The 1956 Hungarian Revolution
If you’re familiar with Hungarian history, then you know that Hungarians celebrate 3 national holidays each year. One of them is 15th March when they remember 1848-49, the War of Independence against the Habsburgs. Another is the 20th August when they celebrate Saint Stephen who founded the Hungarian State. And the third is 23rd October when they remember the big Revolution of 1956 which was started against Russia. This year, the latter of these will be even more of a special one – as it’s the 60th anniversary of this revolution.
But what happened exactly? One might know that Hungary was under Nazi German rule during World War II. Then, on the 18th of January, the Soviet army (Russia and its allying countries) arrived to liberate us from the Germans. However, they decided to stay in Hungary, and the Communist era began. From then on, everything was under Soviet rule.
This communist period finally ended in 1989 – something known as the Change of the System. That was when the last Soviet soldier left the Hungary. But, dear reader, this was not Hungary’s first attempt at ridding the country of Soviet control. In 1956 we started a revolution, a war of independence and that became on of the most important events of Hungary’s history during the 20th century.
It all started 23rd October as a peaceful university students’ demonstration. It started small but grew into a mass demonstration. The reaction by the communist leaders was cruel and bloody – they used guns – something which stirred the protesters to use violence in return. This all led to the failure of the government, the backdown of the Soviet troops and, most importantly, the beginning of the establishment of democratic change. Sadly, change didn’t last long and the Soviet Union started a new war against Hungary on 4th November without any warning. It was a brutal war where many people died – around 3000 Hungarians and 800 Soviets. There were tanks all over Budapest, killing people and destroying several buildings.
The following year, the Soviet leadership started to take revenge against the brave Hungarians that started the revolution – many were imprisoned and even killed.
The main leader of this Revolution was Nagy Imre, who was brave enough to stand out and lead this war of independence. He was killed after the revolution and became a hero of the nation. His memorial statue can be found near the Parliament, standing on a bridge “over the Danube” and looking in the direction of the symbolic building where his heart belongs.
Even though we could not break out of the Soviet Rule, we always say that at least the Hungarians tried, and probably this event also helped bring about the eventual Change of the System some 40 years later in 1989.
23rd October is a very important date in the Hungarian life. First of all, it reminds us of the Revolution of 1956 and because later, in 1989, the Republic of Hungary came to be independent again on this very same day.
On this very special day, all around the country, museums open for free and you can tour the Parliament building. But remember, there might be a huge queue.