In Twelve Days: The Story of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising, Victor Sebestyen vividly recreates not only the days of the uprising but the events, meetings and days that led up to it. He goes back to give us snapshots of seminal moments in history that would decide Hungary's fate, such as the October 9, 1944, meeting in the Kremlin with Churchill, or October 15, 1949, a day that marked the execution of Laszlo Rajk, a fierce Stalinist and one of the chief architect's of Hungary's police state and the beginning of the Bolsheviks starting "to devour [their] own children".
With newly released and never-before-translated material from the Parliamentary library in Budapest, the Kremlin library, and his own family's diaries and eyewitness testimonies, Sebestyen is able to shed new light on what really happened. And he does so in a fast-paced, journalistic style that makes you feel you are right there witnessing it all.
This is a story of enormous courage in a fight for freedom and of ruthless cruelty in suppressing that dream. It was an uprising that took the world by surprise despite all the intelligence in Hungary at the time - from the CIA to the M16 and many others. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets armed with few rifles, gasoline bombs, even kitchen utensils - and for a while it looked like the revolutionaries might succeed. It was an uprising that captured the imagination of people throughout the world, and the Hungarians, Sebestyen writes, even thought that Eisenhower and the West were about to come to their rescue. But, at 4:14 in the morning of November 4, 1956, the Soviets launched a major attack to crush the uprising and succeeded. Thousands were killed and wounded, and nearly a quarter of a million refugees left the country.
This uprising was the defining moment of the Cold War and would signal the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire. Sebestyen has written a uniquely compelling and lively account of this important historical moment.
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