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Memorial to controversial politician ignites passions

The ceremonial unveiling of a bust of former pro-Hungary Slovak MP János Esterházy in Košice drew a relatively small, though passionate crowd.

The ceremonial unveiling of a bust of former pro-Hungary Slovak MP János Esterházy in Košice drew a relatively small, though passionate crowd.

Around 200 people were present at the unveiling of the bust of Esterházy, who died in 1957, on March 14 on Košice’s Hlavná Ulica (Main Street). Most of those in attendance wore the red-white-green tricolour of Hungary but a group of around 20 protesters waving the Slovak flag were also present.

The ceremony, unattended by city officials, began with a speech by Arpád Martenyi, chairman of a memorial committee of János Esterházy, during which protesters were heard shouting "Hungarian fascists!"

Martenyi described Esterházy as a controversial figure but noted that it was Esterházy who defended the rights of Slovaks in the pre-war era and that he was unjustly charged and sentenced for war crimes.

"I'm proud to see his bust standing here," said Martenyi as quoted by the TASR newswire.

The protesters called Esterházy a criminal who hosted the wartime Hungarian leader Admiral Miklos Horthy in Košice.

"They're celebrating a fascist here! Shame on them!" said one of the protesters.

Some of the protesters went a bit further; when the bust was unveiled, Košice artist Peter Kalmus tried to "decorate" it with toilet paper.

The incident escalated from mutual verbal attacks to a physical struggle. Kalmus ended up on the ground but was not injured.

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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