Hungarian Revolution of 1956

Dafato Team | May 25, 2022

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The 1956 Revolution and 1956 War of Independence, or the 1956 popular uprising, was one of the most defining events in 20th century Hungarian history, the revolution of the people of Hungary against Stalinist terror and the Soviet occupation. It began with the peaceful demonstration of students from the universities of Budapest on 23 October 1956 and ended with the crushing of the armed rebels' resistance in Csepel on 11 November.

The mass demonstration in Budapest on 23 October, due to the hostile reaction of the Communist Party leadership and the bloody volleys fired on the unarmed crowd, grew into an armed uprising that night, which finally won on 30 October by occupying the party building. This led to the fall of the government, the withdrawal of Soviet troops, the restoration of the multi-party system and the beginning of the democratic transformation of the country. In the first days of November, the new government began negotiations with the Soviet Union on the complete withdrawal of Soviet troops, withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact and the neutrality of the country. However, after an initial reluctance, the Soviet political leadership changed its mind and, having counted on the Western powers not to come to the aid of the Hungarian government, Soviet troops launched an undeclared war against Hungary at dawn on 4 November. The army barracks and airfields were surrounded by Soviet Army units. The heroic revolution of the country, which had been alone for several days against a disproportionately large overwhelming force, was thus finally defeated.

From January 1957, revolutionaries were imprisoned en masse and many were executed. The brutal reprisals and the oppression of the Hungarian people were condemned by the United Nations and world public opinion.

In the decades following the crushing of the revolution, the events of 1956 were branded and condemned as counter-revolution by the party-state authorities, but the official assessment of the events changed during the regime change.Since 23 October 1989, this day has been a double national holiday in Hungary: the day of the outbreak of the 1956 revolution and the day of the proclamation of the Hungarian Republic in 1989, which was added to the list of national holidays by Act XXVIII of 1990. The decisive role of the events of 1956 is also emphasised in the preamble of the Fundamental Law adopted in 2011.

The period between 1948 and 1953 was characterised by Stalinist terror: the atrocities of the ÁVO and its spinoffs, the trials by trial by assassination, the deportation of "class enemy elements" to gulag-like camps, and executions were frequent events. A police state with 28 000 state security police and some 40 000 informers was set up to cover and control everything in the country. All this was accompanied by the cult of personality of Mátyás Rákosi and Stalin, forced colonisation, the uneconomic development of heavy industry and military industry, and the resulting increase in poverty. Rákosi's sectarian tendencies in politics, his dogmatic positions in ideology and his voluntarism in economic policy caused catastrophic damage and damaged relations between the party and the masses.

In 1953, Stalin died, and on the orders of the new Soviet leadership, Rákosi resigned as Prime Minister. The new prime minister was Imre Nagy, an agrarian specialist who had been expelled from the party leadership in 1949 for his opposition to the cooperative system. As a first step towards reform, he proclaimed amnesty and in October, as promised, he abolished the internment camps, ended the autonomy of the ÁVH, modified the system of subsidies for the light and food industries, reduced the burden on the peasantry, and implemented wage and price cuts. Living standards began to rise appreciably. In 1954, he introduced further reforms, including a more democratic public life. The Patriotic People's Front was created with the aim of making it a free forum for the expression of opinion. The Petőfi Circle, which had long been banned, was reconstituted from among the left-wing intellectuals who supported the reforms and went on to gain considerable social influence.

However, there was no time to continue the reforms, as Rákosi and his supporters were waiting for the opportunity to rebuild. Their group was still in a strong position, with their people sitting in the state administration and party organisations, but for a time they dared not act against a prime minister who enjoyed Moscow's support. Finally, in January 1955, Rákosi took advantage of the change in Soviet foreign policy following the accession of the FRG to NATO to have his rival summoned to Moscow, where Imre Nagy refused to criticise himself, to the general consternation of the public. Regardless, the March meeting of the party leadership censured the prime minister, who was stripped of all his posts in the spring and even had his membership of the Hungarian Workers' Party (MDP) terminated at the end of the year.

András Hegedüs, a supporter of Rákosi, became the new prime minister, but the public life - mainly the intellectual Petőfi Circle - and the internal opposition within the party that had been freed made it impossible to restore Stalinism in the country. Rákosi's situation was also complicated by Khrushchev's conciliation with Tito, which called into question the legitimacy of the Rajk trial, and by the XXth Congress of the USSR in February 1956's condemnation of the Stalinist dictatorship. In March, Rákosi admitted that the case of László Rajk was based on provocation and laid all the blame on the arrested leaders of the ÁVH. In May, he had to admit that he had a role in the crimes, and tried to crush the resistance by banning the Petőfi Circle, but to no avail: Anastas Mikoyan, who arrived at the MDP leadership meeting, told Rákosi that he would have to resign as party secretary, which he did. He was succeeded by Ernő Gerő, who also followed the Stalinist line, so there was no substantial change.

In 1955, the Soviet Army withdrew from the areas of Austria it had occupied. The conclusion of the Austrian State Treaty and the subsequent evacuation raised hopes in Hungary that the Soviet invaders would soon withdraw, but this did not happen.

At the end of June 1956, a workers' uprising broke out in the Polish city of Poznań, which was crushed by government forces, but the weakened Stalinist party leadership was replaced and the previously sidelined Władysław Gomułka became the new leader of the Polish Communist Party. Gomułka, in opposition to Moscow, began to introduce democratic reforms in Poland, following the example of Imre Nagy's reforms in Hungary, to alleviate the dictatorship.

The intellectuals of the newly-formed Petőfi Circle and the Association of Hungarian Writers reacted to the situation by becoming more openly political: They demanded the return of Imre Nagy and criticised Ernő Gerő. On 6 October, 200,000 people attended the reburial of László Rajk and three of his executed companions, and the students demonstrated at the Batthyány monument. In the evening, the audience at the Szeged premiere of G. B. Shaw's St. John in Szeged also protested against the established order. In the weeks that followed, the opposition's press presence throughout the country became more and more intense, and students continued to organise. On 16 October, the Association of Hungarian University Students and College Students (MEFESZ), the first youth organisation independent of the communists, was re-established in Szeged. On 17 October, the organising university students of Budapest, Sopron, Pécs and Miskolc joined the MEFESZ. At their meeting on 20 October, the students of Szeged set out their democratic demands.

Moscow threatened armed intervention in response to Gomułka's reforms in Poland, and anti-Soviet demonstrations began in several Polish cities on 19 October. The opposition to reform in Hungary sympathised with the protesters in Poland, and student organising gained momentum across the country. On 22 October, delegates from the various universities headed to the University of Technology, where they held a large rally. Here the students decided to call a demonstration in Budapest at 3 p.m. the next day in sympathy with the Polish people. They designated the statue of József Bem, symbol of Polish-Hungarian friendship, as the site of the demonstration. The students' assembly also adopted the famous 16-point demands of the students, which went far beyond the anti-Stalinist ideas of the party opposition with their independent, democratic vision of Hungary. The first point of the call called for the withdrawal of Soviet troops. In the evening, the student representatives tried to get the news of the sympathy demonstration and the 16 points read out on Hungarian Radio, but the radio managers refused.

On 23 October, the first events took place in Debrecen: in the morning, thousands of Debrecen students gathered in front of the university. From there, chanting slogans and singing revolutionary songs, the students marched in rows of eight to the Party headquarters in the city centre to print the 20-point demand of the university youth. The party leadership held talks with the student delegation, and then János Görbe recited Sándor Petőfi's poem In the Name of the People from the balcony of the building.

