This is such wonderful news. But Ukrainians know their history. Notice there are no celebrations happening in the country. Just solemn funerals. And apparently all the statues of Lenin that were disfiguring cities all over Ukraine are being toppled.
Why no big cheers? Because Ukrainians no doubt remember Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland… When world attention turned away from these countries who appeared to be on the way to winning freedom and independence from the USSR, new troops were sent in to crush the now-ignored rebellions.
Sometimes leaders were invited to Moscow for “talks,” never to be seen again.
IFO remembers most clearly the stories of Hungarians friends who had fled their country during the uprising of 1956. They had appeared to be succeeding for such an ironic reason: Our friends laughed as they related that Hungarian students climbed right up on the tanks rumbling into downtown Budapest.
There, due to the USSR’s coercive tactics REQUIRING all students to learn Russian, the students were able to talk to the Russian soldiers. “Hey! Why are you attacking us?” they asked the tank crews. “We’re workers, just like you!”
Our friends told us that the Russians withdrew troops in the early days of the Uprising. Seems that some of the troops had “accidentally” left the keys to the armories open, giving the freedom fighters access to weapons. Cheers all around! Everyone declared victory and went home. [Editor’s alert: gross oversimplification.]
The United States did nothing except broadcast a few “Attaboy!” shouts of encouragement over Voice of America. Otherwise, we did nothing. The Hungarians thought they had heard an implicit promise of US backing, if it was needed. That was how America had done in Greece, when Truman was President.
However, in 1956, under Eisenhower, we were busy with the Suez Crisis and we feared, something the public now knows was totally unfounded, the mighty Soviet Union. All that benighted Communist country ever had was what we gave them in foreign aid and what they stole from their neighbors and their own people (collectivizing farms).When all seemed quiet, suddenly the USSR brought in thousands of fresh, non-Russian speaking troops from Mongolia, who fired on the population with no hesitation. The resistance crumbled in just a few days and leaders were imprisoned.This, in typical Hungarian fashion, led to a bitter joke.Scene: prison cell in Budapest. Two inmates sit dejectedly inside. A new prisoner is thrown into the cell. He looks to the prisoner on the right. “What are you in here for?” he asks.
“I supported Nagy in the Uprising,” said one. The former Communist Premier of Hungary, Imre Nagy, led the Hungarians in the Uprising.
New guy turns to the prisoner on the left. “What are you in here for?” he asks.
“I was opposing Nagy,” he replies. “What are you in for?”
“I’m Nagy.” For more depressing details, see: Imre Nagy on The History Learning Site.
What do we learn from this? 1. European history is messy and sad. 2. Never, never trust the Russians.