What really destroyed the Hungarians in 1956?

  • Twelve Days: Revolution 1956 – How the Hungarians Tried to Topple Their Soviet Masters
    by Victor Sebestyen Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006, 340pp.

Of all the great events of the Cold War, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 is probably the one most in need of serious historical attention. In part this is because new archives have at last explained a number of mysteries: did Imre Nagy, the reforming communist and later national hero, really request Soviet ‘assistance’ in putting down the rebellion? Continue reading “What really destroyed the Hungarians in 1956?”

Die Macht der Fußballfans: Spontane Krawalle nach der verlorenen WM 1954 als Vorboten des Ungarn-Aufstands

So sonderbar es klingen mag – aber der erste echte Vorbote des ungarischen Aufstandes waren Ausschreitungen von Fußballfans. Es war im Jahr 1954, dem Jahr der Fußballweltmeisterschaft, in dem die ungarische Mannschaft alle anderen überragte. Continue reading “Die Macht der Fußballfans: Spontane Krawalle nach der verlorenen WM 1954 als Vorboten des Ungarn-Aufstands”

The Real Patriotic War

  • Ivan's War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939–1945,
    by Catherine Merridale, Metropolitan, 462 pp.
  • A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army,
    ed. Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova, Pantheon, 378 pp.

Once, during the 1980s, I visited the fortress of the city of Brest. Brest is now in Belarus, just east of the Polish border, but at that time Brest was a Soviet city, and its fortress was the city’s most important shrine to Soviet power. The entrance led through a vast slab of stone, into which had been cut an enormous Soviet star. Inside, the visitor’s eye was immediately directed to a vast, sorrowful human head, carved straight into an outcropping of rock. Continue reading “The Real Patriotic War”


  • The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov
    edited and annotated by Joshua Rubenstein and Alexander Gribanov
    Yale University Press, 397 pp.

Since becoming president of Russia, Vladimir Putin has worked hard to mold Russian memories of the Soviet Union into something more positive, or anyway more nostalgic, than they had been under his predecessor. His goal, it seems, is to make Russians proud of their country again, to find heroes they can once again worship. Continue reading “Hero”