1945 general elections: The first post-war parliamentary elections in Hungary were held on November 4, 1945. Although the country was under Soviet military occupation at the time, these were free, democratic, multi-party elections, whose results were recognized also by the Western powers. The winner was the Independent Smallholders’ Party (FKgP), which received an absolute majority of the votes cast (57.03 per cent). The Social Democratic Party (SZDP) came second with 17.41 per cent, the Hungarian Communist Party (MKP) third with 16.95 per cent and the National Peasant Party (NPP) fourth with 6.87 per cent. Under a prior agreement, these four parties formed a coalition government, in which the Communists took several key portfolios, including the Ministry of the Interior.

1959 amnesty: The first, partial amnesty after the 1956 Revolution was declared in the spring of 1959, thanks to ‘the swift political and economic consolidation’, according to Legal Decree No. 12/1959. It freed those who had received relatively short terms, as well as juveniles and some cases justified on humanitarian grounds (elderly prisoners, pregnant women, mothers of small children, etc.), irrespective of the length of their sentences. Also released were prisoners sentenced after 1956 by special courts (see accelerated criminal proceedings, summary justice, people’s courts>), who had subsequently shown ‘serious signs of reform’ while serving their sentences. Quite a large group of prisoners convicted by summary courts for concealing weapons were released at this time.

1960 amnesty: A second partial amnesty was ordered on April 1, 1960, to mark the ‘15th anniversary of the country’s liberation’ (i.e. the expulsion of the German forces by the Red Army at the end of the Second World War; this was marked on April 4 as a national holiday.) Like the other post-1956 amnesties, it was not confined to those condemned in connection with the uprising. For instance, Paragraph 2 of the order released prisoners convicted after the Second World War of war crimes or crimes against the people, if they had served at least ten years of their sentence.

1963 amnesty: Foreign and domestic political developments in 1963 led to a ‘grand’ amnesty of those imprisoned for acts committed in 1956. The superpowers had recovered from the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, while the ruling HSWP had pronounced that the foundations of socialism had been laid. So both sides were inclined towards a settlement that would end Hungary’s diplomatic isolation. Secret negotiations between Hungary and the United States had begun in 1960. Then in the autumn of 1962, the United States persuaded the UN> General Assembly not to place the Hungarian question on its agenda. The new UN Secretary-General, U Thant, received an invitation to visit Budapest. However, even at this stage the Kádár government was not prepared to forgive and pardon everyone who had taken part in the 1956 revolution. There were exceptions to the amnesty that left several hundred ’56-ers still captive. On the other hand, those released included Second World War criminals who had served two-thirds of their sentences. Unrestricted freedom was restored to those ‘who in abusing their power had violated socialist legality’. The amnesty excluded ’56-ers classed as recidivists—anyone who had already received an enforceable prison sentence since 1951, whatever the charge. Also excluded were any of those convicted of involvement in the revolution who had also been charged with a serious crime (murder, robbery, etc.) That meant most of the armed revolutionaries remained in prison, including the conscript soldiers who had obeyed their officers’ orders on November 4 to engage Soviet troops. Finally, the amnesty did not apply to treasonable acts after May 1, 1957, for instance an appeal to an international organization on behalf of convicted revolutionaries or those undergoing prosecution. At this stage, historians are still unable to say precisely when the final ’56-er was released from prison. One prisoner, known to have been released on May 14, 1974, was probably not the last.

20th Congress, see Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Accelerated criminal proceedings: Legal decree No. 4/1957, which entered into force on January 15, 1957, instituted accelerated criminal proceedings, designed to pass swift, severe sentences on those accused of ‘counter-revolutionary crimes’. For instance, it allowed proceedings to begin without a formal indictment. According to legal decree No. 5/1957, ‘the punishment for those convicted of crimes by accelerated proceedings is death,’ which could be commuted at the court’s discretion. However, the decree did not live up to expectations, even though it allowed the death sentence to be carried out even on young offenders between the age of 18 and 20, which had been banned in 1950. It was rescinded on June 15, 1957, under legal decree No. 34/1957, which established the people’s courts.

Administrative methods/measures: This euphemism for coercive measures taken by the authorities was applied, for instance, to criminal proceedings against those late with their work or producing sub-standard goods, or in the countryside, peasants failing to supply their assigned quantity of produce.

Akadémia utca party centre: The country was essentially run from Akadémia utca 17 (5th District), where the central organizations of the HWP were housed. Initially, Prime Minister Imre Nagy worked from Akadémia utca as well, but on October 29, he moved his offices to Parliament, in nearby Kossuth tér, which replaced the party centre as the country’s political headquarters.

ÁVH (previously the ÁVO): The State Security Authority (ÁVH) was set up in September 1948, under the control of the Interior Ministry. Its legal predecessors were the Political Security Department (PRO, 1945) and the State Security Department of the Interior Ministry’s State Police (ÁVO, 1946), which had been headed by communist officials even in the coalition period. The PRO’s main task had been to purge Hungary of the remnants of Nazism. Its brief was extended after the November 1945 general elections to waging a struggle against ‘reactionary elements’. Its headquarters were at Andrássy (later Sztálin) út 60 (6th District), which had earlier been the ‘House of Fidelity’ where Ferenc Szálasi’s fascist Arrow-Cross Party had been based. Later it moved to the tower block in Jászai Mari tér (5th District), popularly known as the ‘White House’. The ÁVO and later the ÁVH played a decisive part in preparing and conducting show trials during the struggles accompanying the communist take-over. Its activity was supervised and controlled by members of the Soviet state security service, the NKVD (later the KGB), acting as advisers to its leaders. After the communists took power in 1948, the ÁVH was treated as the army or ‘fist’ of the ruling HWP. The ÁVH at the peak of its power (1949–53) functioned as a separate authority formally responsible to the Council of Ministers (government). However, its sole chief in reality was the party general secretary, Mátyás Rákosi. Apart from the security police, the ÁVH included an 18,000-strong Army Border Guard (the ‘Green ÁVO’) and the military intelligence. It also contained an Internal Force, a corps for keeping order within the service, established after the Soviet pattern. The ÁVH assumed the task of guarding important party and state buildings and several forced-labour and internment camps, including Recsk and Kistarcsa. Between 1950 and 1953, the ÁVH took proceedings against about 650,000 people. The dreaded Gábor Péter, who headed the organization from 1945 until his arrest in January 1953, carried out faithfully every order from Rákosi. In 1953, Imre Nagy’s first government attempted to place the ÁVH under Interior Ministry control again. During the 1956 revolution, the deep antipathy for the Stalinist system felt by Hungarian society manifested itself most of all in hatred of the ÁVH and the lynching of some ‘ÁVO’ men. Some ÁVH units and officers fought against the rebels alongside the Soviet troops. The Nagy government fulfilled one of the main demands of the revolution on October 28, 1956 by disbanding the ÁVH. This was confirmed on November 7 by the Kádár government in an Interior Ministry order, although most of its members continued to work for the state-security (later the political investigation) department of the police until 1961.

Bolshevik, Bolshevism: Bolshevik (derived from the Russian word for majority) was the term applied to the revolutionary, communist wing of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party and its members. The Bolsheviks under Lenin gained a majority over the Mensheviks (minority) during a debate over the party’s statutes, at its second congress in London in 1903. Bolshevik was included in the official name of the Soviet Russian communist party from 1918 to 1952. Bolshevism was used up to the Second World War to denote the theory of Marxism-Leninism and the practice of revolutionary workers’ and communist parties.

Borsod County Workers’ Council (Borsod Megyei Munkástanács): This formed on October 25, 1956 in Miskolc, the county seat, under the leadership of Miklós Papp and Attila Nagy, while Rudolf Földvári and the Dimávag engineering factory delegation were negotiating with Imre Nagy in Budapest. The founding meeting, in the university quarter of the city, gave immediate support to the strike. It decided to establish a workers’ guard of 150 men to strengthen public security, and called for workers’ councils to be established in factories. Consequently, workers’ councils took over the running of factories and of many communities across Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County in the next few days. After the capture of the police headquarters on October 26, the county workers’ council moved into the premises of the county council, an action symbolizing that power had been taken over by the local forces for the revolution. Although the workers’ council immediately set about organizing security forces, it was unable to prevent a second outbreak of mob violence on October 27, after which several members resigned. The Dimávag delegation arrived back from Budapest on the same day. Having learnt of the events in the city, they met in the assembly hall of the factory the next day, where they re-elected the county workers’ council. Further members were co-opted on October 29 to the workers’ council that had been elected on October 25 and formed on October 27 at a meeting in the Dimávag cultural hall. The workers’ council controlled the county administrative apparatus and adopted the local workers’ 21 points as its programme. On November 5, the workers’ council had fruitless negotiations with the commanders of the Soviet forces occupying the city. They were all arrested and deported to Subcarpathia, over the Soviet border. Local HSWP rule was re-established under Károly Grósz (who was to become prime minister in 1987–8 and the last general secretary of the HSWP in 1989–90.) However, the general strike caused the party to backtrack. The arrested members of the workers’ council were released in mid-November and some even brought into the running of the city and council. The local HSWP began its final reckoning with the workers’ council after an activists’ meeting on December 9.

