Neal V. Buhler
In the middle of October 1956, Hungary was a secure and absolute Communist police state, ruled by the Party and under the iron control of Soviet occupation troops backing up the Hungarian secret police. Almost ten years of Communist control had changed the whole cultural, political, and social patterns, and every organized non-Communist force had been smashed and broken.
At the end of October, Hungary was an independent state, once again a member of the free family of nations. Virtually every Hungarian secret policeman had been captured, was dead, or was in hiding. The initial Soviet occupation troops had been fought to a standstill by a heroic people who opposed Russian tanks and machine guns with their bare hands and raw courage. Soviet army commanders had promised to evacuate the country. A new government had been formed which for the first time since 1947 represented most of the political desires of the Hungarian people — a government which had announced its independence of Moscow and free elections to come. The trade unions again represented the workers instead of the Communist state, and the peasants were promised a new and better system to replace forced collectivization and compulsory deliveries at low prices. The new government promised to cease persecution of religion and had released Cardinal Mindszenty from his long Communist imprisonment.
Hungary was free. Thousands lay dead in Budapest and in the countryside, but it is no exaggeration to say that the entire nation was delirious with hope and freedom. Human dignity had again been bought by blood and effort.
It was not to last. But the Hungarians didn't know that then. Thousands more were to be sacrificed and killed by Russian troops. Hungary's agony was not over. It was about to begin again. But at the end of October, for the first time in history, a Communist government supported by Russian troops had been overthrown without any outside aid whatever. A whole people had risen, without arms, without foreign aid, and had defeated the troops, and overthrown one of the most vicious and efficient political systems in world history.