Long live, long live Comrade Rákosi



“Long live, long live Comrade Rákosi”. Folk song from the anthology Hét évszázad legszebb magyar versei (The most beautiful Hungarian poems of seven centuries, 1951). A modern arrangement by DJ Wastrel – DJ Visor – DJ Seaby

Gyertek lányok öltözzetek fehérbe,
Szórjunk rózsát Rákosi elvtárs elébe,
Hadd járjon ő a rózsában bokáig,
Éljen, éljen a Rákosi elvtárs sokáig!
Come, girls, dress in white,
Sprinkle roses before Comrade Rákosi,
Let him go in roses to the ankle,
Long live, long live Comrade Rákosi!

Sixty years ago all Hungary celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of a major event in which at the time when it happened nobody saw anything extraordinary. Mátyás Rákosi (then Rosenfeld), the future “best Hungarian disciple of Stalin” was born in a small village of Bácska, then Southern Hungary.


Manó Róth – As Mátyás Rákosi, he was the most influential politician in Hungary between 1945 and 1956. This Communist leader mimicking Stalin was called to account in 1953, after the death of the Leader, by the new Soviet regime who asked him “how long more he wants to be a Jewish king”.  He was born as Mátyás Rosenfeld, son of a grain merchant in Ada; the widespread nickname Manó Róth was intended to emphasize his Jewish descent. In fact, at the time of Hungarian Stalinism the country was led by four Jews, while the fifth headed the secret police. Rákosi was an ugly, short, fat man, with an explicitly ugly Jakut wife, and he sucked the blood of the Hungarians as a mad mosquito. Thus his person embraced all the anti-Semitic stereotypes of the period: that of the blood-sucking usurer, of the drinker of the blood of Eszter Solymosi [a reference to a late 19th century blood libel] and of the Lenin boys who beat the grandfather to death during the first Hungarian Soviet republic of 1919. In addition he made lick the boots of the Soviet army who raped the women by the hundred thousands, and he also confiscated the land and cattle of the farmers. The zombie who returned from the gas chamber to take revenge on everybody. No Elders of Zion Protocols or Racist Party could have compiled a better bogeyman.”
(Márton Bede – Péter Magyari: Ablak-Zsidó (a satyrical Jewish encyclopedia), JudapestMatula

The more brighter were the celebrations of the sixtieth birthday, on which Gábor Murányi gave a detailed account in the 2011 winter edition of the historical journal Múlt-Kor. These were obviously modeled on Stalin’s two years earlier 70th birday celebrations. The birthday was preceded by a several months long Stahanovist work competition with 300-400 percents overdelivery commitments. A photo album Mátyás Rákosi’s life in pictures was published in red leather binding, in which the photo of the encounter between Rákosi and Stalin which never took place was created by laborious retoucher’s work. A brochure published in a hundred thousand copies “finalized” the fact that not Béla Kun – executed in the Soviet Union in 1938, and therefore unpresentable in a Socialist country –, but Rákosi himself was the leader of the first Hungarian Soviet republic of 1919. And an anthology entitled Hungarian writers on Mátyás Rákosi was published, in which no less names than Gyula Illyés, Gábor Devecseri, István Örkény, Tibor Déry, István Sőtér, Gyula Háy or Zoltán Zelk, some of the best authors of the period pledged faith to Stalin’s best Hungarian disciple.

Ő az országépítőkhöz így szólt:
„Az égbolt a felső határ!”
Kereken ragyog a tiszta égbolt
és Sztálinváros benne áll.
He said to the country’s builders:
“The sky is the ultimate limit!”
And the bright sky shines all around:
and Stalin’s City stands under it.

