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Chapter 25

Eastern Europe
During Destalinization

The death of Stalin on March 5, 1953, five years after popular democracies had been established throughout Eastern Europe, was the first major test the new leaders had to confront. Just as they had followed Stalin's every instruction during his reign, these leaders followed instructions from the new men in the Kremlin with the same docility. Only a month after Stalin's departure, on March 27, the new leadership headed by Georgi Malenkov initiated a policy of reform with the publication of a liberal decree of amnesty, quickly followed by an assault on the security forces (the KGB) and its director, Lavrenti Beria, who served as the scapegoat. By eliminating Beria in July, the new Soviet leaders gave the strong impression that they intended to make a break with certain practices of the past. Malenkov and his team established a collective leadership of the state and of the Party in order to avoid repeating the over-personalization of power under Stalin. A breath of liberalism seemed to warm the Kremlin, but would it reach the satellite-country capitals? There was every reason to believe so, since during a July meeting of the Cominform in Moscow the Soviet leaders advised that the "brother parties" universally adopt collective leadership and make certain concessions to the people.

Thus, changes in Moscow were to set an example for the other popular

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democracies to follow, altering the pro-Stalin attitude of the leaderships and easing the daily life of the people.


The First Explosion: Berlin 1953

At the time of Stalin's death, the German Democratic Republic was in particularly difficult straits. In addition to the economic problems then common to all of the Eastern European countries, East Germany was confronted with a wave of discontent called, colloquially, "voting with the feet." Thousands of East Germany citizens -- agricultural workers angered by the collectivization of land, factory workers disappointed in the regime and unhappy with their low wages, professionals young and old -- began taking advantage of the policy of unrestricted travel between the different parts of the former Reich. With a simple subway ticket, East Germans in dangerously accelerating numbers were going from the Soviet sector to the Western sectors, and from there, by air to West Germany where work was plentiful and the living standard higher. The departures only aggravated an already suffering economy. Ignoring signals from Moscow to moderate policy, Walter Ulbricht issued a decree on May 28, 1953, raising quotas for production -- ostensibly to avert an economic crisis -- and was met with a backlash. The Soviets disclaimed him, raising opposition against him in the SED and forcing him to back down. On June 11 , the Party newspaper, Neues Deutschland, announced certain measures were being taken to improve the quality of life for the people, including an end to university discrimination aimed at the youth of the middle classes. Nonetheless, the decree of May 28 remained in force, and the people reacted by rising en masse.

On June 16, demonstrations took place in the streets of East Berlin protesting the raised quotas for production; the announcement of its suspension at the end of the day was not enough to calm emotions. The next day, on the 17th, a general strike took place in Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden, Rostock, and in most of the other industrial centers of the country. In Berlin, the demonstrators quickly got out of hand, overstepping the bounds of order by attacking official buildings and Party headquarters, and then burning the Soviet flag flying over Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of divided Germany. The worker demonstration had degenerated into an anti-Soviet demonstra- tion. That afternoon, the Soviet army took action. A state of siege was declared and Red Army tanks rolled through the streets, shooting into the unarmed crowds. The following repression was harsh; in addition to the hundreds of victims of the street fighting, the Soviet military tribunals had over 40 people executed immediately. There were over 20,000 arrests, and

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thousands of people were sentenced to heavy prison terms.

The true beneficiary of the events in Berlin was Ulbricht, who was able to persuade Moscow that he alone was capable of bringing about order in East Germany. Until his death in 1973, he ruled over the German Democratic Republic with a heavy hand.

