4th of November 1956 is one of the most tragic days in Hungary’s history. Although the October 23 revolution achieved its short-term goals, turning the country into a free and democratic state from a ruthless Communist dictatorship in few days time, the Soviet Union has remained reluctant to lose one of its Central European puppet-states in the long run.
The Communist superpower’s leader Nikita Khrushchev, taking advantage of the West’s preoccupations with the Suez Canal crisis, ordered the infamous Red Army back to Hungary. It is not a coincidence that many of the Soviet troops thought they were deployed to Egypt and not to Hungary.
A large joint military force of the Warsaw Pact, led by Moscow reappeared in Hungary on 3 November and entered Budapest the following day to crush the revolution with brutal efficiency. The Hungarian freedom-fighters hoped and expected support from the West, however, the aid never materialized. Imre Nagy, Hungary’s former Communist leader, who has still become the popular Prime Minister of the rapid democratic transition, appeared on Radio Budapest early on the morning of 4 November as the Russian tanks started their devastating work in the capital:
This is Imre Nagy speaking. Today at daybreak Soviet forces started an attack against our capital, obviously with the intention to overthrow the legal Hungarian democratic government. Our troops are still fighting; the Government is still in its place. I notify the people of our country and the entire world of this fact.
The Soviet intervention, code-named “Operation Whirlwind”, was launched by Marshal Ivan Konev. The five Soviet divisions stationed in Hungary before October 23 were augmented to a total strength of 17 divisions. At 3:00 a.m. on November 4, Soviet tanks penetrated Budapest along the Pest side of the Danube in two thrusts—one from the south, and one from the north—thus splitting the city in half. Armored units crossed into Buda, and at 4:25 a.m. fired the first shots at the Hungarian army barracks on Budaörsi road.
Soon after, Soviet artillery and tank fire was heard in all districts of Budapest. Operation Whirlwind combined heavy air strikes, artillery attacks and coordinated tank-infantry action. Hungarian resistance was strongest in the industrial areas of Budapest, which were heavily targeted by Soviet artillery and air strikes. The last pocket of resistance called for ceasefire on 10 November. Over 2,500 Hungarians and 722 Soviet troops had been killed and thousands more were wounded.
Just after 1 pm on 4 November, Moscow radio announced: “The Hungarian counter-revolution has been crushed.” Imre Nagy sought temporary sanctuary in the Yugoslavian embassy and was replaced by the hard-line Communist János Kádar, who, loyal to Moscow, welcomed the return of Soviet force to crush the ‘counter-revolutionary threat’. Over 200,000 Hungarians fled across the border into Austria and the West until that escape route was sealed off. Thousands were executed or imprisoned.
Many, including Imre Nagy, were executed by Kádár’s regime in reprisal. According to Fedor Burlatsky, a Kremlin insider, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had Nagy executed, “as a lesson to all other leaders in socialist countries.” János Kádár, Hungary’s last Communist dictator, remained in power for thirty-two long years, resigning only on the grounds of ill health in 1988, just before the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe. The crushing of the 1956 Revolution was not only Hungary’s tragedy, it had strengthened Soviet control over the Eastern Bloc for more than three decades.
source: rubicon.hu, historyinanhour.com and wikipedia