What: Memento Park (Szoborpark)
Where: 1223 Budapest, Balatoni út – Szabadkai utca sarok, Hungary
Claiming to hold ‘the biggest statues of the Cold War’, Memento Park in Budapest is home to 42 monumental bronze sculptures that once stood around the city during the forty years of Hungary’s Communist rule. This open-air museum was designed by Hungarian architect, Ákos Eleőd, following an architectural competition sponsored by the Budapest General Assembly. He described the park as being “about dictatorship. And at the same time, because it can be talked about, described and built up, this Park is about democracy.”
The statues were removed from around Budapest soon after the fall of the Communist regime in 1989 and re-presented to the Hungarian people when the park opened on 29 June 1993. But whereas once the figures were a sign of political oppression, in their new setting the absurbity of their overblown monumentality in the post-Cold War era has fostered a more relaxed and humorous reaction.
Statues to the usual communist suspects – Lenin, Marx and Engels – are joined by Hungarian heroes of socialism, such as the iconic revolutionary Béla Kun and Red Army officers Captains Ostapenko and Steinmetz. Hammers and sickles abound and allegorical sculptural groups depict themes such as Hungarian-Soviet Friendship and Liberation. The park also includes a replica of Stalin’s Boots, the remainder of the infamous monument to the Soviet leader which was otherwise destroyed by crowds during Hungary’s October Revolution. You can read more about this incident in the ESPIONART post, Uprising Against Hungary’s Sculpture.
Images: Top – Kiss István, Republic of Councils Monument (Tanácsköztársasági emlékmű), 1969; Bottom – Stalin’s Boots, replica of remaining portion of Stalin Monument in Budapest. Memento Park, Budapest.