Destalinization in Hungary and Its Limitations

In Hungary, the first consequences of the Kremlin's new orientation was a brief eclipse of Stalin's most faithful Hungarian disciple, Matyas Rakosi. The office of secretary general of the Hungarian Workers' party that he occupied was taken over by a directorship of three secretaries, but Rakosi himself remained as one of them. Simultaneously, Rakosi ceded his post as prime minister to Imre Nagy, who had been in semi-disgrace since 1950. On July 4, 1953, Imre Nagy presented his platform to the parliament. In the economic sphere, he announced a slowdown in agricultural collectivization and offered a means for dissolving collectives if a majority of members so desired. What most impressed the public, however, was the announced liberalization of the regime. "The agents of power," Nagy declared, "should take care to see that every citizen is able to enjoy rights stipulated in the constitution. Enforcement of the law is one of the most urgent tasks of the government." A partial amnesty was immediately declared and several concentration camps were closed. Furthermore, several thousand "undesirables" evicted from Budapest were allowed to return to the capital. But Imre Nagy had to reckon with the Stalinists still numerous in the Party. "Nagyists" and "Rakosists" confronted each other violently during the congress held in March, 1954, but the new political line followed by Nagy was ultimately approved. The conflict between "liberals,, and "Stalinisits,' flared up again soon thereafter, and during the March 9, 1955, meeting of the central committee, the "Rakosists" once again gained the upper hand. They denounced the "rightist deviation of Comrade Nagy," relieved him of his duties and replaced him on April 4 with a Rakosi loyalist, Andras Hegedus. Nagy was dismissed from the Party in November.

It was difficult for the new leadership to retract the liberalization policies initiated by Nagy, because an atmosphere of thaw had already begun to pervade the country. People had begun to speak openly again, to discuss issues and to criticize policy; prewar political leaders like Anna Kethly, Bela Kovacs and Zoltan Tildy had been liberated; peasants left collective farms in droves and returned to their old farms; and in Budapest, students and intellectuals gathered together for increasingly open discussions through an organization known as the Petofi Circle, named for the revolutionary poet of 1848. The circle publicly demanded the return of Imre Nagy, who in less than two years had become immensely popular in the country. Within the Party

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itself, the old militants began to demand the rehabilitation of Laszlo Rajk and his friends, and were successful after a long and persistent struggle when he was released on March 27, 1956. By then, the real defendant in the Rajk trial, Tito, had himself been publicly rehabilitated by the new leaders in the Kremlin.

The Moscow-Belgrade Reconciliation

The death of Stalin removed the major obstacle to improved relations between the USSR and Yugoslavia. On June 6, Molotov suggested that embassies replace the diplomatic missions that had taken care of diplomatic relations between the two countries since 1949, an offer Tito quickly accepted. Then the Soviet press, followed by the press in the popular democracies, slowly stopped attacking Yugoslav leaders. Border incidents with Albania, Hungary and Rumania -- so numerous in the early 1950s -- nearly ceased. But the major event, which took place just after Bulganin and Khrushchev took charge and stabilized power in the USSR, was the trip these new Soviet leaders took to Yugoslavia. Nikita Khrushchev, first secretary of the COSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union), accompanied by Premier Nikolai A. Bulganin and president of the presidium, Anastas I. Mikoyan, arrived in Belgrade on May 26, 1955. Khrushchev publicly expressed his regrets for what had happened in 1948 and astutely blamed much of the errors on Beria; he further recognized the Yugoslav Communist party as an authentic Marxist-Leninist party. The address Khrushchev delivered to Tito at the Belgrade airport on May 26, 1955, follows:

Dear Comrade Tito,

" . . . The people of our countries have long been united by ties of

fraternal friendship and by common struggle. . .. We sincerely regret

what has happened.... We have carefully studied the documents on

which the grave accusations and the grave offenses directed against the

leaders of Yugoslavia were founded. Facts prove that these documents

were complete forgeries. . ..

The communiqué published as a result of the visit stressed the validity of "different forms of socialist development." After this diplomatic mission, the other Eastern European countries, one by one, normalized relations with Yugoslavia. Only Albania seemed to harbor certain reservations; Enver Hoxha had not forgotten Tito's imperialist designs on Albania. For the time-being, however, Yugoslavia had become a full-fledged member of the "socialist family" despite the fact that its leaders had not renounced any of their independence.

