légende Fig. 2 György Jovánovics’s “Thanato-plastic” (photo: Zsolt K. Horvath, 2006)
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/681/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 471k
Légende Fig. 3 Plot no. 301 in the Rákoskeresztúr cemetery (photo: Zsolt K. Horvath, 2006)
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/681/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 557k
Légende Fig. 4 The entrance of the Statue Park (photo: Zsolt K. Horvath, 2006)
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/681/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 386k
Légende Fig. 5 Communist heroes in the Statue Park (photo: Zsolt K. Horvath, 2006)
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/681/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 397k
Légende Fig. 6 The House of Terror (photo: Zsolt K. Horvath, 2006)
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/681/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 829k

Auteur

Zsolt K. Horváth (b. 1972) is assistant professor in the Department of Theory of Art and Media Studies at Loránd Eötvös University, Budapest. He is finishing a PhD dissertation at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris and at the Atelier Center, ELTE, Budapest. His research interests include the study of collective memory, historical representations in monuments, museums and films.

© Central European University Press, 2008

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540