The Soviet air force has bombed part of the Hungarian capital, Budapest, and Russian troops have poured into the city in a massive dawn offensive.
At least 1,000 Soviet tanks are reported to have entered Budapest and troops deployed throughout the country are battling with Hungarian forces for strategic positions.
The Soviet invasion is a response to the national uprising led by Prime Minister Imre Nagy, who has promised the Hungarian people independence and political freedom.
Mr Nagy’s anti-Soviet policies, which include withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact, have been worrying Eastern Bloc countries and Moscow has demanded his government’s capitulation.
Foto: Svenska Dagbladet
Appeal to the West
News of the attack came at 0515 local time on Radio Budapest in an urgent appeal by Mr Nagy himself for help from the West.
Despite an apparent withdrawal only last week, Soviet troops deployed outside Budapest swept back into the capital with Russian and Romanian reinforcements between 0400 and 0800 local time.
The Times newspaper reports that artillery units pounded Budapest from the surrounding hills as Soviet MIG fighters bombarded the capital from the air.
Sources say Soviet infantry units stormed the Parliament building, a key strategic and symbolic target, early this morning.
Reports that Mr Nagy and other members of his cabinet were captured in the attack have not been confirmed.
But in an unscheduled newscast on Moscow radio shortly after 1200GMT, Russia claimed to have ”crushed the forces of reactionary conspiracy against the Hungarian people”.
Despite Moscow’s claims, heavy fighting is reported to be continuing throughout the country for key installations such as railway stations and major bridges across the River Danube.
Moscow is now backing a new breakaway Hungarian government led by János Kádár, whose stated purpose is to destroy Mr Nagy’s ”counter-revolution”.
The ”de-stalinisation” process initiated by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave Soviet satellite countries like Poland and Hungary new hope of democratic freedom. This prompted mass anti-Soviet demonstrations in October 1956.
In Hungary the protests became a full-scale revolt. Ordinary Hungarians battled with Soviet troops and the hated state security police.
Thousands of political prisoners were freed and the Central Committee elected the popular Imre Nagy as prime minister. He began to dismantle the one-party state.
Encouraged by an apparent promise of help, Nagy appealed to the UN and Western governments for protection. But with the Suez crisis in full swing and no real appetite for fighting the USSR over a crisis in Eastern Europe, the West did not respond. West did not respond!
The Soviet military’s response was swift and devastating. Some 30,000 people were killed in Budapest alone and about 200,000 Hungarians sought political asylum in the West.
Over the next five years, thousands were executed or imprisoned under János Kádár’s puppet regime.
Nagy and others involved in the revolution were secretly tried and executed in June 1958.
1956: Hungarians rise up against Soviet rule
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Hungary to demand an end to Soviet rule.
There are believed to have been many casualties in a day which started as a peaceful rally, and ended with running battles between police and demonstrators in which shots are said to have been fired.
The demonstrators are demanding that the former Prime Minister, Imre Nagy, be returned to power.
Mr Nagy was dismissed last year for his liberal policies, but has since been rehabilitated and was re-admitted to the Hungarian Workers’ Party this month.
Other demands include free elections, freedom of the press, and a withdrawal of Soviet troops.
Declaration of independence
The uprising began as a rally in central Budapest, to express solidarity with Polish demonstrators who have recently succeeded in getting their deposed liberal leader, Wladyslaw Gomulka, returned to power.
The gathering turned into a mass demonstration for a similar Hungarian ”declaration of independence” from Moscow’s control.
As more and more people joined the demonstration, the First Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party, Ernő Gerő, made an unscheduled radio announcement, describing as ”lies and rumours” reports that Hungary wanted to loosen its ties with the Soviet Union.
Mr Gerő is known for his hardline views, and tensions in Hungary have been high since he was appointed in July.
Immediately after the broadcast, the crowd marched on the broadcasting station.
The gathering was peaceful at first, but the crowd became restless and tried to force their way in.
They were driven back by security forces with tear gas and responded by throwing stones at the windows. One group drove a heavy lorry at the front door in an attempt to break it open.
The incident marked the start of an escalation of violence.
A running battle began to clear the crowd away from the building, while clashes between demonstrators and armed police broke out elsewhere in the city.