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Destalinization in the Other Eastern European Countries

The revolt in East Berlin and the internal struggles within the Hungarian Workers' party prompted leaders in the other countries to act with caution. In Czechoslovakia action was limited to the establishment of a collective leadership. After (Gottwald succumbed, on March 14, 1953, to an acute flu virus he contracted during exposure at Stalin's funeral, Antonin Zapotocky became president of the Republic and was replaced as head of government by Villiam Soroky, a Slovak. Meanwhile, the Party, separated at least in principle from the state, was put under the leadership of Antonin Novotny. In early June, 1953, a monetary reform including a change in currency which devalued personal savings, led to rioting; the harsh repression that followed indicated that Stalinist tendencies remained strong in Czechoslovakia despite changes in government and Party personnel. Those who favored the hard line continued to govern for another 10 years, and little by little, the first secretary of the Party, Novotny, became the leading figure in the system. Rehabilitating the victims of the great trial of 1951-1952 was never even considered.

In Rumania, destalinization was limited to a small-scale amnesty. Gheorgiu-Dej, Rumania's "best son" and the secretary general of the Rumanian Communist party since 1945, kept his office despite a minor eclipse in 1953, while Petru Groza remained president of the Republic. In Bulgaria as well, the changes were limited. A few outcasts, such as Kostov who was executed in 1949 for Titoism, were rehabilitated. Vulko Chervenkov remained as secretary general of the Bulgarian Communist party and as chief of state until 1956, when he relinquished his leadership to Todor Zhivkov, his assistant and a fellow Stalinist. The situation in Albania was similar: Enver Hoxha remained leader of the Albania Workers' party but entrusted the government to Mehmet Shehu, a man who had organized the anti-Titoist purges of 1948- 1949 .

In Yugoslavia, it seemed absurd to speak of destalinization since Tito had in fact been Stalin's first victim. However, the methods of Tito's government even after the break with Moscow had remained Stalinist. The wind of liberalism that had swept over most Eastern European countries after 1953 had reason to affect Yugoslavia as well. The major changes came in the economic sector with the development of decentralization initiated in 1951, and marked by decollectivization of farmland in 1953. The year 1953 also witnessed a measure of liberalization in the government when a few political prisoners were set free, but, on the whole, the government remained dictatorial. A long-time companion of Tito, Milovan Djilas, president of the Federal Assembly, was sharply reminded of this fact when he was excommunicated from the League of Communists for having criticized the bureaucracy and for demanding the democratization of the government.

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When Djilas repeated his charges in a New York Times article published in December, 1954, and added to them by calling for the creation of a second political party, he was relieved of all his public duties and put under surveillance.

Poland initially remained impervious to the changes taking place in the neighboring countries. In Poland, charges of "violating socialist legality" had been less numerous and had come later than elsewhere. As in the other countries, however, the Party and the state were separated in March, 1954. The Stalinist Bierut kept his control of the Party, but relinquished his post as president of the state council to Alexander Zawadski. The socialist Jozef Cyrankiewicz took over as the ministerial council president, serving from 1947 to 1952. The following August, the new government decided to liberate several thousand political prisoners including the former secretary general of the Polish Workers' party, Gomulka; it also announced that it would re-examine the cases of parliament members unjustly accused. Warsaw appeared to be hastening to correct the errors of the past, but their reforms were tempered with actions such as placing Cardinal Wyszynski under house arrest. Nevertheless, as in Hungary, even what was judged to be insufficient liberalization provoked a mood of renewal in intellectual circles, and political discussions raged openly.

Despite its shortcomings, the first phase of what is called destalinization began a process with ramifications soon felt by the leaders of certain countries, Poland and Hungary in particular. The Soviets, who had originated this destalinization, had not altered their views on their hegemony in Eastern Europe. To better weld the diverse components to Moscow and to each other, and also to alert the Western powers to the limits of the thaw beginning to appear in East-West relations, the Soviets organized a meeting of all Eastern European leaders in Warsaw from May 11 to 14, 1955. It was at this meeting that the treaty of friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance known as the Warsaw Pact was signed. The pact was officially drafted as a response to the rearmament of West Germany; however, its purpose was above all to reinforce ties between the socialist countries. A unified military command was created and immediately assigned to the Soviet marshal, Ivan S. Konev, who held the post until 1961. All of the Eastern European countries took part in the Warsaw Pact with the exception of Yugoslavia -- even after its reconciliation with Moscow.


