Prime Minister Viktor Orbán - Photo: MTI

Orbán: ‘If Brussels whistles, we won’t dance if we don’t want to’

Addressing a commemoration of the 1956 uprising, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in Veszprem on Monday that Brussels was "not Moscow". Moscow, he said, "was a tragedy; Brussels is just a bad contemporary parody". "We had to dance to Moscow's tune," he said. But if "Brussels whistles", he added, "we dance as we like, and won't if we don't want to."

Orbán said “comrade training” was now a “conditionality procedure”. “Tanks aren’t rolling in from the east; dollars are rolling in from the west … to the same people,” he added.

Moscow, he said, had been “beyond repair”. “But Brussels and the European Union can still be mended,” he said, referring to the upcoming European elections.

The prime minister said the “sacrifice” of the 1956 revolutionaries was only worth it if “we also protect, live and pass on Hungarian freedom”.

“They didn’t die in vain if we don’t live in vain,” he said.

Orbán suggested that Hungary could “give something to the world that only we can give”. Veszprem, as the cultural capital of Europe, “is doing exactly that: showing the whole of Europe what Hungarian culture and freedom is like.”

Meanwhile, Orbán said Hungary was the “first and only” country trying to “hold back the European peoples from willingly marching into an even greater war”.

Referring to the “chivalrous Hungarian people”, Orbán said that “again and again those whom we saved turn against us” when “we are defending them”.

He said Hungary had defended Europe against migration “and we were the first to propose peace instead of war, which might well have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Hungary, he said, had never got appreciation, “but often gets a slap” and “friendly fire”. “This is the Hungarian destiny, a pattern that repeats itself from time to time,” he added.

The prime minister said: “We must defend freedom or else we’ll lose it”. Orbán said this had been true in 1956 and in 1990, “and it’s true today”, adding that King St. Stephen and the revolutionaries of 1956 “knew that very well”.

Orbán said that it would be wrong to assume the revolution had taken place in the capital alone.

“Every town and village … is part of our great common freedom fight … and it is not only unfair and condescending but also wrong” to regard the revolution as an event that happened solely in Budapest, he said, adding that it was right to “bow our heads” in memory of the 1956 freedom fighters in Veszprem.

The prime minister said that around 3,000 people died and 20,000 were wounded in gunfights, while the communist retaliation saw more than 200 people sent to their deaths and 13,000 imprisoned. Fully 200,000 Hungarians fled the country, he added.

The people who suffered and were executed in prison were from all walks of life, he said. “They executed a priest, a worker, a farmer, a teacher and a Communist Party leader, the old, the young, men and women, people from Budapest and the countryside,” proving that the uprising was truly a common freedom fight of the nation, he said. “An entire nation stood in bloodshed.”

Orbán called the 1956 revolution and freedom fight a “spark of Hungarian genius”.

Orbán said 1956 had been the last chance for a European Hungary “to tear itself away from the world of Bolshevik socialism” which had banished “European culture, Christian civilisation and the right of nations to exist”.

“The Hungarian revolution and freedom fight wasn’t an inarticulate howl or a fit of rage of the oppressed, it wasn’t a gasp of those panting for revenge; neither was it an unbridled outburst of desire for freedom.”

Rather, he said, it was it was “a sober, moderate and responsible movement”, notwithstanding “the breathtaking heroism” and bravery of the revolutionaries.

He paid tribute to a local teacher, Arpad Brusznyai, who had ties to Veszprem, who at the age of 33 was executed after the revolution, saying he had protected youth against “the dictatorship’s marauders” and was the pure embodiment of Hungarian genius.

Orbán noted that he had never heard the names of Gergely Pongratz, Illona Toth or Arpad Brusznyai during his secondary school years, but he had heard the names of those who ordered their executions. “Old sins cast long shadows, and if the sin is committed against an entire nation, it casts such a long shadow beyond seven generations,” he said.

“Today we know who Brusznyai and his fellow revolutionaries were, but we refuse to even utter the names of the killers,” the prime minister said. “We hold them in contempt and forget them, while bow our heads to and remember Brusznyai and the others.”

