1956 Oral History Project Launched



The Hungarian American Coalition and Lauer Learning are proud to announce, a website dedicated to collecting oral histories about the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

If you or a family member is a '56er, please take advantage of this unique opportunity to share your story of Hungary’s historic fight for freedom. Help us capture the spirit of 1956 and pass it down to future generations!

The website and oral history project will remain active through October 23, 2006. To help commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Revolution, the Coalition plans to publish a selection of these testimonials.

Thank you for your participation!


Hungary fell under Soviet control after the communist-rigged elections of 1947. The years that followed introduced a system of tyranny under which Hungarians suffered economic deprivation, mass arrests, and a systematically cruel oppression by the communist government. In 1953, following the death of Stalin, signs of economic crisis appeared, caused by a fatally misguided state-controlled agrarian policy. The Hungarian communist hard-liner, Matyas Rakosi, was suddenly replaced by reformer Imre Nagy, also a communist, but one who believed in "Communism with a human face.”

This welcome "thaw" lasted for only 18 months, to be followed again by a period of repression first under Matyas Rakosi, then under his lieutenant, Erno Gero. But Khruschev's famous speech given at the February,1956 Party Congress, in which he surprisingly criticized Stalin's personality cult and actions, opened the gate in Hungary to similar criticism against the morally bankrupt Communist system. Dissatisfaction with the system grew: writers, university students and journalists pressed for major changes, until it all erupted in a mass demonstration of support for the striking workers of Poznan, Poland. On October 23, in a spontaneous demonstration approximately 200,000 Hungarians gathered in front of the Parliament. Thus, the Hungarian Revolution began.

The following timeline includes information on some of the most significant events of the Revolution…


October 23

Hungarian university students gathered and marched to the statue of Jozsef Bem, a Polish General who led Hungarian freedom fighters during the 1848 Revolution, to express solidarity for the Polish workers fighting against communism. The protest soon swelled to 200,000 Hungarians demanding independence in front of the Parliament.

The thousands of protestors marched to Radio Budapest to have their 16 demands read on air, but were denied access to the building by the hated AVH (Secret Police). When the students did not disperse, but instead began yelling slogans like, “Russians, go home,” the AVH fired on the crowd.

Hungarian soldiers who did not agree with the troops shooting on unarmed student protestors quickly joined forces with the freedom fighters and provided them weapons to protect themselves.

Stalin statue was toppled and dragged through the streets.
Riots broke out at the Szabad Nep newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party.
October 24

News of the events in Budapest spread across the country.
The first Soviet armored units entered Budapest.
October 25

The secret prison of the AVH was discovered and the political prisoners were freed.

The first Revolutionary newspaper, entitled Igazsag (Truth) was published.

Protestors again gathered in front of the Parliament and began calling for Imre Nagy. AVH troops lined up on the top of the Parliament and the Ethnographic Museum across the street, opened fire and killed more than 60 protestors.

Workers Councils were formed at the Csepel Iron and Metal Works.
October 26

Revolutionary groups were formed in the Thököly út-Dózsa György út area (7th District) and at Széna tér (2nd District). Freedom fighters also occupied Móricz Zsigmond körtér (11th District), and the Danubia Arms Factory.
The Revolution spread to the countryside. In Mosonmagyarovar the AVO (Hungarian Secret Police) fired into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators, killing 85 men, women and children.
October 27

The army occupied Szabadsag Bridge and Moricz Zsigmond Square.
The Radio announced the composition of a new government.
October 28

The new government was sworn in.

Imre Nagy reclaimed his position as Prime Minister and began negotiations with the Soviets to convince them to leave Hungary.

In his radio address, Imre Nagy stated that the Soviet troops would withdraw from Hungary, the AVH would be dissolved, and the traditional Hungarian flag would be used, among other promises.
October 29

The most severely compromised communist leaders – such as: Erno Gero, Andras Hegedus and, Istvan Kovacs - fled overnight to Moscow.
October 30

Cardinal Jozsef Midszenty was freed.

Soviet troops withdrew from Budapest to await further orders.

Imre Nagy announced on the radio the end of the one-party system and the formation of a Coalition government.

Szabad (Free) Kossuth Radio began radio broadcasts.
October 31

Withdrawal of Soviet troops from Budapest was completed.

Soviet Leadership made the secret decision to crush the rebellion with military intervention.
November 1

Imre Nagy declared Hungary’s neutrality and attempted to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact, but no one responded.
November 2

Soviet leaders, Khrushchev and Malenkov, met with Romanian, Czechoslovak and Bulgarian leaders in Bucharest, as they prepared for the Soviet military intervention in Hungary.
November 3

General Pal Maleter agreed to meet with the Soviet leadership to sign an agreement to withdrawal their troops from Hungary. Despite their promise of safe conduct, Maleter and his delegation were arrested, kidnapped and taken to Romania. (They were later executed).
November 4

At dawn, approximately 5,000 tanks rolled back into Budapest from Romania to crush the Revolution.

The Kilian Barracks were captured by the Soviets after fierce fighting.

Cardinal Mindszenty sought political asylum at the US Embassy, where he remained for 15 years.

SOS messages were repeatedly broadcast to the UN and the West, but no one responded. After the Soviet Army crushed the Hungarian Revolution, sporadic arms resistance continued in various cities until mid-December. But it was the passive resistance, the silent political struggle, the calls for strikes that continued to present a challenge to the puppet government of Soviet-picked Janos Kadar. His communist colleagues, especially the Soviets and Romanians, pressured him to hit the revolutionaries hard.

Reprisals began in late November with mass arrests, deportations to Ukraine, special courts and military trials, and the establishment of internment camps. More than 200,000 Hungarians escaped to the West. In order to gain legitimacy, Kadar had to destroy the Revolution's Prime Minister, Imre Nagy, and accordingly, his trial, secret execution and burial took place in June, 1958. General amnesty for most prisoners took place only in 1963.

Although the governments of the free world watched the Hungarian Revolution with deep admiration, they never seriously considered providing military support, nor condemnation strong enough to stop the brutal actions of the Soviet Union.

However, the heroes of 1956 did not die or suffer in vain. They demonstrated such uncommon bravery, such a universal yearning for freedom from foreign tyranny, that the whole world was forced to see the true face of communism at last. The Revolution's spirit came full circle in June, 1989, when Imre Nagy and others were finally given the public burial by a grateful Hungarian nation that had waited 33 years to pay homage to their sacrifice.

The 1956 Revolution was the first step in the dissolution of Communism to be followed by the Prague Spring in 1968, the founding of Solidarity in Poland in 1980, and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The Communist system, that received its first mortal blow in Hungary in 1956, disintegrated across the region in 1989. Soon thereafter the Warsaw Pact dissolved. The last Soviet soldiers left Hungarian soil in June, 1991, and at long last Hungary was free.

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