The Hungarian Crisis was the first major threat to Soviet domination of half of Europe since the end of WWII. The Revolution began following several years of political infighting between different factions that led to the public’s grievances being ignored. Having seen some of the success that the Polish public had achieved in getting concessions and reforms, university students began to assemble and demonstrate in the center of the Capital, Budapest. Singing soon turned to militancy that led to the Hungarian Communist Party’s newspaper plant being destroyed and shots being fired in the streets all over Budapest. The liberal Imre Nagy was reappointed Prime Minister in an attempt to quell the uprisings, but this had no effect as Hungarian Army units began to defect to the Revolutionaries.
The Hungarians began to organize local Worker’s Councils which was an attempt to set up interim local government for future reform which would not come. The Worker’s Council’s were meant to take control over the factories and address some of the longstanding issues and grievances that had led to the Hungarian Revolution in the first place. They also would start organizing local militias to help defend against the coming Soviet intervention.
The Soviets at this point decided to step in, but the revolutionaries had become well armed and the Soviet troops were forced to retreat. Nagy, saw the writing on the wall and decided to join the side of the revolutionaries and attempted to declared Hungarian Independence from the Warsaw Pact and USSR, but the Soviets ignored his attempts. Khrushchev and others decided enough was enough and sent in additional troops from across the neighboring Warsaw Pact borders and quickly crushed the insurgency in early November. Over 200,000 Hungarians fled to Austria as refugees as the Soviets and hard line Hungarians like Janos Kadar, who would rule Hungary for over thirty years.
This uprising was the first of many that would occur from Czechoslovakia to Tienanmen Square, eventually the people get tired of the inequality that always exists in the communist system and want a free chance for a better life. Yet, too often then not these uprising are crushed with the exception being at the end of the Cold War and Gorbachev refused to send in Soviet Troops to bolster the communist governments of Europe that relied on their support. It shows that the idea of self-determination was easy to forget about in the face of a cold war between rival factions where sovereignty, democracy and freedom meant nothing, for either side.
“Hungary: Workers’ Councils against Russian Tanks – International Socialism.” Accessed March 27, 2017. http://isj.org.uk/hungary-workers-councils-against-russian-tanks/.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.