Displayed in the Park are 41 pieces of art from the Communist era between 1945 and 1989. Besides the gigantic works depicting Lenin, Marx, Engels, Dimitrov, or Captain Ostapenko, stand here allegorical monuments of ‘Hungarian-Soviet Friendship’ and ‘Liberation’ other statues of personalities from the labor movement and soldiers of the Soviet Red Army.
The Statue Park is not about introducing the statues, the depicted persons, or events of the time. Its mission is to summon the historical period that produced these artworks matching the needs of the centralized party propaganda and commands of the political will.
The architectural design of Memento Park follows a deliberate concept. It meant to unmask dictatorships to be.
‘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!’
(Ákos Eleőd, conceptual architect of Memento Park)
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 tribune used to stand on ‘Felvonulási tér’ (Parade Square) in central Budapest, where parades took place on Communist holidays. Communist leaders would stand on the Grandstand at Stalin’s feet, waving at marching crowds that had no choice but to cheer them and celebrate.
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.
As of now, anyone can ascend to the balcony, wave at fellow-visitors, and marvel at the view.
‘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 architect of Memento Park)
Barrack Photo Exhibition
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.
Hidden in the Stalin Tribune’s mysterious environment stands the bust of ‘Lenin as a Child’. Back in the days it used to decorate the parade square of a Soviet Pioneer Camp in Hungary.
‘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 Ákos Eleőd, Witness Square, located in front of the Park’s main entrance, represents: Budapest, Széna Square in 1956, Prague, Wenceslas Square in 1968, Warsaw, Castle Square in 1981, Timișoara, Opera Square in 1989, Berlin, Potsdamer Square and Sophia, National Assembly Square.’
Back in the days of communism, the Ministry of Interior Affairs had its 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 the law and order the regime.
In 2004 director Gábor Zsigmond Papp 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 way to hide bugs
- Introduction to house-searching
- Methods of recruitment
- Effective networking
The film is shown in the Memento Park Barrack Cinema in Hungarian with English subtitles. A DVD version is available at the Red Star Store souvenir shop at Memento Park’s cash desk.
Visitors entering Memento Park first see an original Trabant awaiting people to get in and pose with this legendary East German people’s car. The Trabant was a unique product of the Eastern part of torn Germany (the German Democratic Republic or GDR). It must be hard to believe, but the tiny vehicle, its body made of pressed fiber and plastic units, used to be the dream of many families living in a socialist block-country. Once you see a Trabant in motion, you won’t forget the droning and clinking sound of the engine, the typical smell and blue-whitish color of its exhaust.
Red Star Store
It is a goldmine for vintage souvenirs, nostalgic bric-a-brac, and authentic relics. Original soviet badges and medals, revolutionary marches, soviet postcards, replicas of political propaganda posters, tin mugs, and a surely fake soviet passport, that’s all on sale at the Red Star Store operating at the cash desk.