1956: The Hungarian Revolution

As WW2 was ending, the Soviet "Red Army" had liberated many countries in Eastern Europe. Then, they tried to spread their influence of communism.

How did the communist Hungarian leader, Rakosi, secure a one-party dictatorship?

  • Propaganda- he created many posters and handed out flyers which showed how great communism was.

  • When the communists came to power, he tried, jailed and/or executed political opponents. By the next elections, there were no other political parties.

Why did Hungarians hate life under Rakosi and the Soviet communist rule?

  • Firstly, as Hungary was to be industrialised, high production requirements were set. If you didn't meet them, you were an enemy of the people, so workers tried to speed up production, meaning that outputted items were much poorer quality.

  • Secondly, Russians took a large amount of food out of the country, so there was a shortage of potatoes and bread. They also took Hungarian Oxen and claimed to give peasants Russian Oxen.

  • Thirdly, Rakosi had secret police who had files on people and arrested people or even executed them if they disagreed with the Government. They also sent at least 1 in 5 people to concentration camps.


Cracks in the Government after Stalin’s death in 1953

  • Workers in Eastern Germany rebelled and demanded higher pay

  • In February 1953, Khrushchev made a speech listing Stalin’s crimes.

  • Rakosi was forced to admit his own errors and ended up leaving Hungary.

  • October 23rd 1956, Students held an unofficial demonstration under communist rule demanding…

    • Free speech

    • Free elections

    • Withdrawal of Soviet troops

  • Symbols of communist power were destroyed (e.g. hammer and sickle ripped out of the Hungarian flag)

  • Statue of Stalin was smashed up

  • Soviet books and propaganda were burnt

  • Wanted their demands to be broadcasted to the nation through the Hungarian State radio

    • Arbo men (secret police) fired from inside the building

    • Workers became freedom fighters

    • Soviet Red Army tanks came into the city to restore law and order

    • A revolution started (Hungarian policemen, children also joined)

    • 300 unarmed protesters killed (in revenge Arbo HQ was invaded and arbo men were beaten to death all over Hungary)

Hungarian freedom fighters defeated the Soviet troops and Hungarian secret police force. A number of changes were made to Hungary...

1. Soviet Tanks withdrew from Hungary

2. Prisons were opened and Prisoners of repression were let out

3. Soviet Diplomats & their families left


What made Soviet leaders worry?

  • Imre Nagy announced Free elections (end of communist rule)

  • Rumours that Nagy was intending to withdraw Hungary from the Warsaw Pact (Eastern European Military Alliance controlled by the USSR)

Soviet Invasion of Hungary (Nov 1st)

  • Thousands of Soviet soldiers and tanks crossed back into Hungary

  • Imre Nagy announced that if they were not withdrawn, the Government would proclaim Hungarian Neutrality and break away from Soviet Control

  • Sovet Tanks re-entered Budapest

  • Imre Nagy was arrested and executed

  • 200,000 fled, thousands arrested and sent to labour camps, up to 3,000 were killed