Autumn 2017 edition - page 32-33

Hungary in 1956 seemed to sum up all that
the cold war stood for. The people of Hungary and
the rest of Eastern Europe were ruled over with a
rod of iron by Communist Russia, and anybody who
challenged the rule of Stalin and his Soviet Union
paid the price. The death of Stalin in 1953 did not
weaken the grip Moscow had on the people of East-
ern Europe, so when, in 1956, Hungary challenged
the rule of Moscow, they paid their price.
Budapest, the capital of Hungary, was
liberated by Soviet Union troops in October 1944,
and from here began the Stalinization of Hungary.
Between 1945-1949, Stalin used his political influ-
ence to bring his own men into high government
positions within Hungary. The Communists used
mass propaganda to form coalitions with other
parties and eventually, to rig elections in their own
favor. Any political opposition were forced into exile
or imprisoned and executed. Unsurprisingly, Hun-
gary soon became a single party state. From 1945
the Hungarians were under the strict control of
Moscow. All wealth of whatever nature was taken
from Hungary by the Russians. In demonstration of
their extensive power, thousands of Soviet soldiers
and tanks roaming the streets in Hungary’s cities.
During the period of Soviet occupation of Hungary,
around 600,000 Hungarians were captured by the
Soviet Red Army and deported to labor camps,
200,000 of which died. The Hungarian leader at
the time, Rakosi, was put in place by Stalin himself.
Whilst the people of Hungary starved, Rakosi had
plans to transform the country into one of iron and
steel. However, Hungary lacked the raw materi-
als necessary and its people were pushed far too
hard and were being expected to meet impossible
industry targets. Factories developed such a rush
to increase their production line that inevitably, the
quality of goods was greatly sacrificed. Hungar-
ian citizens remember shoes falling apart within
days of purchase, washing machines having screws
hammered in as opposed to screwed. Again, the
Communists used extreme propaganda methods to
control the working people of Hungary: videos were
broadcast throughout the country showing a false
but joyous factory environment in which workers
meeting the communist set targets were highly re-
warded. By 1949 fear controlled the country. Hun-
garians were imprisoned or killed if they opposed
communism. The newly installed secret police of
Hungary, the Avo, were greatly feared by all Hun-
garians, with or without reason. It was estimated
that one in five Hungarians had a relative or close
friend who had been taken from their homes and
imprisoned in labor camps.
In 1953 Leader of the Soviet Union, Joseph
Stalin died. Stalin’s death bought a slight sense of
hope to the people of Eastern Europe, some hope
that they might be freed from Soviet rule. In Febru-
ary 1956, the new Soviet leader Khrushchev made a
bitter attack on the dead Stalin and his old policies,
so in 1956 Rakosi was forced to resign. On the 23rd
of October 1956 a group of students led a protest in
the streets of Budapest. They demanded personal
freedom, free speech, more food, free elections
and for the immediate removal of the Soviet troops
and secret police. Keen to establish his difference
to Stalin, Khrushchev appointed Imre Nagy as the
prime minister of Hungry. Nagy was regarded as
liberal and in Moscow this was thought to be the
best way to keep happy the “hooligans”-as the
Moscow media referred to the Hungarian protes-
This minor student protest was far from
the flames of revolution. However as the crowds
got bigger and bigger the Avo found themselves
amongst them, shots were fired from the secret
police within the demonstration. Hungarian people
instinctively took up arms again the Avo and all that
they stood for. Armed in the streets, the people of
Hungary fought back again the Soviet Superpower.
With their own weapons, the Hungarians were des-
perate to drive the Soviets out of their country. The
revolt spread quickly across Hungary and attacks
on Parliament soon caused the government to col-
lapse. Thousands organized into militias, battling
the Avo and Soviet troops. Hungarian office work-
ers and Avo members alike, once captured, were
tortured and made an example of. The Hungarians
put up a hard fight and eventually the Freedom
Fighters had beaten the Soviets. Soviet tanks were
ordered to withdraw from the country, the prisons
were opened and all free peoples returned to their
families. Hungary’s Freedom Fighters had one
weeks’ victory; this time it was Hungarian peoples
who roamed their streets in tanks.
Prime Minister, Nagy, broadcast that Hun-
gary would withdraw itself from theWarsaw Pact-
an organization established by Stalin in response
to NATO. This was pushing the Russians too far, as
loosing control of Hungary may lead to a ‘domino
effect’ of other satellite states wanting freedom,
and many government ministers left the Hungarian
Parliament in disgust. Khrushchev, whilst having a
different idea about the promotion of communism
to his predecessor, proved he was just as tough.
The Soviet Union felt they had to set an impression
as a warning to all other Soviet controlled Easter
European states. On November 4th, Soviet tanks
returned to Budapest to restore order and they
acted with immense brutality, even killing wounded
people. Tanks dragged bodies of the dead through
the streets of Budapest to remind the protestors
left, to the extent of Soviet power. Hundreds of
tanks rolled into Budapest, killing around 30,000
To flee the expected Soviet reprisals, over
200,000 Hungarians fled to the west, leaving all
they possessed in Hungary. Prime Minister Nagy
was tried and executed and buried in an unmarked
grave. By November 14th, “order” had been re-
stored and Soviet rule was re-established.
President Eisenhower of USA said, “I feel
with the Hungarian people.” J K Dulles, American
Secretary of State, said, “To all those suffering un-
der communist slavery, let us say you can count on
But America did nothing more.
Seona Kehoe 10W
The Hungarian Uprising, 1956
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