Joseph Stalin dies on March 5, 1953. Changes in the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union trigger a process of transformations in the USSR and the eastern bloc countries.
In Berlin and other cities of the German Democratic Republic a bloodily quelled uprising starts in June 1953. In Plzen several thousand workers demonstrate in the streets, clashing with soldiers and militiamen. In Hungary, where the system of reprisals was particularly brutal, Imre Nagy, a liberal communist, becomes prime minister. Political prisoners are set free and the pace of agriculture’s collectivisation slows down but in 1955 the opponents of reforms come into prominence again and oust Imre Nagy from his post and from the party.
Revelations concerning the Security Office’s (UB) secrets, presented during the programmes of Radio Free Europe by Józef Światło, a high-ranking UB functionary who defected to the West, exert a strong influence on the course of developments and moods in Poland. In 1953 the Ministry of Public Security is dissolved and Władysław Gomułka, a communist activist earlier accused of rightist-nationalist deviation, is released from jail.
On February 14, 1956, Nikita Khrushchev criticizes in a secret report to 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union held in Moscow the Stalinist methods of rule. On March 12, 1956 dies the Stalinist leader of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR) — Bolesław Bierut. He is replaced by Edward Ochab.
All these events aroused the hopes of the societies of Poland and Hungary for an improvement in the standard of living, for democratisation and greater national independence.