The Hungarian Revolution was a spontaneous nationwide revolt in reaction to the Stalinist brutalities of Mátyás Rákosi who ran Hungary as brutally as Stalin had the Soviet Union. The Hungarian Revolution ocurred in the midst of Nikita Khruschev's de-Stalinization program. Hungarians began to expect changes in their country. Rákosi was one of the brutal dictators that Stalin had imposed on the people of Eastern Europe. The Revolution broke out October 23, 1956. Students in Budapest bravely staged a demonstration which attracted others as they marched through the central city to the national Parliament. A delegation of the students went into the Radio Building in an effort to broadcast their demands. They were detailed by authorities which could have meant a long prison term. The demonstrators outside demanded their release. The State Security Police (ÁVH) answered by firing on the demonstrators. The demonstrators moved back, but news rapidly spread throughout the city and soon the city erupted in widespead protests and violence. And the disorders appeared in other cities as well. Anti-goverment groups organized militias and attacked the ÁVH as well as Soviet troops. AVH prisons were opened and Communist officials were jailed. Some officials and AVH men were executed. Quickly organized councils seized control of municicipal goverments all over Hungary. A provisional government disbanded the ÁVH, announced a decesion to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact, and committed to quickly holding free elections. The new governnment was in control of the country by the end of October. Soviet authorities announced a willingness to withdraw their militart forces. It is unclear if this was a ruse or that the Politburo actually changed its mind. One historian contends that Khruschev did not want to appear weak in the face of Western Operations in Suez, thus explaining the massive use of force in supressing the Hungarian rebellion. [Hitchcock] Soviet forces invaded Hungary (November 4). The Soviets killed thousands of civilians. The poorly armed militias were no match against Soviet tanks and well-armed and trained soldiers. The Revolution was ended by November 10 when organized resistance ceased. Mass arrests began. Hungarians that could, fled to the West. Austria opened its border and about 0.2 million Hungarians fled their country. Assessments of the Revolution vary. It caused many Communists in the West to question their beliefs. The brutality of the Soviet invasion and the Soviet supervised reprisals caused many in Eastern Europe at first to dispair amd conclude that the Soviets could not be confronted. Gradually Eastern Europeans began to conceive of non-violent approaches to challenging the Soviets.
Hungary fought as an Axis ally during World War II. The Hungarians were not an enthusiastic participant in the War, but did want to expand their borders to include areas in neighboring states that had Hungarian ethnic poplations. Hitler awarded areas of Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia to Hungary. This were all World War I Allied countries that had been created and awarded territory in the post-World War settlement. The Hungarians became much less enthusistic about the War when Hitler turned east and invaded the Soviet Union. Concern about the war increased when Hitler demnded that the Hungarian Army participte in a meaningful way. A substantial part of the Hungarian Army was lost at Stalingrad (1942-43). Hungary participated in the NAZI Holocaust of the Jews, but had second thoughts after the war turned against Germany in the East. When Hungary attempted to exit the War, Hitler occupied his former ally (1944). The Red Army liberated Hungary (1945). The Soviet Union before and during World war II harbored foreign Communists. There unexpectedly many found themselves targets. Stalin orderd the NKVD to arrest and kill many of them as he culled through them to find those he believed would prove to be compliant tools. Stalin's NKVD installed a compliant Communist Government regime headed by Mátyás Rákosi. Nagy was appointed Minister of Agriculture (1945). The land reforms he implemented made him a national figure. Gradually he begame the leading spokesman for a liberal approach to Communism, bringing him into conflict with the country's Stalinist strongman, Mátyás Rákosi.
Imre Nagy was born into a peasant family at Kaposvar (1896). He became a locksmith. He was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I. He was taken prioner by the Russians early in the War and spent the rest of the War in a Russian POW camp in Siberia. He escaped from the camp as revolution rocked Russia. He fought with the Bolsheviks in their seizure of power. He returned to Hungary where he joined the Communist Party (1918). Bela Kun seized power and installed a Soviet Republic (1919). Nagy was appointed to a minor post. Admiral Miklos Horthy led the forces that overthrew Kun's Soviet Repiblic (November). Nagy went underground 10 years, but finally sought rfuge in the Soviet Union (1929). Nagy remained in exile there for 15 years, including World War II. Unlike many of the emigre national Communists, Nagy survived. The Red Army liberated Hungary (1944-45). Nagy returned to Budapest and was appointed Minister of Agriculture (1945). The land reforms he implemented made him a national figure. Gradually he begame the leading spokesman for a liberal approach to Communism bringing him into conflict with the country's Stalinist strongman, Mátyás Rákosi.
