June 29, 2011
Monuments to contested histories . . .
In Central and Eastern Europe, monuments wage a silent but very real debate about the meaning of recent history.
In Prague, there are monuments to the communist liberators, and monuments to the victims of communism:
In Budapest, within sight of each other, are monuments to Soviet soldiers killed in the liberation of Budapest in 1945, and to Hungarians killed by Soviet soldiers in the uprising of 1956:
And in Bratislava, the main train station still celebrates the triumph of international socialism over the capitalists:
History hasn't ended. (With luck, it's just begun.)
Mark A. Edwards
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The monuments are easily reconcilable, and do not represent opposing positions in a debate (if so, only by extremists). Taken together, they illustrate paradoxes that occur in the timeline of political history. For example, in 1945, the Soviet Army liberated Budapest from Nazi tyranny, the monument memorializes the Red Army soldiers who were killed during that siege. Hungarians do not have an issue with honoring those young soldiers whose lives were sacrificed. The problem lies in that the Soviets stuck around, took control with a fixed election, and imposed a Stalinist dictatorship. That lead to the Revolution of 1956, and the monument for the Hungarians who died trying to free themselves from their former liberators (who then became their oppressors). On their faces, the monuments represent ideological conflict, but if you factor in time, they represent a logical sequence of events.
Perhaps in twenty years we'll see a monument to Hungary freeing itself from the EU!
Posted by: Peter Szechenyi | Jun 30, 2011 11:44:21 AM