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Twelve Days


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About the Author

Victor Sebestyen was born in Budapest and was an infant when his family left Hungary. As a journalist, he has worked on numerous British newspapers: he reported widely from Eastern Europe when Communism collapsed in 1989, and covered the war in the former Yugoslavia. At the London Evening Standard he was foreign editor, media editor, and chief lead writer. He writes frequently for The Times and The New Statesman.


Fifty years ago, the Hungarians rose in spontaneous revolt against their Soviet overlords and the inept and brutal hacks governing their country. Sebestyen, a London-based journalist, uses previously unreleased documents from Hungarian and Russian archives and eyewitness accounts and diaries to reassess what he characterizes as "the least organized revolution in history...no leaders, no plans." Its causes were multiple, including Soviet Premier Krushchev's relaxation of control over Eastern-bloc countries, communism's triumph in Poland, and hatred of the Rakosi government in Hungary. Radio Free Europe had incited Eastern Europeans to rise up, but when the uprising started, President Eisenhower delayed acting until the time for action was past: his attention was on the Suez Canal instead. The Soviets attacked the vastly outnumbered and poorly equipped freedom fighters. Sebestyen's conclusion is discouraging but indubitably correct: "The revolution was the defining moment of the Cold War when the Soviet Union showed...it was prepared to use barbaric measures to keep its empire, and the West was content to let it do so." Recommended for all libraries. David Keymer, Modesto, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"This is a vivid, heartbreaking account of the brutal crushing of the first armed insurrection against Soviet occupation. Twelve Days is essential reading for understanding the great risks people will take for freedom."

-Kati Marton, author of The Great Escape: Nine Hungarians Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World

"On the anniversary of 1956, wielding a vast array of newly released archives and completely new eyewitness testimony, Victor Sebestyen has written a magisterial but also totally gripping and fresh account of the noble, violent, and doomed Hungarian revolution: a tale of murder and battles on the streets of Budapest and in the dungeons of the KGB, and of high-level intrigue from the White House to the Kremlin. Above all, it is a story of courage and decency among ordinary Hungarians. The result is a tour de force."

-Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

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