Szabor (Statue) Park, Budapest

These are paragraphs from a 2003 letter:

In Hungary the Internationale is best represented in Szabor (or Statue) park, a collection of Socialist Realism artifacts outside Budapest.  While the park is not difficult to get to it’s sometimes difficult to find.  I asked the Concierge to mark it on a map.  She couldn’t find it and wondered why it was not in the center of town.  I said; “Well, I don’t suppose you would put it in the middle of Hero’s Square,” which is where some of the original work really did sit.  She laughed.  Finding the road is not hard but the park is not well signed.  The only instruction I can give you is take the road to Vienna until you get to highway 7 and travel south.  When you see a larger than live statue of V.I. Lenin, take a very hard right.

The museum has to walk a line.  It can’t glorify Communism it can’t be too kitschy and it can’t seem exploitive.  It can’t be some kind of “Commieland” theme park, although there are elements of all of these here.  For instance, you can buy Lenin and Stalin candles, light a wick on the top and burn their brains out.  The candles are red.  There’s also the statuette for sale in the museum shop with Lenin, outstretched hand holding a slice of pizza.  These compete with serious books on Socialist Realism as art and propaganda.  My favorite thing is the CD “Communism’s Greatest Hits,” Old commie anthems and young pioneer’s songs.  It became a best-selling CD in Hungary because it contained all of the old summer camp songs for several generations of Hungarians.  And yes, it has “The Internationale.”

The park has several new additions since I was last here.  Some pieces were done by noted artists.  Imre Varga, who was responsible for the statues at the Hungarian National Catholic Chapel, designed the Bela Kun monument to a 1919 strike.  (Kun fled to Austria in and then to the Soviet Union where he was liquidated by Stalin.  During the liberalization his monument was put up.  When things got too liberal it came down and was re-erected at the park.)  Some of the work is concrete relief that used to be on the front of buildings, there are statues and plaques as well.  Some of it should probably never have been taken down, monuments to people who led the labor movement under Emperor Franz Joseph should still be honored publicly, as well as those who died in the resistance against the Nazis.  There is a striking memorial to the victims of the Spanish Civil War that would be in a prominent place if it were in Madrid or Barcelona.  There are also some truly awful pieces. One of the most striking is of a Communist being shot in the back, “the heroes of the people’s power memorial” dedicated to the Communists who died in the 1956 Hungarian revolution.  To Hungary’s credit all this art remains, not in Hero’s Square, but in a museum designed to it.

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