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1956: Soviet troops overrun Hungary

The Soviet air force has bombed part of the Hungarian capital, Budapest, and Russian troops have poured into the city in a massive dawn offensive.

At least 1,000 Soviet tanks are reported to have entered Budapest and troops deployed throughout the country are battling with Hungarian forces for strategic positions.

The Soviet invasion is a response to the national uprising led by Prime Minister Imre Nagy, who has promised the Hungarian people independence and political freedom.

Mr Nagy's anti-Soviet policies, which include withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact, have been worrying Eastern Bloc countries and Moscow has demanded his government's capitulation.

Appeal to the West

News of the attack came at 0515 local time on Radio Budapest in an urgent appeal by Mr Nagy himself for help from the West.

Despite an apparent withdrawal only last week, Soviet troops deployed outside Budapest swept back into the capital with Russian and Romanian reinforcements between 0400 and 0800 local time.

The Times newspaper reports that artillery units pounded Budapest from the surrounding hills as Soviet MIG fighters bombarded the capital from the air.

Sources say Soviet infantry units stormed the Parliament building, a key strategic and symbolic target, early this morning.

'Crushed'

Reports that Mr Nagy and other members of his cabinet were captured in the attack have not been confirmed.

But in an unscheduled newscast on Moscow radio shortly after 1200GMT, Russia claimed to have "crushed the forces of reactionary conspiracy against the Hungarian people".

Despite Moscow's claims, heavy fighting is reported to be continuing throughout the country for key installations such as railway stations and major bridges across the River Danube.

Moscow is now backing a new breakaway Hungarian government led by Janos Kadar, whose stated purpose is to destroy Mr Nagy's "counter-revolution".

In Context
The "de-stalinisation" process initiated by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave Soviet satellite countries like Poland and Hungary new hope of democratic freedom. This prompted mass anti-Soviet demonstrations in October 1956.

In Hungary the protests became a full-scale revolt. Ordinary Hungarians battled with Soviet troops and the hated state security police.

Thousands of political prisoners were freed and the Central Committee elected the popular Imre Nagy as prime minister. He began to dismantle the one-party state.

Encouraged by an apparent promise of help, Nagy appealed to the UN and Western governments for protection. But with the Suez crisis in full swing and no real appetite for fighting the USSR over a crisis in Eastern Europe, the West did not respond.

The Soviet military's response was swift and devastating. Some 30,000 people were killed in Budapest alone and about 200,000 Hungarians sought political asylum in the West.

Over the next five years, thousands were executed or imprisoned under Janos Kadar's puppet regime.

Nagy and others involved in the revolution were secretly tried and executed in June 1958.

Soviet troops finally withdrew from Hungary in 1991.


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