The Szabadság Szobor, or Statue of Liberty (sometimes called the Freedom Statue) was erected in remembrance of the Soviet conquest of Hungary during World War II. Its location upon Gellért Hill makes it a prominent feature of Budapest’s cityscape. The monument was originally designed to commemorate István Horthy and have featured a human child instead of the palm leaf that was a Soviet addition.
A politician, and, during World War II, a fighter pilot, István Horthy was the eldest son of Hungarian Regent Admiral Miklós Horthy. In January 1942, his father appointed him Deputy Regent, and for some time, István enjoyed massive popularity in Hungary. Shortly thereafter, he was sent to the Eastern Front, where he died in an unexplained airplane crash in Russia, soon after his arrival.
The 14-metre-tall bronze statue stands atop a 26-metre pedestal and holds a palm leaf. There are also two smaller statues around the base, but the original monument consisted of two more that have since been removed from the site and relocated to Memento Park.
At the time of the monument’s construction in 1947, the defeat of the Axis forces by the Red Army was officially proclaimed a “liberation”, hence the original inscription upon the memorial (both in Hungarian and Russian): ”To the memory of the liberating Soviet heroes erected by the grateful Hungarian people in 1945”.
Over the following years, public sentiment toward the Soviets decreased to the point of revolution, which was attempted and temporarily succeeded in 1956. As a result of the changing attitude, some portions of the monument were damaged. After the 1989 transition from a communist rule to democracy, the inscription was modified to read: “To the memory of all those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary”.