The mass protest in Budapest

On the morning of 23 October, the students' demonstration in the capital was met with a huge uproar. In the morning, radio and the leading daily newspaper, Szabad Nép, reported the demonstration as fact. The call was joined by the Writers' Union, the Petőfi Circle, the party's youth organisation, the DISZ, and many other organisations. The MDP leadership banned the demonstration after a lengthy debate, but at around 2 p.m. it was allowed, with both decisions being broadcast on Kossuth Radio. In fact, the party leadership subsequently called on party members in Budapest to participate in order to at least keep the events on track. At the same time, ÁVH forces were mobilised at all strategic points in the city.

At three o'clock, standing on the pedestal of the Bem statue, Péter Veres, President of the Hungarian Writers' Association, read the organisation's manifesto to the crowd, and the students read the sixteen points.

Then Polish writer Zbigniew Herbert also gave a toast, followed by Imre Sinkovits reciting the National Song. The students worshipped the statue; by this time the demonstrators numbered about 50 000, and the crowd had no real leader. Someone cut a Soviet-style Rákosi address from the centre of a national flag, which was soon done with all the flags. The demonstration did not disperse after the speeches, but at the suggestion of some, the procession marched across the Kossuth Bridge to Parliament to hear Imre Nagy.

By 6pm, around 200 000 people had gathered in Kossuth Square and the surrounding streets. The demonstration was passionate but peaceful. At 9 p.m., Imre Nagy, who had rushed to the scene to meet the crowd's demands, finally appeared in the window of the Parliament. "Comrades!" was greeted with an angry rejection, and after his speech promising reforms within the party, calling for people to return home, but not mentioning their demands, the people left in disappointment and anger.

During the demonstration, Ernő Gerő, the party secretary general, and his circle put the military units in Budapest and the surrounding area on alert. Gerő telephoned Khrushchev for military assistance. Before Imre Nagy's appearance at 8 p.m., Kossuth Radio broadcast Ernő Gerő's speech, in which he called the demonstration chauvinistic, nationalist and anti-Semitic, declared himself a representative of the reforms, condemned his policies as correct and rejected all the demands of the demonstrators.

Around 18:00, a crowd also gathered at the Stalin statue on Dózsa György Street to demand the removal of one of the 16 points. The protesters, singing the national anthem, finally toppled the statue, which is 10 metres high and weighs almost 6 tonnes, at around 9.30 am. All that remained of the monumental statue of the dictator on the pedestal were his boots, and popular humour renamed the place Boots Square. Stalin's head lay in the street in Pest.

The siege of Hungarian Radio

Ernő Gerő's radio speech caused a huge outcry among the protesters in Budapest, and Imre Nagy's appearance in Kossuth Square was a general disappointment.

Part of the crowd, outraged, marched in front of the Hungarian Radio building on Bródy Sándor Street. But there they were met by armed units of the State Protection Authority, sent there as guards. After failing to disperse the rapidly growing crowd with tear gas or fire extinguishers, the radio management placed a recording van at the disposal of the crowd so that the 16 points could be scanned. However, it soon became clear that it was a hoax, as nothing was broadcast. The protesters therefore used the recording van to break down the gate of the building. The management of the radio station then agreed to receive a delegation of negotiators, but they appeared to have been arrested inside. Tempers in the gathered crowd were growing. The soldiers of the Signal Corps tried to push the crowd back to the Museum Boulevard, pointing bayonets at them. However, two reinforcement tanks broke through the cordon by mistake and the crowd followed them back to the main entrance. Then, in the darkness, the soldiers began firing into the air, which the SA soldiers inside the building interpreted as an attack and opened fire on the crowd. One officer was killed and two demonstrators were wounded. In an ambulance, the SAA attempted to bring ammunition and weapons supplies into the building, but the demonstrators exposed them and prevented the operation. A number of the soldiers who had been called to the radio station then sided with the demonstrators and handed over their weapons, tearing off the red star from their caps. In addition, several factory workers distributed weapons among the demonstrators, which they had obtained from the arms depots in Budapest, which had been broken into in the meantime. Two hours after the random incident, the shooting escalated and the armed uprising of the people of Budapest began. By dawn, the rebels had taken over the Radio building. However, the studios there had by then become unusable, as the party leadership had cut them off the air and set up temporary studios in the parliament. Kossuth Radio broadcast from here during the revolution and even after the revolution was crushed, until April 1957. The station began broadcasting again on 7 November. The cable connecting the transmitter towers to the studio remained intact, but during the days of the revolution, rural stations broadcast or listened to programmes other than those from the centre.

Events across the country, 23 October.

At the University of Debrecen on 23 October at 5pm, the students resumed their deliberations, and at around 6pm the students marched to the city centre again, but now they were joined by the city's residents. At this point, from the Kossuth Street headquarters of the county police headquarters, ÁVH soldiers began firing on the peaceful demonstrators without warning, causing people to flee and the demonstration to disperse. The shootout left two dead and several wounded.

The workers of the DIMÁVAG Machine Factory in Miskolc prepared the 21 points of the demands of the workers in Borsod and formed the democratic Workers' Organising Committee, while at the University of Miskolc an independent Student Parliament was established.

The beginning of the armed uprising

At dawn on 24 October, Soviet troops marched into Budapest on the orders of Soviet Defence Minister Georgy Zhukov. Soviet tanks were deployed around the Parliament building, as well as at the bridgeheads and key road junctions, initially as a deterrent, without offensive action.

During the night, armed revolutionaries set up barricades in several parts of the city and street fighting began. During the revolution, a few thousand people took up arms in Budapest. The majority of the armed rebels were young workers, a smaller number were students, mainly university students, and a special phenomenon was the number of teenage boys, the "Pest boys", who quickly became famous for their daring actions against tanks with Molotov cocktails and became a symbol of the revolution. In the meantime, the MDP leadership confirmed Ernő Gerő as party secretary-general and a military committee was formed to put down the "counter-revolution", which agreed to cooperate with the special Soviet army corps in Székesfehérvár. At the same time, however, the change of government demanded by the people was carried out: at a cabinet meeting, András Hegedüs was replaced and Imre Nagy was appointed prime minister.

At dawn, on the radio - from a studio set up in the party headquarters on Academy Street - a government statement described the events as an attack by "counter-revolutionary, fascist, reactionary elements" and declared a ban on gatherings. At 8.13 a.m., the confirmation of Gerő as party leader and the appointment of Imre Nagy as prime minister were announced. Less than half an hour later, Imre Nagy's martial law against the militants was read out. A quarter of an hour later, the radio officially announced that "Soviet troops are taking part in the restoration of order in compliance with the government's request". Imre Nagy, who only assumed effective leadership on the morning of the 24th, thus became part of the retaliation and the call-up of Soviet troops in the eyes of the country's public, losing the trust of the rebels.

At noon, Imre Nagy gave a radio address to the Prime Minister. "Many bona fide workers were misled by hostile elements, who joined the Hungarian youth in peaceful demonstrations, and turned against people's democracy and people's power." - He called on the rebels to stop fighting and promised to continue the political reforms that had been interrupted in 1954.

All day long the radio was talking about subversive counter-revolutionary gangs, peaceful, honest public opinion in favour of the government, and almost hourly untrue reports that various rebel groups had laid down their arms.

