March 1953 to October 22, 1956


March 5: Death of Stalin. A major reorganization of the Soviet leadership follows.

March 7: The new Soviet leadership declares an amnesty, promises to give priority to improving living standards, and underlines the importance of collective leadership.

March 8: The Hungarian Parliament passes legislation perpetuating the ‘undying memory’ of Stalin and orders a national period of mourning.

May 17: Parliamentary elections in Hungary follow the Stalinist pattern.

June 1: Disturbances break out in Czechoslovakia. Workers demonstrating in Plzeň occupy the city hall and display national and US flags. The movement is suppressed by the special police.

June 13–16: Hungary’s party and state leaders are summoned to Moscow. Mátyás Rákosi’s monopoly of power is ended. He is instructed to hand over as prime minister to Imre Nagy, but is allowed to remain as head of the communist party. The main lines of a new course of policy are drawn up by the Soviets. The fact that these talks took place remains a secret for 30 years.

June 15: The Soviet Union resumes diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia and with Israel.

June 17–18: A workers’ uprising takes place in East Berlin and other cities of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The military is called in to suppress the insurrection.

June 27–8: The Central Committee of the Hungarian Workers’ Party (HWP) convenes to implement Moscow’s instructions on the New Course of political and economic reform.

July 4: Prime Minister Imre Nagy, in his programme speech to the new Parliament, outlines the New Course: a new economic policy and a new political line based on legality in government and administrative practice and enhanced sovereignty of the people.

July 9: Beria is arrested in Moscow, dismissed from all his positions and excluded from the party.

July 11: A meeting of Budapest HWP activists is held.

July 21: An interior minister’s directive orders the establishment of a unified Ministry of the Interior. The ÁVH (security police) is reintegrated into the Interior Ministry structure.

July 25: A partial amnesty is declared in Hungary.

July 26: The Council of Ministers (government) passes a resolution ending the practices of internment and internal exile.

July 27: A ceasefire agreement is signed at Panmunjom, ending the Korean War <Korea>.

August 8: Soviet Prime Minister Georgy Malenkov announces that the first Soviet hydrogen bomb has been tested.

Autumn: Sharp cuts in the size of the Hungarian People’s Army begin. By November 15, its strength has been reduced by 150,000 men.

September 6: The government resolves on wide-ranging price reductions.

September 9: Hungary and Yugoslavia resume diplomatic relations.

September 13: Nikita Khrushchev is elected first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) Central Committee.

October 4: At a camp at Tiszalök, for prisoners of war allowed to return from the Soviet Union, members of Hungary’s German minority hold a protest meeting, calling for their release, and try to break out of the camp the same evening.

October 23: A debate is held at the Writers’ Union, to discuss a report by a group of writers who have been touring villages in recent weeks.

November 17: Stalin’s body is placed in the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow.

December 1: The US National Security Council re-examines its policy towards Eastern Europe.

December 23: Beria, along with Merkulov, Dekanozov, Goglidze and other senior officials of the Interior Ministry, is condemned to death in Moscow.


January 15: The military high court, chaired by Ferenc Ledényi, passes sentence after an appeal hearing on the prosecution of Gábor Péter, former head of the ÁVH, and 17 others. They were found guilty by a lower court on December 24, 1953.

April 26–July 21: The Geneva Conference on the Far East recognizes the status quo in Korea and the partition of Vietnam.

Early May: The Information Office of the Council of Ministers is formed with Zoltán Szántó as its head and Miklós Vásárhelyi as his deputy.

May 24–30: The Third Congress of the HWP is held amidst political uncertainty and deadlock.

June 2: The freeing of Gyula Oszkó is the first of many releases of communists imprisoned between 1949 and 1951, who had spent the war in hiding in Hungary or as exiles in the West rather than the Soviet Union.

July 7: ÁVH Lieutenant-General László Piros is appointed minister of the interior instead of Ernő Gerő. Gerő remains a deputy prime minister.

July 28: The Economic Policy Committee is formed, following a resolution by the HWP Political Committee.

August 24: The US Congress declares communist activity illegal.

