The First Domino

International Decision Making during the Hungarian Crisis of 1956

978-1-58544-298-0 Cloth
6.125 x 9.25. 344 pp.
Pub Date: 12/15/2003
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A Fascinating Analysis Based on Newly Declassified Documents from the Former USSR and Communist Bloc

On October 23-24 and November 3-4, 1956, the Soviet Union invaded Hungary to reassert strict communist rule. The First Domino:International Decision Making during the Hungarian Crisis of 1956 is the first analytical monograph in English drawing on new archival collections from East bloc countries to reinterpret decision making during this Cold War crisis. Johanna Granville selects four key patterns of misperception as laid out by Columbia University political scientist Robert Jervis and shows how these patterns prevailed in the military crackdown and in other countries' reactions to it.

Granville perceptively examines the statements and actions of Soviet Presidium members, the Hungarian leadership, U.S. policy makers, and even Yugoslav and Polish leaders. According to Granville, Soviet first secretary Nikita Khrushchev zigzagged ineptly between policy options with apparently little or no analysis of costs and risks, permitting Moscow’s Eastern European satellites at times to subtly manipulate the Kremlin's decision making. Granville’s discussions of Polish policy, Yugoslav actions, and the arduous process of normalization after the uprising show that the Soviets were preoccupied with stemming what many of them construed as a Western-encouraged attempt to undermine Eastern Europe’s communist regimes.

Granville concludes that the United States bears some responsibility for the events of 1956, as ill-advised U.S. covert actions may have convinced the Soviet leaders that the United States was attempting to weaken Soviet hegemony over Eastern Europe, although the Eisenhower administration actually intended only to sow confusion and dissatisfaction.

This masterful study leads to the conclusion that the Hungarian Crisis in 1956 was most likely sustained by self-perpetuating misperceptions and suspicions among key countries. In short, Granville's multi-archival research tends to confirm the post-revisionists' theory about the cold war: it was everyone's fault and no one's fault. It resulted from the emerging bipolar structure of the international system, the power vacuum in Europe's center, and spiraling misconceptions.

Eugenia & Hugh M. Stewart '26 Series

Published by Texas A&M University Press