Hungarian government to launch public consultation on gulag memorial

Hungarian government to launch public consultation on gulag memorial
Th current obelisk at Szabadság Square (Image: vanherdehaage under a CC licence)

31 July 2015

The Hungarian government will launch a public consultation about the form and location of a monument to gulag victims.

After a session of the Gulag Memorial Committee, Minister of Human Capacities Zoltán Balog said that the government had been advised by civil groups to erect the monument in Szabadság Square in central Budapest. The proposed monument to the estimated 900,000 Hungarians deported to Soviet labour camps during and after the Second World War would replace a Soviet liberation obelisk that has been in place on the square for the last 70 years.

Mr Balog urged the necessity of such a monument as he warned that it would be wrong to view 1945 as the “closure of the war and the advent of a wonderful era of peace”. According to the Minister, the “unjust” war was “followed by retaliation in which truth was not the most important consideration”.

Balog also announced that the government would give a total of 1.4 billion forints ($5.02m) to civil groups for the upkeep of monuments, organisation of conferences, and publication of scientific studies and memories of survivors.

The vice chairman of the Society of International Gulag Researchers, Zoltán Bognár, shares Mr Balog’s conviction regarding the monument, but noted that it would also be timely to declare the 56 prison camps that operated across the country as memorial sites, as currently only four sites are marked with a plaque.

The Soviet occupation of Hungary followed the defeat of Hungary in the Second World War, after Hungary joined the Axis alliance in 1940. The occupation lasted for 45 years, ending in 1991.