The State against Society: Political Crises and Their Aftermath in East Central Europe

By Grzegorz Ekiert | Go to book overview

PART I
The Political Crisis and Its Aftermath
in Hungary, 1956–1963

The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 represented the unprecedented challenge to communist rule in the postwar history of East Central Europe and was the most tragic event in the cycle of political changes following Stalin's death and unraveling of Stalinist regimes in the region. It lasted only thirteen days and had three distinct phases marked by changes in country's leadership. From October 23, when mass demonstrations erupted in Budapest, to October 28, the leadership of the party and the state remained in the hands of old Stalinist leaders, who asked for the Soviet military intervention against the popular insurgency. On October 28 Stalinists were ousted and Imre Nagy's government announced its support for the revolution, a ceasefire was declared, and the Soviet troops withdrew from Budapest. Janos Kadar proclaimed the formation of the new communist party, to be named the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party, and the consolidation of new revolutionary institutions started. On November 1 the Soviet leaders decided to launch the second military intervention. Responding to the Soviet military buildup in the country, the desperate Hungarian leadership declared Hungary's neutrality and the country's withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact. They also appealed to the United Nations and Western powers for help and protection. On November 4 Soviet tanks overrun the country and Nagy's government was overthrown. During these few days, Hungary underwent profound political changes. As a result of mass popular mobilization, the Hungarian communist regime experienced almost complete institutional breakdown and was de facto overthrown by the revolutionary popular movement from below. Only a massive and brutal Soviet military intervention abruptly ended revolutionary political changes taking place in the country, allowed the installation of the Soviet sponsored government headed by

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