On the fiftieth anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, a defining moment in the Cold War, Victor Sebestyen, a journalist whose own family fled from Hungary, gives us a totally fresh account of that uprising, incorporating newly released official Hungarian and Soviet documents, his family’s diaries, and eyewitness testimony.
Tracing the events that led to the rebellion, Sebestyen tells the story of these twelve days with front-page immediacy. Sebestyen’s narrative moves from the tumultuous streets of Budapest to the inner sanctums of the Kremlin and the White House, where we hear the conversations of the men and women who planned and took part in the uprising and of those who helped crush it–some actively, others through craven inaction.
Sebestyen shows how Western anti-Communist rhetoric encouraged the rebels and convinced them they would receive help. We witness the thrilling first days when, armed with a few rifles, petrol bombs, and desperate courage, the people of Budapest rose up against their Soviet masters and nearly succeeded in routing the Russian forces. For a few exciting days, as the Western world watched in amazement, it looked as though the Hungarians would win and humble the Soviet Union. Russian troops withdrew. But not for long.
The Soviets showed they would resort to brutal lengths to cling to their Communist empire–and the West was prepared to let them. The free world looked on in sympathy and horror, did nothing, and, finally, the Hungarians suffered a devastating defeat, remaining under Soviet occupation for three more decades.
Fast-paced, vivid, and authoritative, Twelve Days adds immeasurably to our understanding of one of the most important battles of the Cold War and reminds us–through the extraordinary courage and sacrifice of the Hungarian people in their doomed fight–of the unquenchable human desire for freedom.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
October 20, 2006 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, the seemingly spontaneous (at least to those outside Hungary) set of demonstrations that quickly morphed into a full-fledged revolution that almost freed Hungary from Soviet hegemony. Twelve days after it began the revolution was crushed under the tread of Red Army tanks. Victor Sebestyen's "Twelve Days: The Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution" is an informative and well-written examination of the revolution, its causes and its consequences.
Twelve Days is divided into three parts: "Prelude", "Revolution" and "Aftermath". In the Prelude Sebestyen provides a concise history of Hungary in the first half of the twentieth century. This is an invaluable introduction for readers, such as this reviewer, who have not previously immersed themselves in Hungarian history. After the First World War and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles, Hungary came to be ruled by a fascist regime led by Admiral...
This is the story of one of the most heroic, and yet, saddest episodes of the Cold War. Unfortunately, it was apparently published in haste, and therefore the excellent historical research is almost negated by the factual errors. Although Mr. Sebestyen apparently was there as a baby, and then taken to England, he has no idea of Hungarian geography and spelling. He liberally uses the "accent marks" - which in Hungarian don't indicate accent, they indicate a different-sounding vowel from the one without the mark - unfortunately more often in the wrong places than in the right ones. To anyone who actually reads Hungarian, this alone makes the book appear like an amateurish effort by a careless and ill-informed foreigner. He consistently puts geographical places almost consistently in the wrong directions from Budapest (often the opposite of reality) - consulting a map of Hungary would have been useful. Some of his numbers are wrong - for example, the US did not take 150,000 Hungarian...
This is a story about betrayal.
First from the West. Ike and Dulles wanted a "rollback" of communism and led the people (through Radio Free Europe) to believe the US would be there to help them. But when the Suez Crises arouse, Hungarians were forgotten. The last pleas from Imre Nagy to the UN were not even read for 2 hours, then debates over the minutia of what "assembly" Nagy was referring to. All leading to nothing being done, while thousands of Soviet tanks and troops were tightening the noose around Budapest. The next day the UN Secretary General when went to Egypt the next day.
Imre Nagy was a man who being a lifelong communist was the only leader available but was unable and unwilling to do what needed to be done. While not betrayal in the true sense of the word, Hungarians deserved better. While the Soviets were sending tanks and troops into Hungary, Nagy did nothing. Not mobilize the army, warn the people, nothing. He did believe that the...
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