November 01, 1996

Operation Whirlpool

Forty years ago this month, an uprising in Hungary tested the liberal credentials of the new Khrushchev regime and ended a warming trend in the Cold War. Noted historian Roy Medvedev describes the events of autumn 1956 in Budapest from a contemporary Russian standpoint.

The 1989 Velvet Revolutions, which brought democracy to Eastern Europe, were preceded by many decades of dramatic struggle, complex political evolution and revolutionary upheavals. Among them, the popular uprising in Budapest has a special place. Though cruelly suppressed by the Soviet army, or perhaps because of this fact, it left an indelible mark in the national consciousness of the Hungarian people and the political history of Europe.

Over the last 40 years, assessments of the events of October 23- November 4, 1956 have changed many times both in Soviet/Russian and Hungarian historical literature. It has been seen variously as an anti-Soviet imperialist counter-revolutionary revolt, a popular democratic reform movement, a national liberation movement and outright civil war.

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