Memento Park is an open-air museum on the outskirts of Budapest (really, the outskirts—if you take the city bus, you have to change once and drive through sprawling suburbs and some near-countryside to get there). The park contains a collection of Soviet-era monuments that were once prominent visual landmarks in the city and were removed after 1989.
It was a shared problem among formerly Soviet-controlled states with the fall of the Berlin wall: what to do with the trappings of the Communist state? Along with violence and suppression (and not to underemphasize these), Soviet control was also achieved and maintained aesthetically—Socialist-realism was an artistic mode designed to teach good citizenship, promote a socialist way of life and imagine a communist future. The Soviets had huge visual presence in the areas they controlled. So, with the fall in ’89, questions around this ghostly visual presence arose almost immediately: do we remove the monuments to Stalin and Lenin? What about Marx? What about those of our own communist leaders and heroes? Practically-speaking, how does one get rid of so many tons of concrete? What does it mean to seek out and destroy aesthetic and artistic objects that have come to define a cityscape, even if they are reminders of a period of oppression? How do we account for the fact that these objects house shared cultural memories, even if they are not always good ones? Is it right to simply destroy them?