A march by university students in Budapest on 23 October became a spontaneous national uprising against Soviet rule.
After converging on Parliament, some protesters broke off and headed for the state radio building where fighting broke out.
The upsurge of anger and determination of the crowd caught the authorities by surprise, and the uprising quickly spread.
Symbols of Russian rule were attacked and destroyed - steadily, Hungarians took back control of their capital city.
Many soldiers sided with the uprising and helped to distribute weapons and ammunition, arming the makeshift army.
Fighters were young and old, men and women. The uprising affected people across the country, in cities and countryside.
The fighters used urban warfare tactics such as petrol bombs to disable tanks. Moscow withdrew its troops on 30 October.
There were heavy casualties on both sides, and the fighters often dealt a savage death to the hated secret police.
Imre Nagy acted as Prime Minister - when the uprising failed he was executed for refusing to condemn the fighters.
When the Russians returned on 4 November, they met stiff resistance at the Killian Barracks and on Csepel Island.
For many Hungarians, the failure of the uprising meant an end to their life in their homeland. At least 200,000 emigrated.