Control of Hungary after World war II became a contest between two competng versions of Communism. Imre Nagy and Mátyás Rákosi struggled for control of the ruling Hungarian Wrker's Party (HWP). Imre Nagy spent years as a refugee in the Soviet Union. As Minister of Agriculture after the War he introduced a popular land reform program. Hungary had been dominted by large landed estates. Nagy was elected Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament (1947). He gradualy emerged as a leading spokesman for those with a liberal vision of Communism. Prime Minister Mátyás Rákosi dominated Hungary and imposed an increasingly authoritarian regime. Rákosi was one of the brutal dictators that Stalin had imposed on the people of Eastern Europe. Rákosi faithfully carried out orders from Moscow. He conducted a dreadful purge in Hungary beginning in 1950 and lasting until Stalin died in 1953. In a country of only about 10 million, 1.3 million were targetted , about half of which were arrested. Here I have seen varying estimates. There were 2,350 were executed. [Sebestyen] Rákosi was Jewish, even so he joined in Stalin's anti-Semetic campaign. Rákosi brutal rule was questioned from withn the Party and Rákosi responded by purging Party membership, expelling 200,000 for disloyalty or lack of sufficent loyalty. The Church was also targetted. Priests were arrested. They also arrested the bishop of Esztergom, Cardinal Mindszenty, and organized a show trial (1949).
The Államvédelmi Hatóság (State Protection Authority--AVH) was aptly name, it purpse was to protect the state, not enforce the lawor protect the citizenry. It was Communist Hungary's secret police force (1945-56). It was established by the Soviet KGB after the Rd Army occy=upied Hungary at the end of World war II. KBG agents trained Hungarian recruits in secret police police state tactics. The AVH earned a reputation in Hungary for brutality during the Stalinist post-War purges (1948). The purges intensifed in 1949 and continued until Stalin's death (1953) After Stalin died, Imre Nagy was appointed Prime Minister of Hungary. Under Nagy's first government (1953-55), the ÁVH was gradually reined in. Some AVH officers did not like the restrints suddenly placed on them.
While Stalin could maintain control by his iron hand, he could not repeal the iron laws of economics. Rákosi while in control poltically experiebced increasing problems with the economy. Instead of the brighter future promied by the Comminists, workers saw living standards fall. Inevitably as Rákosi had assumed the leading role in the Government became associate with the economic failures. Rákosibecame increasingly unpopular. Stalin's death in 1953 brought the possibility of change.
While he participated in the Stalinist Terror, his single most important achievement was surely launching the De-Stalinization process (1956). This began at the 20th Party Congress (February 14-25, 1956). No one in the leadership could have not participted and survived. Khrushchev stunned the delegates at the end of the 20th Party Congress when he without warning delivered his 'Secret Speech' which went on for 6 hours. He denounced both the Stalin's excesses and the dictator's personality cult as well as charging that Stalin made serious mistakes, especially not preparing for the German World War II invasion. Even after Stalin's death (1953), no one until the 20th Party Congress dared say anything negative about the former dictator. Today Khrushchev's speech seems timid given the enormity of Stalin's crimes. It was not only timid, but in many ways did not attack the underlying criminality of Stalin;s rule, in part because Khrushchev was involved in those crimes. There were three fundamental flaws in his Secret Speech. First, Khrushchev limited his denuciatons to crimes against thae Party. Cimes against the people were not mentioned. Second, he talked about the thousand killed while the body count of Soviet citizens murdedered was in the millions not to mention millions more of broken and ruined lives. Third, Khruschev did not criticize all of Stalin's crime, he maintained that some of the killing was not only justified, but important. Despite these failures, the impact Within the Soviet empire was electrifying. It was the beginning of the end of Stalinism, but not politicl repression. Despite his many negative actions and behavior as the Soviet leader, this was a courageous and critical action. Under Khrushchev many were eventually released from the Gulag--but the camps were not emptied. And in fact some received transports of Hungarian patriots. It should also be remembered that in his last years in power that the regime was again clamping down on disidents.
