Rákóczi memorial year officially begins

The official opening ceremony of the Rákóczi Memorial Year took place in Budapest on Wednesday, on the birthday of the last elected Prince of Transylvania, Francis II. Rákóczi (II. Rákóczi Ferenc in Hungarian) at his statue on Heroes’ Square. In November 2018 the Hungarian Parliament declared the year of 2019 to be Francis II. Rákóczi Memorial Year. This year is the 315th anniversary of his election to Prince of Transylvania and the 343rd anniversary of his birth. The aim of the memorial year is to pay tribute to Rákóczi on as many events as possible all over Hungary, the Carpathian Basin and the World, wherever Hungarians live.

Rákoczi Memorial Year in Budapest
Opening ceremony of the Rákoczi Memorial Year in Budapest (27. March 2019), at Heroes’ Square (Photo: László Tóth)

Francis II. Rákóczi – born in 1676 into a Hungarian noble family – was the leader of the longest independence war of Europe – fought between 1703 and 1711 – which was the first significant attempt to topple the rule of the Habsburg dynasty over Hungary. While the uprising was unsuccessful – and was eventually ended by the Treaty of Szatmár in 1711 – as a result of the war Hungary didn’t fully assimilate into the Habsburg Empire. Despite of the partial success, Rákóczi himself didn’t accept the amnesty offered to him by the Habsburgs, because he didn’t trust them. He rather chose voluntary exile and tried to facilitate the Hungarian independence until his death from the distance. Rákóczi has been respected by Hungarians through the centuries up to this day as one of their honest, ingenuous leaders.

Rákóczi wrote about his decision in his Memoirs as follows:

“ …but with regard to myself, I am not participating in it (the Treaty of Szatmár), because I am well aware that the Ministers of the Emperor will not allow the nation to enjoy the fruits of the treaty, and on one day I could be seen as the traitor of my homeland, who put his personal interests ahead of the interests of the nation.”

Franz Liszt Award winner, László Gy. Kiss plays Kuruc songs from the Rákóczi Independence War on tárogató.

Tárogató – the instrument banned by the Habsburgs

Besides the opening speeches there was also some beautiful tárogató music from the Franz Liszt Award winner, László Gy. Kiss which proved again that sometimes music can say much more than any words. The performance was also powerful because tárogató is that specific Hungarian woodwinds instrument whose predecessor (Türkish pipe tárogató) was widely used by Rákóczi’s freedom fighters, and which was subsequently banned by the Habsburgs for the following one and the half century. After the independence war Austrians tried to collect and destroy all these wind instruments because they famously said:

“As long the music of the tárogató can be heard, the voice of Rákóczi can be heard as well, and the hopes (of Hungarians) will live on.”

The opening ceremony was closed by the wreath-laying at the statue of the last elected Prince of Transylvania.


Title image: Opening of Rákoczi Memorial Year in Budapest (27. March 2019), at Heroes’ Square front of the statue of the last elected Prince of Transylvania, Francis II. Rákóczi. (Author’s photo)

Author: Attila Szoó