Displayed in the Park are 42 pieces of art from the Communist era between 1945 and 1989, including allegorical monuments of “Hungarian-Soviet Friendship” and “Liberation”, as well as statues of famous personalities from the labour movement, soldiers of the Red Army and other gigantic pieces: Lenin, Marx, Engels, Dimitrov, Captain Ostapenko, Béla Kun and other “heroes” of the communist world. A favourite with visitors is the Liberation Army Soldier. A hammer-and-sickle flag in its hand and a cartridge-disc machine pistol hanging in its neck make the statue complete. This 6-meter tall statue of the evil-eyed Soviet soldier once stood on the top of Gellért Hill in central Budapest, well-seen from every direction.
When facing it, the main entrance bears the image of a monumental classicist building. Looking behind it, though, it resembles a 12-meter high, under-propped communistic scenery ? a perfect introduction into the nature of dictatorship.
The words of architect Ákos Eleőd, the conceptual designer of Memento Park serve as its motto: “This Park is about dictatorship. And at the same time, because it can be talked about, described and built up, this Park is about democracy. After all, only democracy can provide an opportunity to think freely about dictatorship. Or about democracy, come to that! Or about anything!”
The exhibition is in perfect accordance with the design concept of Memento Park. The gigantic artwork of Statue Park are to be symbolic reminders of the past era. The exhibition – with the monumental and shocking Boots of Stalin, symbol of the regime and its collapse at its focal point – gives an account of two turning points in 20th century Hungarian history. The events surrounding the 1956 revolution and the collapse of the system in 1989-90 – both conveying a deep longing for freedom – are represented in the display. Memento Park celebrations in honor of the 50th anniversary of the 1956 revolution are also part of the exhibition.
The main idea behind the Barrack-Exhibition of Memento Park is the emphasis on the common Eastern-European fate experienced in the second half of the 20th century. In the design concept of architect Akos Eleod, Witness Square, located in front of the Park”s main entrance, represents “Budapest, Szena Square in 1956, Prague, Wenceslas Square in 1968, Warsaw, Castle Square in 1981, Timisoara, Opera Square in 1989, Berlin, Potsdamer Square and Sophia, National Assembly Square.”
The Grandstand is a 1:1 replica of the tribune serving as the pedestal for the 8-meter-tall bronze statue of Soviet party secretary, head of state and general, Stalin. The crowd revolting against communist oppression sawed the statue at its knees and pulled it down on the 23rd of October, 1956. The General’s boots, however, remained on the pedestal to be a sarcastic reminder of the dictator.
The Grandstand was once located on “Felvonulási tér” in central Budapest, where parades were held on Communist holidays. Communist leaders would stand on the Grandstand at Stalin’s feet, waving at marching crowds that were forced to cheer them and celebrate.
“In 1956, the drama of events were unfolding quickly: the morning of October 23 was quiet but by the evening the revolution’s fire “was blazing with flames”. There must have been a point, a moment in time when the revolution was born. The Stalin Grandstand and The Boots on the two sides of Witness Square serve to commemorate that moment: …Stalin’s Grandstand being an architectural memento and an eternally significant shrine of the megalomania that characterized dictatorship, and The Boots – being more than a torso, a monument in itself – the world-renowned symbol of people’s longing for freedom.” (Ákos Eleőd, conceptual designer of Memento Park)
Visitors at the Memento Park are welcome to get in and look around in this famous “people’s car”, one of the most popular picture-taking spots at the park. The car Trabant, its body made of pressed plastic units, was a unique product of the Eastern part of torn Germany (German Democratic Republic or GDR).
Secret Police Training Methods in Communist Hungary
Memento Park Barrack Theatre Program
Back in the days of communism, the Ministry of Interior Affairs had its own film studio where several hundred short and full-length films were produced between the years 1958 and 1988. These films provided training and instruction to secret police agents on how to defend law and order in the regime.
In 2004 director Gábor Zsigmond Pap created a montage by editing these films. By looking behind the secret scenes, viewers learn about the methods these ? often forced or bribed ? agents and spies used, as well as about the work of their commanding officers and state security experts.
This montage, using the most exciting excerpts taken from period films, is a unique presentation of the operations and mindset of this ruthless organization run by the Kádár-regime.
The film is divided into four, 10-15-minute long parts:
The film is shown in the Memento Park Barrack Theatre in Hungarian, with English subtitles. A DVD version is available in the Memento Park shop.