updated 11/4/2006 10:42:04 PM ET 2006-11-05T03:42:04

Tens of thousands of people marched peacefully Saturday in a candlelit procession to mark the 50th anniversary of the Soviet crackdown on Hungary’s 1956 revolution, weeks after other commemorations of the uprising ended in violence.

The march was organized by the center-right opposition, which has demanded Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany step down for admitting on a leaked recording that the government lied about the economy to win re-election earlier this year.

The recording led to weeks of protests against the government. On Oct. 23, commemorations to mark the start of the anti-Soviet uprising were overshadowed by clashes between rioters and police. Nearly 170 people were injured and more than 130 detained.

Opposition leader Viktor Orban, whose Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Union lost the April elections, led Saturday’s march, carrying a large banner that read: “The truth will set you free.”

There were no reports of violence. Hungarian media estimated 60,000 people took part in the march, while organizers put the figure at 170,000.

“I am here because of what happened on Oct. 23,” said businessman Gyorgy Sarossy, 55. “I don’t see things getting better.”

Solemn remembrance
The commemorations across the country Saturday marked the end of the uprising, when an estimated 100,000 Soviet troops and up to 4,600 tanks overran the country. Around 2,800 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed in the Red Army offensive to crush the revolt.

Gyurcsany and Socialist Party leaders paid tribute to the revolution in a separate ceremony Saturday morning, placing wreaths and flowers at the Rakoskereszturi cemetery — the burial site of many of those executed for their role in the revolution including communist-turned-democrat Prime Minister Imre Nagy. They also visited a new monument to the revolution unveiled Oct. 23.

Gyurcsany was jeered at the unveiling, but on Saturday hundreds of Socialist supporters lined up to shake hands with him before laying their red carnations — one of the party’s symbols — at the foot of the monument.

Anger at Socialists
Many have questioned the right of the Socialists — heirs of the Communist Party which ruled Hungary until 1989 — to lead the commemorations. The Socialists’ red carnations were in striking contrast with mostly white and yellow flowers taken to the memorial by others.

“I think it’s astonishing that the Socialists are doing this,” said Margit Takacs, 54, who said one of her great-uncles had been imprisoned for years for participating in the uprising. “They should have stayed away from here.”

In the early afternoon, several hundred far-right protesters also gathered at Freedom Square, the location of the headquarters of Hungarian state television, where police clashed with protesters in mid-September after Gyurcsany’s recording was leaked to the media. Also in the square is a disputed memorial to Soviet soldiers killed at the end of World War II.

Police sealed off the area, allowing protesters to reach the square only from one side. One group of protesters brought wooden shields to the rally, saying they would be used to protect themselves from the police.

There have been calls to remove the Soviet memorial, which was put up by Soviet authorities in 1945 to honor more than 80,000 Soviet soldiers killed during the 3½-month siege to drive the German army out of the city.

“We don’t want the monument to be torn down, but we want it to be moved to a cemetery,” said Elod Novak, one of the protest organizers. “It’s more suitable there than here.”

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