Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the official ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Revolution
23 October 2016, Budapest

In their national anthem, the Polish sing: “Poland has not yet perished, As long as we still live”. The Hungarians reply thus in their “Nemzeti Dal” (“National Song”): “By the God of Hungary We swear, We swear that we the yoke of slavery No more shall bear!” The slogan on the flag of the Polish legion is “For our freedom and yours”. This was true in 1848, it was true in 1956 and it is also true today. This is a thousand-year-old friendship between two freedom-loving, courageous nations. I hereby welcome President of Poland Andrzej Duda to Budapest, here in the main square of the nation. We salute him and all the people of Poland. God save Poland! At our ceremony I welcome with gratitude the revolutionaries of 1956. We wish long life to you all! I welcome with respect the friends of Hungary, who have arrived from twenty-six countries. They have stood by us and stood up for us, even in the most difficult times; and today they are here celebrating with us. Welcome!

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Ladies and Gentlemen, Hungarians around the world,

From here we send our greetings and heartfelt good wishes to all Hungarians – wherever in the world they may live. Hungary is their homeland, and Budapest is their capital also – just as the shining memory of October 1956 belongs to us all. For us, 23 October is the day of pride. Even after sixty years, it uplifts and purifies. It is a shared heritage, which was bequeathed to us by students, the workers of Újpest and Csepel, the citizens of Pest and Buda, locksmiths, apprentices, engineers, doctors, miners, soldiers and our executed prime minister. We owe them our eternal thanks.

Hungarians joining us in commemoration,

After 1956, the communist dictatorship continued in Hungary for another thirty-four years. People must live. Even in a dictatorship, this is the foremost imperative. We live as best we can, with our sky and horizons hidden from view, with bitter compromises, hypocrisy, furtiveness, sly circumspection, closed hearts and distrust. In a dictatorship, bleak everyday life slowly wears down human dignity, and after the fall of such regimes all that usually remains is emptiness, waning vitality and mediocrity. But here in Hungary we can thank our heroes of 1956 for giving us something to be proud of – even during the darkest days of Hungarian history, and even under Soviet dictatorship. We are grateful that the memory of forty-five years of oppressive darkness is not the only one that we and every Hungarian born after us will look back on. As provisions for our journey of life we have been given not human weakness or discord, but courage, heroism and the glory of greatness. We can be proud of our ancestors and we can be proud of our homeland. We Hungarians survived both communism and the Soviet occupation. Today, at the height of our strength, we can stand here with our heads held high as the self-assured sons and daughters of a strong Hungary. We toppled the communist party state, we sent the Russians home and cured our homeland of the after-effects of dictatorship. A world opening up before us, straight backs, clarity of message, clear consciences and open hearts: we give thanks that we have been able to build our future on this.

Hungarians joining us in commemoration,

In Budapest in October 1956 the course of history was reversed. Instead of the prophesised global communist revolution, a revolution broke out against the communist world. We sent a message to the West that the Soviet Union is vulnerable, and that in this world the only permanent stars are those atop church spires. Communism, which until then was thought to be immovable, received a wound from which it was unable to recover. After 1956 it fossilised alongside its ageing leaders, and finally together with them it entered in to a deal with the devil. Yet sometimes it still comes back to jeer and whistle at us! Nobody knows the origins of the Hungarians’ strength and ability to attack from nowhere, and once every hundred years to be capable of miracles – like a David with his sling. Perhaps we possess the same ancient knowledge as that of the Greeks two and a half thousand years ago, who believed that the secret to a happy life is freedom, and the secret of freedom is courage. We Hungarians have a natural capacity for freedom. We have always known how to use it. We know that freedom is not a state that one achieves, but a way of life, like swimming: those who stop doing it drown. Freedom is always, everywhere, a simple question: Do we decide about our own lives, or does somebody else decide for us?

All of you gathered here in commemoration,

The Hungarians never relinquish their freedom, they never accept its loss and are capable of conjuring it up – even in the most hopeless of situations. In the autumn of 1956 everyone had the chance to see freedom – to see it in its own perfect, flawless beauty. It walked the streets and squares of Budapest. It stood in line at the shops. It sat down at family dinner tables, appeared in offices, in smoky railway stations, and at the sad metal counters of bars. And when it arrived, the Hungarians back then stood up and sang our National Anthem. If it is Hungarian, freedom is wonderful, even when it is dying. And in death, too, it was a thing of wonder: although buried in an unmarked grave, face down, wrapped in roofing felt, its feet bound with barbed wire, it still rose up to live again. It is here with us today, and it brings us together.

