history unit two: challenges to ussr control 1956-91


1      Challenges to USSR control in Europe 1956-91

1.1    Hungarian uprising

1.1.1    Causes


-        There were many grievances in Hungary in 1956 that threatened the USSR’s control. In the 1946 election, the Communist Party gained only 17% of the vote.

-        However, since 1948 Hungary had been ruled by a pro-Stalin dictator called Rakosi. Social and economic grievances and the suppression of press and religious freedom by the secret police cause much resentment. Most Hungarians were opposed to Russian control and wanted greater freedom.

-        In 1953 Stalin died and by 1955 Khrushchev emerged as leader of the USSR.

-        Initially his policies suggested that there may be a thaw in the Cold War. In 1955 he visited Yugoslavia and apologised for Stalin’s policies

-        In 1956 Khrushchev denounced Stalin as a tyrant and raised hopes with his secret speech in 1956, criticising Stalin and urged the development of peaceful coexistence with non-communist nations.

-         Opposition groups in Eastern Europe saw Khrushchev as easier to deal with. Popular unrest developed in Hungary after Khrushchev’s speech and forced the removal of the ruthless Stalinist Rakosi.


-        In Poland 1956, protests against strict USSR control were defused with a program of liberal reforms under a popular communist leader, Gomulka.

-        There was also an agreement to end persecution of the Catholic Church and a withdrawal of the Russian Army.

-        This encouraged people in Hungary to protest against Soviet control. In October 1956, popular unrest in Hungary forced the resignation of the unpopular communist leader, Rakosi.

-        The USSR withdrew its army from Hungary as a concession. This gave hope to Hungarians looking for freedom from Soviet control.

-        Anti-Soviet demonstrations encouraged the new communist leader, Imre Nagy, to announce free elections and that Hungary would leave the Warsaw Pact and become a neutral country.


-        The Hungarians were patriotic and hated Russian control, especially the AVH; Russian control of the economy, which made Hungary poor; Russian control of education; and censorship and lack of freedom.

-        The Hungarians were religious: the Communist Party had banned religion and imprisoned Cardinal Mindszenty.

-        Hungarians thought that the UN or the new US President Eisenhower, would help them.

1.1.2    Events

-        The death of Stalin led many Hungarians to hope that Hungary would be ‘de-Stalinised’.

-        In July 1956 the Stalinist secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party, Rakosi, fell from power.

-        During October 1956, students, workers and soldiers in Hungary attacked the AVH and Russian soldiers and smashed a statue of Stalin.

-        On 24th October 1956 Imre Nagy – a moderate westerner – took over as prime minister.

-        Nagy asked Khrushchev to move the Russian troops out. Khrushchev agreed and on 28th October 1956 the Russian army pulled out of Budapest.

-        For five days there was freedom in Hungary. The new…


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