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New Documents on the 1956 Hungarian Revolution
Shed Light on a Major Cold War Crisis

Contact: Malcolm Byrne
at (202) 994-7043

"There is no publication, in any language, that would even approach the thoroughness, reliability, and novelty of this monumental work …. [I]t will change forever our views of what happened in Hungary between 1953- 1963." - István Deák, Columbia University

The National Security Archive announces the publication of a new volume of top-level documentation from the former Warsaw Pact and the West that provides important new information and insights into one of the darkest moments of the Cold War.

Taken from the former Soviet Union, Hungary and the United States, as well as from other East European and Western archives, these materials - many of which were previously unavailable to an English-speaking audience - provide a comprehensive picture of the decision-making on all sides of the Hungarian events of October-November 1956. Highlights include:

  • U.S. attitudes toward the use of violence in Eastern Europe. Newly declassified portions of top-level U.S. policy documents and National Security Council minutes show that senior officials were prepared to consider the resort to violence in Eastern Europe in furtherance of U.S. interests.
  • The role of Radio Free Europe (RFE). Internal RFE documents confirm that the Radio overstepped its bounds in encouraging Hungarian hopes of imminent Western assistance.
  • The Suez crisis. Notes of Kremlin and White House discussions indicate the possible impact of the late October 1956 attack on Suez on the Soviet decision to intervene with overwhelming force in Hungary in early November.
  • The character and fate of Imre Nagy. Hungarian and Soviet documents provide a more complex portrait of reform Communist Prime Minister Imre Nagy, whom the U.S. saw as a Soviet disciple but who went further than any other leader in the socialist camp other than Tito in asserting independence from the USSR. Other records give previously unknown details on the discussions between various leaders over whether to try and execute Nagy.
  • The two faces of János Kádár. Hungary's long-time Communist leader has always been something of an enigma. Notes of Kremlin and Warsaw Pact meetings as well as internal Hungarian records add important insights into his attempts both to assert freedom of action vis-à-vis Moscow and to crack down brutally on internal dissent, especially against Nagy and his circle.
  • Kremlin vacillations. Taken together, the materials in this volume offer an extraordinary picture of the thinking of Soviet leaders, their indecisiveness in the face of the Hungarian crisis and the reasons underlying their eventual decision to crush the revolution.

The 1956 Hungarian Revolution: A History in Documents is edited by Csaba Békés, Malcolm Byrne and János Rainer. It is the third in the "National Security Archive Cold War Reader" series published by Central European University Press. The previous titles were Prague Spring '68, edited by Jaromír Navrátil et al (1998), and Uprising in East Germany 1953, edited by Christian Ostermann (2001). Future volumes will cover the Solidarity crisis in Poland in the early 1980s and the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989.

The volume was produced as part of the Openness in Russia and Eastern Europe Project, an international collaborative research project coordinated by the National Security Archive. The Project's purposes are to uncover important historical materials that were previously inaccessible to a broad audience, and to encourage the concept of greater access to government information as a necessary element of any democratic society. Generous funding for the Openness Project has come from the Open Society Institute, the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the German Marshal Fund of the United States.

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