The echoes in Romania of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution

the echoes in romania of the 1956 hungarian revolution On October 23rd 1956, Hungary started a heroic battle in Budapest to rid itself of the tyranny of the communist party.

Sixty years ago, on the 23rd of October 1956, Hungary began a heroic battle in Budapest to rid itself of the tyranny of its communist party supported by the Soviet occupiers. Initiated by the students and backed by the reformist leader Imre Nagy, what began as a peaceful demonstration turned into armed clashes when the Soviet Union sent its troops to squash Hungary's attempt to get away from Soviet control. In Romania, which was itself occupied by the Soviets who had instated a communist regime just like in Hungary, the street protests in Budapest found a response mainly among students. The students in the university cities of Timisoara, Cluj and Oradea, near the border with Hungary, as well as in Iasi and Bucharest, rallied in solidarity with their counterparts in the neighbouring country. However, the demonstrations in Romania were not as massive as those in Hungary because of the repressive regime in Romania and the absence of reformist leaders at the high levels of government. 

Nestor Badiceanu, a politician from Oradea, very close to the border with Hungary, told the Oral History Centre of the Romanian Radio Broadcasting Corporation about the events he witnessed in October 1956:

"The atmosphere in Oradea, whose ethnic Hungarian population accounted for 30% of the city's inhabitants, radios were turned up full blast, coming through the open windows. There was a state of euphoria. Oradea is close to the border so people were expecting for things to flare up here as well, for the phenomenon to become generalized. We had too much hope. I had just been to Lugoj and on my way to Lugoj and back I saw tanks being deployed on ramps from trains in every station. These tanks were bound for Hungary. Despite having many forces in Hungary, the Russians couldn't do much and had to deploy massive troops to deal with the Hungarian army, which they decapitated in a shameful manner. They called the minister of war for talks and then arrested him leaving the army without a leader."

Andrei Banc, who was a student at the Faculty of Journalism in Bucharest in 1956, remembers the reprisals against some of his colleagues:

"Most of the students arrested were from the schools of law and philosophy, not from Polytechnics or Constructions, which was normal in a way, because students there were indeed more into politics. Half of them were living in dorms, in campuses, because they were from other parts of the country. In general, the arrests were staged mainly in that environment. The rest, namely us who were from Bucharest, were somehow isolated from that. They were a compact mass and it was in that mass that problems started. It should be clear also that there were many informants there, that is students who would report on their fellow students. However, it was that situation, with many students living in dorms, boys separated from girls, that helped trigger the revolts of 1956. It wasn't much, just a light turmoil, because the political police, the Securitate, was pretty well informed by their infiltrators, in order to prevent an uprising like the one in Hungary."

The Romanian students' claims were related to material things, but that was not the main source of discontent. People felt the deep crisis they were in could be overcome had the country had a democratically elected leadership. Andrei Banc again:

"Claims weren't of a material nature. One of the first claims was that Russian language be taken out of the curricula. The claims were political, of general nature and not so anti-socialist like in Hungary. They were connected with what was already in the curricula, the wish for more freedom and more access to cultural traditions in Romania, to the foreign philosophy, which was very frowned upon and which we had access to only through the courses taught to us. We were taught that philosophy was hostile, to use the term they used back then, and we weren't allowed to read anything in the original. Nobody called at that time for ousting socialism or the communist party or for dismantling the Communist Youth Organization. We didn't have claims like in Hungary. If I am not mistaken there were some claims put up by the students in law for some amendments to the Constitution."

Professor Ion Agrigoroaie from the History Faculty of the Iasi University was also a student in 1956 and recollected what happened to his fellow students after showing solidarity with the Hungarian revolution.

 "In 1956 or at the beginning of the next year, following the Hungarian revolution, tension was very high. A younger colleague of mine was arrested in the campus for making a simple joke about the soviets and their occupation of Hungary. He spent 7 years in jail for that joke. We knew about what was going on in Hungary, although sometimes actions mounted by the revolutionaries there were labeled as acts of terrorism. We knew about Imre Nagy and that he was handed over to the soviets. It was difficult to get the right information at that time but, you know, I don't want to brag about my generation."

The 1956 revolution in Hungary rippled through Romania as well and thousands of students who participated in public rallies either got arrested or expelled. The second wave of communist reprisals started, and that was a sign that the communist regime could not be reformed.
Publicat: 2016-10-24 13:30:00
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