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Wednesday, 27 September, 2000, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
Stalin lives on in Budapest
Josef Stalin
Uncle Joe: a sore subject
By BBC Monitoring's Paula Kennedy

Hungary has gone to great lengths to remove all visible traces of its Communist past, pulling down the monuments to former Soviet leaders which once graced many town centres, but reminders of the era still surface in unexpected ways.

A row erupted this week in the capital Budapest after it emerged that Soviet dictator Josef Stalin still technically holds the title of honorary citizen.

Some politicians on the city council are demanding that his name be removed from the roll of honour.

This move is being resisted by the left-wing and centrist parties who control the council, on the grounds that the past cannot be rewritten and that the awarding of the honour by the Hungarian Government in 1947 cannot be undone.

These names have been written into the history of the capital... we cannot strike them out

Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky

Matyas Rakosi, the Communist leader who ran Hungary with an iron fist from 1947, was a close ally of Stalin who only lost his tight grip on power after the death of the Soviet dictator in 1953.

Stalin spat rumbles on

Earlier this week, the far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) put forward a motion calling for Stalin to be removed from the list of former honorary citizens.

View of Buda
Budapest: The past has the power to muddy the waters

This was rejected by the Hungarian Socialist Party - the successors to the Communists - and the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) members of the Budapest city council.

The MIEP immediately retaliated by boycotting the vote on this year's granting of honorary citizenship awards.

Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky, an SZDSZ member, said that the past could not be denied.

"These names have been written into the history of the capital. We cannot strike them out. It is impossible to obliterate the past," he said.

The SZDSZ also pointed out that the current list only dates from 1990 and therefore does not include Stalin's name.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:

26 Mar 00 | Media reports
Battle for Hungary's media
01 Jan 00 | Europe
Hungary hails national symbol
03 Nov 99 | Iron Curtain
Budapest's changing face?
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