97. Telegram From the Legation in Hungary to the Department of State1

151. Department pass other EE posts as desired. Department pass USIA. Two meetings since October 16, attended by large audiences comprising in both cases probably more non-Communists than Communists, have brought first open Hungarian demands for withdrawal Soviet troops from Hungary. First meeting, held October 16 in Jokai Theater of Gyor and attended by 1,000 people was presided over by writer Gyula Hay.2 Gyor—Sopronmegyei Hirlap of October 19 characterized meeting as “first entirely free, public, and outspoken debate since year of change”. It continued, “one may use expression ‘completely free’ because nobody had to fear retaliation for criticizing Rakosi’s policy, for professing ideas of Hungarian Christianity, or for urging departure of Soviet military units in Hungary.” In reply to questions put to him about abolishing Soviet military bases in Hungary, Hay stated question formed part of problem of independent domestic and foreign policy in Hungary, which he hoped would develop [Page 261] more vigorously after Belgrade talks.3 During course of meeting Lajos Simon, Gyor journalist, reported having said our Soviet friends are welcome guests in Hungary but presence military units was no longer considered necessary. Amid stormy protests of audience another speaker stated presence Soviet troops in Hungary absolutely necessary.

Second meeting was of four to five thousand students of engineering and transport school in Aula of Technical University on afternoon of October 22. This meeting, covered in Szabad Ifjusag of following day, resulted in bringing these students in alliance with recent action of students in Szeged creating student organization known as Mefesz which independent of DISZ. Meeting adopted 10 political demands among them “creation of completely equal economic and political relations with USSR and Yugoslavia, built on principle of no interference in each others internal affairs”. What newspaper does not report is stormy atmosphere of students and their rhythmic chant “menjen haza” (go home) in response to speaker’s question “by what right does Soviet Union maintain troops in Hungary?” Other references to Soviet troops brought similar reactions.

Other aspects of two meetings almost as interesting as demands for withdrawal Soviet troops. At Gyor, in answer to questions from floor, Hay: (1) admitted Hungary has directed press but said fortunately such direction functioning more and more badly; he predicted general meeting of Hungarian journalists to be held October 28 will inflict heavy blow on retarding forces; (2) called for public trial of Mihaly Farkas4 even if threads of responsibility lead through Rakosi to Soviet Union; (3) deplored secrecy about Hungary’s recently discovered uranium deposits5 (Baranya county) claiming Hungarians entitled know what happens to their natural resources; he continued, “this is a question closely associated with problem of an independent domestic and foreign policy; in principle everything is all right in this respect, but practice proves opposite; we live in era of big changes; this change began in Soviet Union with Stalin’s death.6 Since then lot of things have happened. In Hungary–Soviet relations this change is, unfortunately, hardly noticeable, although it obvious no sound political relations could develop between Stalin’s Soviet Union and Rakosi’s Hungary. Yugoslavia succeeded in protecting her complete independence, and Poland and China are on way to develop a special way of building [Page 262] socialism based on national peculiarities and history of the countries; we must strive to develop this useful practice also in our country; that, by the way, depends also on us”.

Another speaker demanded greater freedom for spreading of Christian ideas and the restoration of Mindszenty as Prince Primate, introduction of several party system, and abolition present election system. Thereafter in tone “suppressed excitement”, others demanded re-establishment of former Christian youth organizations and others called for free propagation of Christian philosophy. In answer Hay stated he approved of free spreading of Christian ideas, although he considered them idealistic and unsuited to solve real problems of country.

At student meeting slighting references of a speaker to talks of Hungarian leaders with “second and third rate” politicians in Belgrade and to official expressions of satisfaction with these talks brought stormy approbation from students, who obviously as little prepared accept subservience to Belgrade as to Moscow. (Foregoing is for background use of the media only) In demands as listed in Szabad Ifjusag students called for: (1) Immediate meeting of Central Committee and formation of a new one by lower echelon leadership which elected in recent past, (2) reshaping composition government with Nagy as new leader, (3) equal, secret parliamentary elections with participation of parties in Popular Front, (4) reorganization Hungarian economic life, (5) adjustment of work norms and introduction of work autonomy into shops, (6) review of crop collection system and support for individual peasant, (7) full investigation of political and economic disputes, amnesty for political prisoners, for the unjustly condemned, and rehabilitation for those who have been suppressed into the background; open trial for Mihaly Farkas, (8) restoration of the Kossuth7 coat of arms in place of present one; making March 158 and October 69 national holidays, (9) complete freedom of opinion, of press and radio; a new separate daily paper for Mefesz; exposing of cadre materials and their extinction, (10) (above mentioned point about relations with USSR and Yugoslavia).

Comment: As in case of recent writers’ meeting Legation believes media should give full factual coverage, without comment, to events at two meetings. News of meeting in Gyor has not yet been carried into Budapest press. In coverage of student meeting Szabad Nep devotes space to whistling in dark, saying students will not exploit youth movement for any kind of restoration. Legation recommends that coverage, especially as regards demands withdrawal Soviet troops, be fast [Page 263] so that maximum advantage be taken of ever-mounting demands of Hungarians. These two meetings give media their first opportunity to break long US silence on question Soviet troops maintained here. In addition to media following in wake of Hungarian demands and giving publicity to them, Legation feels Department might, as recommended in Legation despatch 156,10 now all the more reconsider its policy of maintaining official silence on question legal status of Soviet troops here.

Student meeting attended briefly by two Legation officers after telephone call from student representative who said students inviting all foreign newspapermen, foreign diplomats, and anyone else who wants to come. Legation feels that since meeting was open, word of anti-Soviet statements and audience reaction could have been carried out of country within 24 hours by any number of means, and thus Legation has no objection to immediate use by media of its observations, if above-noted restriction on comment re talks with Yugoslavia is observed and if media plays it straight without attempting to make any inflammatory comments.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 764.00/10–2356. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to Vienna and Munich.
  2. Winner of the Kossuth Prize for Literature.
  3. Gerö led a Hungarian delegation to Belgrade on October 14, which did not return until the day the revolution began.
  4. He and his son had recently been arrested for having violated “socialist legality.”
  5. Neither the existence of the uranium deposits nor their exploitation for the benefit of the Soviet Union was generally known in Hungary. This was attested to in the Report of the Special Committee on the Problem of Hungary issued by the United Nations on June 12, 1957, p. 71. (A/3592)
  6. March 5, 1953.
  7. Louis Kossuth was the leader of the 1848 Hungarian rebellion against Hapsburg rule, which was suppressed with the help of troops from Tsarist Russia.
  8. A traditional national holiday commemorating the 1848 revolt.
  9. See footnote 5, Document 91.
  10. The reference is unclear for there is no despatch 156.