Imre Nagy

Dafato Team | May 27, 2022

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Imre Nagy (Kaposvár, 7 June 1896 - Budapest, Kőbánya, 16 June 1958) Hungarian communist politician, economic politician, university professor, full member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.Between 1953 and 1955, and during the 1956 revolution, he was president of the Council of Ministers. For her role in the revolution, she was sentenced to death and executed in a show trial, and secretly buried in plot 301 of the New Public Cemetery in rákoskeresztúr under the name Piroska Borbíró. On 16 June 1989, her reburial, which became a mass movement, became one of the emblematic events of the change of regime in Hungary.

His family

He came from a poor peasant family. Her father, József Nagy (her mother, Rozália Szabó (1877-1969) served as a maid to the deputy governor of Somogy before she married. Imre Nagy had three sisters: Mária (married to Gyulán Hubay), Terézia (married to Ferenc Schossberger) and Erzsébet, who died when she was only a few months old. His wife was Mária Égető (1902-1978), whom he married on 28 September 1925. Their only child was Erzsébet Nagy (1927-2008), journalist, editor, translator, whose first husband was Ferenc Jánosi (1916-1968), a Reformed pastor and cultural politician, and second husband János Vészi.


Imre Nagy was born on 7 June 1896 in Kaposvár, in Fő Street. His godparents were János Dakó, a servant of the archbishop, and his wife Mari Nagy and Ilona Schwarcz, all residents of Kaposvár. The midwife who assisted at the birth was Mrs. Rausenberg. The baptism was performed by the Reformed pastor Márton Csertán. The Schwarz grocery and grocery store operated on the street side of the house of his birth on Fő Street, the family lived in a one-room apartment facing the courtyard, later they moved to the Markó house next to the Cigli School. When his father was transferred to Pécs in 1904, they moved first to Kálvária Street and then to Petrezselyem Street 17. In 1905 they moved back to Kaposvár, first to Baross Street, then to Fő Street.

His studies

In Kaposvár, he completed his first year at the school on the main square, then at Anna Street, then at the Baross Street elementary school, and from 1904 at the school in the city centre of Pécs. After the fifth elementary school he started his secondary school studies. He was an average pupil; László Hudra taught him Hungarian and Latin, who was also his class teacher; he attended the theology classes of Pastor Márton Csertán. As a footballer, he played for the Kaposvár Brotherhood in the Bp. Vasas. In September 1907 his parents enrolled him at the Kaposvár State High School. His parents' financial situation later deteriorated, and his father was unable to pay off his bank debts, as he was forced to avoid the post office. To avoid foreclosure, he sold his house and the family moved to the courtyard apartment of the Léner house in Meggyes Street. Imre's education was expensive and he did not excel in his studies. It was partly his mid-term maths mark in the fifth grade and partly his consideration of how to make a secure living for himself by learning a suitable trade that led him to decide to drop out of high school. His mother, unwilling to agree to this and wanting her son to be a clerk, enrolled him in the fifth form in the autumn, but the warning he received at half-term discouraged him from continuing his studies. Neither his parents nor his teachers encouraged him to continue his studies, and in 1912 he left the Kaposvár gymnasium of his own accord. His original idea was to enrol in a higher industrial school in Budapest after a year's training.

He joined the workshops of master scalesmiths Scholz and Noficzer, master builders and locksmiths as an apprentice. Two of his old classmates had been apprentices here for six months. He was attracted to the trade of carpentry and studied with great diligence. In the workshop, which was well-staffed and well-qualified, they worked mainly on scales, grave fences, stair grilles, relief ironwork, and brass and other ornaments. Among other things, he was also involved in the locksmith work at the Kaposvár Lung Sanatorium. In the end he was unable to enrol in a higher industrial school, as his uncle, who lived in Pest and worked as an assistant baker in a MÁV machine factory, was unable to work and his job in the countryside was too much for him. He decided to become a locksmith and lathe operator, and left the locksmith's trade to become an apprentice at the agricultural machinery factory in Losonc. He was housed with a family of workers called Wenger. The factory mainly produced seed drills, threshing machines and parts. After a year, for family reasons, he went home and continued his apprenticeship in Kaposvár, under the master machinist and lathe operator Géza Friedrich, who had a workshop equipped for machine power in Vár Street. Here they were mainly engaged in the repair of petrol, crude oil and electric engines and steam boilers. Imre Nagy used to train regularly at the KAC, where he practised wrestling (Roman) under the coaching of Rudi Steiner, a member of the Hungarian Olympic wrestling team.

He graduated as a locksmith in 1914, passed his exams on 1 February, completed his master's thesis and was released. He joined the National Association of Hungarian Iron and Metal Workers. However, his mother was not comfortable with the idea of Imre's son becoming a worker. She repeatedly persuaded him that it was a waste of the five classes he had completed, that he should continue his studies and that if he did not want to go back to the gymnasium, he should go to a higher trade school. The latter had just been established in Kaposvár, with 3 classes. After his father had supported his mother's wishes, they persuaded their son to enrol at the upper commercial school in the autumn. At the beginning of the summer he quit his job and joined Dr. Rezső Szücs, a lawyer, as a clerk until the beginning of the school year. It was then that the First World War broke out. His principal, Rezső Szücs, also enlisted as a soldier, leaving Imre alone as a clerk in the law firm.

At the beginning of September, he started lecturing at the top commercial school, and had to leave the law firm behind. He was an excellent student in mathematics, under the same teacher Kengyel who had taught him before.

He was conscripted in December 1914 and called up in May 1915. Although he completed the academic year, he did not take any examinations and was issued without a certificate.

