03 November 2023

The Yugoslav media closely followed the events in Hungary in October and November 1956 - an article by Tomaž Ivešić, Director of the Study Centre for National Reconciliation, originally published in Hungarian on Látószög blog.

1103 1956 kki

Photo: Fortepan / Gyula Nagy

The Yugoslav media closely followed the developments in Hungary in October and November 1956. After all, Hungary bordered on Yugoslavia through the territory of three Yugoslav republics: Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia. In all three republics, especially in Vojvodina in the north of Serbia, there was a sizeable Hungarian minority, which necessitated paying particular attention to the developments in Hungary. Slovenski poročevalec, the main Slovenian newspaper, reported quite impartially in the first days of the Hungarian Revolution, relying on the reports of Hungarian radio stations. The Belgrade-based Borba, the main newspaper of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, was much better informed about the events. For example, as soon as 25 October 1956, it published the whole speech by Imre Nagy of 22 October as well as the new compositions of the Central Committee and Politburo. Much more than Slovenski poročevalecBorbaemphasised the influence of “reactionary forces”, claiming they had hijacked the protests in Hungary. In the following days, Slovenski poročevalec no longer received information about the developments on its own, so it only published translated articles from Borba. Then, at the end of October, both Slovenski poročevalec and Borba received information from their own correspondents in Budapest. Both had made their way there only on 30 October. In those days, newspapers included extensive reports about the developments and relayed information more or less impartially, including Nagy’s assessment that the protests were not led by reactionary forces. Both newspapers reported the events in Hungary in a fairly wide scope, including developments in the United Nations, summarising responses to Hungarian events throughout Europe and the polemic between the Hungarian newspaper Szabad nép and the Soviet Pravda.

Starting on 31 October, the Hungarian events were overshadowed by Israel’s incursion into Egypt, which took centre stage in the Yugoslav media.

Hungary was reported less extensively and not on the first pages.

Borba’s reports were identical to those of Slovenski poročevalec, or rather the other way round. There is a letter of Tito to the Hungarian Party[1], the publication of the new declaration and the emergence of the new national guard[2] and, naturally, the duel between Pravda and Szabad nép[3]. On 31 October, Hungary did not make it to the cover of Borbaeither as it was overshadowed by the incursion of Israeli forces into Egypt. On 3 November, Slovenski poročevalecpublished a report by its staff correspondent in Budapest that right-wing/fascist elements were killing communists, people with yellow shoes (which had supposedly been received by members of Rakosi’s secret police, AVO, as a sign of affiliation) as well as Jews, though the latter had not been proved. The same people allegedly “threw out” communists from their flats. It says that the situation had calmed down but that there was still a lot of such violence. The correspondent also reports a government reorganisation of sorts, but the text makes it clear he hardly has any clue about it. The situation was clearer to Borba journalists, who published a piece on 1 November about Nagy’s talks with the rebels and a meeting of the Yugoslav ambassador, Dalibor Soldatić, with Nagy. The next day, this was followed by an extensive Borba article about Hungary declaring neutrality, Nagy taking over as foreign minister and a new socialist party in the making. With the formation of Kadar’s government, the Yugoslav media completely changed their reporting and now agreed with the Soviet intervention based on the interpretation that the situation was out of hand, with the events allegedly too reminiscent of the era of Horthy and the arrow crosses (Szalasi). After the new government took office, there were hardly any reports about Hungary. Only on 24 November, there was the news that Nagy had taken refuge at the Yugoslav embassy and had been arrested on his way to Yugoslavia.

Surprisingly, the following day, Slovenski poročevalec included hardly any word about Hungary. There was one very short article about Kadar’s call to socialist countries for brotherly aid in food, fuel, construction materials and medicines.[4] A second article focuses on events at the UN, where there was a discussion about the developments in Hungary.[5]The next day (7 November), not much more was reported by Slovenski poročevalec. There was a report about a proclamation by the Hungarian Central Committee that Imre Nagy's government had allowed the rise of counter-revolutionary tendencies and that only a united worker’s party would succeed.[6] That Nagy and his colleagues along with their families had been at the Yugoslav embassy was only revealed on 24 November, when they were arrested on their way to Yugoslavia, with the Yugoslav government “strongly” protesting.[7] While Borba had already reported on 16 November that Nagy had requested asylum in a “foreign country”, there had been no mention of Yugoslavia. Initially, the Yugoslav media had reported impartially about the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In the meantime, the events were overshadowed by developments in the Middle East. When the Yugoslav communists learned a Soviet intervention was imminent, even the media started to report on the situation in Hungary much more negatively in line with the new situation and then justified the Soviet intervention.

The author of this guest post is the Director of the Study Centre for National Reconciliation.


[1] “U ime CK generalni sekretar SKJ drug Tito uputio pismo predsjedništvu Partije mađarskih trudbenika”, Borba, 30 October 1956, no. 289, p. 1.

[2] “Deklaracija nove Mađarske vlade nailazi na podršku”, Borba, 30 October 1956, no. 289, p. 3.

[3] “Odgovor Sabad nepa na članak moskovske Pravde”, Borba, 30 October 1956, no. 289, p. 3.

[4] “Poziv Madžarske”, Slovenski poročevalec, 6 November 1956, no. 262, p. 1.

[5] “Resolucija OZN o Madžarski”, Slovenski poročevalec, 6 November 1956, no. 262, p. 3.

[6] “Blaginja države in mir”, Slovenski poročevalec, 7 November 1956, no. 263, p. 1.

[7] “Kršitev sporazuma”, Slovenski poročevalec, 24 November 1956, no. 277, p. 1.