Moscow, Washington, Budapest, and the 1956 Hungarian Revolt
Stanford University Press, Paperback, 9780804759649, 264pp.
Publication Date: September 1, 2006
The 1956 Hungarian revolution, and its suppression by the U.S.S.R., was a key event in the cold war, demonstrating deep dissatisfaction with both the communist system and old-fashioned Soviet imperialism. But now, fifty years later, the simplicity of this David and Goliath story should be revisited, according to Charles Gati's new history of the revolt.
Denying neither Hungarian heroism nor Soviet brutality, "Failed Illusions" nevertheless modifies our picture of what happened. Imre Nagy, a reform communist who headed the revolutionary government and turned into a genuine patriot, could not rise to the occasion by steering a realistic course between his people's demands and Soviet geopolitical and ideological interests. The United States was all talk, no action, while Radio Free Europe simultaneously backed the insurgents' unrealizable demands and opposed Nagy. In the end, the Soviet Union followed its imperial impulse instead of seeking a political solution to the crisis in the spirit of de-Stalinization.
"Failed Illusions" is based on extensive archival research, including the CIA's operational files, and hundreds of interviews with participants in Budapest, Moscow, and Washington. Personal observations by the author, a young reporter in Budapest in 1956, bring the tragic story vividly to life.
"Gati's book towers high above the rest as by far the best book published on 1956... his work aims to examine what happened and to point to what could have happened given the other complex factors that were in play in 1956. The fruit of Gati's effort is an engaging, fascinating, and well-written narrative coupled wit masterful historical and political analysis."—Slavic Review
"This important work deepens our knowledge of events through scores of new documentary findings, filling in fascinating details about events, decisions, and key players' personal philosophies and points of view. It's the only book of its kind."—Malcolm Byrne, Deputy Director and Director of Research, National Security Archive"Gati draws on a wealth of archival evidence and personal interviews to produce a remarkably readable and provocative essay, rich in astute observations and illuminating anecdotes, and leavened by fragments of his personal and intellectual history."—International History Review
"Gati draws on reams of new research and documentary evidence from Hungary, while ferreting out scores of fascinating documents from the U.S. archives. Specialists on this subject will benefit immensely from this work, but the book is written in such an engaging manner that it will also appeal to a more general audience."—Mark Kramer, Director of Cold War Studies, Harvard University
"Failed Illusions casts incisively a new perspective on three key dimensions of the historic drama that was the Hungarian Revolution: the unsavory background and the heroic epiphany of Imre Nagy, the revolution's tragic leader; the confused, disruptive, and ultimately devious Soviet efforts to manipulate the Hungarian communists; and the impotent futility of US posturing which masqueraded as 'the policy of liberation.' Riveting as a story, significant as a history."—Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. National Security Advisor, author of The Soviet Bloc: Unity and Conflict
"Gati's book is eminently worth reading. Whether or not one agrees with his views and conclusions, it is a most valuable contribution to the scholarly literature on the subject."—Russian Review
"The main message on U.S. foreign policy in Gati's book resonates with me. We're forever spouting bullshit in foreign policy for domestic political reasons at great costs to people abroad, who take the bullshit seriously."—Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus, Council on Foreign Relations and former foreign-affairs columnist, New York Times
"Born and raised in Hungary, Gati...was a young journalist in Budapest at the time. Using hundreds of documents in the archives in Budapest, Moscow, and Washington, he has written a thorough and scholarly analysis of the revolution."—Library Journal