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Lesson Transcript

Culture Class: Holidays in Hungary, Lesson 5 - 1956 Revolution Day
Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Hungary Series at HungarianPod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Hungarian holidays and observances. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 5 - 1956 Revolution Day. In Hungarian, it’s called 1956-os forradalom.
This lesson will deal with one of the most unfortunate events in recent Hungarian history: the revolution in 1956. How did a peaceful demonstration by students on October 23, 1956 turn into the beginning of a bloody dictatorship, or diktatúra? Was it a revolution or a counter-revolution?
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question?
Why did people call the Square of '56ers the "Square of the Boot", or “Csizma-tér”, during and after the revolution?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
Many atrocities were committed under the Stalinist dictatorship imposed in Hungary after WWII. They included use of secret police, pre-arranged court cases, transportation of people who didn't approve of the system to concentration camps, or koncentrációs táborok, and increasing poverty, which all led to demonstrations held in Budapest and other major cities on October 23, 1956. The initial demonstration was started by students from the Technical University of Budapest and rapidly increased to more than 200 thousand by the evening. When the secret police opened fire on people gathering in front of the building of the Hungarian Radio, known as Magyar Rádió, the peaceful demonstration transformed into an armed revolution.
After several days of fighting, the aims of the revolution, which included holding onto freedom and democratic elections, seemed to be achieved. But on November 4, the Soviet army attacked Hungary without declaring war. Needless to say, Hungarian freedom fighters couldn’t repel the mighty Red Army, called Vörös Hadsereg in Hungarian. The revolution ended in retaliations, long jail sentences, and executions. More than 250 thousand people emigrated. During the following decades Hungary was ruled ruthlessly by the Soviet Union. In the years following the revolution, even talking about the revolution was prohibited; in schools the revolution was taught to youth as a "counter-revolution".
On October 23, 1989, the President of the Republic declared the establishment of the Hungarian Republic, in Hungarian Magyar Köztársaság and the political system was finally changed. Today, Hungarians commemorate the establishment of the Hungarian Republic and the events of 1956 by celebrating Revolution Day. The occasion is celebrated with open-air exhibitions and family programs organized all over the country. In Budapest, wreath-laying ceremonies are held at locations significant to the Revolution, and include torch marches in the evening.
In 1956 Time Magazine nominated the "Hungarian Freedom Fighter" as the Man of the Year, which showed clear support for the revolution. In contrast, the following year, the same magazine granted the same title to Nikita Khrushchev, the man who put down the Hungarian revolution in 1956.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
Why did people call the Square of '56ers the "Square of the Boot", or “Csizma-tér”, during and after the revolution?
On October 23, 1956 the angry crowd cut down the 8-meter tall statue of Stalin. After demolishing the statue, only the boots remained on the foundation on Stalin Square, which led to it being called the “Square of the Boot”.
Did you like this lesson? Did you learn something interesting?
Have you heard about these events from 1956 before?
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