Hungarian Revolution Refugees: Escaping Communist Control (November-December 1956)

Hungarian refugees
Figure 1.--For more than a week the border with Austria was open. When the Soviet Union invased Hungary (November 30-4), they soon began closing the border crossings. But for a while, Hungarians coukd still reach Austria by staying off the main roads and going arond the border crossings. Here a fmily is struggling across the snow covered country side to reach Austria ad safety.

Hungarians that could, fled to the West. Some 0.2 million Hungarians fled their country. Only small numbers of refugees began arriving in Austria when the Hungarian Revolution began. As the Communist regime collapsed, the border suddenly opoened. Some 3,000-4,000 people crossed the border with Austria (October 24-November 3). For a time it looked like Hungrary might nbreak free of Soviet control. The major refugee flow began as Red Army tanks smashed into Budapest (November 3-4). The first large numbers of refugees began entering Austria over the weekend when some 10,000 people crossed over the Austrian border. (November 4-6). It became the first major crisis in history to appear on television. The plight of the refugees was also prominently featured in newspapers and movie newsreels which were still important at the time. The international public was shocked with the scenes of Red Army tanks in Budapest and the refugees fleeing across the snow-covered border into Austria. This was only possible because the Soviets had withdrawn from Austria a year ealier and the country had agreed to a maintain neutral foreign policy (1955). Fortunately rejecting refugees flleing Red army tanks was not seen as a violation of Austrian neutrality. The number of refugees crossing had risen to 36,000 (by November 16). The number of refugees had risen to 113,000 (end of Nobember). The Soviets and reconstitured Hungarian Army sealed the Austrian border first. But refugees were for a while able to cross into Yugoslavia. The refugees were a cross section of Hungarian society. Students, teachers, doctors, athletes including Olympians and footballers, farmers, architects and workers began streaming toward the Austrian border. Among the students were entire classes. One report suggests that even an entire school crossed. Most of the fefugees crossed over to Austria. There was a longer border with Yugoslavia and unlike the Austrian border remained open for some time. Most of the refugees crossed over to Austria, because Yugoslavia was another Communist country, and the refugees wanted yo reach the West. Camps for the refugees were hastiy set up in both Austria and Yugoslavia. These were the only two possibilities because most of Hungary's borders were with other Soviet-controlled satellite countries (Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, and Romania). The only possibilities for escape were neutral Austria to the West and Yugoslavia to the south. The Yugoslave border was much longer than the Austrian border. Budapest is located in the north, about equaldistant to the Austrian and Yugoslav border. Yugoslavia was a Communist country, but had its leader, partisan commander Tito, had broken with the Soviets when Stalin attemted to take control as he had done the rest of his the Eastern European Empire. Soviet policy at the time was still Stalin's efforts to ostracize the Yugoslavs, but Premier Nikita Khrushchev was already moving to normalize relations with Tito's Yugoslavia. The Soviet Hungarian inervention would delay that normalization. Unlike the Soviet satellites, Yugoslavia did not support the Soviet intervention and for a time proected Nagy in their embassy. As a result, some refugess also flowed into Yugoslavia. By the time the borders were sealed, a total of 200,000 Hungarians had fled had fled, 180,000 to Austria and 20,000 to Yugoslavia.



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Created: 1:50 AM 11/10/2014
Last updated: 1:50 AM 11/10/2014