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50 years - the Budapest uprising

The next day he went back to work. He remembers the sense of euphoria. Newspapers changed their names and editorial desk heads were dismissed. Workers' committees began to organize outside the aegis of the Communist Party, as did formerly illegal political parties. People ran to open the secret police files. "Of the country's 10 million inhabitants, 1.8 million were under surveillance. It was a huge apparatus," Golan says.
Ruthi Glick - Divided we remember - Haaretz Oct 23 2006

Today 50 years ago was the Budapest uprising. The memories today seem to have a lot of noise coming from strong recent and current events in that part of Europe; that makes it somewhat difficult to have some perspective on the event. At any rate, I have had the impression for a long time that 1956 was a watershed for the history of Europe, and that although the Soviets crushed the uprising with their tanks, in many ways 1956 must have shown that the seemingly impossible task of building something different from the two-way path offered by the Soviets and the US was actually possible. Of course, now the right-wing parties seem to try to capitalize on the memories of the action. Also, Hungarian anti-semites are trying now to take advantage of this very date in their nationalistic agenda. Socialists adopt the stand that 1956 was a crucial point against totalitarian Communism.

I myself tend to regard 1956 as a revolt of many people against totalitarian regimes - in the 1956 context in Europe, of course, the starkest expression of totalitarianism was the Soviet Union; the uprising's ultimate meaning, for me, goes well beyond the "here and now" of Budapest in 1956.

Of course, it was only until the fall of the Soviet Union that Hungary could collect the fruits of 1956. I visited for a brief two-day stint Budapest with my family back in 1979 - my father was then a graduate student in Belgium, and he drove for a month (staying in camping places) with all the family all the way down to Greece. The Hungarians gave us permission to go through Hungary in two days (one night) only - little more than 24 hours to go from the Austrian border to the Yugoslav border, with a stayover in the Budapest camping for foreigners! Budapest in 1979 looked dark and run-down. No children were allowed in the streets after 8 pm - or at least in public places. My parents had to park the car on the banks of the Danube, tell us to wait there with my sisters and go find some food to bring back to the car. Despite its dreariness, Budapest was of course a very beautiful city - I still remember very vividly from then our crossing the bridges with the lions on the Danube, and parts of Pest. Of course, I was only 11 years old back then, and my memories of Hungary in 1979 are quite blurry now!

Haaretz has a very interesting article on the various twists, the complicated history of the uprising.



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