National Library pressured to relocate and make room for government offices and festivals in the Buda Castle
Another public institution needs to move out of the Buda Castle because of the government’s restructuring project of the area. The Orban government is shifting more and more government offices and departments to the castle; the prime minister himself moved into his new office up on Castle Hill at the beginning of January. Now it seems certain that the National Library needs to move out of the castle as well.
In the past few years, it has become obvious that the Orban government does not hold science and arts in high regard. Central European University was practically kicked out of the country and the independence of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences is under attack at the moment.
The Carmelite Cloister, now Viktor Orban’s office, was formerly the home of the National Dance Theatre but they had to leave to make room for the prime minister. Atlatszo has been tracking the renovation of the building and how it was decorated with valuable pieces of art loaned by public collections.
Starting January 2019, the Office of the Prime Minister is not in the House of Parliament any longer. Viktor Orban’s office moved into the former Carmelite Monastery in the Buda Castle. The government and its propaganda media emphasize that the new office of the prime minister is simple and austere.
The changes in Castle Hill have not stopped: the Széchenyi National Library needs to move out as well. According to our sources, the new home of the library has already been decided: it is going to move to the so-called Kilián Barracks, a complex in a busy Budapest intersection on the Pest side.
Atlatszo learned that the head of the library, László Tüske, was informed of this decision in a text message.
We reached out to Tüske to ask if it was true that the library is moving to the Kilián Barracks. He replied that ‘the current home of the library is the F building of the Buda Castle. Negotiations about and planning of the new home of the library are underway between the library and the relevant departments of the ministry. During these negotiations, the Kilián Barracks were mentioned as a possible new location, and we need to examine that option.’
Atlatszo has covered before the tension between the leadership of the library and that of the National Hauszman Plan, a group responsible for the restructuring of the Castle district. We previously reported on a speech by Tüske that he made in front of his colleagues about the plans of the government.
‘We think it is more effective for the library to pack up and leave the area for the wineries and beer and chocolate producers and those behind them. Unless we do that, we will never be left alone in peace’ he said.
The Buda Castle has become a favorite spot for festivals in the past few years – during the summer months there are handicraft- and different food- and drink-themed festivals aimed at tourists in the castle almost every weekend. The government wants to shift the focus of the area from arts and sciences to tourism and to being the home of the government.
The biggest problem is that the Kilián Barracks are unfit to house the most important library of the country. It is located in an area that was in the past a small branch of the Danube. That means that the building sits at a lower level than most of Budapest and that there is a threat of water damage.
Also, the new archives building for the library is still not standing: it was promised to be built in Piliscsaba, a suburb of Budapest.
However, this is not the only controversy around the library. During the meeting of Tüske with his employees that we quoted above, there was another interesting statement. He said that he is under pressure by the Government IT Development Agency to sign off on projects that they want.
‘There are some unexpected forms of violence we need to fight’ he said, mentioning that sometimes the government agency calls him at night to tell him to sign certain contracts.
There is another piece of rumor spreading at the National Library at the moment: employees learned that there is a debate about which company is going to create the digital archives for the library.
The rumored winner of the project is the company called 4iG, owned by the country’s richest man and Viktor Orban’s close friend, Lőrinc Mészáros.
Written by Antónia Rádi
English version by Anita Kőműves. You can read the original, Hungarian-language story here.
Cover image: the Kilián Barracks. Photo: Google Street View