September: The Soviet army and navy begin to equip with nuclear weapons.

October 14: The HWP Political Committee passes a resolution supporting the new Soviet policy towards Yugoslavia.

October 20: The central party daily, the Szabad Nép (Free People), carries an article by Imre Nagy entitled ‘After the Meeting of the Central Committee’. This makes it clear there is in-fighting in the HWP and offers the first analysis of the reasons.

October 22, 23 and 25: There is a stormy three-day staff meeting at the Szabad Nép.

October 23–4: The founding congress of the Patriotic People’s Front (PPF) elects the writer Pál Szabó as president and the Reformed Church minister Ferenc Jánosi as general secretary. Imre Nagy’s speech on national unity led later to charges of nationalism being made against him.

October 23: Full sovereignty is restored to Germany <East and West Germany> through the Federal Republic (FRG). A protocol admitting the FRG to Nato is signed.

November 8: The Soviet-Hungarian joint ventures are transferred to 100 per cent Hungarian ownership in a series of economic transactions.

November 14: Control of the daily Magyar Nemzet (Hungarian Nation) is transferred to the Patriotic People’s Front, with Iván Boldizsár as editor.

November 21: An article by József Darvas, ‘On Overbidding’, appears in the Szabad Nép. Instigated by Mihály Farkas and Márton Horváth, the article initiates an attack on Imre Nagy’s policy line and the reform movement among writers and journalists.

December 1: Rákosi reports to the HWP Political Committee on a message received from the Presidium of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) Central Committee. This begins the process of ousting Imre Nagy from power.

December 15: The HWP Political Committee, continuing along the lines of its December meeting and in Imre Nagy’s absence, passes a resolution on the ‘right-wing danger’ and condemns Nagy’s policy. There is a purge among the staff at the Szabad Nép: Péter Kende, Endre Kövesi, Pál Lőcsei and Lajos Szilvási have to leave the paper.

December 21: Parliament meets in Debrecen to mark the 10th anniversary of the convening of the Provisional National Assembly there.


January 8: Following an initiative from the Hungarian side, the Presidium of the CPSU Central Committee in Moscow has discussions with the HWP leaders. The policy of Imre Nagy is strongly criticized, but in a break with communist tradition, Nagy does not ‘exercise self-criticism’ (declare himself in the wrong).

January 25: The Supreme Soviet in Moscow issues a decree declaring the state of war between the Soviet Union and Germany <East and West Germany> to be over.

February 1: Imre Nagy falls ill (with high blood pressure, nervous exhaustion and coronary thrombosis). On February 5, the doctors treating him prescribe complete rest, which effectively cuts him off from the political scene.

February 23: Imre Nagy addresses a letter to the HWP Political Committee protesting against his isolation. He still refuses to exercise self-criticism.

March 2–4: Although the meeting of the HWP Central Committee does not annul the resolution of June 1953, it identifies the ‘right-wing, anti-Marxist, anti-party, opportunist’ views represented by Imre Nagy as the main danger.

March 25: The Petőfi Circle is founded at the Kossuth Club, as an adjunct of the Union of Working Youth (Disz), with Gábor Tánczos as its secretary.

March 28: Imre Nagy tenders his resignation as prime minister, in a letter to István Dobi, the president of the Presidential Council (head of state). Dobi informs Rákosi of this, but no reply is made or action taken.

April 14: A resolution adopted at a meeting of the HWP Central Committee accuses Imre Nagy of anti-party activity and factionalism. Nagy, who still refuses to express remorse, is removed from the Political Committee and the Central Committee and deprived of all the functions he holds.

April 15: Rákosi informs Dobi in writing of the HWP Central Committee’s proposal that Nagy be dismissed, arguing that ‘he has not fulfilled satisfactorily the office of chairman of the Council of Ministers.’

April 18: Dobi, as head of state, appoints András Hegedüs prime minister, as proposed by Rákosi.

April 29: Following a demand by the HWP Political Committee, Imre Nagy resigns his seats in Parliament and on Budapest City Council, his vice-chairmanship of the Patriotic People’s Front, his membership of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and his post as professor at the University of Economics.

