Hungary is remembering the fallen heroes of its 1956 anti-Soviet uprising this Nov. 4 to commemorate the 2,500 dead Hungary suffered after a Red Army invasion crushed a nation-wide revolution for democracy.
Most of those who died in the doomed fight suffered at the hands of the Red Army’s armored divisions. Others, such as the revolution’s prime minister, Imre Nagy and its defense minister, Pál Maléter, were executed in reprisal attacks.
The revolutionaries demanded reforms, including the end of the one-party state, the holding of free and democratic parliamentary elections and demands to join the United Nations and leave the recently established Warsaw Pact.
On Nov. 1, 1956, Soviet forces stormed Hungary from the north and on Nov. 4, five Soviet divisions already stationed in Hungary plus another freshly arrived 17 divisions moved to quash the revolution.
The poorly equipped revolutionary army and civilian street fighters were no match for the Soviet troops. By Nov. 19, the revolution was defeated.
Hungarian casualties amounted to 2,500 dead and approximately 20,000 wounded. In the aftermath, 22,000 Hungarians were sentenced to prison, often by ad-hoc court-martials. Another 13,000 were interned in labor camps and 229 executed. The brutal Soviet response led to some 200,000 Hungarians fleeing the country.
In 2001, the Hungarian Parliament declared Nov. 4 a day of national mourning.
Title image: Ruins of a building in downtown Budapest’s Rákóczi avenue destroyed by Soviet tanks (source: János Pölöskei/Fortepan)