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October 23rd — a dull anniversary

October 26th, 2015

The political rallies organised on 23rd October, the anniversary of the 1956 revolution were attended by very few people, for the first time since such meetings were allowed in 1989. Commentators analyse the context – dwelling on the most disparate factors, from the weakness of the Left to the migration crisis.

In 168 Óra, sociologist Mária Vásárhelyi, whose father was PM Imre Nagy’s co-defendant in the trial which ended with Nagy’s death sentence in 1958, recalls her childhood years when her family celebrated the anniversary in silence. As soon as October 23 could be openly celebrated, she continues, those commemorations were overshadowed by the deep political differences which characterise public life to this day. Lately, she remarks, the anniversary is marked at home again by those to whom it means something, in their own way, but is ignored by the majority.

On HVG.hu, András Hont paints a pitiful picture of the celebrations held by left-wing opposition parties. Ferenc Gyurcsány made a short declaration in front of the monument to the revolution on his own, just for the press. The leader of Together, Viktor Szigetvári, laid flowers on Imre Nagy’s monument in the presence of the members of his party’s presidium. A meeting held by the ‘Movement for a New Republic’ which “is famous for gathering more question than signatures on sheet to be submitted to a referendum earlier this year” was attended by a mere 200 people. Meanwhile the government side remains completely passive, while the opposition fails to capitalise on its inertia. Lajos Bokros’s MOMA, “a conservative party only supported by left-wingers” invited people to stay at home and send ‘likes’ to its Facebook page. “So I went home to make them happy,” Hont concludes bitterly.

In Heti Válasz, Bálint Ablonczy dismisses comparisons between the current flow of migrants from the Middle East to the emigration of almost 200,000 Hungarians in 1956. Critics of the Hungarian government often condemn its reluctance to welcome today’s migrants by reminding it of the positive reception Hungarians received 59 years ago. He lists several important differences between the two. First of all, in the toughest years of the Cold War the West received those refugees as proof of the unbearable living conditions reigning on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Secondly, it was a finite wave of immigration, while today nobody knows how many millions are about to set out for Europe, from Asia and Africa. Thirdly, Hungarians at the time did not march through several European countries but were locked in refugee camps to be accepted by Western countries one by one. Fourthly, they were Europeans with no real civilizational or religious barriers to overcome. Fifthly, at that time the West needed fresh manpower and by the end of 1957 almost all Hungarian refugees had found a job. Ablonczy wishes today’s migrants would found it that easy to integrate into Western societies.

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