98. Telegram From the Legation in Hungary to the Department of State 1

154. Department pass USIA; ACSI and AFOIN for action. Legation telegram 153.2 Student demonstration3 which proceeded orderly fashion to Bem Ter this afternoon later moved to Parliament, where reached climax in moderating talk by Imre Nagy which coldly received by crowd. Crowd built up during evening at three points: Parliament (where now largely dispersed); Stalin Ter, where Stalin statue pulled [Page 264] over by trucks with winches after 4 hours work and Red Star ripped off Trade Union Building; and Central Office Budapest Radio Brody Sandor Building. Legation understands youth delegation entered building early in evening and temper of crowd built up rapidly when delegation failed reappear. 45 truck loads troops attempted enter street and backed out in friendly atmosphere when crowd failed give way. This scene eyewitnessed 8 p.m. Gero’s speech, which brief and not conciliatory, delivered as scheduled on radio 8 p.m.4

Probably around 10 p.m. fighting broke out in radio area after tear gas and/or stink bombs used on crowd, and fighting and killing continued between students, populace on one hand and AVH and Army troops on other. Students seized trucks and are moving about in streets. Two Legation officers personally witnessed young man shot in face lying dead in street, covered with Hungarian flag. Ambulances moving about carrying away others. Security forces in evidence this area with at least one known instance of crowd freeing arrestee. Tanks also in evidence radio area around 10:45. Large number truck loads troops moved in area around 10:30. No Soviet forces yet seen. Anonymous telephone call stated around 60 killed, although rumors in area reached 30–40; second such call requested Legation call on government halt killing.

Legation also received second-hand report that Hungarian troops refused fire on public, and fire initiated on unarmed public by Russian-speaking men in AVH uniforms.

Areas city other than radio area appeared orderly, however, and most sections visited were quiet.

Nagy speech delivered from Parliament balcony after considerable waiting by crowd, who in interim demanded removal of present government and Soviet troops. Frequent shouts of “Down with Gero” heard. Lights went out for 20 minutes, crowds burned Szabad Nep copies in torchlight demonstration. Red Star on Parliament extinguished, as were Red Stars all over city within short time. Crowd repeatedly called for Nagy, who when finally appeared asked demonstrators bide their time and wait for natural developments, which he said would lead to democratization in Hungary. Crowd hardly listened and Nagy said “you called me here to give my opinion and I’m giving it”. He asked crowd to sing “Szazat”5 and then go home. Crowd’s attitude after first moderating words very cool. Legation strongly urges media refrain from taking any kind of stand on Imre Nagy for time being.

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Media may use all above except telephone calls to Legation.

Department pass other EE missions as desired.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 764.00/10–2356. Official Use Only; Niact. Received at 4:32 p.m., October 25. Repeated to Vienna and Munich.
  2. Telegram 153, October 23, provided details about the demonstration before the statue of General Josef Bem, a Pole who had aided the Hungarians in their struggle for freedom in 1848. Hundreds were reported to have marched past the U.S. Legation calling for the departure of the Soviet Army. (Ibid., 764.00/10–2356)
  3. The demonstrators were inspired by the recital of Sándor Petöfi’s revolutionary poem, “Arise Hungarians.”
  4. For text of the address, see Zinner, National Communism, pp. 402–407.
  5. The national anthem.