Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview
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Bibliography

Held Joseph, "Cultural Developments," in Stephen Fischer-Galati, ed. Eastern Europe in the 1980s ( Boulder, CO, 1981); Aczel Tamas, and Meray Tibor, The Revolt of the Mind ( London, 1961).

Revolution of 1956. On October 23, 1956, University students demonstrated in Budapest in front of the statue of General Joseph Bem. Bem was a Polish officer who had joined the Hungarians in 1848 in their revolt against Habsburg domination. The students were expressing their solidarity with the Polish uprising in Gdansk a few weeks before. They demanded the democratization of Hungarian life and the appointment of the communist Imre Nagy (see Nagy, Imre) to head the government. They marched to the National Broadcasting studio and demanded that their twelve-point program be broadcast to the nation by the station. Secret policemen, stationed inside the building, opened fire on the unarmed demonstrators. Seeing the outrage, soldiers and regular policemen gave their arms to the students who then besieged the building. In another part of the city, at Heroes' square, a crowd of workers and ordinary citizens began dismantling a giant statue of Joseph Stalin. They had to use welding torches, but they cut down the bronze dictator at his boots.

Erno Gero (see Gero, Erno), who replaced the discredited dictator, Rakosi (see Rakosi, Matyas), just returned from the island of Brioni, where he visited Josip Broz Tito, mending fences with the Yugoslav dictator. He ordered the introduction of martial law and asked for the intervention of Soviet troops stationed in Hungary. By midnight, Soviet tanks were on the streets of Budapest. They turned the fighting into a national revolution against Soviet colonialism. The fighting increased in ferocity through the next few days. The Hungarian army remained neutral, some of its units disintegrated. The secret police disappeared. Imre Nagy finally became prime minister and Gero left for the Soviet Union. Fighting spread to other cities, and the revolutionaries began to hunt down the hated secret police. On October 28, a new government was formed. The Communist party also disintegrated, but its skeletal higher leadership remained in existence. Janos Kadar was the new first secretary, and he endorsed the revolution.

On October 25, a terrible massacre took place. A crowd of thousands gathered in front of parliament, and secret police troops stationed on the roof of an adjacent building opened fire on them. Some Soviet tanks, whose crews befriended the demonstrators, eventually silenced the gunners. By then, about 300 people were dead and hundreds were injured. This aroused such ire in the population that a large crowd besieged the Communist party headquarters, which was defended by low-level secret police men. They were routed, and several were murdered by the mob. By October 28, the fighting had quieted down. A cease-fire came into effect and Soviet tanks were being withdrawn from the streets of Budapest. Independent worker's councils were being established in factories, and similar councils took over the municipal governments. The government announced the dissolution of the secret police. By October

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