The world has long had an affair with the Suez Canal. So who’d care about the goings-on in Hungary compared with control of a key strategic shipping route through to what were shortly to become key OPEC countries?
We’re talking about the Suez Crisis, which was taking all the focus. So no-one took much notice of goings-on in Eastern Europe and sinister Russian activity in a revolution-torn Hungary. Sadly, Hungarian Prime Minister Imre Nagy bore the consequences of this mass-international disinterest.
Left a bit
It was the mid-1950s and Hungary was in turmoil – it was trying to worm its way out of Stalinist control. Following the Second World War, Russia had taken control of Hungary, and Stalin was an overwhelming presence. Indeed many of the Eastern Bloc countries had signed the ‘friendly’ Warsaw Pact of 1955.
However, unfortunately, Hungary was not happy under the Communist dictatorship. Cue Nagy, who was an altogether softer socialist, who believed that Marx’s theories should be allowed to evolve. After having served in the government, he was eventually made Prime Minister, twice no less, so the Hungarians obviously supported him. Yet they were wholly against Russian control and dissension was beginning to mount.
During his second office, the animosity culminated in an anti-Soviet uprising and, sensing the political mood of his country, Nagy was quick to encourage a multi-party government and withdraw Hungary from the Pact in 1956.
It was at this point in his career that he appealed to the likes of Britain and the US via the United Nations, neither of which could be doing with such a problem, as their focus was elsewhere.
With no heavy-weight back-up, Nagy was forced to seek refuge in the Yugoslav Embassy, but not for long. The Russians eventually caught up with him and he was sent to trial secretly. There they accused him of treason – of trying to overthrow the ‘democratic state’.
Gone but not forgotten
Nagy was hanged aged 52, following the most dodgy of trials, but his legacy remains – his beliefs were published in a book entitled ‘Imre Nagy on Communism’.
Sadly he was even denied a proper burial and no tribute was erected in Hungary. However the Parisians honoured him and eventually in 1989, Nagy was reburied in Budapest – his body now rests at Heroes Square as befits a man who marked such an important part of Hungarian history.