Gábor Devecseri

Farmer Antal Baumann and his wife offer to fulfill their first half-year plan of egg delivery until the birthday of Mátyás Rákosi (Illustration of Múlt-Kor)

The encounter between Mátyás Rákosi and Lenin, which never took place. Painting. “Rákosi felt that Lenin was looking into him and through him, like through the clear glass. And this was a very pleasant feeling. His heart beat faster.” (Béla Illés: Historical lesson, in: Hungarian authors on Mátyás Rákosi)

On the birthday eve, 8 March 1952 a grandiose gratulatory evening was held in the Opera House, on which many outstanding figures of the country’s intellectual life took place from Zoltán Kodály to Aladár Tóth, director of the Opera House, and from Pál Szabó, head of the Writers’ Union to István Rusznyák, president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Mátyás Rákosi’s invitation to his own birthday celebrations, which unexplicably bears the number 209 instead of 1


Report of Szabad Nép (“Free People”) on the celebrations

Opening program by the choir of the secret police in the Opera House


The final scene in the Opera house, 8 March 1952 (Illustration of Múlt-Kor)

But the highlight of the birthday was the inauguration of the Museum of Workers’ Movement, established in the building of the Supreme Court after the abolishment of this institution in 1949. And the first exhibition, opened on 9 March 1952 was none other than the tableaux depicting the life of Mátyás Rákosi, as well as the extremely various gifts sent to him by the grateful Hungarians on his sixtieth birtday.





On the sixtieth anniversary of that sixtieth birthday, three weeks ago, on 9 March opened in the same building – in the meantime converted into the Ethnographic Museum – and on the same galleries the same exhibition. That is, not quite the same. Only a part of the gifts is exposed, but this is just enough to evoke the depression of that age. Ten or twenty years ago, freshly liberated from Socialism, we would have rather laughed at their clumsiness, but nowadays we feel better the political climate which called them to life, and at their sight the laughter frosts on our faces. And instead of the tableaux now the photos of the former exhibition follow each other on one large screen, while another one projects again and again the comtemporary newsreels from which we have also taken the black and white photos published here. The exhibition has its own blog with a detailed description of each exhibited object: go and check it.




Petőfi in Banská Štiavnica





The once famous Lyceum on the Trinity Square in Selmecbánya, where the poet Sándor Petőfi studied in 1838-1839. Today Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia.



Catastrophe tourism


“The Elisabeth Bridge blown up”
A found postcard. We willingly give it to him/her who would really appreciate it

The Elisabeth Bridge in Budapest was blown up on 18 January 1945 by the retreating German troops. The press of György Klösz and his son (Budapest VII. Vilma királynő út 49, today Városligeti fasor), one of the most important publishers of Hungarian city views was nationalized in 1948. I wonder who sent any postcards and to whom between 1945 and 1948 on the ruins of the bridges in Budapest?


Robert Capa: The Elisabeth Bridge blown up, 1948

See here the photos of Budapest after the siege of 1944-45

Başqa şəhər


Budapeşti Arazla birlikdə gəzirik və onun gözləri ilə şəhəri mən də özüm üçün kəşf edirəm: Osmanlı hökmranlığı dövründən (1541-1686) qalmış, neçə müsəlman mehrabının – ibadət üçün divarda Məkkəyə istiqamətlənmiş oyuğun xristian kilsələrində günümüzə çatdığını və ya Gül Baba türbəsinin indi illər əvvəl olduğu kimi turistlər deyil, daha çox ibadət vaxtları inanan müsəlmanlar tərəfindən ziyarət olunduğunu, buna görə hətta bu abidəyə giriş biletlərinin ləğv olunduğunu öyrənirəm. Araz Macar İrsi Evinin nəşr etdiyi iki böyük Azərbaycan dastanı – Dədə QorqudKoroğlunun macar dilinə tərcüməsinə rast gəlib, sevinir. O, macar yazılarını diqqətlə oxuyaraq, çoxlu, həm aşkar, həm də sezilməyən şəkildə mövcud olan türk dilinə qohum söz və strukturları açmağa çalışır. Sonunculardan biri kimi, böyük təəccüblə kəşf etdik ki, macarca “féreg” həm qurd", həm də canavar" mənasını verdiyi kimi, azərbaycanca etimoloji olaraq onunla heç bir əlaqəsi olmayan qurd” (türkcə kurt”) sözü də eyni iki mənanı verir. Əlavə olaraq, bu söz “özünə yer etmək, içərisinə soxulmaq” mənasını verən girmək” sözündən gəldiyi kimi, “féreg” də göründüyünə görə macarca tamamilə eyni mənanı verən “fér” felindən gəlir. Uzundur çöllərin yolları.