During the First World War

He enlisted in the 44th Joint Infantry Regiment of Kaposvár. During the war, this regiment was transferred to Reichenberg in the Czech Republic, but Imre Nagy did not want to go there, so he requested a transfer to the Kaposvár Home Guards. His request was granted, and he was transferred to the 17th, but not to the Kaposvár battalion, but to the Székesfehérvár battalion. He received fast and forced training. In August 1915, after three months of training, he was assigned to a marching company and was sent to the Italian front with his comrades. For a while he was in army reserve near Adelsberg, and during the exercises they visited the famous stalactite cave. Later the division was transferred to a reserve at the foot of the Nanos plateau. Here they lived in tents in the fields. Soon, the regiment moved to the front as a reserve. His regiment, the 17th Infantry Regiment, fought on the Isonzo front on the Doberdo plateau, near the village of Monfalcone. The regiment's reserve was stationed at Vallona. They lived in the woods in the valley, in shelters and tents, and at night they marched to the firing line from here. It was here that Imre Nagy learned the horrors of war. During the autumn rains he caught a cold and, as he recalls, was taken to hospital in San Martino with a high fever. He soon recovered, and during a battle in November he was wounded in the leg by a shell fragment. He was taken to the hospital in Lajbach and from there transferred to Ogulin. Here he spent Christmas 1915, and during the holidays his mother visited him for a few days. After his recovery he had to return to the front, but decided to go to the Russian rather than the Italian front. But first he had to return to Székesfehérvár, to the regimental cadre. When he saw that he had been assigned to Laibach, he reported for an interview with the regimental doctor (they conversed in German) and told him that he wanted to continue his studies at the School of General Merchant. The doctor then ordered him to be taken to the cadre, that is, to Székesfehérvár. Imre Nagy packed his bags for the evening and took the earliest train through Zagreb to Székesfehérvár.

On the way, he decided to visit Kaposvár for a few days. After a few days at home, he went to Székesfehérvár, where he was admitted to the convalescent hospital for almost two months, and his leave was cancelled for a week to interrupt his journey. At the same time, he was assigned to clerical work in the office of the war nurse at the county hall. Soon he had to return to his company at the barracks, and he and his comrades were given an extended stay with the cadre. He attended a machine-gunner's course, and as he was a machinist, he was also taken, and so ended up in Budapest. Here the course was held in Tükör Street in the V. district, and lasted six weeks. They went for training to Nagytétény, Veresegyháza and Üllő. On a day off he lost his money and had to board the train home without a ticket. The conductors in Pest overlooked the ticketless journey because he was a soldier, but at Dombóvár one of the familiar Kaposvár conductors took down a record of the incident and wanted to hand Imre Nagy over to the Kaposvár station command. He jumped off the train at the sugar factory near Kaposvár and spent five days at home instead of one. By the time he returned to Pest, the course had ended, so he went back to Székesfehérvár, sentenced to six days of one-to-one dark confinement with 6 hours of curfew a day. After the interrogation, he began serving his sentence, but the next day, after hearing the story, the officer on duty, who knew him, released him.

They were assigned to an independent machine-gun battalion in Pécs, their quarters were near the Siklós highway, and they often went to the Mecsek side for training. Imre Nagy was promoted to guard leader. He requested to be allowed to return home as a threshing machine operator during the summer work, but this plan was not successful. Before leaving for the front, his mother visited him once to say goodbye to her son. She may have sensed that she would not see him for a long time, as Imre was only home after five years.

On 10 June 1916 the machine-gun battalion left for the Russian front. They set off from Pécs in closed cattle cars and disembarked from the train under Luck. After two days in reserve, they were sent to the fortification front near Czartorijek. The Russian breakthrough caused them to retreat, and in the confusion they lost a great deal of war material, weapons and equipment. During their retreat, Czech, Slovak and Romanian regiments and workers' detachments worked to build a second line of defence. Imre Nagy's troops took up positions here, with the Russians stationed 200-300 metres away. One night they received orders for an unexpected night attack, to which the Russians responded with dum-dum bullets. As a result, several were killed and their machine guns were destroyed. After the retreat, Imre Nagy was ordered to bring the remaining machine gun back in broad daylight, an operation which was crowned with success, as the Russians did not advance.

At the end of July 1916, attacks began in the same section, and on 28 July Imré Nagy's positions were under fire, and their machine guns were shot out during the early morning shelling. Cossack troops broke in behind the front, and Russian infantry also moved in. Imre Nagy was hit by shrapnel and wounded. By this time the Russians were in their positions and continued to advance. Seeing the Russian breakthrough, the artillery behind Imre Nagy's rear and the German artillery on the right also opened fire on their positions, along with the Russians. He tried to crawl among the rubble to some safe place. The Russian medics eventually found him and gave him first aid, removing a shrapnel bullet from his right thigh at the aid station. The next day he was taken to an aid station near the railway station and two days later was put on a train to be transported to the hospital. He was taken to Kursk, where he was placed in a beer factory set up as a temporary hospital. From there he went to Voronezh a few days later. He was discharged at the end of October, by which time he had recovered.

He studied Russian and went to church.

Prisoner of war

He was taken prisoner of war in the autumn of 1916, when all he was wearing was a thin summer soldier's jacket, a pair of worn summer civilian trousers, a cap and boots. From the hospital he stole a carriage cover, in which he placed a tin cocoa can serving as a cup, and his wooden spoon, and so went from Voronezh to the distribution camp at Darynitsy near Kiev. From there, intellectuals who could not be used as labourers in the European part of Russia were sent to Siberia. Thirteen of them were put in a group, accompanied by two Russian soldiers. They walked the few kilometres between the camp and the station in the rain. Their train left the next day, and they spent the night in a room without heating in a detention centre near the station. The next morning their clothes were still not dry, so they set off soaking wet. However, they were able to dry their belongings in the heated car. Their journey took them via Samara, Chelyabinsk, Omsk and Irkutsk to Verkhnyeugyinsk beyond Lake Baikal. They received 15 kopecks a day, with plenty of butter, milk, pastries and tea. On some occasions they even had fried chicken. In Irkutsk they had to change trains, and in the station waiting room they got into conversation with gypsies fleeing to Russia to escape the gendarmerie drive against gypsies launched after the murder of the Danos bandits, who tried to persuade Imre Nagy to escape with them, but he refused to give in. The next evening they arrived in Verkhnyeugyinsk, and from there they were to take a boat across the Selenga River to Troichosavsk. The boat service had been stopped, there were no railways in the area, but they could not make the 250-kilometre journey on foot.