Despite this, armed resistance groups continued to form throughout the day in various parts of the city: on Csillaghegy, Baross Square, Corvin köz (Corvinists), in the southern part of districts VIII and IX, in Tompa Street and Berzenczey Street. The insurgents looted large quantities of weapons from the barracks on Bem Square (Radetzky barracks) and from the armoury on Timót Street and armed thousands of volunteers. The armed resistance fought successfully against the Soviet invaders who were "temporarily" stationed in Hungary, and one after another they disarmed Soviet tanks, taking their crews prisoner. Soviet soldiers who had been living in Hungary for years had in many cases openly befriended the rebels, who often convinced them of the purity of the revolution.

In the afternoon, ÁVH guards shot unarmed demonstrators at the headquarters of the Free People and the bodies were being taken out of the building just as a group of armed revolutionaries arrived. From then on, the rebels' anger turned from the Soviet soldiers to the ÁVH, a violent organisation recruited from illegal communists. The rebels soon took over the Athaeneum Printing House and began producing pamphlets. Later in the day, Anastas Mikoyan and Mikhail Suslov arrived in Budapest as part of the USSR Communist Party's Central Committee delegation with instructions from Moscow that János Kádár should be appointed to the post of Party Secretary General immediately in place of Gerő. The Petőfi Circle had planned a debate on the national question for that day. This and the other debates planned for October were not held because after 8 p.m. Kádár's speech was read out on the radio, in which he, like Gerő and Nagy, called the events a counter-revolutionary uprising.

Events in Budapest on 25 October

By dawn on 25 October, Soviet troops had recaptured the Radio building, and at 6 a.m. the radio read out a government statement that "the counter-revolutionary coup attempt has been liquidated".

Following the news, unarmed demonstrators gathered in several places in Budapest during the morning: on Deák Square, on Bartók Béla Street, on American Street, at the Astoria Hotel. The processions marched to Kossuth Square in front of the Parliament, where they demanded the appearance of Imre Nagy. Meanwhile, at Astoria and elsewhere, crews of Soviet tanks controlling the city openly befriended the demonstrators, and then several Soviet tanks joined the demonstrators and arrived with the crowds at Kossuth Square, where several Soviet tanks had been stationed for a day. Around 11 a.m., some 5,000 peaceful demonstrators gathered in front of the Parliament. At that time, snipers from the Ministry of Agriculture and other buildings around the square opened fire on the demonstrators. In response, some of the Soviet tanks fired into the crowd, while others of the pro-revolutionary troops fired at snipers hiding on the rooftops. The crowd had difficulty escaping from the square. The carnage left 61 dead and more than 300 wounded, according to the UN report, which is based on figures from Mikoyan and Suslov, but the number of victims is usually put at between 100 and 200. Many more wounded may have died later, with the total number of victims estimated at around 800-1000.

The Kossuth Square massacre finally pushed events towards armed revolution, which soon led to the fall of the government. The Corvin köz rebels launched a renewed offensive against the Soviet troops and the ÁVH units. Following the carnage, Gerő was finally dismissed by the party leadership, and Kádár was appointed First Secretary of the party's Central Executive Committee.

After three in the afternoon, János Kádár and Imre Nagy spoke on the radio. Kádár called on the workers and party members to take action against the counter-revolutionaries, but described the aims of the peaceful demonstration on 23 October as honourable.

Imre Nagy described the events as an armed counter-revolutionary attack against the socialist order of the working people, called on the rebels to take up arms again with the promise of impunity, and announced that the Hungarian government would initiate negotiations on the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Hungary.

In the meantime, Pál Maléter, as a representative of the government, was ordered to restore order through negotiations, and by the evening he managed to conclude a truce with the Corvin köz rebels, who retreated to the Kilian barracks. Throughout the day, revolutionary student committees were formed in universities and colleges, and workers' councils in factories.

On 26 October, the radio changed to a more conciliatory tone, calling for calm and order, talking of a "fratricidal struggle", and asking the rebels to lay down their arms. The MDP leadership continued to meet without a break on 26 October. The members of the military committee called for a ruthless suppression of the uprising, while Géza Losonczy and Ferenc Donáth spoke of revolution and urged negotiations with the rebels. In the meantime, new armed groups had been formed in Széna Square, Móricz Zsigmond Square and at the intersection of Thököly Road and Dózsa György Road, which successfully fought the Soviet tanks in the narrow streets of the city, mainly using Molotov cocktails. At 5:30 p.m., the government declared an amnesty for all insurgents who surrendered their weapons by 10 p.m. The discredited government's appeal proved ineffective, the rebels refused to disarm themselves to the old armed forces.

The success of the armed uprising and the declaration of a ceasefire

The success and rapid spread of the armed uprising, the downfall of Gerő and Hegedüs, the failure of the Soviet troops, the party hardliners and the AVH to violently suppress the uprising, and the inability of the Hungarian army to intervene, surprised and initially confused the political leadership. Imre Nagy and his supporters, who supported a political settlement, emerged victorious from the debate, and in a long discussion the majority position was to recognise that, despite the armed struggle, it was not a counter-revolution but a popular uprising in favour of socialism. Seeing the situation, the Soviet leadership also backed Imre Nagy, trying to give the crisis another chance to be resolved without further armed intervention (while at the same time continuing to take steps to strengthen their military presence in the countryside).

On the morning of 27 October, Imre Nagy reshuffled his government, which included two former leaders of the Smallholders' Party, Zoltán Tildy and Béla Kovács, in addition to the reformist communist members of the MDP. The new government decided to declare an immediate ceasefire and to radically change political direction in line with the demands of the revolutionary masses fighting in the streets. During the night, Nagy and Kádár held lengthy talks at the Soviet embassy with Mikoyan and Suslov, who supported a change of political leadership and the withdrawal of Soviet tanks from the capital in order to bring about a ceasefire. Following the strong action of Imre Nagy, the MDP's political committee meeting finally approved the government's decision to call a ceasefire, to interpret the events as a revolution and to accept part of the rebels' demands. Following the declaration of the cease-fire, a radio broadcast called on young people to join the new revolutionary arm of the army that was being organised. The armed insurgents were still referred to on the radio as enemy groups to be disarmed with the help of the police and the friendly Soviet army.

In the morning, the Soviets launched an attack at Corvin köz, despite the night agreement. Colonel Pál Maléter and his troops at the Kilian barracks, as well as the company of the Kossuth Artillery Officer School, refused to participate in the attack against the rebels. The rebels destroyed Soviet tanks one after another with Molotov cocktails. Their fierce resistance eventually caused the last major Soviet assault to fail, and the attackers withdrew. János Kádár, who had joined Imre Nagy, was informed on the night of the 27th that the SZOT had reached an agreement with the representatives of the University Revolutionary Students' Committee and the Writers' Union, and that they would publish a joint statement in support of the demands of the revolution. At noon, the Imre Nagy government made the political turnaround official to the country: it announced a ceasefire and acceptance of the demands of the uprising. The new government was formed and met in Parliament.

After the declaration of the ceasefire, the Corvinists signed a truce with Maléter, and his soldiers acted in cooperation with the rebels.

Imre Nagy announced the formation of the new government and the general amnesty for the participants of the uprising, the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Budapest, the dissolution of the ÁVH, the introduction of the Kossuth emblem and the declaration of March 15 as a national holiday, and that the new government no longer considered the events as a counter-revolution but as a national democratic movement. At 10 p.m., a radio announcement called on young people to join the National Guard and suspended the curfew. At night, Gerő, Hegedüs and several other Stalinist party leaders and their families fled to Moscow by plane.

So on 28 October, the armed uprising brought about a political turnaround in the country's leadership and the acceptance of the revolution's demands.