Party Secretary Matyas Rákosi was unable to maintain Stalinist rule. Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev had launched his de-Stalinization program at the 20th Party Congress. Khrushchev denounced the policies of Joseph Stalin and his followers in Eastern Europe (February 1956). Foreign Communists, primarily Eastern Europeans, were present at the 20th Party Congress. They heard Primier Khrushchev's Secret Speech. Some were concerned that their positions woukd be undercut. Others saw a brighter future and the possibility of reform. Hungarians began to expect changes in their country. Without support from the Kremlin, Rákosi position rapidly crumbled.
Mátyas Rákosi was replaced as prime minister by Nagy. Rákosi remained a major force, however, as he retained the post of general secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party. Nagy and Rákosi became bitter rivals. Nagy as prime minister initiated major reforms in Hungary. Nagy introduced press freedom through which an open discussion on political and economic reform could be conducted. Of considerable interest was icreased priority to the production of consumer goods. Nagy order the release of anti-communists from prison. He also discussed free elections and withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact. This caudsed considerable concern in Moscow. Rákosi was able to attacks Nagy. The Central Committee of the Hungarian Workers Party censured Nagy for "rightist deviation" (March 9, 1955). The Communist -controlled media began attacking Nagy and blameing him for the economic problems. The National Assembly unanimously dismissed him (April 18). Rákosi was again appointed prime minister.
Rákosi wasone of the Eastern European Stalinists whose position was undercut by Khrushchev at the 20th Party Congress. This was something that Khrushchev had no fully thought out. Contary to what the Soviets including Khrushchev claimed aftr the fact, Nagy was not responsible for the popular uprising or engage in any conspiracy to promote it. [Khrushchev, pp. 415-29.] Nagy not only did not organize the revolt, he was never able to fully control the popular revolt that rose against the Soviets and Stalinism. If he had been in control he might have been able to limit the anti-Soviet direction the revolt took. The Soviet Ambassador in Budapest warned Moscow that a revolt against Rákosi was brewing in Budapest. Khrushchev and his Soviet colleagues were willing to tolerate a de-Stalinization and modest reforms as long as the Hungarians remained firmly within the Soviet Empire. Khrushchev dispacted veteran diplomat Anastas Mikoyan, an arch-Stalinists during Stalin's life) to Budapest to shepherd the process. Mikoyan precided over the meeting of the Hungarian Communist Pary Central Committe that removed Rákosi (July 18, 1956). It should not be thought that Mikoyan played a passive role. He esentially ordered the Central Committee to dismiss Rákosi. And Mikoyan did not select a reformer. The Central Committe was composed of Rákosi associates and firmly Staliist. They thus did not decide on a reformist agenda. They appointed Ernő Gerő to replace Rákosi as primeminister. Gerő was an old-line Communist who spent years in the Soviet Union and Rákosi's cloest assocate. He predictably continued the same repressive Stalinist policies pursued by Rákosi.
The fact that Nagy was not directing the popular oppositon can largely be seen because Rákosi had ordered him arrested and he was in jail as all this was unfolding. Idealistic students became the vanguard of the growing popular resistance, but they were gradually joined by intelectuals, workets, and finally Communist Party members all demanding reforms and greater freedom. The Central Committee concerned about the increasing opposition announced that it had determined that that the Stalinist conviction of Laszlo Rajk, Gyorgy Palffy, Tibor Szonyi and Andras Szalai for treason in 1949 had been a 'miscarriage of justice' (October 3, 1956). This was essentially the approch taken by Khrushchev in his Secret Speech. The Central Committe also reinstated Nagy as a Party member.