Their command decided to send them to the camp at Nizhnyaya Berezovka (now Vagzhanov, part of Ulan Ude), 8 km away. In the cold of early November, they wore light summer clothes and marched without any coats or cloaks. In Nizhnyaya Berezovka, they were put up in an empty, unheated barrack, as they could not go into an inhabited barrack without disinfection. The Cossacks guarding the barracks beat them thoroughly as they entered. They spent a week in the temporary barracks in appalling conditions. Twice the Cossacks drove them down to the Selenga River to cut brooms in the bitter cold.

Finally, he was assigned to the clean, heated barracks of Battalion 8, Barrack 73, where prisoners of war were already living. Soon they were given clothes and warm food. The two rooms of the barracks housed 300 people, mostly Hungarians, but there were also Austrians and Germans. Their on-call duties were to break bread, bring tea, lunch and dinner and clean the barracks. In the winter, they passed the time mostly playing chess, cards and milling. They often discussed war and politics with their fellow soldiers, emphasising democratic and socialist ideas. They formed small circles of friends and seminars on political topics, and also gave lectures to each other. They also formed wind and string orchestras, organised recitation and drama groups, and performed full-length operettas. In winter, there was a skating rink, in summer a football pitch. To feed them, they set up a kitchen garden in the batalion(?). Imre Nagy received only one parcel from home in five years, which contained all the clothes, but most of the food was lost. Their POW camp at Berezovka was much better equipped than other camps, and as a result the incidence of disease and death was low. During the harsh winters, temperatures usually dropped to minus 40-45 degrees Celsius, and summers were short and dry, with the thermometer often reaching 40 degrees.

After the 1917 revolution, the prisoners were kept in strict custody, food became worse, and there was a shortage of sugar and bread. The intolerable situation led Imre Nagy to volunteer for a job chopping wood for the baths. With the baths, he was able to live a freer life and had better provisions. It was not until the first months of 1918 that the camp's inhabitants felt the effects of the revolution. Riots broke out among the soldiers, officers were killed, Cossacks were disarmed; trade unions were formed.

Imre Nagy lived in the camp until the spring of 1918.

Political career from 1918 to 1945

In March 1918, he joined the Red Guard, and in June of the same year he also joined the Communist (Social Democratic) Party of the Foreign Workers of Siberia. Some historians have speculated that Imre Nagy was involved in the execution of Russian Tsar Nicholas II, but in the absence of clear evidence, another former Hungarian prisoner of war named Imre Nagy may have been the perpetrator.

In September 1918, after months of fighting, his unit was disbanded and he was captured by the Czechoslovak Legion. He soon escaped and supported himself by casual labour around Lake Baikal. In 1920-1921 he worked as a party worker in Irkutsk.

On 10 May 1920, he joined the Russian Communist (Bolshevik) Party.In May 1921, he took part in a month-long Chekist training, after which he returned to Kaposvár.

From 1922 to 1927 he was a clerk at the Kaposvár branch of the First Hungarian General Insurance Company. From 1922 to 1925 he was an activist of the Social Democratic Party organisation in Kaposvár, and in 1924 he was its secretary.

He joined the MSZDP, where he worked on agricultural issues, and later became the party's Somogy County Secretary. On 17 May 1925, he was expelled from the party because he had a sharp dispute with Károly Peyer and Ferenc Szeder in April 1924, and he was present as a delegate at the XXII Congress of the MSZDP, where he sharply criticised the national party leadership.

On 28 November 1925 he married Mária Égető, the daughter of a local Social Democratic leader.

From early 1921 to 1927, he spent about 3 years in prison intermittently for political reasons. On 27 February 1927, after the MSZMP was banned, he was arrested again on suspicion of communist conspiracy. After two months he was released. From then on, he wrote numerous studies and articles for the Communist Party press on the situation of Hungarian agriculture and peasantry.

His daughter Erzsébet was born on 13 April 1927.

In March 1928 he emigrated to Vienna, but returned to Hungary illegally on several occasions. In Budapest he illegally led the "village department" of the KMP. From September he edited the newspaper Parasztok Lapja of the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party, and managed its publication with his colleagues Gy. In this period he also wrote a major study entitled The Development Trends of Hungarian Agriculture.

In February-March 1930, he was present at the Second Congress of the Communist Party of the Communist Party of Ukraine in Aprelevka, near Moscow, as a delegate. At the congress, he was sharply criticised for his right-wing, social-democratic leanings, and Imre Nagy criticised himself for this.

On 16 March 1930, in accordance with his request, the KMP Central Committee allowed him to remain in the Soviet Union, where he lived until November 1944.

From April 1930 to February 1936, he worked as a research associate at the International Agricultural Institute in Moscow (a backbone institution of the Communist International), which was a backbone institution of the Comintern. At the same time, in 1931-32, he was a member of the board of the Hungarian section of the International Lenin School (the cadre training school of the Comintern).

At the end of 1930, he managed to find an apartment, or more precisely a room of about 12 m², in the centre of Moscow, in the former hotel "Maly Parizh" ("Little Paris").

In 1933, he published his booklet The Situation of the Hungarian Peasantry, first in Russian, and a year later in Hungarian. In 1934, he and his family moved into a two-room apartment, where a Russian family was their joint tenant.

In the autumn of 1935 his wife visited Hungary.

On January 8, 1936, Imre Nagy was expelled from the party on the basis of a denunciation by Béla Kun, partly because of his wife's visit to Hungary and partly because he did not wish to take up Soviet citizenship.

