___Poland’s October and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution___Vissza
János Tischler:

Poland’s October and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution
Gomulka's Intercession with Khrushchev on behalf of Imre Nagy

Excerpt from the records of the discussiuons conducted between The Party and Government Delegation of the Polish People's Republic and The Party and Government Delegation of the Soviet Union 24-25 May, 1957.

[Archiwum Akt. Nowych (Current History Archives), KC PZPR (PUWP CC), paczka 112, tom 26. Materialy do stosunków partyjnych polsko-radzieckich z lat 1954-1954, kart 685]

On the first day of the talks: Present (Soviet Union): Khrushchev, Bulganin, Zhukov, Mikoyan, Saburiv, Kabanov, Nikitin, Gundobin and Ponomarenko;

Present (Poland): Gomulka, Cyrankiewicz, Spychalski, Szyr, Jedrychowski, Graniewski, Waluchowski.


Gom[ulka]: On 15 and 16 June we intend to visit Ulbricht for a few days at their invitation. We were also invited by Kádár but we had no time. Cyrankiewicz was in Asia and Czechoslovakia. Our latest information is that the Hungarians want to put Imre Nagy on trial. He is in prison now in Budapest. In our opinion, looking at the case from a political viewpoint, it will cause grave damage. It is, of course, their affair but we are also concerned. Our position is that if the trial of Imre Nagy were to start now, then the matter would become even more complicated. Because of the lack of time, we have not informed the Hungarians of our view. Nor did we get word officially from them. We were informed unofficially by a Hungarian comrade1, then next day the news was in the papers.2

Khr[ushchev]: So what shall we do about him?3

Mik[oyan]: Send him to Warsaw perhaps?

Gom[ulka]: That is not the issue. We had our problems too with some of our own people. The situation must be settled in a politically favourable way. Otherwise another anti-Hungarian campaign will begin, and those events will be back in the news. Of course, we do not have sufficient evidence in our hands. All we know is what is found in your correspondence with Yugoslavia. Imre Nagy, however, was certainly not an imperialist traitor. There will be great outrage.

Khr[ushchev]: Yes, there will.

Gom[ulka]: But that is politically damaging.

Khr[ushchev]: No, it is not. Our enemies will shout in protest, and our friends will understand that he played a traitor’s role. Whether he was an agent in the legal sense or not and whether he got money for it - that is irrelevant. Irrelevant because he pursued subversive activities.

Gom[ulka]: Perhaps our information is incomplete but even if he was a traitor, he could not have decided about anything on his own, and he did not.

Khr[ushchev]: That is right, on his own he did not but he was the banner. Kopácsi, the head of the police, did what Imre Nagy ordered him to do, and Kopácsi had Communists hanged. This is a complicated problem, and not a case for Hungary only. We believe that the persons guilty of the coup must bear responsibility for their actions. Those are the laws of war. This is a class war.

Mi[koyan]: You solved the problem in a correct way in Poland4 but the situation there was different. Imre Nagy took action against the people’s democratic power.

Khr[ushchev]: He quit the Warsaw Treaty, declared neutrality on the Austrian model, and a persecution of Communists began (Zhukov: Without any court procedure or investigation). What sort of a proletarian dictatorship is this? If they had won, Kádár would have been hanged a long time ago.

Cyr[ankiewicz]: If the counter-revolution had won, Imre Nagy would have been hanged, too.

Khr[ushchev]: You cannot be sure about that. The Americans backed Imre Nagy. They said terror must be curbed.

Gom[ulka]: Still, I think a single man would not have been able to provoke all that.

Khr[ushchev]: There were others as well. The Yugoslavs played a bad role in the affair. In a sense they were instigators too. And you can find examples like that in the history of the workers’ movement. Take the case of Noske.5

Cyr[ankiewicz]: The Communists, the working class fought against Noske.

Gom[ulka]: Imre Nagy is no Noske.

