Hungary 1956

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Why was there opposition in Hungary?

  • Hungary was led by hard-line Communist Matayas Rakosi. 
  • Hungarians hated the restrictions which Rakosi's Communism put on them.
  • Hungarians were feeling bitter about losing freedom of speech.
  • They lived in fear of the secret police
  • They resented thousands of Soviet troops and officials in their country.
  • Some places had Russian street signs, Russian schools and shops. Hungarians had to pay for all of them.
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The opposition in Hungary

  • In June 1956 a group within the Communist party in Hungary opposed Rakosi.
  • Rakosi appealed to Moscow for help. He wanted to arrest 400 leading opponents.
  • Moscow did not help him. The Kremlin ordered Rakosi to retire for "health reasons".
  • The new leader Erno Gero was no more popular to the people.
  • A huge student demonstration took place on the 23rd of October and the giant structure of Stalin in Budapest was torn down.
  • The USSR allowed a new government to be formed under the well respected Imre Nagy.
  • Soviet troops and tanks withdrew and Hungarians created thousands of local councils to replace Soviet power. 
  • Several thousand Hungarian soldiers defected from the army to rebel cause, taking their weapons with them.
  • Nagy's government began to make their own plans. They planned to hold free elections, create impartial courts, restore farmland to private ownership.
  • It wanted the total withdrawal of Soviet presence in Hungary
  • It also planned to leave the Warsaw pact and declare Hungary neutral in the Cold War.
  • There was widespread optimism that president Eisenhower would support the new and independant Hungary.
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How did the Soviet Union respond?

  • Kruschev at first seemed ready to accept these reforms. However he could not accept Hungary's withdrawal of the Warsaw Pact.
  • In November 1956 thousands of Soviet troops and tanks moved to Budapest. 
  • The Hungarians did not surrender. Two weeks of bitter fighting followed.
  • Around 3000 Hungarians and 7000-8000 Russians were killed.
  • 200,000 Hungarians fled across the border into Austria to escape the Soviet forces.
  • Imre Nagy and his leaders were imprisoned and then executed.
  • The Hungarian resistance was crushed within 2 weeks. 
  • The west protested to the USSR but couldn't help due to the Suez crisis in the middle east.
  • Kruscheve put down Janos Kadar as leader
  • Kadar took several months to crush the resistance.
  • Around 35,000 anti-Communist activists were arrested and 300 were executed.
  • Kadar cautiously introduced some of the reforms being demanded by the Hungarian people.
  • However, he did not waver on the central issue of the the membership of the Warsaw Pact.
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