On 1 February 1936 he was dismissed from the Agricultural Institute, and from then on he worked as a freelancer for three years, living from casual jobs, including as a staff member of the Central Statistical Office of the Soviet Union, and as a staff member of the Hungarian-language journal Új Hang in Moscow, a member of its editorial board and a permanent columnist. Later, in 1989, he was accused of being an agent of the OGPU and the NKVD under the pseudonym "Volodya". Since then it has been proved that the file 'proving' this was compiled by Károly Grósz in order to discredit Imre Nagy.

Between February 1940 and 1944, he worked in the editorial office of the Hungarian-language broadcast of the All-Union Radio Committee in Moscow (sometimes also known as Radio Kossuth in Moscow).On 7 July 1941, he volunteered for military service and was assigned to the reconnaissance department of the Red Army General Staff. He returned to radio in February 1942. From 16 September 1944, he worked as editor in charge of Hungarian-language broadcasts.

In September 1944, he drew up a plan for the general land reform of the MKP in Hungary, and on 27 October he travelled to Szeged with Ernő Gerő, József Révai and Zoltán Vas, and they started to organise the Communist Party. On 7 November, he became a member of the Central Executive Committee (KV for short) and took part in the Horthy armistice negotiations. On 29 November, a note from the Soviet Foreign Ministry referred to Imre Nagy as a member of the government or "liberation committee" to be formed on Hungarian territory. "Mátyás Rákosi promised the widows and his companions that once they came home from the Soviet Union and came to power, there would be no repeat of the illegalities! - But the first cracks in his resolve were already beginning to appear. For example, the deportation of the Germans... Or what he wrote to Gerő: 'The setting up of a People's Court is the right thing to do, but not to deport Gy. László Szemenyei, the traitor, should be the first to hang, but the right Arrow Cross man, otherwise the sentence will look like communist revenge...' - Here it is perhaps an excuse that he only intervened in the order of executions. But how did he know what the sentence of Szemenyei - the alleged traitor and provocateur - would be? There were loopholes in his vow even at the moment of his birth..." reads Pünkösti's book (Árpád Pünkösti: Rákosi for power

As a member of the communist leadership

Between 1 and 5 December 1944, Imre Nagy, Rákosi and Gerő were present in the Kremlin for talks with Dimitrov, Molotov and Stalin, during which the policy and composition of the Hungarian provisional government to be formed in Debrecen were finalized.

On 22 December 1944, he was appointed Minister of Agriculture at the Provisional National Assembly in Debrecen (he held this post until 4 November 1945) and became a member of the provisional government.

On 17 March 1945, he submitted to the government the 600th land distribution bill

On 25 May 1945 Imre Nagy was elected to the Political Committee of the MKP.

From the summer of 1945, he was a member of the National General Council, which temporarily exercised the function of head of state, and of the Central Executive Committee of the Hungarian Communist Party. On 17 November 1945, after the National Assembly elections, he became Minister of the Interior in the Tildy government. He resigned from this post on 18 March 1946 after being repeatedly criticised by the leadership of the MKP. It was around this time that a collection of his writings in Moscow entitled Agrarian Problems appeared.

On April 23, 1946, he was appointed member of the Secretariat of the MDP KV in charge of agriculture.

On 16 September 1947, he was elected President of the National Assembly. He held this post until June 1949. On 10 December 1947, he wrote a letter of opposition to Ernő Gerő's economic policies, which advocated a Soviet-style transformation. However, the party leadership rejected this opposition.

On June 14, 1948 he became a member of the Central Committee of the Hungarian Workers' Party, and on June 15, 1948 he became a member of the PB, but he was not admitted to the Secretariat.

From 15 September 1948, he was a professor at the University of Economics and Political Sciences, heading the Department of Agricultural Policy.

In 1949 he moved with his family from his apartment on Kossuth Square to a villa on Orsó Street in Pasarét, which was under state administration.

On March 5, 1949, during the MDP's CT meeting, Nagy initiated a debate with Rákosi, in which they discussed the prospects of agricultural policy. At the end of the meeting, he prepared a longer elaboration in which he advocated a longer path of cooperative agriculture, free of violence and discrimination.

He was expelled from the Politburo at the MDP's CC meeting on 2 September 1949 for his "opportunistic, anti-cooperative views".

In 1949-1950, he also taught agricultural policy at the University of Agricultural Sciences in parallel with the University of Economics.

On June 1, 1950, he was appointed head of the newly organized Administrative Department of the MDP KV, an organization whose main task was to supervise party work in the armed forces.

On 1 December 1950, he was reinstated as Minister for Food (as the main manager of the compulsory supply) and became a member of the Political Committee.

On March 2, 1951, after the Second Congress of the MDP, the CP re-elected him as a member of the PB and simultaneously as a member of the Secretariat. From 5 January to 14 November 1952, he was Minister of Collections and then Deputy Prime Minister until his election as (first) Prime Minister.

In 1953, after Stalin's death, Imre Nagy made an impassioned speech praising the Soviet dictator and called on parliament to enact a law in Stalin's memory. The Soviet leadership wanted to introduce reforms in Hungary. To this end, a Hungarian delegation was sent to Moscow, of which Imre Nagy was a member. At the talks held between 13 and 16 June, the members of the Presidium of the USSR Communist Party's Central Committee severely criticised the economic policy and excessive industrialisation that had been put in the name of Rákosi, and at the same time ordered corrections. On 13 June Lavrenty Beria called on Mátyás Rákosi to hand over the post of Prime Minister to Imre Nagy.

On his return home, Imre Nagy declared at the meeting of the MDP Central Executive Committee held on 27-28 June 1953 that "the whole party had abandoned the foundations of Marxism-Leninism", the state had become a "police state" and the government a "shadow government". In the so-called June resolution adopted at the meeting, the MDP leadership also expressed strong self-criticism. However, the resolution was not made public.

He wanted to increase the role of Parliament.