May 5: The HWP Political Committee bans Nagy’s published works.

May 9: The Federal Republic of Germany <East and West Germany> is admitted to Nato, as the Paris treaties come into force.

May 11–15: At a conference of Soviet-bloc countries in Warsaw, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the GDR, Hungary, Poland, Romania and the Soviet Union sign a treaty of friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance, in response to the military cooperation established in Western Europe. The Warsaw Pact countries are to follow an agreed foreign policy and form a military alliance. The seat of the military high command is to be in Moscow.

May 15: The signing of the Austrian State Treaty turns Austria into an independent, democratic, neutral country.

May 26–June 2: A delegation led by Khrushchev, Bulganin, Mikoyan and Shepilov visits Belgrade. Relations between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia are normalized.

July 17: Cardinal József Mindszenty, primate of the Catholic Church, is moved from prison to house arrest in Felsőpetény, Nógrád County.

July 18: An article in the Szabad Nép blames Gábor Péter and his ‘gang’ for the deterioration in Yugoslav-Hungarian relations.

July 18–23: A summit meeting of the Soviet Union, the Unites States, Britain and France is held in Geneva.

September: The strength of the Hungarian People’s Army is reduced by a further 20,000 men.

September 9–13: German-Soviet negotiations are held in Moscow, with Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer taking part.

October 14: József Grősz, archbishop of Kalocsa, is released from prison and placed under house arrest.

October 18: Communist writers and artists draft a memorandum addressed to the HWP Central Committee.

November 2–4: Zoltán Zelk presents the Writers’ Memorandum at a party meeting in the Writers’ Union. It is passed on to the HWP Central Committee, with the support of the vast majority of members.

November 11: The heads of the Interior Ministry meet to discuss a report by the ministry and the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Department on the activity of the ÁVH, in which countless illegal acts are cited.

November 20 and 22: Two groups of about 1200 political prisoners return from the Soviet Union. Among them is Béla Kovács, former general secretary of the Smallholders’ Party (FKgP).

December 14: Sixteen new members are admitted to the United Nations, including Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.

December 24: Reprisals are taken against the signatories of the Writers’ Memorandum, causing most of them to withdraw their signatures.


January 1: A big reduction is made in the strength of the ÁVH.

January 23: Nikolai Bulganin, the Soviet prime minister, proposes in a letter to US President Eisenhower, that their two countries conclude a friendship and mutual non-aggression treaty.

February 14–25: The 20th Congress of the CPSU marks a turning point in the policy and ideology of the Soviet party and of the international communist movement. The resolution breaks with the dogma that a third world war is inevitable and proclaims ‘peaceful coexistence’ between the two world systems. Khrushchev denounces Stalin’s crimes in a four-hour speech to a closed session.

March 8: The Hungarian government abolishes the restricted border zone and the technical equipment sealing the Hungarian-Yugoslav border.

March 12–13: Rákosi reports on the 20th Congress to the HWP Central Committee. He states that the HWP has already been working along such lines.

March 17: The Petőfi Circle holds its first major event: an informal meeting at the Kossuth Club of former leaders of Mefesz (the Hungarian Association of University and College Unions).

March 19–May 3: A disarmament conference of UN member-states is held in London.

March 27: Speaking at a meeting of party activists in Heves County, Rákosi admits that the 1949 treason trial of László Rajk was a show trial.

April 7: The Information Bureau of Communist and Workers’ Parties (Cominform) is disbanded.

April 10: Poland rehabilitates Wladyslaw Gomulka, former general secretary of the communist party, who was convicted in 1951.

April 18–27: Khrushchev, first secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, and Prime Minister Bulganin visit London.

April 27: The guidelines for Hungary’s Second Five-Year Plan are put forward for public discussion.

May 9 and 22: The Petőfi Circle holds an economic debate entitled ‘Current Questions of Marxist Political Economy and the Guidelines of the 2nd Five-Year Plan’.

May 12: József Grősz, archbishop of Kalocsa, is released from house arrest.

