Hungary and Soviet Oppression

On this day in 1956, an escalating national uprising brewing for 12 days in Hungary is viciously crushed by Soviet tanks and troops. Thousands were killed and wounded and nearly a quarter-million Hungarians fled the country in the crack-down.

The crisis in Hungary began in October 1956, when thousands of protesters took to the streets demanding a more democratic political system and freedom from Soviet oppression. In response, Communist Party officials appointed Imre Nagy, a former premier who had been dismissed from the party for his criticisms of Stalinist policies, as the new premier. Nagy tried to restore peace and asked the Soviets to withdraw their troops.

And then it gets sinister. After announcing a willingness to negotiate a withdrawal of Soviet forces, the Politburo reversed course and moved to crush the revolution. On November 4, a large and lethal Soviet force featuring armor invaded Budapest and other regions of the country; the Hungarian resistance vainly fought on until November 10. Over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed in the conflict, and 200,000 Hungarians fled as refugees. Mass arrests and denunciations continued for months thereafter, and by January 1957, the new Soviet-installed government had suppressed all public opposition.

These Soviet actions, while strengthening control over the Eastern Bloc, were a reputational disaster, alienating many Western Marxists, leading to splits and considerable losses of membership for communist parties in capitalist countries, and causing the Cominform a devastating loss of steam.

So here the lesson of deadly overreach and its vagaries endeth.

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