Sep 02, 2016

60th anniversary of the Hungarian revolution approaches

In October and November 1956, Hungary underwent three weeks of political turmoil that shook the world

This autumn marks the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution. In October and November 1956, the country at the heart of Europe underwent three weeks of political turmoil that shook the region and exposed the ideological fissures behind the Iron Curtain, writes

Tens of thousands of Hungarians took to the streets to protest their oppressive government and the heavy-handed meddling of the Soviet Union in Hungary’s affairs.

The protesters managed to persuade the leader of Hungary, Imre Nagy, that their cause warranted his government’s consideration.

A committed communist, Nagy declared that the Soviet troops occupying the country would withdraw from it, pledged to dissolve the state security forces, and endorsed the uprising as “a great national and democratic movement, embracing and unifying all our people.”

But in the first week of November, the protesters suffered a bruising defeat. Soviet forces crushed the uprising, invading key areas of the country, including the capital, Budapest, which less than a century before had been the second city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, one of Europe’s great powers.

As the Czech-born writer Milan Kundera recalled in a 1984 essay in The New York Review of Books, the director of the Hungarian News Agency, shortly before he was killed in the revolution, reminded the world of Hungary’s European identity, saying, “We are going to die for Hungary and for Europe.”

This statement encapsulated the conviction of many Hungarians that their country belonged to Europe.

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