Tag Archives: Hungary
Shortly after midnight on the 25th February 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev delivered his ‘secret speech’, officially called “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences”, in a four hour “closed session” at the end of the 20th Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Laying the foundation for his wide-reaching de-Stalinisation campaign, the speech was a vehement denunciation of Stalin’s abuses of power and his creation of a personality cult.
Khrushchev’s speech signalled a dramatic reversal of Soviet policy, which he said had come about due to Stalin’s misinterpretation or misrepresentation of Marxist-Leninist doctrine. The ‘secret speech’ allowed Khrushchev to distance himself from the worst crimes of the Stalin’s rule, even though he himself had been responsible for thousands of deaths during his rule. Additionally, and of great significance for the West, Khrushchev also advocated a policy of “peaceful coexistence” rather than continue Stalin’s policy of preparing for an inevitable war.
Although the full details of the speech were only supposed to reach the public gradually, rumours of its contents spread quickly. Israeli intelligence officers finally obtained a full copy of the speech, and passed it to the United States government, who leaked it to the press at the start of June. Although Khrushchev had, by this point, begun to implement de-Stalinisation the printing of the speech in the New York Times on the 5th June dictated demands for a faster pace of change in Eastern Europe. Large-scale change was, however, still slow. Poland’s government granted some concessions in October, but the situation in Hungary ended very differently.
On the 6th December 1956, the “Blood in the Water” water polo match took place between the USSR and Hungary. A semi-final in the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympic Games, the game is famous as a result of the violence that marked the game. It gained its nickname, and ended, after a Hungarian player was punched by one of the Russian opponents so hard that it drew blood.
The match was played just weeks after the USSR’s crackdown of the Hungarian Revolution. At the time the Hungarian team – who were reigning champions – were training outside Budapest but were able to hear gunshots and see smoke as the fighting intensified in the city after Soviet tanks moved in on the 1st November.
Having been moved to communist Czechoslovakia to complete their training and avoid getting caught up in events at home, the scale of the USSR’s response to the uprising only became clear to the Hungarians after they arrived in Australia. Facing the Soviet Union in the semi-final, they quickly realised that this provided an opportunity to regain some national pride against their oppressors.
The game was violent from the start with verbal abuse, kicks and punches being thrown by both sides. The Hungarians outplayed the USSR throughout the match and were leading 4-0 when Russian Valentin Prokopov punched Hungarian Ervin Zádor in the final quarter. As he climbed out of the pool with blood streaming down his face, the pro-Hungarian crowd went wild.
Hungary went on to win gold against Yugoslavia but many of the Hungarian team didn’t return home afterwards, instead seeking asylum in the West.
On June 16th 1958, Hungarian Communist politician Imre Nagy was executed. Arrested after Soviet forces brought the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 to an end, Nagy was found guilty of treason in a secret trial and executed by hanging.
Nagy had been sacked from his position as Chairman of the Council of Ministers in April 1955 due to his independent attitude that favoured a “New Course” in Socialism. Although his moderate reforms were met with hostility from the USSR, they garnered significant support within Hungary where opposition to the hard-line government of Mátyás Rákosi had grown since the death of Stalin in 1953. Nagy’s popular support led to him being appointed Prime Minister on October 24th 1956, the day after the Revolution began.
After a week of violence, Nagy recognised the crowd’s desire for political change. Despite being an ardent Marxist he began moves towards introducing a multiparty political system and, on November 1st, announced Hungary’s withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact and its status as a neutral country. This proved too much for Khrushchev in the USSR, who moved his troops into Budapest and seized control of most of the city by the 8th November. Nagy took refuge in the Yugoslavian embassy, but was arrested when he was given false promises of safe passage to leave Hungary on the 22nd November. He, and other leading members of the deposed government, were imprisoned in Romania until 1958 when they were returned to Hungary for trial.
News of Nagy’s trial and execution were only made public after the sentence had been carried out.
This I/GCSE History revision podcast looks at the uprisings in Communist Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Although they were 12 years apart, they share some common similarities but also have some marked differences. The podcast is divided into three main sections. Considering Hungary first, then Czechoslovakia, I explain the respective causes of the uprisings, the events during them, and finally the consequences. The third part of the podcast compares the two revolutions.
