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The People's Revolution
This was the state of Hungary under communism, which prompted the events that took place at 4:15 a.m. on November 4, 1956 called the Hungarian Revolution, that had a lasting affect on the Hungarian people as well as on the world. It serves as a constant reminder that everything is not always as it seems.
Despite the strong arm of the government the country was in shambles. Unemployment was at an all time high and large-scale layoffs intensified the negative attitude of the people. The standards of living were slowly falling below acceptable levels, and the government had to institute emergency measures to aid the unemployed.
The government had assumed control of all education and academic freedom was abolished, textbooks were rewritten towards their views. Teachers were under close supervision and were instructed to teach children loyalty to the government by producing songs in praise.
Measures were placed against religion and prayer was removed from schools, religious instruction was banned, and religion was constantly attacked until many churches were abolished. People who continued to practice religion were discriminated against, even ridiculed.
Students were offered reduced tuition for volunteering during summer vacations. Youths were assigned work designated by the state, and were often recruited to canvas homes and business with propaganda.
Many small merchants were forced out of business because the government stopped giving loans, and many were forced to go work for large factories. The same factories that were taken over and run by the government requiring worker to work long hours with little pay while working conditions and defective materials demanded a speedier output.
Many stood in line for hours to receive medical attention, and appointments were made months in advance. Any major health threats to the elderly were ignored.Shortages of housing, food and consumer goods reduced purchasing power and eventually wiped out any savings or retirement funds
To a proud and independent people, this government was oppressive and degrading, and the idea that people worked for the benefit of the government rather than for themselves, and the taking of resources at a low cost and reselling it to the people at inflated prices, did not sit well and pushed the people to the edge.
On this day the Soviet forces launched a major attack on Hungary aiming to crush, once and for all, the national uprising which began 12 days earlier as students protested as they marched through central Budapest. Because the new Soviet government had suppressed all public opposition, they were not to be embarrassed internationally by any protesters apposing the regime.
Soon the protest grew to hundreds of thousand of people who were lead to believe that they would receive help from the United Nations especially from the United States to overthrow the government. During the uprising Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America broadcasted news of the situation and encouraged Hungarians to fight the Soviet forces. They were led to believe that the US would make good on their promise to provide assistance, if only politically. They even broadcast tactical advice and resistance methods. Later RFE was criticized for having misled the people into believing that help was on the way.
Even with several requests for help from the US, the Eisenhower administration turned their heads, taking this situation as leverage in the conflict with the Suez Canal, and the Middle East, and avoiding conflict at all cost with Russia. Later Eisenhower’s aid was quoted as saying "I told him I believed military intervention would end in nuclear war and Hungary would be the first to be evaporated." On Oct 31, 1956 in a state of the Union speech Eisenhower said that “our hearts go out to the Hungarian people” but continued to say:
“We could not, of course, carry out this policy by resort to force. Such force would have been contrary both to the best interests of the Eastern European peoples and to the abiding principles of the United Nations. But we did help to keep alive the hope of these peoples for freedom.”
With pressure form the Chinese leader, Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung), Soviet tanks began to roll through the city and the industrial areas of Budapest were ravaged by artillery and air strikes. Over 2,500 Hungarian and 723 Soviet troops were killed and thousands were wounded. 200,000 Hungarians fled to other countries, over 13,000 were imprisoned, and over 350 striking workers were executed.
John F. Kennedy had this to say on the first anniversary of the Revolution:
"October 23, 1956, is a day that will live forever in the annals of free men and nations. It was a day of courage, conscience and triumph. No other day since history began has shown more clearly the eternal unquenchability of man's desire to be free, whatever the odds against success, whatever the sacrifice required."
President Bush issued a proclamation honoring the Revolution by saying this:
"The story of Hungarian democracy represents the triumph of liberty over tyranny. In the fall of 1956, the Hungarian people demanded change, and tens of thousands of students, workers, and other citizens bravely marched through the streets to call for freedom. Though Soviet tanks brutally crushed the Hungarian uprising, the thirst for freedom lived on, and in 1989 Hungary became the first communist nation in Europe to make the transition to democracy."
The US took in 21,000 refugees, and the last Soviet soldier left the country in 1991 thus ending Soviet military presence in Hungary.
My family was part of those who fled, I invite you read a short story of what freedom really means in America the Land of the Free. And while I love America, and appreciate it’s embrace, this administration and the current affairs, are a constant reminder of where we came from how a government can go wrong.
This was the 2009 White House statement released in honor of the 53rd anniversary.
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