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Imre Nagy

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


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(b. 7 June 1896, d. 16 June 1958).

Prime Minister of Hungary 1953–5, 1956 Born in Kaposvár, he served in World War I until he became a Russian prisoner of war in 1916. He was converted to Communism and became active in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the ensuing Russian Civil War. After a few years in Hungary (1921–8) he returned to the Soviet Union to study agriculture. When Hungary was occupied by the Red Army in late 1944, Nagy returned and became Minister for Agriculture (1945–6), and carried out a major land reform. He was briefly Minister of the Interior, but he turned out not to be ruthless enough for the post. He retired and was appointed to a chair at the Karl Marx University of Economics in Budapest.

As he was not implicated in Rákosi's Stalinist excesses, Nagy was able to replace him in 1953. He relaxed press censorship, slowed the rate of farm collectivization, and reduced investment in heavy industry in favour of the manufacture of consumer goods. In 1955, he suffered a mild stroke and was replaced by Rákosi. He had become too popular to be ignored, however, and became Prime Minister again after the Hungarian Revolution had succeeded in toppling the hard‐line Communist regime in October 1956. He abolished the Communist monopoly of power, and withdrew the country from the Warsaw Pact. Hungary was invaded by troops of the Warsaw Pact on 4 November and, despite guarantees of safe conduct, he was arrested by KGB troops. He was returned to the Hungarian authorities in 1958. With six others, he was sentenced to death and executed. Kádár had him buried face down in an unmarked grave. He was rehabilitated posthumously on the anniversary of his death in 1990.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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