Lakin əsl qarşılaşma bizi Macar Milli Muzeyinin zirzəmi mərtəbəsində gözləyirdi. Qarderobun yaxınlığında divara iki daş, Osmanlı dövrünün 17-ci əsrin ortalarına aid iki macar qalasından iki tikili kitabəsi yerləşdirilib. Onların yazısı güclə sezilir (buna görə sadəcə foto-şəkli günahlandırmayın), lakin nə oxuna bilərdisə yanlarındakı lövhəciyə yazılıb:

“Ya Allah! Ya Xaliq! Sekeşfehervor (Székesfehérvár) qalası. Əlahəzrət Şahbaz Paşanın dövrü. 1070-ci il (18 sentyabr 1659 – 8 avqust 1660)”

“Küll aləmin xəlifəsi Məhəmməd Sultan xanın – Allah onun ömrünü və hökmünü uzun etsin – hökmdarlığı dövründə Siyavuş vəzir paşa, Mustafa mir liva paşa və Cəfər Mustafa mir alay bəy tərəfindən 1059-cu ildə (15 yanvar – 6 dekabr 1649) inşa edilib” (Buda qalsının Siyavuş bürcündən)

Araz deyir ki, qurucuların adları İranın ilk azərbaycanlı sülaləsi olan Safavilərin taxta gəlməsinə kömək etmiş, sələfləri hazırda Azərbaycanda məskunlaşan, şiə türk cəngavərləri – Qızılbaşlar üçün səciyyəvidir. Sekeşfehervar paşasının adı 1890-cı ildə Şandor Keqlə əbədi dostluq əhdi vermiş azərbaycanlı Şahbaz bəyin adı ilə, Buda paşasının adı isə bu yaxınlarda vəfat etmiş Simin Daneşvarın 20-ci əsr İran tarixində ən görkəmli romanını barəsində yazdığı İran şiə türk dastan qəhrəmanının adı ilə eynidir.

Bu şəhərdə gizlənmiş neçə-neçə bilinməyən şəhərin arasında ən gizlilərindən biri Azərbaycanlı səyahətçiyə öz simasını göstərir.


Another city


We are walking about Budapest with Araz, and I am also discovering the city with his eyes, noticing how many Muslim mihrabs, prayer niches turned towards Mekka have survived in the Christian churches from the period of the Ottoman domination (1541-1686) or that the türbe of Gül Baba is nowadays visited not so much by tourists, like many years ago, but rather by Muslim believers during the prayer times, so that entrance tickets to the monument have even been abolished. Araz is pleased to discover the Hungarian translations of the two great Azerbaijani epics, Dede Gorgut and Köroğlu in the edition of the House of Traditions. He is attentively reading the Hungarian inscriptions, trying to unravel the words and structures akin to Turkic, which are many, both obvious and subtle ones. Among the latter ones we discover with great surprise that just as Hungarian féreg means both ʻworm’ and ʻwolf’, so Azerbaijani gurt (Turkish kurt), etymologically unrelated to it, also means both animals. In addition, this latter comes from girmek, ʻto fit, to work its way into’, just as féreg seems to come from Hungarian fér, a verb with exactly the same meaning. Long are the roads of the steppe.

But the real encounter is waiting for us in the basement of the Hungarian National Museum. Next to the cloakroom, two stones are attached to the wall, two Turkish building inscriptions from two Hungarian fortresses in the Ottoman period, mid-17th century. Their inscription is barely decipherable (so do not just blame the photo), but whatever could be read is standing on their label:

“Oh God! Oh Creator! The fortress of Székesfehérvár. In the times of His excellence Shahbaz Pasha. In the year of 1070 (18 September 1659 – 8 August 1660)”

“Built by Siyavush vezir pasha, Mustafa mir liva pasha and Jafer Mustafa mir alay bey during the reign of the caliph of the world, Muhammed sultan khan – may God keep his life and power –, in the year of 1059 (15 January – 6 December 1649)” (From the Siyavush bastion of the fortress of Buda)

The builders’ names, says Araz, are typical for the Qizilbash, those Shiite Turkic warriors whose descendants nowadays inhabit Azerbaijan and who helped to the throne the first Azerbaijani dynasty of Iran, the Safavids. The name of the pasha of Székesfehérvár is identical to that of the Azeri Shahbaz bey who pledged eternal friendship to Sándor Kégl in 1890, and of the pasha of Buda to that of the Iranian Shiite Turkic epic hero about whom the recently deceased Simin Daneshvar wrote the key novel of 20th-century Iranian history.

