Fifty years ago Hungarians ripped the Communist hammer and sickle from their nation’s flag as they rose against Soviet rule. Today in Budapest those flags fly again in ceremonies to honour the fallen of those 10 days of heady freedom that briefly blew through the iron curtain.
But most of them are being flown by the opposition, which has now been protesting for weeks against the Socialist-led government, angry at the prime minister’s admission the party systematically lied during their successful re-election campaign.
Instead of a potent symbol of Hungary’s desire to be independent the flags are mocking the Socialist’s management of what should have been a day of national pride and unity. Instead many think the Socialists, inheritors of the defunct Communists, should not be at the commemoration at all.
Leaders from all over Europe have come to Hungary to share in the day’s events, but the capital is under tight security as the opposition holds a counter-commemoration, and demonstrations. One group even hijacked a vintage tank, an exhibit in highlighting the Russian army’s role in putting down the uprising, and used it against the police.
The special session of parliament to commemorate the 50th anniversary was boycotted by the opposition. However EU commission head José Manuel Barroso praised what he called the “heros” of 1956, saying they had laid some of the foundations for the modern European Union.