October 25, 1956

October 23rd is the date that the revolution began, but October 25th is also just as important because of the events that transpired that day, which became known as Bloody Thursday. While October 23rd saw the demands for reforms put forward, it was October 25th that made clear that the desire for democracy would not be achieved through protests alone.

The morning of October 25th a crowd of Hungarians gathered in front of the parliament building at Kossuth Square. There they encountered some Soviet troops who had been stationed there, and the two began to talk. Since teaching the Russian language in school was compulsory in Hungary after the communist takeover, many Hungarians at the time spoke at least some Russian, and enough spoke it well enough that the crowd was able to communicate with the troops.

Word soon got back to the communist leadership that the Soviet troops and the Hungarians were getting along quite well, and the decision was made that this had to be stopped. In fact, during the course of the revolution, many Soviet troops who had been stationed in Hungary for years either switched sides or simply surrendered their tanks without a fight. In order to prevent the troops from peacefully getting along with the crowd, several secret police were dispatched to the square to fire upon the Soviets and make them think they were under attack (they were under attack, but not from the peaceful crowd).

To this day it remains uncertain where the secret police were positioned, but most evidence suggests they were somewhere on the roof of the Ministry of Agriculture located at the southeast corner of the square. This act by the secret police had its intended consequences, as the troops, believing they were under attack, dropped into their tanks and began firing their weapons indiscriminately.

Over 100 people lost their lives in the ensuring massacre, and it is considered the moment that the revolution crossed the Rubicon. Until then the communist leadership may have been able to quiet the protests had they agreed swiftly and to enough of the demands. This event, however, revealed that there was no desire on the part of the Stalinist leadership to cooperate, and it was what guaranteed that peace would not return to the streets of Budapest without an entirely new government.

Reports of the massacre made it out to the West that same day, as two reporters, Endre Marton of the Associated Press and John MacCormac of the New York Times witnessed the event. Marton used his connections to gain access to a government teletype machine still linked to the West, and with it news of what was happening in Budapest made it abroad.

Later in the day day, in response to the massacre and realizing that something had to give, Ernő Gerő was dismissed as chief of the communist party and replaced by János Kádár, who like Imre Nagy was also a reform communist and who had been imprisoned earlier by Rákosi. Nagy and Kádár, however, were the only reform communists in leadership positions, therefore the changes the party had agreed to were nothing more than window dressing.

Also of importance is that, Igazság, the first free newspaper published in Hungary for years made its first appearance.

Zoltán Csipke