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DukeC View Drop Down
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    Posted: 05 Aug 2009 at 22:44
I just watched the CBC documentary about the Hungarian uprising in 1956. I'd seen part of it when it was aired a few years ago but missed the start about the uprising itself.
 
The uprising was a spontaneous event touched off when state security police fired on student demonstrators who were demanding the release of some of their members detained at a radio station. The violence soon spread through Budapest then quickly across Hungary and the government fell. 
 
One of the men involved in the uprising was a university student at the border town of Sopron named Estvan Tolnai. He went on to command the student brigade that held the border open to Austria while his roommate Miklos Gratzer was involved in transporting medical supplies into Budapest - under the noses of the Soviets - where they were needed to deal with the great number of combat casualties.
 
After initially indicating a willingness to withdraw, the Soviet Politburo sent in 16 divisions and more than 2,000 tanks on Nov 4. Soviet military strength was overwhelming and resistance fighters had a choice, stay and face even more oppression and reprisals or flee to Austria and an uncertain future. Over 200,000 Hungarians chose to leave, many of them young.
 
Estvan and the Sopron forestry school he was part of stayed together as a unit along with their Dean and faculty. The decision was made to find a new home for the school and letters were sent to over 30 countries. In Canada there had been a great deal of support for the uprising and a desire to help the refugees. Under the guidance of federal Immigration minister Jack Pickersgill, most red tape was removed for Hungarian refugees and over 37,000 came to Canada, more per capita than any other nation. A new home was found for the Sopron forestry school at UBC and classes resumed in the fall of 1957. Of the 200 student that started, 140 graduated, 24 received masters degrees and 20 Phds. Estvan Tolnai eventually settled in central BC, as a forester in the company my father had also recently joined. After my father he's probably been the biggest role model in my life, it's interesting how events halfway around the world can have such an impact on our lives.
 
One of the effects of the uprising and it's subsequent crushing was to solidify Soviet control of Eastern Europe. On the other hand it also caused many Marxists outside the Soviet block to withdraw support for the Soviet Union and helped to lead to the break between communist China and the USSR. Western official reaction was mild at best, leaving many Hungarians feeling abandoned.
 
I guess my question here is, was a unique opportunity to begin the breakup of the Eastern Block much earlier lost by not supporting the Hungarian revolution more strongly in 1956?
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Aug 2009 at 15:23
Allowing the Soviet Union to fall apart on its own accord, rather than fighting World War III to crush it, appears to have been the better solution. Not only was it less costly in lives and destruction, it lessened the possibility of a resurrected recidivist regime that would blame some version of "World Jewry" for its "unfair" destruction, but it allowed so many Soviet apologists and fellow travelers in the West to see their idealized Soviet world for what it was.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Aug 2009 at 16:00
I was in Vienna for Picture Post during the uprising, long-stopping for my senior colleague Trevor Philpott who was in Budapest with the photographer Jack Esten. Trevor and Jack pulled out just as the tanks came in, leaving Jack and me to try and get back in if possible, otherwise to wrap up stories with the refugees.
 
So why were Jack and I left?
 
Answer: because Trevor had been rushed off to the Canal Zone to cover Suez. The attack on Suez, virtually simultaneous with the Russian assault on Hungary, completely tied the West's hands. Not just because of the diversion of forces but because it led to the sacrifice of world public opinion, making the west look as bad as the east.
 
A truly sad coincidence.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Aug 2009 at 16:35
The answer to the question is No it was not.
 
The USSR was at its height. It successfully recovered from the worst effects of WWII, albeit with the help from German slave labour, It was expanding economically and was reforming politically and the socialists ideas were ever getting more popular with people around the world. Popular socialist revolutions and socialist parties were growing on a daily basis.
 
For the West on the other hand, it could have not been any worse. The French were already in a brutal and bloody colonial war in Algeria with its war crimes there making headlines. They were already defeated in Vietnam after an equally brutal and bloody war. Britain was decolonizing but the Suez crisis was just too much especially that there were no legal justification whatsoever for their move there. The US was intervening in the Americas as always breaking any democratic movement that threatens "their sons of bitches" as Roosevelt once said. They already made a successfuly coup in Iran which was against a popular and democratically elected government.
 
The Soviets immediately took the chance for the mistakes of the west and completely reversed the image of the Stalinist totalitarian regime the west always portrayed it to be. They supported all "Freedom" movements even if they didn't proclaim socialist ideals (Cuban revolution for example). They gave money and technical help with little strings attached (like the High Dam in Aswan and the immense number of scholarships for university education in the USSR).
 
So when time came for the Soviets to do mistakes, people compared these mistakes with the those of the western countries and guess what? The Soviets even though brutal were not as brutal as the west. They did a lot of "good".
 
