Hungarian 2319-fekete1.jpg
of 1956

The fall of 1956 marked the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union. With what started out as a peaceful protest in the streets of Budapest, the capitol of Hungary, turned into a vicious revolt against the Russians. "The Freedom Fighters", as they were called by American journalists, surprisingly held off the Soviets and almost succeeded in forcing them out of the country before the rebellion was crushed. After the revolt was over though, Soviet rule was less harsh on all the countries it occupied and eventually the Warsaw Pact broke up along with the U.S.S.R.

What caused the uprising?

At the end of WWII, Hungary ended up behind the Iron Curtain. With the Soviet Union basically having total control, Stalin appointed Matyas Rakosi, a Hungarian Stalinist politician, as Prime Minister in 1945. As Minister, Rakosi used the AVH, or secret police, to crush any opposition (1). The AVH became infamous for abducting suspected western agents and forcing them to confess, much like the Salem Witch Trials. These citizens would end up being sent to labor camps, deported, or executed. Along with this repressive government Hungary had; reparations, hyperinflation, and terrible living conditions. The country was forced to join an economic alliance with U.S.S.R., cutting it off from western aid, like the Marshall Plan. Hungary would later be forced into the Warsaw Pact. But with the death of Stalin, in 1953, Rakosi was replaced with Imre Nagy as Prime Minister. Nagy was known as a reformist and was accepted by the public. However, Rakosi stayed in the government as General Secretary, and in 1955 he had Nagy removed from office (2). But Rakosi was too dismissed from power.
Also in 1955, Austria became a neutral country, freeing it from Soviet occupation. This event gave Hungary hope of becoming neutral. Then the summer of 1956, a violent uprising in Poland was crushed by the Soviets. However, Poland achieved more independence. All of these events, especially the resignation of Matyas Rakosi, encouraged students and workers to stand up and even dare to criticize the government (3). On October 22, 1956, university students created a document of 16 Points, or demands. They included: “the immediate withdrawal of all Soviet troops…complete freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of the Press and a free Radio…”, the reinstatement of Imre Nagy, the dismissal of all politicians of Rakosi’s government, and foreign trade should be allowed (4).
On October 23, 1956, over 20,000 protesters congregated to the Bem Statue (Bem was a Polish general who aided Hungary in the 1845 Revolution). The crowd sung nationalist songs and then they began cutting the Soviet Hammer and Sickle out of the Hungarian flags that they had brought. Part of the mob then marched to the Parliament Building, while another group went and destroyed the statue of Stalin. Around the same time, protesters also formed at the Radio Budapest building that the AVH was guarding. Trying to prevent the people from gaining control of the station, which would allow them to broadcast their message, used tear gas and shot into the crowd. It was at the Radio Station where the unruly, but peaceful, protest became violent (5).

Fighting the Revolution

The Hungarian Revolution was an urban guerilla style war. At the very beginning the Freedom Fighters armed themselves with stolen weapons from the AVH. Their goal was to seize control of radio stations so they could broadcast their message. Knowing this the Soviets tried to crush the rebellion with the Hungarian National Army. Instead, the army sided with the Freedom Fighters. It was then that the Soviet Union entered the conflict, but by then the revolution had spread across the country. In Budapest, the Soviets were armed with leftover weapons of WWII. Even so, the Hungarians were out armed, because of Soviet tanks. To counter the tanks, the Hungarians used a Russian invention; the Molotov Cocktail. As the fight waged on, the Hungarians seemed to have the upper hand, and on October 28, the Soviets began to withdraw from Hungary (6).

"The bear is the most dangerous when it seems to look friendly"- Old Russian Proverb (7)

Between the 28th and November the 4th, virtually all fighting stopped. On November 4, though, Soviet tanks drove back into the country. With the new Soviet forces entering Budapest and other cities, the revolution was crushed. The students tried desperately to call for ally help, but none came. On November 10, the remaining fighters called for a cease-fire (8).


