“I would regard it as one of the greatest accomplishments of my life if a university was to be established in Debrecen, the town where I pursued my studies at a young age.” Count István Tisza (1861–1918) (the inscription on the pedestal of the statue).
“The contemporaries said that the statue of Tisza would stand in front of the university campus once it was completed, so that whoever comes to town would see the emblematic buildings of the institute line up behind the prime minister,” Zoltán Szilvássy, rector, recalled the plans of the 1920s in his ceremonious speech, referring to the fact that, at the time the university was founded, the statue was intended to stand in front of the Main Building. The rector also emphasised that it was at the intervention of Tisza that the Protestant Hungarian and the Catholic Habsburg intentions finally met and the commitment to set up the University of Debrecen was in place.
Since the Main Building was only inaugurated in 1932, the statue had by then been erected and dedicated in front of the university clinics, on 17 October 1926. In 1945, the statue was knocked down by students, after which museum workers hid it for decades. It was not until 2000 that Tisza’s statue was rededicated, and it was finally installed in its worthy place, on the square outside the Main Building, on 31 October 2016, on the anniversary of the death of István Tisza.
“It was the request of the students to the university leadership that Count Tisza’s statue be finally placed where it belongs. A university that has such youth committed to traditional values has every reason to be optimistic about the future,” Szilvássy said on the occasion of the ceremonious rededication of the statue.
Speaking on behalf of the students who proposed moving the statue to the new location, Péter Körösparti said that it is now possible to remember freely the martyr prime minister, who was a real statesmen carrying out the will of the majority without compromise, and who knew more than anyone else which way the path of development lies.
At the ceremony, Lajos Kósa, member of Parliament, and Gusztáv Bölcskey, rector of the Debrecen Reformed Theology University, also referred to the vicissitudes of the statue over the decades. Bölcskey mentioned that the painting of István Tisza, a former student of the Reformed College, has been on the same wall of that institute where it was first hung. In the spirit of the reformation, the College is a place where those who were in fierce debate in their lives can be peacefully together, he added, mentioning the example of Tisza and Endre Ady.
“In periods fraught with danger, Debrecen invested in education: the College was founded after the lost battle of Mohács, while the construction of the university lasted until the years of the Great Depression,” Kósa said in his speech.
The full-sized bronze statue of István Tisza, the work of sculptor Zsigmond Kisfaludi Stróbl, was now dedicated for the third time: After 1926 and 2000, the statue of the former prime minister, who was instrumental in the establishment of the University of Debrecen, was finally installed in its truly worthy place.
Also participating at the ceremony were the musicians and infantrymen of the 5th “István Bocskai” Infantry Brigade of the Hungarian Defence Forces, who gave a three-volley salute in honour of István Tisza after the unveiling of the statue. The ceremony ended with performances by students of the Faculty of Music and the placement of memorial wreaths.
The statue was restored by the Municipality of Debrecen and the Architecture Protection and Preservation Society of Debrecen, with support from the National Pantheon Foundation in 2000. It was moved to its new, originally intended location at the initiative of the University of Debrecen, by the “Give Me Back my Mountains” Foundation, in 2016. Renovated in the workshop of Lajos Győrfi, sculptor.