Imre Nagy ( 1896-1958)
Born in Kaposvár, Imre Nagy's father was a farm labourer on a manor, a county employee and a telegraph worker. After eight years of schooling, Nagy trained as a fitter. He was conscripted into the army in 1915 and taken prisoner by the Russians in the following summer. He joined the Red Guard in June 1918 and fought in the Russian Civil War. He joined the Bolshevik party in February 1920. On his return to Hungary in March 1921, Nagy worked as a clerk with an insurance company. He was active in the local branch of the Hungarian Social Democratic Party, but was expelled in 1925. He then became a founder member of the communist HSWP. After being imprisoned for a short while in 1927, he emigrated to Vienna, but returned to Hungary secretly several times. In the communist party, he became responsible for recruitment among the peasantry and head of the Rural Department. He also edited the Parasztok Lapja (Peasants' Paper). Nagy was criticized for right-wing deviations at the 2nd Congress of the Hungarian Communist Party, held in 1930 in Moscow. In that year, he went to live in the Soviet Union, working at the Comintern Institute of Agricultural Sciences, at the Central Statistical Office of the Soviet Union, and at Radio Moscow, where he was editor of the Hungarian broadcasts from 1939 to 1944. Nagy published several agricultural studies during his years in Moscow. In 1936, he was expelled from the Hungarian party, but he was reinstated in 1938. He returned to Hungary in November 1944 as a member of the Hungarian Communist Party leadership, joining the committee that was preparing for the Provisional National Assembly. He became a member of the legislature in December 1944 and then agriculture minister in the provisional government. In the coalition government that took office on March 20, 1946, he was interior minister. Thereafter he became a secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party Central Committee, and from 1947 to 1949, speaker of Parliament. He was a Central Committee member from 1944 to 1949 and a Political Committee member from 1945 to 1949. He returned to the Political Committee in 1951-5. Nagy was critical of the rapid collectivization of agriculture and of the persecution of the kulaks. Although he exercised self-criticism, he was dropped from the leading bodies of the party in 1949. He then taught at the Hungarian Agricultural University until the summer of 1950, when he was appointed head of the Administrative Department of the HWP Central Committee. He became a corresponding member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1950 and a full member in 1953-5. In December 1950, he was appointed minister of food, and in January 1953, minister of collection (in charge of procurement and centralization of agricultural produce from the countryside). In November 1952, he became a deputy prime minister, and on July 4, 1953, prime minister, after an initiative by the Soviet Union. He then tried to implement a New Course, a comprehensive programme of economic and political reforms, but on April 18, 1955, he was dismissed, and on December 3 of that year, excluded from the communist party. However, he refused to renounce his views. He was considered the leading politician in the party opposition, opposed to the Stalinists. He was readmitted into the HWP on October 13, 1956, when his academic status was also restored. On October 23, 1956, he was brought back into the leadership of the party, in response to the demands of the demonstrators, and became prime minister again. As such, he tried to gain acceptance from the HWP and the Soviet Union for the main demands of the revolution, while toning down the demands he considered excessive. Identifying ever more closely with the will of the public, Nagy proclaimed a ceasefire, called for the departure of the Soviet troops, and declared the reintroduction of a multi-party system. In response to the entry of further Soviet troops into the country, in spite of the ceasefire, Nagy declared on November 1 Hungary' s neutrality and withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact. He took refuge in the Yugoslav Embassy at dawn on November 4. On November 22, he left the building with a safe conduct from the Kádár government, but was arrested by the Soviets and deported to Romania. He was arrested again in Snagov on April 14, 1957 and taken to Budapest. In line with a resolution of December 21, 1957 by the Central Committee of the HSWP, Nagy was prosecuted on political charges. The trial, having been postponed several times, commenced before the Council of the People' s Court of the Supreme Court, with Ferenc Vida in the chair. On June 15, 1958, Nagy was sentenced to death for initiating and leading a conspiracy and for treason. He rejected the charges throughout the proceedings and was not even prepared to put forward a substantive defence. The sentence was carried out in the courtyard of the National Prison on June 16. He was buried in an unmarked grave on the same site. His body was removed in 1961 to Parcel 301 of the main public cemetery in Budapest. However, pressure from democratic forces led to its exhumation in the spring of 1989. Nagy and his fellow martyrs were reburied in Parcel 301 on June 16, 1989, after a funeral ceremony that became symbolic of the democratic transformation that Hungary was undergoing at that time.
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