May 18: Mátyás Rákosi makes what is to be his final public appearance, at a meeting of Budapest HWP activists in the Sports Hall.

May 28: The new leadership of the Petőfi Circle, which has been operating for two months, is formally convened. The secretary is Gábor Tánczos, with András B. Hegedűs, Balázs Nagy and Kálmán Pécsi as deputies.

May 30–June 1: The Petőfi Circle holds a historians’ debate entitled ‘Current Questions in Marxist Historical Studies’.

June 1: Vyacheslav Molotov, one of the main opponents of reconciliation with Yugoslavia, is dismissed as Soviet foreign minister and replaced by Shepilov.

June 6: A celebration is held at Imre Nagy’s house in Orsó utca (2nd District), to mark his 60th birthday.

June 6–14: The Soviet politician Mikhail Suslov has talks in Budapest with members of the HWP leadership and with János Kádár and Imre Nagy.

June 9: The Petőfi Circle holds a reunion of students of people’s colleges, to rehabilitate Nékosz (the National Association of People’s Colleges).

June 14: The HWP Central Committee passes a resolution on policy towards the intelligentsia.

The Petőfi Circle holds a philosophers’ debate entitled ‘Current Problems in Marxist Philosophy’.

June 16: Communist propaganda receives criticism in the Irodalmi Újság (Literary Gazette) <Writers’ Union>, in an article by Tibor Tardos entitled ‘Seawater Is Salty’.

June 18: The Petőfi Circle holds an informal meeting of former wartime partisans and underground communist-party workers with young members of the Budapest intelligentsia, in the Central Officers’ Hall in downtown Váci utca.

June 20: A Petőfi Circle debate takes place on ‘Exploiting This Country’s Natural and Economic Endowments in Planning the People’s Economy’.

June 22–3: Leaders of the Soviet-bloc countries meet in Moscow to discuss the rapprochement with Yugoslavia.

June 27: There is a Petőfi Circle debate on aspects of the press and information, held at the Central Officers’ Hall.

June 28: In Poznań <Poznań workers’ uprising>, Poland, 100,000 workers take to the streets, calling for improvements in living and working conditions and free elections. The security forces use arms to break up the crowds. There are about 100 deaths and several hundred wounded. About 600 demonstrators are arrested.

June 30: The HWP Central Committee, in a resolution, condemns the anti-party manifestations apparent in the Petőfi Circle.

July 2: The Pál Vasvári Circle in Szombathely, with teacher Miklós Horn as secretary, holds a debate of intellectuals, patterned on the Petőfi Circle events in Budapest.

July 3: The June 30 resolution of the CPSU Central Committee, on the cult of personality, appears in the Szabad Nép (Free People).

July 10: Speakers at a party meeting in the Writers’ Union criticize the June 30 resolution of the HWP Central Committee.

July 12: The US National Security Council issues a document on American policy towards the Eastern European countries.

July 13: A Malév Hungarian Airlines flight from Budapest to Szombathely is diverted to West Germany <East and West Germany> by armed hijackers.

July 17: Soviet politician Anastas Mikoyan arrives unexpectedly in Budapest and announces that Mátyás Rákosi is to be dismissed.

July 18–21: Rákosi announces his resignation as first secretary of the HWP, to a meeting of the Central Committee, citing his ‘state of health’. His successor is Ernő Gerő. Rákosi leaves for exile in the Soviet Union, never to return. András Hegedüs remains as prime minister.

After July 21: The HWP Central Committee reports to the party membership on the rehabilitations. The vast majority of these have been completed, with 474 cases being reviewed.

July 30: The government is reshuffled.

August 1: The government resolves to cut the strength of the army by 15,000.

September: Residents displaced from the Hungarian-Yugoslav border zone are allowed to return to their homes.

September 1: The Presidential Council rehabilitates 50 previously convicted social democrats.

September 2: A resolution of the HWP Central Committee proposes that streets may no longer be renamed after living persons.

September 14: A secret Soviet decree grants an amnesty to political prisoners with non-Soviet citizenship.

