János Kádár

(1912—1989) Hungarian statesman

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Imre Nagy (1896—1958) Hungarian communist statesman, Prime Minister 1953–5 and 1956

Laszlo Rajk (1909—1949)


Mátyás Rákosi (1892—1971) Hungarian Communist statesman, First Secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party 1945–56 and Prime Minister 1952–3 and 1955–6.

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(b. 26 May 1912, d. 6 July 1989).

Hungarian dictator 1956–89

Early career

Born an illegitimate child as János Czermanek in Fiume, he joined the illegal Hungarian Communist Party in 1932 and advanced to become its First Secretary in 1943. He was imprisoned by the Gestapo in 1944. After the war, he became the Deputy Chief of Police in 1945. He succeeded Rajk as Minister of the Interior in 1948, and subsequently instigated a series of show trials beginning with that of Rajk himself. He was arrested himself in 1951, but released and rehabilitated in 1954. Kádár became General Secretary of the Communist Party in October 1956 and joined Nagy's government as Minister of State.

In power

 A few weeks later, when it became clear that Warsaw Pact troops were about to put an end to the Hungarian Revolution, Kádár escaped to the Soviet forces. He signed a public request for Soviet intervention, which brought down Nagy and elevated him to the leadership of the Communist government. To secure his position, he instigated a repressive regime which led to the execution, with or without trial, of hundreds of alleged opponents, supporters of Nagy. He also had Nagy tried and executed in secret in 1958. In 1963, he eased his iron grip as the country had been brought to submission, and in 1968 he created a New Economic Policy. This created greater economic freedom, as some small‐scale private economic activity was allowed. In part through the generous provision of Western loans, in the 1970s and 1980s the country became relatively prosperous by comparison with its Comecon neighbours. However, the dominant state sector remained moribund, as available funds were used to subsidize consumption rather than modernize industry. The increasingly desperate state of the Hungarian economy led to his replacement as General Secretary of the Communist Party in May 1988, whereupon he was given the ceremonial title of president of the party.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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