A retrospective: Mátyás Rákosi and Hungary

Hungary (Magyarország) is a Central European country, who’s official language is Hungarian which is one of the Uralic languages, which include Finnish and Estonian. It’s largest, and capital city is Budapest, and the western part of the city was initially Buda which is on the banks of the western Danube, and Pest is on the banks of the Eastern Danube. Pest is home to the impressive Hungarian Parliament Building (Országház£ which means ‘house of the nation’, which resides in Kossuth Square.

Hungarian Parliament Building

The land that Hungary sits on has been dominated my many cultures and civilisations, especially the Romans, Celts, Huns and the Ottoman Empire, and for around fifty years from 1867 it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Osztrák-Magyar Monarchia), which was the second largest and most powerful nation behind the Russian Empire.

June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand visited the Bosnian capital city Sarajevo, Franz was Heir presumptive (Thronfolger) to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and was assassinated by 19 year old Gavrilo Princip (Гаврило Принцип) who was a Bosnian Serb, who was a member of the Young Bosnia Млада Босна) who wanted Bosnia and Herzegovina to gain independence from the Austro-Hungarian rule. Gavrilo was a Serbian Orthodox Christian, who was born into poverty, and belonged to the peasant group kmets.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand &

He was amongst six people who intended to assassinate Franz, and Nedeljko Čabrinović attempted first by throwing a grenade but failed. Princip happened to be sat outside a cafe when Franz’s driver took a wrong turn and by chance stopped in front of him. He walked over and shot Franz in the neck, and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg in the stomach and they both died shortly after. This started a chain of events that lead to the start of the Great War (World War I).

Mátyás Rákosi

Rákosi was born 1892 in Ada, in Bács-Bodrog county Austria-Hungary, which is now in the Serbian province of Vojvodina. His parents were Jewish and originally had the surname Rosenfeld, but his father changed it to Rákosi to distance himself from his Jewish heritage, and declared himself an atheist Marxist.

Mátyás Rákosi

In 1910, whilst still a strident he joined the The Social Democratic Party of Hungary (Magyarországi Szociáldemokrata Párt). He joined the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I, and was captured as a prisoner of war by the Soviets. He managed to escape and relocated to Petrograd, right in the centre of the Russian Revolution.

Upon his return to Hungary his interest in Communism was extremely intent, and he joined the Party of Communists in Hungary (Kommunisták Magyarországi Pártja). He went to Russia after the Soviet Republic’s fall, after fleeing to Austria and worked for Communist International. In 1924 he secretly returned to Hungary to restart the underground Communist party and was arrested and spent the next sixteen years in and out of prison, and in 1940 he was released to the Russian government amongst other communist prisoners. Moscow immediately recognised him as leader of the Hungarian Communist party.

By the end of the war, Eastern Europe was under control of the Soviet Union, and every country was ruled by a Soviet chosen leader, Rákosi returned to Budapest under the support of Joseph Stalin. He set about destroying his opponents like every other Communist Dictator, and anyone not looking at the world through Communist eyes was outed as a facist. He gave the other party members an ultimatum. They either agreed and supported his Communist government, or face the rest of their lives in exile never allowed to return to Hungary.

Rákosi approached his leadership using the cult of personality tactic, which heavily relied on propaganda, patriotism and fear. Rallies were held to influence the Hungarian public into thinking he was worthy of worship, and that he was a heroic leader. He adopted the ruthless totalitarian leadership that Joseph Stalin had inspired and used his secret service to round up his opposition that ended with either them going missing, executed or imprisoned. He adopted Stalin type removal of anyone that didn’t agree with his policies and in an eight year period between 1948 – 1956 it’s said that hundreds of thousands met Rákosi‘s iron fist.

Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin died in 1973 after suffering a stroke, but the stranglehold the Soviet Union had on Eastern Europe remained just as tight under his successor, Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, who ruled during 11 years of the Cold War. Despite keeping a tight grip, he set about De-Stalinization (десталинизация) which was about reversing some of Stalin’s policies, but in reality he made many situations much worse.

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev

During 1956, Rákosi was forced to resign by Khrushchev, and moved to the Soviet Union to remove him from the politics of Hungary. He spent the rest of his life living in the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic (Кыргыз Советтик Социалисттик)

The same year was the Hungarian Revolution in which the Hungarian people were tired of the quality of life under Soviet control and an uprising began. Imre Nagy became the prime minister and attempted to make Hungary independent from the Soviet Union.

Imre Nagy

He appealed to the United Nations for help as the Soviet Union prepared their invasion but refused as they didn’t want a large scale conflict. The Soviet Army invaded Hungary to end the revolution, and captured Nagy who was attempting to seek asylum in the Yugoslav embassy, secretly tried him and executed him for treason. The Soviet invasion saw hundreds of thousands of Hungarians flee the country, and thousands into their graves. Once again the Soviet Union took ultimate control over Hungary.

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