First Imre Nagy government

On 4 July 1953 Imre Nagy was appointed Prime Minister. In a speech delivered in Parliament and broadcast on radio, he announced the beginning of a new phase. This government programme broke with the previous economic policy based on forced industrial development, promising to restore the rule of law, rethink agricultural policy and raise living standards, which had fallen sharply in previous years. Other new changes included: easing the burden on the peasantry, the possibility of leaving the cooperatives, partial amnesty, the abolition of expulsions and internment, and greater tolerance on religious issues. The ÁVH was brought under the control of the Ministry of the Interior and arrears of service were abolished.

On 26 July 1953, a limited amnesty decree came into force, Imre Nagy dissolved the internment camps and lifted the deportations.

On 31 July 1953, the government significantly reduced the price of foodstuffs, and on 14 August 1953, it abolished the institution of the police. On 6 September 1953, the prices of some public necessities were also reduced.

At the beginning of December 1953, the Soviet party leadership held further talks with Hungarian party and state leaders and gave instructions to continue the "new phase".

On 12 January 1954, in a conversation with Soviet Ambassador Yevgeny Kiselyov, he explained that he held Rákos responsible for the conviction of László Rajk, János Kádár and other communist leaders between 1949 and 1951.

From January to April 1954, the MDP leadership was in a constant political debate about the continuation of the new phase.

On May 5, 1954, top-level Soviet-Hungarian negotiations began in Moscow. These were critical of both Imre Nagy, who had "overstated" his criticism of the previous period, and of Mátyás Rákosi, who had opposed the policies of the new phase. The Soviet leadership called for a review of the fabricated trials against the communists, which Imre Nagy began to undertake. It was then that convicted communists, such as János Kádár, were released.

On 24 May 1954, during the III Congress of the MDP, Imre Nagy gave a speech on the tasks of the state administration and the councils. It did not contain his ideas, formulated in the spring, either on increasing the political role of the Popular Front or on restoring the limited multi-party system.

On August 25, 1954, the Economic Policy Committee headed by Ernő Gerő submitted a package plan to the MDP PB, which aimed at reducing living standards and increasing the burden on the peasantry. On 1-3 October 1954, at the MDP CP meeting, the supporters of the new phase, led by Imre Nagy, won and the plans of the Economic Policy Committee were rejected.

On October 20, 1954, Imre Nagy wrote about the divisions in the party leadership in an article published in Szabad Nép, and also revealed that the rehabilitated communist leaders were innocent, including János Kádár, who would be released in the summer.

To increase its support, it organised the Patriotic People's Front. On 23 October 1954, he addressed the First Congress of the Patriotic People's Front, declaring that the MDP CP and the government had "put an end to uncertainty" and that "the June policy had won and the calculations that had speculated on its failure had been defeated." In a new resolution, the Central Executive confirmed the need for reforms.

On 1 December 1954, Mátyás Rákosi returned home from his nearly two-month "medical treatment" in Moscow, and at the MDP PB meeting he sharply attacked Imre Nagy and the new section. In the weeks that followed, the members of the board sided with Rákosi.

On January 8, 1955, the Presidium of the USSR Communist Party in Moscow criticized Imre Nagy and the policies of the new phase, demanding that he criticize himself for his right-wing deviation and at the same time change his political course.

On 1 February 1955, he suffered a mild heart attack and was effectively kept under house arrest for a time, thus keeping him out of politics.

On March 2, 1955, following a report by Rákosi, the MDP Central Committee, in the presence of Mikhail Suslov (Secretary of the USSR Communist Party Central Committee), passed a resolution on the right-wing drift threatening the party and socialism, naming Imre Nagy as the responsible party leader.

On March 9, 1955 Imre Nagy personally informed Antal Apró and István Dobi, the head of state, that he resigned from the post of head of government and from the PB membership, but his resignation letter was not made public. He subsequently suffered another, this time more serious, heart attack.

At its meeting on 14 April 1955, the CC adopted a resolution stating that Imre Nagy's "anti-Marxist, anti-Leninist, anti-party views form a coherent system" and that in order to achieve them he had "resorted to unorthodox, anti-party and even factional methods", and for this reason the CC expelled him from the leadership and recalled him from all his posts.

Following the temporary strengthening of Rákosi (and in connection with the weakening of Malenkov in Moscow), the National Assembly dismissed Imre Nagy from his position as head of government on 18 April 1955, and replaced him with András Hegedüs. Nagy was then obliged to resign from his seat in the parliament, his membership of the Popular Front's executive committee, his membership of the academy and his university chair.

On May 4, 1955, he sent a letter to the party leadership stating that he agreed with the resolutions. He also showed a willingness to engage in "in-depth self-criticism", which he put off only because of his illness. His letter was rejected by the PB.

In the summer of 1955, instead of exercising self-criticism, he wrote discussion papers defending his policies, which he planned to submit to the party leadership. He was visited by a number of politicians, writers and journalists in his Orsó Street apartment. First Géza Losonczy, then Sándor Haraszti, Miklós Vásárhelyi, Miklós Gimes and György Fazekas. The nucleus of the party opposition began to form.

On 1 August 1955, the PB sent a three-member committee to investigate the "Imre Nagy case". The former Prime Minister was investigated by the State Security.

From September 1955 Nagy sent a series of petitions and letters to the CP, demanding an end to the attacks against him and defending his previous policy.

On October 18, 1955, 59 party intellectuals, mostly writers, journalists and film-makers, in a memorandum to the MDP CP, expressed their support for the "new phase" and their opposition to the measures of cultural policy (censorship, confiscation of newspapers).

On 3 December, the MDP KEB expelled him from its ranks for "factionalism", disagreement with party policy and views other than Marxism-Leninism.

This hit the communist Imre Nagy hard. He soon began to express his views in essays. In the spring of 1956, he became an important figure in the growing party opposition, but he was not involved in any action.