Bourgeois democracy, see Multi-party system

Cadres: Cadres were young workers or peasants picked out by the communist party for their political convictions and set to work in the communist bureaucracy. Their consequent position of dependence on the party made them supporters of the status quo and the party leadership of the day, not reformers. Cadres were universal crew members, prepared to step into any post the party assigned to them. Often cadres would be required to do four or five important jobs at once, in the state administration, in a government body, in production and in the party administration. They provided the broadest and most important basis for the communist party.

Central Committee see HWP, HSWP, Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Central Leadership, see HWP

Class aliens, class enemies: Class aliens were those deemed to be ‘alien and opposed’ to the working classes. The practice between the end of the 1940s and 1962 was to rank former landowners, aristocrats, factory and company owners and rentiers (according to their occupation and property status in 1938) as class aliens. The category also included war criminals, those convicted of political crimes, those branded as kulaks, former gendarmes, former holders of official political or high state functions, former police and military personnel not transferred to the new forces, workshop owners and traders who employed two or more people for an extended period after the war, and clergy who failed to cooperate with the system. An HSWP Central Committee resolution of 1957 also categorized as class aliens those who had been convicted for their part in the ‘counter-revolution’. Class aliens and those of class-alien descent could not hold certain jobs or leading positions, and were excluded from higher education. Being a class alien was an aggravating circumstance in a criminal trial. Class enemies included class aliens and all those who opposed the dominant ideology, irrespective of their class status.

Collectivization: According to Lenin’s ideas, the peasants, on seeing the superiority of the ‘socialist’ system over the capitalist, would voluntarily pool their land in a collective, cooperative farm (kolkhoz), which they would farm in common. This they were expected to do out of economic self-interest. In the event, the Soviet Union began a process of forcible collectivization of land, against the will of the majority of peasants. Those who opposed the process strongly were branded along with richer peasants as kulaks. Precisely the same process of forcible collectivization occurred in Hungary after 1948, although the preferred terms were ‘cooperativization’ and ‘agricultural cooperative’. This was halted by Imre Nagy’s reforms in 1953, but resumed under the Kádár government in 1959. Collectivization also entailed a consolidation of the fragmented peasant land holdings into larger fields. This was in theory designed to allow the land to be used in a more rational, planned way, so that large-scale farming methods could be used. In practice, it was often used as a disciplinary measure, with worse land being awarded to recalcitrant peasants in exchange for better.

Communist Party of the Soviet Union: The Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik), which had social democratic antecedents going back to 1875, was formed in March 1918. When the Soviet Union was formed in 1922, after the communist success in the Russian civil war, the party changed its name to the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of the Soviet Union. Stalin took over the leadership on Lenin’s death in January 1924. The party became an omnipotent, ubiquitous organization in the country, with Stalin as its single, all-powerful leader. The name was changed again in 1952 to the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik), but continued to be known colloquially as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Nikita Khrushchev emerged as leader from the power struggle that followed Stalin’s death in 1953. He was suddenly unseated by his associates in 1964, when Leonid Brezhnev became leader. The membership of the party was around ten million. The supreme policy-making body of the party, the Political Committee of the Central Committee, was known from 1952 to 1966 as the Presidium and in some other periods as the Political Bureau or Politburo.

Communist Party of Yugoslavia, see League of Yugoslav Communists

Consolidation of land holdings (tagosítás), see Collectivization

Consolidation: Consolidation was the term used during the 1956 revolution for the period between October 28 and dawn on November 4, when armed combat had ceased and life had returned to normal, after the political demands of the rebels (and the Hungarian nation) had been met. The Kádár government that gained power after November 4 applied the same term to the period up to about 1963. This period, marked by terror and reprisals against those who had taken part in the revolution, allowed the Kádár government to cement its initially tenuous hold on power, with the military help of the Soviet Union.

Corvin köz group: Armed civilians in the Corvin Cinema and surrounding buildings began to fight with the Soviet armoured forces as early as the night of October 23–4, 1956. Taking advantage of the area’s excellent strategic conditions, the rebels of Corvin köz (Corvin Passage) soon became the biggest and most important armed revolutionary group. Their valour was a decisive factor behind the favourable turn of events on October 28. The group’s commander-in-chief was László Iván Kovács and later Gergely Pongrátz. Representatives of the Corvin köz group negotiated several times with national political and military leaders during the ceasefire, and their influence on armed groups in their neighbourhood increased. The Soviet forces began to attack the group with large forces on the evening of November 4. However, the defenders managed to hold their positions until the following afternoon, when the Soviets followed up an artillery bombardment with a further strong attack. The surrounding buildings were seriously damaged and the cinema caught fire. This caused the group to abandon its base, but some members continued fighting in other parts of the city for several days. Others retreated into the cellars of the buildings until they were crushed by the superior forces.

Council of Ministers (Minisztertanács): This was the official name for the government. When Imre Nagy became prime minister for the first time in 1953, one of his first organizational moves was to replace the Presidium and Bureau of the Council of the Ministers with a Secretariat. This was the prime minister’s personal policy and advisory apparatus, whose responsibilities included the administrative tasks associated with the Council of Ministers. In March 1954, Prime Minister Nagy formed the Information Bureau of the Council of Ministers, headed by Zoltán Szántó. It controlled the press, Hungarian Radio and the official Hungarian news agency MTI, provided newspapers and periodicals with paper, and so on. Its foundation supplied a government counterpart to the Agitation and Propaganda Department of the HWP.

Council system, see Local government

Counter-revolution: In Western political parlance, a revolution is the abrupt overthrow of a political system, by force rather than constitutional means. Communist terminology adds to this definition a direction: a revolution is ‘progressive’, inasmuch as it moves a country along a sequence of development predicted by Marx, from feudalism through bourgeois society to socialism and ultimately communism. An abrupt change of system that moves the country in the opposite direction, away from socialism, was therefore reactionary—a counter-revolution, not a revolution. The thinking behind the term is exemplified by the definition found in Lexicon of Labour-Movement History by Henrik Vass, a standard work in the Kádár period. Counter-revolution is ‘a reactionary turn in the nature of political power or a collective action that aims at this. Behind it, there always lies the vested interest of classes and social strata intent on impeding social progress. Its classic form is when the state power of the class representing the historically most progressive socio-economic system is overturned with the purpose or restoring the previous social formation (for instance, the defeat of the Hungarian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic in 1919) or an attempt is made to do this (for instance, by the Russian counter-revolutionaries between 1918 and 1921).’

Debrecen Socialist Revolutionary Committee (Debreceni Szocialista Forradalmi Bizottmány): Local party and council leaders in Debrecen reached agreement with representatives of the revolutionary organizations, students, workers and soldiers during overnight talks on October 25–6. The events were classified as a socialist revolution, and it was decided to establish the Debrecen Socialist Revolutionary Committee as a new local authority. This summarized its demands under 26 points, which were published in the local Néplap (People’s Paper) on October 27. The chairman was Lieutenant-Colonel László Csorba, commander of the local guard. The committee took power on October 27. The council offices and departments remained, but control of them passed to elected revolutionary bodies, headed by the committee. It ceased activity on November 4, after the Soviet intervention.

De-Stalinization: Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953 was followed by a process of eliminating the blatant, crude illegalities in the communist system associated with Stalin (show trials, labour camps, the personality cult etc.), without altering its essentials. Curiously, those aspiring to lead the de-Stalinization in several Eastern European countries and the Soviet Union were themselves much to blame for the excesses of the Stalinist period. They were induced to refine the methods employed by fear of a social explosion. For some, the motive was to stabilize their own power or bolster their political position. De-Stalinization was not carried out consistently in any country. In each case, it stalled on the way (except in Albania, where it never started.)

Disz (Union of Working Youth): The national, unified, mass youth organization led by the HWP was established in June 1950 to cover young people aged 14–25. The purpose was to gain full control over the youth movement, hitherto divided into several organizations, to raise young people as believers in the ‘people’s democratic system’, and to implement the party’s resolutions on youth. Furthermore, Disz provided the HWP with its supplies of new members. Its structure was hierarchical and centralized in exactly the same way as the parent party. Disz published a central daily paper, the Szabad Ifjúság (Free Youth), and a weekly. The organization broke up during the 1956 revolution. Its place and role began to be taken over in the spring of 1957 by Kisz—the Communist Youth League.

