To Invade or Not to Invade? A New Look at Gomulka, Nagy, and Soviet Foreign Policy in 1956

By Granville, Johanna | Canadian Slavonic Papers, December 2001 | Go to article overview

To Invade or Not to Invade? A New Look at Gomulka, Nagy, and Soviet Foreign Policy in 1956


Granville, Johanna, Canadian Slavonic Papers


ABSTRACT: Why did the Soviet Union intervene in Hungary but not in Poland? This article argues that the crisis in Hungary was much deeper. Hungarian communist officials were perhaps more willing to tolerate Soviet military "assistance," because they were haunted by the political rightist "reaction" and their collective memory of the "white terror" that had overthrown Bela Kun's communist regime in 1919 and made the communist party illegal in Hungary. There was no real Hungarian "Poznan." Thus, Kremlin leaders, Hungarian party officials, Hungarian reform communist intellectuals, and even the student organizers of the October 23 demonstration were caught off guard by the revolution; it seemed to come from nowhere. Kremlin leaders could understand Polish workers' demands for bread, but had a harder time understanding Hungarian demands for freedom. Both Gomulka and Nagy attempted to bridge the fundamental contradictions of de-Stalinization, namely, that to achieve political consolidation, their party leaderships had to strike a compromise between the aspirations of their populations and the demands of the Kremlin. Reasons why Gomulka succeeded, at least in the shortrun, and Nagy failed can be found both in their different personalities and the differences in the natures of the Polish and Hungarian crises.

The different courses of events in Poland and Hungary in October 1956 have long intrigued scholars. Why did the Soviet Union intervene in Hungary but not in Poland? One group of Cold War historians has explained Soviet actions by focusing on the two countries' different historical experiences. They posit that, for the Russians, dealing with the Hungarians was a "novel experience," since no part of Hungary had ever been under Russian rule. The Second World War, they add, was less traumatic for Hungarians than for Poles.1 A second group has emphasized individual personalities, arguing that the outgoing heads of the Stalin-era leadership, Edward Ochab in Poland and Erno Gero in Hungary, shaped events the most.2 Others in this group argue, alternatively, that Wladyslaw Gomulka and Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski were wiser, bolder leaders, better able to deter Soviet aggression than were Imre Nagy and Jozsef Cardinal Mindszenty.3 Still a third group has argued that, in contrast to the Poles, the Hungarians alarmed the Soviet Union by going too far, especially by declaring neutrality, withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact, and establishing a multiparty system.4

Nearly a decade has passed since communist bloc archives began to open, and thus perhaps it is appropriate to take stock and ask: do the new documents drastically alter these older explanations of the Polish and Hungarian events? This article will compare these events, drawing on recently declassified documents from Hungarian, Polish, and Russian archives. It will conclude that, while the documents do not alter the older interpretations significantly, they do highlight certain limitations of traditional explanations for the Soviet intervention in Hungary, as well as limitations of cold war historiography in explaining how the Soviet leaders managed their own backyard.

The crisis in Hungary was much deeper. Hungarian communist officials were perhaps more willing to tolerate Soviet military "assistance," because they were haunted by the political rightist "reaction" and their collective memory of the "white terror" that had overthrown Bela Kun's communist regime in 1919 and made the communist party illegal in Hungary. There was no real Hungarian "Poznan." Thus, Kremlin leaders, Hungarian party officials, Hungarian reform communist intellectuals, and even the student organizers of the October 23 demonstration were caught off guard by the revolution; it seemed to come from nowhere. Kremlin leaders could understand Polish workers' demands for bread, but had a harder time understanding Hungarian demands for freedom. Both Gomulka and Nagy attempted to bridge the fundamental contradictions of de-- Stalinization, namely, that to achieve political consolidation, their party leaderships had to strike a compromise between the aspirations of their populations and the demands of the Kremlin.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

To Invade or Not to Invade? A New Look at Gomulka, Nagy, and Soviet Foreign Policy in 1956
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.