For Freedom and Truth

2016. október 16., vasárnap

Minister of State István Bibó, a reformed-calvinist lawyer and political scientist, addressed a proclamation to the nation and the world, defending the revolution and the nation that had conducted it, on 4 November 1956.

For Freedom and Truth was the last proclamation of the Hungarian National Government written on 4 November 1956 in Budapest, during the Hungarian Revolution, by Minister of State István Bibó in the parliament building as the author, and the only person and representative of the government remaining in the parliament, awaited arrest by Soviet military forces. The Soviet army attacked the dawn of 4 November 1956 and Imre Nagy visited the Soviet embassy for negotiations but did not return. In the morning the reformed pastor, Zoltán Tildy, former President of Hungary, appointed to the position of a state minister in the coalition government during the Revolution, together with István Szabó and István Bibó held a meeting in the parliament, but when the Soviet troops reached and surrounded the building Tildy went to negotiate with them and reached an agreement: the Soviets could occupy the building after all civilians left safely. The proclamation's author, István Bibó, was the only cabinet minister who remained at his post in the parliament building and thus considered himself the only representative of the Hungarian government at the time. At the time he wrote this Proclamation, he could not have known that Imre Nagy, in fact, went to the Embassy of Yugoslavia.

“While the Soviet tanks were destroying one of Europe's most beautiful capitals, István Bibó was writing a historic document, one that outlined a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict and listed the steps the Western powers had to take in order to meet both their legal and moral obligations. His handwriting was neat, unhurried. When he was done with the Hungarian version, he proceeded meticulously to translate the text into English, French, German, and Spanish. He used his thesaurus to avoid using the same adjective twice. He neatly addressed the four envelopes, packed up his papers, calmly passed the Russian soldiers at the gate, and walked to each of the four embassies. He hand delivered his remarkable document, this confirmation of courage and integrity, this proof that at least one person in Hungary still had faith in the international community, in the integrity and sense of justice of the Western powers.”

Quotation from Béla Lipták: A Testament of Revolution, written in 1956 in an Austrian refugee camp, where the author had fled to escape reprisals for his role in the short-lived rebellion.

The proclamation

My Fellow Hungarians!

When the Soviets attacked at dawn today, Prime Minister Imre Nagy went to the Soviet Embassy to negotiate and was unable to return. Besides Zoltán Tildy, who was already in the Parliament building, only ministers of state István B. Szabó and István Bibó could attend the Council of Ministers' meeting convened this morning. When the Parliament was surrounded by Soviet troops, minister of state Zoltán Tildy – in order to avoid bloodshed – came to an agreement with them, according to which the soldiers would occupy the Parliament and allow all civilian personnel to leave. Under the provisions of this agreement, he then departed. Only the undersigned, István Bibó, remained in the Parliament building as the sole represen­tative of the only existing legal Hungarian government. In these circumstances, I make the following declaration:

Hungary has no wish to pursue an anti-Soviet policy: On the contrary, Hungary's fullest intention is to live in the community of those free Eastern European nations which want to organize their societies on the principles of liberty, justice, and freedom from exploitation. Before the whole world, I also reject the slanderous accusation that the glorious Hungarian Revolution has been soiled by Fascist or anti-Semitic excesses. The entire Hungarian nation, without class or denominational differences, participated in the struggle. It was moving and marvelous to witness how humane, wise, and discriminating the behavior of the insurgents was, and how they were able to limit their outrage solely towards the oppressive foreign army and the local executioner-commandoes. The recently-formed Hungarian government had the ability to put an end to incidents of street justice that repeatedly occurred during the past few days, as it would have been able to halt the emergence of the unarmed arch-conservative political elements. The claim that a huge foreign army had to be called, or rather recalled, into the country to accomplish these objectives, is both frivolous and cynical. On the contrary, the very presence of this army is the major cause of the current tensions and disturbances.

I call upon the Hungarian people not to consider the occupy­ing army – or the puppet-government which that army is likely to set up – as legal authority and to utilize against them every means of passive resistance, except those that would endanger the essential supplies and public utilities of Budapest. I cannot issue an order for armed resistance: I have been participating in the government's work for one day only, and I am not informed about the military situation; thus it would be irrespon­sible of me to dispose of the priceless blood of Hungarian youth. The people of Hungary have already sacrificed enough of their blood to show the world their devotion to freedom and truth. Now it is up to the world powers to demonstrate the force of the principles contained in the United Nations' Charter and the strength of the world's freedom-loving peoples. I appeal to the major powers and the United Nations to make a wise and courageous decision to protect the freedom of our subjugated nation.

I also declare at this time that Hungary's sole authorized representative abroad, and the senior member of the country's diplomatic corps, is Minister of State Anna Kéthly.

May God protect Hungary!

Budapest, November 4, 1956.

“Being a democrat above all means not being afraid; not being afraid of people with different opinions, different mother tongues, or people from different races … not being afraid of all those imaginary fears which are only made real by our fears of them.” (István Bibó)


István Bibó (1911-1979) was a Hungarian lawyer, political scientist, sociologist, expert on the philosophy of law, and politician and political theorist. He came from a Reformed family. During the Hungarian Revolution he acted as the Minister of State for the Hungarian National Government. When the Soviets invaded to crush the rebellious government, he was the last Minister left at his post in the Hungarian Parliament building in Budapest. Rather than evacuate, he stayed in the building and wrote his famous proclamation, "For Freedom and Truth", as he awaited arrest. Bibó was arrested on 23 May 1957 and sentenced to life imprisonment on 2 August 1958 but released in the 1963 amnesty.

Bibó became a role model for dissident intellectuals in the late communist era. Bibó came from a Calvinist intellectual background. His father was the director of the university library in Szeged, and he married the daughter of the famous Reformed bishop László Ravasz. In 1934 he received his doctorate from the Faculty of Political and Legal Studies at the University of Szeged. In 1944, following the German occupation of Hungary, he drew up “Plans for a Peace Proposal,” which was to be a framework for postwar domestic arrangements and for the abolition of social disharmony. In 1944 and 1945 he handed out exemption papers to hundreds of Jews and other persecuted individuals, and for this he was forcibly suspended from his post.

Bibó was married to Boriska Ravasz, daughter of the famous reformed Bishop, László Ravasz

In 1945 Ferenc Erdei, the minister of the interior in the interim national government, appointed Bibó as head of the ministry’s administration department. In that role, Bibó helped draft the new electoral law and wrote a memoir criticizing the expulsion of the Germans from Hungary. In 1946 he was appointed a professor of political science at the University of Szeged, and a year later he became an administrator for the Institute for Eastern European Studies. Meanwhile, he published a series of incisive essays on problems of Hungarian and east-central European society. His essays “The Crisis of Hungarian Democracy” (1945) and “The Jewish Question in Hungary since 1944” (1948) and his treatise “The Misery of the Small Eastern European States” (1946) were recognized as the cornerstones of modern Hungarian political thinking by the dissident intellectual movements of the 1980s. The communist regime, however, disapproved of Bibó’s thought and activities, and in 1950 he was asked to retire.

On November 3, 1956, he became minister of state in the revolutionary government led by Imre Nagy. Remaining in the Parliament Building while Soviet troops were invading Budapest, on November 4 he issued a proclamation to the nation, and on November 9 he prepared a proposal for “a compromise to solve the Hungarian question.” He was arrested in 1957, and in 1958 he was sentenced to life imprisonment, convicted of “leadership of arrangements intended to overthrow the state order of the people’s democracy.” In 1963 he was released in an amnesty. In 1978 the charge against him was rescinded.

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