President Bush attends 1956 revolution ceremonies in Budapest

US President George W. Bush, photo: CTK

US President George W. Bush was in Budapest this week where he took part in ceremonies marking 50 years since the uprising against Soviet control. Speaking on the Gellert Hill overlooking the Danube River and the grand parliament building Mr Bush took the 1956 revolution as a metaphor for other struggles to throw off oppression:

US President George W. Bush, photo: CTK
"Hungary sits at the heart of Europe, Hungary represents the triumph of liberty over tyranny and America is proud to call Hungary a friend. I appreciate the opportunity to stand here on Gellert Hill, which offers a striking view of your beautiful city. Fifty years ago, you could watch history being written from this hill."

The US President on the themes that have dominated his second term - freedom and democracy. The Budapest stop-over was tacked on to a visit to Vienna for the EU - US summit on Wednesday. I asked Sebestyen Gorka from the Budapest based Centre for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy - why did Mr Bush choose Budapest...

"The reason why he accepted the invitation, which was lobbied quite aggressively by both sides of the political scene in Hungary, is that this October will see the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising against Communism. So, if we take the war against terrorism as being - in part - a statement against fundamentalist dictatorial ideologies, then I think it was a very wise decision for Washington to echo this pro-democracy spirit of our revolution in 1956 by coming to Hungary on this very important anniversary."

Demonstration against George Bush in Vienna, photo: CTK
George Bush was in Vienna before travelling to Budapest and 15,000 people demonstrated against him and his war in Iraq. In Budapest there were smaller demonstrations. Why does he get a warmer welcome in Hungary?

"To understand Central Europe, you have to understand the paradoxes and all kinds of contrasts. It's a very complicated part of the world. Hungarians, on the surface, are very polite individuals. But in Hungary, paradoxically, the people who have the biggest problem with George Bush are the conservatives - the people who define themselves around 1956 and whose parents or grandparents were on the side of the barricade fighting against the Communists. That's because there is a psychological scar for many of those people in the fact that Hungary stood up to Communism on the encouragement of things like Radio Free Europe and was then left in the lurch."