Even though it may appear astonishing, it was the 20th Soviet Communist Party Congress held in Moscow in February, 1956, that unleashed the crises brewing in certain countries. During the congress,

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Nikita Khrushchev read a secret report behind closed doors and in the presence of only the highest command of the Soviet Party. The Khrushchev report denounced the extremist cult of personality developed under Stalin, enumerated his crimes and abuses of power, and detailed the methods used in the Stalinist era to incite a veritable terror in the country. Khrushchev also mentioned the persecutions that had victimized certain peoples of the Soviet Union both during and after the war, and analyzed the dominant versus dominated character of relations between the USSR and the popular democracies.

The Polish leadership received the Khrushchev report during March, and were the first to reveal its contents at the urgent request of the Party -- causing a great stir in the country. The contents of the document were soon known to Eastern Europeans everywhere because Western radio stations diffused the information in their broadcasts directed at the Eastern bloc. The broadcasts understandably invoked skepticism in the minds of ordinary citizens, and caused Party activists a good deal of mental turmoil. On the other hand, Yugoslavs were delighted with this a posteriori justification for their conduct in 1948, and the April, 1956, announcement that the Cominform was to be disbanded only confirmed their position. The people in the Eastern bloc countries had their own interpretation of the Khrushchev report. For them, the report symbolized a challenge to the entire system which had been imposed on them in 1945, not just questions of theory reserved for policymakers to deliberate over. The public assumed that the next step, logically, would be the departure of the present leadership which had so blindly followed orders from Moscow; they felt that eventually the operation of the government would have to be reconsidered; indeed the government itself would have to be put under scrutiny. The strongest reactions against the existing governments took place in Poland and Hungary, both Catholic countries with Western traditions and more developed national awareness.

The Illusion of Liberalization in Poland

In Poland, where the first phase of destalinization had been slow to begin, the outcome of the 20th Congress was the appointment of a "centrist," Edward Ochab, to succeed the Stalinist, Bierut -- who had died in Moscow March 12 -- as head of the Party. Ochab considerably broadened the scope of the liberalization previously initiated; 30,000 political prisoners from a variety of backgrounds were granted amnesty in April, and former Communist leaders, given conditional liberty at the end of 1954, were granted total freedom -- though not rehabilitation. Such was the fate of Gomulka and his associates. On the other hand, prosecution began against the major directors of the security forces for "violating socialist legality."

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The general population raised much more concrete problems. Low salaries and increases in production quotas had caused deep discontent among the workers in late 1955. Tensions rose sharply during the International Fair at the end of June, 1956, but the situation had been ready to explode for several months. When workers from Poznan sent a delegation to Warsaw to present their complaints and had their demands rejected, they declared a strike and took to the streets. On June 28, to the astonishment of the participants and foreign visitors at the fair, the workers demonstrated, shouting slogans which were not limited to economic and social affairs: "Down with the USSR! Freedom of religion! Freedom for Cardinal Wysynski!" The crowd seized several police commissariats and set arrested protesters free. The Polish authorities called in the army, and Polish army tanks and security forces brutally cleared the streets. When it was over, order once again reigned in Poznan, but hundreds had been arrested, and, by official counts, the casualty toll stood at 54 dead, hundreds wounded. The authorities denounced the "armed provocateurs" they held responsible for the action, and accused "agents of American imperialism" of interference. Feelings of discontent ran deep throughout the population; the leaders of the Communist party had changed, but nothing had been settled.

At the plenary meeting of the central committee held in Warsaw, July 18-20, 1956, Stalinists and moderates clashed. The liberals could not get past the Soviet veto in their efforts to obtain the rehabilitation of Wladislaw Gomulka, who enjoyed a certain measure of popularity with his status as a victim of Stalinism, and seemed to be the only person able to rekindle confidence in the country.

Destalinization continued to proceed cautiously. The atmosphere of latent discontent led the Polish leaders to make certain concessions, but all within an established framework. Meanwhile, the situation grew more critical daily. The Catholics demanded freedom for their primate and made this demand known in a dramatic fashion during the national pilgrimage to Czestochowa. There, on August 15, prominently placed on the stage, was an empty chair -- a visible symbol of the absence of Cardinal Wyszynski.

