Imre Nagy was a lifelong communist who almost led Hungarians to freedom from communism. As Prime Minister in 1953, he planned to liberalize the economy and release political prisoners. In 1955, he was ousted by the Communist Party. Yet he couldn't escape Moscow's teachings.
When, in 1956, students revolted against the Stalinist government, forcing it to reinstate him, he still addressed his followers as "comrades." Even as he tried to establish Hungary's independence from the Soviet Union, he couldn't bring himself to believe that Moscow would use force against working-class Hungarians. As tanks were trundling into the country, he laughed when one of his friends warned he'd be hanged. "But I believe in Marx and Lenin," he said. On June 16, 1958, the Soviet forces hanged him anyway.
It's true that Nagy dawdled while Budapest burned. Hungary at that moment needed not a communist but a dedicated anti-communist to lead it to freedom. Yet Nagy gave hope to the masses through his presence alone. He was Imre Bacsi Uncle Imre at that spine-chilling time.
The Stalinists swatted him aside, but without Imre Nagy there probably would have been no Mikhail Gorbachev. Some maintain that without the Hungarian revolution of 1956, sparked by the corruption of ideals Nagy had so much faith in, communism wouldn't have died. But that, others will argue, is a naive, romantic notion the kind Nagy would have had.