The national flag was hoisted and lowered to half-mast on Monday in a military salute to commemorate the leaders of Hungary’s revolution and freedom fight who were executed by Austria in 1849. 6 October was declared a national day of mourning in 2001.
State commemorations on the square before Parliament were attended by President János Áder, Defence Minister Csaba Hende, Interior Minister Sándor Pintér, Chief of Staff Tibor Benkő and members of the diplomatic corps. The names of the 13 Martyrs of Arad were read out loud in tribute. The dignitaries then moved on to pay their respects by the memorial for Lajos Batthyány, the prime minister of Hungary’s first independent government, nearby.
Later in the day, Áder told a commemoration ceremony that the martyrs had passed on to us “a legacy of freedom, faithfulness and courage”. Their sacrifice, together with ideals of freedom, independence and development “have been fired into the memory of our political nation”, the president added. Those values could not be questioned because Hungarians “will always find a way to achieve their freedom. … That love of freedom is one of the most beautiful and most valuable components of our being Hungarian”.
József Tóbiás, leader of the opposition Socialists, said Hungary must progress on the path of freedom in order to be independent and successful. “When we remember the martyrs, we must remember how fragile and precious freedom can be,” he said. “We must not waste it and must not give it up for anyone. … If we surrender any of the rights that constitute freedom, the rest will be taken away from us by despotism.”
Ferenc Gyurcsány, leader of the opposition DK, said 6 October is a memorial day for self-sacrifice and the progress that this sacrifice enables. The sacrifice of the generals in Arad and their supporters was an inspiration for modesty and work today, and it was the democrats’ task to work on fulfilling the dreams of the 48-ers.
Lajos Bokros, leader of the Modern Hungary Movement and the left-of-centre opposition’s candidate for mayor of Budapest, said 6 October is a time to remember all who fought against suppression and for the freedom of the Hungarian people over the centuries. After placing wreaths on the Batthyány memorial, he said he and his supporters are fighting as democrats against “a despotic dictatorship”.