Events in Hungary

Map showing the countries that were part of the Warsaw Pact

Causes of the Hungarian uprising

Following Khrushchev's ‘Secret Speech’ in February 1956 which criticised Stalin and his way of running the USSR, Hungary was encouraged to try and get rid of their pro-Stalinist leaders.

At this time there were shortages of food and fuel in Hungary. Demonstrations and rioting in Budapest could not be brought under control. Soviet troops stationed there were forced to leave.

Events during the uprising

Timeline documenting the events that occurred during the Hungarian Uprising in 1956.
DateEvent
July 1956In an attempt to limit unrest, the USSR orders Hungarian Prime Minister Mayas Rakosi to be replaced as General Secretary by Ergo Gero.
23 Oct 1956A demonstration by students and workers in Budapest demands democracy, freedom from the USSR and freedom of speech.
Members of the AVO (secret police) are killed, Soviet statues are torn down and communists attacked.
24 Oct 1956Soviet troops and tanks enter Budapest. 12 Hungarians are killed and many more injured.
The Soviets arranges for Imre Nagy, a less extreme leader, to replace Gero as Prime Minister. The more moderate Nagy government, is set up and promises the New Course – a set of reforms meant to subdue the demands for change. These are not accepted and unrest continues.
28 Oct 1956Soviet tanks are withdrawn from Budapest.
Protesters continue to demand more freedom. They make it clear that they want to get rid of the Communist Party and leave the Warsaw Pact.
30 Oct 1956Cardinal Mindszenty, jailed in 1949 for his opposition to communism, is freed. He is granted political asylum by the United States embassy in Budapest, living there for the next fifteen years.
1 Nov 1956 Nagy announces that Hungary will hold democratic elections (which brings with it the threat that the Communist Party might lose power). He also agrees that Hungary will leave the Warsaw Pact (meaning Soviet troops will be expelled from the country).
3 Nov 1956A new coalition government is created under Nagy.
4 Nov 1956Hungarian citizens clash with Soviet troops in Budapest.
Tanks are used in the streets and the revolt is crushed.
10 Nov 1956Ceasefire agreed.
 Crowd inspects fallen statue of Stalin.
Soviet statues were torn down during the Hungarian Uprising

Reaction of the Soviets

The Soviets were unwilling to allow the far-reaching political reforms suggested by Nagy and his moderate government. Unlike in Poland, the changes were mostly political and brought the risk of a government that was not friendly to communist policies. It was feared they would threaten Soviet security, reduce the military power of the Warsaw Pact and weaken the buffer zone. As a result, the revolt was crushed:

  • approximately 3,000 Hungarians were killed
  • approximately 200,000 fled abroad and became refugees
  • Nagy was forced to resign and attempted to flee to Yugoslavia
  • the USSR replaced him with Kadar
  • Nagy was captured and executed