Doctrinaire, dogmatic: These pejorative expressions were applied to rigid, unrealistic adherents of Soviet-style communist political thinking. The implication was that theoretical doctrine or dogma had been allowed to count for more than reality. The opposite heresy, of arbitrarily subordinating theory to practicalities, was known as opportunism.

East and West Germany: At the end of the Second World War, conquered Germany was divided into US, British, French and Soviet zones of occupation. The Cold War that began in 1947 produced a deep rift between the Soviet Union and the three Western allies. In 1949, the three Western zones were combined into the democratic Federal Republic of Germany. The Soviet Union responded by turning its zone into the communist German Democratic Republic. Berlin, the former capital of Germany, remained under four-power control, but East Berlin also became the capital of East Germany. (The capital of West Germany was Bonn.) In 1961, the East German regime raised a wall between East and West Berlin. This remained as a symbol of Europe’s divisions until 1989.

Factionalism: The formation of factions within the party by those not in total agreement with its policies and actions was strictly forbidden in communist parties. Lenin taught that an image of absolute unity and strength had to be presented to the outside world. Factions, he argued, destroyed the party’s unity of principle and organization, undermined discipline, hindered the attainment of its objectives, made it harder to control, and radically reduced its striking power and effectiveness. Factionalism was therefore a serious charge to level at a party member, which could lead to a death sentence, regardless of whether the charge was justified or not.

Federal Republic of Germany, see East and West Germany

Fellow travellers: This term was applied by the communists to members of the intelligentsia (and later to politicians in other political parties) who sympathized with communist ideas and were prepared to support the communists in certain cases.

Free Kossuth Radio: Hungary’s Kossuth radio station broadcast from October 30, 1956 until the crushing of the revolution as Free Kossuth Radio. This was to underline that it was an uncensored, revolutionary radio station, which had broken with the Stalinist past.

General Assembly, see UN

German Democratic Republic, see East and West Germany

Greater Budapest (Nagy-Budapest): The name was used for the enlarged Budapest of 22 districts, formed in 1950 by incorporating into the capital several surrounding towns and villages (Békásmegyer, Budafok, Csepel, Kispest, Mátyásföld, Rákoshegy, Újpest etc.)

Greater Budapest Central Workers’ Council (Nagy-budapesti Központi Munkástanács): This was formed at a meeting on November 14, 1956, held at the United Incandescent Lamp Factory in Újpest, by delegates from district and factory workers’ councils. (The Kádárite authorities had prevented the inaugural meeting from taking place on the 12th and 13th.) The Greater Budapest Central Workers’ Council struggled to defend the gains made in the revolution, until it was dissolved on December 9. It stood at the head of the spontaneous national strike, which had resumed after November 4. It called for the election of district workers’ councils in Budapest and tried to establish a national workers’ council. It established contact with the existing revolutionary organizations and with bodies that supported the revolution, such as the Writers’ Union and the Revolutionary Council of the Hungarian Intelligentsia. There were burgeoning relations with factory and district workers’ councils in the provinces. The Greater Budapest Central Workers’ Council had discussed the revolutionary demands on several occasions with the Kádár government. Its programme was founded on the draft made by István Bibó on November 6. It was headed by Sándor Rácz and Sándor Bali. The existence and activity of the Greater Budapest Central Workers’ Council represented a threat to the government that a dual system of power might develop. On December 8 (the day of the Salgótarján shooting), it called a 48-hour strike for December 11 and 12, in protest against the fruitless negotiations and the mounting terror. Responding on the following day, the Kádár regime outlawed district workers’ councils, and on the 11th had Rácz and Bali arrested at the gate of the Parliament building, as they arrived for negotiations.

Greek settlers in Hungary: About 120,000 Greeks, mainly women, children and wounded, and later partisans of the Greek Democratic Army, were resettled in European socialist countries after the Greek Civil War of 1944–9, under secret agreements between the Greek communist leaders and their governments. The first group arrived in Hungary in 1948. The refugees, most of whom were peasants and unskilled workers, were settled in closed communities. There were sizeable colonies at the tobacco factory in Kobányai út (8th District) and at a specially built village, which took the name Beloiannisz in 1952. Later, Greek blocks were designated on housing estates. This isolation of the community was designed to disguise their numbers and allow local leaders of the Greek Communist Party (GCP) to keep them under close surveillance. Many of them hardly learnt Hungarian at all and took no part in Hungarian life. In 1953, the GCP members (20 per cent of the refugees) were made members of the HWP. The body representing them, the Organization of Political Emigrés Living in Hungary, was under both Hungarian and Greek party control, according to its statutes. There were waves of repatriation in the 1960s and again in the 1970s. The Greek community in Hungary today numbers about 3000.

Gyor National Council: On October 26, 1957, the chairman of Gyor-Sopron County Council accepted the demands of the demonstrators in Gyor and travelled with them up to Budapest to place them before the government. At the same time, the senior party leadership fled to Czechoslovakia. That was the situation when the Gyor National Council was established in the City Hall. Attila Szigethy, a member of Parliament, was chosen as chairman. From the outset, the council assumed authority over the county. In its first proclamation, it declared the ÁVH to be dissolved in the county’s territory, and called on all communities to establish revolutionary councils under their own control. On October 28, it issued an ultimatum to the government calling for an immediate end to the armed struggle. The Gyor National Council convened the meeting on October 30 that gave rise to the Transdanubian National Council. It ceased activity on November 4 after the Soviet intervention.

Hard-liners: The hard-liners in the HWP leadership showed no inclination to make political changes or concessions. They were prepared even to use military force to protect Hungary’s Stalinist (Rákosi-ite) system. Among the main advocates of a hard line in October 1956 were HWP First Secretary Erno Gero, Prime Minister András Hegedüs and István Kovács, first secretary of the Budapest HWP Committee.

HSWP (Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party, (Magyar Szocialista Munkáspárt)

(i) A party of this name existed as a legal cover for the banned Hungarian Party of Communists, with István Vági as its chairman. The leaders were arrested in 1927. By 1928, it became impossible for the party to function and it was disbanded. (ii) The Presidium (Political Committee) of the HWP declared the party dissolved on October 31, 1956 and founded a new party with this name. It appointed a preparatory committee for the founding congress, consisting of Ferenc Donáth, János Kádár, Sándor Kopácsi, Géza Losonczy, György Lukács, Imre Nagy and Zoltán Szántó. Sándor Haraszti became the editor of the new party’s daily paper, the Népszabadság. The leadership continued to hold meetings after November 4, in the Yugoslav Embassy, in the absence of Sándor Kopácsi, who had been arrested, and of course, of János Kádár. (iii) The name was expropriated by the Kádár government for its new pro-Soviet party on November 4, 1956. The members of the Kádár government met on November 7, 1956, after arriving in Budapest, and appointed an HSWP Provisional Executive Committee: Antal Apró, Béla Biszku, Lajos Fehér, János Kádár, Gyula Kállai, Károly Kiss and György Marosán. (Ferenc Münnich joined on November 11.) A Provisional Central Committee and provisional Budapest and provincial bodies were formed during November. Permanent members of the leading committees were appointed in June 1957 at a national HSWP meeting. The Provisional Executive Committee was effectively the Political Committee, which was the name it took in June 1957.

Hungarian Democratic Independence Movement (Magyar Demokratikus Függetlenségi Mozgalom): This illegal organization was initiated on November 13, 1956 by members of the Revolutionary Committee of the Hungarian Intelligentsia. It was led by György Ádám and Miklós Gimes. On November 15, it issued its ‘Ten Commandments of Hungarian Rebirth’ and founded a paper, Október Huszonharmadika (October 23), which appeared surreptitiously in duplicated form until mid-December.

Hungarian National Revolutionary Committee (Magyar Nemzeti Forradalmi Bizottmány): Initiated by József Dudás, an engineer, this was established on October 29, 1956, at a meeting in the premises of the 2nd District Council. Its members had a wide range of affiliations. The committee endorsed the 25 points drawn up by Dudás. These included withdrawal of the Soviets, formation of a provisional government, dissolution of the ÁVH and revolutionary participation in law enforcement, establishment of a students’ parliament and councils of workers, peasants and soldiers, the right to strike, freedom of religion, the press and assembly, a multi-party system, withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact, and neutrality. Dudás became chairman of the organization, which he moved into the offices of the Szabad Nép. There he started a paper for the organization and recruited an armed group. In spite of all these efforts, the committee was unable to broaden its base and became almost completely isolated in the final days of the revolution.

Hungarian Revolutionary Council (Magyar Forradalmi Tanács), Strasbourg: Established at a meeting in Strasbourg on January 5–8, 1957, the Hungarian Revolutionary Council sought to express the desire of Hungarians for independence and freedom. It drew the Western powers’ attention to their commitments under the UN resolutions, by pressing for an immediate withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary and refusing to cooperate with the Kádár government. Anna Kéthly was elected president and Béla Király and József Kovágó vice-presidents. The delegates at Strasbourg decided on the principles for the council’s policies, its organizational structure, and its economic, refugee, cultural and information policies. However, it soon lost significance, due to adverse developments in world politics.

