October 24, 1956

October 24, 1956

After the events of October 23rd that saw massive protests, relieved the city of its Stalin statue and saw protesters fired upon at the radio building, October 24 was comparatively calm. Comparatively, of course, being the key word.

Overnight, Hungarian communist party leader Ernő Gerő requested Soviet armed assistance, but since the Soviets had reached a diplomatic resolution in Warsaw merely days earlier, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was reluctant about involving the Soviet Army. Soviet Ambassador to Hungary Yuri Andropov (who would later go on to be the KGB chief and after that the leader of the Soviet Union) assessed the situation differently and recommended the involvement of Soviet troops. After an agreement that the Hungarians would submit a written request for help, Soviet troops were brought in. They appeared overnight, occupying strategic locations in Budapest in what was hoped would be a sufficient show of force.

In an attempt to satisfy some of the protestors’ demands, Prime Minister András Hegedüs was dumped in favor of the reformer Imre Nagy. Nagy, however, was the only non-Stalinist in the government and therefore not in any position to enact change. He had suggested Gerő’s removal in place of János Kádár, another reform communist, but this was voted down. Martial law, with Nagy’s approval, was declared.

In response to the Soviet presence, various fighting groups around Budapest and throughout the country begin to form. Since the Hungarian Army remained neutral during the revolution (with the obvious exception of soldiers who participated on an individual basis), these groups would provide the greatest resistance to the Soviets attempting stop the revolution.

Zoltán Csipke