One Day That Shook the Communist World: The 1956 Hungarian Uprising and Its Legacy
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On October 23, 1956, a popular uprising against Soviet rule swept through Hungary like a force of nature, only to be mercilessly crushed by Soviet tanks twelve days later. Only now, fifty years after those harrowing events, can the full story be told. This book is a powerful eyewitness account and a gripping history of the uprising in Hungary that heralded the future liberation of Eastern Europe.
Paul Lendvai was a young journalist covering politics in Hungary when the uprising broke out. He knew the government officials and revolutionaries involved. He was on the front lines of the student protests and the bloody street fights and he saw the revolutionary government smashed by the Red Army. In this riveting, deeply personal, and often irreverent book, Lendvai weaves his own experiences with in-depth reportage to unravel the complex chain of events leading up to and including the uprising, its brutal suppression, and its far-reaching political repercussions in Hungary and neighboring Eastern Bloc countries. He draws upon exclusive interviews with Russian and former KGB officials, survivors of the Soviet backlash, and relatives of those executed. He reveals new evidence from closed tribunals and documents kept secret in Soviet and Hungarian archives. Lendvai's breathtaking narrative shows how the uprising, while tragic, delivered a stunning blow to Communism that helped to ultimately bring about its demise.
One Day That Shook the Communist World is the best account of these unprecedented events.
removed from roofs and public buildings, it was a matter of a symbolic act against the oppression and against the disrespect for national traditions. That is why the students (and not only they) demanded the reintroduction of the Kossuth coat of arms, the emblem of the revolution of 1848. The demand for the abolition of obligatory Russian-language tuition also fitted into this framework. They were protesting not against the Russian language as such but against the compulsion that Russian be
the fighters. The insurgents recognized early on the strategic significance of the blocks of buildings at the junction of those main roads that fan out from the Danube and that served as the indispensable routes for the 57 58 Chapter 4 Soviet tanks. The fact that they were in control of the intersection of Üllöi Avenue and the Great Boulevard (Nagykörut) revealed itself time and time again as a deadly trap for the Soviet troops. That was where one of the bastions of resistance was situated:
victims of firing from Soviet tanks. Now he argues that the tragedy was caused by the fusillades of border guards fired at the crowd from the roof of the Ministry of Agriculture. He notes, however, that among General Serov’s documents released so far, the report of 25 October 1956 is missing— obviously it is still being treated as a secret document. 77 78 Chapter 6 There is no doubt whatsoever that because of the slaughter between 11:15 and 11:30 a.m., this “bloodiest day” became a turning
Hurrah! The army is ours!” And with that the armed civilians raised the surprised colonel, who towered above them, onto their shoulders. Maléter announced the cease-fire: If the barracks were not attacked, the soldiers would not use their weapons either. He ordered his escorts to immobilize the tank, take the ammunition with them, and aim their guns backward. He also ordered the Hungarian flag to be hoisted on the barracks and the tank, with the Soviet emblem cut out, of course. Those minutes saw
Vidic conveyed to them Kádár’s written guarantee for their safety. To the question about Moscow’s attitude, Vidic declared that he was fully convinced the Soviets concurred, otherwise the agreement could never have been reached. The bus provided for transporting them to their homes first drove to the nearby Soviet headquarters. There Soviet officers unceremoniously forced the two Yugoslav diplomats, who were escorting the group to monitor the implementation of the agreement, off the bus. From