A Cardboard Castle? An Inside History of the Warsaw Pact, 1955-1991

By Vojtech Mastny; Malcolm Byrne | Go to book overview

Document No. 3: Imre Nagy's Telegram to Diplomatic Missions in
Budapest Declaring Hungary's Neutrality, November 1, 1956

This document reflects the first instance of a Warsaw Treaty member declaring its inten- tion to withdraw from the alliance. This took place during the course of the 1956 Hung- arian revolution, after an initial intervention by Soviet forces. Imre Nagy, the Hungarian communist leader, attempted to declare his country's neutrality and have it recognized by the United Nations in hopes that this would deter the Soviets from mounting a sec- ond invasion of the country. For many years, it was widely believed that the Soviet move came in response to the neutrality declaration; however, recent archival evidence shows that Moscow had already decided to intervene before the declaration was issued.1 Given the rudimentary nature of the alliance in the military sense, the main question for Moscow concerning Hungary's possible withdrawal was a political one, and I- ed the desire to prevent other member-states from considering a similar move.

The prime minister of the Hungarian People's Republic, in his role as acting foreign minister, informs your excellency of the following:

The Government of the Hungarian People's Republic has received trustworthy reports of the entrance of new Soviet military units into Hungary. The President of the Council of Ministers, as acting Foreign Minister, summoned Mr. Andropov, the Soviet Union's special and plenipotentiary ambassador to Hungary, and most firmly objected to the entrance of new military units into Hungary. He demanded the immediate and fast withdrawal of the Soviet units. He announced to the Soviet ambassador that the Hungarian government was withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact, simultaneously declaring Hungary's neutrality, and that it was turning to the United Nations and asking the four Great Powers to help protect its neutrality.

The Soviet Ambassador acknowledged the objection and announcement of the president of the Council of Ministers and acting foreign minister, and promised to ask his government for a reply without delay.

Your Excellency, please accept with this my most sincere respects.

"Source: Hungarian People's Republic, The Counterrevolutionary Conspiracy of Imre Nagy and his Accomplices (Budapest: Information Bureau of the Council of Ministers, "1958"). Also published in József Kiss, Zoltán Ripp and István Vida, ed., "Források a Nagy Imre-kormány külpolitikájának történetéhez," Társadalmi Szemle 48, no. 5 (1993): p. 86. Translated by David Evans."

1 For further documents and analysis, see the relevant volume in this CEU Press series, Csaba Békés, Malcolm Byrne and János Rainer, eds., The 1956 Hungarian Revolution: A History in Docu- ments, (Budapest: CEU Press, 2002).

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