On the occasion of his 60th birthday, nearly a hundred public figures, writers, journalists, artists and scientists came to his home to welcome him.

In the summer of 1956, encouraged by others, he became active again. The so-called "Imre Nagy Circle" was formed around him. On 13 October 1956 he was readmitted to the party.

He returned home from the Badacsony harvest on the evening of 22 October 1956, and was asked by the students to be present at their general meeting, but he refused.

In the 1956 revolution

On the morning of 23 October, Imre Nagy met at the home of Géza Losonczy to discuss with his closest friends the policy to be pursued in the event of the imminent change in the MDP leadership, as well as the necessary personnel changes. They did not approve of the students' planned demonstration. In the afternoon, he was constantly approached by his supporters, urging him to address the demonstrators. One of the demands of the protesting students was the return of Imre Nagy to the government. At about 9 p.m., in response to a request from the party leadership, he made a short speech in front of the Parliament in Kossuth Square, in which he advocated the political development that should be found under the leadership of the party. After his speech, he went to the MDP headquarters on Akadémia Street, where he was informed that an armed uprising had broken out and Soviet troops had been called in. As he was not part of the leadership, he did not question the decision. He did not attend the truncated CT meeting which started late in the evening.

The next day, at dawn on 24 October, he was elected as a member of the PB and at the same time head of government by the MDP nomination committee, an event which was also reported on the radio. Martial law was declared on behalf of the government. Shortly after noon (at 12.10 p.m.) Imre Nagy gave a radio speech in which he promised that those who had laid down their arms would be exempted from martial law. The martial law was aimed directly at the revolutionaries, and Imre Nagy lost popularity as a result. The Small Peasants' Party and the MEFESZ refused to recognise him from then on, and would have nominated Béla Kovács instead. Anastas Mikoyan and Mikhail Suslov arrived at the party headquarters in the afternoon.

Imre Nagy had no role in the first (24 October) call-up of Soviet troops. He tacitly acknowledged this, since the decision to do so had been taken by the Soviets anyway. He considered the Soviet intervention a blunder on the part of the Soviet Union. At the time, he believed that a communist anti-stalinist revolution and a counter-revolution were taking place in parallel, and that the intervention had pulled the rug out from under the communist revolutionaries, shifting them to the counter-revolutionary side and thus losing their chance of communist leadership. The demands against the system (i.e. for a bourgeois, multi-party transformation) were classified as counter-revolutionary and the demands for democratic socialism as revolutionary. In the days that followed, the head of government was essentially cut off from the outside world. Nonetheless, he gradually accepted the demands of the rebels, mainly through the arguments of Ferenc Donáth and Géza Losonczy.

On the morning of 25 October, Ernő Gerő was replaced by the PB, and János Kádár was elected First Secretary of the MDP. Imre Nagy announced in a radio speech that after the restoration of order they would begin negotiations on the withdrawal of Soviet troops.

On 26 October, he discussed the formation of the Nagy government at the PB, and afterwards met with delegates from the Writers' Union and university students. In the afternoon, the PA held discussions on the assessment of the events, at which Losonczy and Donáth proposed a political rather than military solution to the situation. Imre Nagy also met with a delegation from the workers' councils in Borsod.

On the morning of 27 October, the composition of the government was finally decided, including several MDP ministers, former head of state Zoltán Tildy and Béla Kovács (both former leaders of the Smallholders' Party).In the afternoon Imre Nagy met with members of the party opposition, who called for an immediate change of political direction. In the evening, the party leadership (the directorate), which had been formed the day before, decided on a political solution and declared a ceasefire. During the night Imre Nagy and János Kádár held lengthy discussions with Mikoyan and Suslov at the Soviet Embassy.

At dawn on 28 October, Imre Nagy protested against the launching of a concentrated Soviet-Hungarian armed attack on Corvin köz, the largest armed insurgency in Budapest. The political committee approved the ceasefire, thanks to Imre Nagy's forceful action, and it was announced at 12.15 p.m. and some of the insurgents' demands were accepted. Nagy went to Parliament, where the new four-party coalition government was formed and began sitting. Imre Nagy announced in a radio speech at half past five in the evening that the government would assess the events as a national democratic movement, accept part of the rebels' demands and withdraw Soviet troops from Budapest. He made clear his support for the revolution and the introduction of a multi-party system, and called for support for the spontaneously formed revolutionary committees. He announced the disbandment of the ÁVH and the abolition of the levy. The changes were also supported by the party's new first secretary, János Kádár, elected on 25 October. Imre Nagy approved the formation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces Committee, which maintained order with the participation of the National Defence Forces, the police and the insurgents organised into the National Guard.

On 29 October, Imre Nagy held talks with the leaders of the armed rebels. On October 30, his radio speech was broadcast, which began with the words. The revolution, which is unfolding more and more widely in our country, the great movement of democratic forces, has brought our country to a crossroads. The national government, in agreement with the MDP leadership, has reached a fateful decision in the life of the nation, which I wish to communicate to the working people of Hungary in the following. In order to further democratize the life of the country, by abolishing the one-party system, we are placing government on the basis of democratic cooperation between the coalition parties reborn in 1945. In his memoirs, he saw this step as a step backwards, not a step forward, only a compromise. Part of the crowd called for a 'democratic socialism' of the wooden hoop, and part for the otherwise unknown phenomenon of Western-style parliamentary, bourgeois democracy. Nagy chose the middle way: he could not stop at the platform of the Great Government of 1953, but had to go back to 1948. The reason for this was that Imre Nagy thought only in terms of a limited democracy, allowing the coalition parties to operate in 1948.

From 31 October, he was a member of the Provisional Institutional Executive Committee of the MSZMP, the successor to the MDP. He gave a speech in Kossuth Square, announcing that Hungary would start negotiations on the withdrawal of its Warsaw Pact obligations.

