Even though Budapest is now seeing a revival and year by year is getting rid of its shabby past, renovation is not that quick so even in the center – around Andrássy Avenue and in the Jewish quarter – you still can spot some bullet holes – the reminders of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising.
To make a long story short, Hungarians dreamed of toppling their Soviet backed government since the very end of WW2. The country had quite a Stalin-style regime with repressions. On October 23, 1956 hundreds thousands of young men took it to the street to support Polish workers arrested on a riot in Poznan. They sang Hungarian songs, read Petőfi Sándor poems about freedom and everything looked like street celebrations. They were joined by passers by and soldiers, banners were made on the spot saying Russians, go home and Free Hungary. The symbol of the protest was a Hungarian banner with a hole – they cut out the Soviet hammer and sickle. By night, some 200,000 people were outside.
The head of the communist party Ernő Gerő called the protesters fascist hooligans in his radio address, called for immediate surrender and really offended the crowds that rushed to the Radio City Hall and faced fire.
That’s how the 12-day armed uprising began when even teens and women took guns and the Soviet managed to suppress it only with the help of tanks that were resisted by barricades of piled trams. The streets were packed with corpses. Then the Soviets replaced Gerő with liberal Imre Nagy and people had an illusion that the revolution won. Imre opened the border with Austria and 200,000 people managed to flee. But Soviet tanks were back on November 4 with the Red Army – Budapest saw the bloody suppression of the riot, thousands were arrested and 350 executed.