Anyway, with 50k tanks of which 35k were between Moscow and Berlin, I doubt the west would have even considered intervening. They Soviets would have swept Western europe in a matter of days especially that the strongest army in europe (the French army) had almost all of its 400k men in Algeria massacring civilians there.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DukeC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Aug 2009 at 18:16
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

I was in Vienna for Picture Post during the uprising, long-stopping for my senior colleague Trevor Philpott who was in Budapest with the photographer Jack Esten. Trevor and Jack pulled out just as the tanks came in, leaving Jack and me to try and get back in if possible, otherwise to wrap up stories with the refugees.
 
So why were Jack and I left?
 
Answer: because Trevor had been rushed off to the Canal Zone to cover Suez. The attack on Suez, virtually simultaneous with the Russian assault on Hungary, completely tied the West's hands. Not just because of the diversion of forces but because it led to the sacrifice of world public opinion, making the west look as bad as the east.
 
A truly sad coincidence.
 
It was.
 
Trevor Philpott is a name I haven't heard in a long time...he was quite the journalist


Edited by DukeC - 06 Aug 2009 at 18:17
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TheRedBaron Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Aug 2009 at 11:25
Didnt Jack Esten get that infamous photo of a Soviet command unit where one of the officers is walking towards him about to draw a pistol?
 
The Hungarian Revolution didnt get the massive uprising that could have seen it develop or be supported into something larger. Many Hungarians remained loyal to the state and fought against the insurgents, with the Kadar Hussars conducting particuarly brutal mopping up operations. As others have commented, NATO was in no state to help. Austria had to mobilise its Officer Cadet Schools (in training for its new army) to patrol the border.
 
The Warsaw Pact was never a strong coherent force. The Soviet strength in Europe was more to hold the Warsaw Pact together than to invade Western Europe and the Soviets distrusted most of their erstwhile allies to the point where they restricted military technology to them all.
 
A colleague of mine who served in the Polish Airborne during the Cold War commented to me that the Soviets would never have invaded the West. Why I asked why, he told me that 'They knew if they did they would have to fight a war behind them too...' implying that the Warsaw Pact would have likely fallen apart and devolved into infighting and popular uprisings. Certainly the Polish Army had no love of the Soviets and he told me that his unit always felt it more likely to be fighting Soviets than NATO...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Majkes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Aug 2009 at 15:07
Originally posted by DukeC DukeC wrote:

I just watched the CBC documentary about the Hungarian uprising in 1956. I'd seen part of it when it was aired a few years ago but missed the start about the uprising itself.
 
The uprising was a spontaneous event touched off when state security police fired on student demonstrators who were demanding the release of some of their members detained at a radio station. The violence soon spread through Budapest then quickly across Hungary and the government fell. 
 
 
There were many reasons for the uprising and the demonstation with one you mentioned not being the most important. Demonstration was organized to support polish workers uprising in Poznan. The demonstation was even held before monuument of Jozef Bem - Polish-Hungarian national hero.
That was of course just the pretext. Main reason were opressivness of Hungarian govt and economical problems. Having about 3 times people less than Poland, Hungary had about 3 times more of political prisoners. Rakosi rule over Hungary were very bloody.
 
Some photos from uprising
 
Answering Your question West could have helped Hungarians but it would have meant WWIII so it was only theoretical possibilty. SU within their sphere of influence was able to do as they wanted.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Aug 2009 at 15:15
I read in an editorial years ago on the anniversary of this event that U.S. propaganda partially fueled the revolt by promising U.S. involvement as soon as a popular uprising would happen via radio. My understand is that the U.S. never had that as a policy, and it was just, well, propaganda

The reality of the situation was that Hungary was too far away of the U.S. and too close to the USSR.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Aug 2009 at 16:06
Hugoestr, the U.S. was watching the situation closely and had its forces on high alert. I suspect that the 10th Special Forces Group at Bad Tolz had teams locked away, preparing to drop into Hungary and assist the rebels should the revolt lead to war. It ws not U.S. policy, however, to launch a European War. Indeed, the overarching nature of NATO was that of a defensive alliance. It is possible that some Hungarian linguists within the VOA (Voice of America) made statements that urged their countrymen to hang on in hopes of help from the west. I believe, however, that VOA broadcasts were taped and reviewed prior to broadcast, and if that is the case, it is more likely that the "promises of Western" (i.e., U.S.) support were rumours spread by those who desperately believed they would come true.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Aug 2009 at 16:21
Originally posted by TheRedBaron TheRedBaron wrote:

Didnt Jack Esten get that infamous photo of a Soviet command unit where one of the officers is walking towards him about to draw a pistol?
Yes indeed. It was shot on a Rolleiflex with a waist level finder. Jack always said that when he looked down to focus the picture  (no auto focus in 1956) the pistol wasn't drawn. ONly when he looked up dd he see the officer holdng the pistol on him.
Quote  
The Hungarian Revolution didnt get the massive uprising that could have seen it develop or be supported into something larger. Many Hungarians remained loyal to the state and fought against the insurgents, with the Kadar Hussars conducting particuarly brutal mopping up operations. As others have commented, NATO was in no state to help. Austria had to mobilise its Officer Cadet Schools (in training for its new army) to patrol the border.
 