As events unfolded, he reshuffled his government several times, and from 1 November he was appointed Foreign Minister as well as Prime Minister. On the same day, his government announced its withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact and declared the country neutral, seeking recognition from the UN and the four major powers. Late in the evening, the leader of the new party, the MSZMP, János Kádár, went to the Soviet embassy, and the next day he was taken to Moscow.

On 3 November, the third Imre Nagy government was formed, making him the second Hungarian head of government to form a new government for the third time, after Sándor Wekerle. In Parliament, negotiations began on the withdrawal of Soviet troops. A new, this time broader coalition government was formed, with ministers of state and Pál Maléter, Minister of Defence. In the evening, Imre Nagy held talks with the Romanian Deputy Foreign Minister, who was asked to mediate between Budapest and Moscow. Meanwhile, Imre Nagy received reports of Soviet troops pouring towards Budapest. At dawn on 4 November, he announced the second Soviet intervention in a dramatic radio speech.

He then applied for asylum at the Yugoslav embassy, together with his closest supporters (most of whom were members of the MSZMP's Steering Committee).

The only person left in the Parliament building was István Bibó, professor of law and Minister of State, who, as the only legitimate representative of the Hungarian government, addressed an appeal to the Hungarians and the world. On the one hand, he called on the Hungarian people "not to regard the occupying army or the puppet government it might have set up as a legitimate supreme authority, and to use all the weapons of passive resistance against it". On the other hand, it called for a wise and courageous decision on the part of the great powers and the United Nations in the interests of the freedom of the enslaved Hungarians.

A message from Belgrade was waiting for Imre Nagy at the Yugoslav embassy, calling on him to withdraw his last measures and support the counter-government that János Kádár had formed that day to crush the "counter-revolution" with the help of Soviet troops. Imre Nagy rejected the call and sought asylum in Yugoslavia.

After the suppression of the revolution

On 8 November 1956, Yugoslav Interior Minister Aleksandar Rankovic asked Imre Nagy to resign as prime minister in a statement dated 4 November 1956. Imre Nagy began drafting the anti-dated statement, but eventually refused, on the advice of his friends.

On November 21, János Kádár gave a written guarantee to Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Edvard Kardelj that Imre Nagy and his associates would not be prosecuted: "In order to close the case, the Hungarian Government hereby reiterates in writing its repeated verbal statement that it does not intend to retaliate against Imre Nagy and members of his group for their past actions. We take note that the asylum thus granted to the group will be terminated and that they themselves will leave the Yugoslav Embassy and go freely to their own homes."

On 22 November, Imre Nagy and his companions renounced their right to asylum and, trusting the Hungarian government's promise of non-harm, left the Yugoslav embassy building. The occupying Soviet troops - in violation of the agreement with the Yugoslavs - immediately detained them and Imre Nagy was taken by bus to the Soviet barracks in Matyásföld (the building belongs to the Faculty of Foreign Trade of the Budapest University of Economics and Business in 2017).

Imre Nagy was approached by the Romanian party functionary Walter Roman at the Soviet command in Matyasland, and tried to persuade him to say that he was leaving for Romania voluntarily. After Imre Nagy refused, on 23 November 1956 he was deported with his companions and his family to Romania, where they were held under house arrest on the shores of Lake Snagovi.

Here Imre Nagy wrote notes on the revolution and his own politics ("Thoughts, Memories", his political testament, was published in 2006 by Gondolat Publishing House).Despite repeated calls and strong political pressure, he refused to sign his resignation and recognise the government of János Kádár.

On January 25, 1957, Imre Nagy was visited in Bucharest by Gyula Kállai, who met with him on behalf of the Provisional Central Committee of the MSZMP, but Nagy refused to engage in a self-critical review of his policies. On 29 January, Kállai proposed at a meeting of the Provisional Central Committee of the MSZMP that Imre Nagy and his colleagues be put on trial.

In February 1957, Imre Nagy wrote a letter to the MSZMP Central Committee stating that he still considered himself a member of the party and would support its policies under certain conditions, but would initiate an open debate on the revolution. However, he did not send this letter. He did not continue to write his political notes, but instead began his autobiography.

On 19 March 1957, Imre Nagy sent a letter to the leaders of the Soviet, Romanian, Czechoslovak, Polish and Yugoslav communist parties calling for an investigation into the role of both himself and his supporters in 1956, and urging the establishment of an "international party commission of inquiry". His letter was not delivered to the Romanians.

The Imre Nagy trial

After attempts to persuade Imre Nagy to recognise the new Kádár government failed, János Kádár agreed with the leaders of the USSR Communist Party in Moscow on 27-29 March 1957 that Imre Nagy would be tried. Some sources suggest that the Soviet leadership did not impose the death sentence on Imre Nagy, but rather the need for the most severe punishment was shaped by the Hungarian leadership.

On 9 April, in accordance with Kádár's proposal, the MSZMP Central Committee adopted a decision to detain Imre Nagy and his associates and to initiate criminal proceedings. On 14 April Nagy was arrested and taken to Budapest with his associates. During his interrogation on 16 April 1957, Imre Nagy refused to answer any questions and did not sign the minutes. On 14 June he appeared for questioning. He continued to refuse to make a political or criminal assessment of the events.

On 10 August 1957, the Ministry of the Interior prepared the indictment of the Imre Nagy trial, and on 26 August, in Moscow, Interior Minister Bela Bishku discussed the indictment and the verdicts with Andropov, the head of the department of the USSR Communist Party and other Soviet leaders. On 21 December 1957, in a closed session, the MSZMP Central Committee decided to allow the legal proceedings in the case of Imre Nagy to proceed freely. On 5 February 1958 the secret trial began, held in the Main Street courtroom of the military court. The trial of the accused in the Imre Nagy trial took place before the People's Court of Justice, chaired by Dr. Zoltán Radó. The prosecution was represented by the First Deputy Prosecutor General, Dr. József Szalai. Radó's conduct of the trial was fair under the circumstances. It was immediately clear to the political leadership that Zoltán Radó could not conduct the trial with the rigour expected: he let everyone speak, he could not prevent the defendants from presenting their arguments and evidence, and Radó could not engage in a meaningful debate with the defendants and take the evidence in the desired direction. The trial was therefore adjourned the next day, citing illness. The trial was only completed four months later, and Ferenc Vida, a much tougher man who was convinced of the guilt of the defendants and had already handed down many death sentences, was appointed president of the chamber.