On 29 October, police, military and rebel leaders discussed the details of the ceasefire. The Minister of Defence, Károly Janza, ordered the formation of revolutionary military councils. Revolutionary committees were formed in several institutions in the capital during the day. Interior Minister Ferenc Münnich announced that the organisation of the democratic police had begun. The organisation of the National Guard, set up by the government to act as a third armed force alongside the police and the army to defend the achievements of the revolution, to ensure law and order and to bring armed insurgents within an organised framework, was also continuing. By the next day, the ceasefire announced by the government seemed to have been implemented: the fighting had subsided, and on the 30th most of the Soviet troops had left Budapest, retreating to barracks in the countryside to build a strong military ring around Budapest. This was the first day when the radio stopped talking about the armed rebels as groups to be disarmed and warned only against "counter-revolutionary elements who would overthrow the popular system".

The Battle of Republic Square

On the morning of 30 October, fighting broke out in Republic Square, in front of the MDP committee building in Budapest. The reason for the conflict was that the 46 ÁVH soldiers assigned to protect the party building remained in the building, despite the fact that Imre Nagy's government had dissolved the organisation on 28 October, making it an illegal armed group. The situation was aggravated by the fact that the ÁVH soldiers behaved in a highly provocative manner and fired at National Guardsmen and unarmed passers-by passing through the square, several of whom were arrested and taken into the building.

It is also rumoured that they are tortured in their underground prisons. So in the morning a team of National Guardsmen entered the lobby of the building to find out who was inside. However, the National Guardsmen were met with gunfire and even a hand grenade exploded as they escaped. In doing so, they broke the ceasefire in force. In the morning, spontaneously organised groups of national guards, soldiers and police officers began a siege of the party building from the shelter of the bushes and trees of the square, but the defenders opened continuous fire from the windows with their telescopic rifles. The bushes of the square provided only poor cover for the besiegers, and as they rushed towards the building they were easy targets for the snipers, and so they suffered a high number of dead and wounded. When ambulances arrived on the scene to evacuate the wounded on the ground, the SAW shot them dead as well. In the early afternoon, Hungarian army tanks ordered to defend the party building appeared, but they fired on the building itself, misjudging the situation and lacking local knowledge.

At this time, according to the communist propaganda text, Imre Mező, the commander of the defenders - who had been asked by the Party's Military Committee to take charge of the civilians in the Budapest Party Committee building from 24 October - and two other officers came out of the building with a white flag, but they were attacked by fire from somewhere and all three were wounded and lying on the ground. According to Field's wife, her husband was shot from behind by his own men. The besiegers then entered the building, and the resisting ÁVH soldiers were captured after a firefight, while most of the defenders and the Interior Ministry and party leaders hiding in the building fled through the courtyards of neighbouring houses.

Following the occupation of the party building, a small group of armed civilians gathered outside the building demanded revenge for the two volleys of gunfire that were fired into the unarmed crowd cheering the end of the siege after the white flag was raised. The number of victims may have been more than a hundred. People also cried out for revenge for the shooting of the nurse in the white coat. When the captured ÁVH officers were led out of the building, this aggressive group shot seven ÁVH soldiers against the wall, two more officers were shot dead in front of the party building and their bodies were brutally desecrated in front of the party building - a crime that was captured by foreign photojournalists. (This event was later used by the Kádár regime as one of the main elements of propaganda against the "counter-revolution".) The atrocities were stopped by the National Guards and Corvinists who arrived on the scene. It is said that 25 of the defenders of the party house lost their lives, and that the number of the besiegers' dead was much higher.

The formation of a four-party coalition government and the Soviet withdrawal

Previously banned political parties such as the Independent Smallholders', Peasants' and Citizens' Party (FKGP), the Hungarian Social Democratic Party (MSZDP) and the National Peasants' Party (NPP) were allowed to resume their activities in preparation for their participation in the country's coalition government. The rapid changes and the short timeframe meant that the national government was unable to clarify its political objectives, which were strongly influenced by public opinion. Newspaper editorials stressed that Hungary should be a neutral, multi-party socialist democracy. The introduction of a multi-party system was delayed, however, because Imre Nagy and his government had a different idea of 'democratic socialism': 'they insist on the hegemony of the Communist Party, but beyond that they do not change the internal political relations, according to which there can be only one political party. The elements of the other parties that agree with the system can only be auxiliary groups in the Patriotic Popular Front." It was only days later, as events unfolded, that the government was forced to accept a limited multi-party system.

On the afternoon of October 30, Imre Nagy announced in a radio speech that "the ever-widening revolution, the great movement of democratic forces, has put Hungary at a crossroads" and announced the end of the party state and the one-party system and the preparation of free elections. At the same time, he announced that "within the national government, a narrower cabinet would be set up, consisting of Imre Nagy, Zoltán Tildy, Béla Kovács, Ferenc Erdei, János Kádár, Géza Losonczy and a person appointed by the Social Democratic Party." In addition, he announced that the rebels would be involved in the organisation of the new armed forces, the abolition of the collection system against the peasantry and the beginning of negotiations for the complete withdrawal of Soviet troops. Imre Nagy called Andropov to a council of ministers, where he was informed of the decision to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and was held to account for the uninvited Soviet troops that had been pouring into the country. Kádár explained that the presence of Soviet troops could provoke counter-revolutionary movements, and therefore agreed with the proposal. If this should happen, Kádár believes that, as a communist and as a Hungarian, he has only one duty left: to fight with arms. By evening Andropov had come up with the suggestion that the Soviets were ready to withdraw their troops if Hungary withdrew its request to the UN to put the Hungarian cause on the agenda. Imre Nagy accepted.

A temporary four-party coalition government, called the National Government, was set up to govern the country, bringing together the coalition parties of 1945. A narrower Cabinet was composed of Imre Nagy, Géza Losonczy MDP, János Kádár (MDP), Zoltán Tildy, Béla Kovács (FKGP) and Ferenc Erdei (NPP). The seat reserved for the Social Democrats was not filled for the time being, due to the reluctance of Anna Kéthly and other leaders of the newly formed MSZDP, but Imre Nagy negotiated with them to form a broad national unity government.

Imre Nagy also negotiated with the leaders of the armed rebels and agreed with them on their participation in the new national armed forces. The government entrusted the organisation of this to former General Béla Király, who was released from prison in these days, having served a life sentence as a political prisoner before the revolution. On 29 October, the Revolutionary Armed Forces Committee was formed at the Budapest Police Headquarters. The next day, the leaders of the armed forces held a joint meeting at the Kilian Barracks. At the meeting, it was decided that the National Guard would become a unified force uniting the army, the police, rebel groups and the National Guard, and that the delegates of the rebel groups and the military councils would participate jointly in the Revolutionary Armed Forces Committee, the governing body set up under the leadership of Béla Király. The Ministry of Defence then drew up the demands of the new military leadership, including the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the entire territory of the country and the denunciation of the Warsaw Pact.

On 31 October, the media announced the most anticipated news: the Soviet government had decided to withdraw its troops from Hungary (not realising that this was merely a tactic, and that the Soviets had decided on the same day in Moscow to launch the final military invasion). Imre Nagy gave a speech in Kossuth Square in the early afternoon, announcing that negotiations had begun on the country's withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact and that 23 October would be a national holiday.

During the day, the MDP leadership declared the dissolution of the party, and the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party was formed in its place.The deposed Gerő, Hegedűs, István Kovács, László Piros fled to the Soviet Union. In addition to the four big parties, various smaller political parties were formed, such as the Christian Democratic People's Party, the Party of Hungarian Revolutionaries and the Peasant League. At the same time, the National Peasant Party changed its name to the Petőfi Party, and its leadership included some of the greatest contemporary writers.

