On the 23rd of October in 1956, Hungarian students and young workers staged a peaceful demonstration in Budapest to protest against the ruthless Communist dictatorship forced onto the country by the Soviet Union at the end of the Second World War. The protesters drew up a list of sixteen demands aimed at changing the hopeless political situation in Hungary.
Major streets and public squares were the scenes of heavy combat between freedom-fighters and invading Soviet troops during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. To commemorate the heroes of October 23, 1956, we have compiled a gallery showcasing photos of today’s iconic Budapest sites during the revolution. Join us as we travel back in time to 1956 with the help of archival photos from Fortepan.
The Március 15 square with the partly demolished Buda Castle in the background:
Entrance of the Buda Castle, Bécsi gate:
The building of the Hungarian National Archives in Budapest’s Buda Castle district, photographed from the Linzi stairs. In the foreground, a burnt-out Csepel D350 type miner’s bus.
Szt. Gellért square with the famous Hotel Gellért and Gellért Baths, with Gellért hill, the Citadel, and Liberty Statue in the background.
Rumor has it that the last nail – made of silver – placed in Liberty Bridge, was staved by the emperor Joseph Franz I himself. The nail was said to have survived the blast of the bridge in 1945 during the Second World War, but was eventually lost during the 1956 Revolution.
During the revolution, people removed every emblem, red star, and statue connected to the Soviets, including a coat-of-arms from Liberty Bridge.
The National Museum with Soviet tanks stationed in Museum Garden.
The building of the Vigadó Hall on the former Molotov sqaure (named after the Soviet Foreign Minister who signed the infamous pact with his German counterpart Joachim von Ribbentrop that preceded WW2 – the place is now called Vigadó square) with a demolished Soviet aircraft monument.
The building of the Museum of Applied Arts with the partly demolished beautifully-tiled dome, designed by the plans of Ödön Lechner.
The New York Palace on the Grand Boulevard on October 29, 1956, a couple of days before the Soviet intervention and the suppression of the revolution.
Keleti Railway station:
Partly demolished Szent Rókus chapel on Rákóczi street.
In 1956, the siege of the Party House on the Köztársaság square (now II. János Pál pápa square) on October 30th, was one of the key events of the Revolution. The motivation of the events was primarily the cruel massacre that happened in front of the Parliament building on October 25th, and secondly, the insurgents aimed at the real and symbolic abolition of power, the acquisition of guard weapons, and the search for prisoners and vengeance on the members of the State Protection Authority (ÁVH), some of whom were even lynched in the square. People also searched for secret cellar systems and casemates of the ÁVH. They allegedly even dug a 10-meter-deep pit using heavy machinery but later it was revealed that the cellar system did not exist and it was only an urban legend. II. János Pál (Köztársaság) tér and the search for the casemates with the Erkel Theatre in the background:
Margaret bridge barricaded with tanks:
On 4 December 1956, a demonstration by women took place on Heroes’ Square in Budapest. Thousands of women and girls silently remembered the intervention of the Soviet army a month earlier, which began the bloodshed of the 1956 revolution. The call for the demonstration was published in the illegal newspaper ‘Élünk’ (We are alive) and was reproduced by stencils. The women marched to the tomb of the Anonymous Hero, placed flowers on it, and sang the Hungarian Hymn.
Demonstrators on Kossuth square, in front of the Palace of Justice (back then the Museum of Hungarian and International Workers’ History).
featured photo: Fortepan/Zsolt Házy