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The twentieth century was filled with tragedies but the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 stands out as one of the most poignant.
After Germany's defeat Joseph Stalin imposed a communist dictatorship on Hungary. It is incorrect to characterize this time as being after World War II. For Hungary and the other nations of eastern Europe, World War II effectively did not end until 1989.
Stalin chose Mátyás Rákosí to run his client dictatorship in Hungary. Hungary was turned into the standard Stalinist melange: collectivized agriculture, five year plans, irrational investment in heavy industry and enforcement of the whole works by police terror.
After Stalin died in March of 1953, the Stalinist stooge Rákosí was replaced by Imre Nagy. Nagy began to moderate the Stalinist program of Rákosí. Nagy's reforms caught the imagination of students and intellectuals, but they worried the Communist Party leaders in Moscow.
In April of 1955 Nagy was stripped of his powers and Rákosí was brought back to reimpose the Stalinist model.
But soon there were changes in Moscow. In February of 1956 Nikita Khrushchev gave his secret speech denouncing Joseph Stalin. Khushchev soon deposed Rákosí and replaced him with Erno Gero in October of that year. Khushchev also allowed Polish Communists to put Wladysaw Gomulka back into control of Poland.
In late October students demonstrated in support of putting Imre Nagy back into power in Hungary. They also called for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary and for political pluralism.
Gero rejected the demands and ordered the police to fire on the crowds. The public, outraged at the shooting of demonstrators, joined the protest and Hungarian soldiers came over to the side of the protestors. The protests spread throughout Hungary and Gero asked for Soviet troops to put down the demonstrations. Meanwhile workers' councils were formed and a general strike declared.
Gero lost his prime ministership to Imre Nagy and Janos Kádár was made head of the Hungarian Communist Party. Nagy declared that other political parties could seek election to the Hungarian parliament and a cabinet that included members of the previously forbidden parties was formed. Nagy requested that Soviet troops be removed but instead more Soviet troops were sent in. Nagy protested and withdrew Hungary from the Warsaw Pact. He also appealed to the United Nations for recognition.
On November 4, 1956 Soviet troops siezed control of the transportation system in Hungary. Over the next ten days the Soviet troops crushed the Hungarian Revolution and put Janos Kádár in charge of the government. Kádár was able to reinstate communist control.
Imre Nagy took refuge in the Yugoslavian embassy. Yuri Andropov, who was heading the Soviet operation in Budapes, promised Nagy safe conduct in he left the embassy, but when Nagy left the embassy he was arrested. Andropov was watching the procedings from the window of a nearby building. When Nagy looked up, Andropov waved goodbye to Nagy as he was being placed in an automobile to be taken off to his execution.
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