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Ebben az évben sajátos körülmények között tudjuk megünnepelni az 1956-os forradalom és szabadságharc 64. évfordulóját. Nagyon sajnáljuk, hogy nem tudtok velünk lenni személyesen. Mivel az országos események és szabályozások gyorsan változnak, ezért az utolsó pillanatban kellett átírni és megszervezni megemlékezésünk forgatókönyvét és a webfelületet.

Tudjuk, hogy nagyon sokan vegyes házaságban éltek vagy olyan környéken, ahol kevés a magyar, így talán most még fontosabb, hogy másokkal is meg tudjátok osztani ezt az ünnepet. Ezért próbáltuk úgy összeállítani az oldal tartalmát, hogy a fontosabb részek angolul is elérhetőek legyenek. Becsatoltunk egy magyar nyelvű történelmi kronológiát a könnyebb áttekinthetőség végett. Norton Éva írt egy rövid angol nyelvű összefoglalót a forradalom fontosabb eseményeiről. Ehhez kapcsolódik egy fotó galéria. Itt is próbáltunk olyan képeket összeválogatni, melyek egyrészről a forradalom eseményeit mutatják be, másrészről nem feltétlenül a már megszokott szemszögből.

Kádárné Szász Hilda – a MAOSZ vezetőségi tagja és a Szóló Szőlő Chesteri Magyar Tanoda alapító tagja és vezetője – egy gyönyörű verset mond el Adorján András és Kocsis L. Mihály tollából, melynek címe Mi volt 1956, barátom? S végül, de nem utóljára, becsatoltuk Szörényi Levente és Bródy János Ha én rózsa volnék dalát Rúzsa Magdi előadásában.

A Nemzeti Filmintézet – Filmarchívummal (NFI) együttműködve, s a már említett rendhagyó körülmények miatt, szeretnénk Makk Károly Szerelem című filmjét is levetíteni november 1-jén, szombaton este 6 és éjfél között. A linket november 1-jén délután ötkor fogjuk kiküldeni a regisztrált vendégeknek. A film egyébként csak másfél órás, de összesen hat óra áll majd rendelkezésetekre, hogy megnézzétek. Így teljesen mindegy, hogy este 6-kor vagy 10-kor kezditek el nézni. A regisztrációval kapcsolatos információt jövő héten fogjuk kiküldeni. Reméljük tudtok hozzánk csatlakozni.

Tisztelettel adózunk az 1956-os forradalom szellemisége és a hősök emléke előtt. Köszönjük, hogy az ő bátorságot megvető cselekedeteik eredményeként egy szebb és jobb világban tudtunk felnőni!

The year 1956 opened with Matyas Rakosi, First Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party, firmly in power to all appearances. He symbolised Soviet domination and Stalinist tyranny both inside and outside Hungary. However, events were soon to change. As was often the case, it all started with a party conference in Moscow, namely the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It had some astounding results, such as the denunciation of personal cult and the denigration of Stalin. These events gave a powerful boost to all those people who opposed Rakosi and the anachronisms he embodied. He had to reckon with the unexpected outspoken criticism and growing opposition coming from within the party. With the benefit of hindsight and historical perspective, it is clear that the train of events that followed could only be stopped by violence. Although he continued to enjoy the trust and support of the Soviet leadership, it quickly became transparent that Rakosi was a liability and had outlived his usefulness in Moscow and was deposed as First Secretary.

After Rakosi’s departure opposition to the leadership became more frequent and vocal. The first open protest took place in Szeged in the south-east where, on the 20 October, university students set up an independent student association as opposed to the party-sponsored one. Students throughout Hungary aligned themselves with them over the next couple of days. A series of meetings were scheduled in Budapest too by various universities, one on the 23 at the Technical University. The students produced a list of their demands, set into 16 points, which became the agenda of the revolution: among others, it included the withdrawal of Soviet troops in accordance with the 1947 Peace Treaty; the appointment of Imre Nagy as Prime Minister; the holding of multi-party elections.

They also also called for a silent demonstration on the same day to express solidarity with the Poles. Wladislaw Gomulka was elected First Secretary of the Communist Party. He was seen as a national Communist. The Soviets had threatened the Poles with troop movements and Krushchev travelled to Warsaw to put more pressure on the Poles. However, he met some fierce opposition and in the end he had to accept the Polish decision. This dramatic development strengthened traditional pro-Polish sentiment in Hungary and was also viewed as an example to follow and to learn from.

The Hungarian Minister of the Interior, however, banned all public meetings. In defiance, the students started gathering in Petofi Square downtown Budapest. They were singing patriotic songs and recited poetry. By all accounts it was a very orderly meeting. Then, a large number of workers who’d just finished their shift in various factories joined the group. Gradually, the atmosphere started to change and people started chanting pro-Polish and anti-Soviet slogans. Hungarian flags started appearing on balconies with the communist coat of arms cut out. The crowd marched to the headquarters of  Hungarian Radio to demand that the 16 Points be broadcast. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, Radio bosses unwilling to comply with the demands of the people. The building, as all public buildings, had a contingent of secret police to guard it. Eventually, shots were fired possibly by the secret police first and Soviet armoured vehicles came to Budapest to underpin the regime. The demonstrations quickly turned into a country-wide revolt and bloodbath.

