Arad lies just over the border in Romania. Historically part of the Kingdom of Hungary, it was cut off from the homeland by the post-World War I Treaty of Trianon whereby Hungary lost nearly two-thirds of its population and 72% of its land base.
Today Arad is not only severed from Hungary, but so are the Hungarian people who once called this city on the Mures River their home. Arad, even though it is now in another nation evokes feelings of patriotic fervor among Hungarians to this very day.
Hungarians associate the city’s name with the 13 Martyrs of Arad. In 1848 Hungarians rose up in revolt against the Austrian Habsburgs.
By 1849, the Austrians with major assistance from their Russian allies put down the revolt. After the Hungarians surrendered, the Austrians showed no mercy. They sentenced thirteen leading Hungarian generals to be hanged. On October 6th the execution took place. Legend has it that the Austrians celebrated this event with a traditional toast by clinking their glasses together.
For the next 150 years, Hungarians considered it exceedingly bad manners to do the same while drinking and toasting.
This “Austrian” tradition was considered taboo. The Hungarian memory of historic calamity is long and mostly justified. The martyrs of Arad are just one of many ill-fated incidents scattered throughout Hungarian history. These include occupation and dominance by the Mongols, Turks, Austrians and most recently the Soviet Union. Arad fits this historical narrative well.
If you travel to Arad make a pilgrimage to the Martyrs Memorial which commemorates those who gave their lives in leading the fight for Hungarian independence. The monument stands as a testament to the Hungarian’s historic struggle for freedom.
Important to see: The Parc Reconcilerli (Reconcilliation Park) Square in Arad contains a martyrs’ monument, erected in memory of the 13 Martyrs of Arad. It consists of a colossal figure of Hungary, with four allegorical groups, and medallions of the executed generals.
written by CHRIS WILKINSON
edited by CHRIS KOVACS
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