The Places of Memory in a Square of Monuments: Conceptions of Past, Freedom and History at Szabadság Tér


  • Erik Thorstensen The Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities, Norway



monuments, Budapest, irredentism, memory, public spaces


In this paper I try to approach contemporary Hungarian political culture through an analysis of the history of changing monuments at Szabadság Tér in Budapest. The paper has as its point of origin a protest/irredentist monument facing the present Soviet liberation monument. In order to understand this irredentist monument, I look into the meaning of the earlier irredentist monuments under Horthy and try to see what monuments were torn down under Communism and which ones remained. I further argue that changes in the other monuments also affect the meaning of the others. From this background I enter into a brief interpretation of changes in memory culture in relation to changes in political culture. The conclusions point toward the fact that Hungary is actively pursuing a cleansing of its past in public spaces, and that this process is reflected in an increased acceptance of political authoritarianism.

Author Biography

Erik Thorstensen, The Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities, Norway

Erik Thorstensen has been an educator at the Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities, Norway, since 2005. Previously he did research in ethics and lectured in history of religions at the University of Oslo. He was co-editor of Historicizing the Uses of the Past: Scandinavian Perspectives on History Culture, Historical Consciousness and Didactics of History Related to World War II, published in 2011. He has previously published in history of religions, ethics, cultural studies, and literature. In 2012 he will publish a monograph on naturalistic atheism and its relations to politics.






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