Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Americans and Russians Are Coming, Yelp Hungarians

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Americans and Russians Are Coming, Yelp Hungarians

Article excerpt

THE things some folks will do to be accepted. Auditioning to join NATO, Hungary has volunteered to serve as the staging ground for 20,000 US troops headed to Bosnia.

But Hungarians are holding their breath over the expected arrival of Russian soldiers, having just recently ended 40 years of Soviet occupation.

Moscow last week requested permission for a top-notch contingent of 1,500 to 2,000 troops to pass through Hungary shortly after the Bosnian peace accord is signed Thursday in Paris.

Russia's cameo appearance highlights a sense of helplessness among the 10 million Hungarians. Smack on the great East-West divide, Hungary has had little opportunity to control its destiny. It has been overrun by Tatars, Turks, Austrians, Germans, and Soviets. Now, as NATO's staging ground, Hungary must accept the Russian visit.

Hungarians hope the Russians make a quick stopover, but a Russian official in Budapest said he expects some troops to stay behind with NATO personnel at a logistics base in southern Hungary.

Hungary's parliament will surely approve the plan, but not without stirring bitter memories of occupation.

"They won't be allowed to stay here; we'll only cordially invite them as guests," said Imre Mecs, chairman of the parliament's defense committee. "The Russians are considered part of the mission, not a separate force."

The Russians' specific travel route is still unclear. But once they arrive, via Ukraine, they won't need a road map: They know the terrain well. Russian forces are linked indelibly to two infamous periods in Hungary's checkered history.

Hungary's 1848 bourgeois rebellion to abolish serfdom was stamped out in mid-1849 when the Austrian Habsburg monarchy called in the Russians - then the "gendarme of Europe."

Russia's second tour came a century later when its troops liberated Hungary from the Nazi-backed fascists. But by the mid-1950s, it was obvious the 65,000 soldiers, operating under the Soviet flag, were nothing more than occupiers.

The anti-Communist insurrection of Oct. 23, 1956, was sparked by students and workers in Budapest who demanded greater democracy. …

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