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Twelve Days: The Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  299 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
On the fiftieth anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, a defining moment in the Cold War, Victor Sebestyen, a journalist whose own family fled from Hungary, gives us a totally fresh account of that uprising, incorporating newly released official Hungarian and Soviet documents, his family’s diaries, and eyewitness testimony.

Tracing the events that led to the rebellion, Se
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 3rd 2006 by Pantheon (first published 2006)
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Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, hungary, russia
As a Hungarian-American who lived through the period of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 (we even took in two refugee families at different times), Victor Sebestyen's Twelve Days: The Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution help refresh my memory. Plus, it made me even more furious at the Eisenhower administration's craven failure to pay any attention to the failed efforts of my people to break free of the Soviet yoke.

During the Revolution, the propagandists at Radio Free Europe, in effect, kept
Lorenzo Berardi
This was an excellent, engaging and quite informative read which happened just when I needed it.
I've been interested in the 1956 Hungarian Uprising/Revolution for quite a long time, but - by sheer coincidence - one week upon finishing 'Twelve Days' I finally visited Budapest for the very first time.

I guess it might have been rather annoying for my partner (she has just confirmed that it was) being led through the Hungarian capital by me unawaringly lecturing her on events and anecdotes from Octo
Roelof Kotvis
Sebestyen provides an impressive amount of information about the curious events that took place in Budapest in the autumn of 1956, in a style that is very easy to read. Unfortunately, the author is a journalist, not a historian: little effort has been made to distinguish the significant from the trivial, and facts from suppositions. The rather messy annotation doesn't help either. Most annoying are the author's inclination to impress his personal views about the 1956 events upon the reader, and ...more
Otto Benz
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well-written account of the harrowing experience of the Hungarian revolution against the hated Russian occupiers and communist regime in October 1956. Sebastyen prefixes the 12 days of revolution with an excellent introduction of the brutal suppression of the Hungarians under the Stalinist leader Rakosi and leads on to the surprising and short-lived success of the initial revolt before its inevitable crushing by Soviet military might and ignored by the rest of the world focusing on Suez. Sebasty ...more
Adrian Buck
Dec 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, hungarian
Sebestyan is best in the middle section of this book. A fast-paced but heavily detailed narrative presented on a day-by-day structure that was well suited to events. I enjoyed the little journalistic flourishes that brought the personalities to life: Cardinal Mindszenty tucking up his cassock so that he wouldn't be identified as a priest; Defence Minister Maléter patting his holster as he remarked the uprising didn't mean end of Socialism in Hungary. This sort of detail is either imagined or res ...more
Aug 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read this on the flight to Budapest this summer. I really know (knew!) nothing about Hungary and wanted to have some kind of familiarity with its recent history.

I am SO glad I picked this up. It is written in an easy to read, narrative style, but still heavy on the history and details.

Having read this prior to my visit, I appreciated all of the monuments (official and not) that are scattered around Budapest (from the shoes on the Danube, to Monument Park, to the bullet holes left in the buildi
Dec 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cold-war
Excellent book on an often over looked topic, using declassified documents from both sides in order to paint a complete picture. The author does a good job of blending the first hand accounts, the politics, the quotes, and the documents into a flowing narrative. An interesting struggle where few stood against many, in what ended as being ultimately futile.
Sep 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Well written history of Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and lack of US support at the critical hour, after all our anti-communist rhetoric.
Zack Rusk
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Picked up this book expecting it to be a textbook, but was pleasantly surprised by how it read like a storybook. The context and events of the revolution is well written, major characters have clear motives for their actions and behaviors, and the narrative is well paced. I definitely ended this book with more of an emotional and factual understanding of what happened in 1956.

This book does have a few issues, secondary characters are hard to keep track of (especially if your not familiar with H
Erica McBride
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Incredible, detailed history leading up to the revolution during and just after. A must read before a trip to Budapest to understand the country and people more!
Mar 05, 2010 rated it liked it
1956, al is het onbeleefd om een recensie met een getal te beginnen, is dit wel het jaartal waar het hele boek omdraait. Met als kern de date 23 oktober tot en met 4 november van dat jaar. Het is het jaar van een historisch ondergesneeuwd onderwerp; De Hongaarse opstand. Of het nou een revolutie of een opstand was, daar zijn de meningen oververdeeld. Dat het een uiterst pijnlijke, voor alle kanten, gebeurtenis is staat vast.

Victor Sebestyen begint zijn boek met een honderd pagina durende inleidi
My son recently returned home from studying in Budapest and brought along a copy of Twelve Days: The Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. He seemed to think that it would appeal to a “history nerd” like me. He was right…about the book’s appeal and my interest in most any facet of history (“Nerd” indeed. Disrespectful damn kid). Anyway, I was intrigued by the subject matter, not only because he had just been living in Budapest, but because I realized how little I actually knew about the 1956 H ...more
Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It has lot of details, which I (unlike the previous reviewer) found interesting and new.

