A Day of Dark and Light

October 30th began with the news that the Soviet Union would be willing to negotiate the removal of its troops from Hungary. Unfortunately, the next major event on that day would be far from positive.

Still early in the day an armed mob laid siege to the Budapest Communist Party Headquarters at Köztársaság Square (today Pope John Paul II Square). In the ensuing chaos, a military unit dispatched to quell the crowd joined in on the attack. After the secret police defending the building surrendered and stepped outside, they were attacked by the mob, with some being shot and others being lynched.

As it so happened, a lot of international reporters were present that day. Timothy Foote of Time was shot in the hand in the melee, Jean-Pierre Pedrazzini of the Paris Match was mortally wounded, and Life magazine’s John Sadovy captured the moment that several ÁVH secret police offers were summarily shot by the crowd (all of the secret police in that famous series of photos actually survived, however).

It remains as the darkest moment of the revolution and would later be used by the communist dictatorship for propaganda purposes despite belonging to only a handful of isolated incidents. The actions of the crowd cannot be condoned, but considering that the secret police had spent the previous decade terrorizing the nation they can be perhaps understood. According to the post-revolution official narrative, this was the moment when the movement turned into a fascist counterrevolution.

Later in the day Imre Nagy announced over the radio the end of the one party state, adding that a coalition government would be formed with the inclusion of democratic parties. Old political parties were revived and new ones were formed. János Kádár also joined this new coalition government.

In terms of restoring order, the Revolutionary Defense Committee was created to coordinate the building of the National Guard. With this, most of the demands in the 16 points had been met, and with it, the revolution can legitimately be considered to have succeeded with the installation of a new government through the pressure of popular will.

Even later that day Cardinal József Mindszenty, who had been arrested by the communist authorities in 1948 for his vocal opposition, was freed from the house arrest he had been subjected to for years (the cardinal was moved from prison to house arrest over fears for his health and the political consequences should he die in prison).

Changes were happening rapidly but dark clouds would soon begin to appear on the horizon.

Zoltán Csipke