budapest

szerkesztés

Graffiti texts on street walls illustrate Hungary’s Socialist past

Writers

  • Gábor Wágner

15/09/2021 4.14pm

Graffiti is cool. Street art even more so, but this is not a modern phenomenon. It existed before, just didn’t have a name. Or it was called differently. Earlier graffiti was considered hooliganism. Undoubtedly, these artworks were not detailed texts or drawings, they had little aesthetic value. But they had a unique style and most importantly a message and, moreover, they challenged the cityscape. Unless they had another outlet, country people expressed themselves through graffiti. Illustrated by communal archive Fortepan, let’s discover what was written on the walls in Communist Budapest.

Mind your language

Some pictures contain swear words and coarse language in Hungarian.

'Hang Kádár', 1958

Photo: Fortepan / Budapest Főváros Levéltára / BRFK Helyszínelési Fényképei

People have been scrawling messages in public places since Ancient Rome. Announcements and political statements as well as individual opinions were also written on the walls. Then, as the glory of the great empire ended, so did this tradition.

'Comrades, loyal Hungarians! Come together against Kádár', 1958

Photo: Fortepan / Budapest Főváros Levéltára / BRFK Helyszínelési Fényképei

After that, scratching or drawing on the walls was punished and if it had a political message, the artist was even taken away for his troubles. It is still a crime today, but nowadays there are parts of the city where you can still paint the walls legally.


As graffiti has evolved and especially with the phenomenon of street art, the rules have been relaxed. Plus, let’s face it, colourful murals sometimes spice up the city.

'Strike', 1957

Photo: Fortepan / Budapest Főváros Levéltára / BRFK Helyszínelési Fényképei

In the past, the message surpassed aesthetics. Apart from simple messages of love, these were mostly obscenities and political protests, but in some cases these two were combined.


Then, by the ’80s, plain drawings became more common, the simple, concrete artworks of today’s graffiti appeared, and the subculture built around rap saw walls tagged with names.

'Arise Hungarians!', 1960

Photo: Fortepan / Budapest Főváros Levéltára / BRFK Helyszínelési Fényképei

'Yours is the toilet you sh*t for yourself, This is taught to you by Lenin and Marx, If you are sitting completely in sh*t, Hang on to that life philosophy', 1966

Photo: Fortepan / Magyar Rendőr

'Gyuszi! S*ck my d*ck', 1976

Photo: Fortepan / Urbán Tamás

1982

Photo: Fortepan / Urbán Tamás

'I'm cold', 1985

Photo: Fortepan / Makovecz Benjamin

1987

Photo: Fortepan / Urbán Tamás

'Freedom for Transylvania', 1988

Photo: Fortepan / Urbán Tamás

Football fixtures, 1959

Photo: Fortepan / Budapest Főváros Levéltára / BRFK Helyszínelési Fényképei

'Russians go home!'

Photo: Fortepan / Berkó Pál

Related content

Admin mode