June in Hungarian History: Imre Nagy

23 June, 2016

(A Hungarian version of this article is available below. A cikk magyar nyelven is elérhető)

June has an important role in Hungarian history.  Among the many other historical events that occurred in June, it marks the birth, death, and rehabilitation of Imre Nagy, one of the country’s most influential communist politicians, and a martyr of the 1956 Revolution.

Imre Nagy ID Picture/Wikipedia
Imre Nagy ID Picture/Wikipedia

Imre Nagy was born to a peasant family on June 7, 1896, and during World War I at the age of twenty, he was taken prisoner to a Siberian Gulag. After the Bolsheviks took power in Russia, Nagy was released, and he became a member of the Russian Communist Party.

Except for a short period, Nagy stayed in the Soviet Union until 1944. After his return to Hungary, he played an important role in organizing the Hungarian Communist Party.

After Stalin’s death in 1953, Nagy was appointed Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Hungarian People's Republic, meaning that he became the defacto leader of the country. In 1955, after Hungarian communist politicians, such as Matyas Rakosi, accused him of following a too “right-wing” political ideology, Nagy resigned.

In 1956, due to his sympathy and popularity among Hungarian people, he was appointed to the position again.

At the beginning of the revolution, Nagy tried to take a neutral position but later, his political measures, such as, abolishing the Hungarian secret police force (AVH), ending the one-party system, and the proposal to quit the Warsaw Pact, enraged the Soviet leadership—in particular, Nikita Krushchev.

Imre Nagy’s show trial started on June 9, 1958. The trial took place in Hungary, and the charge against Nagy was organizing the overthrow of the Hungarian people's democratic state. The court sentenced him to death, and he was executed by hanging.

In his final words at his trial on June 15, 1958, Nagy said that “The Hungarian people and the International Working Class will acquit me of the allegations set against me and as a result I have to sacrifice my life.”

In June 1989, Imre Nagy was rehabilitated, and the following month, he was officially declared innocent of the charges.  On June 16 of that year, according to estimates, 250,000 people attended his reburial. Nagy's funeral was a symbolic event evidencing the end of the Stalinist government in Hungary.

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