The Hungarian Revolution 1956
by Erwin A. Schmidl and László Ritter, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, England, 2006, $17.95.
October and November 1956 was a period of military triumph, tragedy and embarrassment on both sides of the Iron Curtain. In Egypt, British, French and Israeli forces responded to President Gamel Abdel Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal with an invasion that ultimately led to all three countries being condemned and compelled to withdraw by the United Nations and the United States. At about the same time, a chain of events unleashed years of Hungarian resentment against their Soviet-backed Communist government into a full-blown uprising that seemed to come tantalizingly close to success, only to be crushed by Russian troops and tanks.
Connections between those conflicts— which essentially amounted to Suez providing a convenient distraction of world attention from the Soviet crackdown in Hungary—typify the multifaceted treatment afforded The Hungarian Revolution 1956 by Austrian Erwin A. Schmidl and his Hungarian co-author László Ritter. Primarily a military history in Osprey Publishing’s Elite series, The Hungarian Revolution 1956 also gives a thorough and evenhanded summary of the causes and consequences of the uprising before focusing on the men and women who took up arms.
Although it makes no pretense to being a definitive political history, the book lists ample sources for further study, while presenting a wealth of archival photographs, many of which have only come to light since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, as well as an excellent spread of color illustrations by English artist Peter Dennis. As with so many Osprey publications, The Hungarian Revolution 1956 packs a concisely comprehensive treatment of its subject within its 64 pages, on a subject that perhaps could not be honestly addressed until 1989 and the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Originally published in the February 2007 issue of Military History. To subscribe, click here.