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National Exhibit
National Exhibit
History
Hungary Under Communism

Author:  Paul Hollander Paul Hollander is professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and an associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. He grew up in Hungary which he left after the Revolution of 1956. Educated at the London School of Economics (B.A.) and Princeton University (Ph.D.) he is the author or editor of 14 books.

The single major precondition of the establishment of a communist system in Hungary was the arrival and prolonged presence of Soviet troops during and after World War II.

Hungary had belonged to the Axis powers, was an ally of Nazi Germany, sent troops to fight in the Soviet front and German troops were stationed in Hungary beginning March 1944. In the course of pushing German forces westward the Red Army entered Hungary in the fall of 1944 and by early April expelled the German troops and their Hungarian allies. Soviet troops stayed in Hungary until 1990.

The process of liberation in 1945 was accompanied by widespread looting and raping on the part of the Soviet troops unconstrained by their commanders. According to one estimate approximately 10% of all women in Hungary were raped by Soviet soldiers. As the historian Peter Kenez noted "there is some evidence that the Soviet leadership had a special distaste for Hungary." To be sure the mistreatment of German civilians in East Germany was far more severe and widespread.

The victorious Soviet troops occupying Hungary were accompanied by Hungarian communist functionaries who spent the inter-war period in the Soviet Union. They included those who came to occupy the highest positions in the communist regime after 1948: Mathias Rakosi (prime minister and General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party), Mihaly Farkas, (minister of defense) Erno Gero,(in charge of planning and economic matters) and Joseph Revai (chief ideologue). All were of Jewish origin which further diminished the legitimacy of the system, shaky to begin with due to its obvious dependence on Soviet force, and numerous unpopular policies.

The communist take-over did not follow immediately at the end of the war. Between 1945-1948 multi-party elections were held and coalition governments representing several political parties were in power. But even in this period the minister of internal affairs (in charge of the police) was communist that made it easier to take action against the opposition. In the first election in 1945 the communist party got 17% of the vote, the right of center Smallholder Party 57% and the social democrats 17% and the national peasant party close to 7%. In the second election in 1947 the communist vote rose to 22% (achieved largely by cheating) but since the communist party was part of the so-called left-wing bloc (with the left-wing social democrats and the peasant party) it controlled the parliament.

The communist take-over was gradual. Rakosi called the process "salami tactics" - a step by step destruction of the opposition. The most spectacular and consequential measure was the arrest, by Soviet forces, of Bela Kovacs, the general secretary of the Smallholders Party and his removal to the Soviet Union. The prime minister, Ferenc Nagy, (also of the Smallholders Party) while vacationing in Switzerland resigned under pressure from Rakosi to avoid being charged upon his return to Hungary with the same conspiracy Kovacs allegedly confessed to.

An important step toward the consolidation of power was the uniting of the communist and social-democratic parties (the latter under a subservient leadership) that resulted in a new party under communist control called the Hungarian Workers Party. Subsequently the non-communist political parties and other organizations (including the Boy Scouts) were either dissolved or
co-opted.

The communist system in Hungary between 1948-53 could be characterized as totalitarian and as such faithfully modeled on the Soviet Union under Stalin. The imitation of the Soviet model ranged from the trivial to the far-reaching. The uniform of the Hungarian army was redesigned and made virtually indistinguishable from the Soviet; the Hungarian flag too was redesigned with red star and hammer and sickle super-imposed on the national colors; new office buildings followed the grandiose Soviet neo-classical style; Soviet culture was extolled in schools and the mass media, Soviet socialist realist literature was required reading in schools and mandatory Russian replaced
Western languages.

This author (as all others of the same generation) also learned in high school that virtually all major scientific discoveries and inventions were made by Russians in centuries past. Religious instruction earlier part of the high school curriculum was eliminated as were schools ran by the churches. Soviet control of the economy found expression in joint Soviet-Hungarian enterprises serving Soviet interests. A new Hungarian Constitution was adopted in 1949 modeled on the Soviet one.

By 1948 political life came under the domination of the communist authorities with the help of the new political police or state security (AVO, AVH). Soviet advisers were placed in both the military and the state security; they were also dispersed in ministries.

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Hungary
Location:  Eastern Europe
Capital:  Budapest
Communist Rule:  1949-1989
Status:  Dissolved - 23.10.1989
Victims of Communism:
27 000