From the many unknown cities hiding in the city, one of the most hidden ones reveals itself to the Azerbaijani traveler.

Noruz / Novruz

this time last year in Azerbaijan. bu dəfə keçən il, Azərbaycanda.



Greeting the new year. Recording from the festive mugham evening, Baku, 2011 / Yeni il salamlaması. Bayram günləri keçirilən muğam axşamından səs yazısı, Bakı, 2011

A history of two statues

Whenever I go hiking in the Bucegi mountains, this statue is the first thing I see when I step out of the railway station of Buşteni. Its grotesque figure is impossible not no notice. It tells a story.


He is Corporal Constantin Mușat. Born in a peasant family, after the five classes of elementary school he worked as a tailor’s assistant in Bucharest, but the First World War radically subverted his peaceful life. When the Great War of Unification (that is, of the former Romania with Transylvania to be conquered from Hungary) broke out, Muşat served in the forces around Predeal.



Treceti batalioane române Carpaţii

The text of the famous Romanian march changed somewhat over time, but there is still no man with military experience in the country who does not know it. Young people nowadays sing it as an excursion song, usually without a political shade, as the text calls to the peaks of the Carpathians.

Treceti batalioane române Carpaţii
La arme cu frunze şi flori
V-aşteaptă izbânda, v-aşteaptă şi fraţii
Cu inima la trecători

Ardealul, Ardealul, Ardealul ne cheamă
Nădejdea e numai la noi
Sărută-ţi copile părinţii şi fraţii
şi-apoi să mergem la război

’Nainte! ’Nainte cu sabia-n mână,
(in some versions: spre Marea Unire)
Hotarul nedrept să-l zdrobim
Să trecem Carpaţii, ne trebuie Ardealul
De-o fi să ne-ngropăm de vii.


It could be roughly translated as:

Romanian battalions, cross the Carpathians,
with leaves and flowers around your weapons,
victory and your brothers are waiting for you,
you are expected to come there, over the mountains.

Transylvania, Transylvania is calling you
you are her only hope:
kiss your children, parents, and siblings
and then go to war.

Ahead, ahead, with sword in the hand
(or: for the Great Union)
crush this unjust border,
let us cross the Carpathians, for Transylvania I do not mind
if we have to bury each other today.


At the news of the unexpected “Wallachian break-in”, as it was called in Hungarian historiography (27 August 1916), the 82nd Infantry Regiment, composed of the Székelys, the Hungarian ethnic group living in the easternmost zone of Transylvania, was commanded from the Russian front back to defend their native land.


The text of the soldier’s song, originally composed for the Russian front, was thus somewhat modified:

We do not know the way to Romania.
Mr. Sergeant, lead us to there.
I will lead you, my sons, I also go with you,
only God knows who will come back with you.


And they made a display of their courage. The counterattack of the Central Powers by the end of October fully drove back the Romanian troops to their starting positions. Corporal Muşat defended the pass at Predeal until he could, then he was commanded to the Moldovan front, where he was badly wounded. In December 1916 they had to ampute his left arm. He could have left the service, but he officially asked to be let back to the front. The Székelys also suffered heavy losses in the battles.


Ellőtték a jobb karomat… (My right arm was shot off). First World War soldier’s song

Ellőtték a jobb karomat, folyik piros vérem
Nincsen nékem édesanyám, ki bekösse nékem
Gyere kisangyalom kösd be
Sebeimet, s gyógyítsd meg a bánatos szívemet.

My right arm was shot off, my red blood is flowing
I do not have my mother who could dress it for me.
Come, my beloved, dress it
dress my wounds and heal my sorrowful heart.


By 1917 the united Romanian and Russian troops lost the control over Wallachia, the southern part of the country, due to the series of the German-Turkish-Bolgarian victories (here fought also the young Erwin Rommel). The last battles in Romania were fought in Moldova, against the Romanian troops reorganized by taică Bertalau (“Daddy Bartholomew” – the French General Berthelot) among which the most important ones were those around the Pass of Oituz, Mărăşti and Mărăşeşti.

