The New York Times reports that jeering protesters with referee whistles disturbed the Hungarian government's commemorations of the 60th anniversary of the anti-Soviet revolution of 1956 on Sunday. A number of those attending the event reacted to the protestors by assaulting them verbally or physically. Well known historian Krisztián Ungváry was punched in the face for blowing a whistle, and members of the press were harassed by private security guards. This is how PM Orban's supporters celebrated the sacrifice of all those who fought against Soviet oppression in 1956.
Kossuth Square was heavily guarded by police and private security guards for the anniversary events, where small scuffles broke out and several journalists and a noted historian were among those hit or harassed.
Orban said the whistling protesters embodied the return of the Soviet-style communism that had been "taken away by the devil" thanks in part to the events in 1956.
"The course of history took a turn in Hungary," a visibly tense Orban said, as the whistling grew more intense. "Instead of the predicted global communist revolution, there was a revolution against the communist world."
The disruptive protest as Orban spoke was organized by Egyutt (Together), a small opposition party which distributed hundreds of whistles and symbolic red cards for supporters to sound and wave at the gathering.
While the jeering could be heard during the live broadcast of the speech on state television, the channel largely ignored the protesters and the scuffles in the crowd.
Opposition politicians say Orban's deal with Russia to build new reactors for Hungary's only nuclear power plant in the city of Paks went against the spirit of the anti-Soviet revolution.
"Viktor Orban's policies are exactly the kind Hungarians rebelled against in 1956," Peter Juhasz, a Together vice president, said. "Back then, Hungarians stood up to Soviet domination, while today Orban has committed Hungary to Russia for decades."
Orban's critics also accuse him of weakening Hungary's system of democratic checks and balances, limiting press freedoms and working to turn Hungary into an "illiberal state."
Orban, a fierce critic of European Union migration policies, said that while Europe was dominated by complacency and lethargy, Hungary had chosen to be brave and confront modern challenges. Last year, the government built razor-wire fences on Hungary's southern border to stop migrants coming north through the Balkans.
"We Hungarians have started on the more difficult road," Orban said. "We have chosen our own children instead of immigrants, work instead of speculation and aid, standing on our own feet instead of enslaving debts, and border defense instead of raised hands."
Orban also criticized the concept of a "United States of Europe," which would theoretically diminish the influence of individual countries. He likened EU bureaucrats in Brussels to the Soviet Union, a recurring theme in his speeches.
"The freedom-loving peoples of Europe have the task of preventing the Sovietization of Brussels," Orban said.
The brief but bloody 1956 uprising began on the afternoon of Oct. 23 with a student march in Budapest in solidarity with reforms in Poland. By the evening, secret police had killed demonstrators who rushed the headquarters of Hungarian radio to have their list of 16 demands — including the withdrawal of Soviet troops — read on the air.
After days of street battles, Soviet troops withdrew on Oct. 30. The Red Army, however, returned on Nov. 4 with over 100,000 troops and as many as 4,500 tanks, effectively ending the revolution.
Over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed and 200,000 Hungarian refugees fled the country, most toward Austria. Hundreds of revolutionaries, including Prime Minister Imre Nagy, were executed in the wake of the uprising and the establishment of a Soviet-backed government led by Janos Kadar.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 October 2016 16:56