Europe

1956

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian revolution which was brutally crushed by Soviet tanks, cheered on by large numbers of western communists.

The editorial in The Times today makes a number of valuable points about the failure of the west to intervene, the lessons the Soviet ruling class learnt from 1956 and also the impact of the events on a then significant part of the left:

The greatest casualty of Hungary, however, was the global appeal of communism. Communist parties whose credibility and membership had thrived on the defeat of the Nazis and the postwar social revolution were thrown into turmoil. The idealistic Left denounced Moscow loyalists and cynical fellow-travellers, who tried to justify the brutality as the “necessary” response to counter-revolution. The small British Communist Party lost a quarter of its membership, and some of the great names of the Left were for ever tarnished because of their refusal to denounce the Soviet repression.

Across the world, the appeal of Soviet communism never entirely recovered from the Hungarian Uprising. The Soviet Union and its satellite governments did not fall apart for more than 30 years. But the first cracks appeared in Budapest in 1956.

Meanwhile in Budapest today Police and anti-government protesters clashed on Monday in Budapest as a deeply divided Hungary commemorated the 50th anniversary of the country’s 1956 uprising against Soviet rule.

State news agency MTI said there had been 10 arrests and that some protesters had been beaten as police sought to move them further from parliament, the site of official celebrations for state officials and more than 50 foreign dignitaries.

If I have time today I’d like to write some more about 1956 but in the meantime here is a fascinating, recently published (and translated into English) illustrated children’s diary from a kid who lived through the revolution on the streets of Budapest.

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David T adds:

There’s also a good piece by our fellow blogger, Adam Le Bor on the anniversary, in Hungary, in today’s Times.

Also, read Oliver Kamm on 1956:

The Hungarian Uprising lasted for nine days. The Soviet ambassador to Budapest, Yuri Andropov, urged unrelenting bombardment of the city, after which Soviet troops turned artillery fire not only on the barricades but on residential areas. To those who resisted, I extend my admiration and respect.

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