Prime minister Viktor Orbán – Photo: PMO

Orbán: ‘We are able to protect Hungary’s interests’

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said "we're able to protect Hungary's interests both at home and abroad", in his address marking the 66th anniversary of Hungary's 1956 anti-Soviet revolution, in Zalaegerszeg, in western Hungary, on Sunday.

Addressing the inauguration of a new visitors’ centre presenting the life of the late Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, Orbán said: “In the opinion of the left, which looks down on us people living in the countryside, it is not right to celebrate in Zalaegerszeg … They don’t understand that Budapest isn’t identical to the country.”

The people of Zalaegerszeg suffered much under communist rule but endured as long as they could, he said. They were “among the first who, in October in 1956, did not wait a minute to take to the streets as they were the last to lay down their arms in December,” he added.

Then, when the time came, the people of Zalaegerszeg “seized the very first opportunity to take revenge”, being among the few “to send an opposition lawmaker to the communist parliament before the regime change in September 1989,” the prime minister said.

Orbán praised Hungary’s leading religious personalities, saying that they represented “a point of reference not only in matters of faith”. “The great Hungarian Catholic leaders did not only lead in preaching the Gospel but also served Mary’s country, Hungary, with their guidance and deeds throughout their lives and in their deaths.”

“The greatest Hungarian church leaders always led the Hungarian people as prophets and carried out the task of leading the country spiritually alongside the political leaders, or, if needed — and it was often needed — instead of the political leaders,” Orbán said, adding that Jozsef Mindszenty was such a religious leader.

“Mindszenty, while serving God, always fulfilled his duties to his country,” Orbán said, adding that the Cardinal “showed us the way to go, and we Hungarians will never forget his service”. The prime minister said that the Hungarians had known that they needed spiritual support amidst the revolution, that is why “they freed Mindszenty from the prison of the communists”.

“We want to be worthy of the cardinal’s community-building legacy, and the courage of the 1956 heroes; we want to make use of the opportunity that today we do not have to die for our country but we can live for it,” Orbán said, adding that the new centre dubbed Mindszentyneum was inaugurated in that spirit.

The prime minister said that Cardinal Mindszenty had been the first to use the words “freedom fight” to describe the events of 1956, rather than calling it an uprising. “Mindszenty was convinced that we are not the enemies of anyone; we all want to live in friendship with all peoples and countries,” Orbán said.

“Our real tragedy”, he added, was that the communists returned with the help of the Soviets, and instead of achieving peace, they continued where they had left it off on October 23. “Proletarian dictatorship, party state, political prisons and executions,” he said.

“Glory to the victims, respect to the resistance!”, Orbán said.

The prime minister said that although the heroes of the revolution had been of very different backgrounds, their inspiration had been the same: a love for a free Hungary. “They took every risk because they believed that they could succeed; and their hope was not unfounded, because in 1956 Hungary stood a real chance of gaining independence,” Orbán said, adding that in 1956, all reasonable conditions were in place for Hungary to make a peaceful transition.

Orbán said: “We had good reason to believe that an empire cannot be built on long-term oppression maintained at the cost of bloodshed; this is what Gorbachev realised in 1990.”
“In the first days the plan worked: hundreds of thousands of Hungarians participated in the revolution, the Russians became confused, and, had the West not betrayed them, Hungarians could have been successful for the second time after 1945,” Orbán said.

“In the absence of Western support, the Soviet leaders changed their minds halfway, turned back the tanks, and set up military oppression and a communist puppet government in Hungary for another 35 years,” Orbán said.

“Our cause became hopeless and a country, paralysed, was waiting for its fate,” Orbán said.

“Of the members of the government, only Istvan Bibo, the minister of state, stayed in the Parliament building, writing in his proclamation to the Hungarians and the world: ‘It would be irresponsible to shed the precious blood of Hungarian youth. The people of Hungary have paid in enough blood to show the world its adherence to freedom and justice’,” Orbán said.

“Hungarian blood must be appreciated … as we alone appreciate it,” he said, adding that it was not appreciated by the communists, who staged a bloodbath during the revolution and bloody reprisals afterwards. The blood of Hungarians was not appreciated by the West either, which first encouraged the Hungarians, but failed to offer help when needed, he said.

“They put us on the cover of the Time Magazine, then left us under the Soviet yoke for forty years,” Orbán said.

The prime minister said the lesson was clear: “the truth of the Hungarians can only be shown to the world by Hungarians, and only Hungarians can defend their own truth against threats,” he said.

“If the country is destroyed, we will have fought for freedom in vain. If only ruins remain, we will have gained nothing. If millions of people have to leave the country, the next generation will have no home. We have nowhere to run because we cannot find Hungary anywhere else,” Orbán said, adding that “this land is what we must keep and protect; this is where we have to prosper”.

Orbán said Hungarians remained tough and determined, and they finally won in 1990, regaining their free and independent country.

“From this, the whole world can understand that anyone who wants to oppress us is doomed to failure,” Orbán said, adding that “we were here when the first conquering empire attacked us, and we will be here when the last one collapses.”

“We have to simultaneously fight the invasion of migrants in the south, the war in the East and the economic crisis in the West,” the prime minister said. “We’re able to protect Hungary’s interests, both at home and abroad.”

“In 1956, we learnt that joining our forces was the only way to come through hard times,” he said. “So we should not worry about those who are sniping at Hungary from the shadows or from the heights of Brussels; they will end up in the same place as their predecessors,” the prime minister said.

Orbán insisted that ever since Hungary had had a conservative government, the country had emerged from every crisis stronger than it was before entering it.

“We’re prepared now, too: we will preserve the stability of the country; everyone will have a job, and families will not be left on their own,” Orbán said, adding that the government had the strength and the experience to achieve those goals.

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