On November 4, 1956, the Soviets made a drastic move to stop the 12-day old revolution in Hungary. Soviet tanks and troops rushed to the country, leaving thousands of people killed and wounded by their attack while almost a quarter million of the country’s population were forced to flee as refugees.
The revolution began in October 1956 when protesters from Hungary went to the streets and cried out for freedom from oppression from the Soviets. They demanded for a more democratic government. As a result, the Communist Party officials chose Imre Nagy as their new premier – Nagy was a former premier but has been terminated because he openly criticized Stalinist policies.
The new premier responded to the needs of the protesters by trying to reinstate peace. He also asked the Soviets to pull out their troops. The Soviets agreed to his demand. However, Nagy became a threat when he promised his people of open elections and that he would put an end to the one-party rule for good. He also promised for the country to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact (Soviet’s version of NATO), with the intention of becoming a neutral nation.
On November 4, 1956, Soviets came back to Budapest, now with even more tanks than before. They had but one goal – to put an end to the Hungarian revolution once and for all. It was a catastrophic event for the Hungarians who were easily overpowered by the Soviets. By 5:20A.M., Prime Minister Imre Nagy broadcast the event to the whole nation. He told his people how their own troops were doing their best to defend their country and that the government was still in control.
However, only a few hours have passed and Nagy already sought refuge at the Yugoslav Embassy in Budapest. He ended up being captured and got executed two years later. The Soviets were adamant in taking over the country once again and immediately found someone else to take over Nagy’s former position. The person whom they found suitable was none other than Nagy’s former colleague, János Kádár, whom they secretly flew to the country from Moscow.
Leaders from the West were shocked by what happened but were caught up in their own dilemmas and were not willing to risk getting entangled in a war in order to save Hungary. Before the incident, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev promised to abolish Stalinist policies along with its domineering ways but the incident in Budapest was a clear indication that he was not yet ready to embrace change. The event in Budapest killed about 2,500 Hungarians while 200,000 of them were forced to escape the country as refugees. The violence did not stop after November 4. There were resistance movements, strikes, and mass arrests months later, which affected the economic standing of the country.
The United States, who were busy with their own affairs at that time, failed to help which made the Hungarians frustrated and angry. While the radio broadcasts from voice of America suggest that President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles verbally issued a statement that encouraged freedom in communist countries, they did not extend physical support at the time that the Soviet tanks were in Budapest to terrorize the Hungarians.