I found this video (in Spanish) where a woman claims that Radio Free Europe encouraged the Hungarians to resist, and that aid was on its way.

Is this true? Is there any evidence? And if it is true, why did Radio Free Europa do this?

  • No problem. Welcome to the site!
    – two sheds
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 2:34

1 Answer 1


RFE Hungarian desk was obliged to not foment revolution, "Special Guidance No. 26 of March 27, addressing the emerging ferment in the Communist world, cautioned, “There is no likelihood of military action by the West to liberate [the East European] peoples.”'; instead their responsibility was to, as of 'September 26, 1956, policy advisor Griffith defined RFE’s task as “assist[ing] and prolonging and extending the thaw” and promoting liberalization even under conditions of continued Communist rule.' Johnson's conclusion is that, 'The assertion that RFE incited the Hungarian Revolution is on its face absurd; uprisings and revolutions have internal causes and dynamics and have never been sparked by external media. In any case, RFE Hungarian broadcasts in the months leading up to mid-October 1956 were generally dispassionate and espoused gradual reform – not “liberation” but what would later commonly be labeled “liberalization.”' (Johnson, 8-9, 2006)

Johnson further finds, 'no RFE Hungarian broadcast appealed to the Hungarian people to continue armed struggle against the Soviet Army.' No promise of Western aid came from RFE, the only promises being from ' Radio Madrid, staffed by right-wing exiles in the Franco era, urged Hungarians to keep fighting because Western volunteers were massing on the Hungarian border. The Russian-émigré NTS radio operating out of Germany claimed that the “Association of Former Hungarian Servicemen” in the West was preparing to aid the insurgent forces.' (Johnson, 10-11, 2006)

As the suggestions are untrue, no attempt needs to be made to rationalise a non-decision by RFE.

While RFE went rogue, playing a line further to the right of US Government policy and the perspective of Hungarians themselves, this line did not give support or the suggestion of Western support, except in the most tendential analysis possible by listeners whose judgement was clouded by passion. This was due to the political composition of RFE Hungarian desk, and due to a failure of bureaucratic control during crisis broadcasting. 'RFE Hungarian broadcasts departed from U.S. Government and RFE policy and standards in their emotional commentaries, their negative treatment of Imre Nagy, and their clear violation of policy in four programs on tactical military advice and suggestion of Western assistance.' (Johnson, 20-26, 2006)


  1. A Ross Johnson 2006 Setting the Record Straight: Role of Radio Free Europe in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 [working paper] http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/happ.OP-3.pdf
  • 2
    Being a Hungarian old enough to hear many first-hand stories about '56 and RFE, I find hard to believe this.
    – Greg
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 22:28
  • The work cited is based off RFE archives including full tape archives of what RFE actually broadcast in its Hungarian programming. Archives trump myth. An excellent question would be what role did the myth of RFE offers of support to Hungary play for Hungarians before and after 1989 and for anti-Soviet groups in the west. Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 22:46
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    You mean beside general mistrust toward the West and overall toward western propaganda?
    – Greg
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 22:51
  • @SamuelRussell Your last quote by a certain Johnson who I don't know who he is says "[...] their clear violation of policy in four programs on tactical military advice and suggestion of Western assistance". Which clearly implies they were at fault at suggesting Western assistance. Can you expand a little on this subject?
    – Rekesoft
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 12:17

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