The Hungarian Uprising 1956

  • Created by: TessBlyth
  • Created on: 27-04-19 10:47

The Rule of Rakosi

Rakosi used terror and brutality to maintain control, killing an estimated 2000 people in the purges and imprisoning 200,000 political opponents. The secret police became a hated and dreaded part of Hungarian life. He also attacked religious teaching in schools and removed it from the education system. 

The Hungarian economy was controlled by the Soviet Union through Comecon. This body prevented Hungary from trading with western Europe and receiving any Marshall Aid. As a result, Hungary was forced to trade on uneven terms with the Soviet Union.

Rakosi put forward a 5-year plan to transform the economy, but it failed to bring any real progress. The plan was devoted to heavy industry and the production of steel, but Hungary did not have the resources to produce steel. Living standards began to fall and Rakosi became increasingly unpopular.

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President Nagy

During 1956, the people of Hungary began to protest about their lack of political freedoms and problems created by fuel shortages and poor harvests. In October, there were riots in the capital, Budapest, and police clashed with protesters. Soviet troops restored order, but they replaced Rakosi with Imre Nagy.

Nagy was a former prime minister who believed that within the communist regime, there should still be personal freedoms. Khrushchev hoped it would put an end to the protests.

Within days of his appointment, Nagy announced a set of proposed reforms. He reorganised the Hungarian government, ending the one-state party in Hungary. He also authorised immediate release of many political prisoners and persuaded Khrushchev to withdraw Soviet troops from Hungary. Khrushchev was willing to accept change if it calmed the unrest in Hungary.

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The Uprising and Khrushchev's Response

On 1 November 1956, Nagy announced that Hungary would leave the Warsaw Pact. Khrushchev could not allow this - if Hungary broke away from the Warsaw Pact, other Eastern European countries might follow. The security of the Soviet Union would be under threat. 

Consequently, Khrushchev ordered a Soviet invasion of Hungary. On 4 November, 1000 tanks rolled into Budapest. Supporters of Nagy put up a fight in what has become known as the 'Hungarian Uprising' and begged the West for support, but no support came. The invading Soviet army acted with great brutality and it is believed that over 20,000 Hungarians were killed as the invading forced re-established control. A new pro-communist government was set up under Janos Kadar. 

Nagy and many of his supporters believed that Khrushchev's criticism of Stalin would lead to a 'softer' approach with satellite countries - but this was not the case. Nagy and several members of his cabinet sought refuge in the Yugoslav embassy. Kadar promised Nagy and his followers that they would have safe passage out of the country, but when they left, they were kidnapped by Sovoet agents. In July 1958, the Hungarian government announced that Nagy had been tried and executed. Khrushchev described his death as 'a lesson to the leaders of all socialist countries.'

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International Reaction

When Nagy had proposed leaving the Warsaw Pact, he and his rebels expected support from the USA and other Western nations. Since the US had offered financial aid through the Marshall Plan, people in Eastern Europe assumed that they would be ready to help in other ways. 

Eisenhower was sympathetic to the Hungarians and some NATO nations took in Hungarian refugees, but no military support was offered during the uprising. The US policy of containment meant that it was not prepared to interfere in the affairs of existing communist countries. A military attack on a Soviet satellite state could trigger nuclear war, something that the USA was not willing to risk.

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Impact on international relations

The Hungarian Uprising made Khrushchev's position in the Soviet Union nuch more secure and gave him a stronger position in the Warsaw Pact. Members knew they must do as they were told. Khrushchev also became more confident in dealing with the USA because he knew they were unlikely to risk taking military action in order to avoid nuclear war. 

In some ways, the failure of the Uprising reflected badly on the west. The USA and its allies had encouraged communist countries to stan up to the Soviet Union, but were not prepared to back up their words with military support.

Even though the USA did not take military action, they strongly opposed the invasion, and Khrushchev's crackdown sourd relations between the two superpowers once more. Friendlier relations at the Geneva summit were short-lived. 

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