Khr[ushchev]: Let the Hungarians decide as best they can. However, the Hungarian nation must understand that the errors had been made by Rákosi but Imre Nagy took advantage of them.

After we visited you, we saw Tito.6 He was of the same opinion as us. After all, what kind of a Communist is a man who, as a Communist prime minister, has Communists hanged? Tito was also disillusioned. He asked: “What if Imre Nagy resigned as prime minister if the counter-revolution won?” We answered that it would be the right thing for him to do. Tito promised (on November 2) that he would persuade Imre Nagy to act in that way. The talks were attended by Tito, Rankovic, Kardelj and, I think, Mic´unovic´. Our talks lasted all night long. There was no difference of opinion between us. Tito said: “It is necessary that you should be the ones to intervene. A gigantic country. The leading force of the Warsaw Treaty.” The Romanians, the Bulgarians and the Czechs also wanted to help the Soviet troops as volunteers. Tito replied: “There is no need for that. It is better if you alone intervene. The counter-revolution must be crushed.” Tito himself saw us off at the harbour next dawn. I persuaded him to leave Brioni. (He was ill at the time.) I said the island could be bombed by mistake. We kissed each other goodbye when we left. So there was no obstacle to cooperation there. The date, however, was not set. Zhukov was making calculations, for which he had been given three days. The decision in favour of armed intervention had been made before I had left Moscow. We arrived back on a plane at around 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon7 together with Malenkov. Kádár arrived at the same time. Bulganin phoned from Sofia. He had not met Kádár before. At that time there were Horváth8, Bata9, Münnich and Kádár all staying in Moscow. (Tito said that if Kádár had broken with Imre Nagy, then this was evidence of the position of the working class. It was the conscience of the working class.) There was a discussion about who should be prime minister. The decision was that it should be Kádár. When we asked the Hungarians, they all said Kádár, despite the fact that at the beginning we had thought either Münnich or Kádár. And this was how we formed the Hungarian government in Moscow. At 15 minutes past 4 o’clock in the morning Zhukov went into action. We expected Imre Nagy to resign. But the scoundrel called for resistance, and he himself fled to the Yugoslav Embassy. This destroyed the mood, and we sent a letter to Tito. Now, on the basis of all this, in your opinion, is Imre Nagy guilty or not? Tito was terrified. If we had not made a move, the fascists would have won. And the Yugoslavs have a 1000 kilometer long border with Hungary. Tito said he saw no other way out either. It was an unacceptable thing for him too. And now he condemns us and speaks about intervention. Historians will have a hard time finding the truth. We spoke to you10 about the long time it would take us to heal the wounds caused to Hungary. You said that we should expect a protracted partisan war in Hungary. But the Hungarian nation did not support them. The army put up no resistance either. Zhukov disarmed the army in two days, and occupied all its arsenals. The resistance lasted longest in Budapest. Just recently, on the anniversary of the liberation of Hungary11, the graves of fallen Red Army soldiers were visited by more people, and more wreaths were laid than at any time before. Our soldiers do not have any quarrel with the population. Kádár asked us to order party workers of the rank of colonel to Hungary, engineers as well as district and provincial party secretaries. We sent them there in army uniforms. They went to various factories. Kádár got better information from them than from his own people. Then he also asked for majors [sic!]. The economy is on the upswing, coal production is approaching the level before the uprising. On the first day of the uprising, when the rascals attacked the factories, the workers drove them out and defended the factories.