The Hungarian Revolution was a spontaneous nationwide revolt in reaction to the Stalinist brutalities of Mátyás Rákosi and his associates who had attempted to run Hungary as brutally as Stalin had the Soviet Union. The Revolution broke out October 23, 1956. With new political winds blowing in Hungary, students in Budapest bravely staged a peaceful demonstration in support of Polish attempts to gain autonomy from the Soviets (October 23). It began as a small protest, not unlike other small protests. It proved to be the beginning of the Revolt. The student protest attracted others as they marched through the central city to the national Parliament. The students called for an end to Soviet military occupation and the implementation of what they referred to as 'true socialism'. Notice after a decade of brutal Communist police state rule, the students had not rejected socialism. While Rákosi was gone, the Soviets had hand selected Ernő Gerő, his ideological twin, as a replacement. And the students wanted Nagy back. A delegation of the students went into the Radio Building in an effort to broadcast their demands. They were detained by authorities which could have meant long prison terms. The demonstrators outside demanded their release. The State Security Police (ÁVH) answered by opening fire on the demonstrators. The demonstrators momentarily moved back. [Sebestyen] The demonstrators began fighting back. All over the city, the people of Budapest rose up. They began , tearing down symbols of Soviet domination and HWP rule. They sacked offices of the Party newspaper. They demanded free elections, national independence, and the return of Imre Nagy.
News of the incident at the Radio Building rapidly spread throughout the city. Soon Budapest erupted in widespead protests and violence. The rioters tore down Stalin's statue. Crowds began chanting "Russians go home", "Away with Gero" and "Long Live Nagy". Ernő Gerő, the Hungarian Communist leader selected by the Soviets, ordered the Hungarian Army and ordinary police to supress the uprising. The AVH which battling the rebellion remained loyal, the Army did not. The Army was a conscript army and not a select group of regime loyalists like the AVH. Many soldiers symphatized with the demonstrators. And instead of supressing the uprising, they began handing over their weapons to the demonstrators and many young soldiers joined them. Soviet authorities in Budapest asked Nagy to reason with the crowd. The violence continued to escalte. Gerő losing control of the Army and ordinry police, asked for Soviet troops to put down what was becoming a full-scale rebellion. A small force of Soviet troops entered Budapest (October 24). The presence of the Soviets only enraged the people of Budapest and was too small a force to put the rebellion down. The growing rebellion spawned groups who set about dismanteling the regime. Loosely organized groups of rebels entered prisons and released those encarerated, freed Cardinal Mindszenty the symbol of Hungarian frredom, attacked police stations, and the AVH secret police headquarters and prison. Demonstrations and disorders appeared in other Hungarian cities as well. The rioters began forming anti-goverment groups and organizing militias who attacked the ÁVH as well as Soviet troops. Whole elements of the Hungrian Army, and not just individual young soldiers, joined the students and other Budabest demonstrators. Some AVH officers captured were hung on street corners. The militia began arresting Communist officials were jailed. Some officials and AVH men were executed.
Imre Nagy still did not come forwad himself to lead what was becoming a full-scal revolution. Responding to the popular clamor on the streets, Mikoyan and Mikhail Suslov, a Stalinist who criticised Khrushchev's reformns, reluctantly agreed to back Nagy, hoping that he could control the growing revolt. At the time, Nagy was still being help in Party Headquarters by the die-hard Stalinists. They countinued to appeal for Red Army intervention. Ths infuriated elments in the Army that were holding back. Much of the Army turned on the Party and joined the revolt. The result was that the Hungarian Communist Party essentially ceased to exist as an important force. The Central Committee of the Hungarian Communist Party reacting to the growing revolt, decided that Nagy should become head of a new government (October 25). They also and selected a new Politburo and Secretariat. Janos Kadar replaced Gerő as Party first secretary (October 26). Quickly organized councils seized control of municicipal goverments all over Hungary. The provisional government disbanded the ÁVH, announced a decesion to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact, and committed to quickly holding free elections. The new governnment was in control of the country by the end of October.
Soviet tanks fired on protesters in Parliament Square (October 25). One press report indicated 12 were killed and 170 wounded. The Central Committee of the Communist Party forced Erno Gero out and replaced him with Janos Kadar. Nagy announced on Radio Kossuth that he had asdumed leadership of the Government as Chairman of the Council of Ministers. He promised the "the far-reaching democratization of Hungarian public life, the realisation of a Hungarian road to socialism in accord with our own national characteristics, and the realisation of our lofty national aim: the radical improvement of the workers' living conditions."
