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Budapest And The 1956 Holiday

A Time When Hungary Remembers The Revolt

From 2018 – but even more relevant today.

It’s October 23rd and we are in Budapest sitting in a restaurant*. A young couple come in and sit at the table next to us. The young lady is in her twenties, attractive and is speaking Hungarian to the waitress when she approaches. What strikes me as really odd is the young lady is wearing a white T-shirt with a picture of Vladimir Putin on the front.

What is particularly odd is this the Hungarian holiday remembering the Russian invasion of Hungary after the people revolted against the communist government in 1956. Maybe the tee celebrating Putin is fashionable with young people, but wear it on this day?

A number of questions come to mind. Have the younger generation of Hungarians forgiven the Russians for Communism and the conquest of their country following World War Two? Are they over the violent crack down when revolutionaries tried to win their freedom back ten years later? Do young people have no sense of history anymore?

I was pretty young and in elementary school at that time, but to this day it is my oldest remembrance of a real historical event. I remember vividly sitting in front of our small family black & white television watching tanks roll down city streets, machine gun fire raking buildings and Molotov cocktails bursting against the tanks. Commentators railed about recognizing a new government and claims by the Eisenhower administration that we were not in a position to engage the U.S.S.R. In that place at that time.

Years later I had a woman work for me and she and her husband fled across the boarder into Austria in early November. Her husband was a professor and was told that the government was searching for supporters of the revolt and he was in danger of going to prison. They eventually made their way to the United States. She had a number of stories about their neighborhood in Budapest and the street fighting and how terrified they were about the coming Soviet reprisals.

After dinner that night I was reading a magazine article about the anniversary of the Revolution, which is now a National holiday and how the heaviest street fighting had occurred in the Corvin area in a section called the “passage”. Less than three hours before, that is exactly where we sat as I thought about the young woman sitting next to us and that Putin T-shirt.

I am not so sure how the Hungarians feel about the Russians today but if I had to describe “micro-aggressions” and “trigger-warnings” to someone, that might be an example. I am not sure why she wore that shirt there yesterday, maybe she is a radical socialist making a statement or perhaps she was being a young cultural revolutionary and maybe it is just fashionable to wear these new icons. Looking at Budapest T-shirt shops, in 2018 Putin was a reasonably common offering. I wonder if in 2022 he’s still popular? Whatever the reason there is no way I will understand her wearing that shirt and it makes me very sad.

Since I started this website I am very conscious as to what I say. It has never been my intent to be political. I once made a mistake and posted something I thought was simply ironic but a large number of people thought it was overly neo-conservative and they told me so in no uncertain terms (probably the biggest response I ever got to a post). At this point I am becoming concerned that there are a number of people on the web searching for any unintended slight or social misstep that gives them a reason to attack, while at the same time being very ignorant of the broader culturally careless opinions they hold.

Thank you for humoring me…

An old building on a street in the Corvin neighborhood shows a number of scars from bullets along with the effects of old age.

* The restaurant was the Amici Miei, a very good Italian restaurant at Corvin sétány 1, 1082 Budapest Hungary that we would highly recommend.

A Brief History of the Revolt

The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 (also known as the Hungarian Uprising, 23 October – 10 November 1956), was a nationwide revolt against the government of the Hungarian People’s Republic (Established 1949) and the Hungarian domestic policies imposed by the USSR. In the Hungarian Uprising the Hungarian people protested against domestic policies imposed by the USSR, and the people formed together in protest against the Soviet Union.

The Hungarian Revolution began on 23 October 1956 in Budapest when university students appealed to the population to join them at the Hungarian Parliament Building to protest against the USSR’s geopolitical domination of Hungary using the Stalinist government of Mátyás Rákosi. A delegation of students entered the building of Hungarian Radio to broadcast their sixteen demands for political and economic reforms to the civil society of Hungary, but they were instead detained by security guards. When the student protestors outside the radio building demanded the release of their delegation of students, policemen from the ÁVH (Államvédelmi Hatóság) state protection authority shot and killed a number of the protestors.

After that, Hungarians organized into revolutionary militias to fight against the ÁVH; local Hungarian Communist leaders and ÁVH policemen and a number were captured and summarily killed or lynched with many anti-communist political prisoners being released and armed. To realize their political, economic, and social demands, the local councils of workers assumed control of municipal government from the Hungarian Working People’s Party (Magyar Dolgozók Pártja). The new government of Imre Nagy disbanded the ÁVH, declared the Hungarian withdrawal from the Soviet Warsaw Pact, and pledged to re-establish free elections. By the end of October the intense fighting had subsided.

After that, while initially seemingly willing to negotiate the withdrawal of the Soviet Army from Hungary, the USSR put down the Hungarian Revolution using infantry and battalions of tanks starting on 4 November 1956, and fought the Hungarian revolutionaries until 10 November; repression of the Hungarian Uprising killed about 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet Army soldiers, and compelled 200,000 Hungarians to flee their country and seek political refuge abroad.

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