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October 23rd, commemorating the Hungarian Revolution

“October 23, 1956, is a day that will live forever in the annals of free men and nations. It was a day of courage, conscience and triumph. No other day since history began has shown more clearly the eternal unquenchability of man’s desire to be free, whatever the odds against success, whatever the sacrifice required.” (John F. Kennedy, on the first anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution)

On October 23, Hungary celebrates Revolution Day to commemorate the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The uprising was an unplanned nationwide upheaval against the communist government of the People’s Republic of Hungary and its Soviet-imposed policies. This uprising lasted from 23 October until 10 November 1956. On the 23rd, students in Budapest staged a peaceful demonstration, having, the night before, drawn up a list of sixteen demands. Among them, the demand for a new government led by Imre Nagy; that all criminal leaders of the Stalin-Rákosi era be immediately relieved of their duties; general elections by universal and secret ballot to elect a new National Assembly with all political parties participating; for the Russian language to cease being a compulsory subject in Hungarian schools; and for the removal of Soviet troops from Hungarian soil.

Thousands of protesters joined and marched to the Hungarian Parliament building. They also blasted out radio broadcasts from Radio Free Europe and attempted to take over a radio station to get their message out. State police then made arrests and fired on protesters who demanded their release. A student who was killed by state police bullets was then swaddled in the Hungarian flag and symbolically lifted up over the crowd. Before very long, word of the revolution spread across the land, and militias formed and overthrew the Hungarian Communist government. Briefly, a free government was established, and there was a lull in the conflict. Being leaderless when it first began, it was the first major threat to Soviet control since the USSR’s forces drove out Nazi Germany from its territory at the end of World War II and broke into Central and Eastern Europe.

Though initially suggesting they might withdraw their remaining armed forces and leave Hungary to steer its own course, the Soviet Union suddenly launched an all-out invasion on 4 November. Over 30,000 Russian soldiers and 1,100 tanks took back Budapest and fanned out to subdue the countryside. By 10 November, the uprising had been completely crushed. Mass arrests and denunciations continued for months thereafter. By January 1957, the new Soviet-installed government had suppressed all public opposition. Despite the initial success and the heroic toppling of Stalin’s statue in Heroes’ Square, everything ended very badly. Over 3,000 revolutionaries were killed and 13,000 wounded, while only 722 Soviet soldiers died and 1,251 were wounded.

Under the communist rule October 23rd was considered as a counter-revolution and all commemorations were banned. In 1989, after the fall of communism, Hungary was declared a republic on October 23rd. As 23 October is a national holiday, every shops, stores and supermarkets are closed.

National programme on 22 October 2019 (Tuesday)

2.00 p.m. -Wreath-laying and commemoration at the 1956 Memorial, Budapest University of Technology and Economics
Speech by Dr. Boross Péter, Former Prime Minister

2.40 p.m. – Ceremonial procession to the commemoration event at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics

3.00 p.m. – Commemoration event at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics
Speeches by:
Dr. János Józsa, Rector of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics
Palkovics László, Minister for Innovation and Technology

4.30 p.m. – Memorial March
Route of the procession:
Budapest University of Technology and Economics – Szent Gellért tér – Szent Gellért rakpart – Várkert rakpart – Casino – Ybl Miklós tér – Clark Ádám tér – Fő utca – Jégverem utca – Bem rakpart – Bem tér

5.30 p.m. – Commemoration event at Bem tér
Cooperating partner: the Rákóczi Association
Speech by Rétvári Bence, Deputy Minister – Ministry of Human Resources

6.00 p.m. – 11.00 p.m. – Light art display on the façade of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Bem tér

National programme on 23 October 2019 (Wednesday)

9.00 a.m. – Flag-raising ceremony in Kossuth tér
10.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m. – Viewing of the Holy Crown in the Parliament Building.                                                                                                                                 Members of the public may view the Grand Staircase, the Cupola Hall and the Holy Crown

10.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m. – Family Programmes at the Kossuth Square

8.00 p.m. – “Freedom Concert 1956” in Hall B of Millenáris (SOLD OUT)

Related events:
“Time Gates” interactive game, from 23 October to 4 November

Lighting of candles at the Wall of Heroes, the House of Terror Museum on 23 October

Plot 301 at the New Public Cemetery: day-long informal commemoration

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