23rd of October – National and bank holiday in Hungary

Let’s see some practical information about this day and then a little history to understand why Hungarians celebrate on the 23rd of October.

We’re having a 4 day long weekend now, since the 23 rd is a Tuesday and at these kind of occasions the state makes Monday free as well, so a lot of Hungarians are having a long weekend on the countryside, but there are many staying in the capital, too and you can find a number of things to do and see on this day. It is a bank holiday, so shops will be closed, however bathhouses and museums are open, what’s more many museum are free to visit! A couple of examples: House of Terror (showing fascist and communist terror in Hungary), the house of Parliament, National Museum, National Gallery, Hungarian Natural History Museum and there will be interactive exhibitions at multiply locations in Budapest. You will also see many commemorations, demonstrations and road closures.


Now the history behind this day…

On the 23rd of October we commemorate the revolution against the Hungarian communist regime and the Soviet Union in 1956. Though leaderless when it first began, it was the first major threat to Soviet control since the USSR's forces drove Nazi Germany from its territory at the end of World War II. The revolt began as a student protest, which attracted thousands as they marched through central Budapest to the Parliament building. They were fired upon from within the building by the State Security Police, known as ÁVH (acronym for Állam Védelmi Hatóság, literally “State Protection Authority”) and the fights broke out. The revolt spread quickly across Hungary, and the government collapsed. Thousands organised into militias, battling the ÁVH and Soviet troops. On 4 November, a large Soviet force invaded Budapest and other regions of the country. The Hungarian resistance continued until 10 November. Over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed in the conflict, and 200,000 Hungarians fled as refugees. Mass arrests and denunciations continued for months thereafter. By January 1957, the new Soviet-installed government had suppressed all public opposition. These Soviet actions, while strengthening control over the Eastern Bloc, alienated many  Western Marxists, leading to splits and/or considerable losses of membership for communist parties in capitalist states.

Even though Hungary lost this revolution, we won something on the long term… From the 1960s a softer kind of dictatorship started here, and we got a little more freedom from the Soviet Union in the economy, travelling and our lives in order to be quiet. If you wish to learn more about this topic, the best you can do is joining our daily free tour about Communism which starts at 10 am and 2:30 pm (no 2.30 pm tour from 6th of January-31st of March). See you there!