Soviet occupation of Hungary
The Soviet occupation of Hungary followed the defeat of Hungary in World War II.
World War II
In July 1941, the Kingdom of Hungary, a member of Tripartite Pact, took part in Operation Barbarossa, in alliance with Nazi Germany. Hungarian forces fought shoulder to shoulder with the Wehrmacht, and advanced through Soviet Ukraine, deep into Russia, all the way to Stalingrad. By 1943–1944, the tide of the war had turned. The Red Army regained the pre-war Soviet territory, and advanced westward from its borders to defeat Germany and its allies.
It was in the context of these events that the Budapest Offensive took place in September 1944. As the Hungarian army ignored the armistice with the USSR (signed by the government of Miklós Horthy on October 15, 1944), the Soviets fought against the Hungarian troops and their German allies, capturing the capital on February 13, 1945, and continuing military operations until April 4, 1945 when the last German forces and the part of Hungarian troops that chose to stay loyal to Germans, despite another armistice (signed by the government of Ferenc Szálasi), were routed.
Post-war Soviet policies
The Soviets made sure that a post-war government dominated by Communists was installed in the country before transferring authority from the occupational force to the Hungarians.
In elections held in November 1945, the Independent Smallholders' Party won 57 percent of the vote. The Hungarian Communist Party, under the leadership of Mátyás Rákosi and Ernő Gerő, received support from only 17 percent of the population. The Soviet commander in Hungary, Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, refused to allow the Smallholders Party to form a government. Instead, Voroshilov established a coalition government with the Communists holding some of the key posts. Later, Mátyás Rákosi boasted that he had dealt with his partners in the government one by one, "cutting them off like slices of salami." The Hungarian monarchy was formally abolished on February 1, 1946, and replaced by the Republic of Hungary. The gradual takeover by the Communists was completed on August 18, 1949, when Hungary became the People's Republic of Hungary.
The presence of Soviet troops in Hungary was formalized by the 1949 mutual assistance treaty, which granted the Soviet Union rights to a continued military presence, assuring ultimate political control. The Soviet forces in Hungary were part of the so-called Central Group of Forces headquartered in Baden, near Vienna.
The Hungarian Revolution of 1956
The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was a spontaneous nationwide revolt against the Communist government of Hungary and its Soviet-imposed policies. After announcing their willingness to negotiate the withdrawal of Soviet forces, the Soviet Politburo changed its mind and moved to crush the revolution. On November 4, 1956, a large joint military force of the Warsaw Pact, led by Moscow, entered Budapest to crush the armed resistance.
The Soviet intervention, codenamed "Operation Whirlwind", was launched by Marshal Ivan Konev. The five Soviet divisions stationed in Hungary before October 23 were augmented to a total strength of 17 divisions. The 8th Mechanized Army under command of Lieutenant General Hamazasp Babadzhanian and the 38th Army under command of Lieutenant General Hadzhi-Umar Mamsurov from the nearby Carpathian Military District were deployed to Hungary for the operation.
At 3:00 a.m. on November 4, Soviet tanks penetrated Budapest along the Pest side of the Danube in two thrusts—one from the south, and one from the north—thus splitting the city in half. Armored units crossed into Buda, and at 4:25 a.m. fired the first shots at the army barracks on Budaõrsi road. Soon after, Soviet artillery and tank fire was heard in all districts of Budapest. Operation Whirlwind combined air strikes, artillery, and the coordinated tank-infantry action of 17 divisions. By 8:00 am organised defence of the city evaporated after the radio station was seized, and many defenders fell back to fortified positions. Hungarian civilians bore the brunt of the fighting, and it was often impossible for Soviet troops to differentiate military from civilian targets. For this reason, Soviet tanks often crept along main roads firing indiscriminately into buildings. Hungarian resistance was strongest in the industrial areas of Budapest, which were heavily targeted by Soviet artillery and air strikes. The last pocket of resistance called for ceasefire on 10 November. Over 2,500 Hungarians and 722 Soviet troops had been killed and thousands more were wounded.
After the Hungarian Revolution
The crushing of the Hungarian Revolution strengthened Soviet control over the Eastern Bloc. The Soviets had Imre Nagy replaced as Prime Minister of Hungary with János Kádár, the leader of the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party. Nagy, with a few others, was given sanctuary in the Yugoslav Embassy. In spite of a written safe conduct of free passage by János Kádár, on 22 November 1956, Nagy was arrested by the Soviet forces as he was leaving the Yugoslav Embassy, and taken to Snagov, Romania. Subsequently, the Soviets returned him to Hungary, where he was secretly charged with organizing to overthrow the Hungarian people's democratic state and with treason. Nagy was secretly tried, found guilty, sentenced to death and executed by hanging in June 1958. According to Fedor Burlatsky, a Kremlin insider, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had Nagy executed, "as a lesson to all other leaders in socialist countries."
The end of Soviet military presence
In the wake of the Revolutions of 1989, the Soviet troops - the Southern Group of Forces - started leaving Hungary. By July 1990, some 15,000 Soviet soldiers and their dependents had left, taking about 60,000 of the 560,000 tons of equipment they had stored there. There were 5,750 buildings left on the 60 army camps and 10 air bases maintained by the Soviet Army in Hungary. The Soviets reportedly asked for 50 billion forints (some 800 million US dollars at the time), as compensation for the "Soviet investment" in Hungary; the then-commander of Soviet troops in Hungary, Col. Gen. Matvei Burlakov (succeeded by Lt. Gen. Shilov), said that the troop withdrawals may be held up if the Hungarians refused to pay.
The remaining 40,000 Soviet troops left Hungary, starting in March 1990, with the last leaving on June 19, 1991.
- UN General Assembly Special Committee on the Problem of Hungary (1957) PDF (1.47 MiB)
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- United States Department of State, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, 2007: Background Note: Hungary