The victory of the Revolution saw the release of political prisoners (the Ministry of the Interior estimated that some 3,000 political prisoners and 10,000 public prisoners were released, but many of the latter were peasants and workers convicted of sabotage, obstruction of work, food concealment or ticket fraud), including the most important person, Cardinal József Mindszenty, who was officially rehabilitated by the new government. The Hungarian Catholic Church leader's journey from Rétság to Budapest on 31 October was a veritable triumphal procession. He was greeted by bells and flowers in the villages and towns he passed through. At Újpest, he was greeted and welcomed by such a crowd of workers that the car he was in could only move forward at a walk. The Hungarian Revolutionary Party held a demonstration on Rákóczi Square demanding a Mindszenty government. On the same day, Lajos Ordass, the formerly imprisoned Lutheran bishop, resumed his duties.

At the same time as the events in Budapest, demonstrations and rallies were held in larger cities and smaller towns across the country, including Békéscsaba, Dunapentele, Dunaszekcső, Esztergom, Gyöngyös, Győrött, Gyula, Kaposvár, Keszthely and Komárom, Komló, Miskolc, Mohács, Nagykanizs, Nyíregyháza, Oroszlány, Ózd, Paks, Pápá, Pécs, Salgótarján, Siófok, Sopron, Szeged, Szekszárd, Szentes, Szigetvár, Szolnok, Szombathely, Tatabánya, Tiszafüred, Vác and Veszprém. In the countryside, the students of Budapest also demanded the implementation of the 16 points of the Budapest students' demands and the return of the land. In many places in the country, former leaders were ousted, Soviet monuments were torn down, red stars were knocked down, and collection forms were thrown out of local council offices and burned.

However, as in Debrecen and Budapest, the authorities also tried to suppress the revolution in many other towns and villages. On 24 October, Soviet soldiers fired on peaceful demonstrators in front of the town hall in Székesfehérvár, killing six people. On 26 and 27 October, ÁVH soldiers opened fire on unarmed demonstrators in Baja, Baja, Berzence, Gödöllő, Győr, Kalocsa, Kiskunhalas (2 dead), Kecskemét (3 dead), Kecel, Kiskőrös, Miskolc, Nagykanizsa, Örkény, Sopron, Szabadszállás, Szeged, Tata, Várpalota, Zalaegerszeg, Szeged, and Budapest. In the Mosonmagyaróvár massacre, 52 people were killed and 86 wounded, while the number of victims of the Esztergom massacre is estimated by various sources at between 14 and 22. The sign in the tunnel of the Sötétkapu (Dark Gate) bears 14 names, 8 of them residents of Esztergom. In Tiszakécské, a fighter jet fired on the marchers (17 killed and 110 wounded). By 29 October 1956, a total of 61 firing squads had been fired on peaceful demonstrators in the country. Among the hundreds of dead and wounded were many women and children, and most of the victims were wounded in the back.

The people of Debrecen responded to the murderous shooting on 23 October with a general political strike. As a result, on 26 October, the party leadership backed down and democratically elected representatives of the citizens took over the city. From 26 October onwards, city revolutionary committees, national councils and workers' councils were formed in other cities such as Baja, Békéscsaba, Eger, Esztergom, Győr, Gyula, Kaposvár, Komló, Miskolc, Nyíregyháza, Sopron, Szekszárd, Székesfehérvár, Szolnok, Tatabánya and Zalaegerszeg. In other places, heavy fighting broke out between the rebels and the ÁVH, such as in Dunapentele, Kecskemét, Nyíregyháza, Tata and Várpalota. In many places the police sided with the revolutionaries against the ÁVH. Everywhere, the rebels freed thousands of political prisoners in prisons and labour camps. In Lőkösháza and Battonya, the population tore up the railway tracks to prevent the arrival of more Soviet troops. New independent newspapers and radio stations, such as Szabad Győr Rádió and Szabad Debrecen Rádió, were established in more and more towns. On 30 October, all revolutionary committees and workers' councils were recognised by the National Government as the freely and democratically elected new decision-making bodies of the municipalities and the factories and mines. With the recognition of the workers' councils, the factories and mines became genuinely worker-owned, a historically unique act.

In many cities in Western countries, students took to the streets and the Soviet embassies with anti-Soviet slogans in response to the Hungarian Revolution. Pope Pius XII called on Catholics around the world to pray for the victory of the uprising. Blood, medicine and food for the Hungarian Red Cross arrived from many Western countries.

On 24 October, hundreds of thousands of people rallied in Warsaw in support of the Hungarian Revolution, marking the true culmination and conclusion of the October 1956 protests in Poland. The Polish newspapers gave extensive and objective coverage to the events in Hungary. Gomułka and the new Polish reformist party leadership also saw an ally in the government of Imre Nagy. On 28 October, the Polish Labour Party (LEMP) issued a public message to the Hungarian nation welcoming the Hungarian Revolution. In this way, they 'empowered' Polish society to mobilise in solidarity with the Hungarians, which also served as a channel for the emotions aroused by the October demonstrations. The Polish blood and aid supplies arriving in Budapest from 28 October were the largest foreign aid shipments in the days of the Hungarian Revolution.

On 30 October, Romanian students, with the participation of some 2,500 students, held a rally at the Timisoara University of Technology, expressing solidarity with the Hungarian Revolution, demanding the withdrawal of Soviet troops and democratic reforms. The army and the Securitate, however, surrounded the students and all of them were taken to a concentration camp. On 1 November, the Day of the Dead, students of the Hungarian Bolyai University in Cluj held a mass demonstration of sympathy for the Hungarian Revolution at the Házsongárd Cemetery. They gave a commemorative speech, a student recited Sándor Reményik's poem Eredj, ha tudsz, and then sang the National Anthem. Many participants displayed national-coloured cockades and mourning ribbons. Students in Bucharest tried to organise a mass demonstration on 4 November, but the organisers were arrested.

President Eisenhower expressed his admiration for the Hungarian people in a televised and radio address to the presidential election on 31 October. In the same speech, however, he also stated that the United States of America did not consider the new Hungarian leadership a potential ally and would not provide military assistance to the Hungarians. This effectively gave Moscow the go-ahead for the invasion.

The US-funded Radio Free Europe has been one of the main sources of information for the Hungarian public these days. Following the Soviet attack on 4 November, the radio channel constantly encouraged the armed rebels to hold out and spoke of the expected military assistance from the West. The unfounded hope thus created may have contributed to the armed rebels' last-ditch commitment and then disappointment in the face of immense overwhelming forces.

In the early days of the Hungarian Revolution, the Soviet party leadership was also divided. Khrushchev and the majority initially supported the political solution, the reformist communist leadership of Imre Nagy, rather than military intervention. However, after the coalition Hungarian government went beyond the level of reforms acceptable to the Soviet Union, and the US and the Western powers expressed their refusal to help Hungary, the Soviet political leaders also decided to go for military intervention. The decision was justified by a number of factors. One of the main reasons was Hungary's wish to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and declare its neutrality, which threatened to collapse the entire Eastern European defence and ideological buffer zone of satellite states bordering the Soviet Union.

At its meeting on 31 October, the Soviet party leadership decided to use military force to crush the Hungarian Revolution. They were looking for someone to lead the pro-Soviet government they were setting up, someone who could consolidate their influence with the least resistance after the armed intervention. The names of Ferenc Münnich or János Kádár came up. The Soviet leadership then tended to lean towards the hard-line Münnich, who had previously served as ambassador in Moscow.