In order to placate public opinion with a gesture, the Diet met in an extraordinary session and voted to reform the penal administration, restricting the rights of the police. Tension mounted at the end of September when the Poznan demonstrators were put on trial. During the trial, the government, its methods and its inability to solve real problems, were denounced without hesitation. When the verdict was passed down, it was clear that the atmosphere had changed; sentences were lenient, indicating an effort on the government's part to avoid more trouble.

The government had to act quickly because public opinion was growing more and more impatient. The Polish leaders wanted to keep Poland in the

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socialist camp while simultaneously appeasing the people. After a long hesitation, the central committee decided in early October to recall Gomulka; on October 13, in the presence of Gomulka, the politburo worked out an elaborate program of reforms to be ratified at the central committee meeting called for the 19th. The Stalinists among the Party leaders were disappointed in this turn of events and attempted a forceful takeover supported by the army; they knew they could rely on Marshal Rokossovsky and on General Witaszewski, but their plans were thwarted when subordinate officers and enlisted men refused to participate. The planned military coup, intended to arrest Gomulka and other liberals sometime between October 15 and 19, never took place.

The Polish leaders realized that only an intervention by the Soviets could alter the course of events. In fact, on the morning of October 19, 1956, Khrushchev, Molotov and Mikoyan accompanied by Marshal Konev and an impressive military delegation, arrived in Warsaw. At the same time, Soviet troops seemed ready to converge on Warsaw from throughout the country. Despite these threats, the central committee met and began their affairs by naming Gomulka to the post of first secretary. Gomulka, whose confidence was bolstered by the firm backing of the Party leadership, led a delegation from the Polish central committee that met with the Soviet delegation. During the night of October 19, Poles and Soviets argued passionately while the population was kept informed by radio, readying itself for the worst. On the morning of October 20, the Soviets left for Moscow, and tension eased slightly.

The Soviets' motivation to recognize Gomulka in his new office did not come from a fear of a hostile reaction by the Polish people; they had more than the means to suppress any attempts at resistance at their disposal. On the contrary, what led them to "give in" was Gomulka's reassurance that he and his entourage would retain "essentials," which for Moscow included continuing the socialist form of government and maintaining alliances with the USSR and the socialist camp. Gomulka made no secret of his intentions to this effect when he gave a speech before the central committee in Poland on October 20, declaring, "We will not permit anyone to profit from the process of democratization at the expense of socialism. At the head of this process of democratization is our Party." For Gomulka, there was never any question of jeopardizing "the cause of socialism in Poland."

Such words could not help but reassure the Soviets. During the same session, Gomulka announced several measures calculated to placate a suspicious public. He made it known that the peasants would be allowed to leave the cooperatives -- which most of them rushed to do and that religious freedom would be respected, provided the church supported the popular government. On October 21, Cardinal Wyszynski was liberated. Shortly

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afterwards, a combined church/state commission began work on outstanding problems. The peasants and the Catholics, who made up the majority of the Polish people, seemed to have been satisfied. For the workers who had instigated the chain of events, Gomulka promised higher wages as well as the democratization of the official unions.

Were these concessions merely opportunistic measures concocted to win the support of the people and the church, or were they the beginnings of a new route towards socialism? No one in Poland seemed to be asking such questions at the end of 1956. Everyone trusted Gomulka, believing he had just saved the country from Seviet military intervention -- an issue of major concern for the Poles. They were especially sensitive to it since they had just seen, from not so far away, that same Soviet army crush the insurrection in Hungary.

The Hungarian Revolution of 1956

The first phase of destalinization in Hungary ended with the elimination of its principal author, Imre Nagy, and the return to power of the Stalinist forces led by Matyas Rakosi and his friends. Nagy's brief stay in power had fueled hopes for change, not just within the population but within the Communist party itself. The "Nagyist" Communists now felt it necessary to bring their leader back to power and establish a true social democracy. For many private citizens who had forgotten the role he had played in 1945 as Minister of the Interior, the name Imre Nagy evoked images of the decollectivization of land, partial political amnesty, greater freedom in the country, and the beginnings of real change. Feeling pressure from the growing discontent of the population and worried by the events in Poznan, Rakosi finally decided to step out of the political limelight, and on July 18, 1956, asked to be "relieved of his duties" because of "errors in creating a cult of personality and in violating socialist legality." However, one of Rakosi's closest allies, Erno Gero, replaced him at the head of the Party. Several others, who never belonged to the Rakosi clique, were also admitted to the central committee; these comrades, such as Gyorgy Marosan and Janos Kadar, had been victims of the Stalinist purges. But with Gero at the head of the Party and Hegedus still at the head of government, Rakosi's friends remained in control.