The leadership both in Budapest and Moscow tried to appease the crowds by granting them one of their demands: the reinstatement of Imre Nagy as Prime Minister. He was a Communist reformer who first served as PM and First secretary between 1953-55. He had been removed from his positions as he was seen to have gone too far too soon with his reforms of the Communist Party and its policies. Although people in general very much welcomed his re-appointment, it was too little too late. Many joined the insurgents and challenged Soviet might.

All vestiges of Communism had gone during the first few days, including statues of Stalin; Communists emblems were cut out of national flags; the old Kossuth coat of arms was re-introduced – a reminder of the 1848/49 revolution. Simultaneously a genuine coalition government was set up, previously banned newspapers were re-published. Trade Unions were reorganised and workers’ councils set up. Hungary clearly embarked on a new way to Socialism that demonstrated the new leadership’s sense of democratic responsibility. Regrettably, Moscow didn’t see events in quite the same way. Soviet armed forces were re-grouped and were strengthened by additional forces from outside Hungary’s borders.

On 1 November, a desperate Imre Nagy declared neutrality and withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact. He also appealed to the United Nations and the four great powers for help in maintaining Hungary’s neutrality. By 2 November Soviet troops had control of the Hungarian railway system, surrounded Budapest and major access routes were cut. One more desperate appeal to the UN followed. Hungary didn’t so much revolt against socialism but against a political dictatorship underpinned by terror, and against a foreign occupying power. It quickly became apparent that Soviet leaders had no intention whatsoever of relinquishing power and Soviet forces went on the offensive on the 4th November. The Hungarian people went on the barricades again. Although by the 10 November effective resistance was broken, guerilla warfare, strikes and demonstrations continued throughout the country.

There was a change in the leadership yet again when Nagy was replaced by Janos Kadar. Nagy was arrested and deported to Romania and subsequently executed. Kadar, relying on an army of occupation and a speedily re-organised and well-paid political police, started to suppress the revolution. Although he declared general amnesty on more than one occasion, people who were suspected of having borne arms were sought out. 26,000 were brought to court, 22,000 were sentenced, 13,000 were imprisoned in Hungary. Thousands were killed, some more thousands deported to the Soviet Union – some of whom never returned. Several hundred were summarily executed. Approximately 200,000 people fled Hungary; about 22,000 ended up in the UK.  

The fate of the Hungarian Revolution can’t be understood without taking an international perspective. On the 29 October Israel invaded Egypt. The British and the French delivered an ultimatum to both, threatening to intervene. The US strongly opposed the British and French move, which magnified the crisis because the transatlantic alliance fell apart. Therefore, with a hindsight, it wasn’t at all surprising that Soviet forces entered Hungarian territory on the 30th. On the same day, the emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was convened to discuss the Suez crisis. Americans wanted immediate ceasefire which both the British and the French vetoed. As a result, the General Assembly was convened on the 1st November which, by coincidence, was the same day as when Imre Nagy appealed to the UN. Because of the ongoing Suez talks, the General Assembly could only discuss the Hungarian situation on 3rd November by when it was too late. As many historians and diplomats have since pointed it out, the West was keen to avoid a confrontation with the Soviet Union over Suez. So much so, that on 30th October the US Ambassador to Moscow delivered a note to the Soviet government saying that the US didn’t regard the states of Eastern Europe as potential allies. Moreover, the British government’s statement in the House of Commons clearly said that “it is not our intention to try and exploit the events taking place in eastern Europe in order to undermine the security of the Soviet Union.” Various media outlets, such as Radio Free Europe gave a false encouragement to the revolutionaries, arousing expectations which could never, in reality, be fulfilled by any foreign government.

As Sir Bryan Cartledge observes,“[i]n 1956, Hungarians had to re-learn the harsh lesson of 1849: the West might applaud their aspirations for freedom and independence but would never actively support them.” 1956 also “planted Hungary firmly in the world’s consciousness. It prompted the peoples and governments of many countries to take a hard look at the values and priorities that informed their own policies.”

But was the uprising a failure?

Imre Nagy believed that if he could establish confidence between Party and people, he could build a Communism which ruled by consent rather than force. At first, he was fighting for reformed communism then shifted to sharing power and culminated in a multi-party democracy. By 1 November it looked as if there were going to be free democratic elections but then the Soviet tanks moved in yet again which delayed these free elections for another 34 years. He had integrity and intelligence although some questioned his political skill – “the most Hungarian of all the Communist leaders” in the country.

Nagy’s legacy is important. In 1956 he started the process of lifting totalitarian terror in Eastern Europe. His reburial in June 1989 triggered the events which in 6 months’ time profoundly transformed the map of Europe. Hungary opened its borders and the people of East Germany fled to the West. The Honecker regime fell. Czechoslovakia and Romania followed suit.

Finally, 1956 gives Hungary a common memory, an episode not just of desperate courage, but of unity in adversity. Just as the students and workers of 1956 harnessed the Kossuth coat of arms and the poetry of Sandor Petofi to root their movement in the memory of 1848, their uprising is now part of that same golden thread. In troubled times, it may quietly help that we can all look back to such a moment of noble hopes and heroic deeds.

Eva Norton

Kádárné Szász Hilda: Mi volt 1956, barátom?

Rúzsa Magdi : Ha én rózsa volnék