Destruction of the Stalin Statue, Budapest, 1956

National Széchényi Library

Already at the evening of 23 October 1956 a significant crowd gathered at the Stalin Statue in Budapest. They started to pull down the statue. Its destruction became a symbolic event of the revolution.

The Stalin Statue in Budapest
The ultimate symbol of Stalinist dictatorship in Hungary was this enormous bronze statue. Its destruction was one of the most spectacular events of the 1956 Revolution.

The statue was designed by Sándor Mikus for Stalin's 70th birthday in 1949. The original sculpture was sent to Stalin to Moscow and by December 1951 its huge replica was inaugurated.

The statue by Mikus intended to represent Stalin as a sociable, friendly human being whom one can easily approach. This was to be expressed by the gesture of the hand and the manner the figure makes a step towards the viewer.

With its 8 metres hight, and standing on a plinth that was in itself 15 metres high, the statue dominated the Stalin Square. The square that one could reach via the Stalin Avenue was an ideal site for grand state spectacles.

The Stalin Statue of 18 metres dominated the wide tribune from where prominent politicians followed military marches and mass spectacles.

Here, Mátyás Rákosi, First Secretary of the Hungarian Workers' Party and his VIP guests are enjoying a May Day parade in front of the hall of fame of the Communist movement represented by their large portraits.

Destruction of the Statue
On 23 October 1956, a number of protesters set themselves the task to pull down the statue. It was extremely difficult. They started to work on it in the late afternoon and it was already dark when they finished.

On 23 October 1956, when the statue was pulled down in the evening, people found particular pleasure in climbing up to the tribune where no ordinary man had been allowed to enter until that point. People explored the waiting rooms of high party officials in the inside of the concrete block.

At start, people wanted to pull down the statue with tractors and steel cables. It did not move. When workers arrived to the square from the factories they brought flame-cutting machines along, and cut the statue at the boots. The torso became an emblematic image of the revolution. A real size copy of it was erected in front of Memento Park memorial site in the outskirts of Budapest.

When the statue came down, it was towed to Blaha Lujza Square where people started to cut it into pieces.

Hugarian refugees remember the destruction of the Stalin statue and the events of the following days (in Hungarian)

It remained a public spectacle during the entire time of the revolution. It became a meeting site where one could discuss current issues with fellow citizens, and get informed about the latest news in town.

It was destroyed by all means from hammers to pieces of stones, and were decorated with a good number of slogans.

Today, a monument commemorating the 1956 revolution stand at the place where the Stalin statue was once overlooking the square.

National Széchényi Library
Credits: Story

This exhibition and videos were created by the working group of the "Hungary 1956" digital humanities project at National Széchényi Library in collaboration with Google.

The Project (to be launched on 23 October 2016) is about creating a georeferenced online living archive of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution with a particular emphasis on its visual heritage (films and photos) by making advantage of GoogleMaps.

Creators would like to thank the MANDA Archive (http://mandarchiv.hu/), Fortepan (www.fortepan.hu), and the 1956 Institute (now integrated into the National Széchényi Library, see www.rev.hu) for supporting the Project. Their materials are used in these exhibitions and videos.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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