The 1956 Revolution: Sites of Memory

The 1956 Revolution: Sites of Memory

The-1956-Revolution-2What began as student marches the morning of October 23, 1956 in Budapest had by the evening grown into a nationwide movement. The Hungarians, long deprived of their freedom, stood up against their communist oppressors in a revolution that captivated the world and which is considered one of the first dominos to fall in the eventual collapse of communism in Europe.

In addition to visiting the crucial sites of the revolution and its memorials, this walk also seeks to spark a dialogue on the significant issues that unfolded during the revolution. What did the participants wish to achieve (what did they wish NOT to achieve?)? What was the impact that Hungary’s revolution had on the world and how it was received in the West? How can we decipher the fractured way in which contemporary Hungary recalls, symbolized and memorialize the revolution, ultimately put down.

The-1956-Revolution-3To begin exploring the sites of the 1956 revolution, your walk will start at the Technical University, where students first organized and drew up their sixteen points on October 22nd. From there, we will follow in the path of the students who marched in mass to Bem Square, where the demonstrators from Buda and Pest met. Here, we discuss how the revolution’s symbol was born (the tricolor flag with a hole in the center where the Soviet red star once featured). It was also from this square that the protestors – now numbering in the tens of thousands – marched onwards to the Hungarian Parliament demanding to hear former Prime Minister Imre Nagy. We shall also walk by the military court where Imre Nagy was convicted of “treason” for his role in the revolution.

The-1956-Revolution-4From the Parliament, we move to the Hungarian Radio Station building, where protestors demanded that their sixteen points be broadcast to the nation. We stand on the spot where the secret police fired upon the unarmed crowds and thus initiated the series of events that turned this peaceful protest into the widespread armed conflict that it became. Next, we visit the Corvin Movie Theater, site of some of the heaviest fighting, now standing as a memorial site to the revolution. The last two stops are the city park, where the memorial to the revolution stands on the site formerly occupied by the massive statue of Joseph Stalin, which was pulled down the evening of October 23rdNagy was reburied and where Hungary’s communist leadership finally conceded (over 30 years after the 1956 Revolution) that their time was up.

Andras Schweitzer Andras Schweitzer is senior lecturer at ELTE University, Budapest, focusing on contemporary political history. He holds a PhD in International Relations (2006, Corvinus University of Budapest). Besides his alma mater, he took courses on the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, studied contemporary Hungarian history at the Eszterházy Károly Főiskola (Eger) and East-Central European history at the Central European University (CEU). He had worked for 17 years for HVG, Hungary’s leading political-financial-cultural weekly magazine („The Economist of Hungary”) as journalist and section editor producing and editing feature and news stories, interviews, reportage among them some award-wining ones. He covered a wide array of topics in- and outside of Hungary at conferences from Boston through Copenhagen and Nové Zámky to Seoul. His most recent articles appeared in The Guardian, in Hungarian Spectrum, in Intersections – East European Journal of Society and Politics, in The Hungarian Quarterly. He is a vice-chairman of the Hungarian Europe Society.
ZoltanZoltán Csipke was born and raised in Los Angeles. After starting his PhD in History at the University of Liverpool in 2006, he moved to Budapest in 2007 for his research, where he has lived ever since. Zoltán’s research focused specifically on the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and collective memory, with a wider interest in the Cold War. He formerly lectured at Eötvös Loránd University and the Balassi Institute, having also been a senior editor at the All Hungary Media Group, where he focused on Hungarian politics and Budapest nightlife. He can frequently be found wandering the streets of Budapest with his camera as he indulges in his hobby of cityscape photography or providing impromptu history lessons at a table with friends in one of the city’s cafés or ruin pubs.
RunaRuna Hellinga is a freelance journalist, writing for Dutch newspapers. She came to Hungary in 1989 when communism was just collapsing and the century’s most exciting political, economical and social changes were unfolding. From 1994, she spent a number of years in South Africa, covering the end of Apartheid in that country for the Dutch press. In 1998 she returned to Hungary as a freelancer, and has been living in the country ever since, first in Budapest and the last couple of years in the small Baroque town of Vác. In 2008 she wrote a book about Budapest, covering the city’s history and culture, but also the social and political developments from the times of the Romans until today. Together with her husband Henk Hirs (also a journalist) she organizes themed tours, covering subjects from Jugendstil architecture and the remnants of the Turkish occupation to the communist past. As a correspondent, she can also offer a lot of insight in recent Hungarian political and cultural developments. On request, she also organizes tours around special subjects like Hungarian literature or current social issues.
HenkHenk Hirs is a Dutch radio and newspaper journalist who first came to Hungary in the summer of 1989, when the country was in the midst of pulling down the Iron Curtain. He has been reporting on its many ups and downs ever since,getting to know the people, their turbulent history, their various cultures and their impossible language in the process. Between 2006 and 2010, he was editor in chief of Business Hungary, the monthly magazine of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary. After living in Budapest for many years, in 2008 he moved with his wife, Runa (also a distinguished journalist), to the lovely little Baroque town of Vác close to the Hungarian capital. Suddenly, he got to know “the other Hungary” of gracious suburban town life. He has published several books on the country, among them a tourist guide which he updates yearly. He is also the co-author of various Dutch-language blogs on current events and tourism developments.
CsabaCsaba Tibor Tóth Born and raised in Szeged, Csaba acquired a distinguished interest in the history of his country quite early on, finishing his BA studies in 2010 at the University of Szeged, with a double major in history and cultural anthropology. On the cultural anthropology track, he finished a thesis on the beginnings of Hungarian Jewish Folklore in the 1890’s, then he expanded on with this topic at Central European University, where he achieved a MA with Honors in 2011. In order to study Jewish history and culture in a broader context, Csaba went through a second Masters program at the University of Southampton, UK in 2012. He currently works at Budapest’s Holocaust Memorial Center in as a guide and educator, while regularly blogging in Hungarian about the country’s history and daily politics.


Insight Cities arranges this tour only for private groups with advance notice, at present. Thanks for emailing us at [email protected].

Private Walk (1-6 People) $295
Private Walk (7-10 People) $350


Groups of over 10 should contact us at [email protected] in order to get a special rate for their party.

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