Kádár's inner conviction was that he really wanted to put an end to the Stalinist era of the Rákosi clique, after which he envisioned a reformist, pro-Soviet regime, without giving up the dominant influence of the Communist Party. However, as a communist, he saw in the independence that the masses increasingly demanded during the revolution, the introduction of a multi-party system and the armed uprising that was unfolding the danger of a "counter-revolution" (i.e. the return of capitalism, the "gentry world" of the Horthy era). In the maelstrom of events, he eventually backed Imre Nagy's mass movement to radicalise his politics. In the first days of the revolution, he was confronted, while visiting factories and talking to workers, with the fact that behind the events there were indeed masses of workers. In his last two speeches before leaving for Moscow, he spoke out in favour of the revolution, even saying privately, according to witnesses, that he would defend the country with arms himself in the event of a Soviet attack. His participation in the Imre Nagy government, his relative acceptance by the Hungarian public and his supposed loyalty to Moscow made him a suitable candidate in the eyes of Khrushchev.

Inviting Kádár and Münnich to Moscow

On the afternoon of 1 November, János Kádár (then Minister of State in the Imre Nagy government and a member of the MSZMP leadership formed that day) left the Parliament, and he and Interior Minister Ferenc Münnich were flown to Moscow by the Soviets. The operation is believed to have been organised by the Soviet leadership: Münnich and Kádár, who had been selected to head the new leadership, were first summoned to the Soviet embassy in Budapest for a meeting, where they were transferred to another car and taken to the Soviet base in Tököl. They were told that the top Soviet leadership wished to meet with them. Münnich and Kádár were flown separately to Moscow. On 2 November, before the Presidium of the USSR Communist Party, Kádár first took responsibility for the founding of the new party, the MSZMP, for declaring neutrality and withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact, adding out of caution that "there are counter-revolutionary elements in Imre Nagy's policy", and did not propose military intervention. On the same day on the island of Brijuni, Khrushchev received Tito's support for the invasion, with the recommendation that the more reformist Kádár should be the new leader. With this agreement, Khrushchev went to a meeting of the Presidium of the USSR on 3 November and made a speech to Kádár indicating the need for military intervention. Kádár himself, sensing the Soviet position, had already accepted the intervention and the leadership role he was to play, declaring the 'need for help'. Khrushchev presented the list of names of the future Hungarian government under Kádár. Kádár then went on to say that in Hungary "the counter-revolutionaries were killing communists, and Imre Nagy was covering them up."

In the meantime, Soviet party delegations went to the leaders of all communist countries and to China to obtain their consent for the attack on Hungary.

The declaration of neutrality and the Soviet moves

The Soviet government - without informing the Hungarian government, of course - sent additional significant military units to Hungary, in addition to those already there. On 30 October, airborne and paratroop units arrived at Veszprém airport. The next day, the 35th Harkov Mechanised Guards Division was also deployed to Hungary. The Special Corps, stationed in Tököl, began to replenish its supplies. By the last days of October, the Soviet 38th Army had also moved from the Lvov area to the Záhony district. On 31 October, as some troops of the Special Corps appeared to be moving out of Hungary, Marshal Konyev received orders from Khrushchev to prepare for another invasion. From 1 November, the 38th Army began its occupation of the Danube, with the 128th Mechanised Division surrounding the airfields.

Imre Nagy repeatedly telephoned Ambassador Andropov about the arrival of the troops, indicating that they were committing armed aggression. On the morning of 1 November, the government meeting dealt with the question of the movement of Soviet troops. It was noted that the Soviet military units withdrawn from Budapest had surrounded the airfields and that more troops were arriving from the eastern borders and moving inland. The government summoned Ambassador Yuri Andropov, who was unable to give a satisfactory answer to the troop movements. The government then decided to denounce the Warsaw Pact, declare the country's neutrality and turn to the UN to ask the great powers for help in defending neutrality. At the same time, it prohibited Hungarian troops from resisting Soviet troops.

In the evening Imre Nagy announced the government's position on the radio, proclaiming Hungary's neutrality. Later, József Mindszenty made a radio statement, followed by Reformed Bishop László Ravasz and other popular personalities who spoke about the need for reconciliation. Finally, at 10 p.m., János Kádár gave a speech on the radio, calling the events a glorious uprising, and announcing the dissolution of the MDP and the formation of the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party.

The speech was filmed from a tape recorded in the morning, when Kádár was already in Moscow. The next day, he and Ferenc Münnich attended a meeting of the Presidium of the USSR Communist Party, where he expressed his views on the situation in Hungary and warned against the dangers of military intervention.

On November 1, 1956, Dénes Farkas Farkas, the former chairman of the Democratic People's Party (the oldest member) and former member of parliament, published a call for the reorganization of the DNP in a short speech to the public at 22:20, announcing the re-launch of the Democratic People's Party. In a few sentences, he summarised that their party is based on 1947, remains in opposition and refuses to join any coalition. At the same time, he supported the government's efforts to maintain order and to ensure security of life and property. Dénes Farkas called on former party members, voters and all former MPs to join them and start organising the party. (Some of the party organisers in the capital disagreed with this method of recalling the outgoing Democratic People's Party MPs after an announcement that had not been agreed with them.) The text of the announcement made in the radio broadcast, which was recorded by foreign radio stations, was first published in 1957, while Dénes Farkas was still in exile, by his former party colleague and fellow member of parliament, Dr. László Varga, a colleague of the Free Europe Committee.

On 2 November, the five Soviet divisions stationed in Hungary were joined by twelve more. The crews of the newly arrived troops were mainly Central Asians, who had been informed by their superiors that they would be fighting the German Nazis. Marshal Konyev, Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Pact's Combined Armed Forces, set up his headquarters in Szolnok to command operations in Hungary. Imre Nagy protested to Andropov and informed the ambassadors accredited to Budapest. He sent another telegram to the United Nations, again asking for Hungary's neutrality to be recognised as one of the guarantees for the withdrawal of Soviet troops. The government assembled three delegations. In the meantime, Béla Király drew up a defence plan for Budapest, and artillery batteries were deployed at key points in the city.

Grand coalition and neutrality negotiations

At noon, Soviet-Hungarian negotiations began in the Parliament. Among the issues discussed were the conduct of troop withdrawals, the ceremonial farewell of departing troops and the preservation of Soviet heroes' monuments. The Hungarian delegation was led by Pál Maléter. It was agreed to continue the negotiations in the evening at the Soviet headquarters in Tököl. Maléter ordered the higher commanders of all the armed forces to the Ministry of Defence at 11 a.m. the next day.

At eight o'clock in the evening, another radio address was made by Cardinal Archbishop József Mindszenty, who had been released from his captivity, in which he advocated freedom of Christian religious education: '...I mention, for the information of the six and a half million Catholic faithful of the country, that all traces of the violence and deceitfulness of the fallen regime will be eliminated from the ecclesiastical line. In our country, this is a matter of choice, by virtue of our ancient doctrine of faith and morals and the laws of the Church. My present address to the nation does not deliberately go into other details, because what I have said is clear and sufficient. But, in conclusion, one question cannot be left unasked: what do the heirs of the fallen regime think? If the ancestors they have stigmatised had been religiously-religious, would they have done what they are fleeing from? We rightly demand the immediate restoration of the freedom of Christian religious education, the restoration of the institutions and associations of the Catholic Church, including its press...." The speech spoke of Cardinal Mindszenty's aims and made it clear that the Primate did not wish to cooperate with Imre Nagy and his coalition partners either, because he held them jointly responsible for the actions of the fallen communist regime.