All of you joining us in commemoration,

If our homeland is not free, neither can we be free. A person alone can perhaps know solitude, but never freedom. The fate of peoples which have vanished into the mist serves as a warning. If a nation surrenders its freedom, then it can at any time slide back to simply being a minority. Only our own national independence can save us from the all-consuming, destructive appetites of empires. The reason we stuck in the throat of the Soviet empire and the reason it broke a tooth when it tried to bite on us was that we asserted our national ideals, that we stood together and did not surrender the love of our homeland. This is also why we shall not accept the EU’s transformation into a modern-day empire. We do not want them to replace the alliance of free European states with a United States of Europe. Today the task of Europe’s freedom-loving peoples is to save Brussels from sovietisation, and from their aim to decide instead of us whom we should live with in our own homeland. We Hungarians want to remain a European nation, not a minority in Europe. As the heirs of 1956, we cannot accept that Europe wants to sever the roots which once made us great and which also helped us survive communist oppression. There can be no free, strong, authoritative and respected Europe without the life-force of its nations and the two thousand-year-old wisdom of Christianity. And we also cannot simply look on and do nothing while others work openly and systematically to replace the subsoil from which the shoots of European civilisation sprang forth. And although our size and weight does not enable us to shape the fate of Europe, we must take responsibility for our own fate. Even if the majority of Europe does restructure the foundations of its own civilisation and blend its own ideals and population, we must remain capable of protecting this piece of Europe the size of Hungary, which has always put fire in our hearts and inspired the Hungarian people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The secret to freedom is courage. This is not a virtue which can be measured and shared out with precision: people are either brave, or they are cowardly. When the time comes to face a test it becomes apparent who we really are. In Hungarians, courage and common sense co-exist well, side by side. We have never yearned for a role which exceeds our strength, and we have rarely swung our axe at a tree which then falls on top of us. Nevertheless, perhaps our geographical position every thirty years causes history to suddenly thrust us into the main current of debate on the future of Europe. In 1956, after the Soviets pulled out of Austria, we sought to push the Iron Curtain back beyond our eastern border. We were brave and attacked the Soviet tanks with mere Molotov cocktails. In 1989 it was we who had to open our border, to let Germans find their way to other Germans. We were courageous and did this, despite the fact that Soviet forces were stationed here. And now, in 2015–2016, it is we who have had to close our border to stop the flood of migration from the South. Not once did we request the task – it was the work of history, and was brought on us by fate. All we have done is not run away and not back down – we have simply done our duty. We have continued to do our duty, even while being attacked from behind by those who we have in fact been protecting. We have the courage to face up to injustice, because on Hungarian soil injustice does excuse one from fulfilling one’s obligations; and therefore Europe can always count on us.

Poles and Hungarians joining us in commemoration,

My wish for us is that we never become a cowardly people. A cowardly nation has no homeland. There will always be dramatic situations, strong adversaries and high stakes. But this is no reason to surrender ourselves to fear. It is no reason to yield to the pathfinders for fear: to terrorists who declare war on the Western world; to profit-seekers, who send towards Europe hundreds of thousands of people who yearn for a better life; to do-gooders and naive souls who have no idea of the extreme danger towards which they are pushing Europe – and with it themselves. If you can choose between two paths, choose the more difficult one: this is the first rule of bravery. The modern world is suffering because it has forgotten all this. Today Europe prefers to choose what is cheaper, watered-down and less demanding: bringing in immigrants instead of building their own families; speculation instead of work; debt instead of discipline . We Hungarians have set off on the more difficult path: our own children instead of immigrants; creating work instead of speculation and welfare benefits; achieving self-sufficiency instead of debt slavery; and border protection instead of the white flag of surrender.

Honoured veterans of 1956, Ladies and Gentlemen,

There can be no victory without the uplifting of hearts. Without this 1956 would not have happened either: it made the cowards brave, brought the suspicious together and replaced semi-paralysis with the will to act. It created unity, a national unity, where previously there had been only strife, incitement to class struggle, intellectual well-poisoning and a disintegrating nation.

My friends,

Political strength, a parliamentary majority and even a new constitution are not enough: though all are necessary conditions, they are not sufficient. Once again, victory cannot be achieved without the uplifting of hearts and without the spiritual awakening of Hungary and the Hungarian people. The towering example of 1956 is a beacon before us. Those who have eyes to see and ears to hear can see and hear this thousand-year-old truth: there must be unity in the most important things, freedom in other things and love in all things.

Glory to the brave. Go for it Hungary! Go for it Hungarians!