Bush marks 50th anniversary of Hungary's revolt against Soviet rule

June 23, 2006|By JAMES GERSTENZANG | JAMES GERSTENZANG,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BUDAPEST, Hungary -- President Bush marked the 50th anniversary of Hungary's failed attempt to overthrow Communist rule yesterday, saying its transition to democracy more than three decades later offered the world a valuable lesson: "Liberty can be delayed, but it cannot be denied."

Speaking atop a historic promontory, Bush used the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 as a metaphor for what has become a central theme of his presidency. Just as partisans faced Soviet tanks in the streets half a century ago in a bid to win freedom from an oppressive ruler, so the war in Iraq is the leading edge of his campaign to instill democracy across the Middle East and beyond.

"As people across the world step forward to claim their own freedom, they will take inspiration from your example, and draw hope from your success," the president said to an audience of perhaps 300 people atop Budapest's Gellert Hill.

When the remains of the prime minister who briefly ruled Hungary during the revolt were reburied here in June 1989, hundreds of thousands of Hungarians took to the streets. The outpouring for Imre Nagy, who was executed in 1958, set in motion the eventual departure of Soviet troops and the end of domination by Moscow. Hungary became the first of the Warsaw bloc nations to smoothly establish a parliamentary democracy.

Yesterday, the failed 1956 uprising and its historical context became a foundation for the day, from Bush's remarks when he was greeted by Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom, to the speech just before he headed home after a three-day European trip.

With Solyom at his side in the early 19th-century Sandor Palace, Bush said he was in Hungary to honor a revolution "that celebrated the notion that all men and women should be free."

The visit, Solyom said, underlined the importance of 1956 in world history, and the values of "freedom, liberty, democracy, human rights and national self-determination" for which the partisans fought.

But Solyom also linked the revolution's values to the campaign against terrorism, saying that fight could succeed "only if every step and measure taken are in line with international law."

Gellert Hill, about 1,400 feet high, overlooks the two districts of the city to the north - Buda on one side of the Danube River and Pest on the other. Atop the hill is a monument first dedicated to the Soviet soldiers who died besieging Budapest in 1944 and 1945 and then remodeled after the fall of communism to memorialize those who died "for the independence, freedom and success of Hungary."

James Gerstenzang writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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