Nevertheless, the Petofi Circle in Budapest and other intellectual circles were demanding Imre Nagy's return, while people throughout the country were watching the evolution of events in Poland with great interest. During the October 6th funeral services for Laszlo Rajk and other victims of the 1949 trials, the first major public expression of a desire for change surfaced. During the ceremony, Imre Nagy publicly expressed his sympathies to the

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widow of the former minister of the interior. It was a strange ceremony, one in which the "mourners," the opponents of the regime, came more to demonstrate their hostility to the Rakosi regime than to pay their respects to the dead. Gomulka's return to power in Poland inspired a wave of enthusiasm in Hungary, an atmosphere heightened by the October 14th announcement by the central committee that Nagy was to be rehabilitated. Joyful demonstrations were held throughout the country, celebrating a future which suddenly appeared brighter. Around October 19, taking advantage of regained freedoms, students in Szeged, Debrecen and especially Budapest, formed independent associations outside of the official associations controlled by the Party. The Budapest student group immediately drafted a manifesto of 14 points including demands for the withdrawal of Soviet troops, for free and secret elections with more than a single list, freedom of the press and of artistic expression, freedom for political prisoners, and above all, the reinstatement of Imre Nagy as head of government.

On October 23, the leaders of the Communist party -- Gero, Hegedus and Kadar -- returned from an official visit to Yugoslavia, only to find their capital in a state of agitated excitement. The students had organized a demonstration of solidarity with the Poles which was to be held in front of the statue of General Bem, the Polish hero of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848-49. At first, the demonstration was prohibited, but later it was authorized to proceed for that afternoon. The students were soon joined by workers from the suburbs and people passing by, and the crowd proceeded to assemble in front of the state radio building. Suddenly, while the students were asking that their demands be broadcast, the AVH (secret police) fired into the crowd. The moment constituted a turning point, changing a peaceable demonstration into a violent uprising: the AVH, already intensely unpopular and universally feared by the Hungarians, had attacked a defenseless crowd. The demonstration quickly turned riotous, and Hungarian soldiers who were sent to reestablish order distributed their guns to the crowd instead. Flags were raised with the Communist red star torn out of the center. The crowd, which had swelled to around 250,000 people, was surging towards the parliament where Imre Nagy was desperately attempting to calm them. When the old leader began to speak, he used "Comrades!" to address the crowd, which provoked angry boos. The crisis was no longer a problem within the Party, but was developing into a revolt against the government itself. That evening on the radio, Gero denounced the "threatening forces which weighed against socialism" and reprimanded the activists who were "attempting to break the bonds between our Party and the glorious Communist party of the Soviet Union." The speech angered the demonstrators still in control of the streets. During the night, a mob attacked the Communist buildings and Soviet bookstores, set fire to portraits of

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Communist leaders, and began destroying the giant statue of Stalin. During this time, radio broadcasts were warning the people of "fascists and reactionary elements" that had risen up against the socialist order. In the early hours of the morning on October 24, Imre Nagy, as newly appointed prime minister, announced the imposition of martial law and appealed to the demonstrators to put down their arms. He also made it clear that he favored the development of a "socialism with a national character," but these words were not enough to restore peace, and revolt spread to the rest of the country.