Perhaps different personal history explains different evaluation:
I was a freshman in (then) neighboring Czechoslovakia and I remember
the events in Hungary vividly. Of course, my understanding and memories was based on information then available to us: Official Newspapers and rumors.
Problem is, that both are often wrong, and even if you average, you end up with distorted story. Foe example: the incidents of
Brian Childs
Sep 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
A gripping account of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Some passages were extremely moving, others covered such intense cruelty they were hard to finish reading. I finished it on my way to Budapest and it has been a wonderful complement to the trip.
Nov 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Events which happen just beyond the grasp of a reader's memory are best viewed with a perspective which encompasses the world into which the reader is born- yet unfamiliar, these events only come to the horizon with the benefit of a world-the-reader-never-made's interpretations.
Such is the Hungarian Revolution, which took place while I was but over a year old. The political climate of the era in the United States was such that the USA was seen by many - especially for this issue, the Hungarians-
Aug 17, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a solid, detailed history of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The book has three main parts: "Prelude," "Revolution," and "Aftermath," and goes into reasonable depth about Hungary's WWII legacy and the years leading up to 1956. You definitely get a sense of the brutality of the Hungarian secret police, the AVO, under Rákosi in the years leading up to 1956. (It would give the makers of the Saw franchise something to think on.) As someone who gets very mixed up by the Hungarian language, I r ...more
Jeffrey Dugan
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Actually, three 1/2 stars and worth the read. From the last, desperate telex from embattled resistance fighters in the offices of the newspaper, 'A Free People' (Szabad Nép), through Winston Churchill's "naughty document," the Percentages Agreement with Josef Stalin, and the Russian brutality which followed; Mr. Sebestyen's narrative is well-paced and engaging.

Sebestyen offers interesting perspectives on the Eisenhower Administration's Satellites policy, especially with respect to Hungary's Revo
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Victor Sebestyen brings a compelling and readable account of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution to US readers. This often forgotten chapter in American Foreign Policy history was one of the defining moments of the Cold War and a place where the world could have stood up to what it perceived as Soviet Terror. Instead it used the excuse of a conflict in the Middle East to allow a movement towards freedom to be repressed. This book accounts the days in Hungary and those that led up to it to be understoo ...more
Jun 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Phenomenally informative and highly readable, this is probably the best available description of the Hungarian 1956 Revolution. Largely drawn from first-person accounts, recently recovered phone transcripts and other important contemporary sources, this wonderful book traces the roots of the Revolution before describing each of the momentous 12 days in dramatic but not overwrought detail. There were heroes and villains on both sides, and everyone is given their fair share of responsibility; not ...more
An account of the Hungarian rebellion in 1956.
The book contains some slightly annoying cases of patronising writing. As I know of at least one person who didn't take offense, let me give two examples for you to decide yourself. 1) There is a list of main actors in the events. I do not need them phonetically written out, especially as I do not think they are overly difficult to read. 2) In one sentence, he starts speaking about Ferenc Nagy, instantly adding he shouldn't be confused with Imre Nagy
Jacob Hedegaard
Ganske enkelt skræmmende læsning. Den inhumanitet, der får folk til at opløse andre mennesker i syre for nemmere at skylle deres liv ud i kloarken er ubegribelig. Desværre er bogen lidt for dagbogsagtig og knap så fortællende. Det er ærgerligt, når forfatteren ikke fortæller det som en personlig beretning men skriver et historisk værk.
Jan 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
In studying the Cold War it is easy to overlook the Hungarian attempt to overthrow the Soviets in 1956, so this books is a must read for a full view of Eastern Europe and Soviet machinations. The names can be a bit daunting to keep straight, but well worth the effort as there are some very heroic and sympathetic people in this story that deserve to be remembered.
Rob Moynihan
Jan 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Interesting Cold War history about what the Russians did to the Hungarians, and how the rest of the world didn't really notice because the Suez Canal crisis was going on the same week. Lots of detail, goes nearly hour by hour through the whole episode.
May 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of my favourite books. No idea why - it may have been that I visited Hungary shortly after but this story really touched me, particularly the heroes of 56.

Recommend it to anyone interested in the 20th century.
Mikkel Eilenberg
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
En god bog til alle historie interesseret der især har interesse vedrørende østblokke
May 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a well written account of the heroic/tragic 1956 Hungarian uprising against Soviet forces.

Having spent years visiting Hungary on business this helped tie many things together for me.
Feb 24, 2010 marked it as to-read
i am finally learning my hungarian history and roots. it is heart-wrenching and makes me so proud at the same time.
Mick Maye
May 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Topic new to me. Shows the chronological events of the Hungarian revolution and the brutal reprisal by the Russians. Good read.
Patrick Belair
rated it really liked it
May 11, 2013
rated it liked it
Apr 05, 2013
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Victor Sebestyen was born in Budapest and was only an infant when his family left Hungary. He has worked for many British newspapers, including the Evening Standard. He lives in England.
More about Victor Sebestyen