The World Stood by…1956

November 2, 2013

1956-10-31_Stalin_Statue_Pulled_Down_HungaryHungary in 1956 seems to really sum all that the Cold War stands for. The people of Hungary and the rest of Eastern Europe were ruled with an iron fist by that of Communist Russia and anybody who challenged the rule of Stalin and Russia paid the price. The death of Stalin in 1953 did not weaken the grip Moscow had on the people of Eastern Europe and Hungary, by challenging the rule of Moscow, paid such a price in 1956.

From the end of World War II in 1945 Hungary was under the control of Communist Russia, enacted through a coup of the Communist party which was then reinforced with thousands of tanks and soldiers. The country then instituted many Stalinist laws and institutes. The Hungarian secret police was supposedly one of the best second to that of the Russians. The Hungarian Working People’s Party set about to modify the economy into socialism by undertaking radical nationalization based on the Soviet model. This forced method of economic socialism during infrastructural recovery from the war initially resulted in economic stagnation, lower standards of living, and a deep malaise.

The Revolution began as a Student demonstration against the authority of the Russian Government. The idea was that through a simple demonstration it would lead to others coming in, in the past all demonstrations were force-ably fought against, so maybe that was the motive. Maybe they decided that by instigating a demonstration and the violence that would occur could force the hand of the Hungarian government.

As expected the demonstration was met with force when it tried to take a radio broadcast station and were fired upon. The revolt spread quickly across Hungary and the government collapsed. Thousands organized into militias, battling the State Security Police  and Soviet troops. Pro-Soviet communists and ÁVH members were often executed or imprisoned and former prisoners were released and armed. Radical impromptu workers’ councils wrested municipal control from the ruling Hungarian Working People’s Party and demanded political changes. A new government  declared its intention to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact, and pledged to re-establish free elections. By the the end of October things were entering a state of normality…….BUT

“[T]he Soviet Government is prepared to enter into the appropriate negotiations with the government of the Hungarian People’s Republic and other members of the Warsaw Treaty on the question of the presence of Soviet troops on the territory of Hungary.” To outside observers, the Kremlin statement came as a total surprise. CIA Director Allen Dulles called it a “miracle.” The crisis seemed on the verge of being resolved in a way no-one in Hungary or the West had dared to hope.

On November 4th, Soviet tanks went into Budapest to restore order and they acted with immense brutality even killing wounded people.Why the sudden change in mind?

“Tanks dragged round bodies through the streets of Budapest as a warning to others who were still protesting.”

Hundreds of tanks went into Budapest and probably 30,000 people were killed. To flee the expected Soviet reprisals, probably 200,000 fled to the west leaving all they possessed in Hungary. Nagy was tried and executed and buried in an unmarked grave. By November 14th, order had been restored. Kadar was put in charge. Soviet rule was re-established.


The World was shocked by the brutality in which the Russians re-took the capital and country. President Eisenhower of USA said “I feel with the Hungarian people.” J F Dulles, American Secretary of State, said “To all those suffering under communist slavery, let us say you can count on us.” Nobody acted though in the world. Why did nobody act?

From this point on one can trace a further tightening of control over Satellite countries and this showed other countries that they will face severe retribution if they think of uprising.  This showed the true face of Soviet brutality, the world was shocked and gave reason to portray the Soviets as evil, this would continue until the downfall of Russia. This might have been the first step of many until the downfall……



  • seeingred says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post as it gave a very complete account of the Hungarian Crisis/Revolution. What surprised me the most was USSR’s relative willingness to initially engage in talks with the people of Hungary. However, the quick reversal leads to some interesting questions such as: Why did the USSR initially even entertain the idea of negotiating with the Hungarians and what made them change their minds so suddenly?

  • Schnaitman says:

    The Soviets had their initial hopes that Hungary would follow the Stalinist line, and when they did not Soviet invasion backed Kadar. The United Nations did not act because the Hungarian Government claimed that Soviet forces were there on request. Also, the West was focused on other issues with more importance during the time such as the Suez Canal…

  • A. Nelson says:

    Also, think about the implications of the Secret Speech, and the line the Soviets tried to define and walk between complete control and some measure of autonomy for states in Eastern Europe.

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