“I Have Often Walked Down This Street Before…But What Was it Called?”: Changes to Street Names in Budapest from the End of Turkish Rule to the Present

Eva Bodnar

Abstract


My essay examines patterns of meaning in the nomenclature chosen to designate street names of Budapest, Hungary’s present-day capital city, over a period of about three hundred years. I attend to the magyarization of Budapest and how street signage reflected the change of Budapest from a German to a Hungarian city. After the changeover to Magyar I continue to address how Budapest street toponymy was consistently utilized to express national identity. As consensus over national identity changed over time, so did its metaphorical expression in Budapest street nomenclature. Examples of these changes include the creation of cults of collective remembrance and personality in the nineteenth century and irredentism in the twentieth century. I also argue that Budapest street naming during the socialist period served the purpose of legitimizing the purported domestic origin of the ruling political philosophy. Currently, the erasure and retention of street names from previous regimes is a deliberate policy of symbolic reconciliation of Hungary’s past with its present.

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