In October 1956, Hungary rose in revolt against Soviet domination. 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 undertook to negotiate the withdrawal of the Soviet troops and asked Budapest citizens to return to their homes. But by that time, large areas of the Hungarian capital were already in rebel hands.
On 4 November 1956, Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest to crush, once and for all, the national uprising. Vicious street fighting broke out and for three days the ordinary people fought Soviet tanks and the hated security police, the AVH, and demanded freedom from Moscow.
People attacked the tanks with their bare hands but the demonstrators then began to acquire weapons as Hungarian troops joined the revolt. Men with oxy-acetylene torches attacked the most hated symbol of Soviet dominance in Hungary – the huge bronze statue of Stalin in Stalin Square.
The Soviets’ great power ensured their victory and Nagy sought asylum at the Yugoslav Embassy in Budapest.
He was captured shortly thereafter and executed two years later.
The Soviet action stunned many people in the West. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had pledged a retreat from the Stalinist policies and repression of the past, but the violent actions in Budapest suggested otherwise.
An estimated 2,500 Hungarians dies and 200,000 more fled as refugees. Sporadic armed resistance, strikes and mass arrests continued for months afterwards, causing substantial economic disruption.
Inaction on the part of the United States angered and frustrated many Hungarians.