October 1956 – Budapest
University students gathered in front of the poet-patriot Petőfi’s statue (leader
of the 1848 rebellion against Austria).
They carried banners supporting the Polish people who were rebelling against Russian control there. The students wore cockades
in the national colours (red, white and green) and National flags were distributed. Angry crowds ripped out Soviet emblems
that the Russians had put into the Hungarian National flag. Even now the flag with a hole torn out is one of the most powerful
symbols of the uprising by the Hungarian people.
Workers and Hungarian Army soldiers in uniform joined the demonstrators
Imre Nagy, the purged ex-Premier, had recently been readmitted to the Hungarian Communist
Party (at a time when you were expected to be a member), and was the rebels’ leader and figurehead to take charge of
a new free and independent Hungary.
When students tried to be heard above Budapest
(Communist State controlled) radio Police attempted to disperse the crowds – using teargas and arresting students. The
demonstration turned into rioting and street fighting broke out. Martial law was declared and a call for Russian troops was
issued. During the night there were reports of tanks and jets being used against demonstrators, although some of the Hungarian
Army were seen to support the revolutionaries.
Heavy artillery was heard along with machine gun fire
and several Budapest buildings burned. The crowd shouted abuse
at the AVH – State Security Police, known as AVÓ.
Near Parliament two Soviet tanks and an armoured car drove up packed with young Hungarians
fraternizing with Russian soldiers. Other tanks and Soviet guns were mounted at the corners of the Parliament building. A
tank fired wildly, three armoured cars drove up packed with Soviet soldiers, aiming their guns skyward before they fired at
the crowd. There were many victims of the shooting in the Square.
The Nagy government claimed its forces had restored order in Budapest, but admitted fighting continued and added that following restoration of order,
negotiations for withdrawal of Soviet troops would be initiated. The fighting at the radio station had not ended. The Minister
of Defence issued an appeal for members of the Army to report to their commanding officers.
Rumours circulated in the capital that many of those detained by the authorities in the
course of armed clashes had been executed.
In Magyaróvár (about six miles from the Austrian border) almost a thousand people went
to the security police barracks to expel them – while outside the barracks the policemen waited in small trenches. As
the demonstrators approached, an officer took out his pistol and fired into the air. His thirty-strong troop then opened fire
on the crowd with machine guns and grenades.
Fighting continued throughout the country, Budapest’s
streets filled with broken glass, burnt-out cars, tanks and rubble. Still the battle raged on. Demonstrators had torn up tram
rails and dug out trees to use as anti-tank weapons and barricades. At least 30 burnt-out tanks remained along the Danube, many destroyed by Molotov cocktails. Burnt-out cars were at every street corner but at least
50 Soviet tanks, armoured cars and troop carriers still moved through the city firing indiscriminately with 75mm guns and
Even children became involved in the Uprising. Many wore Hungarian Uniform – with
the hated Red Star torn out – others wore red, white and green armbands, or continued to wear their everyday bright
coloured clothes. They carried submachine guns, and pistols - their pockets were filled with ammunition. Later they would
fight against tanks and artillery with machineguns and homemade grenades. One 13 year-old-boy, Jancsi, defended a street intersection
for four days by himself with just a machine gun, only taking breaks to fetch food and ammunition, before succumbing to exhaustion.
A new government was announced headed by Imre Nagy, significantly including non-Communists.
The news reported that resistance had been broken except for "certain isolated groups."
Negotiations with Soviet commanders were reported and in some cases Soviet forces joined
the revolutionaries. The government announced a cease-fire and Nagy stated Soviet troops would withdraw from Budapest immediately, and the security police would dissolve.
Fresh Russian troops were on route from Poland,
Russia and Romania.
They fought hand-to-hand combat in Budapest.
Artillery was now on each of the bridges spanning the Danube. At the Maria Therésia (aka Kilián) Barracks Soviet T34 and T54 tanks fired on students
and soldiers at point-blank range.
