The Suez Crisis and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution

By Kecskes, Gustav | East European Quarterly, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

The Suez Crisis and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution


Kecskes, Gustav, East European Quarterly


"The method is the same in all cases--in philosophy, in any art or study. We must look for the attributes and the subjects of both our terms, and we must supply ourselves with as many of these as possible ..." Aristotle wrote in Analytica Priora.(1) One of the "terms" discussed here is the Suez undertaking of Great Britain, France, and Israel while the other one is the Hungarian Revolution which broke out on October 23, 1956.

In this essay, we will summarize what we know about the connection between the two parallel crises. Applying the Aristotelian method, we will gather together "as many of these connections as possible." This is of utmost importance since archival sources at our disposal are quite incomplete.

The chronological parallel is obvious: the onset of the Hungarian Uprising on October 23, 1956 and the Israeli onslaught against Egypt on October 29, 1956 are very close to one another in time. However, was there any other connection beyond their simultaneity? Did the two crises have any affect on one another, and if so, how? From among the numerous questions two which arise are of fundamental importance which need our special attention: 1) How much did the outbreak of the Hungarian Revolution affect the planning and execution of the Suez intervention? 2) Did the Suez question influence the tragic fate of the Hungarian Revolution, contributing to the Soviet intervention? In what follows we will try to find responses to these two questions. The simultaneous series of events in Hungary and the in the Middle East received major coverage in the world press. Recalling this "unbelievably feverish period," Andre Fontaine, the editor-in-chief of the foreign political column of Le Monde, says that there were mornings when, affected by the piles of news arriving from these two crises areas, the front page had to be changed several times: "At eight o'clock we decided to emphasize Suez and yet, another half an hour later, Hungary was ahead. And then again it changed."(2) In the minds of many people living at different points of the world, the two conflicts were connected despite the vast geographical distance. For example, in several neutral states as well as among the majority of Canadians and West Germans, the general consensus formed that the Soviets would never have dared to intervene in Hungary with such cruelty and cynicism had the British and the French not handed to them such an outstanding distraction. Hundreds of university students in Hamburg demonstrated with the inscription on their placards: "Eden is the assassin of Budapest." In France, however, the majority of the public emphasized a different aspect of the question: they resented that the UN condemned the Soviet Union only verbally for the Hungarian intervention while, following the British and French action in the Suez Canal, the UN decided to deploy UN forces.(3)

The contemporary Hungarian press, daily papers, and the Budapest Hungarian radio regularly reported developments in the Suez crisis from October 29 on. Except for foreign reaction to the Hungarian Revolution, this was the most extensively discussed topic of the foreign news. Based on news agency reports and newspaper coverage, the events of the Suez action were covered closely. Great attention was given to debates within the UN since these related to the Hungarian question as well. Later, due to the fact that the revolutionaries had greatly expected to receive military aid during the uprising but that none was forthcoming, and due to the propaganda of the Kadar regime, an unfavorable view of the French and British took root in Hungary. This view held that the French and British followed their self-interest in ignoring Hungary, even as the occupation by the Soviet Union developed, in order to use the situation to attack Egypt.

As mentioned earlier, both the Suez question and the Hungarian Revolution were considered to be significant events by the international media. …

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