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October 23, 1956: The Hungarian Revolution: Impotent, Poignant, Personal

Peter Nadas

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Lenin Burns in Budapest, 1956

So, on that Tuesday afternoon, a single flow of humanity was moving down the avenues; they were coming on Váci Avenue, on Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Avenue, but on Marx Square many stopped in hesitation: Which way now? The piled-up streetcars stood motionless where they had gotten stuck in their tracks, with the lights burning in the empty compartments. There were about 80,000 people stranded around the edges of the square, on the banks of this vast intersection. They were singing, shouting demands, having visions, speechifying. A crowd, half a million strong, was already in front of the Parliament building. They demanded that the Russians go home, and clamored for Imre Nagy to make a speech.

Slowly it was getting dark. They kept coming from Buda on Margit Bridge, along Balassi Bálint Street, coming on Falk Miksa Street and pouring out to the square. They stopped coming on Alkotmány Street; here the crowd solidified into a motionless mass, but they were still coming from the other side of the square, from Nádor Street and all along the embankment. By this time, traffic in the city had come to a virtual standstill. They demanded in unison that the star be turned off on top of the Parliament cupola. The entire square adopted the demand: "Turn off the star!"

Returning from school, I too spent the afternoon on the street; I was now part of the crowd standing on the square. The Soviet star had been installed on the top of the cupola only a few weeks before; they had done a really good job. The square was echoing the thundering rhythm of this cheerful demand but, it seemed, there was no one around to hear it: The Parliament building with its turrets and traceries loomed darkly, somberly and silently in the background. Perhaps there was some light up in the cupola hall. Perhaps they did hear it up there and thought it better to yield to the people's will.

Read the entire article on the Wall Street Opinion Journal website (new window will open).

Posted: 28-Oct-06



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