The scale of the clashes cannot begin to be illustrated here; in the countryside villagers
even attacked enemies with scythes and pitch-forks. All this led to a situation of total national unrest, with Russian soldiers
being sent to hotspots to attempt to stifle accounts of the revolution reaching the West. There were two Soviet Army divisions
stationed in Hungary and only one is known
to have been involved with the fighting in the capital. The other dealt with the provincial situation. The Soviet command
did not trust any Hungarian Army unit, whatever its alleged loyalties; Hungarian tanks fighting under Russian orders had been
allowed only two rounds of ammunition for warning shots.
Radio Free Győr announced that Soviet units had begun to leave Budapest
and were marching towards their Lake Balaton base.
Nagy announced the abolition of the one-party system, a return to the political conditions
after 1945, and negotiations for immediate withdrawal of all Soviet forces from Hungary
– not just Budapest.
The Hungarian Air Force threatened to bomb Soviet tanks unless they left Budapest.
stormed and ransacked the AVH headquarters in Pest, throwing hundreds of thousands of files
out onto the streets – the records kept against the Hungarian people by the State. Occupants of the building did not
have such an easy escape.
Budapest was relatively
calm. Only a few sporadic shots could be heard. The new Radio Free Kossuth broadcast a Soviet declaration concerning changes
in relations between Soviet Union and Satellite States. Nagy announced that the Hungarian government was prepared to leave the Warsaw
Pact and asked for negotiations on withdrawing Soviet forces from Hungary.
A Trans-Danubian National Council was organized from various area councils, requesting
immediate evacuation of Soviet troops, repudiation of the Warsaw Pact, free elections, a declaration of Hungary's neutrality, freedom of speech, press, assembly and
The Minister of Defence ordered changes in the army uniform; with cap insignia replaced
with the Kossuth crest. The crest is also widely used on free tanks, trucks and
armoured cars. Radio Free Kossuth announced that Imre Nagy had been a prisoner of the security police for two days, and had
made his first radio announcement with a machine gun at his back.
The withdrawal of Soviet units began. However, large Soviet forces – anti-aircraft
units, tanks and troops – changed their direction and re-entered Hungarian territory.
Soviet units surrounded Hungarian airfields, allegedly to protect the evacuation of Soviet
dependents. Budapest was ringed by Soviet tanks.
The gates of a political prison in Szolnok
were opened. The 600 former political prisoners and the government delegates sang the National Anthem together in front of
the national flag as a demonstration of united support for the government.
The Hungarian government protested to the Soviet Embassy regarding the return of Soviet
troops to Hungary, and The United Nations
were also notified. Soviet troops held Budapest International Airport while new troops crossed
the frontier and occupied railway lines and railway stations.
Two Soviet armoured trains entered the frontier station of Zahony. Debrecen announced the uninterrupted transit of Soviet troops. Units of tanks and automatic
machine guns travelled westerly through Szolnok. Battalions
of tanks arrived in the Gyöngyös area and entrenched themselves there. At Beregsurány 50 motorized artillery batteries crossed
the Hungarian-Soviet frontier.
Negotiations for Soviet troop withdrawal continued and further troop movements were reported,
most of them concentrated around Budapest. The Austro-Hungarian
frontier was closed off by Soviet troops and around 200 Soviet tanks were lined up on the Tisza
River in eastern Hungary.
Russian tanks surrounded the uranium mines at Pécs.
Soviet forces were marching from Vasárosnamény near the Soviet border towards Debrecen.
Radio Free Kossuth broadcast that Soviet troops arriving in Győr
said they had been told the Americans wanted to attack Hungary
so they must defend the Hungarian workers. It appears that the soldiers were unaware of the true situation.
Imre Nagy announced the Soviet attack on Budapest.
Russian forces took over most of the country’s airfields, highway junctions, bridges, railway yards etc.
was reported in Budapest and Soviet paratroops were in action near Győr.
Hungarian troops resisted Soviet efforts to take uranium mines and airfields at Pécs. Fighting
continued in all parts of the country and the situation remained confused.
pushed into Budapest and imprisoned the Nagy government with
János Kadár replacing Imre Nagy as Premier.
Free radio broadcasts repeatedly called for Western help and Radio Free Kossuth went off
the air with a repeated SOS signal. The station was silent until 2015. When transmission resumed then it was in the hands
of the Soviet-controlled regime.