The Warsaw Pact was never a strong coherent force. The Soviet strength in Europe was more to hold the Warsaw Pact together than to invade Western Europe and the Soviets distrusted most of their erstwhile allies to the point where they restricted military technology to them all.
 
A colleague of mine who served in the Polish Airborne during the Cold War commented to me that the Soviets would never have invaded the West. Why I asked why, he told me that 'They knew if they did they would have to fight a war behind them too...' implying that the Warsaw Pact would have likely fallen apart and devolved into infighting and popular uprisings. Certainly the Polish Army had no love of the Soviets and he told me that his unit always felt it more likely to be fighting Soviets than NATO...
That was a central theme of General Sir John Hackett's book 'The Third World War'.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Aug 2009 at 16:54
I found the opinion piece that I was talking about

Quote
Come Clean in Hungary
Behind the '56 Revolt
     

» Links to this article
By Charles Gati
Wednesday, June 21, 2006

President Bush will be in Budapest tomorrow to visit a good ally -- a member of the coalition of the willing. The first item on his agenda, according to the White House, is to "celebrate Hungary's historic sacrifices in the name of freedom by commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution." Topics of mutual interest will follow.

The president should indeed join Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcs?ny -- Hungary's Tony Blair -- to celebrate that country's recent achievements. But commemorating 1956 is a different matter.

The truth is that at a critical juncture in the Cold War, when Hungarians rose against their Soviet oppressors, the United States abandoned them. After 13 days of high drama, hope and despair, the mighty Soviet army prevailed. For its part, Washington offered a sad variation on "NATO": no action, talk only. The Eisenhower administration's policy of "liberation" and "rollback" turned out to be a hoax -- hypocrisy mitigated only by self-delusion. The more evident, if unstated, goal was to roll back the Democrats from Capitol Hill rather than liberate Central and Eastern Europe from Soviet tyranny.


Read the rest at Washington Post Opinion on Hungary 1959

Edited by hugoestr - 14 Aug 2009 at 16:54
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Aug 2009 at 18:04

An interesting opinion piece. Another paper, linked below, gives a telling remark by a Hungarian who was there at the time: (the bolding is mine, the Italics are Torda's)

 ..........................

Clearly, Radio Free Europe (RFE) and the Voice of America in the 1950s encouraged resistance to Communist oppression. In a 1998 interview with CNN, Hungarian Ambassador to the U.S. Geza Jeszensky, 15 years old at the time of the revolution, remarked: "I kept listening to Radio Europe like 10 million Hungarians did. . . . But it was not RFE which instigated the Hungarian Revolution. Perhaps the Hungarians were misled, not by the radio, but by the propaganda language by the U.S. administration. It spoke about liberation and rollback. Eisenhower kept speaking about liberation, but as a historian put it, it proved to be only a myth. Liberation was not meant seriously."

................................

Furthermore, a close look at the facts suggests ambivalence in the remarks of U.S. officials throughout the crisis. On November 1, 1956,  … (Premier Nagy) …formally requested the help of the Four Great Powers in defending Hungary’s neutrality. That same day, U.S. President Gen. Dwight Eisenhower praised the brave Hungarians but left no doubt about the U.S. Government’s stance: “The peoples of Poland and Hungary, brave as ever through all their history, have offered their lives to live in liberty. . . . . We have always made it clear that we would never renounce our hope and concern for these lands and people. We have denounced before the world forum of the United Nations the Soviet use of force in its attempt to suppress these peoples’ risings. And we ourselves have abstained from the use of force—knowing it to be contrary both to the interests of these peoples and to the spirit and methods of the United Nations” [italics added]

....................

See:  http://www.hungary1956.com/docs/Thomas_Torda_1956Revolution.pdf



Edited by lirelou - 14 Aug 2009 at 18:06
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Majkes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Aug 2009 at 18:06
Originally posted by lirelou lirelou wrote:

Hugoestr, the U.S. was watching the situation closely and had its forces on high alert. I suspect that the 10th Special Forces Group at Bad Tolz had teams locked away, preparing to drop into Hungary and assist the rebels should the revolt lead to war. It ws not U.S. policy, however, to launch a European War. Indeed, the overarching nature of NATO was that of a defensive alliance. It is possible that some Hungarian linguists within the VOA (Voice of America) made statements that urged their countrymen to hang on in hopes of help from the west. I believe, however, that VOA broadcasts were taped and reviewed prior to broadcast, and if that is the case, it is more likely that the "promises of Western" (i.e., U.S.) support were rumours spread by those who desperately believed they would come true.