The first part of the episode addresses the Hungarian uprising of 1956 from the downfall of Rakosi to the rise of Nagy and his own eventual execution before the USSR reasserted its control over Hungary through Kadar. An explanation is given of why the USSR was so unwilling to allow Nagy’s reforms to take hold, and the extent to which the Hungarian people fought to assert their independence.
The second part of the revision podcast focuses on Czechoslovakia in 1968. The policies of Dubček and the Prague Spring are outlined, along with their effect on the attitudes of both the Czech people and the Soviet Union. The eventual demise of Dubček following the USSR’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 is then described.
The final part of the podcast is arguably the most important for revising History GCSE and IGCSE. The episode concludes with a comparison of the two uprisings, detailing an essay technique that helps you to explain the similarities and differences between them in an examination answer. It doesn’t actually matter whether you think they were more similar or more different, but it is important to present a balanced answer as outlined in the podcast.
This is the final revision episode (for now!) in the series examining the Cold War for GCSE and IGCSE students. Focusing on the collapse of communism in eastern Europe it assesses the effect of the Solidarity movement in Poland, and the role of Gorbachev, in bringing about the end of Soviet dominance in the region. The second part of the podcast goes on to explore the specific experiences of major eastern European countries in the lat 1980s and early 1990s.
The podcast begins with Poland, where massive popular opposition to the government led to the establishment of the Solidarity trade union in the Gdansk shipyards. The rise of Solidarity is described, along with the subsequent government clampdown under the government of Jaruzelski. The impact of Solidarity is considered.
The second section looks at the USSR under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev. His two key policies of perestroika and glasnost are explained, and their impact of Soviet foreign policy is assessed.
In the final section of the podcast, I describe the process through which the states of eastern Europe freed themselves from communist rule. The most popular exam questions on the collapse of communism focus on asking WHY a certain event contributed to the end of the system, or ask to what extent a particular event was responsible. Remember that to answer any of these questions you need to support your reason with solid evidence, and explain exactly WHY it contributed to the collapse of communism.
These three videos present the events that led to the end of communism in the Eastern Bloc.
PART 1 – Gorbachev, the attitude of Honecker, Hungary 1989, Poland 1989, Warsaw Pact Summit 1989, the economic and political situation in East Germany, the crossing of East Germans through Hungary
PART 2 – East Germany’s 40th anniversay demonstration, fall of Honecker, fall of the Berlin Wall, the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia
PART 3 – Uprising in Romania leading to the end of Ceausescu
On the 10th September 1989, the Hungarian government announced the opening of the border with Austria to allow thousands of East Germans to leave the Communist Bloc. Met with incredible anger from the East German government, Hungary’s decision was a major step on the road to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Hungary had been inundated with East Germans since the government began removing the border fence in May that year. Inspired by the Hungarian government’s moves towards a more democratic political system, East Germans had travelled to Hungary as tourists but then sought refuge in the West German embassy. A ‘friendship picnic’ held on the Austrian-Hungarian border on the 19th August had already seen East Germans using the border as a way to escape and, before long, thousands of East Germans refugees were living in Hungary.
Unwilling to “become a country of refugee camps”, Hungarian Foreign Ministrer Gyula Horn made the announcement that the East Germans would be permitted to enter Austria. As well as allowing the refugees to cross the border, the announcement led to an exodus of an estimated 70,000 more East Germans who made their way to Hungary.
The first of what were to become weekly ‘Monday demonstrations’ had started in the East German city of Leipzig earlier that week, and the Hungarian announcement encouraged others to begin protesting in favour of democracy. Within a month up to 70,000 people a week were making their way to the Leipzig protest, and by the end of October over 300,000 were taking part. The Berlin Wall fell on the 9th November.
This revision podcast focuses on Bismarck and the International System (sometimes known as the Alliance System) he created from 1871 until his resignation in 1890. Approaching the topic through a consideration of Bismarck’s foreign policy aims following the unification of Germany, the podcast explains how he attempted to isolate France, befriend Britain, and create a series of alliances with Russia and Austria-Hungary.
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This revision podcast focuses on the ‘Eastern Question’ that affected the Balkans and threatened the European balance of power from the late 19th Century to the early 20th. The episode stretches from the impact of the Congress of Berlin in 1878 to the Balkan Wars of 1912-13. Particular focus is given to the rise nationalism and Pan-Slavism in the Balkan states and the effects of the Bosnian Crisis of 1908-9.
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