The places marked on the map, from top to bottom: Székelyudvarhely (Odorheiu Secuiesc), Pass of Oituz, Pass of Tömös. This latter is the border of Predeal, the selector of the rivers Tömös and Prahova. The 2508 meters high peak marked here is the Omu of the Bucegi range.
In the autumn of 1916 major battles were fought along several other passes of the Carpathians as well.

This is how in the summer of 1917 both the 82th Székely regiment and the troops of Corporal Muşat met on the two sides of the Oituz Pass. According to the story, Corporal Muşat was fearlessly throwing grenades with his intact arm on the fearless Székelys, until in the heavy machine gun fire he died a heroic death on 14 August.

László Mednyánszky (Hungary): Soldiers

Aurel Baeșu (Romania): The attack

In 1917 a statue was inaugurated in the Székely town of Székelyudvarhely (now Odorheiu Secuiesc, Romania) in memory of the victims of the 82th Infantry Regiment. It was carved of moss-capped oak wood, but covered with iron scales. Both because of this and of the valiant struggle of the Székelys, it was named the Iron Székely.


Archduke Joseph von Hapsburg was also present at the inauguration ceremony. Around the base of the statue the following verses were read:

Gyopárt a Hargitáról hozzatok,
a székely hősök halhatatlanok
Ojtuznál, Volhina síkjain, s ott lenn Doberdón,
ismeri az ellenség a puskatusom
A trón, s a haza védelmében vassá válik a székely,
s hősi, csodás tettét hirdeti a hon, s a világ
Magyar testvéreink, ne féljetek,
míg napkeletnél állanak a székelyek

Bring edelweiss from the peaks of the Hargita
the Székely heroes are immortal.
My gun’s butt is known by the enemy
at Oituz, in Volhinia and down there in Doberdò.
The Székely defending the throne and the homeland
is made of iron, his deeds are widely known.
Our Hungarian brothers, do not worry
as long as the Székelys keep guard at the east.


After the peace of Brest-Litovsk, Romania was left no choice but to quit the war, by signing the treaty of Bucharest (later called as “robber peace”) and thus breaking their promises to the Entente (just as the Entente was unable to keep their promises made to Romania). They came to war again only on the penultimate day of WWI.

No international agreement could defend the Iron Székely from the Romanian troops entering Transylvania in the autumn of 1918. Under the guise of the curfew in February 1919, unknown perpetrators sawed off his gun, reminding of the battles of Oituz. Later a coffin was placed on it, and the students who took it off were beaten by the Romanian soldiers. And finally on 9 February the statue was torn down from the base, symbolically executed with rifle shots, and then made cut in pieces with the locals. The Romanian officers’ dinner was cooked over its wood that evening (source).

After the war, several monuments were erected to the victims of the Great War of Unification. The valor and patriotism of Corporal Muşat became a symbol for the Romanians, so no less than three cities – Brăila, Bârlad and Buşteni – erected a statue in his honor.


This one here, at the Buşteni railway station, was inaugurated in 1928 with the support of the paper industrialist Otto Schiel. Even Queen Mary of Romania took part at the inauguration. It is called Ultima grenadă a caporalului Mușat, Corporal Muşat’s last grenade.


The cult of the Iron Székely was also kept alive for several people, including my grandfather who, as a naive wood carver, made a number of small copies of the destroyed statue until the end of his life. Several other folk artists did the same, producing by the dozens similar works of art in the 1980s:


The tale of the statues had a new turn on 15 March 2000, when a new statue of the Iron Székely, this time cast of bronze, was re-erected in the main square of Székelyudvarhely, less than a hundred meters from its original location.


Its base has only this couplet out of the original four:

“Bring edelweiss from the peaks of the Hargita
the Székely heroes are immortal.



This is the Iron Székely, resurrected from the dead, at the gate of the Hargita mountains.


I come back from hiking in the Bucegi, where Corporal Mușat is standing over the former Hungarian border. I pass in front of the Iron Székely on the main square of Székelyudvarhely, now Odorheiu Secuiesc. This is how the two statues make one complete story to me.