1956 Cover of Time Magazine. Although the USA's containment policy against Communism did not
justify their aid to Hungary, people in the US were aware of and affected by the crisis.
A picture of Imre Nagy
On October 23, 1956, students and workers gathered around the statue of General Bem in front of the Polish Embassy. The protestors boycotted work and demanded "A Socialist Hungary, truly independent; Imre Nagy reinstated in his former office; the State established on a new economic basis; new leaders for the Party and government; those responsible for mistakes held accountable at a public trial " (Radio Budapest). Premier Hegedus could not control the revolt. At first, he sent the Secret Police, know as AVO, to stop the rebels. Tear gas was sent into the crowd and many of the students were taken into AVO's custody. When the crowd attempted to free the captive insurgents, the secret police opened fire on men, women, and children as well as the student protestors. The Hungarian Police arrived shortly after that and gave up their weapons to the protesters after hearing of the AVO shooting. The now armed students outnumbered the secret police. Finally, Hegedus called for Soviet assistance and declared Martial Law.
The Soviet armies could not stop the revolt either. Some soldiers were defeated, but many joined the resistance. The soldiers were hopeful of a new system in place of Communism. They draped the new Hungarian flag over their tanks and fought with the people of Hungary.
On October 24th, Nagy was named premier of Hungary in place of Hegedus. Nagy immediately took the students and workers side. On October 27th, Nagy announced that he was forming a new government. Nagy said that he would be the head of the new government and there would be three non-communists in the cabinet. On October 30th, the new government is put into play. Nagy abolished the one-party system, so the new government was a coalition government called The National Peasant Party. It was later renamed The Petofi Party. Nagy also announced that there would be economic reforms and free elections, demanded that the USSR take back their troops, and he withdrew from the Warsaw Pact, making Hungary a neutral nation.
At first, the Soviets seemed to accept the demands of the protesters and took their tanks out of Budapest. The USSR, although withdrawing their troops, did not go all the way back to the Soviet Union like they had promised. On November 3rd, reinforcements arrived on the border to Hungary.
On November 4th, 1956, the Soviet army returned, this time crushing the revolt. Imre Nagy announced the attack over the radio in his famous, and last speech to the Hungarian people: "Soviet troops attacked our capital with the obvious purpose to overthrow the legitimate Hungarian democratic government. Our troops are fighting. The government is in its place."
In addition to Nagy's address, radio signals were broadcasted all over pleading with the Western Powers to "HELP HUNGARY!" Unfortunately, the United States' Containment Policy precluded aiding revolts against communism because Hungary was already communist when the policy was created; The US did not intervene in the Hungarian Revolt.
Many of the soldiers in the second invasion did not even know where they were. Some though that they were in East Germany, and others thought that they were in the Suez Canal Zone. They had no idea that they were crushing a revolt against communism until they came in contact with their forced enemies. To keep the army's intensity up, Generals would execute people that were not carrying out orders. For instance, a tank driver that took a detour to avoid driving over women and children blocking the street was murdered on the spot.
The Soviets took control of the airports and other major buildings. Within a few days, they had put a new government in place, but the revolt was still going strong. The second invasion had actually made the insurgents more determined to beat out Communism. Everyone fought from women to children to the elderly fought the Communist soldiers. They were determined to keep their homeland free.
Eventually, the great numbers of soldiers along with their weapons took control of the entire country. The Revolt was over, but the resistance wouldn't end until Communism was out of Eastern Europe forever.
More than 20,000 Hungarian protestors lay dead. At least 200,000 living rebels fled west, hoping to escape from the Communist system. Others who stayed were arrested and then executed.
Nagy fled to the Yugoslav embassy where he was offered protection from the November 4th invasion. Nagy was on a Yugoslav bus that was taken over by Soviets. This time, Janos Kadar, Nagy's party secretary, replaced Nagy as premier. Moscow offered money and aid to Hungary even though Nagy's statements were taken back. No free elections or economic reforms were made. On June 16, 1958, after being in jail for almost two years, Imre Nagy was secretly tried and executed.
The USSR was still scared of what had happened in Hungary. They sent natural resources into the country to keep the people happy and prevent another revolt. Khrushchev said, "We shall shut their mouths with goulash."
Although many saw the Hungarian Revolt as a loss, it was in truth a victory. The revolution had succeeded until the USSR returned to stomp out the fire of revolt on November 4th. In addition, the "Bloody" Revolt proved to the rest of the satellite countries of the USSR that there was another way to live: free of Communism.
Click the flag to visit the website of the Institute for the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.
CNN Knowledge Bank Profiles. Imre Nagy: Hungarian Premier.http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/kbank/profiles/nagy/ (10 Nov. 2001).
Lettis, Richard. The Hungarian Revolt of 1956.http://historicaltextarchive.com/lettis/glossary.htm (8 Nov. 2001).
This is a primary source because it has broadcasts from Radio Free Hungary which give insight to what was going on in Hungary right when the revolt was occurring.
Halsall, Paul. Statement of the Soviet Government. (30 Oct. 1956).http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/195hungary.html (8 Nov. 2001).
This is a primary source because it is a statement from the USSR during the Revolt.
History of Hungary: Revolution of 1956.http://home.carolina.rr.com/wormold/hungary/index.htm (6 Nov. 2001).
Hungarian Freedom Fighter: Freedom's Choice.http://www.hungary.org/users/hipcat/1956.htm (17 Dec. 2001).
In Defense of Marxism. Hungary 1956 and the Political Revolution. (1986).http://www.marxist.com/History/hungary1956_86.html (15 Nov. 2001).
Kiss, Sador. 1956 Uprising Flag. (3 Sep. 1998).http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/hu_h.html (4 Dec. 2001).
The Institute for the History of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. 1956. 5 Nov. 2001.http://www.rev.hu (6 Nov. 2001).