When the crowds refused to disperse despite police opening fire on them, Mr Gerő ordered Soviet tanks onto the streets.
The demonstrators, however, are showing no signs of giving up their protest, which is continuing into the night.
The Hungarian Communist Party met the same night in emergency session and re-instated Imre Nagy as prime minister.
Soviet tanks were still on the streets, however, and the uprising continued.
On 25 October, tanks opened fire on a crowd in Parliament Square at point-blank range.
Hundreds died and were wounded, and the Communist Party was so shocked by the incident that it sacked Ernő Gerő, replacing him with János Kádár.
Soviet troops began pulling out of the Hungarian capital on 30 October. Mr Nagy formed a government which was dedicated to lifting the shackles of Soviet communism.
By 4 November, the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, sent in the tanks in a ruthless crackdown in which thousands died and another 200,000 fled the country.
Mr Nagy promised free elections and a return to the multi-party system. He also announced Hungary’s withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact.
However, he was betrayed by Janos Kádár and the Soviet tanks returned on 4 November.
Imre Nagy took refuge in the Yugoslav embassy but was abducted by Soviet agents. He was executed in 1958 after a secret trial in Budapest in which he was accused of high treason. His body was dumped face down in an unmarked grave in the Kozma Street Cemetery and his relatives were harassed by police whenever they went to lay flowers.
The new Prime Minister of Hungary, Imre Nagy, is appealing for calm as fighting between demonstrators and the Soviet Army enters its third day.
The fighting is worst in the capital, Budapest. Estimates of the number of dead vary from 2,000 to 5,000. Bodies still lie in the streets where they have fallen in what is already being called the Hungarian October Revolution.
The rebellion is reported to have spread into the eastern half of the country and towns like Debrecen, Miskolc, Szeged and Tatabanya.
Mr Nagy was dismissed last year for his liberal policies, but has since been re-admitted to the Hungarian Workers’ Party.
Two days ago, the Central Committee of the Communist Party reinstated him as prime minister in an attempt to pacify the Hungarian protesters and end the uprising.
He has promised to meet the demonstrators’ demands for economic reforms and the withdrawal of Soviet troops and tanks.
The trouble began with a rally in the capital, Budapest on Tuesday (23 October). About 100,000 students and workers took to the streets of the capital carrying pro-democracy banners.
Police moved in and began firing at the crowds. When they refused to disperse, Ernő Gerő, First Secretary of the Hungarian Workers’ Party, ordered Soviet tanks onto the streets.
Reports received by the British Foreign Office say the tanks fired into the crowds at point blank range, causing hundreds of casualties. But the unarmed protesters refused to give way and eventually the tanks were forced to pull back.
The appointment in July of hardline Mr Gerő increased tension in a country desperate to breakaway from its Stalinist past and adopt its own path to socialism.
One of the first western journalists to visit Budapest since the uprising has said clashes are continuing in the working-class district of Csepel and Soroksár. The Soviets are shooting into houses, the journalist said.
He said the Soviet headquarters in the Hotel Astoria were ”all shot up”.
Electricity, gas and water supplies are still functioning. A ban on alcohol is strictly enforced and people are queuing for bread.
Mr Nagy has issued an amnesty to all rebels who lay down their arms by 2200 local time. He has urged workers and party members to ”liquidate all enemies” found with weapons after that hour.
Regular appeals for quiet and order are being broadcast. People have been warned – on pain of being shot – against being in the streets of the city between 1100 and 1600 local time.
Reports on 30 October said Soviet troops were beginning to pull out of the Hungarian capital and negotiations would begin shortly for their complete withdrawal from Hungary.
Mr Kádár took control and ruled for the next 30 years.
He began by waging war on what he saw as the ”counter-revolutionaries” and up to 200,000 Hungarians fled.
Later he adopted a more relaxed approach and allowed some private initiative with the result Hungary became one of the only Communist countries self-sufficient in food. However, industry suffered and eventually led to the creation of an opposition movement and the ousting of Mr Kádár in 1989.
Hungary remained under Soviet control until the collapse of communism in 1989. Soviet troops finally withdrew from Hungary in 1991.
In 1989, year, 31 years after his execution, Mr Nagy was officially rehabilitated and declared the victim of a show trial and his body officially reburied with full honours.