Judge Ferenc Vida, who was appointed to preside over the trial, was convinced, as a staunch communist to the point of blindness, of the "counter-revolutionary" guilt of Imre Nagy and the need for the most severe sentence. Vida was known to the political leadership for his uncontroversial harshness in the trials of the post-1956 reprisals and for his large number of death sentences. In his post-change of regime statements, Vida denied that the MSZMP leaders or János Kádár himself had ordered the death sentences, which is not unrealistic. In practice, the Hungarian political leadership - or, according to Szerov, Kádár personally - knowing Vida, essentially decided to sentence Imre Nagy to death by appointing Vida to preside over the trial.

Closed negotiations took place between 9 June and 15 June 1958. His defender, 74-year-old Imre Bárd, who was now seriously ill, stated that his client not only did not want to overthrow the socialist system, but on the contrary, he saved what could be saved, and furthermore, he made all the changes with the knowledge and consent of the party leadership of the time. Ferenc Vida then said indignantly: "I warn the defender that if he does not stop slandering the leaders of our party and our government, he will find himself in the dock." The trial was over in less than a week and was filmed, only to be declassified in 2008.

On 15 June, the People's Court of Justice of the Supreme Court (headed by Ferenc Vida) sentenced Imre Nagy to death and total confiscation of property, Ferenc Donáth to 12 years' imprisonment, Miklós Gimes to death, Zoltán Tildy to 6 years' imprisonment, Paul Maléter to death, Sándor Kopácsi to life imprisonment, Ferenc Jánosi to 8 years' imprisonment and Miklós Vásárhelyi to 5 years' imprisonment. The sentence was passed with the prior approval of the MSZMP PB.

The defendants all pleaded guilty, except the Prime Minister. Imre Nagy said the following in his last speech. In his speech, the prosecutor recommended the most severe sentence, the death penalty. Among other things, he argued that the nation could not accept a sentence that would be merciful. I place my fate in the hands of the nation. I have nothing to plead in my defence, I ask for no mercy." His defender, by virtue of his office, applied for clemency, and in accordance with the form, the body which passed the sentence met on the same day, and acted as a Board of Pardons. Its chairman, Ferenc Vida, rejected the applications for clemency without giving reasons, and the judgment became final as soon as it was delivered.

His death and funerals

The execution of the three death row inmates was scheduled for the next day, and they were transferred to the Collective Prison at 13 Kozma Street in Kőbánya. Imre Nagy spent his last hours writing letters, but these letters never reached his loved ones.

The next day, 16 June, early in the morning, they came for the prisoners. The courtyard of the Small Prison was designated as the place of execution, and the prisoners were escorted there one by one. Dr. István Bimbó was the judge who was sent to determine their identities and read out the verdict of the People's Court of the Supreme Court of the Hungarian People's Republic and the rejection of the petitions for clemency. He then handed them over to the executioner.

At 5:9 a.m., János Bogár, the executioner of the sentence, was the first to hang the rope around the neck of Imre Nagy, who gave his last words of praise to an independent, socialist Hungary. He was followed by Pál Maléter and Miklós Gimes. Once the doctors had established the cause of death, they collected 120 HUF to cover the costs incurred and signed the receipt.

Their bodies were buried in the prison yard, wrapped in tar paper. Two and a half years later, on the night of 24 February 1961, the remains of Nagy, Maléter and Gimes were secretly exhumed and transferred to plot 301, the furthest from the main entrance of the New Public Cemetery in Kreboskeresztúr, where they were buried face down. False names were entered in the cemetery register.

Re-burial, final resting place, final honours

On 5 June 1988, the Commission for Historical Justice, founded by former 1956 prisoners, published an appeal demanding, among other things, the fair burial and rehabilitation of those executed in the Imre Nagy trial.

On 16 June 1988, the 30th anniversary of the execution of Imre Nagy, a symbolic monument to Imre Nagy, Géza Losonczy, Pál Maléter, József Szilágyi, Miklós Gimes and all the executed of the Revolution was unveiled in Paris, in plot 44 of the Père-Lachaise cemetery. In Budapest, commemorations were held in Plot 301 of the New Public Cemetery and in the Belváros. The police violently broke up the commemoration in the city centre.

On 29 March 1989, the exhumation of the unmarked bodies of Imre Nagy, Miklós Gimes, Géza Losonczy, Pál Maléter and József Szilágyi began. The researchers of the graves also found out that the Kádár authorities had given the cemetery register the false information that a woman born in Párkánynánás, "Borbíró Piroska", was buried. However, this "Borbíró Piroska" was Imre Nagy.

On 16 June 1989, Imre Nagy and his companions were reburied in Budapest in a ceremony attended by hundreds of thousands of people.

On 6 July, the Presidium of the Supreme Court of Justice formally annulled the conviction of Imre Nagy and his associates, on the basis of a legal challenge by the Prosecutor General, and acquitted them of no criminal offence. It was during this hearing that the news of the death of János Kádár, who had previously approved the death sentence, was received.

"Hungary was divided, on one side stood the government, held in power by Soviet weapons and hated by the people, and on the other the people, who trusted in Nagy's return. So much so, that even those who thought him dead did not think it impossible that Nagy would return from the grave to rebuild Hungary. Even then, Nagy was a national myth."

In 1989, the Imre Nagy Foundation was established under the leadership of Erzsébet Nagy and her husband, János Vészi, a journalist.


  1. Imre Nagy
  2. Nagy Imre (miniszterelnök)

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