Warning: Doesn’t Play Well with Others

Hungarian demonstrators show their love for Josef Stalin.

For the majority of the 20th century the Soviet government did its very best to have the Western world believe that all was quiet on the Eastern front and that all of the Soviet satellites were happy.  Most Western governments were aware that this was not the case yet this did not stop the Soviet government from quelling anti-Soviet sentiment at every corner. The first prime example of this came in during the 1956 Hungarian Crisis.

The Hungarian crisis was preceded by the Polish crisis that came to a head in June 1956, but was reigned in by the local government and turned to support before the demonstrations became militant (Seventeen Moments). The Hungarian crisis really gained speed after Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin at the Twentieth Party Congress. This seemingly ignited sparks that it was okay to disagree with the party establishment. It was the push that Hungary had needed after being rather restless since 1953 (Seventeen Moments). This was highlighted with messages that were sent by Soviet ambassador Iurii Andropov from April 1956 that warned Moscow of the impending danger. Rather than take a proactive stance and use negotiation to head off this problem or find some recourse the Soviet government did nothing.

Soviet tanks being greeted in Budapest.

When action finally came on October 23 the people were in the streets calling for democracy and the withdrawal of Soviet troops (Freeze 418).  On October 24 Imre Nagy was re-elected as president by the Hungarian party. Shortly after on November 4 Hungary declared itself neutral and free of the Warsaw Pact. The Soviet government did not look kindly on this and promptly rolled in and crushed the popular with brute force as would become typical of similar insurrections later on (Freeze 418). The Soviet Union despised movements such as this because they raised the question “If Communism is so great why do these people want to leave so badly?” The final toll was a reported 3,773 detained “counter-revolutionaries” and 90,000 weapons seized by the KGB (Freeze 418).

Freeze, Gregory. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Lewis, Siegalbaum. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, “Hungarian Crisis.” Last modified 2013. Accessed November 3, 2013. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1956hungary&Year=1956&navi=byYear.

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4 Responses to Warning: Doesn’t Play Well with Others

  1. rwinkler says:

    These protesters came after Stalin’s death in 1953. I wonder if he would have been alive if the protesters would had even attempted something like this? and if so how many more people would had died because of it? This showed the cracks in Communism and the quote you used from Freeze, “If Communism is so great why do these people want to leave so badly?” really gives a direct question to think about when examining these protest.

  2. rkw15 says:

    I really enjoyed your post since it highlights the weakness of the Soviet System. I think it would have been interesting to maybe include a little bit more on why Hungary was different. Also, why did the West tend to ignore the fact that not everyone was happy in the Soviet Union?

  3. samt1 says:

    Great post I enjoyed your post mainly to the the fact about Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin which surprised me when I read about that because I would have imagined more satellite states revolting than just Hungary. Maybe because of the fear that Stalins successor would be just as unstable as Stalin himself kept the Warsaw Pact together. I do believe that this revolt would not have happened if Stalin was alive.

  4. A. Nelson says:

    Yes, the Secret Speech definitely inspired resistance from the satellite countries of the Eastern Blok to Soviet domination.

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