1956 – history on leaflets

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Entitled “1956 – history on leaflets”, a new, freely accessible digital content service has been launched by National Széchényi Library. The database launched on October 23, 2020 offers an ample selection of leaflets and text posters made during the 1956 Revolution and Freedom Fight.

Leaflets and text posters provide great help with learning about the national history of Hungary. There were historical eras, periods of sudden change, the obligate products of which were small prints, which could be produced relatively easily and distributed quickly. With their help, almost the entire history of the events can be reproduced, since they were indispensable means of addressing and informing the masses.

At the meeting of the Provisional National Commission established in National Széchényi Library in 1956, Elemér Hankiss (1928–2015) raised the importance of collecting and archiving small prints and documents related to the Revolution of 1956. As a result of the initiative, a call was published in the contemporary press under the title “Documentation of the Revolution in Széchényi Library”, which stated, among others, that “this collection will be unique in the world. It is not late historians, but the nation, shaping history itself, which reports here about the struggles it has fought for itself and for the future of humanity. ” As a result of the initiative, library staff and all the individuals who felt that it was important to preserve these documents for the future began collecting materials related to the revolution. The growth of the collection took course in various ways: there were those who put period documents on the doorstep as an anonymous package, or gave them to the library as a gift, while others offered the treasures they had owned for money.

Currently, this significant and very special stock unit of National Széchényi Library includes about one and a half thousand documents, which were produced during the 1956 Revolution and War of Independence and in the months that followed. The earliest dated piece in the collection was made on October 22, 1956. More than five hundred small prints originate from the period of the Revolution and the War of Independence lasting from October 23 to November 4, 1956. Documents produced later on were published partly for resistance and partly for retaliation.

Only leaflets have survived from the first two days of the revolution. The more sophisticated printers necessary for the production of text posters became gradually available for the War of Independence from October 25. Not only the events in Budapest but also those in the countryside are well documented by the small prints produced in different cities. In addition to documents published in Hungarian, this series also includes bilingual, Hungarian-Russian documents.

Most of the documents were printed, but there were also pieces made with a stencil, typewriter, letters of a toy printing press and handwriting. There are more than a thousand leaflets and more than three hundred text posters among them. The rich data content of our database makes it easier to search between documents, so you can also search for individual settlements and the exact time of the publication of leaflets and text posters.

The database can be accessed here.