Hungarian Revolutionary Council (Magyar Forradalmi Tanács), Vienna: This small organization was formed in December 1956, mainly by revolutionaries from Pesterzsébet and Csepel (20th and 21st districts). It sought to continue the struggle for the revolution’s aims with Western financial support, conspiratorial means, and later weapons. After a time, most of its members moved to Genoa (due to Austria’s neutrality). Three couriers sent to Hungary were arrested (and two of them executed), after which the organization more or less ceased to function.

Hungarian Revolutionary Workers’ and Peasants’ Government, see Kádár government

Hungarian Writers’ Union, see Writers’ Union

Hungarian-Soviet Society (Magyar-Szovjet Társaság): Ostensibly intended to deepen Hungarians-Soviet friendship, the society’s actual purpose was to propagate the Soviet type of communist system. It was founded as the Hungarian-Soviet Cultural Society in 1945 and already had half a million members a year later. After changing its name and becoming a standard communist mass organization in 1948, it claimed 1.3 million members and 8000 local branches in 1953, although most of these operated only formally. The Hungarian-Soviet Society fell apart during the 1956 revolution. It was reconstituted as the Hungarian-Soviet Friendship Society in the summer of 1957, but without a membership.

HWP (Hungarian Workers’ Party, Magyar Dolgozók Pártja): The party came about by what was officially a merger between the Hungarian Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, when the latter, weakened and decimated, was in fact absorbed into the former. Although the social democrat Árpád Szakasits became president of the HWP, the real leader was Mátyás Rákosi. The membership exceeded a million. Rákosi was dismissed as leader in July 1956, but his successor, Erno Gero, differed little from him in policy. János Kádár took over from Gero on October 25, 1956, but the party disintegrated when the revolution succeeded. The Hungarian party had the same structure as the CPSU, with a Central Committee (known as the Central Leadership) of 100–110 members. This was the main decision-making body between party congresses, in some ways resembling the legislature in a multi-party democracy. Its members were elected by the delegates at the party congress. Resolutions of the Central Committee were binding on all lower party organs and the party membership. The Central Committee elected from among its own members a smaller, executive body, the Political Committee. This, after the pattern in all communist parties in the Soviet bloc, was the supreme body, equivalent in some respects to the government of a multi-party democracy. In the HWP’s case, it consisted of 8–12 members, of which one was the party first secretary. Political Committee resolutions were also binding on lower organs and the membership. The Secretariat consisted of the secretaries of the Central Committee, who were also members of the Political Committee. It organized, orchestrated and controlled the congress, oversaw the implementation of Central Committee and Political Committee resolutions, and was in charge of personnel matters. It oversaw the administrative work of the Central Committee apparatus. This was organized into departments corresponding to the various ministries of government: the Foreign Affairs Department of the Central Committee oversaw the Foreign Ministry, the Planning and Financial Department the Finance Ministry etc. They also drew up the background materials for the party leadership.

Internment: Detention without trial of people considered to pose a threat to public order occurred, for instance, in France during the First World War, when citizens of the Central Powers were interned for the duration. Internment became a widespread form of punishment in communist countries. Internment camps were set up in Hungary after the Second World War, initially to provide a quick way of detaining large numbers of war criminals and persons suspected of crimes against the people. After the communist take-over, they contained growing numbers of people deemed to belong to groups inimical to socialism: kulaks, social democrats, class aliens, clericalists etc. The camps were abolished in 1953, when Imre Nagy became prime minister. Internment was revived by legal decree No. 31/1956, published on December 13. Initially it required an order by the prosecution service, but under legal decree No. 1/1957, the power to order internment was transferred to the police force that carried it out. The term was six months, which could be extended for two further periods of six months. Internment as a legal institution was abolished by legal decree No. 10/1960. See also ÁVH.

Irodalmi Újság, see Writers’ Union

Kádár government (Hungarian Revolutionary Workers’ and Peasants’ Government—Magyar Forradalmi Munkás-Paraszt Kormány): The decision to form a counter-government to the Nagy government was taken by the Presidium (Political Committee) of the CPSU Central Committee in Moscow, on October 31, 1956. A list of ministers and a programme were compiled on November 3, and János Kádár appointed to head the ‘Hungarian Revolutionary Workers’ and Peasants’ Government’. Kádár sought to lend an ostensible legitimacy to the Soviet intervention by appealing for the assistance of Soviet troops on November 4 in a radio address. On November 5–7, members of the counter-government were brought from Szolnok to Budapest under Soviet military protection. There, István Dobi, acting as president of the Presidential Council, unconstitutionally dismissed the Nagy government and swore them in. The members of the government as augmented on November 12 were Kádár (prime minister), Ferenc Münnich (deputy prime minister and armed forces and foreign minister), Imre Dögei (agriculture minister), Antal Apró (industry minister), Sándor Rónai (trade minister), Imre Horváth (foreign minister), István Kossa (finance minister), György Csanádi (government commissioner for posts and transport) and Rezso Nyers (government commissioner for public supplies). This term continued to be used for the Council of Ministers until the early 1970s.

KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, Committee for State Security): The KGB, as the Soviet security service had been known since 1954, performed security and intelligence tasks inside and outside the Soviet Union. Its main purposes were to protect the Soviet-type communist form of state from its internal and external enemies and to weaken the ‘imperialist camp’ of the Western countries. Its first president was Ivan Serov. Another well-known head of the KGB was Yuri Andropov from 1967 to 1982. (Andropov was ambassador in Budapest during the 1956 revolution, and in 1982 became general secretary of the CPSU until his death in 1984.) There were KGB agents all over the world and throughout Soviet society.

Kilián Barracks: The building, on the corner of Ülloi út and Ferenc körút (9th District, opposite Corvin köz) was in the midst of the strongest fighting. Most of those stationed at the barracks were soldiers on labour service, belonging to the Military Technical Auxiliary Corps commanded by Colonel Pál Maléter. The corps opposed the rebels in the early days of the revolution, but many of the soldiers fought on the rebel side against the Soviets, and the workers’ hostel in the same block became a base for armed rebels as well. Maléter took over command on October 25, his main objective being to defend the building from attack from whatever quarter. Many of the public attributed the defeat of the Soviets to the soldiers of the Kilián Barracks, which developed into one of the centres of the revolution, while its commander became minister of defence. It was captured by the Soviets on November 4 after fierce fighting.

Kis Újság (Little Newspaper): This was founded in 1945 as the central political daily paper of the Independent Smallholders’ Party (FKgP), which won the 1945 general elections. After the suppression of the FKgP in 1948–9, the Kis Újság was closed in 1952. It appeared again during the 1956 revolution as the organ of the revived FKgP, but was closed again by the Kádár government after November 4.

Kisz (Communist Youth League): Establishing a successor to Disz, as a single national youth organization controlled by the HSWP, was an important move in restoring the system of Soviet-style political institutions after the revolution. It was already discussed on the HSWP Provisional Executive Committee on December 5, 1956, although it was found to be premature at that time. The party appointed a delegation led by László Földes to consult about establishing Kisz with its Soviet equivalent, Komsomol. Although the Hungarians and the Soviets agreed that Kisz should be constituted on March 15, 1957, the anniversary of the 1848 revolution, the event took place on March 21, anniversary of the proclamation of the short-lived 1919 Hungarian Soviet Republic, in the Erkel Theatre in Köztársaság tér, a few yards from the Budapest party headquarters, whose storming and occupation on October 30, 1956 had been won of the bloodiest episodes in the revolution.

Kolkhoz, see Collectivization

Korea: Both the liberating great powers, the Soviet Union and the United States, attached special importance to Korea after it had been freed from Japanese occupation in the Second World. The peninsula was divided into Soviet and American zones of occupation, each with a government of the appropriate complexion. In 1950, North Korea, with Soviet support, attacked South Korea, with the aim of extending communism over the whole peninsula. South Korea beat back the invasion with US support, but the bloody and merciless war lasted for three years and also involved China. Under an agreement in the summer of 1953, after Stalin’s death, there was a return to the status quo. The Korean War, which had threatened to escalate into a third world war, ended with a ceasefire and the same demarcation line that had divided the peninsula since 1945. The division remains to this day.

Kremlin: The tsars’ palace complex in Moscow became the centre of power when the capital was moved to Moscow from Petrograd (St Petersburg) after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. Offices and homes of Soviet party and state leaders were moved there, especially after Stalin took power in 1923. The Kremlin, which also contains several Russian Orthodox churches, was closed to the public until Stalin’s death in 1953.