September 17: The General Assembly of the Writers’ Union demonstrates in support of Imre Nagy.

September 19–27: Khrushchev pays a private visit to Yugoslavia, where he has talks with Tito on the Yugoslav island of Brioni.

September 19: The Petőfi Circle debates resume after a politically imposed break of two-and-a-half months. The first autumn event is entitled ‘The Educational Experiences of the People’s Colleges’.

Removal of the technical equipment sealing the Hungarian-Austrian border is completed.

September 26: The Petőfi Circle holds a debate entitled ‘Questions of Economic Leadership’.

September 28: A resolution of the HWP Political Committee orders the reburial of László Rajk, György Pálffy, Tibor Szőnyi and András Szalai, in a ceremony on October 6 with full military honours.

September 28 and October 12: The Petőfi Circle holds a debate entitled ‘Questions of Hungarian Educational Affairs’.

September 30: Tito and Gerő meet in the Kremlin. Gerő reports on their discussions at the HWP Political Committee meeting on October 8.

October: Troop reductions in the Hungarian People’s Army continue. The strength of the army at the outbreak of the revolution is 120,000–130,000 men.

Early October: A Petőfi Circle of local intellectuals is founded in Békéscsaba. In Veszprém, the Batsányi Circle is formed according to the same pattern, with Árpád Brusznyai, a grammar-school teacher, at its head.

October 1: The main speaker at a several-day mass assembly at the College of Dramatic and Cinematic Art in Budapest is the writer István Csurka.

October 2: The government transfers control over the prisons from the Interior Ministry to the Justice Ministry.

October 4: Imre Nagy, based on a compromise formula, makes an application by letter for his HWP membership to be restored.

The Soviet government complies with a request from the Hungarian government for a loan of 100 million roubles for 1957.

October 5: The Presidential Council calls a meeting of Parliament for October 22.

The Supreme Court discharges Bishop Lajos Ordass of the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church, who was illegally convicted in 1948.

The ÁVH officers Vladimir Farkas, Ervin Faludi, György Szendi, György Szántó and Ferenc Toldi are arrested.

October 6: The reburial of László Rajk, György Pálffy, Tibor Szőnyi and András Szalai takes place at Budapest’s Kerepesi út cemetery (8th District). The Szabad Nép carries on its front page a long article entitled ‘Never Again’, about the communists executed seven years before. A crowd of 100,000, carrying no political slogans, attends the funeral.

After the funeral, there is a demonstration mainly of arts undergraduates, most of them members of the Kolkhoz Circle, at the Stalin Statue, before the Yugoslav Embassy and before the ÁVH headquarters at Andrássy út 60 (6th District), carrying slogans against Stalinism and the ÁVH and in praise of Yugoslavia.

The HWP Political Committee resolves to arrest Mihály Farkas, formerly the defence minister.

Stricter military service is introduced at the Defence Ministry.

The Attila József Theatre in Budapest shows József Gáli’s play Liberty Hill.

University students in Szeged call for an end to compulsory teaching of the Russian language.

October 8: Imre Nagy has his final discussion with Ernő Gerő about the former’s return to the party.

The newspaper Hétfői Hírlap (Monday News) appears, with Iván Boldizsár as editor. This is the first example of a more relaxed style of newspaper to appear since the papers supporting the non-communist coalition parties were closed or taken over after 1948. (The daily papers do not appear on Mondays in this period.)

October 10: The Petőfi Circle holds a debate on ‘Technical Development and the Problems of the Young Technical Intelligentsia’.

October 11: A local Petőfi Circle is founded in Pécs.

October 12: Mihály Farkas is arrested on the orders of the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Department.

October 13: The HWP Political Committee passes a resolution readmitting Imre Nagy into the party.

The Kossuth Circle holds its first debate in the Old County Hall in Debrecen.

October 15: A party and government delegation, consisting of Ernő Gerő, Antal Apró, András Hegedüs, János Kádár and István Kovács, leaves for a week’s visit to Belgrade.

A literary and political debating society called the Bocskai Circle is founded in Hajdúnánás.