Before resigning as head of the Party, Gero asked for assistance from the Soviets. On the 24th, Soviet tanks began to crawl through the streets of Budapest, but did little else; there were even a few instances of Soviet fraternization with the crowds. That evening, a Soviet delegation led by Mikoyan and Mikhail Suslov arrived in Budapest and immediately met with Imre Nagy at Party headquarters. Nagy seemed to have received a carte blanche from the Soviets to act on his own discretion, and in fact, the replacement of Gero on the 25th by Janos Kadar as the head of the Party, was interpreted as a gesture of appeasement. The new first secretary announced that "once order is reestablished, there will be negotiations with the USSR for a fair and just settlement of outstanding matters between the two socialist countries.'" The insurgents appeared to have won the first round, but the revolt was far from over. The general strike, begun in Budapest on the 24th of October, had spread rapidly throughout the country. New Revolutionary Workers' councils were established in preparation for the creation of a genuinely democratic system of government; members of the councils were elected, and took over all functions from the Communist bureaucracy with little or no resistance. On occasion the AVH fought back, as in Mosonmagyarovar, where they fired into the crowd and killed over a hundred civilians. This sort of violent resistance by the AVH provoked the anger of the revolutionaries, and a number of the political police were massacred in retaliation, especially after torture cells -- used in the not-so-distant past -- were discovered in Budapest. The Revolutionary Workers' councils were one of the most characteristic features of the uprising, representing the first practical steps towards restoring order in the country and reorganizing the Hungarian economy on a socialist basis, only this time, without Communist party control.

Imre Nagy was being swept away by the magnitude of the movement. To appease the people, he invited Bela Kovacs and Zoltan Tildy, formerly of the Smallholders' party, to join his government on the 27th. The Revolutionary Workers, council and non-Communist members of the government only recognized Nagy as the head of a national union government; the one-party system had been unanimously rejected. On October 28, Nagy appeared to be siding with the revolutionaries: "the government refuses to consider this

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massive popular uprising as a counter-revolution.... The grave crimes committed in the course of these last years of our history have precipitated this vast movement," he declared in a radio broadcast. He also announced that an agreement had been reached with the Soviets on the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Budapest, and that negotiations on the withdrawal of troops from the entire country were underway. Nagy's speech was well received. At that point, the situation in the country was as follows: in Budapest, the official government was in the hands of Imre Nagy under the watchful eyes of diverse movements, associations and parties -- which had been revitalized by the atmosphere of regained freedom. In the country, the real power was in the hands of the Revolutionary Workers' councils, whose philosophies varied according to region; the west of the country, Transdanubia, clearly leaned towards anti-communism, while the Council of Miskolc, in the east, represented "national communism." In Budapest, as in the country, a newly organized national guard maintained order with the regular police force. Despite the wide spectrum of opinions, there was agreement on two points: Soviet withdrawal from Hungarian soil, and the establishment of true democracy.

On October 28, Nagy's government ordered a cease-fire, and fighting stopped largely on the insurgents' terms. At the Kilian barracks in Budapest Hungarian army units had fought on the side of the revolutionaries against Soviet forces. In fact, except for the secret police, there were no recorded instances of Hungarian troops fighting on the side of the Soviets against their own countrymen. The army units fought under their new leader, Colonel Pal Maleter -- who had been instructed to fight against the insurgents, but joined their forces instead.

The "freedom fighters" were primarily workers, students and other young Hungarian men and women, fighting in small groups with crude weapons. They were the first to use the "Molotov Cocktail," named after the Soviet foreign minister, which was a remarkably effective homemade bomb consisting of a loosely corked bottle filled with gasoline, designed to explode when thrown against a tank. The Soviet forces were also hampered by insufficient infantry support and a poor fighting moral within the ranks of the Russian soldiers, who disliked the task assigned them. About 300 Soviet soldiers actually fought on the side of the insurgents, and were later executed in the Soviet embassy yard in Budapest under the orders of Yuri Andropov -- who was at that time Soviet ambassador.

For a few fleeting days, Hungary experienced a climate of exceptional liberty. All political prisoners were liberated, dozens of newspapers appeared and the political police was dissolved. Cardinal Mindszenty, symbol of the resistance in 1948, was liberated by soldiers of the regular army and on October 30, the Nagy government published a decree absolving him

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of all accusations against him. He was given a triumphant homecoming upon his return to Budapest on October 31.

