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Commemorating the anniversary of the reburial of Imre Nagy

June 17th, 2014

As Hungary commemorates the 1989 reburial of Prime Minister Imre Nagy and his colleagues executed following the Revolution of 1956, political commentators try to trace the contemporary relevance of this event, strictly in line with their current political affiliations.

The overwhelming majority of Hungarian society merely endured the regime change instead of profiting from it, writes Zsuzsanna Körmendy in Magyar Nemzet. She recalls the speech made by Viktor Orbán at the reburial ceremony on June 16th, 1989 in which he said the coming twenty years of Hungarian youth were to be buried in the symbolic “sixth coffin” (next to the five coffins of Nagy and his associates). Körmendy believes that the future of the entire country lay in that coffin, for the two decades after the regime change were characterized by unemployment, poverty, and predatory political elites who profited from the dismantling of the regime they previously supported. Although the elections of 2010 highlighted a different direction, she writes, the substantial improvement of the conditions of everyday life is still wanting, and must be of the highest priority for the government.

In Népszabadság Péter Nagy N. also evokes the image of the sixth coffin and the two lost decades of Hungarian youth. When will this period end? he asks. 25 years ago Orbán placed his faith in Western-style development, but the author accuses him of believing in “Asian dead-ends” instead, the same ones he repudiated in his famous speech and wonders whether the youth of our day would consider “this reversal the proper way out from the sixth coffin”.

Népszava’s Róbert Friss addresses the inability of political and cultural elites to deal with the memory and image of Prime Minister Nagy. The nation is indifferent, the Left is (perhaps) still unable, and the Right is (surely) unwilling to handle his memory, he writes. Imre Nagy failed to become a statesman, when he proved to be too weak to stand at the helm of the uprising on the evening of 23rd October 1956. Nonetheless, Friss thinks that it would be more than enough, if we honored in him a person who transcended his own frailty and remained faithful to his convictions until death.

In Magyar Hírlap, editor István Stefka suggests that the Communists habitually made martyrs (i.e. official, commemorated martyrs) out of their own peers, while they ignored the memory of other victims murdered by their own régime. They also made an attempt to monopolise the glory of 1956, although their martyrs were not the only ones. There were many heroes and victims whose past was not stained with Communist crimes, he concludes.

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