In 2006 I spoke at a conference in Budapest. At the time, there was a bunch of fascists protesting in the town square, and it was getting international news coverage.
The fascists, from most angles, looked like a bunch of bored deplorables having a barbecue. Everyone walked around them and mostly ignored them except for the CNN camera crews that would sneak in and get low-angle shots with telephoto lenses to make the little cluster of ultra-nationalists look much bigger than they were. As I walked by, they set fire to some paper (conveniently pulled out of a garbage bin) for the camera crew.
I asked one of the passers-by what was going on and they said “playing for the camera” – about as good a thumbnail sketch as you’ll ever get.
I don’t know what this building is, but it sports a common feature of the European landscape: high explosive damage. Fragmentation shells going off near stone – that’s what that damage is. Bullets make small chips, artillery makes splashes. It’s not notable in much of Europe because when you’re talking about buildings that have survived centuries of warfare, they’re either damaged or they’re gone. Or they’re new.
One of the most embarrassing verbal faux pas I ever made was in a taxi from the airport on my first trip into Koln. I remarked to the driver “I love all this modern architecture” and he replied, “we had to renovate a lot after 1945.” I said, “that’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever said” and slouched into silence for the rest of the drive, and watched all the modern architecture go by. As I have mentioned elsewhere, ultra-nationalism, in the 20th century, [stderr] seems to result in having your cities flattened.
I was there as a speaker for a security conference, naturally, so the folks who had invited me (the makers of the widely popular syslog-ng) took me out for a lot of food and beer and then Unicum – an “alcohol-soaked herbal concoction” that acted on me like syrup of ipecac. It was a good time. The next afternoon, after the conference and before alcohol o’clock, they took me museuming – specifically to the military museum, so I could drool over the hussars’ uniforms and photograph cavalry tack and saddles for my saddle-maker acquaintances. That done, we went to the Memorial Park.
The Hungarians had a problem that should seem familiar to Americans: they had a lot of old Soviet-era colossal statuary that had been emplaced all over their cities. What do to with all the bronze? There were discussions, naturally. There were all the usual arguments, including one I am sympathetic to: “some artist worked hard on that.” So the Hungarians located a nice field outside of town, and hauled them all there, then left them to weather, and the memories and grass to grow.
The Soviet trooper, in characteristic Red Army gear and carrying an unusually small ppsh-9mm submachine-gun, was probably not a super popular sight in Hungary. Especially not after the uprising. The statue was a statue commemorating liberation from one boot on your neck to another. Just like many of the American civil war statues that still dot the US landscape.
I kind of like that one. The allegory is as subtle as a placard. I don’t know the title but it’s probably something like “The New Soviet Worker Has Unstoppable Head-Butt +40 Powers”
“I give you the future!” A future dragged into a field in the middle of no place. Lenin was another ideologue, he was just trying to Make the Workers’ Paradise Great Again. The difference between these ideologues and people who make the world better is that the people who make the world better usually can explain why we should do what they suggest, and it works. Lenin certainly had a lot of ideas.
Some artist worked hard on that.
Some artist worked hard on that!
It looks to me like they ran out of bronze, or patience, halfway through and started doing spatter-welded stainless steel cut-outs instead. Whatever the artistic effect was, it doesn’t work for me.
Parked by the gate near the exit, is a Trabant. Or is it a Lada? I don’t know how to tell. Someone clearly cares about it enough to keep the tires inflated. It makes me wonder if there is a secret society dedicated to Making Trabants Great Again that periodically comes and inflates the tires. Or, perhaps they are filled with concrete. Perhaps they were always filled with concrete.
These statues (including the Trabant!) are the cultural impositions of a victorious occupying power. It was entirely reasonable for the Hungarians to want them gone, after they were given a chance to re-express their own culture. What Americans don’t seem to be able to track is that the confederate civil war statues are also the cultural impositions of a victorious occupying power. Southern white supremacists lost the civil war but won the post-war reconstruction.