English Pages, 23. 10. 2006
Hungarian revolution from 1956, the same as the uprising of Polish farmers in Poznan that preceded it, Czechoslovak Prague spring from 1968 and the Polish revolt from 1980 – 81 led by Solidarity, belongs to the milestones marking the fight of Central European nations against the communist totalitarian regimes. In 1989, after 40 years of oppression, this struggle for civil freedom and national sovereignty resulted in the collapse of communism and victory of freedom.
Hungarian revolution was the demonstration of spontaneous mass resistance against the Stalinist tyranny imposed after the World War II by the Soviet Union upon all the countries that found themselves behind the iron curtain. The resistance was inspired not only by Khrushchev exposing Stalin’s crimes at the Soviet Communist Party 20th that revealed to the world the criminal character of Soviet communism but also by the tradition of struggle for freedom, namely by the Hungarian 1848 revolution associated with the names of the poet Sándor Petöfi and of the Polish general Józef Bem. The Budapest demonstrations in support of Polish workers soon grew into to the demands for the restoration of political plurality and the communist regime lost control of the situation. Unfortunately only for a short time. The hopes for possible restoration of democracy were quickly extinguished. The Soviet Union realized that the development in Hungary extended far beyond the limits of permitted destalinization and that the Soviet empire in Central Europe was jeopardized. And thus without hesitation they launched brutal intervention.
The fate of Hungarian revolution was tragic. It was drowned in blood and the demonstrating citizens, despite their exceptional courage to confront the Soviet forces with arms, did not have a chance to succeed. Thousands of dead and injured and hundreds of thousands of Hungarians in emigration were the price to be paid for civil courage and desire for freedom. It was to be followed by decades of pragmatic socialism even though that of Hungarian style.
The Hungarian revolution and its fate opened the eyes for those wanted to see. It revealed the foundation of Soviet system and unmasked the brutality and violence that held it together. Since then the Soviet intervention hung as a constant threat over the Central and Eastern Europe to be reckoned with by all who struggled for more freedom or for greater independence. Yet the sacrifice of Hungarian freedom fighters from 1956 was not in vain. It remained in the memory of Hungarians and of the whole world and the communist regime – despite all the restraint and persecutions – could not come to terms with it. The free commemoration of the events at the end of 80s was an open challenge to the regime adumbrating its end.
Even 50 years later, we all, who treasure freedom and resistance to totalitarian practices, consider the Hungarian 1956 Revolution to be a principal event of the European history of the second half of 20th century. An event that was at the same time tragic and hopeful, a period when the bell first tolled for totality.
Václav Klaus, 1956 – 2006 Memorial Book
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