The 1956 Hungarian Revolution in World Politics
Preface to the second edition
Much has been written by many authors in the last fifty years on the international aspects of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the policy of the great powers towards the uprising. The analyses published in the West, mainly in the 1960s and 1970s, were obliged for want of official documents to rely on such available sources as the press, official statements and memoirs, which understandably meant they had only assumptions to rely on in many respects. But in the second half of the 1980s, the American, British, French and other Western archive materials on '56 became available for research, followed in the 1990s by the Hungarian documents and by most of the Soviet documents, which are decisively important in several respects.
The 1996 first edition marked the first attempt to analyse and evaluate the international sides of the 1956 Hungarian uprising, the reactions of the great powers to it, and its effects on world politics, based on hitherto inaccessible sources derived from the highest level of decision-making. I made use then of some of the lasting literature on '56 that appeared in the West before 1989. In writing the much longer text of this edition, I have relied mainly on the now largely explored archive documents and on the Hungarian and foreign researches of the last 15 years.
The main criterion when choosing the documents in the appendix was not positively to include unknown, even sensational source materials, but to publish those that gave a glimpse of the decision-making mechanism for shaping and deciding world policy, and the disappointingly pragmatic process of this, so different from the rhetoric of great-power politics served up to the public.
To this very day, the public has nursed erroneous illusions about the international view of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. These misbeliefs have usually been strengthened by the journalistic accounts of '56 that appear in the press from time to time. This erects an obstacle to objective, unbiased assessment of an outstanding event in Hungarian history. It also indirectly hinders the public in a general sense from forming a realistic picture of this country's place, potentials and room for manoeuvre in the world. Such a rational, soberly pragmatic view of the world is more urgently needed now than ever before, with the country integrated into Europe, for Hungarian society in a 21st century more complex than before, having regained its freewill after several centuries.