Bush Sees Parallels: 1956 Hungary and 2006 Iraq

In Budapest, Hungary, President Bush compares Hungary's struggles under Communist rule to Iraq's recent history. "The desire for liberty is universal," the president said. President Bush has visited several Eastern European capitals to highlight countries that have recently become democracies.

At a speech with a dramatic outdoor backdrop of the Danube River, Buda and Pest, Bush began by commemorating the Hungarian uprising, which took place nearly 50 years ago.

"In 1956, the Hungarian people suffered under a Communist dictatorship and domination by a foreign power," President Bush said. "They called for an end to dictatorship, to censorship, and to the secret police."

In those days of the Cold War, the Hungarians had some reason to think they had a chance of escaping Soviet dominance.

The new Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev had just denounced the crimes of the late dictator Joseph Stalin. Moscow was proving amenable to unorthodox Communist regimes in Yugoslavia and Poland.

The Hungarian uprising began on Oct. 23, 1956. But by Nov. 4, Soviet tanks and troops had moved into the city. About 2,500 Hungarians died in fighting. They had hoped that NATO or the United States would come to their assistance.

Robert Siegel talks with Charles Gati, professor of European Studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, about the 1956 Hungarian uprising. Gati was a 22-year-old reporter in Budapest during the uprising; he moved to the United States soon afterwards. He believes the United States owes an apology to Hungary for sending mixed signals in 1956.

Gati says the Hungarians believed the Americans would support their uprising against Communist rule, but the U.S. government ultimately offered nothing but words. This fall, Gati will have a book out called Failed Illusions: Moscow, Washington, Budapest, and the 1956 Hungarian Revolt.

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