Communist past still to divide the nation has been highlighted again over the
past fortnight. On 21 June, the news broke that Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány
wants to bestow the nation’s highest state honour on one of his predecessors,
Gyula Horn. The award of the Order of Merit of the
was to mark the 75th birthday (on 5 July) of the man who will be remembered for
his role in rupturing the Iron Curtain in 1989, when he was Foreign Minister in
the last Communist government.
decision of the
government to award a knighthood to writer Salman Rushdie, Gyurcsány’s idea
immediately met with fierce resistance on ideological grounds. Hungarian
President László Sólyom described the notion of decorating horn as
“questionable” due to Horn’s activities in 1956. Sólyom therefore asked the
to decide on the question; its ruling is expected this week.
maintains that Sólyom has no right to refuse to bestow an official state award
and said that Horn should be remembered for what he became, not for his
Communist party past (as was the case with Imre Nagy).
coalition partner the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) is against the award.
“I would consider it a very bad practice if the party currently in power were
to start giving awards to its own active politicians,” he said.
Mária Wittner – who was imprisoned for her role in the 1956 Uprising – told the
newspaper Magyar Nemzet that she would hand back the state award she received
in 1991 if Horn is awarded the Order of Merit. She said that Gyurcsány’s
proposal should be rejected “in the name of all those, living and dead” who
fought for freedom in 1956.
leader of the unashamedly unreconstructed and unsurprisingly unmandated
Marxist-Leninist Hungarian Communist Workers Party slammed Gyurcsány’s
proposal. “If I was prime minister,” said Gyula Thürmer, “I would not give the
award to Gyula Horn, but not because he was an enforcer in 1956. The man who
took us into NATO, who sold out the Hungarian electricity system to foreign
capital – that man should not receive the nation’s Order of Merit.”