| John D. Clare’s History Website- Hungary, 1956
The basic cause of the Hungarian revolution was that the Hungarians hated Russian communism:
Hungarians were poor, yet much of the food and industrial goods they produced was sent to Russia.
The Hungarians were very patriotic, and they hated Russian control – which included censorship, the vicious secret police (called the AVH after 1948) and Russian control of what the schools taught.
The Hungarians were religious, but the Communist Party had banned religion, and put the leader of the Catholic Church in prison.
Help from the West
Hungarians thought that the United Nations or the new US president, Eisenhower, would help them.
When the Communist Party tried to destalinise Hungary, things got out of control. The Hungarian leader Rakosi asked for permission to arrest 400 trouble-makers, but Khrushchev would not let him.
On 23 October, there were riots of students, workers and soldiers. They smashed up the statue of Stalin, and attacked the AVH and Russian soldiers.
On 24 October, Imre Nagy took over as Prime Minister. He asked Khrushchev to take out the Russian troops.
Imre Nagy- Hungarian Prime Minister
On 28 October, Khrushchev agreed, and the Russian army pulled out of Budapest.
Nikita Khruschev- Soviet leader
29 October – 3 November: The new Hungarian government introduced democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion (the leader of the Catholic Church was freed from prison). Nagy also announced that Hungary was going to leave the Warsaw Pact.
On 4 November, at dawn, 1000 Russian tanks rolled into Budapest. By 8.10 am they had destroyed the Hungarian army and captured Hungarian Radio – its last words broadcast were ‘Help! Help! Help”!’ Hungarian people – even children – fought them with machine guns. Some 4000 Hungarians killed fighting the Russians.
Numbers are notoriously hard for historians. Western textbooks published before 1989 said that the Russians killed 30,000 Hungarian people. Since the end of the Cold War in 1989, Russian and Hungarian documents have come to light which have led historians to revise the figure to c.4000 Hungarians killed fighting the Russians, and up to 300 executed afterwards.
Khrushchev put in Janos Kadar, a supporter of Russia, as Prime Minister.
There were FIVE reasons why Khrushchev acted harshly in Hungary:
1. Nagy’s decision to leave the Warsaw Pact – Russia was determined to keep its ‘buffer’ of states.
2. China asked Russia to act to stop Communism being damaged.
3. Nagy had obviously lost control; Hungary was not destalinising – it was turning capitalist.
4. Hard-liners in Russia forced Khrushchev to act.
5. Khrushchev thought, correctly, that the West would not help Hungary
200,000 Hungarian refugees fled into Austria.
Russia stayed in control behind the Iron Curtain – no other country tried to get rid of Russia troops until Czechoslovakia in 1968.
People in the West were horrified – many British Communists left the Communist Party.
The West realised it could do nothing about the Iron Curtain countries – but this made Western leaders even more determined to ‘contain’ communism
America and Britain’s Reaction
They were angered by events in Hungary and considered sending in troops. However, the US president Eisenhower didn’t think Hungary was worth fighting a World War over.