At nine o'clock in the evening, Ferenc Erdei and the three most important leaders of the army, Maléter, István Kovács, Chief of the Defence General Staff and Miklós Szűcs, Chief of the Operations Group, as well as military experts Lajos Hersicki, Sándor Garai, Dr. Sándor Szücs and Andor Kriszten, the chief of the parliamentary stenographic office, a photojournalist, the security unit, Pál Maléter's assistant and the drivers arrived in Tököl. As Maléter began to present the Hungarian government's position, General Ivan Serov, then head of the KGB, appeared in the room and arrested the entire Hungarian delegation. Szerov was accompanied by several Hungarian ÁVH officers. By nightfall, Soviet troops had completely surrounded Budapest.

The start of the Soviet offensive

At dawn on 4 November, the Soviet offensive began throughout the country. At 5 o'clock in the morning, on the radio in Uzhhorod, the Soviet-appointed counter-government (Hungarian Revolutionary Workers-Parast Government) read out the Open Letter to the Working Hungarian People, signed by János Kádár, "Prime Minister", and read by Ferenc Münnich. At 5.20 p.m., Imre Nagy said the following dramatic words on Kossuth Radio:

The Prime Minister's words above were repeated several times in Hungarian and several world languages. The broadcast then continued with the reading of various appeals, and Imre Nagy's radio address was repeated several times. A few minutes before 8 o'clock, the appeal of the Hungarian Writers' Union ("Help! Help! Help! Help!") was broadcast in Hungarian, English, German and Russian. Afterwards, the Kossuth radio broadcast was interrupted at 8:7 am during music. After Yugoslavia offered asylum to the Hungarian government, Imre Nagy and the rest of the government finally arrived at the Yugoslav embassy with their families.

Operation Revolving Winds

Soviet troops (Operation Vortex)

Events of the War of Independence

Militarily, a varied picture emerged. In Óbuda and Csepel the National Guards stood up to the Soviet attackers, while at Soroksár, on Jászberényi Road, Kőbányai Road and at Tchaikovsky Park the professional soldiers were confronted by the Soviets. The Soviet troops occupied the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of the Interior, the Budapest Police Headquarters and the radio station by noon. The Soviet tanks made no distinction between military and civilian targets and fired directly at residential buildings on the Grand Boulevard and elsewhere. The population fled to shelters. The Soviet military commander in Budapest ordered a curfew, but this did not stop the armed resistance.

The Hungarian professional military units put up only sporadic and uncoordinated resistance, although not a single unit is known to have defected to the Soviet side. During the course of the day, Soviet troops disarmed all professional military formations. Only the Esztergom division led by Lieutenant Colonel János Mecséri attempted to defend Budapest. The defensive fighting then shifted to the insurgency hotspots. The strongest armed resistance developed in the industrial areas of the city, against which the Soviet command launched simultaneous air strikes and heavy artillery attacks.

On 5 November, the Soviets launched a coordinated attack on the Kilian barracks and the Corvin köz fighters, who were repelled. In Kőbánya, Óbuda, District VIII (Baross tér), District IX (Ferenc tér, Tűzoltó utca, Tompa utca), Széna tér and the main railway stations, the resistance fighters also continued to hold out against the Soviet attack. The fighting was much harder than the Soviets had expected. It was not until 6 November that the resistance in the countryside collapsed in the face of the overwhelming odds, followed by the Budapest resistance centres of Széna tér, Gellért-hegy, Óbuda and finally Corvin köz, where some 500 people were taken prisoner.

During the fighting in the capital, the Revolutionary Workers-Parast Government, created by the Soviet Union, was under strong Soviet protection in Szolnok, where they began to organise the new arm of the People's Army (the Military Council of the People's Army). On the evening of 6 November, Kádár and György Marosán set off for Budapest in a Soviet tank car and an armoured car, escorted by a platoon of the 3rd Battery of the 419th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment of the 60th Soviet Anti-Aircraft Artillery Division, led by Lieutenant Usakov. The convoy arrived at the Parliament at dawn on 7 November. The Soviet Union invaded Hungary with 16 divisions and 2000 tanks.

The most persistent fighters of the War of Independence were the Csepel resistance fighters, who, with dozens of anti-aircraft guns of the anti-aircraft battery attached to them, defended the southern access roads for days.

The defeat of the War of Independence

Kádár, who was transported from Szolnok to Budapest in a Soviet tank, was taken straight to the Parliament, after which the government formed in Szolnok, later called the Hungarian Revolutionary Workers-Parast Government, began to function. The new government was sworn in on 7 November. The Presidential Council of the Hungarian People's Republic appointed the Kádár government by Resolution No. 28 of 1956 and at the same time dismissed the coalition government led by Imre Nagy. With the occupation of Csepel on 11 November, Soviet troops ended armed resistance in the capital. János Kádár made his first radio speech after 4 November, declaring the uprising defeated. "...the open armed attack against the Hungarian People's Republic in the whole country - both in the capital and in the countryside - has been crushed." In accordance with this, on November 7, the Presidential Council of the People's Republic appointed the Kádár government, and its decisions were published in the official gazette of the Hungarian People's Republic, the Magyar Közlöny Budapest, Monday, November 12, 1956, No. 93, signed by István Dobi, President of the Presidential Council of the People's Republic, and István Kristóf, Secretary of the Presidential Council of the People's Republic.

Kádár and his wife spent the first months in a building surrounded by Soviet tanks under the control of Soviet advisers, and the Soviets, who feared assassination, only gradually relinquished practical control to Kádár and his puppet government after the situation had become more stable.

The question of international assistance

In world politics, the other major event of these days was the so-called Suez crisis, the joint Israeli-British-French war against Egypt over the nationalisation of the Suez Canal. Although many believe - and the great powers are fond of citing this for prestige reasons - that the West's long-awaited intervention was delayed because of the Suez crisis, this is highly doubtful. In any case, it is clear from the Soviet documents that Moscow's reaction would have been intervention in any case, and that intervention by the Western powers would have plunged the Cold War world into a much more serious conflict. Spain was the only country to intervene.

November-December 1956

The workers' councils in particular, but also other revolutionary bodies, continued the political strike until early December. They forced the Kádár government to the negotiating table, and tenaciously defended the revolutionary objectives. The Budapest Central Workers' Council, formed on 14 November, became the centre of the resistance. On 21 November, the Revolutionary Council of Hungarian Intellectuals was formed, and on 23 November, a month after the outbreak of the revolution, the event was commemorated with a "silent demonstration" in Budapest: between 12 and 1 p.m. no one was on the streets, even buses and trams stopped running.

Imre Nagy, who was in the Yugoslav embassy, did not resign as head of government (after a few days he was "relieved" by the Presidential Council). On 22 November he was forced out of the asylum with the promise of impunity and temporarily interned in Romania.

On 4 December, thousands of women in mourning marched through the city in a procession (Women's March). At the beginning of December, demonstrations and firing squads fired on demonstrators took place in several cities (Budapest, Salgótarján, Miskolc).

The distribution of the party newspaper Népszabadság was hampered in many places by strikes and sabotage, despite the fact that in November and December the newspaper was delivered to the county capitals under armed escort. Several provincial post offices refused to forward party papers and publications, which made propaganda activities by the central authorities more difficult. According to an internal MSZMP report, even in December there were still villages and farms in the lowlands where people did not know which government was in power.

The Soviets responded to the resistance with an open attack. In early December, the MSZMP declared the events of October a counter-revolution, and they took increasingly violent action against the resistance. They introduced summary executions, arrested the leaders of the workers' councils, banned the Revolutionary Council of Hungarian Intellectuals and suspended the Writers' Union. Soon martial law was declared and one of the most serious political showdowns in Hungarian history began.

