February 25, 2012
On February the 25th Hungary remembers the victims Communism. On this day in 1947 Béla Kovács, a leading Hungarian politician at the time who opposed the “sovietization”- that is the drift towards communist dictatorship – of Hungarian politics was unlawfully arrested and deported to the Soviet Union.
He wasn’t the first victim, nor the last. Thousands of Hungarian men were deported during the end of the Second World War to the Soviet Union for “malenkij robot” – a “little work”. Many never came back, and they were the first Hungarian masses who experienced the true nature of Stalin’s inhuman regime. After the war ended, with thousands of soviet troops stationing in Hungary, the country steadily, step by step drifted towards communism, and with the few glorious days of the 1956 revolution as the exception, it defined Hungary’s history for the decades to come. Yes, communism ended in 1989, but its legacy, its memories are still with Hungarians up till this day.
It might be a relative who was taken away by the secret police in the early 50’s. Urban middle class ancestors who were deported to the country-side from their homes because they were considered enemies of the class, or “just” fired from their jobs. The victims of the 1956 revolution and its brutal reprisal. Or just the legacy of the “gulyás communism” or “mild dictatorship” of the 1970’s and 80’s: yes it was more comfortable for many, and yes, it was not so harsh as in other communist countries, but it was still a communist dictatorship. With severe consequences for Hungarian society: the institutionalization of lies, the oppression of civil society, communities, innovative initiatives, community responsibility, free public discourse, tradition, religion and the list goes on.
All which is essential for the free and prosperous Europe Hungary wanted to (re)join after communism collapsed. So when we are thinking about reforming, reinventing Europe today, we should remember, that institutions and regulation by themselves are not the solution: it’s the essence which matters most.
And all this begins by being aware of the dark side of our past, which Hungarians together with other nations experienced in the 20th century. Therefor we should say together: never again communism.