Russian Invasion of Ukraine Fits the Pattern

Posted on March 24, 2022 by Martin Oaks under Community, Hello world, Resources
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The 5:20 a.m. radio announcement was just one-half minute long.  But the chilling content of that broadcast has echoed through history and has never been more pertinent.

These are the grim words that went out over the air:  “This is Imre Nagy speaking, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Hungarian People’s Republic.  Today at daybreak, Soviet troops attacked our capitol with the obvious intention of overthrowing the legal Hungarian democratic government.  Our troops are in combat.  The government is at its post.  I notify the people of our country and the entire world of this fact.”

The date was November 4, 1956.  Nagy was not destined to remain free for long.  He was captured, extensively tortured, and hanged.  His body was buried in a prison grave.

Over the course of twelve days after that radio broadcast, thousands of Russian troops, equipped with a sea of menacing tanks, murdered 2,500 Hungarians and wounded 20,000 more.  An additional 26,000 were arrested, more than half of whom were imprisoned.  200,000 refugees fled the country.

The event that sparked the genocide in Hungary was the death of Russian leader Joseph Stalin on March 5, 1953.

Stalin was one of the most prolific mass murderers in history:  scholars have argued for years about the exact number of people he killed, but it is in the tens of millions.  Nobel prize-winning Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn placed the number at sixty million.

Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, denounced his predecessor’s harsh tactics in a speech given only to party insiders in February, 1956.  When word of the speech leaked, the people of Eastern Europe under Soviet domination took this as a clear signal that transformations were on the way.

When the hardline policies were not quickly removed, the citizens of Poland and Hungary began demonstrating.  Brazenly, they demanded more freedom.

The breaking point was reached in Hungary in the fall of 1956.  More than 200,000 took to Budapest’s streets in full-fledged opposition.  A thirty-foot statue of Stalin was dismantled — it was a defiant gesture emblematic of the spirit of the moment.

A few days later, a new government was formed under the leadership of Nagy.  Although he was a Communist, Nagy was not in favor of Soviet-style repression.  For a short period, it appeared that Khrushchev would negotiate a settlement with the new regime; Hungarians believed that they were about to shed the Russian yoke.

Hope was crushed when Khrushchev reversed course at dawn on November 4th.  The Soviets unleashed a horrific assault that completely crushed the short-lived uprising.

Hungarians pled for help from the West, but none was forthcoming.  America and its allies would not risk a toe-to-toe super-power nuclear exchange with Russia.

As President Dwight Eisenhower wrote in his memoirs: “The United States did the only thing it could: we readied ourselves…to help the refugees fleeing from the criminal action of the Soviets, and did everything possible to condemn the aggression.”

As there were no social media or twenty-four hour television stations, the images of the Hungarian conflict did not have the real-time, bloodcurdling impact on the world that the Ukrainian invasion has had today.  But, history has recorded accounts that captured the barbarity of the onslaught.

William Matthews was one of three CIA agents assigned to Vienna, Austria during the revolt.  He and his team staged their operations in the Vienna Woods to monitor the siege.  At 2,930 feet, the Woods provided enough elevation to allow the agents to listen to radio transmissions in Hungary.

“Their broadcasts constantly asked for ‘Help, help, help’ in both Hungarian and English,” Matthews remembered.  “No help came.  When the Soviets cracked down, it was lights out for those broadcasts.  In the last hours of the revolution, we could literally hear the Russians battering down the doors of the stations and the defenders being shot at their posts.”

Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty was granted political asylum at the American Embassy in Budapest during this time.  In his autobiography, he discussed the uprising and the frustration Hungarians felt about the lack of outside help.

“The Hungarian armed forces offered resistance, but had no leadership,” Mindszenty wrote. “Gradually, the silence of a graveyard descended upon Budapest.  Hundreds of dead and wounded lay in the streets…the solidarity of the western world with my fighting nation was beyond all doubt and was expressed in magnificent words: but we were bitterly conscious that our cries for help met with no response in deeds.”

The Hungarian revolution foreshadowed what was to come in Czechoslovakia, Chechnya, and now, Ukraine.  These acts of hegemony have been a persistent pattern, no matter who was in the leadership role at the Kremlin.

President Eisenhower said it best: “We face a hostile ideology – global in scope…ruthless in purpose and insidious in method.  Unhappily, the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration.”

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