Lajos Kossuth sent a message…
Lajos Kossuth’s name is still a conception. He almost lived through a whole century, but not only existed, he formed it as well. He was a nobleman, but lived as a civilian; though he never was a soldier, the creation of the Hungarian home defence is related to his name. All his activities served the national independence and he fought against the feudalistic privileges. It is not a coincidence that his figure meant the idea of freedom, and that the closing motif of the folk song quoted in the title – “Long live the freedom! Long live the homeland!” – was the interval signal of the Hungarian Kossuth Radio until 2007. In the Reform Age, during the independence war, and later in the Dualism, hundreds of works were addressed to him or were about him. Probably, there is no other statesman who had such a personal relationship to the Hungarian people. His belongings are real relics, just like the banknote named after him, or his beard wear or his hat.
The tradition of the Kossuth cult in Cegléd
It is interesting that the most special cult that is connected to Lajos Kossuth’s activity and afterlife developed in Cegléd. According to the tradition, the politician’s cult started with his recruiting speech that he held on 24 September in 1848. It must have had a great impression on citizens, because they elected him an honorary citizen in 1867. When the PM of the city died, a delegation travelled to Torino (Turin) in 1877 in order to invite the statesman, who lived as an émigré there. Finally, Kossuth did not return home, but the “Hundred of Turin” and later their descendants celebrated the anniversary of the journey every year. The cult was completed with the Kossuth Museum established in 1917.
The first Kossuth statue in the world
The world’s first public Kossuth statue was erected in Siómaros (today it is integrated with Balatonszabadi) by public subscription of liberated serfs who lived here. The first wave of statues were erected after his death, the second on the hundredth anniversary of his birth and later in 1948, centenary of the independence war.
The festive inauguration of the Kossuth statue in Cegléd happened on the hundredth anniversary of the statesman’s birth in 1902. In sculptor János Horvay’s three-figure artwork, the central figure is Kossuth naturally, the two other figures are a young soldier holding a flag and a father saying farewell to the soldier. Horvay made two or three statues, portraits or groups of statues of the leader of the independence war every year between 1902 and 1908. Therefore, you can call him a Kossuth statue specialist.
Probably, his most famous sculpture can be seen on Kossuth Square. Its original was erected in 1927, but during socialism, it was removed as a “pessimistic and not deserving” work; since then it has been resting in Dombóvár. The sculptor fulfilled orders from the USA as well, and he chose his statue of Cegléd as a model to his artwork for New York. Kossuth is standing on an obeliscal pedestal, holding Washington’s sword in his left hand – its replica was presented to him during his stay in Boston. At his feet, a young Hungarian soldier is reaching a hand to an old peasant, symbolizing his lifting from servitude. The legend on his flag: “God of sacred freedom with us”.
New approach, new sculptor
Zsigmond Kisfaludi Strobl, whom you might know as the creator of the (Hungarian) Liberty Statue, was charged with making the Kossuth figure of the Millennial Monument first, and in 1952, the Kossuth statue next to the Parliament. The group of statues is depicting a lively scene (as against Horvay’s “negative” approach). The representatives of the “people” behind Kossuth show the revolutionary idea of 1948 as a militant enthusiasm. Strangely, the memorial monument was not removed after the change of regime; commemorating, wreathing ceremonies were also kept on time. When the reconstruction of Kossuth Square was determined in 2011, the artwork was taken next to Ludovika Campus, almost opposite the main entrance, but without its characteristic red stone pedestal.
Although Kossuth’s nimbus has faded slightly, his figure is unevadable and not just physically.
Translated by Zita Aknai
Kossuth Lajos, 1802-1894 : Kossuth Lajos és kortársai / [... szerzői: Basics Beatrix et al.] ; [az előszót írta Hermann Róbert], Budapest, Kossuth Kiadó, 2002.