Peace Negotiations
The Western Powers attended meetings of the United Nations Security Council between October 28th and November 4th (9). Their goal was to convince the United Nations to aid the Revolution. However, the efforts to help the Revolution were put down by the Soviets and Péter Kós, the Hungarian representative. Péter Kós had asked for the distribution of a “Declaration of the Government of the Hungarian People’s Republic” to the Security Council, which protested UN intervention in Hungary. Kós said, “the events that took place on 22 Oct.1956 and thereafter, and the measures taken in the course of these events, were exclusively within the domestic jurisdiction of the Hungarian People’s Republic and consequently do not fall within the jurisdiction of the United Nations” (10). Attention was diverted from Hungary when the Suez Crisis turned into an armed conflict The United States still protested Soviet intervention t the UN after this though. The meetings revealed each country’s true intentions.
Negotiations between the Hungarian revolutionaries and the occupying Soviets occurred near the end of the revolution. Some Hungarians prisoners were released but a Soviet withdrawal was not negotiated. Other than secret negotiations there were none. There was no official negotiation. The Revolution was not a true war, at least not in the eyes of the Soviets. The Soviets wanted to show the world that it controlled Eastern Europe and that it was just the routine. If the world saw that Hungary had done such damage to the USSR, it would not reflect favorably on Soviets power and dominance. To show itself in good light, the USSR issued a statement saying, “At the same time, the Soviet Government is ready to enter into relevant negotiations with the Government of the Hungarian People's Republic and other participants of the Warsaw Treaty on the question of the presence of Soviet troops on the territory of Hungary.” (11).

Hungarian Government Post-War
The point of the Hungarian Revolution, and any revolution, was to overthrow the current government and set up a new one. The revolutionaries wanted a different communist government and freedom from the USSR. In the words of Imre Nagy, the revolution was a “fight is the fight for freedom by the Hungarian people against the Russian intervention” (12). The Soviets crushed the uprising and continued to occupy Hungary after. The Soviet view on the government of Hungary was that it was the same as before the Revolution. According to the Soviets, the invasion was at “the request of the Hungarian People's Government” in order “to assist the Hungarian People's Army and the Hungarian authorities to establish order in the town.” In reality, the Hungarian government was basically the same as before, but the process wasn’t exactly like how the Soviets put it. Just to help out the existing government, instead of violently crushing a threat to Soviet dominance.

Works Cited

1. Korda, Michael. “4. Salami Tactics- 9. ‘Slaves We Shall No Longer Be!’” Journey to a Revolution. New York, New York: HarperCollins, 2006. 65-205. Print.

2. "Hungarian Revolution of 1956." World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2009. Web. 26 Oct. 2009. <>.

3. Korda, Michael.

4. Students of Building Industry Technology Unniversity. "The Sixteen Political, Economical, and Idealogical Points." The Building Industry Technology
Unniversity students. Budapest, Hungary. 22 Oct. 1956. World History: The Modern Era. <‌Search/‌Display.aspx?categoryid=33&entryid=354603&searchtext=hungarian+revolution&type=simple&option=all&searchsites=5,>.

5. Korda, Michael.

6. Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

7. Korda, Micahel.

8. Korda Michael.

9. Békés, Csaba. “Secret Negotiations by the Western Great Powers October 26th-November 4th 1956: British Foreign Office Documents.” Hungarian Quaterly Spring 2000: n. pag. eLibrary Curriculum Edition. Web. 26 Sept. 2009.
10. ibid

Halsall, Paul. “Modern History Sourcebook: Hungary 1956.” Internet Modern History Sourcebook. N.p., July 1998. Web. 27 Oct. 2009. <‌halsall/‌mod/‌1956hungary.html>.

12. ibid

Works Consulted
Hoensch, Jörg K. “The Failure of the ‘New Course’ and the Popular Uprising of October 1956.” A History of Modern Hungary 1867~1986. Trans. Kim Traynor. 1984. New York: Longman, 1988. 208-220. Print.
The 1956 Hungarian Revolution as Depicted in Newsreels (1956). N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2009. <‌details/‌1956_Hungarian_Revolution_as_Depicted_in_Newsreels>.
Rainer, János M. “Imre Nagy, Life and Image.” N.d. eLibrary Curriculum Edition. Web. 15 Sept. 2009.
Ronay, Gabriel. “Hungary Calling.” History Today 1 Oct. 2006: n. pag. eLibrary Curriculum Edition. Web. 23 Sept. 2009.
Ürményházi, Attila J, and Bryan Dawson-Szilágyi, eds. “28 October.” The Hungarian Revolution-Uprising of 1956. The American Hungarian Federation, n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2009.