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October 23rd 1956 Revolution

October 20 - October 23

October 23rd marks the day of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. It is a National Holiday when commemorations take place in Budapest and Hungary.

black and white photo of demonstrators on the streets of Budapest in 1956

It was a revolution against the Stalinist, communist regime and Soviet oppression that was beaten down by the Russian army.

The Hungarian revolution of 1956 is one of the most significant events of the country’s 20th century history.

Note: it is a public holiday in Hungary so shops, restaurants, public institutions will be closed.

Most museums will be open though with free entry to the state-onwed ones on 23. October.

Public transportation will be operating according to holiday schedule.

Quick Links: Brief History of 23rd October 1956 Hungarian Revolution –  Programs, Places of Remembrance on 23rd October

October 23rd 1956 Revolution – Brief History

Following Stalin’s death in 1953 the Soviet block started to weaken with riots in East Berlin and Poland in the following year.

The 20th Congress of the Russian Communist Party acknowledged Stalin’s mistakes (too mild an expression to describe the dictator’s deeds).

Hungary’s leader Mátyás Rákosi and other party leaders were ordered to Moscow where they received a harsh criticism.

As a result Rákosi resigned in 1953 but stayed in the background. Nagy Imre became the leader of Hungary who declared a new, more liberal government program.

The program promised increased standard of living and lessened the burdens of farmers.

Imre Nagy

The review of the cases of those illegally condemned started. People felt instinctively that with Nagy Imre a positive change in the politics had begun.

The members of the previous leadership however feared their privileges and that they would be accounted for their unjust deeds.

They stood behind Rákosi who was able to convince the Russian party leaders that Imre Nagy’s program endangered the state of socialist-communist system.

The Russians ordered Nagy to withdrew his government program, but he refused to cooperate.

Imre Nagy then was removed from his post and excluded from the party. András Hegedűs, one of Rákosi’s henchmen became the prime minister.

More and more trials were turned out to be show trials.

Meanwhile, feeling the new winds blowing,

  • university students,
  • writers,
  • poets, and
  • people of other parts of Hungary’s intellectual scenery started to come together and demand even more radical changes.

The groups they formed were the Írószövetség and the Petőfi Kör (named after the poet Sándor Petőfi, a prominent figure in the Revolution of 15th March in 1848).

In July 1956 Rákosi became cumbersome to the Russians and they discharged him.

The political leadership with Ernő Gerő – a former second in command of Rákosi – didn’t want any reforms, while more and more people were demanding real changes.

The Revolution – 23. October 1956

The tension reached its peak in October 1956.

On the evening of 22nd October 1956 students of the University of Technology in Budapest had decided to demonstrate the next day and devised their demands in 16 points including

  • withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Hungary,
  • free elections,
  • liberty of speech and press,
  • abolishment of surrendering of goods,
  • Imre Nagy for prime minister,
  • removal of the Stalin statue.

the Stalin statue on the groundDemonstrations & Fights

On 23rd October 1956 hundreds of thousands demonstrated on the streets.

First they went to the Petőfi statue then to the Bem statue and finally to the Parliament on Kossuth Square where they demanded Imre Nagy to deliver a speech.

After his calming speech the mass on Kossuth Square broke up. But by that time other demonstrations had started at several other parts of the city.

The Stalin statue toppled down on Heroes’ Square.

The headquarters of the Hungarian Radio became the focal point of the events.

Soon the shooting had started and by night the freedom fighters seized control of the Radio building and some other important parts of Budapest.

black and white photo of tanks on the street
Russian Tanks in Budapest, 1956

On the eve of 23rd-24th October Imre Nagy was appointed prime minister. Russian tanks appeared on the streets of the city trying to bring down the revolution.

On 25th October 1956 on Kossuth Square the Russians started to shoot on the peacefully demonstrating people.

The demonstrators tried to seek refuge in the ministry of agriculture building but they weren’t allowed in.

Around 800 died on that day in that is referred to as “Bloody Thursday”.

After the massacre on Kossuth tér the revolution was unstoppable. Imre Nagy announced that a multi-party system was to replace the communist single-party dictatorship.

TIP: Visit the 1956 Memorial & Exhibition at the Museum at Budapest Parliament to learn about the terror of the revolution on Kossuth Square.

End of the 1956 Revolution – Russian Invasion

the life-size bronze statue of Imr eNagy standing on a small wood bridge
Statue of Imre Nagy near the Parliament

On 4th November 1956 the strongest continental army lead by the Russians attacked Budapest and Hungary.

The Russian armiy beat down the badly armed Hungarian freedom fighters and the revolution of 1956 by 11th November.

Nearly 2 000 died during the fights of 1956 most of them under 30 years of age. Many were imprisoned and executed.

Until spring of 1957 around 180 000 people left Hungary searching for a better life in the Western world.

