Revolution in Budapest

National Széchényi Library

A Quick Close-Up on the 1956 Hungarian Revolution

Statue of Sándor Petőfi, 1952, Fortepan/Magyar Rendőr, From the collection of: National Széchényi Library
How it Started?
For 23rd October 1956, the newly founded student union, MEFESZ announced a public demonstration. In the previous days the university youth, inspired by the events in Poland, was very active throughout the entire country. Their demands that they worded on 22nd October were declined to be published by all media. These were more radical than ever: students called for a multi-party political system and the withdrawal of  Soviet troops. The youth decided to make its voice heard on the streets the next day.

Demonstrators on the Pest side of the city marched to the statue of 19th century poet and martyr of the Hungarian uprising against Habsburg rule in 1848/49, Sándor Petőfi. He was in the centre of the communist literary canon and memory politics and had been abused by politics for years. This time, however, Petőfi regained its symbolic status as a hero of struggle for national independence.

This video covers the key events on the Pest side at the dawn of the Revolution.

Hungarian student protests were directly motivated by the Polish October. This was the reason why university students on the Buda side of the river Danube gathered around the statue of the Polish Józef Bem. He was a hero of the 1848 - 49 revolution and freedom fight in Hungary, just as Petőfi. The symbolic gesture is self-evident here.

It was at the Bem statue where groups of students from Pest and Buda came together. More and more workers joined them as they finished work in factories. This video tells the story of the events in Buda.

The "Bloody Flag" Protest, Nagy, Gyula, Fortepan, 1956-10-25, From the collection of: National Széchényi Library
First Violent Encounters
The first significant violent event was the siege of the building of the Hungarian Radio at 9pm on 23 October. This was followed by a series of armed conflicts between the civil revolutionaries on the one side, and the Hungarian armed forces and the Soviet troops on the other. The Hungarian Army, however, was divided in its treatment of civilians, and some troops boycotted to follow the orders. 
The "Bloody Flag" Protest, Nagy, Gyula, Fortepan, 1956-10-25, From the collection of: National Széchényi Library

On 25 October protesters gathered in front of the Parliament, where many became victims of an unexpected volley-firing. In the afternoon, a large demonstration followed called the Bloody Flag Protest. It was named after the flags covered with the martyrs blood which were carried around by demonstrators.

This video follows the events in the City Center where the most intense fights were around Blaha Lujza Square.

Grave of Dezső Tóth, Fortepan/PestiSrác, 1956, From the collection of: National Széchényi Library
A Crushed Uprising
The decisive hit by Soviet troops on Hungary started on 4 November at dawn. The Hungarian Defense Forces generally did not enter in pointless battles against the overwhelming Soviet forces. Civil revolutionaries tried to resist, especially around the Corvin Lane, but they also needed to resign soon. 
National Széchényi Library
Credits: Story

This exhibition and videos were created by the working group of the "Hungary 1956" digital humanities project at National Széchényi Library in collaboration with Google.

The Project (to be launched on 23 October 2016) is about creating a georeferenced online living archive of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution with a particular emphasis on its visual heritage (films and photos) by making advantage of GoogleMaps.

Creators would like to thank the MANDA Archive (, Fortepan (, and the 1956 Institute (now integrated into the National Széchényi Library, see for supporting the Project. Their materials are used in these exhibitions and videos.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.