Hungary will not become a colony, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said, addressing a commemoration of the 1848-49 Hungarian revolution and war of independence on Kossuth Square in front of parliament on Thursday afternoon.

Greeted by a crowd of a quarter of a million chanting "Viktor, Viktor", Orban said that this day, the anniversary of the revolution, belonged to freedom fighters, Kossuth Square would be the square of freedom fighters, and Hungarians are the people of freedom fights. "We are the political and intellectual successors of 1848," Orban said to the crowd, which received him with loud applause. The political and intellectual programme of 1848 embodied the idea that "we will not be a colony", he added.

photo: Gergely Botár

The prime minister expressed thanks to those who joined a pro-government rally dubbed Peace March in January to express their support for the independence of Hungary. Orban said Hungarians had every reason to follow the example of 1848. For the past 164 years, Hungarians have nurtured the pledge "we will be slaves no longer" from the heroic poem National Song, which is said to have inspired the 1848 revolution.

"Do we maintain this vow," Orban asked. Can Hungarians be free if they are suppressed by their debts, if they can only dream about having their own home and if they have to think twice whether they can support another child, he added. The crowd responded to every question with a "no". Ever since the "great month of March," Hungary has never been as close to freedom as it is today because it has never before been as united as it is today, Orban said.

photo: Gergely Botár

Nobody should be misled by reports in the international press stating that only a few hundred people showed up in Kossuth Square and even these people protested against the government, he added. "After long decades we have never been as powerful as we are today and never before have we had as many political, constitutional and economic means to break away from dependency as we have today," Orban said.

"There are enough of us today, and we are desperate enough to win not only our right to freedom but also our right to be a free Hungary," Orban said. Hungary "must spin round its own axis," and therefore it is necessary to defend its constitution which "represents the pledge of our future," Orban told the crowd, which chanted "we will protect it" in response.

photo: Csaba Pelsőczy

"We are clearly aware of the weight of this challenge and duty. Hungary today equally needs the radicalism of Petofi, the readiness of Kossuth and the wisdom of Szechenyi," he added. Orban said the youth of 1848 already knew what many people in Europe failed to notice today: the issue of financial independence. This is why a demand for an independent national bank was included in the historic twelve demands of the revolutionaries in 1848, he added.

The youth of March, he said, understood that a national bank can only be independent if it protects the Hungarian economy from foreign interests, Orban said to a huge round of applause.

photo: Csaba Pelsőczy

Hungarians often seem to have been left alone with their freedom fights but "we know that we are not alone ... our Czech, Lithuanian, Slovenian and Romanian friends stand up for us and they not only stand up for us but are also here with us today. Our Lithuanian and Polish friends have come to celebrate together," Orban said. Turning to the foreign guests, he said "glory to Lithuania, God save Poland," and recited the slogan of the Polish legion "for our freedom and for yours" in Hungarian and Polish.

Although Hungary faces plenty of injustices, it should not "plunge into self-pity which is a habit of losers," Orban said. "We should not give in to temptation and manoeuvre our ship of Hungary into the calm and lukewarm harbour of cheap self-pity", the prime minister said.

photo: Károly Árvai

"Self-pity and victimhood are habits of losers who explain their failure and incompetence; they have nothing to do with the courage of freedom fighters. Victory, success and the struggle for fair treatment require courage and strength," the prime minister said.

"We understand that there are many problems in Europe; the cogwheels are rattling and nerves are stretched. But as a nation with a thousand-year history in Europe we have a demand: we demand equality for Hungary," Orban said. "We refuse to be second-rate European citizens," he said. He concluded his nearly half-hour speech with his traditional slogan "Go Hungary. Go Hungarians."