Peace March Demonstrations

Participants cross Margaret Bridge in Budapest during the third Peace March.

Participants cross Margaret Bridge in Budapest during the third Peace March.

Supporters of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán have organized six pro-government Peace March (Békemenet) demonstrations, five in Budapest and one in the city of Gyula in southeastern Hungary, since January 2012. Between 150,000 and 450,000 people have participated in the five 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. 

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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 (chief editor of the daily Magyar Hírlap) and Zsolt Bayer (program host on Echo TV and Magyar Hírlap editorialist); media tycoon Gábor Széles (owner of both Echo TV and Magyar Hírlap); and the founders and operators of the pro-government civil 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.

Main organizers of the Peace March (left to right, starting second from left): Zsolt Bayer (and his girlfriend); Gábor Széles; László Csizmadia; András Bencsik; and István Sefka.

Main organizers of the Peace March (left to right, starting second from left): Zsolt Bayer (and his girlfriend); Gábor Széles; László Csizmadia; András Bencsik; and István Sefka.

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 Warsaw-based conservative-nationalist weekly Gazeta Polska, the Polish equivalent of Magyar Demokrata, sponsored the participation of its readers in the second Peace March. An estimated 1,000 Polish citizens took part in the March 15, 2012 Peace March demonstration in what Gazeta Polska billed as the “Great Trip to Hungary” (source in Hungarian).

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.

Participant carries anti-European Union sign during Peace March.

Participant carries anti-European Union sign during Peace March.

Last updated: May 28, 2016.

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