Orbán also said the Hungarian nation was strong enough to confront its faults. “We know that the traitors are also part of our nation, they’re also part of our history, just as ‘ill fate’ is part of the national anthem.”

October 23 was followed by November 4 when the county first party secretary appealed Brusznyai’s first-instance life sentence “from right here in Veszprem”, seeking harsher punishment. “We won’t forget that, either.”

The 1956 uprising was “finally won in 1990”, Orbán said, adding that those “who fought the political battles against the Soviet Union and the Communist Party leadership” in 1989 could not have won without the legacy of 1956.

“We fought in the name of freedom, and it was those executed in the freedom fight who hands us the strongest weapon, because those we opposed in 1989 had been put into power by their sins committed against Hungarians in 1956, making their power unstable,” he said.

During the change of regime, the only way the communists could enter the era of democracy with the hope of any political future was to first confess their biggest sin and then lose their power, Orbán said.

The communists had to publicly bury the remains of the victims who had been kept secret up until that point, and once they did “their souls were set free and hovered above the heads of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party’s (MSZMP) leaders,” he added.

“As stated in Hungary’s Fundamental Law, these were criminal organisations, and there is no statute of limitations on the responsibility their leaders bear for the crushing of the 1956 revolution,” the prime minister said.

Orbán, referring to the Socialist Party, said MSZMP’s successor was now “microscopic in size”, and “the last left-wing party planned as the last escape route of the communists will end up exactly where it should according to the spirit of 1956”.

The prime minister said “we only had to finish” in 1989 what had begun in 1956. Thirty years “of forced silence” was “not the same as forgiveness”, he said, adding that “the accounts of history will be settled and must be paid sooner or later”.

“The only courage we needed was to point them out and shout that the emperor has no clothes and can’t evade the judgement of the people,” which had been cast in the free and democratic elections that could be contested by anyone, “even the communists”, he said.

Orbán said that in 1989-1990 the communists were ousted from Hungary without a civil war and without the loss of a single life. “Even though there was pain and bitterness, we avoided economic and political collapse,” he added.

He said Hungary, in 33 years, was the only country in Europe where there had been no need to hold an early election, “and to this day we’re the safest and most stable country in the whole of Europe.”

Orbán said Hungary “rejoined the community of European peoples” on the back of the eventual victory of 1956, which, he added, had been a matter of “historical satisfaction”.

The prime minister said the place “to which we have returned, Europe,” was “no longer the place from which we were excluded and less and less so”.

“We wanted freedom and we are free,” he said. “Europe was also united in the name of freedom, but we have must face the fact that we mean different things by freedom and imagine the free world in different ways.”

Orbán said that from Hungary, it appeared that Westerners thought of freedom “as some sort of escape”.

“Rid yourself of yourself, of what you were born as, but the very least, change it,” he said, describing the Western view. “Grow out of your past … change your sex, your nationality, or at least leave it behind you. Change your identity and all your components and put yourself back together according to the latest fashion and then you will be free.”

“We, here in Hungary, desired the exact opposite of that: we desired to be who we are,” the prime minister said. “The thought that I shouldn’t be a man, a Hungarian or a Christian is as if our hearts would be torn out,” Orbán said, stressing that freedom to Hungarians was not “running from ourselves … but rather finding our way home”. “Be who you are!” he added.

“Embrace the fact that you were born Hungarian, Christian, a woman or a man, that you are the child of your father and mother, the spouse of your husband or wife, the parent of your daughter or son; embrace that you are a friend and a son of your country and a patriot,” Orbán said.

“We weren’t aren’t willing to give this up in 1956, 1990 or 2023 for either Moscow’s or Brussels’s sake,” the prime minister said, adding that freedom was a life instinct for Hungarians.

That is what makes Hungarians a nation of freedom fighters and the strategy of the Hungarian nation to “stand at graves of every occupying empire”, he said.

Orbán said Hungarians had not lost sight of the most important law of survival, which he said was “knowing that the past isn’t behind us … but is what we’re standing on”.

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