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The 1956 Revolution in the international press of the time. A selection. (Hungarian)
Edited by János TischlerBook and cover designs by István Molnár IscsuBudapest: 1956 Institute, 2006

Editor’s foreword

Compiling a comprehensive selection of material about the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and War of Liberation in the international press of the time is a seemingly easy task that turns out to be extremely difficult. This, like every selection, is clearly a subjective one. The main difficulty in coping with the abundance of material is deciding what to leave out. It is like choosing a world-beating national soccer team when there are three team’s worth of outstanding players available.

But a well-chosen and interesting selection is also a guarantee that the author (hopefully) will provide readers with exciting and instructive reading.

I strove when compiling the volume, to show as a drop in the ocean, the variety of writing about Hungary that appeared in the international press of 1956, ranging for instance from initially slight Western interest to articles on the revolution that would sometimes spread over several pages.

Altogether 27 daily newspapers from 10 countries are represented, with the Americans to the fore. As an addition, comes the interview with Prime Minister Nagy made at the beginning of November 1956 by the Giornale d’Italia. I confined myself to dailies, so that the press can be followed day by day. Apart from the Western papers, a good many from communist countries also appear, in a dual role. They put forward the official state position of the majority nation, but they also address an ethnic minority: the Hungarian-language papers of Romania and Czechoslovakia, and the curiously placed Hungarian-language paper of Yugoslavia, which was in a unique situation at that time. I think that completes the review.

With such variety and such differing journalistic styles and traditions before me, I did not want to sacrifice historical authenticity by imposing any kind of uniform character on the materials. I simply erected broader frames into which all the organs of the press would fit.

The book proceeds chronologically. Each chapter covers a day’s writings on the revolution, with the papers arranged in a consciously chosen order. The first and last chapters are exceptional in covering longer periods. The first offers a kind of guide up to October 23, 1956, and the final chapter covers the weeks after the defeat, up to the beginning of December, including, among other things, reports on the Hungarian refugees.

I have also tried to vary the genres: news agency reports alternate with fresh reports from correspondents at the scene, editorial conclusions, longer and shorter background analyses, and even readers’ letters. However an author has signed his or her work, I have followed that style.

My underlying principle has been to show what sort of general picture of the Hungarian revolution was presented half a century ago to American, British, French, German, Swiss, Yugoslav, or Soviet (Russian), Polish, Czechoslovak and Romanian readers, and so what they could have known of the events taking place along the Danube. Another essential criteria was to be able to follow what domestic political, or possibly foreign-policy reactions to the Hungarian Revolution there were in each country (including solidarity with the Hungarians’ struggle for freedom and protests against the Soviet aggression). Starting from all these, I have not annotated the texts, so as not to interfere with their line of thought or momentum, but I must draw attention to the fact that inaccuracies or mistakes occur even in the best-intentioned pieces and that some of the ostensibly eye-witness accounts are unfounded or obvious exaggerations. For it should not be forgotten that few of the reporters arriving from the West—commonly via Vienna, or direct from there—were familiar with the territory, let alone the language, and the vast majority had to rely on sometimes uncertain verbal reports or not infrequently superficial experiences of their own, at a time when the situation in Hungary was changing very rapidly. (I have omitted the expressly sensationalist Western press.) Nor have I mentioned yet the tendentious writings that appeared in the communist press (except in Poland). I have corrected the errors in the names of Hungarian persons, places, streets, organizations, political parties, newspapers or periodicals, and of spelling in the Hungarian-language press, but I have made no corrections or additions to the content.

Some correspondents are represented by several reports, so that a more thorough view of their activity in Hungary becomes available. Also included, for interest’s sake, are articles analysing the effect of the Hungarian Revolution on third countries, for instance contributions to the American press on Austria, Yugoslavia, Romania and its Hungarian minority, or the German Democratic Republic, West Germany, and so on.

The book is the outcome of almost two years’ devoted teamwork. I would like to express thanks to all who have contributed to the publication of this book, as collectors of material, translators, transcribers, copy editors, proofreaders, or designers.

With this publication, the 1956 Institution is again seeking to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of Struggle for Liberation in a worthy manner.

Budapest, September 2006                                                          János Tischler


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Last updated:  Wednesday, 25-April-2007

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