Not a BUDAful place to be

In the fall of 2016, I had the privilege of visiting Budapest, Hungary while I was studying abroad. When I was there, I went to a museum called the House of Terror. Little did I know, that the Museum would open my eyes to a part of history I was never taught. The building is a replica of the headquarters of the Nazi Party during their occupation and then the Soviet headquarters as well. They made this museum to remember of victims of these two bloody regimes. But let’s focus on the Soviet side.

The Hungarians were a little optimistic after the Nazis left but once the Soviets “tracked down and forcibly sent away anyone considered to be a threat to the implementation of the Communist system, including ex-prime ministers, ministers, members of parliament, ambassadors, army officers, priests and teachers, [they] also took those young men and women who were capable of working, the majority of whom were not even yet 20 years old” (House of Terror). In all, 600,000 Hungarians were sent to the Gulags with 300,000 never returning. The hunt for “possible threats” lasted for years and then the Hungarian people finally got fed up and started an uprising in 1956.

Hungary was already opposed to the ruling Communist party and the Catholic church lead an opposition that was supported by the general public. The new communist order threw away the old values and morals of the Hungarian society. “They persecuted religion; the leaders of the party, Stalin and Rákosi, replaced God and everyone had to worship them.  Patriotism was forbidden; they expected Hungarian people to identify themselves with the goals and interests of the Soviet Union” (House of Terror) Children were supposed to turn in their family members who did not follow the ways of the Communist party and were held up as models. The regime was one run by fear and terror.

The uprising’s catalyst was Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin speech. The uprising started in June 1965, “when workers in the Polish city of Poznan demonstrated against cuts in wages and the insensitivity of local authorities to their grievances” (Siegelbaum). Wladyslaw Gomulka was then elected as first secretary and contained the popular discontent until October. In October, university students gathered in Budapest’s center to commemorate “poet Sandor Petofi, sing nationalist songs, and demand greater freedom of expression. Their demonstration turned militant. The printing plant of the party’s newspaper was sacked, and shots were fired in the streets” (Siegelbaum). For a month, the Soviets tried to regain control over Hungary but they were forced to send in additional troops and caused the biggest crisis in the Warsaw Pact until Czechoslovakia in 1968. Forgive the long quote but “Around 20,000 people were wounded, more than 2500 died, 2000 of whom were from Budapest. Approximately 200,000 people were forced to leave their homeland. In the first few days of November, the Soviet authorities caught around 5000 people, of whom 860, including young children, were sent by the KGB to the Soviet Union as prisoners of war.  Around 300-450 people died in volleys.  On the basis of instructions given by Soviet advisors, around 15,000 people were sentenced in Hungary, and 229 people were executed.” (House of Terror) All because they didn’t want to live under communism anymore.

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What happened after the uprising, is exactly what took place before. Hungarians living in constant fear and terror that they will be tortured and killed, or their family will be, or their family will turn them in. The worst fact that I read while I was at this museum was that the last POW was returned to Hungary in the early 2000s. Almost a decade after the wall fell. What happened to these people was horrific and I have only scratched the surface. If you want to learn more about what happened to the Hungarian people under two bloody regimes visit where you can explore every exhibit virtually.

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“House of Terror Museum.” Terror Háza Múzeum,

Siegelbaum, Lewis. “Hungarian Crisis.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 21 May 2017,


6 thoughts on “Not a BUDAful place to be

  1. I think it’s awesome that you got to visit this and then now learning the history behind it! Your post is great. Phil also wrote a post about the Gulags, you should check it out! It shows the horror inside the prisoner camps. I like that you pointed out the catalyst, which was Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin’s speech. This was a very important moment in history and set the stage for many events. It is disappointing to see Hungarians revolting, yet ending up at the same place of fear and terror in the end.
    I also loved you added a link to learn more about the Hungarian people – definitely need to check it out!


  2. I really liked how you used your experience visiting Hungary in your blog post. I’ve written how the Orthodox church has mobilized soviet people, and I think the soviets recognized the power of the Church and therefore, looked to oppress the Catholic church as well. Were the soviets attempted to silence the commemoration of Sandor Petofi and that’s why it turned violent? Very interesting post!


  3. I agree with Nhi — it’s so cool that you wrote about a place you visited, and were able to incorporate that perspective into your post. And I love the title! Do check back on a couple things, though: The first is minor – Khrushchev’s speech denouncing Stalin is in 1956 (not 1965). It would also be worth thinking about the way history is presented at the “terror house” and considering other perspectives. Finally check back on the “why” the Soviets crushed the 1956 rebellion so brutally. It’s much less about religion and more about the Hungarians’ decision to leave the Warsaw Pact (the military alliance that served the Soviets) and bring non-comminists into the government.


  4. I like the topic you posted on a lot. You focused on something that didn’t directly impact the Russians which was a nice change of pace, and it’s pretty cool that you got to visit Hungary on your study abroad. I found it interesting that the Catholic church was so instrumental in creating resistance against Soviet influence. I wonder if this could garnished enough support from the Catholic community abroad to send help and aid to Hungary, but it seemingly did not.


  5. It is very cool that you incorporated what you learned abroad in this post! What always fascinates me about the ’56 rebellion is the Warsaw Pact, while used to deter the West, was used to suppress one of its members who wanted to leave. We will see that repeated a few more times before this class ends. Good post!


  6. Claire, I was impressed with how much detail and background you had in your piece. I also thought your personal connection to and experience in Budapest was really cool! I really enjoyed your post because I think often it is easy to get sucked into the details of the war without really considering what happened after the war to places other than the main countries involved. You mention how children were supposed to turn in family members who were not committed to the Communist agenda, which sounds extremely difficult, it makes me wonder how often it really took place.


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