The Hungarian Uprising 1956

Hungary was a country in Eastern Europe and was a member of the Warsaw Pact which had been set up in 1955.

Causes of the uprising

The Soviet Union (USSR) saw Eastern Europe as a 'buffer-zone' of land which would protect it from possible attack from the West. The Soviets wanted to keep control of the Eastern Bloc to ensure their safety.

In May 1955, the Warsaw Pact was established – a military alliance which was controlled by the USSR. Eastern European countries were not in control of their own foreign policy.

Statue of Stalin torn down during the Hungarian Revolution
Statue of Stalin torn down during the Hungarian Revolution

Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, made a ‘Secret Speech’ in February 1956 which criticised Stalin and his way of running the USSR.

The communist leaders of many Eastern European countries had been appointed or approved by Stalin. They had run their countries in a similar way to how Stalin had run the USSR. Khrushchev's speech encouraged Hungary to try and get rid of their pro-Stalinist leaders.

There were also often shortages of food and fuel in Hungary in 1956.

Timeline of events during the uprising

July 1956The USSR orders Hungarian Prime Minister Matyas Rakosi to be replaced by Erno Gero, known for his hardline views. It was hoped that this will limit unrest.
23 Oct 1956A student and workers' demonstration in Budapest demands democracy, freedom from the USSR and freedom of speech. Members of the AVO (secret police) are killed, Soviet statues torn down and communists attacked.
24 Oct 1956Soviet troops and tanks enter Budapest. Twelve Hungarians are killed and many more injured. Imre Nagy, a less extreme leader, replaces Gero as Prime Minister.
28 Oct 1956Soviet tanks are withdrawn from Budapest.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.
1 Nov 1956Nagy accepts the rebels’ demands. He announces that Hungary will hold democratic elections and leave the Warsaw Pact.
3 Nov 1956A new coalition government is created under Nagy.
4 Nov 1956Khrushchev sends the Red Army back into Hungary and Budapest. Hungarian citizens clash with Soviet troops in Budapest.
10 Nov 1956A ceasefire is agreed.

Significance of the Hungarian revolution

Freedom fighters sit on top of a tank with the revolutionary flag in Budapest
Freedom fighters sit on top of a tank with the revolutionary flag in Budapest

  • 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 Janos Kadar.
  • Nagy was captured and executed.
  • Khrushchev had proved he differed little from Stalin. Eastern Europe was to be firmly held under Soviet control.