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Hungary’s 23 October commemorations explained


  • ildiko.amon

22/10/2014 2.00am

23 October is a public holiday, marking the 1956 Hungarian Uprising. This year, the number of events has had to be curtailed but there will still be open-air exhibitions, a light show and free film screenings at the House of Terror Museum.

On 23 October 1956, Hungarians began to rise up against Soviet occupation. Peaceful protests calling for free elections and a free press (among other things) started what would become a bloody freedom fight in which many would lose their lives. By early November, the revolution was crushed, Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest and the Moscow-controlled government was reinstated.

Thousands fled to the West, leaving behind families and loved ones. The tragic events remain a deep scar on the Hungarian psyche, symbolised by national flags with holes cut in them, just as people in 1956 cut out the Communist-imposed hammer and sickle in the coat of arms.

Every year, many pay their respects to those who fought for Hungary's freedom. Memorial events usually take place across the city but the agenda has had to be curtailed for 2020. Still, you can visit certain museums for free, including the House of Terror where the Communist Secret Police were based. Open-air photo exhibitions and a light show are also taking place.

Thursday, 22 October

Afternoon: A series of open-air photo exhibitions will be unveiled around the city, to be on display until 4 November, the anniversary of the day in 1956 when Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest. Locations include the K Building of the Budapest University of Technology & Economics, Bem tér and Kossuth tér, all key spots in the early days of the uprising. You can also see installations on Clark Ádám tér, at the Várkert Bazár and at Millenáris Park.

7pm: A special light show will be projected onto the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade on Nagy Imre tér, the square near Bem tér named after the Hungarian leader most associated with the 1956 Uprising. Imre Nagy was executed and his remains were later dumped into an unmarked grave. His ceremonial reburial in 1989 signalled the start of Communism's demise.

Friday, 23 October

Morning: The traditional raising of the Hungarian flag takes place outside Parliament in Kossuth tér.  

All day:
Certain museums offer free admission, most notably the House of Terror at VI. Andrássy út 60, the address of the Communist Secret Police in the 1950s. Hourly from 10am-5pm, there will be screenings of a film about Hungary's most famous footballer, Ferenc Puskás, who was banned from playing after refusing to return to his homeland in 1956. He later found huge success starring for Real Madrid but would only return to Budapest in 1981 for an emotional reunion with friends and family. 

Also on Friday, 23 October most shops, banks, pharmacies and other services providers will be closed. In more central parts of town, 24-hour convenience stores will mostly be open but larger supermarkets and other shops will be shut. Many restaurants, cafés and bars will close. Public transport will still be running.

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