Some of the Hungarian military went over to the insurgents. The most imprtant figure was Pál Maléter (1917–58). He became the military leader of the Hungarian Revolution. Maléter was born in Eperjes, a city in the northern part of Historical Hungary--Prešov in Slovakia. He studied medicine at the Charles University, Prague, before moving to Budapest (1938). He attended the military academy in Budapest. Hunhary joined the Axis (1940). He fought in the Otkrieg. Hitler demnded Hungaraian participation in the Ostkrig. He was csptured by the Red Army, we think during thStalingrad offensive (1942). He became a Communist while a POW. The Soviets trained in sabotage ancd fought against the Germans in Transylvania. While fightingtheGermznd jn Hungry, he noted for his courage and aggressive conduct. After the Communidt seizrd contyrol of Hungry he becsmne part of the Communist Hungarian Army. At the tim of ther Revolkutuin he was a colonel in an armoured division im Budapest -- the eye of the storm. The Governmnt ordered him to suppress the Uprising After contscting the insurgents, he decided instead to join them, turning againsr the Ernő Gerő'Government. He helped to defend the Kilian Barracks. He was the highest ranking Hungarian military officer to join the Rvolution. The new government acceoted his support, promoted him to generaal and then Minister of Defense (October 29). The new Government tried to negotiate with the Soviets. Maléter net with them at Tököl (Novermber 3). Furung the talks the following day, Red Army officials arrested him despite assurances of safe cinduct.
He was imprisoned anf or a time his fate was uncertain. He was finally executed, along with Imre Nagy and insurgent leaders in a Budapest prison (June 1958). His first wife and three children escaped to the West. His second wife remained in Hungary. Maléter, Nagy, snd other insurgent leaders re noe considered natioinl heroes.
Public attention to the unfolding situation in Hungary was distracted by the dramatic events in the Middle East. President Gamel Abdul Nasser had been givig enpassioned radio broadcasts threatening to destroy Israel. He was aplauded throughout the Arab world. No Arab leader before or after had so captured the spirit if the Arab people. He had earlier seized the Suez Cana making him a hero in the Arab wold. The Arabs began planning a combined three prong invasion of Israel. Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, the front-line states, signed a tripartite agreement (October 25). Jordan and Syria agreed to give Nasser command of their armies. Israel decided to act before the three countries could launch a coordimate invasion. The new Isreali Army this time with an established governmrnt to support it smashed the Egyptian army and raced toward Suez. The Arabs were shicked having expevted to easily destroy Issrael. At the same time the British and French move to seize Suez back from Nasser.
Nagy and his supporters, including Janos Kadar, Geza Lodonczy, Antal Apro, Karoly Kiss, Ferenc Munnich and Zoltan Szabo, take control of the Hungarian Worker's (HWP) (October 28). The HWP was the ruling Communist Pary in Hugary. Revolutionary workers' councils and local national committees form throughout the country. The Party newspaper Szabad Nep supports the new government and for the first time openly critices Soviet attempts to control Hungary (October 29). This is repeated by Radio Miskolc which demanded the immediate withdrawal of Soviet troops.
Nagy announced that he was freeing Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty beloved figure to many Hungarians (October 30). Other political prisoners were also released. He announced that the his government would abolish the one-party state. Zolton Tildy, Anna Kethly and Ferenc Farkas announced reforms of the Smallholders Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Petofi Peasants Party. Nagy as prime minister again enjoyed wid-spread support. He formed a new government consisting of both Communists and Non-Communists, dissolved the AVH, abolished the HWP one-party system, and promised free elections, and an end to farm collectivization. Kadar strongly supported him. Nagy failed, however, to harness the popular revolt and restore ordr. Workers' councils wanted more. They threatened a general strike to force out Soviet troops, end Party interference in economic affairs, and renegotiation the economic treaties with the Soviet Union. These are all steps Nagy presumably would have taken or at least would have been taken by a future democratic gofernment. Nagy wa, however, attempting to avoid Soviet intervention in force. Nagy called for the formation of a new democratic, multiparty system (October 30). The Communist upon seizing power had supressed non-communist parties (1947). A coalition government emerged under Nagy that included members of the Independent Smallholders' Party, Social Democratic Party, National Peasant Party, and other parties, as well as the HWP. After negotiations, Soviet officials agreed to remove their troops at the discretion of the Hungarian government. Soviet troops began to leave Budapest. Nagy learned, however, that new Soviet armored divisions had crossed into Hungary.
