Peace March Demonstrations

Seventh Peace March proceeds down Saint Stephen Boulevard in Budapest (Orange Files photo).

Supporters of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán have organized seven pro-government Peace March (Békemenet) demonstrations, six in Budapest and one in the city of Gyula in southeastern Hungary, since January 2012. Between around 100,000 and 450,000 people have participated in the six Peace March processions in Budapest, making them the largest organized political demonstrations to take place in Hungary since the country’s transition from communism to democracy in 1990. 

The following six people have been the main organizers of the Peace March demonstrations: pro-government journalists András Bencsik (chief editor of the weekly Magyar Demokrata), István Sefka (managing editor of the news website and Zsolt Bayer (program host on Echo TV and Magyar Hírlap editorialist); businessman Gábor Széles (owner of Magyar Hírlap); and the founders and operators of the pro-government organization Civil Cooperation Forum (Civil Összefogás Fórum), László Csizmadia and Tamás Fricz. These six men march at the head of the demonstrations proceeding along various routes through Budapest holding a banner bearing an inscription suited politically to the occasion.

Scene from the first Peace March (Orange Files photo).

The Orbán government does not provide direct organizational or financial support for the Peace March demonstrations. However, local Fidesz organizations do play some role in organizing transportation to Budapest, mostly by bus, for participants who live outside the city and constitute a significant proportion of those taking part in the mass pro-government demonstrations (source in Hungarian). Peace March organizer Gábor Széles said at the time of the sixth Peace March that 400 buses had brought demonstrators to the event from locations outside Budapest (source in Hungarian). 

The Civil Cooperation Forum has received hundreds of millions of forints in financial support from the Fidesz-operated Civil Hungary Fund and from the state-owned Hungarian Electrical Works (sources A and B in Hungarian).

The Warsaw-based conservative-nationalist weekly Gazeta Polska has organized the participation of hundreds of Polish citizens in each of the last five Peace Marches held in Budapest. 

Peace March Chronology

First Peace March

-Date: January 21, 2012 

-Location: Budapest 

-Estimated Attendance: 400,000 (source in Hungarian)

-Inscription on Lead Banner: “We Will Not Be a Colony!” (Nem Leszünk Gyarmat!) (reference to Orbán government’s conflict with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union).

See Orange Files gallery of photographs from first Peace March.

Second Peace March 

-Date: March 15, 2012 

-Location: Budapest 

-Estimated Attendance: 250,000 (source in Hungarian)

-Inscription on Lead Banner: “With United Force!” (Egyesült Erővel!) (reference to Polish participation in the demonstration).

 Third Peace March 

-Date: October 23, 2012 

-Location: Budapest 

-Estimated Attendance: 150,000 (source in Hungarian)

-Inscription on Lead Banner: “We Will Not Remain Debtors—The Homeland Is One!” (Nem Maradunk Adósok—Egy a Haza!) (reference to paying off 2008 emergency loan from International Monetary Fund and exiting the European Union’s Excessive Deficit Procedure).

Fourth Peace March

-Date: February 5, 2013 

-Location: Gyula

-Estimated Attendance: 30,000 (source in Hungarian)

-Inscription on Lead Banner: “Bajnai-Gyurcsány: Together They Destroyed the Country!” (Bajnai-Gyurcsány: Együtt tették tönkre az Országot!) (reference to prime ministers Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai of the Hungarian Socalist Party-led administrations that governed Hungary from 2004 to 2010).

Fifth Peace March

-Date: October 23, 2013 

-Location: Budapest

-Estimated Attendance: 400,000 (source in Hungarian)

-Inscription on Lead Banner: “Those Who Are Aggressive Are Frightened. We Are Not Frightened!” (Aki Agresszív Fél. Mi Nem Félünk!) (reference to the toppling during an opposition demonstration of a model replica of the Stalin statue pulled down at the start of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, though with facial features matching those of Prime Minister Orbán. See Testament to Weakness). 

Sixth Peace March

-Date: March 29, 2013

-Location: Budapest 

-Estimated Attendance: 450,000 (source in Hungarian)

-Inscription on Lead Banner: “The Country Is One – April 6, 2014” (Egy Az Ország – 2014. Április 6) (reference to 2014 National Assembly elections). See Orange Files translation of András Bencsik’s initial summons for the organization of the sixth Peace March: Back to the Future

See Orange Files gallery of photographs from sixth Peace March.


Seventh Peace March

-Date: March 15, 2018 

-Location: Budapest

-Estimated Attendance: 90,000 (source in Hungarian)

-Inscription on Lead Banner: “The Homeland Before All Else” (A Haza Minden Előtt)

-See Orange Files post The Land of Two Peace Marches and gallery of photographs from the seventh Peace March. 

Last updated: May 15, 2018.

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