The retaliation

As an ideological basis for the reprisals, the propaganda series "Counter-Revolutionary Forces in the Hungarian October Events", the so-called White Books, was published in 1957 with a white cover.In the next three years, about 400 people were executed for their participation in the revolution, more than 21,668 were imprisoned, and 16,000-18,000 were interned. All this after promises of amnesty and with a large number of participants fleeing the country. In the prisons, many were brutally interrogated and tortured, including many women and minors. Law 4 of 1957 allowed the death penalty to be imposed on juveniles over the age of 16. (See the execution of Peter Mansfeld.) Hundreds more of those captured by the Soviet army were executed by Soviet court martial, and some 860 were deported to forced labour camps in the Soviet Union.

The so-called Imre Nagy trial took place between 9 and 15 June 1958. Former Prime Minister Imre Nagy, Miklós Gimes and Pál Maléter were sentenced to death, Sándor Kopácsi to life imprisonment, Ferenc Donáth to 12 years, Ferenc Jánosi to 8 years, Zoltán Tildy to 6 years and Miklós Vásárhelyi to 5 years. At dawn on the 16th, Imre Nagy, Paul Maléter and Miklós Gimes were executed in the courtyard of the Budapest Collector's Prison. Their bodies were secretly encased in concrete in the prison yard.

The first partial amnesty was granted in 1959, and on 21 March 1963, 3,480 people were released at once. A significant group of revolutionaries, around 600, were only released in the 1970s.

According to a report compiled for the MSZMP leaders during the 1963 amnesty, the total number of those convicted of "counter-revolutionary acts" was 12,924, of whom 228 were sentenced to death and 199 death sentences were carried out.

The international aftermath of the revolution

After its defeat, the Hungarian Revolution was unanimously branded as a reactionary, fascist counter-revolution by the political leadership of all the countries of the Eastern Bloc, with the exception of Poland. The defeat of the Hungarian Revolution marked the beginning of a wave of austerity and terror in the other countries of the bloc and in the Soviet Union itself. In the Soviet Union, a brutal wave of exclusion and arrests followed against those who expressed sympathy. In Romania, the repression was even more severe than in Hungary. After the imprisonment of the Romanian students who had organised the revolution, mass arrests and trials on charges of sympathising with the Hungarian revolution took place against Hungarian intellectuals in Romania from April 1958. Hundreds of people were tortured, executed, imprisoned in labour camps, independent Hungarian-language higher education was abolished and the minority Hungarian intelligentsia was effectively decapitated.

By the beginning of December, hundreds of lawsuits had already been filed in Czechoslovakia in connection with the Hungarian events.

The only exception to the wave of terror sweeping the Eastern Bloc was Poland. On 5 November, thousands of silent protests and mourning processions were held in major Polish cities in response to the news of the defeat of the revolution. After November 1956, Gomułka tried to avoid any action against Hungary that might have revived the calm. The Polish leadership therefore did not push the concept of a "counter-revolution in Hungary" (subsequent requests from Kádár Hungary were always rejected), and remained silent about the events.

In January 1957, UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld set up a special commission to investigate the events in Hungary. The 268-page report, completed in June 1957, found serious violations of the human rights of the Hungarian people by the Kádár government and the Soviet Union. In response, the UN General Assembly adopted a joint statement on 12 December 1958 condemning the oppression of the Hungarian people and the Soviet military occupation, but no other substantive action was taken. (In related events, the Danish member of the UN Commission, Povl Bang-Jensen, died in unclear circumstances.)

In the decades that followed, the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution made the balance of power between the two great military blocs (the West and the Eastern bloc) an even more unquestionable reality, and it was clear that despite the Cold War propaganda, neither side had any real interest in changing this situation. At the same time, the revolution and its defeat also resulted in a huge moral discrediting of communist ideology and an irreversible weakening of its influence throughout the world. After 1956, it was no longer possible to ignore the fact that the regimes in the Soviet Union and the countries under its authority were in fact anti-grass roots, corrupt and unviable totalitarian dictatorships. This international impact of the Hungarian Revolution ultimately played an important role in the process that led to the crisis and downfall of the Soviet Union and the entire Eastern Bloc.

In December 1991, under the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev and Russia, represented by Boris Yeltsin, formally apologised for the Soviet actions in Hungary in 1956.

In the decades following the crushing of the revolution, the events of 1956 were branded as a counter-revolution by the party-state authorities. From the beginning, the Hungarian political opposition, which had grown in strength under the influence of Gorbachev's perestroika, adopted the terminology of the revolution's participants and called the events a revolution. Imre Pozsgay, the then Minister of State representing the state party's MSZMP reform communists (who had himself previously argued for the name counter-revolution), publicly called it a popular uprising on 28 January 1989 as a first move by the politicians in power, and then, under pressure from political changes, the MSZMP KB set up a historical subcommittee to analyse the post-liberation period and defined the events of October 1956 as a popular uprising. After the regime change, the term 1956 Revolution and 1956 War of Independence became officially used again.

On 24 February 1961, the remains of Imre Nagy, Pál Maléter and Miklós Gimes were secretly exhumed and reburied in plot 301 of the New Public Cemetery, with false names entered in the register. On 5 June 1988, the Committee for Historical Justice, founded by former 1956 prisoners, issued an appeal demanding, among other things, the fair burial and rehabilitation of those executed in the Imre Nagy trial. On 16 June, a symbolic monument to Imre Nagy, Géza Losonczy, Pál Maléter, József Szilágyi, Miklós Gimes and all the other executed prisoners of the Revolution was unveiled in plot 44 of the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. In Budapest, a commemoration ceremony was held in plot 301 of the New Public Cemetery and in the Belváros on the 30th anniversary of Imre Nagy's execution. The commemoration in the city centre was violently dispersed by police. On 29 March 1989, the exhumation of the unmarked bodies of Imre Nagy, Miklós Gimes, Géza Losonczy, Pál Maléter and József Szilágyi began. In Heroes' Square, hundreds of thousands of people listened to the speakers.

On July 6, 1989, the Presidium of the Supreme Court of Justice, following a protest of legality by the Prosecutor General, overturned the conviction of Imre Nagy and his associates and acquitted them for lack of criminal offence. On the same day, János Kádár, the leader of the communist regime, died. It was symbolic that during the announcement, people in the hall handed a piece of paper to each other on which was written 'János Kádár died'. On the anniversary of the revolution, 23 October 1989, the Republic was proclaimed on Kossuth Square. The double anniversary was added to the list of national holidays by Law XXVIII of 1990.

On October 23, 2006, the 50th anniversary of the Revolution, large-scale commemorations were held and monuments were erected in Budapest, throughout the country and in many other countries. In his Presidential Proclamation 8072, US President George W. Bush declared 23 October 2006 as the 50th anniversary of the Revolution. In Budapest, the commemorations of the anniversary were marked by riots that escalated into violence and police brutality.

Commemorations often include Ludwig van Beethoven's Egmont Overture, which became the music of the revolution. The reason for this is that there was no music in the radio broadcast van outside the Parliament on 23 October 1956. Some records were found in the club room of the Parliament: the National Anthem, the Szózot, a Hungarian nocturne, an operetta and the Egmont Overture. The latter was found to be the most appropriate for the occasion and was played many times in the following years.

Historical research:







50th anniversary commemoration:

Fictional representation:


Points of interest

56 weapons

Refugee issue

In memory of


  1. Hungarian Revolution of 1956
  2. 1956-os forradalom

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