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October 23rd is a national holiday in Hungary, marking the anniversary of the beginning of the 1956 Revolution and Freedom Fight when our compatriots defied the Communist regime and stood up to Soviet military might. For decades, we were forbidden to celebrate it, to even talk about it, but today it’s among our most important national holidays.
On October 23rd, Hungarians celebrate the brave women and men who stood up to Soviet communist oppression and fought for their freedom against one of the world’s biggest armies. After a few glorious days of victory, the 1956 Hungarian Revolution was eventually overpowered by overwhelming military force, but the freedom fight drove the first nail into the coffin of communist oppression in the world.
“[O]ur geographical position every thirty years causes history to suddenly thrust [Hungarians] into the main current of debate on the future of Europe,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Sunday, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Hungarian Revolution and Freedom Fight against the Soviet Union in 1956.
It began on a Tuesday afternoon, a beautiful autumn day on the 23rd of October 1956. Students gathered in peaceful protest with their manifesto calling for Hungary’s independence from all foreign powers, particularly the Soviet troops occupying the country. They demanded freedom of opinion and expression, the rights of free people in a democratic system.