Kulaks: The Russian word kulak means a rich peasant with a relatively large holding. Forced collectivization of Russian agriculture in the late 1920s was accompanied by a crude campaign against the kulaks, who were often unwilling to join collective farms (kolkhoz). As a pejorative term, kulak later came to include other reluctant landowning peasants. Collectivization and the struggle against kulaks began in Hungary in 1948. Kulaks were ‘vestiges of capitalism’, the size of whose personal property ensured they would oppose the new social system. The term also widened in Hungary to cover actual or assumed rural opponents of collectivization and the Soviet-type system.

League of Yugoslav Communists: The Communist Party of Yugoslavia, founded in 1919, operated illegally from 1921 to 1941. Its leader from 1937 was Josip Broz Tito, a highly successful partisan leader in the Second World War, who managed to gain power in Yugoslavia in 1945 and impose a totalitarian, Stalin-type communist dictatorship with a one-party system. The Soviet bloc of Eastern European communist countries broke with Yugoslavia in 1948, when Tito proved unwilling to submit to Stalin’s will, demanding a relation of partnership instead. Tito remained leader when the name was changed in 1952 to the League of Yugoslav Communists, which marked a formal break with the Soviet type of communist leadership. He and his party saw the events of 1956 in Hungary (and Poland) as a chance to spread Yugoslav ideas of reform to other communist countries. However, his desire for a reconciliation with Khrushchev’s Soviet Union took precedence. Fear of a revival of Hungarian nationalism also prompted him to accept the Soviet plan to crush the revolution by force. Membership of the League of Yugoslav Communists was around 800,000–850,000. The central daily paper was Borba (Struggle).

Local government: Hungary’s system of autonomous local government was replaced in 1950 by a system on the Soviet pattern based on councils (soviets). The local councils became adjuncts initially of the Ministry of the Interior, and from 1954 of the Councils Office of the Council of Ministers. Their main task was to implement at local level the assignments received from the central bodies of the administration. They were bureaucratic bodies, whose staff and officials were fully dependent on the superior organizations, so that owed no particular allegiance to the local community, even if they happened to live there.

Maort trial: The trial of managers of the Hungarian-American Oil Industry Company (Maort) was a prime example of how the new communist regime set about nationalizing the country’s partly foreign-owned companies. Maort had received the concession for the South Zala oilfield in 1935. Towards the end of the Second World War, the German occupation forces began a policy of rapid, wasteful exploitation. This was continued by the communist economic policy-makers after 1945, but when a predicted drastic fall in production ensued in 1948, the company’s Hungarian and American engineers were arrested and accused of sabotage in a show trial. One of them, Simon Papp, was sentenced to death, although this was commuted to a life sentence on appeal. The others received long prison sentences. Meanwhile the company was nationalized in 1949.

Mefesz (Hungarian Association of University and College Unions): The mass students’ organization formed in 1945 changed its name to the United Organization of Hungarian University and College Students (same initials) in 1948, and continued to function until the formation of Disz in 1950. A new Mefesz, independent of the party and Disz, was established on October 16, 1956 by the Szeged students, whose example was followed by students in all institutes of higher education in the following few days. In the spring of 1957, Mefesz was prevented from functioning any longer and submerged into Kisz.

Military Committee (Katonai Bizottság): The main purpose of the Military Committee formed by the HWP Central Committee at its meeting on October 23–4, 1956 was to establish and maintain contact between the party leadership and the Hungarian and Soviet military commanders. Although it intended to arm the working class and pressed for this to be done on several occasions, this never occurred. Headed by István Kovács, its members were Imre Mezo, László Földes, Lajos Fehér, and ex officio, István Bata (defence minister) and László Piros (interior minister). On October 25, as the fighting continued, the Central Committee reinforced and expanded the committee. Kovács, who was not a Political Committee member, was replaced by Antal Apró, but remained a member, while Ferenc Münnich and Sándor Nógrádi joined the committee. It played a significant political role on October 26 by reversing a conciliatory Central Committee resolution based on recommendations by Ferenc Donáth, which might otherwise have brought to a political turning point in the revolution.

MUK (‘Márciusban Újra Kezdjük!’ We’ll Start Again in March): The slogan ‘MUK’ began to appear in January and February 1957, mainly in Budapest, but also in other cities and even abroad. Those unable to accept that the revolution had been defeated consisted mainly of some small groups of young people who had taken up arms on the rebel side. They planned a second armed uprising against the regime for March 15, the anniversary of the 1848 revolution. In some places, preparations were made. Former members of armed groups made contact again, collected weapons hidden in parks and forests, and produced and distributed leaflets containing a call to arms. The authorities (notably the Interior Ministry forces) exaggerated the danger of the MUK campaign, using it as a pretext for rounding up almost 6000 people in March. In the event, there was no uprising, but despite the precautions, protests took place, leaflets were distributed and graffiti appeared on March 15. Several people were sentenced to death and executed on charges of taking part in the MUK campaign.

Multi-party system: This is a basic constituent of bourgeois democracy as a form of state. Several political parties participate in public life. Citizens vote for these in free elections that decide the make-up of the legislature and other representative bodies. So no party can gain absolute power. The parties accept the democratic rules of the game, undertaking not to take power by force, to allow the voters to decide who forms the government, and to step down if they are voted out in the periodic elections. Restoration of a multi-party system, one of the key demands of the 1956 revolution, was accepted by the Nagy government on October 31, 1956. The Kádár government reinstated the one-party system after November 4, when the HSWP gained absolute power.

National Association of People’s Colleges, see Nékosz

National Council of Trade Unions, see Szot

National councils and committees, see Revolutionary councils and committees

National Defence Commission, see Revolutionary National Defence Commission

National guard (nemzetorség): Various armed groups and organizations formed during the revolution in Budapest and other towns and villages under various names (national guard, people’s guard, workers’ guard etc.) to maintain public law and order, which the police were unable to do. They patrolled communities, collected weapons from ÁVH officers and other functionaries and privileged persons under the Rákosi system, saw to the distribution of food and aid, and arranged for various buildings to be guarded (factories, granaries, hospitals etc.) Incorporation of these groups into a single organization began after the ceasefire on October 28. The Revolutionary Armed Forces Committee was formed at the Budapest police headquarters on October 30 to organize and direct them. This was to have operated until the new government was established.

National Planning Office (Országos Tervhivatal): Established in 1947 after the Soviet pattern, the National Planning Office played an important part in transforming the Hungarian economy along Soviet lines during the period of the three-year plan (1947–9). Its activity in the early 1950s extended over the whole economy. It was in charge of proposing operative economic plans and of ensuring that the current five-year economic plan was implemented. Its president, chosen by Parliament, was a member of the Council of Ministers.

Nékosz (National Association of People’s Colleges): The people’s colleges established after the Second World War formed an association in July 1946. There were almost 200 of them, with over 10,000 students, mainly of peasant and working-class origin. Nékosz was set up by students of the István Gyorffy College, which had been active in the resistance to German occupation. It also had support from the Hungarian Communist Party and the National Peasant Party. Students were educated in their responsibilities towards the new social system, people’s democracy. However, the movement was disbanded in September 1949, a year after the communists had criticized Nékosz sharply for representing communist ideas inconsistently and allowing other ideas to go unchallenged. The colleges belonging to Nékosz were nationalized and their autonomy eliminated.

Népakarat, see Népszava

Népszabadság (People’s Freedom): The central daily paper of the HSWP first appeared on November 2, 1956, as a continuation of the Szabad Nép, whose volume numbering it took over after a while. (The first edition controlled by the Kádárite HSWP appeared on November 8.) The chief of the editorial board (i.e. editor-in-chief) was appointed by the HSWP Central Committee, which oversaw the board’s work. It was the best-selling daily in the Kádár period, with a circulation of more than 650,000.

Népszava (People’s Voice): The paper first appeared in 1877 and became the central daily of the Social Democratic Party in 1880. Between the wars, it was the only legal daily paper of the labour movement. It was banned during the German occupation, but reappeared in 1945. When the Social Democratic Party was absorbed into the HWP in June 1948, the paper continued as the central daily of the official trade-union movement, Szot. It became the organ of the Social Democratic Party again during the revolution, but returned to trade-union control over the revolution was defeated. Its name was changed to Népakarat (People’s Will) on November 4, but it returned to its original name in 1958.

One-party system: The Soviet type of state-socialist system formally placed power in the hands of a single party, the communist party (in Hungary, the HWP, and from November 1956 onwards the HSWP). In fact, the country was run by a handful of party leaders, who controlled every field of political and economic activity. In a multi-party democracy, national decisions are taken by the government and its administrative apparatus or in the legislature. In a Soviet-bloc country, they were taken by the leadership at communist-party headquarters. The government and legislature were confined to a secondary role of legitimizing, publicizing and implementing the party’s decisions. In one sub-type of the one-party system (found in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and Poland in the Cold War period), there were other parties on paper, but these were simply adjuncts of the communist party, accepting its hegemony and operating only formally. The other European communist countries had just a single party (the Soviet Union, Albania, Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia).

