November 4, 1956 - The Day The Cold War Froze


(Budapest on November 4 - Waking up to smell the sulfur)

Just when the world thought the Cold War wasn't going to get any colder, this happens. Only twelve days earlier, Hungary went through something of an upheaval with anti-Soviet riots springing up all over the country and a return to power of Imre Nagy (pronounced: Imray Nahj), the moderate who was ousted by pro-Soviet Premier Andras Hegedus in 1955.

So on the morning of November 4th, 1956 when you fell out of bed, it sounded like this:

Bob Pfeiffer (CBS News announcer): “ The latest word from Budapest is that Soviet armored forces seized Budapest in a surprise attack today and captured the government of Premier Imre Nagy. According to communications from Vienna the last words at 8:24 am from the . . .one of the news bureaus in Vienna was – ‘we shall leave our post, we shall leave our post’, according to the Budapest operator ‘goodbye friends, goodbye friends. God save our souls, the Russians are too near’. And then the line from Budapest went dead. Repeating – the Soviet armored forces seized Budapest in a surprise attack today and captured the government of Premier Imre Nagy.”

The Russian army quickly captured Budapest and within days the revolt was crushed and the pro-Soviet hardline regime of Janos Kadar was installed. Hungary would slip back into the Soviet Bloc and not really re-emerge until the collapse of the Soviet Union some 30 years later.

At the time the situation was worrisome as it came hot on the heels of a number of violent clashes in 1956 - the Suez Canal crisis, the Algerian conflict and the anti-communist riots in Poland. It also came at a time when Russia, under the leadership of Nikita Khruschev, was denouncing the Stalin regime and the hope was the new leadership would reflect a moderation on the hardline policies of the past.

No such luck.

Oh . . .the fabulous fifties.

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