Wednesday, October 23, 2013

HUNGARIAN REVOLUTION ~ October 23 ~ November 10, 1956

The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 (Hungarian: 1956-os forradalom) was a spontaneous nationwide revolt against the Stalinist government of the People's Republic of Hungary and its Soviet-imposed policies, lasting from 23 October until 10 November 1956.

The revolt began as a student demonstration which attracted thousands as it marched through central Budapest to the Parliament building. A student delegation entering the radio building in an attempt to broadcast its demands was detained. When the delegation's release was demanded by the demonstrators outside, they were fired upon by the State Security Police (ÁVH) from within the building. The news spread quickly and disorder and violence erupted throughout the capital.

The revolt spread quickly across Hungary, and the government fell. Thousands organized into militias, battling the State Security Police (ÁVH) and Soviet troops. Pro-Soviet communists and ÁVH members were often executed or imprisoned, as former prisoners were released and armed. Impromptu councils wrested municipal control from the ruling Hungarian Working People's Party and demanded political changes. The new government formally disbanded the ÁVH, declared its intention to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and pledged to re-establish free elections. By the end of October, fighting had almost stopped and a sense of normality began to return.

After announcing a willingness to negotiate a withdrawal of Soviet forces, the Politburo changed its mind and moved to crush the revolution. On 4 November, a large Soviet force invaded Budapest and other regions of the country. Hungarian resistance continued until 10 November. Over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed in the conflict, and 200,000 Hungarians fled as refugees. Mass arrests and denunciations continued for months thereafter. By January 1957, the new Soviet-installed government had suppressed all public opposition. These Soviet actions alienated many Western Marxists, yet strengthened Soviet control over Central Europe, reinforcing perceptions that communism was both irreversible and monolithic.

Public discussion about this revolution was suppressed in Hungary for over 30 years, but since the thaw of the 1980s it has been a subject of intense study and debate. At the inauguration of the Third Hungarian Republic in 1989, October 23 was declared a national holiday.

Image &

I actually remember some Hungarian refugees in November 1956. We shared Thanksgiving dinner with them at a friend's house in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, my hometown. That was barely more than two weeks after the end of the uprising.

I visited Budapest three and a half years ago and saw the crown of St. Stephan under the dome of the Parliament building. President Carter returned this national treasure to Hungary on January 6, 1978. I heard a marvelous performance of Mahler's 8th Symphony in Budapest two years ago last February. It wasn't surprising to me that the choral performances were so excellent when I recalled that Zoltan Kodaly was Hungarian and had had a profound influence on musical education in Hungary and beyond.


jutka said...

Thank you Rob for remembering. It was just like yesterday for me.

jutka said...

Thank you, Rob, again. I'm remembering all day today.

Titian in the Frari (Venezia)