October 23

This Day in History

Cold War

Oct 23, 1956:

Hungarian protest turns violent

Thousands of Hungarians erupt in protest against the Soviet presence in their nation and are met with armed resistance. Organized demonstrations by Hungarian citizens had been ongoing since June 1956, when signs of political reform in Poland raised the possibility for such changes taking place in their own nation. On October 23, however, the protests erupted into violence as students, workers, and even some soldiers demanded more democracy and freedom from what they viewed as an oppressive Soviet presence in Hungary.

Hungarian leader Erno Gero, an avowed Stalinist, only succeeded in inflaming the crowds with praise for the Soviet Union's policies. Furious fighting broke out in Budapest between the protesters and Hungarian security forces and Soviet soldiers. In the next few days, hundreds of protesters in Budapest and other Hungarian cities were killed in these battles. Gero appealed for additional Soviet assistance and this was forthcoming in the form of an armored division that rolled into Budapest. Street fighting escalated in response to the Russian show of force. In an attempt to quell the disturbances, Communist Party officials in Hungary appointed Imre Nagy (who had earlier fallen out of favor with Party members) as the new premier. Nagy asked the Soviets to withdraw their troops from the capital so that he could restore order. Russian forces complied and withdrew from Budapest by November 1, but tensions remained high.

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