Like many denizens of former Soviet satellites, the citizens of Hungary were anxious to bring down the figurative symbols of communist rule as well as their military and political apparatus after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Unlike other recently liberated populaces, however, Hungarians stole their former overlords’ symbolic thunder by removing, relocating, and re-appropriating the many statues, sculptures and public art installations depicting Soviet leaders, mythology, and propagandistic slogans that once littered the fair city of Budapest.
Often referred to as the “Disneyland of Communism,” the extensive collection of artifacts from the communist era on display within the confines of the Memento Park complex turns these once imposing icons of oppression on their respective heads. No longer testaments to Soviet superiority, the collected works are part history lesson, part celebration of independence and part tongue-in-cheek mockery of the sheer absurdity of the scale and scope of Soviet propaganda.
The park complex is effectively divided into two parts: One Sentence of Tyranny Park (or Statue Park), which houses most of the aforementioned artifacts, and Witness Square, which is effectively an ornamental facade. Stalin, Lenin, Marx and Engels all make appearances within, as well as idealized representations of so-called worker heroes and celebrations of “Hungarian-Soviet friendship” and “liberation.” There is also a replica of a massive pair of boots that were all that remained after a massive statue of Stalin that once loomed over the city was torn down during the 1956 uprising.
Memento Park is open daily from 10 a.m. to dusk. Admission is less than ten dollars, with discounts for students.