Party Congress: Congress, the supreme body of a communist party, normally met every five years. Based on a report from the Central Committee, it evaluated the activity in the previous term, decided on the tasks for the coming term, and set the general line of party policy. Delegates were elected by the party branches in all the communities, factories, institutions etc. in the country. However, the list had to be endorsed by the Central Committee. Congress might also alter the party statutes. It elected the members of the Central Committee for the coming term. While Congress was still sitting, the Central Committee went on to elect the members of the Political Committee and the Secretariat, as well as the party general secretary (or first secretary) and his deputies. The main report to Congress was delivered by the party leader.

Patriotic People’s Front: The beginnings of the popular front date back to the struggles, backed by the Soviet Union, to contain Nazism in the 1930s. The idea was that all parties opposed to Nazism and Italian fascism, irrespective of their ideologies and political positions, would combine in the popular front against the common enemy. This was the idea behind the communist-dominated Hungarian National Independence Front, formed by the Independent Smallholders’ Party (FKgP), the Hungarian Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and National Peasants’ Party in December 1944. These parties went on to form a coalition government for the next four years. Before the general elections of 1949, the HWP established a new front, the Hungarian Popular Front for National Independence, chaired by Mátyás Rákosi. This absorbed the remnants of the middle-class and peasant parties, whose continued existence and operation had been made impossible. The only purpose of the front was to conduct parliamentary elections, which had been reduced to a sham. Only one candidate was permitted to ‘compete’ in each constituency in 1949. He or she was nominated by the front, with fidelity to the communist party and identification with its policies as the main qualifying criteria. The Patriotic People’s Front, established by Prime Minister Imre Nagy in the autumn of 1954 was intended to gain a mass popular basis for his new, post-Stalinist course. It set out to embrace all organizations and individuals that wished to assist in eliminating the blatant brutalities of the system and give it a ‘human face’, even if they were not necessarily communist. However, Nagy was dismissed and relegated into the background in 1955 and the front he had established was unable to engage in real activity. In 1957, the Kádár government placed the operation of the Patriotic People’s Front on the 1949 basis again. It remained as a puppet organization until the end of the 1980s.

People’s courts (népbíróság): When accelerated criminal proceedings proved not to be a practical way of passing strict sentences on a mass scale, a legal decree of April 6, 1957 established a people’s court at the Supreme Court. This was followed on June 15 by six others, attached to county courts (in Gyor-Sopron, Baranya, Csongrád, Pest and Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén counties) and to the Capital City Court in Budapest. The decree limited the right of defence. Only advocates on an approved list compiled by the justice minister could appear for the accused. The penalties were increased and the scope for pleading extenuating circumstances was narrowed. The presiding judge was allowed to declare the collection of evidence complete as he or she saw fit, so that the examination of witnesses for the defence might be omitted altogether. The most blatant breach of accepted legal norms was to withdraw the ban on subsequently increasing a sentence on appeal. This meant that if only the defence appealed against a sentence, the appeal hearing might result in a stiffer sentence, even of death. The bench consisted of a presiding judge and two ‘people’s judges’ (lay assessors). In many cases the latter had suffered by the October events, which under accepted legal norms would prevent them from serving. The People’s Court Council of the Supreme Court passed a 1956-related death sentence as late as July 1961.

Petofi Circle (Petofi Kör): The Petofi Circle was founded in March 1955 as the debating club of Disz, with Gábor Tánczos as its secretary. For the young communists it offered a kind of forum for debate, remaining strictly within the bounds of the system. There was no real activity before the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union took place. Thereafter, the communist reforms set about holding evening debates on questions that concerned large numbers of people. The debate in June 1956, on aspects of the press and information, was attended by over 7000. After that, the leadership of the HWP suspended the operation of the Petofi Circle, charging it with anti-party activity. It resumed in September, however. The last event, the doctors’ debate, took place on the afternoon of October 23, 1956. By that time events had gone beyond the bounds of the Petofi Circle. The members of its leadership supported the Nagy government during the revolution. After the defeat, the Petofi Circle was accused of having undertaken conscious ideological preparation for the revolution, and several members of its leadership, such as Gábor Tánczos and András B. Hegedus, were sentenced to several years’ imprisonment.

Planning Office, see National Planning Office

Politburo, see Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Political Committee see HWP, HSWP, Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Poznan workers’ uprising: The workers of Poznan, Poland, took to the streets in large numbers on June 28, 1956, to protest against the declining standard of living. When the authorities failed to respond, their slogans became more radical and they began to voice political as well as economic demands. Several public buildings were occupied. Shots were fired by defenders of the Polish Internal Security Service premises, which prompted the demonstrators to arm as well and lay siege to the building. Soviet Marshal Konstantin Rokossowski (Rokossovsky), the Polish defence minister, brought up 10,000 soldiers, almost 400 tanks, several hundred armoured vehicles and even some planes against the largely unarmed demonstrators. More than 70 people were killed in the Poznan disturbances and over a thousand injured.

Presidential Council: The Presidential Council, established in Hungary in 1949 to replace the institution of president of the republic, was patterned after the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. Apart from acting as a collective head of state, the Presidential Council exercised the functions of the legislature between the brief, quarterly sessions of Parliament, issuing legal decrees instead of acts. The members of the Presidential Council were elected by the new Parliament after general elections. Existing members were normally confirmed in office. The body was headed by the president of the Presidential Council, who had wide powers and normally belonged to the leading bodies of the HWP or HSWP as well.

Presidium see Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Council of Ministers

Provisional Executive Committee, see HSWP

Radicals and reformers: Those who advocated Western-style bourgeois democracy during the 1956 revolution were termed radicals, while those promoting alterations to the socialist system were called reformers. The latter sought changes in the ways that power was exercised, to bring the system closer to its proclaimed objectives and to national traditions. The reformers were unwittingly instrumental in preparing for the revolution, since they were the first to speak openly of the illegal acts and inhumanity of the Stalin-Rákosi system. Events overtook them on October 23, 1956, but many reformers thereafter went further than they had originally intended. The most important of the reformers were Imre Nagy and the group around him (Miklós Gimes, Géza Losonczy etc.)

Reformers, see Radicals and reformers

Revolutionary Special Forces Committee (Forradalmi Karhatalmi Bizottság): The revolution brought the dissolution of the hated and feared ÁVH, but a new armed organization was immediately formed to assist in consolidating the situation. Representatives of the army, the police, the rebels and other civilian armed units met at Budapest police headquarters on October 30, 1956. The Revolutionary Armed Forces Committee formed at the meeting was to operate until the new government was established. Its main task was to organize the national guard, and so to keep law and order. Army General Béla Király was elected as its commander, with Sándor Kopácsi as his deputy. It was headed by a ten-man Operative Committee, which included representatives of the armed rebels.

Revolutionary Committee of the Hungarian Intelligentsia (Magyar Értelmiség Forradalmi Bizottsága): Established on October 28, 1956 at the Law Faculty of Loránd Eötvös University in Budapest, the committee embraced revolutionary organizations among Budapest university students and those associated with the people’s colleges, the Writers’ Union, the Journalists’ Union and the Petofi Circle, under the leadership of the reformist opposition within the party. It was headed by György Ádám and György Markos. On November 11, it joined the Writers’ Union in issuing an appeal to the people in the name of the intelligentsia, declaring faith in the revolution and protesting against the terror of the Kádárite terror. On November 21, 1956, it turned into the Revolutionary Council of the Hungarian Intelligentsia, which operated more or less illegally. The president of the latter was the composer Zoltán Kodály, with Markos as general secretary.

Revolutionary Council of the Hungarian Intelligentsia (Magyar Értelmiség Forradalmi Tanácsa), see Revolutionary Committee of the Hungarian Intelligentsia

Revolutionary councils and committees: Bodies known as revolutionary or national councils or committees formed all over the country after October 23, 1956, to administer local communities. They generally resulted from elections held at rallies and demonstrations, and served to legitimize the revolution locally. On October 28, the obtained recognition from Imre Nagy and his government. The councils were concerned mainly with three tasks. The first was to further the main goals of the revolution. The second was to preserve local law and order and prevent armed conflict, for instance by establishing a unit of the national guard. The third was to provide a local administration and settle local people’s concerns. The formation and operation of these bodies, representing real, elected local government, caused the official system of local councils to collapse. Discredited officials were dismissed, ÁVH officers placed under protective detention, and weapons collected from communist cadres. They also ran the national guard and formed specialist sub-committees to conduct local affairs. Some revolutionary councils disbanded on November 4, but most of them simply transformed themselves and carried on running their communities. The Kádár government issued an order on November 10 reinstating the old council system and restoring the officials in office on October 23 to their posts. However, it was mid-December before the authorities managed to squeeze the revolutionary bodies out of power. In many places elected representatives remained on the local council until March 1957.

