Central Europe marks 50th anniversary of Hungarian revolution

20-10-2006

This coming week will see ceremonies in Budapest and other capitals of Central Europe marking the 50th anniversary of Hungary's 1956 uprising against the Soviet Union. An uprising, which was quickly and brutally crushed but which was one of the defining moments of the Cold War and, of course, recent Hungarian history.

Ninety-five year old Bela Kiraly was the commander-in-chief of the National Guard in Budapest in 1956. After the revolution's bloody end, he lived in exile in the United States returning only to his homeland after the end of communism. He spoke to Radio Budapest about those dramatic days:

"What happened was that in the early morning hours of October 31, some 16 Soviet divisions invaded the country and a war started in Hungary. Hungary remained a socialist country and it was therefore a war between socialist states. Some people are making the mistake in believing that the war started on November 4."

For Bela Kiraly the war against the Soviets may have been lost - but he says the revolution was won. He says the values it stood for - including resistance to repression - stamp Hungarian society to this day..

"The important memory of mine is that I was a part and parcel of a victorious revolution. We lost the war because there was such a tremendous superiority in Soviet Forces and losing the war is an international relation. The two things must not be confused - the revolution was a domestic affair and in that respect was a victory."

Some 180,000 Hungarians fled across the border to Austria. Around 15,000 remained and most of them built new lives in the capital Vienna. One of them is Johann Szego:

"I'm sure that I am integrated. I feel Austrian, I feel Hungarian - it's fifty fifty. But I live here and I'm working here, I pay my taxes, I have Austrian friends. Yes, I think I'm integrated."

"Flight to Vienna. Hungary 1956" is the name of new exhibition in Vienna It's curator is Peter Eppel who told Murray Hall what the exhibition tries to do..

"Various aspects of the exhibition deal with the relationship between Austria and Hungary before the revolution, then there is the revolution, and then there is the aspect of the reaction of the Austrians to the revolution, and to the flight of the Hungarians."

Is it safe to say that this episode in history has become an element of Austrian identity, of Austrian national consciousness?

"It's a part of the Austrian identity to say that Austria is a country, which used to help people who needed help and who came to the country. It was rather dangerous for Austria to behave the way it did, to help the Hungarians the way that they did, to be more on the side of the revolutionaries than their opponents. Since Austria had only recently been left by the four occupational powers, Russia being one of them, due to that fact Austria had to fear that the Russians might come back. They had only left Austria a year before that and there was the fear that because of the fear of Austria during the Hungarian revolution, Russia may come back to Austria."

20-10-2006

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