A Leader of Hungary's 1956 Revolution Dies

Bela Kiraly, one of the military
leaders of Hungary's short-lived anti-Soviet revolution in 1956,
has died, the government said. He was 97.

A brief defense ministry statement provided no other details,
including the cause of death or where and when it occurred.
However, the daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet reported that Kiraly
died Saturday morning in Budapest.

Kiraly served in the Hungarian army during World War II and
later led its military academy. In 1952, he was sentenced to death on trumped-up conspiracy charges by Hungary's Stalinist regime, but the sentence was later commuted to life in prison.

The October 1956 revolution, aimed at overthrowing the communist
regime, lasted less than two weeks before it was crushed. Kiraly
had been freed from prison just weeks before the revolution and
during it he was named as Budapest's military commander and head of
the National Guard.

Kiraly's task was to organize the police, army and individual
groups of insurgents into a cohesive body meant to help Prime
Minister Imre Nagy's newly minted multiparty government stabilize
the country.

But when over 100,000 Soviet troops and some 4,500 tanks overran
the country from Nov. 4 and quickly crushed the revolution, the
Hungarians could do little to stop their advance.

According to historian Ignac Romsics, Kiraly "judged that any
resistance would be suicidal" and decided to flee to Austria with
his staff.

After the revolution, Kiraly continued to advocate for the
revolution's cause and testified at the United Nations about the
1956 events and Soviet brutality.

"It wasn't the revolution that failed," Kiraly in an interview
with The Associated Press in 2006. "The Soviets' unprecedented
superiority of force defeated the revolutionary government in an
undeclared war, but nobody in Hungary wanted to overthrow Imre
Nagy."

Kiraly settled down in the United States, becoming a citizen in
1965. He earned a Ph.D in history at Columbia University and taught
military history at Brooklyn College of City University of New
York.

Kiraly was born in Kaposvar, southwest Hungary, on April 14,
1912.

In 1989, the last full year of Hungary's communist regime,
Kiraly was rehabilitated and gave a speech at the June 16 reburial
of Imre Nagy and other revolutionary leaders, one of the key events
in Hungary's road to democracy.

He was elected to a four-year term in parliament in the first
post-communist elections in 1990 and served as vice chairman of its
defense committee. Later, he was a government adviser on armed
forces reforms.

He wrote several books in English and Hungarian, mainly about
Hungarian history and the 1956 Revolution, which he saw as the
first step toward democracy in Hungary.

"It was the start of the series of events - the end of
communism - for which we had to wait another 33 years," Kiraly
said.


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