Revolutionary National Defence Commission (Forradalmi Honvédelmi Bizottmány): Elected representatives of army garrisons, barracks and institutions met at the Ministry of Defence on October 31, 1956, to deprive the Stalinist generals of their influence and elect a revolutionary body in their place. The commission of 21, with General Béla Király as its chairman, demanded the removal of Soviet troops from the whole country and Hungary’s withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact. The commission’s objectives included taking command of the army.

Revolutionary Workers’ and Peasants’ Government, see Kádár government

Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik), see Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Secretariat, see Council of Ministers, HWP

Security Council, see UN

Socialist International: The international organization of socialist and social democratic parties was founded in Frankfurt/Main in 1951, mainly by parties from Western Europe, although some Eastern European parties were represented by emigré politicians. All forms of cooperation with communist parties were rejected. The affiliated parties had a combined membership of about 10.7 million in 1960. The headquarters were in Brussels and London.

Sovereignty: Many of the practices in the Soviet bloc of socialist countries, particularly in the 1950s, were an infringement of those countries’ sovereignty—of their status as self-governing, independent countries recognized as such at home and abroad. On paper they were sovereign countries recognized as equal partners in international diplomacy, but in practice there was constant interference in their internal affairs. The Soviet conduct in the 1956 revolution was a blatant breach of sovereignty, as were the later Soviet interventions in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Afghanistan in 1979. So too was the 1956 Anglo-French intervention in Suez, but the Soviet Union infringed sovereignty more regularly and on a wider scale, influencing, for instance, the composition of the leadership in each satellite country, the wording of its laws, the structure and composition of their economies, etc.

Soviet Communist Party, see Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Sovietization: This term was used for the post-war ‘export’ to Central and Eastern Europe of the kind of communist system that had developed in the Soviet Union, in line with the conditions there in the Stalinist period]. Sovietization also entailed ignoring the traditions, culture and degree of economic development in a country such as Hungary, as the alien system was applied. Several salient characteristics of the Soviet Union were imposed. One was a single-party system (the HWP, later the HSWP), with absolute dictatorship by the communist party, which led and ran the country. This involved a personality cult around an all-powerful leader (Rákosi). All self-management was suppressed. Political life and the economy were centralized in such a way that everything became subordinate to the appropriate section of the party apparatus, which formed a parallel organization controlling the state bureaucracy. There was one centralized bank, for instance. Economic planning was based on central five or six-year economic plans, with strong emphasis on heavy industry and arms production. These were ‘disaggregated’ down to the level of individual factories and farms, each of which received its compulsory production quota. This system of centrally controlled production rewarded quantity rather than quality, for instance through a system of compulsory work competitions. National characteristics in the economy and society were suppressed in favour of a compulsory ‘socialist internationalism’ that served the economic and security interests of the Soviet Union. Public life and culture became uniform. For example, there was a single Writers’ Union, a single youth organization (Disz and later Kisz) and a single trade-union structure (Szot). The development of other organizations or civil initiatives from below was strictly prohibited. The mass ‘social’ organizations imposed and controlled from above had the sole task of serving the system by the means at their disposal. There were mass, public festivities on communist and labour-movement festivals, while private life and private activity were discouraged. There was collectivization of agriculture, with peasants who refused to join and the richer kulaks suffering persecution and imprisonment. There was a constant search for enemies, terror, intimidation, the constant presence of the security police, and frequent political and economic show trials. Those criticizing the system in any way were subject to merciless reprisals. Religion was repressed and many priests and believers imprisoned. The previous political system was totally rejected and its elite and ruling classes persecuted. Non-communist traditions were eliminated. The communist ideology of Marxism-Leninism was a compulsory subject of study, so that any work of science, scholarship, history or literature needed to have been conceived in its spirit. This kind of system applied especially strongly in Hungary between 1948 and 1953. Concern that it should never recur was what united the radicals and reformers who gave the impetus to the 1956 revolution.

Soviets: The soviets (councils) in Russia originally embodied state power and popular representation after the collapse of Tsarist authority in 1917 and performed public administrative functions. From the outset, they supported the Bolsheviks (communists) led by Lenin. According to their composition, there were workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ soviets. After the Bolsheviks took power in November 1917, the soviets rapidly turned into bureaucratic, hierarchical organizations of communist central power, losing irrevocably the self-determining, self-governing character of organizations built up from below. During the Hungarian revolution of 1956, the workers’ councils came into being and operated as self-governing organizations of people’s power, similar to those found in pre-Bolshevik Russia.

Stalin (later Duna) Ironworks (Sztálin Vasmu): One of Hungary’s largest heavy-industry complexes and a textbook example of forced, uneconomic industrialization, what became the Stalin Ironworks were begun at Dunapentele in 1950. (The town was renamed Sztálinváros in 1951 and Dunaújváros in 1961.) The complex also formed part of Stalin’s rearmament drive for the third world war, which was thought to be imminent. The town became a stronghold of rebel activity during the 1956 revolution.

Suez: President Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal on July 26, 1956, to bring it under Egyptian jurisdiction. Britain and France decided to regain control by force of arms if need be, and were joined by Israel, which aimed to strengthen its regional position and gain territory at Egypt’s expense. The three agreed secretly on October 22, 1956 to attack Egypt within a week. Israel invaded Sinai on October 29. British and French planes bombed Egyptian bases on October 31 and landed airborne forces round Port Said on November 5. However, their aggression caused strains within the Western alliance. The United States was especially annoyed at not being consulted by its allies. The Suez crisis distracted world attention from the plight of Hungary. Both crises appeared on the UN General Assembly agenda at the same time. Assessment of them became a bargaining counter between the two sides in the Cold War, as the Suez invasion bore similarities to the Soviet intervention in Hungary.

Summary justice (statárium): Summary courts offered immediate prosecution for certain previously determined acts. The sentences were extremely severe, often the death penalty, and were implemented very rapidly. The main purpose of summary justice was deterrence. It was only used under special conditions, in a state of emergency, when the security of the state or society was under a serious internal or external threat. See also accelerated criminal proceedings, people’s courts.]

Szabad Nép (Free People): The Szabad Nép began as an illegal communist paper on February 1, 1942. In February 1945, it became the central daily paper of the Hungarian Communist Party (from June 1948 of the HWP). The editor-in-chief until 1948 was József Révai. The 1953 circulation exceeded 700,000. Up to 1953, the journalists on the paper had to show total loyalty to the party leadership—only hard-line communist journalists prepared to serve the system unquestioningly were hired. During Imre Nagy’s first term as prime minister, groups for and against him emerged on the paper. On October 23, 1956, the crowd stormed the Szabad Nép building behind the old National Theatre in Blaha Lujza tér (8th District). A week later the offices and adjacent printing press were occupied by József Dudás and his Hungarian National Revolutionary Committee. The Szabad Nép supported the Nagy government during the revolution, but did not succeed in gaining the confidence of the public. The last issue appeared on October 29, 1956, after which it was replaced by the Népszabadság (People’s Freedom). Szabad Nép half-hours were held in the early 1950s as a form of political debate in work places. Attendance was compulsory at the meetings, where news and leading articles from the Szabad Nép would be explained to the employees, who were given a chance to compete in showing their devotion and commitment to the ruling party.

Szot (National Council of Trade Unions): This was established after the communist take-over in 1948. The purpose was to disarm the real industrial and other trade unions by forming a uniform structure that could be fully controlled by the HWP and later the HSWP. Whereas the unions had traditionally protected the interests of their members and the working class, Szot acted mainly as a transmission mechanism for implementing the five-year economic plans, organizing work competitions, and disseminating and imposing the objectives and economic targets of the ruling party. Its centralized, hierarchical structure mirrored that of the party. Its central daily paper was the Népszava, which it took over from the Social Democratic Party in 1948. One of the most enduring figures in Szot was the hard-liner Sándor Gáspár, who headed the organization (with short breaks) from 1952 until the downfall of the communist system.

Transdanubian National Council (Dunántúli Nemzeti Tanács): Delegates from revolutionary organizations in Transdanubia (Hungary west of the Danube) met in Gyor on October 30, 1956 to report on local events and put forward their plans and proposals. Csepel (21st District), Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County and Bács-Kiskun County were also represented. Based on these reports, they formulated a common position towards the government and its measures, in a 14-point resolution that gave it conditional recognition. On October 31, a delegation from the council, headed by Attila Szigethy, had talks with Imre Nagy and Zoltán Tildy, in which the disputed issues were clarified. The next day a leadership consisting of Szigethy, Endre Horváth (Tatabánya) and Colonel Béla Kemendy (Székesfehérvár) was elected. Activities ceased on November 4, after the Soviet intervention.

Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union: The Communist Party of the Soviet Union held its 20th Congress on February 14–25, 1956. Among the main events was a secret speech by the party leader, Nikita Khrushchev, delivered behind closed doors. Khrushchev confirmed some of the crimes committed under the Stalin regime, placing the sole blame for them on the dictator, who had died in 1953. There were strong reactions to Khrushchev’s speech among the Soviet and foreign (Hungarian, Polish, Czechoslovak etc.) party leaders present. Most of the satellite countries refrained from publishing the speech. Rákosi gave a short report to the HWP Central Committee at its meeting on March 12–13, but the full text did not appear in print until the fall of the Kádár system. However, it was distributed in Poland and through Western countries. The fact that the Soviet party leader had disclosed the crimes of the Stalinist system, even in a truncated form, meant that distortions in the communist system could now be criticized publicly. After the speech, ferment began to spread in Hungary and Poland, in the ruling party and in society, with demands that their communist leaders should be taken to task. During the autumn and winter of 1956, Khrushchev’s opponents accused him of precipitating the Polish disturbances and the Hungarian ‘counter-revolution’ with his speech at the 20th Congress. So Khrushchev himself put the brakes on de-Stalinization, although the speech was still cited frequently in the Soviet Union and elsewhere.

UN (United Nations Organization): Based in New York, the UN had been formed by 50 countries, which signed the UN Charter in San Francisco in June 1945. (Today there are more than 180 member-countries.) Its main objectives—international peace and security, respect for equality and self-determination among nations and peoples, economic, social, cultural and human cooperation, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms—prompt it to intervene and try to adjudicate in cases such as the Hungarian revolution, which have an international dimension. There are numerous specialized agencies working alongside the UN covering special, global tasks. The Security Council is the senior arm of the UN, with primary responsibility for world peace and security. It has five permanent members—Britain, China, France, the Soviet Union (since 1991, Russia) and the United States—and ten non-permanent members. The former have powers of veto, which were frequently used in the Cold War period. Otherwise, nine votes are required for a binding resolution. The latter serve two-year terms, five of them being elected each year by the General Assembly, according to principles of equitable geographical distribution. Where there is an armed conflict, the Security Council may appeal for a ceasefire or a withdrawal of troops. If both sides agree, it may send in observers or peacekeeping forces. In the last resort, it may take economic or military measures. The rotating presidency may convene a meeting at any time if international peace and security are threatened. The General Assembly is the main deliberative organ of the UN, in which each member-state has five permanent and five alternate representatives, but only one vote. There is an annual session, but special sessions can also be held. This happened in the autumn of 1956 with the Suez crisis and the suppression of the Hungarian revolution. General Assembly resolutions require a simple majority of the votes of the members present, but a qualified, two-thirds majority is needed for certain important matters, such as the admission of new members. Unlike the resolutions of the Security Council, General Assembly resolutions are not binding on members.

Union of Working Youth, see Disz

University Revolutionary Students’ Committee (Egyetemi Forradalmi Diákbizottság): The committee was formed spontaneously, mainly by arts students on October 25, 1956, in the Pesti Barnabás utca (5th District) building of the Loránd Eötvös University of Sciences. It was headed by István Pozsár, an assistant lecturer, assisted later by János Varga, assistant dean of the history department, József Molnár, an assistant lecturer, and Ferenc Mérei. The committee was re-elected on November 3 at the Budapest students’ parliament. The committee controlled an armed force of about 250–300 national guards recruited from the arts students, which was the second largest armed force of students in Budapest after the Technical University’s. When the Soviet intervention came on November 4, the committee came out in support of armed struggle and began illegal activity. Many of its members emigrated. Most of the remainder were arrested in the spring of 1957 and given prison sentences ranging from a few months to several years.

Warsaw Pact: Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania and the Soviet Union signed a friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance treaty in Warsaw on May 14, 1955. (Albania ceased to cooperate with the pact in 1961 and withdrew in 1968. Finland declined a Soviet invitation to join in 1955.) Although the Warsaw Pact was formally a defensive military alliance, plans for offensive military actions against Western European countries were drawn up and the Combined Armed Forces of the Warsaw Treaty Countries were used to defend the communist social system by force of arms. The pact became one of the institutional frameworks through which the Soviet Union maintained its hold over its Eastern European satellites. The Soviet Union was the exclusive leading force, dominating both the Political Advisory Body and the Combined Armed Forces. The latter disposed over the armed forces of the Warsaw Pact countries (although only over some of the Soviet forces). They had a Soviet commander-in-chief in charge of about four million men. The only occasion on which they went into action was in the intervention to restore a Soviet-style communist regime in Czechoslovakia in August 1968. Although Soviet troops attached to the Combined Armed Forces were deployed in Hungary in 1956, the other member-countries did not take part. The pact was dissolved in 1991.

West Germany, see East and West Germany

Worker-peasant alliance: According to communist theory, the worker-peasant alliance was a special form of cooperation between the working class and the peasantry, found during the dictatorship of the proletariat and the period of building socialism. The ideological basis was that although the working class could prevail alone in the proletarian revolution, it could not retain power without the support of the peasantry. The peasantry, on the other hand, could not conduct a successful revolution without the working class. In other words, the two classes were reliant on each other. So a special class alliance arose, in which the working class played the leading role, while the peasantry, imbued with socialist awareness, became its principal ally.

Workers’ councils: These began to appear all over the country on October 24, 1956, as bodies to represent the political aspirations of the workers. The movement gained impetus on October 26, when the HWP and the trade union federation Szot came out in favour of them. Once established, the workers’ councils took over the running of the factories, functioning at once as an employer and a union and representing themselves in the new local political leadership. In many cases they set up an armed guard to protect the factory. The workers’ councils played an important part in preparing for the turn of events on October 28, by directing what became a general strike, formulating demands and forwarding them to the party leadership. Between November 1 and 3, all the workers’ councils decided to suspend the strike and resume work on November 5, but this was prevented by the Soviet intervention. From November 4 onwards, the workers’ councils were in the forefront of the revolutionary struggle. They insisted that the national demands should be met and the Nagy government reinstated, declaring a national strike in support of these aims. In many places, district and area workers’ councils were established by the factories, the most important of these being the Greater Budapest Central Workers’ Council, which had national influence. The workers’ councils lost their vestigial political influence in the spring of 1957, as the Kádár regime consolidated and mass, systematic reprisals began. They were abolished by a legal decree of November 17.

Workers’ Militia (Munkásorség): This was a voluntary armed force designed to consolidate and protect the authority of the Kádár government. After a resolution had been passed by the HSWP Provisional Executive Committee on January 29, 1957, the Presidential Council issued a legal decree on February 19 (No. 13/1957) establishing the Workers’ Militia. The first national commander was Colonel Lajos Halas. Direct party control was exercised through the Administrative Department and the Party and Mass Organizations Department of the HSWP Central Committee, and at local level by county party committees. The Workers’ Militia remained a loyal supporter throughout the Kádár period, but its significance decreased as the regime consolidated and the militia members aged. Parliament disbanded it in October 1989 without appointing a successor organization.

Writers’ Union (Magyar Írók Szövetsége, Írószövetség): The Free Union of Hungarian Writers, founded in 1945, was a professional body representing the interests of writers. Its significance increased after the communist take-over, when it became a vehicle for imposing Stalinist literary policy. However, several members championing the policies of Imre Nagy after 1953, and in the autumn of 1956, some non-communist writers joined its leadership. In January 1957, the Interior Ministry suspended its operations, due to the part it had played in the revolution and the preparations for it. This was followed by a ban in April. More than ten members were received prison sentences. The Writers’ Union was reconstituted in the autumn of 1959 by the HSWP. The weekly paper of the Writers’ Union between 1950 and 1956 was the Irodalmi Újság (Literary Gazette), which was intended to propagate communist literature and culture. It published mainly short pieces of literature, reviews, political journalism, and articles on literary policy and aesthetics, in line with the expectations of the Rákosi period. The board of editors changed several times during the paper’s existence. In 1955, a majority on the board was obtained by adherents of Imre Nagy, who had already been dismissed as prime minister. They turned the paper into an advocate of reforms within the existing system, so that it played an important part in the period leading up to the revolution. During the revolution itself, a special issue was published expressing faith in the ideas behind the revolution and the policy of the Nagy government. On November 4, 1956, some of its editors emigrated to the West, where they joined earlier emigré Hungarian writers, poets and journalists in a fortnightly Irodalmi Újság that kept alive the spirit and ideas of 1956. The first ‘emigré’ issue appeared in London on March 15, 1957. The editorial offices moved to Paris in 1962. The Irodalmi Újság became one of the most influential and discriminating Hungarian emigré journals. The last issue appeared in 1989.

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This page was created: Wednesday, 23-Aug-2000
Last updated: Wednes, 12-Sept-2001
Copyright © 2000 The Institute for the History of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution

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