October 23rd is a national holiday in Hungary. It commemorates the Revolution of 1956, when Hungarians rose up against the Soviet ruled communist system.
It also commemorates the ‘Day of the Republic’, as in 1989, after the fall of communism, Hungary was declared a republic on October 23rd.
A Brief History of October 23rd
October 23rd marks the first day of the Revolution of 1956. Peaceful demonstrations were held on this day throughout Budapest, many organized by students, demanding free elections, freedom of the press, and withdrawal of the Soviet troops stationed in Hungary. Demonstrators were also demanding that the former Prime Minister, Imre Nagy, dismissed for his liberal policies, be returned to power. International events, such as the 'Polish October', Poland’s successful uprising, where the Soviets gave in and acknowledged a liberal leader, gave much hope to Hungarians. As more and more people joined, the rally turned into a mass demonstration. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets. At 8 pm the Hungarian Communist Party made an unscheduled radio announcement denouncing the demonstrators’ demands. Following the announcement the crowd headed to the radio station to broadcast their demands. They were driven back by state security police with brutal force claiming fatalities. The incident marked the start of an escalation of violence creating a nationwide uprising.
Despite the police brutality and the presence of Soviet tanks in the streets the uprising continued for days. Clashes between demonstrators and armed police broke out in many places, killing hundreds. Following the ceasefire agreed to on October 28, Soviet troops began pulling out from Budapest on October 30th. Imre Nagy was named Prime Minister and formed a new government. By November 4, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev sent in the tanks with reinforcement to bring a bloody end to the revolution. Thousands of people died and over 200,000 fled the country.
In the immediate aftermath thousands of Hungarians were arrested. Several hundred were executed and hundreds were deported to the Soviet Union. Besides reinstating a Soviet controlled government the Soviet Union increased its permanent troop levels in Hungary. Imre Nagy was executed in 1958 after a secret trial in Budapest.
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.
Programs on October 23rd
2015 marks the 59th anniversary of 1956. On October 22nd and 23rd there are several programs held throughout Hungary to commemorate the events of 1956.
In 2015, the October 23rd celebrations start in the morning (at 10 am) with the raising of the Hungarian flag in Kossuth Square. Programs include free admission to the House of Terror Museum (10 am to 6 pm), interactive exhibitions along tram lines No. 2, 4 and 6 and film screenings at Corvin and Tabán movie theatres.
On October 23rd, everyone can visit the Parliament Building for free (from 11 am to 7 pm).