Hungary and international politics in the mid-1950s (Csaba Békés)
Hungary and the Soviet bloc

The Soviet Union (János M. Rainer)
Yugoslavia (Zoltán Ripp)
Poland (János Tischler)
China (Péter Vámos)
Romania (Stefano Bottoni)
Czechoslovakia (István Janek)
China (Péter Vámos)
Romania (Stefano Bottoni)
Czechoslovakia (István Janek)

Hungary and the West
Austria (Lajos Gecsényi)
United States (Csaba Békés)
Italy (Katalin Somlai)
United Kingdom (Csaba Békés)
France (Gusztáv D. Kecskés)
The two Germanies (Mihály Ruff)


Chronology (András Kiss)
Bibliography (László Győri)
 List of abbreviations
 Index of names

It has long been known that the revolution which broke out in October 1956 gave Hungary a special role in world politics. But it is less well known, even among historians, that marked changes had occurred in Hungarian foreign policy between January and October 1956, with the full consent of Soviet foreign policy at the time and in full accord with its intentions. Yet based on the latest researches, it is clear that there was a fundamental anti-Stalinist change during those months in Hungarian foreign-policy thinking and in the direction of foreign policy. The process of reassessment and opening that began at the time included formulating all the basic principles that would set the course of the country's foreign relations from the beginning of the 1960s. This meant Hungary, as a loyal ally of the Soviet Union, had to play an active part in developing cooperation in the Soviet bloc, shaping East-West relations, and speeding communist expansion in the Third World.

That change of foreign-policy course had had several positive consequences by October 1956, but the significance of these faded in historical memory after the revolution. Examples were the lifting of the technical barrier, the Iron Curtain, along the Austrian border, the Hungarian-Yugoslav rapprochement, easing of travel restrictions to the West, establishing diplomatic relations with Greece, a NATO member, and conclusion of the Hungarian-British financial agreement, as a result of negotiations since 1953.

 The authors of this book are all notable researchers into the subject. Their studies have been prepared according to a uniform editorial concept. This included debating the authors' debating their studies at two workshop meetings, so that the book can be considered the result of real historical workshop activity, gaining its impetus from concerted work of staff of five Hungarian scholarly institutions: the 1956 Institute, the Hungarian National Archives, the History Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Political History, and the Teleki Institute. The studies, covering 13 bilateral relations, are each divided into two parts. The first covers the bilateral events of 1956 and the antecedents to them, in most cases from 1953. The second part concerns the country's reactions to the Hungarian Revolution and bilateral relations during the revolution (if any), along with the local effects and perceptions of the Hungarian events, in general over the 1957-8 period, but in some cases continuing to the early 1960s.

This makes the volume the first scholarly enterprise to give, based on the latest researches, a comprehensive picture of the change in Hungarian foreign policy that commenced in the mid-1950s. It presents and analyses according to a uniform concept the processes of evolution that broke out after 1953 and the international consequences of the abnormal situation that arose after the 1956 Revolution. It is hoped that the convincing and startling results of the new approach to the subject and the very intensive workshop activity that began hardly a year ago will give new impetus to Hungarian researches into the history of the Cold War. The book will also fulfill a need in higher education and hopefully be noticed by a broader readership as well. Also important as research aids are the book's detailed chronology ("Hungary's international relations, 1953-1958") and bibliography.

I owe a debt of gratitude first of all to the authors, whose contributions have taken fully into account the jointly accepted concept of the book. I am especially grateful to Gyöngyvér Török and Klára Nácsa, who did excellent editing work under far from ordinary conditions, to ensure that the volume appeared on time. Here let me also express thanks to the heads of the 1956 Institute and of publishers Gondolat Kiadó, whose efficient cooperation contributed to the successful publication of the book.

Csaba Békés


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Last updated:  Friday, 29-February-2008

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