If Gerõ had been a man of character, all would have happened differently. But he failed. The Central Leadership fell apart. They themselves would never have committed such a thing. Imre Nagy, Donáth, Losonczy and some writers incited rebellion. After all, while the demonstration was going on,12 arms were being distributed at the same time. That was done by the Horthyists. Early on we supported Imre Nagy ourselves. We decided to smash the first group of rebels. Mikoyan phoned13 that Imre Nagy would not approve. He said a delegation of rebels had come to see him, and they had promised to capitulate. Then we decided not to start military action. And that Imre Nagy was a traitor. For this was already a sign of the great fire. Then we withdrew our troops from Budapest. Imre Nagy saved these counter-revolutionaries. He made an agreement with them, and he cheated us. They completely smashed the Central Leadership of the party. We have shots taken by Hungarian film cameramen in our possession which show the horrible acts done. It will be incomprehensible to the workers and the Communists if Imre Nagy is not sentenced. Not a single unit made up of workers or peasants fought against the Soviet troops.

Zhukov: The intellectuals fought.

Khr[ushchev]: Writers, journalists.

Je.dr[ychowski]: There were not that many writers there.

Khr[ushchev]: It was an organization. The point is not who is participating in person, only under whose leadership, and shouting what slogans he is acting. Kolchak14, too, had workers’ units and so had others. Ultimately it will be the decision of the Hungarians but this is how we think about it.

Adjourned until next day.

1 * The information was divulged by József Révai who, freshly back from Moscow in April 1957, did not feel obliged by HSWP party discipline, so he had no qualms about “spilling the beans” to
Willman. János Tischler: “Egy 1957. májusi követjelentés Budapestrõl” (An Envoy’s Report from Budapest in May 1957), Népszabadság, 13 February 1993.

2 * What Gomulka said was untrue: between 26 November, 1956 and 17 June 1958, no information was published about the members of the Imre Nagy Group either in the Hungarian or in the Polish press.

3 * About Imre Nagy, that is.

4 * Mikoyan was referring to the events in Poland in October 1956, as a result of which Gomulka ultimately became First Secretary of the PUWP.

5 * The German Social Democrat Gustav Noske was Germany’s Minister of War in 1919–1920.

6 * From this point on, Khrushchev was talking about the events of the first days of November 1956. First he mentioned the Soviet–Polish meeting of 1 November, then switched to describing the substance of the talks with Tito, Kardelj and Rankovic´ on the night of November 2 on Brioni Island. The meeting was also attended by Mic´unovic´, the Yugoslav ambassador to Moscow. On Khrushchev’s visit to Brioni Island, see also Veljko Mic´unovic´: Moscow Diary 1956–1958, London, Chatto & Windus, 1980.

7 * The afternoon of November 3.

8 * Between 1948 and 1956 Imre Horváth had served as head of mission in Berlin, Washington, London and Prague. From July 1956 he had been a member of the Central Leadership of the HWP. He was Foreign Minister from July 30, 1956 till November 2, then again from November 7 until 1958. He was a member of the CC of the HSWP from November 1956 to 1958.

9 * István Bata had been Chief of Staff starting with 1950, then Minister of Defence from 1953 to 27 October 1956. In 1953 he was elected member of the CL of the HWP and a junior member of the PC. On 28 October 1956 he fled to Moscow. He was able to return in September 1958, and became a workshop manager at the Budapest Transport Company.

10 * Khrushchev referred to at the Brest-Litovsk meeting of November 1, 1956, when he had informed the Polish delegation led by Gomulka about the imminent second intervention in Hungary.

11 * April 4.

12 * The reference is to the demonstration in Budapest on 23 October 1956.

13 * On the morning of 28 October 1956, Imre Nagy, meeting Andropov and Mikoyan at the Soviet embassy in Budapest, prevented a Soviet attack, heavier than any before, planned against the rebels. On the same day he ordered an immediate cease-fire, then, in a radio speech, declared the events of the previous days a national democratic movement and promised to meet the basic demands of the rebels.

14 * Admiral Alexander Kolchak was one of the leaders of the anti-Bolshevik forces during the Russian Civil War. In January 1920 he was captured by the Red Army, and shot on February 7 in Irkutsk.

Hungarian Quarterly, Spring 1997

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Copyright © 2000 National Széchényi Library 1956 Institute and Oral History Archive
Utolsó módosítás:  2006. szeptember 18. hétfő

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