The
 
The fact that US has their troops on high alert doesn't mean they were ever going to use it. I don't belive US even thought about it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Aug 2009 at 18:55
Majkes, Of course! Being on alert meant that the U.S. was prepared to go to war if attacked. Again, NATO was a defensive alliance, even if the politicians of the period were divided on how to best deal with the USSR (i.e, preemption or reaction). So, the U.S. was "thinking" about it, and taking steps to respond if the Hungarian Revolt escalated into war, at which time the whatever was left of the Hungarian Resistance would have likely received massive drops of US weapons and SF teams.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Majkes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Aug 2009 at 19:58
Originally posted by lirelou lirelou wrote:

Majkes, Of course! Being on alert meant that the U.S. was prepared to go to war if attacked. Again, NATO was a defensive alliance, even if the politicians of the period were divided on how to best deal with the USSR (i.e, preemption or reaction). So, the U.S. was "thinking" about it, and taking steps to respond if the Hungarian Revolt escalated into war, at which time the whatever was left of the Hungarian Resistance would have likely received massive drops of US weapons and SF teams.
 
Look at the last sentence that You've posted from Eisenhower speach. He said that US won't use force. Besides I don't see how the revolution would turn into war without US intervention.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sparten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Oct 2009 at 17:08
Originally posted by TheRedBaron TheRedBaron wrote:

Didnt Jack Esten get that infamous photo of a Soviet command unit where one of the officers is walking towards him about to draw a pistol?
 
The Hungarian Revolution didnt get the massive uprising that could have seen it develop or be supported into something larger. Many Hungarians remained loyal to the state and fought against the insurgents, with the Kadar Hussars conducting particuarly brutal mopping up operations. As others have commented, NATO was in no state to help. Austria had to mobilise its Officer Cadet Schools (in training for its new army) to patrol the border.
 
The Warsaw Pact was never a strong coherent force. The Soviet strength in Europe was more to hold the Warsaw Pact together than to invade Western Europe and the Soviets distrusted most of their erstwhile allies to the point where they restricted military technology to them all.
 
A colleague of mine who served in the Polish Airborne during the Cold War commented to me that the Soviets would never have invaded the West. Why I asked why, he told me that 'They knew if they did they would have to fight a war behind them too...' implying that the Warsaw Pact would have likely fallen apart and devolved into infighting and popular uprisings. Certainly the Polish Army had no love of the Soviets and he told me that his unit always felt it more likely to be fighting Soviets than NATO...
Well, many of the East European countries (Hungary, Romania) had joined in the invasion of the Soviet Union (IIRC, Hungarian troops were one half of the envelopment at Uman), so you can hardly blame the Soviets for not trusting them and giving them an occasional wallop.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Oct 2009 at 18:03
I found it interesting that the WAPO was cited as authoritative recounting of events in 1956, when in essence it is little more than pretense for Bush Bashing. In the first instance, the Hungarian Uprising should be called the Budapest Uprising of 1956 because, essentially, it was an urban phenomenon, whose quality might be characterized as an internecine conflict within the Hungarian Communist Party itself. Secondly, the Soviets were as capable of managing the fiction of the Warsaw Pact as efficiently as the Americans managed NATO. Despite all of the rhetoric generated during the Cold War, the Eisenhower Administration was never keen to engage in a public rupture of the political accords that concluded World War II (nor were the Soviets as events in Berlin during 1948 underscored). One has to keep in mind that political rivalries within the communist parties of Eastern Europe were not limited to Hungary alone as subsequent events in both Poland and Romania proved, nor were the Soviets eager to re-experience another Tito much closer to home. To be blunt, Hungary was not worth a general European war in the eyes of US foreign policy wonks and the Eisenhower adminstration had placed all of its eggs in the basket of covert operations for the limiting of Soviet expansion as well as keeping tabs on its military as the U-2 crisis of 1 May 1960 underscored. It was a delicate chess-game with neither side wishing to risk a gamble that might result in a cry of checkmate!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DukeC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Oct 2009 at 00:43
Originally posted by Sparten Sparten wrote:

Well, many of the East European countries (Hungary, Romania) had joined in the invasion of the Soviet Union (IIRC, Hungarian troops were one half of the envelopment at Uman), so you can hardly blame the Soviets for not trusting them and giving them an occasional wallop.
 
The Eastern European countries had less choice in aiding the Nazis than Stalin did in Sept 1939. The Baltic states had been annexed by force in 1940 by the USSR and other territories siezed like Bessarabia and Moldavia, and southern Finland so who was the aggressor?
 
 Stalin was applying the same totalitarian techinques of rule by force(and violence) in occupied Eastern Europe as he and his predecessor Lenin had in Russia.


Edited by DukeC - 15 Oct 2009 at 00:46
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