The Taiping Rebellion And The Hungarian Revolution Of 1956

There have been many rebellions and revolts that have taken place all over the world. Many have made their way into history books that we read today in all different classes. We have all heard about the American Civil War but there was another event that took place at that very single time. An event that drew little attention from the western world. An event that was one of the most catastrophic events in the history of our planet. The American Civil War had more than seven hundred thousand casualties. However, an event that took place at that very time has drawn much less interest and is very rarely discussed and shared in the western world. The Taiping Rebellion was a huge civil war that went on for over fourteen years. The Civil War was fought between the established Qing Dynasty and the Christian millenarian movement of the Heavenly Kingdom of Peace. The Taiping Rebellion began in a southern province of China when local officials launched a campaign of persecution against a Christian sect known as the God Worshiping Society led by a man named Hong Xiuquan, who actually believed himself to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ. He legitimately believed that Jesus was his older brother and shared this with anyone who would listen. He believed that he had divine intervention and that his work was the work God. All of his plans that he laid out and shared with the people were plans that he believed Jesus was sharing through him. China, while under the Qing Dynasty in the mid-19th century, suffered a series of natural disasters, economic problems, and defeats at the hands of many different Western Countries; in particular, the brutal defeat in 1842 by Great Britain, in the very first Opium War.

The Qing government, was seen by much of the Chinese population as an ineffective and corrupt political regime. There were large Anti-Manchu rallies and propaganda and these were all strongest in southern China among the blue collar working class. These rallies and speeches spread throughout China and an anti-Manchu sentiment grew and grew. Hong decided that he wanted to spread his word and start a new dynasty. The new dynasty was to be called Taiping Tianguo. He would call himself Tianwang which means “ Heavenly King”. He constantly used this belief that he was Jesus Christ to his advantage in anyway that he could. This belief allowed his decisions to not be questioned by his followers because they thought it was the work of God. Their credo was to share property in common and it attracted many hungry peasants, workers, and miners. Hong played on the attitude of those that had very little and promised them land, food, and jobs.

The Taiping militia grew stronger, and stronger and they increased from a small disorganized group of several thousand to more than one million totally disciplined and committed soldiers, organized into separate men’s and women’s divisions. This group started out as a small militia and then transformed into a highly sophisticated army of trained soldiers ready to give their life. The transformation was amazing. After many months of organizing and strategizing the army traveled and captured their first city. The city at the time was called Nanjing. They overran the city and took it over. They changed the name of it to “Tanjing” meaning Heavenly Capital”. Immediately after capturing their first city and renaming it they decide to try and take over the capital of China, Beijing. However, they bit off more than they could chew here and were halted and forced to retreat back to Tanjing. This greatly affected Hong and his men. Hong had not ordered this raid and one of the generals who did order the raid was slain at the hands of Hong. This created in fighting and caused upheaval in the army. This upheaval started to unhinge the army and caused a lack of trust that spread throughout the army.

In 1860 the Taipings tried again to take over a large city. This time the city was Shanghai. However just like in Beijing the army did not find itself successful and was forced to surrender and flee. Shanghai had British and American troops that on the side of the Qing Dynasty. The Taipings were extremely outmatched both by weapons and by the sheer size of the Chinese army with help from both the US and Great Britain. The Taipings were forced to go back to Tanjing and regroup however the loss in the fight in Shanghai was huge. The Taipings tried to regroup in Tanjing and tried to gather more followers but the Qing dynasty attacked the Taipings in Tanjing knowing that their numbers were depleted and Tanjing fell two years later. During this time right before Tanjing fell, Hong committed suicide but not before appointing his son to be the new leader. However at this time it was too late and the Taiping fell to the Qing Dynasty. However other revolts from the Taipings in different areas of China took place for another seven years but were very small and were defeated quickly. However after this war that took place for over fourteen years the Qing Dynasty had lost an extremely high number of soldiers. After this war the Qing were never able to control China they way they did before the war started and shortly after the war they lost their hold on the country and fell. To this very day Both the Chinese communists and the Chinese Nationalists trace their origin back to the Taipings.

Another case that I have chosen is the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Prior to this event During the second World War, Hungary was a member of the so called Axis powers. They allied themselves with Germany, Italy, Romania, and Bulgaria. In 1941, the Hungarian military helped in the takeover of Yugoslavia and the USSR. The Soviet army was able to force back the Hungarian invaders. By 1944 the USSR was on its way to Hungary. Hungary was very fearful that they would be invaded by the strong USSR army. Before that happens, Nazi Germany eventually invades Hungary and occupies the country. Shortly after both the army of Germany and Hungary end up being defeated when the USSR invades Hungary. During the time of the takeover by the USSR, Hungary was having democratic elections and produced a coalition government. They were doing very well. However the USSR rule took its toll on the people of Hungary. The government that was in charge in Hungary was not a pro democratic government. Protests started to take place all over Hungary and encouraged other Hungarians to rally around and overthrow the Soviet backed regime. On October 23, over 20,000 protestors got together in downtown Budapest. They shared a belief that they wanted to be a pro democratic government that had no rule by foreign powers. They just wanted to be their own country ran by their own leaders. The revolt started as a student led demonstration and grew to something much bigger and much more powerful. The revolution spread very quickly all across Hungary and the government collapsed. Over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed, and 200,000 Hungarians fled to other countries as refugees. Large arrests continued for months and months after. However, by January 1957, the new Soviet-infused government had eliminated any and all public opposition. The soviets kept adding more and more troops inside Hungary and their army seemed too powerful for the Hungarians to match. They were simply outmanned and outgunned. Something very interesting but extremely sad was that the US government knew what was going on and could have intervened but did not. They issued public statements of sympathy for the Hungarian people but nothing was done. The Hungarian Revolution started as a protest and grew to a complete nationwide revolution. It may have not been successful in sustaining a democratic government at that time but they offered extreme resistance to soviet forces that had not been seen before.

Reading

  1. http://web.b.ebscohost.com.thor.nebrwesleyan.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=4e9e358d-9432-4191-a63e-e2e004c2b945%40sessionmgr110&vid=15&hid=115
  2. http://time.com/3878232/the-hungarian-revolution-of-1956-photos-from-the-streets-of-budapest/

Questions

  1. 1. What stood out to you most in both of the readings? Was their anything that you did not understand
  2. Have any of the theories we have talked about in class relate to either case? If so which ones and why?
  3. Should the US have helped the Hungarian people in pursuit of their goal of a democratic government in 1956?
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