A guide to better living through cured pork products

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Remembering WWI in Budapest

Over Memorial Day weekend, I read a post over at Crooked Timber called, "The Great and Unremembered War,"about the different ways World War One is remembered in the United States and Europe. I think the World War One memorial around the corner from Yusaf's flat is a pretty good example of the way war is remembered here. So here are a couple of pictures and I'll post more on the flickr site later.

The history of Hungary in the twentieth century is pretty traumatic. Between 1867 and 1914, the Kingdom of Hungary had achieved a notable measure of political autonomy and economic growth, but things went down hill with WWI. The war itself was brutal, with over 2 million casualties out of 3.6 million Hungarian soldiers. After the war, between October 1918 and November 1919, the country underwent two revolutions, Romanian occupation and a right-wing counterrevolution. In the course of the peace negotiations Hungary lost significant territory to its neighbor Romania and the newly created Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.

The trauma of the First World War is reflected in local monuments all around Hungary. This one, near the corner of Baross utca and József körút, is a pretty typical example. It both shows the heroic, yet generic stern-faced Hungarian soldier advancing on the enemy trench, but the pedestal has a frieze showing the soldiers marching off to war and leaving behind loved ones. I am not sure about the exact history of this monument, but from what I understand some of these monuments were erected in the Horthy era and others were built under the Socialists, but I need to do more research on this.

After the 1989 Revolution, lots of monuments, especially those associated with World War Two and State Socialism were removed or repurposed (The Gellert Hill Freedom monument is a great example of this kind of landmark recycling). But the World War One monuments have remained, perhaps because there is some consensus on this part of twentieth century Hungarian history. It was downright awful and there is no political capital to be gained from removing or redecorating them, unlike say some of the commemorations of the 1956 Revolutions or World War Two.

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