This year marks the centenary of the Hungarian Order of Merit, the most important of the national awards. On this occasion the Hungarian National Museum, the Military History Institute and the Hungarian Numismatics Society are organising a joint exhibition, opening on 11th May in the spectacular Dome Hall of the Museum.
The exhibition will showcase around 80 Orders in various forms and with numerous names representing historical changes. These will be juxtaposed with objects related to the people once received them, including portraits, uniforms and further accessories.
The History of the Hungarian Order of Merit started 100 years ago when upon the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the newly independent Hungary has introduced its own system of orders. The Hungarian Order of Merit’s characteristic white cross form is reminiscent of the Hungarian Military Order originally designed for the 1848-49 War of Independence and later worn as a badge by Lajos Kossuth in his emigration to Turkey. In 1935 the name of the order was changed to Hungarian Order of Merit, and in 1939 its highest rank became the Grand Cross ornamented with the stylized Holy Crown of Hungary.
After the second World War the Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic has been established but only the central section of the badge changed. Upon the termination of this Order, the Hungarian People’s Republic’s soviet type of orders were created. After the fall of the socialist system the Order of the Hungarian Republic incorporating small changes was introduced in 1991, which has been renamed to Hungarian Order of Merit again according to the Law Amendmentof 2011.
The exhibition presenting objects from the Hungarian National Museum’s and the Military History Institute and Museum’s Collections examines the evolution of the order brought about by time and frequent change of regimes over the past century. The various forms and ranks of the Order that are presented in chronological order are shown next to the portraits of historical figures having received them. Special emphasis is placed on the unique orders of Miklós Horthy, the founder of the Order or general and prime minister Géza Lakatos’ complete set. From the post war period Lajos Dinnyés’s Orders ornamented with laurel wreaths, or Nobel Prize Winner György Oláh’s Civil Cross with a Star have special importance too.
György Oláh’s Civil Cross with a Star
The orders selected from the two Museum Collections for the will be supplemented by orders from private collectors ensured by the assistance of the Hungarian Numismatic Society. These objects will have digital appearance.
The publication accompanying the exhibition named Star and Cross – 100 Years of the Hungarian Order of Merit will describe the history of the order as well as introduce the most important historical figures having received it.