It is unclear at what point Premier Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviet leadership decided to intervene in Hungary. If they had not decided before, Nagy's decisions on November 1 must have sealed the fate of the Revolution. Nagy was a committed Communist. He had fought with the Bolsheviks in the ealiest days of the Revolution in Russia. He was in many ways a reluctant revolutionary. He envisioned a more open, liberal Communism. The revolutionaries, however, were calling for a free Hungary along the lines of a Western democracy. The force of events and Soviet intragicence pused Nagy to opemly defy the Soviets. Nagy announced that he planned to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact. He also planned to proclaim Hungary neutral. He asked the United Nations to mediate Hungary's differences with the Soviet Union. He also asked
Western governments for protection. The Western allies were, however, already embroiled in crises--the Suez Cises. Even if the Suez Crisus had not destracted them, the United states abd its allies were not about to intervene and risk World War III. Kadar opposed to the anti-Communist direction of the revolt fled to the Soviet Union (November 2).
Nagy announced the makeup of his coalition government (November 3). It included communists (Janos Kadar, George Lukacs, Geza Lodonczy), three members of the Smallholders Party (Zolton Tildy, Bela Kovacs and Istvan Szabo), three Social Democrats (Anna Kethly, Gyula Keleman, Joseph Fischer), and two Petofi Peasants (Istvan Bibo and Ferenc Farkas). Nagy gave Pal Maleter the uneviable job of minister of defence.
Soviet authorities announced a willingness to withdraw their militart forces. It is unclear if this was a ruse or that the Politburo actually changed its mind. It is unclear if the Soviets would have tolerated a liberal Communist regime in Hungary. It is clear now that they would not allow Hungary to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact. One historian contends that Khruschev did not want to appear weak in the face of Western Operations in Suez, thus explaining the massive use of force in supressing the Hungarian rebellion. [Hitchcock] The author like many other left-wing academics is prone to blame Soviet behavior on the United States. It is more likely that the decesion was a more basic one. To allow Hungary to leave the Soviet Empire would mean that the other Eastern Ruropean countries would follow, unraveling Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. The Soviet military responded to Hungarian events with a quick, overwealming strike. The Soviets first surrounded Budapest, the center, of the rebellion and closed the country's borders (November 3). Overnight they entered Budapest and occupied the National Assembly building. Meanwhile Kader with Soviet aopproval organized the Temporary Revolutionary Government of Hungary on Soviet soil just over the Hungarian border. The Soviets annojnced the formation of the new government in a radiobroadcast (November 4). Soviet forces invaded Hungary with a massive 0.5 million force (November 4). Soviet tanks quickely seized control of Hungary's airfields and other key points like highway junctions and bridges. Hungarian militia forces attempted to resist, but did not have the needed fire power. The Hungarian freedom fighters were quickly defeated. The Soviets killed about 2,500 fighters and civilians. Anout 10,000 were wounded. The poorly armed militias were no match against Soviet tanks and well-armed and trained soldiers. The Revolution was ended by November 10 when organized resistance ceased. The Soviets returned Kadar to Budapest in a Soviet armored car (November 4).
Nagy sought refuge in the Yugoslav embassy. Cardinal Mindszenty took refuge in the United States embassy. Rakosi was awaiting the outcome, afely across the Soviet border
Hungarians that could, fled to the West. Some 0.2 million Hungarians fled their country. There wee only two possibilities as 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 an Yugoslavia to the south. The Yugoslave border was much longer than the Austrian border. Budapest is located in the north, about eualdistant 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. Premier Nikita Khrushchev would later move to normalize relations with Tito's Yugoslavia, but at the time relations were frozen. Unlike the Soviet satellites, Yugoslavia did not support the Soviet intervention and for a time proected Nagy in their embassy. As a result, refugess also flowed into Yugoslavia. Camps for the refugees were hastiy set up in both Austria and Yugoslavia. The Hungarians were the first massive refugee flow in Europe since the end of World War II (1945). It took the Europeans by surprise and they were unprepared. Neither Austria or Hungary had the resources needed to deal with the massive influx. Nor were international humanitarian organizations prepared for the unexpected crisis. The two primary organizatins involved were the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Both institutions had played an important role in the post-World War II refugee crisis, but had no major refugee crisis to deal with for more than a decade. They were suddenly confronted with a huge crisis with few resources in place to meet thge needs of the refugees. About 15 per cent of the Hungarian refugees who reached the West were minors. Most of them came with their parents. And the officials dealing with te refugees gave priority to families. Western countries quickly accepted the families and made privision for them to build new lives. The United States took no military steps to aid the revolution. This would led to a reassessment of amerian Cold War policies. The United states did, however, aid the refugees. Many eventually emigrated to the United States. Ironically, Hungary had not signifantly participated in the great European migration to America during the late-19th and early-20th century. Congress made special provision for Hungarian refugees (1956). Other Western countries also accepted the Hungarian families and adult refugees.
