Remembering 1956: Soviet-type oppression then and now

The banality of Soviet-type oppression and that moment when it leads to change.

Sixty-two years after the day the 1956 Revolution began, it’s high time, said Dr. Mária Schmidt, “that instead of ‘regime change’ we declare that, in fact, what happened was an anti-communist revolution.”

The Hungarian communists were forced to realize that “ten years of terror” was nowhere near enough to “break the spine of the Hungarians,” said Schmidt, historian and director general of the House of Terror Museum, speaking at the official memorial ceremony of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Although they strived, she said, to erase from our minds some of the greatest figures of Hungarian history and put them in service of communist ideology, they failed miserably.

“They exhausted all tools in an attempt to eradicate our national holidays” and “flush patriotism from young souls,” she continued, adding that the events of 1989 transpired as a direct consequence of the 1956 revolution.

They tried to snuff out the nation, but they could not.

And we see the same machinations today. Speaking on the current situation in Ukraine, Ildikó Orosz, rector at the Ferenc Rákóczi II. Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute in Beregszász (Berehove), said “communist, fascist power techniques still persist, especially in Ukraine.”

Lately, said Orosz, some Ukrainians find a scapegoat in Transcarpathian Hungarians, blaming the ethnic minority for the bankrupt political and economic situation in the country. The Hungarian community, she added, faces harassment on a daily basis.

Ukrainian radicals, she reminded, recently published a list with the personal data of Hungarian-Ukrainian dual citizens on a website nicknamed the “death list.”

“It is only Hungary that stands behind us,” Orosz said, thanking the Hungarian government for its financial, social and cultural support and praising the political backing “as noble as the fight of the ‘56ers.”

The nation remains an indelible source of identity for millions of Hungarians, indeed for millions of Europeans. The nation-state, as Prime Minister Orbán said in his address today, has always given Europe its strength. And the nations at the heart of these states, despite all attempts to oppress them, will give Europe its strength tomorrow, too.