Power to the People

Below: a street scene in downtown Budapest  at the end of October 1956
Below: a street scene in downtown Budapest at the end of October 1956

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Reviewed by Andrew Nagorski
Sunday, October 22, 2006

TWELVE DAYS

The Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution

By Victor Sebestyen

Pantheon. 340 pp. $26

JOURNEY TO A REVOLUTION

A Personal Memoir and History

of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956

By Michael Korda

HarperCollins. 221 pp. $24.95

Incensed by leaks about how their current rulers had lied about the economy, Hungarian protesters took to the streets of Budapest last month, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany. They attacked the state TV station, overturned cars and fought with police, leaving about 200 people injured. News reports pointed out that this was the worst outbreak of violence in the country since the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, whose 50th anniversary will be observed on Oct. 23. True enough -- but the two events can hardly be compared. The violence this time was brief, and Hungary's democratic system kept the crisis from spinning out of control. In 1956, there was a real revolt -- and very real Soviet retaliation, resulting in about 2,500 deaths and 10,000 wounded during the fighting, as well as an estimated 330 executions and thousands of arrests after Soviet tanks crushed the rebellion. The unmistakable message: The Kremlin wasn't going to allow its satellite to break free.


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