Close to Budapest in Hungary is Momento Park. This unusual open air museum, a few miles outside the city, is a kind of bizarre graveyard for communist statues.
These enormous bronze relics now lying amongst the dandelions, or else re-erected on plain stone plinths, have been saved. Gathered up from across Hungary, and placed here together. They are all that remains of the thousands like them that were torn down and destroyed in towns and cities across the country during the Hungarian uprisings. They are now being preserved together in this park.
A Little History
Budapest’s Stalin Monument was completed in 1951 and erected in the City Park as a “gift” to the leader, from the Hungarian people. It stood 25m high, with an 8m tall bronze statue of the man himself on the top, master of all he surveyed.
The decorative panels around the base depicted the people of Hungary honouring, welcoming their masterful leader. A newspaper in Budapest printed the following at the time:
“Stalin was with us before, now he will be with us even more. He will watch over our work and his smile will show us the way. I have been told that in Moscow it is customary to pay a visit to Comrade Lenin in Red Square. Before beginning or after finishing an important task either to report or to ask his advice. Undoubtedly the same will occur here with this statue of Comrade Stalin.”
But the veneration of the statue didn’t last long.
Just 5 years later on October 23rd 1956 around 200,000 Hungarians gathered in Budapest. Fired up by the political reform that was taking place in Poland they broadcast their demands on Hungarian radio. One of those demands was the immediate dismantling of Stalin’s statue.
Later that day, with the help of trucks and blow torches, Stalin was toppled in Budapest’s City Park. All that was left of the monument was his pair of large bronze boots on the top of the plinth.
Those boots can now be seen at Momento Park. In fact they welcome you as you arrive. Gazing up at them on their reconstructed pedestal I am struck by their almost comical impotence. Those boots, so firmly rooted, so stable and solid in their stance. Slightly apart as if resolutely striding forward. They are empty now and laughably incongruous. I am immediately reminded of the vast trunkless legs of Shelley’s Ozymandious.
“Look on my works ye mighty, and despair!”
There are 41 other monumental pieces of art in the park, all dating from the Communist era – 1945 to 1989, and they are in fact just that in many ways, striking pieces of art. The park is like a strange cemetery to socialism and to a past that remains fresh in many peoples minds. The imagery here is striking, awe inspiring even in its powerful symbolism, its surety and its audaciousness. I can’t help feeling that this is a final glimpse at what once lay behind the Iron Curtain.
But the one image that remains with me is of those huge empty boots.
How, when and how much . . .
The park is open every day from 10am to sunset.
Entrance is 1.5000 HUF
You can catch a public bus to the park from Kelenfold Vasutallomas. Metro 4, Bus No 101B, 101E and 150 to Budateteny Vasutallomas. Every 10 minutes during the week and every 30 mins at weekends.
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