Imre Nagy and his comrades were trapped and arrested on 22nd November. Nagy was transported to Romania.

  • Imre Nagy,
  • Pál Maléter and
  • Miklós Gimes was executed on 16th June in 1958 and buried in the prison courtyard.

Later their bodies were moved to an unmarked grave in a faraway part of the Municipal Cemetery of Budapest (the famous No. 301 slot).

The remains were exhumated and reburied within a funeral on 16th June in 1989.

Programs & Places of Remembrance in Budapest (2016)

October 22. – November 03.

Open-Air Photo Exhibition in Városháza Park

Address: Városháza park, district V., a 2-minute walk from Deák Ferenc metro station and tram termini: M1, M2, M3 underground lines, trams 47 and 49

The 1956 Hungary & Poland: History and Memory open-air exhibition presents the 1956 protests in Hungary and Poznan/Poland with photos, maps and short descriptions in English and Hungarian.

Period Tram Service on Line 6.

yellow tram 2 at Eötvös Square, Danube PromenadeDate: 23, between October 24 – November 03. 2016.

Period trams of the 1950s will carry passengers on line 6. on 23. Oct and between 24. Oct –  03. Nov.

Paperboys will shout the news of the era between 23. October and 03. November in the tram stops of

  • line 6.: Széna tér stop – Jászai Mari tér – Nyugati pályaudvar – Blaha Lujza tér – Corvin köz and
  • line 49: Móricz Zsigmond körtér, Kálvin tér

Light Painting on Landmark Buildings

  • Erkel Theatre (II. János Pál pápa tér 30., district VIII.) – 22. October, 18.45
  • Papp László Sports Arena (Stefánia út 2., district XIV.) – 23. October at 18.00-19.00 and 22.00-23.00
  • Corvin Department Store (Blaha Lujza tér 1–2., district VIII.) – 24. October, 18.45
  • Town Hall of Újpest (István út 14., district IV.) – 31. October, 18.45
  • House of Terror Museum (Andrássy út 60., district VI.) – 04. November, 19.00

October 22. Programs (2016)

a black and white photo of the 1956 procession
Proceesion to the Bem Statue on 22nd October 1956

October 22., Saturday

  • 14.15: Commemoration at the ’56 Monument at the University of Technology and Economics (Műegyetem rakpart 3-9., district XI.)
  • 15.00: Memorial Ceremony at the University of Technology and Economics
  • 16.30 – 18.30: Procession from the University to the Bem Statue – after the ceremony a procession by torchlights will strat fromt he university to the Bem Statue on Bem tér in Buda (between the Chain Bridge and the Margit Bridge on the Danube embankment
  • Route of the procession: Műegyetem rkp. – Szent Gellért rkp. – Várkert rkp. – Ybl Miklós tér – Lánchíd utca – Clark Ádám tér – Fő utca – Bem rkp. – Csalogány utca – Nagy Imre tér – Fő utca – Bem József tér: Bem Statue
  • 17.30: The Flame of Revolution flares up on Nagy Imre tér where István Tarlós the mayor of Budapest delivers a speech.
  • 18.00: Wreath laying at the Statue of József Bem.

Open Day in the Parliament

the crown displayed in the grand hall of the Parliament
The Holy Crown in the Parliament

Date & Time: (last entry is at 17.00)

Everyone can visit the Hungarian Parliament free of charge. You can view

  • the Grand Staircase,
  • the Cupola Hall and
  • the Holy Crown  (last entry is at 17.00)

October 23., 2016. – Programs

Parliament-Kossuth Square

Raising the National Flag in front of the Parliament

  • 09.00: Raising of Hungary’s Flag and Festive Programs at Kossuth Square
  • 15.00: Memorial Ceremony in front of the Parliament building – speeches by Viktor Orbán Hungary’s prime minister and Andrzej Duda president of the republic of Poland.

House of Terror Museum – Free Entry on 23. Oct

Address: Andrássy út 60., district VI.

Free entry to everyone to the  House of Terror Museum on 23. October.

You can view both the permanent and temporay exhibitions.

Family Day in the Hungarian Museum of Military History

Address: Kapisztrán tér 2-4., district I., Buda Castle

Date & Time: 10.00-18.00 on 23. October, 2016.

The museum in Buda Castle regularly organizes family events on National Days.

The whole family can take part in

  • interactive games,
  • painting lead toy soldiers and other craft activities,
  • view film screenings,
  • dress in period costumes,
  • watch weapon show and
  • view the ’56 Tear Drops Exhibition to learn about the history of the 1956 revolution and the following terror.

More Information: Official site of October 23. programs and memorials

Related Pages: More October Events, Things to Do in BudapestOktoberfest Beer FestivalCAFE Budapest Contemporary Arts FestivalHalloween Parties, ProgramsNovember in Budapest


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