In 1944 and 1945 the Red Army drove across Eastern Europe in
its fight against the Nazis. After the war, Stalin was determined that
the USSR would control Eastern Europe. That way, Germany or any other
state would not be able to use countries like Hungary or Poland as a staging
post to invade. His policy was simple.
- Each Eastern European state had a Communist government loyal to the
- Each state's economy was tied to the economy of the USSR.
- If Communist control was threatened, each state could use its own
army or secret police, or call on the Red Army for help.
- The Warsaw Pact of 1955 bound all of the Eastern European states closely
to the USSR.
Stalin died in 1953 and by 1955 a new policy seemed to be developing.
The new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev seemed to want better relations
with the West and reform in the USSR. In Eastern Europe, they hoped for
less tight Soviet control. In 1956 Khrushchev gave various concessions
The events in Poland gave hope to Hungary. Hungarians were fed up with
many aspects of Communist rule. However, the main reason they began protesting
in October 1956 was probably to do with their national pride. They resented
the increasing number of Russian officials, advisers, security officers
and technical experts who they felt were taking over their country. Protests
began in the summer of 1956 but by October the Moscow backed Hungarian
leaders were pushed out and the popular Imre Nagy took over. He brought
in a series of radical policies. The most radical of all was his plan
to make Hungary a neutral state and pull out of the Warsaw Pact. This
was too much for Soviet leader Khrushchev who sent in tanks and troops
to crush the revolt. It was bloody and brutal, with thousands of casualties.
The Western powers protested, but they knew they could do little to help
Hungary in what was the USSR's 'back yard'.