The United States suspends its deliveries of aid to Yugoslavia, due to the conspicuous improvement in Soviet-Yugoslav relations.

October 16: A meeting of about 1600 undergraduates in Szeged founds Mefesz (the Hungarian Association of University and College Unions), a students’ organization independent of Disz (the Union of Working Youth) and the HWP.

October 17: The Petőfi Circle holds a debate on Gábor Pap’s article ‘Garden Hungary’.

October 18: The Presidential Council postpones until October 29 the session of Parliament scheduled for October 22.

A parliament of secondary-school students is held at the Party Instructors’ House.

October 19: A students’ assembly at the Budapest Technical University hostel in Hess András tér (1st District) sums up its demands in a 15-point resolution.

Soviet troops stationed in Hungary are placed on alert.

The Attila József Circle in Szeged arranges a debate on the position of the intelligentsia.

Gyula (Julius) Hay holds a writer’s evening in Győr.

The 8th Plenary Session of the Polish United Workers’ Party Central Committee coopts Wladyslaw Gomulka. This prompts a visit to Warsaw by CPSU Central Committee members Khrushchev, Lazar Kaganovich, Molotov and Mikoyan, along with Defence Minister Georgy Zhukov and Marshal Konev, Warsaw Pact commander-in-chief. Soviet forces and some Polish units move towards the Polish capital on the pretext of holding military exercises.

October 20: The Petőfi Circle debates the problems of the applied arts.

The Hajnóczy Circle is founded at the law faculty of Budapest’s Loránd Eötvös University and the Széchenyi Circle at the University of Economics. The universities also found the Vasvári Circle as a joint forum for debate.

A mass meeting is held at the Budapest Technical University on the current problems of the students and the technical intelligentsia.

The József Katona Theatre presents László Németh’s play Galilei.

Mefesz holds a mass meeting at the Szeged University of Sciences, chaired by Professor József Perbíró.

The HWP branch at the Lajos Kossuth University of Sciences in Debrecen holds an open day.

Agreement on reforms is reached early in the morning in Warsaw. The Soviet leaders accept the personnel changes in the Polish United Workers’ Party and fly home. Anti-Soviet assemblies take place in almost every Polish town, culminating in demonstrations in some cases.

October 21: The Kossuth Circle is founded at the Eger teachers’ training college and affiliates to Mefesz.

Student delegations arrive in Budapest from Debrecen and Szeged for the national student parliament. The Szeged delegation also has talks with leaders of the Petőfi Circle.

In Warsaw, Wladyslaw Gomulka is elected first secretary of the Polish United Workers’ Party Central Committee.

October 22: Commanders of units of regiment size and higher, along with their political deputies, are summoned for a meeting at the Defence Ministry on October 24.

A meeting of the Disz (Union of Working Youth) Central Committee is called for the following day.

Also represented at an afternoon assembly at the Budapest Technical University are the Construction and Transport University, the Agricultural Engineering College, the Physical Education College, the College of Horticulture and Viticulture, the Military Engineering College, the Petőfi Academy, and the Máté Zalka Barracks. The meeting debates the demands put forward by the Mefesz delegates from Szeged.

There are meetings at several other Budapest institutes of higher education during the afternoon, concurrently with the assembly at the Technical University. They include the University of Economics, the Budapest Medical University, the Drama College, the College of Horticulture and Viticulture, and Gödöllő Agricultural University.

The committee of the Petőfi Circle meets in the evening.

An assembly of students from the medical and legal university and of students and teachers from the teachers’ training college begins at 3 p.m. at Pécs Central University.

The workers at the Dimávag engineering factory in Miskolc, led by Gyula Turbók and Károly Bogár, begin on October 15 to organize a party open day, to clarify the problems. By October 22 they have collected 2000 signatures in the factory for this.

The students of the Miskolc Technical University affiliate to Mefesz.

Students of the Forestry Engineering University and the Technical University for Heavy Industry hold a joint students’ parliament in Sopron.

A branch of Mefesz is formed at the Benczúr utca students’ hostel, Debrecen.