View of Buda from St Stephen's Basilica in Pest

View of Buda from St Stephen’s Basilica in Pest

Sixty years ago, a spontaneous uprising against the communist government of Hungary shook the world.

This insurgency, lasting between 23 October and 10 November 1956, was the first major challenge to Soviet authority behind the Iron Curtain.

The epicentre was Budapest where the violence was greatest and where signs of the revolution are still visible.

Around 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet soldiers were killed, while 200,000 Hungarians fled to the West after the revolt was bloodily suppressed.

This is a do-it-yourself tour of Budapest where you can follow the progress of the revolution.

Bem square in Buda

Bem Statue in Buda

Bem square in Buda

It all started with a student demonstration in Bem square requesting the return of Imre Nagy, a popular politician who had been replaced by a Stalinist puppet.

General Bem, whose statue dominates the square, was one of the great European nineteenth-century revolutionary leaders who fought for the liberation of Hungary and Poland in the 1830s and 40s.

The demonstration, organized for Tuesday, October 23 was banned but it still took place.

Buda promenade by Bem square

Buda promenade by Bem square

Bem square today is part of the new promenade facing the Danube with a grand views of the Parliament building.

Many bike tours whizz down the new dedicated cycle track, overtaking joggers.

Magyar Radio building, Brody Sandor st.

Magyar Radio building

Magyar Radio building

The students joined by thousands more marched to Parliament and then to the Radio building demanding the broadcast of their manifesto.

The State Security Police that guarded the Radio building admitted a delegation of sixteen but, once inside, they were detained.

The crowd became restless and angry when suddenly they were shot at from inside the building; estimates run to over a hundred dead.

The art nouveau radio building in the quiet, leafy street stands today exactly as it was then.

Stalin’s Boots, City Park

Stalin's boots

Stalin’s boots

One of the demands of the revolutionaries was the dismantling of the hated 25-meter high Stalin statue in the Budapest City park.

Still, the crowd attacked it, brought it down and smashed it with hammers into small pieces.

Only Stalin’s boots remained, a copy of which can be seen today in the Statue Park outside Budapest.

They are a symbol of the original success of the revolution when the people’s hero Imre Nagy formed a new government.

Killian barracks, Calvin Square

Killian barracks, Calvin Square

Killian barracks, Calvin Square

One of the most decisive moments came when Colonel Pal Maleter joined the rebellion.

He was the commander of an armoured division sent to suppress the uprising but instead was promoted to general and became the military leader of the revolution.

He made his headquarters in the Killian army barracks at Ulloi street.

The revolution spread and militias fought the Security Police and Soviet troops stationed already in Hungary.

Communist Party and Secret Police members were hunted, imprisoned and executed.

Imre Nagy promised free elections and eventual withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact.

Republic Square (today Janos Pal papa ter)


This sedate square is dominated by the Erkel opera theatre today as it was in 1956, when it faced the Communist Party headquarters.

On October 20 rebels invaded the building after a short battle and captured the hundred-plus party members and state police who were having dinner inside.

They were all shot or hanged from lamp posts or trees around the square while money was put in their mouths and set alight.

There were atrocities from both sides in this civil war.

During the battle, French photographer Jean-Pierre Pedrazzini working for Paris Match was wounded to death.

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