One of the secial tragedies of the Hungarian Revolution were the young people that had fled the Soviets. The children and teenagers who fled without their parents were not properly assisted. There were about 20,000 of them who came to be called 'unaccompaied minors'. For the most part, Westrn Governments did not want to assume the much more difficult responsibility of caring for unaccompanied minors. Most were older teenagers (15-18 years of age). [Nóvé] Ironically these were the same young people that months earlier the Western press had been lauding as valliant freedom fighters.
Janos Kadar criticised Nagy for going to far with reforms. The Soviets chose him to lead the new government.
Nagy had obtained asylum at the Yugoslav embassy in Budapest. So did other leaders like George Lukacs, Geza Lodonczy and Julia Rajk (Laszlo Rajk's widow). Kadar promised Nagy that he and his associates could safely leave the country. Kadar did not, however, keep his word. He ordered Nagy and his associates seized after they left the Yugoslav embassy (November 23).
Mass arrests began as the Soviets supressed the Revolution. About 330 Hngarians were executed. Thousands were arrested. the Hungarian government was not sure what to do with Nagy and the other top leaders. Finally the government announced that several individuals had been convicted of treason and attempting to overthrow the "democratic state order". They added that Nagy, Pal Maleter and Miklos Gimes had been executed (June 17, 1958).
Assessments of the Revolution vary. Some observers describe the brutal Soviet action in Hungary as a pyric victory, exposing the true nature of the regime to Wesern Europe. [Korda] It caused many Communists in the West to question their beliefs. One observer says that it "fractured the left" throughout Western Europe. [Sebestyen] The brutality of the Soviet invasion and the Soviet supervised reprisals caused many in Eastern Europe at first to dispair amd conclude that the Soviets could not be confronted. Gradually Eastern Europeans began to conceive of non-violent approaches to challenging the Soviets.
The Republicans for several years had been critcising the Democrats for losing Eastern Europe and China. The Eisenhower presidential campaign sharply criticised President Truman. The Eisenhower Administration and the new Secretary of State promoted the idea of rolling back the Communist tide. Radio Free Europe had been very strident, almost belicose in its tone, encouring Eastern Europeans to rise up. The Administration made no effort to aid the Hungarians when they did rise up. After the Hungarian Revolution, the dministration and Radio Free Europe began talking in more measured tones.
Hitchcock, William I. The Struggle for Europe: The Turbulent History of a Divided Continent (Doubleday), 513p. This is a thought provoking, well researched book. He has gained access to never before used Soviet archives. We do not agree with all of his conclusions. The author in many instances, for example, tends to explain Soviet actions as response to American policies rather than the inherent nature of a brutal regime.
Khrushchev, Nikita. Edward Crankshaw, intro, commentary, and notes. Strobe Talbott, trans. and ed. Khrushchev Remembers (Little Brown: Boston, 1970), 639p. This a fascinating book. Khruschev is often quite open and honest in recoundting major evenbts durung Stalin's rule and his own premiership. He always, however, takes apons to paint his own role in the most positive way possible. The chapter on Hungary is pergaps the most dishonest in the book. The editor writes, "Khrushchev's highly dfensive account of the Hungarian uprising of 156 diverges so widely from the generally acceted facts that it would take a small book to counter his version point by point and set oout th true sequence of events."
Korda, Michael. Journey to a Revolution: A Personal Memoir and History of the Hungarian Revolution (HarperCollins, 2006), 221p.
Nóvé, Béla. "The Orphans of '56: Hungarian Child Refugees and their Stories" Eurozine (2013).
Sebestyen, Victor. Twelve Days: Yhe Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution (Pantheon, 2006), 340p.
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