Hungarian Revolution of 1956

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The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 (Hungarian: 1956-os forradalom) was a spontaneous nationwide revolt against the Stalinist government of Hungary and its Soviet-imposed policies, lasting from October 23 until November 10, 1956.[1]

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 Communist 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 November 4, a large Soviet force invaded Budapest and other regions of the country. Hungarian resistance continued until November 10. Over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Russians 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, cultivating the perception 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.

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References

  1. Alternate references are "Hungarian Revolt" and "Hungarian Uprising"; "Revolution" is used as it conforms to both English (see U.S. Department of State background on Hungary) and Hungarian ("forradalom") conventions. There is a distinction between the "complete overthrow" of a revolution and an uprising or revolt that may or may not be successful (Oxford English Dictionary). The 1956 Hungarian event, although shortlived, is a true "revolution" in that the sitting Government was indeed deposed. Unlike "coup d'etat" or "putsch" which imply action of a few, the 1956 revolution was effected by the masses.