These moments of freedom did not last long. On October 31, new Russian units, mainly from central Asia, entered the country. The capital was slowly being caught in a vice. On the evening of November 1, in a radio broadcast, Nagy criticized the Soviets for having broken their promises by sending in more soldiers; he then announced Hungary's intention to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and become a neutral country, and in so doing committed the unpardonable in the eyes of the Soviets. Janos Kadar and several of his friends, probably acting on Tito's advice, broke with the Nagy government and took refuge in subcarpathic Ruthenia in Soviet territory. Meanwhile, the Red Army continued to pour into Hungary, despite the Hungarian government's protests to the Soviet embassy in Budapest and to the secretary general of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold. On November 3, the Soviet army was in control of most of the country; the Austrian border, open since October 24, was again closed off. In Budapest, Imre Nagy filled the vacancies left in his government by the departure of Kadar's associates with leaders of the former democratic parties, naming General Bela Kiraly as commander of the national guard and Pal Maleter, now a general, as Minister of Defense. As such, Maleter was to take part on the same day in negotiations with the Soviet high command to organize Soviet troop withdrawal. The meeting with the Soviets turned out to be an ambush. On the night of November 3, Maleter and members of the Hungarian delegation were arrested by the head of the Soviets, the KGB's General Serov. That evening, Cardinal Mindszenty gave a radio-broadcast speech calling for national unity, a theme later subverted by official propaganda. The next morning, November 4, Budapest was attacked. Heavy artillery and an air force battered the city from the air, and tanks began entering the city from all sides. Despite the determined resistance of the national guard and civilian fighters, Soviet soldiers took control of most of the city in 48 hours. Within the next few days, the last pockets of resistance were crushed.

Order was restored by November 13. Government leaders who had not fled the country took refuge in foreign embassies. Nagy and his ministers went to the Yugoslav embassy. Despite assurances by the Yugoslavs of their safety, they were arrested by the Soviets as soon as they left the embassy. Cardinal Mindszenty found refuge in the United States embassy, remaining there until 1971 .

November 4 marked the end of Hungary's brief encounter with freedom. That same day, Hungarians learned by radio that Janos Kadar had formed a "Hungarian Revolutionary Worker-Peasant Government." The new regime announced that it intended "to protect the progress made through socialism,

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to raise the living standard of the workers, to crush the harmful reactionary forces, and to restore peace and order with the help of the Soviets." Curious as it may seem, the men Moscow entrusted with the task of taking over Hungary were men like Janos Kadar and Gyorgy Marosan, who had themselves spent time in Rakosi's prisons for pro Titoism.

Excerpts from Addresses Made in Hungary on November 3 and 4, 1956

Cardinal Mindszenty's Address -- November 3, 1956

"We desire to live in complete friendship with all peoples and all countries.... We want to live on friendly terms with the great United States as well as with the all-powerful Russian empire, and we want to be good neighbors to Prague, Bucharest, Warsaw and Belgrade.... We are neutral. We have given the Soviet Union no reason for bloodshed.... Now we need free elections, without corruption, in which all parties can field candidates. These elections should be held under international supervision.... I summon all of my authority to caution Hungarians against any party quarrels or any misunderstanding after these days of magnificent unity..."

Appeal by Imre Nagy -- November 4, 1956, 4:20 AM

"This is Prime Minister Imre Nagy. Today at dawn, Soviet troops

launched an attack on the capital with the obvious intention of

overturning the legal government of democratic Hungary. Our troops are

resisting. The government is at its post. I am informing the Hungarian

people and the entire world of these facts."

Janos Kadar's Address on the Morning of November 4, 1956

"...Even though much progress has been made during the last

twelve years, the Rakosi-Gero clique have committed grievous errors and

have seriously violated the law. All of this has rightly angered the

workers. Reactionaries are now trying to use this discontent for their own

purposes.... By exploiting the mistakes made in the construction of our

popular democratic system, reactionary elements have misled a number

of honest workers, particularly the young -- who joined the movement

with the best of patriotic intentions.... We must put an end to the

excesses of the counter-revolution...."

Hungarian Writers, Union Appeal -- November 4,1956, 6:56 AM

"This is the Hungarian Writers' Union! To all writers of the world,

to all groups of scholars and academicians, to all scientific academies

and associations, to the intelligentsia of the world, we ask aid and support

from each of you. There is not a moment to be lost. You know what is

happening; it is useless to describe it in more detail. Help Hungary! Save

the writers, the workers, the peasants of Hungary, and our intelligentsia!

Help us! Help us! Help us!"

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