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World War I

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Revolutions and interventions in Hungary
Hungary
(1918–20)

The native form of this personal name is Rákosi Mátyás. This article uses Western name order when mentioning individuals. Mátyás Rákosi
Mátyás Rákosi
[ˈmaːcaːʃ ˈraːkoʃi] (9 March 1892[1][2] – 5 February 1971[3]) was a Hungarian communist politician. He was born Mátyás Rosenfeld in Ada, present-day Serbia.[4] He was the leader of Hungary's Communist Party
Communist Party
from 1945 to 1956[5] — first as General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party
Hungarian Communist Party
(1945–1948) and later holding the same post with the Hungarian Working People's Party (1948–1956). As such, from 1949 to 1956, he was the de facto ruler of Communist Hungary.[6] An ardent Stalinist, his government was very loyal to the Soviet Union.[7][8] American journalist John Gunther described Rákosi as "the most malevolent character I ever met in political life."[9]

Contents

1 Early years 2 Early career 3 Leader of Hungary

3.1 Economic policy

4 Forced retirement 5 Footnotes 6 External links

Early years[edit] Rákosi was born in Ada, then a village in Bács-Bodrog County[1] in Austria-Hungary, now a town in Vojvodina, Serbia. Born to Jewish parents, the fourth son of József Rosenfeld, a grocer, his mother Cecília Léderer would give birth to seven more children.[1] Of his younger siblings the most notable was Ferenc Rákosi (later Biró, 1904–2006), an administrator, who also became active in Communist politics and was, for a time, General Manager of the Mátyás Rákosi Steel and Metal Works during his brother's rule.[10] His other siblings were Béla (1886–1944), Jolán (1888–?), Matild Gizella (1890–?), Izabella (1895–?), Margit (1896–1932), Zoltán (1898–?), Mária (1902–1938), Dezső (1906–?) and Hajnal (1908–1944). Rákosi's paternal grandfather participated in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848; as a result, he had to flee the village following the defeat. Rákosi's father, József Rosenfeld, was called "Kossuth's Jew" by the villagers, because he had been a member and avid supporter of the oppositionist Party of Independence and '48. He changed his surname Rosenfeld to Rákosi in 1903.[11] He later repudiated religion and in common with most other Marxists described himself as an atheist and opponent of organised religion. Rákosi was a diligent and good student during his childhood.[12] He finished his elementary studies in Sopron, then took his final exam at the High Technical Gymnasium of Szeged
Szeged
in 1910. He then studied external trade at the Eastern Commerce Academy.[13] He studied on scholarships for a year each in Hamburg
Hamburg
(1912) and London
London
(1913). Still as a student in Hungary, he joined the Hungarian Social Democratic Party (MSZDP) in 1910 and was also a secretary and active member of the anarcho-syndicalist student movement, the Galilei Circle.[14] He served in the Austro-Hungarian Army
Austro-Hungarian Army
during the First World War and was captured on the Eastern Front in 1915 and held as a prisoner-of-war in Far Eastern POW camps by the Russians until the end of the war. Taking advantage of the chaotic situation in Russia, he successfully escaped from his detention and moved to Petrograd, centre of the Bolshevik Revolution. Early career[edit]

Mátyás Rákosi
Mátyás Rákosi
in 1919

After returning to Hungary, he participated in the communist movement of Béla Kun
Béla Kun
and also joined the Party of Communists in Hungary. During the short-lived 133-day Communist rule after the resignation of President Mihály Károlyi, when the Hungarian Soviet Republic
Hungarian Soviet Republic
was established, Rákosi served as Deputy People's Commissar for Trade from 21 March to 3 April in the Revolutionary Governing Council led by Sándor Garbai. Between 3 April and 24 June 1919, Rákosi was one of the six people's commissars for social production, alongside Jenő Varga, Antal Dovcsák, Gyula Hevesi, József Kelen and Ferenc Bajáki. He was also involved in the Hungarian Red Army's Northern and Eastern military campaigns against the newly formed Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
and Romania, respectively. At the end of July 1919, he was promoted to Commander of the internal law-enforcement Red Guard for a short time. Following the Soviet Republic's fall, Rákosi fled Hungary
Hungary
on 2 August 1919 via the Austrian border, eventually to the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
where he worked as part of the Communist International, including representing it at the Livorno congress of the Italian Socialist Party.[15] After returning to Hungary
Hungary
in 1924, he was imprisoned, but he was released to the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
in 1940, in exchange for the Hungarian revolutionary banners captured by Russian troops at Világos in 1849.[16] In the Soviet Union, he became leader of the Comintern. In 1942, he married divorced lawyer Feodora (Fenia) Kornilova, a woman of Yakut origin. He returned to Debrecen, Hungary, on 30 January 1945, having been selected by the Soviet authorities to organise the Hungarian Communist Party.[16] Leader of Hungary[edit]

Rákosi addresses election rally in Budapest, 1954

When the Red Army set up a Soviet-approved government in Hungary (1944–1945), Rákosi was appointed General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party
Hungarian Communist Party
(MKP) (1945). He was a member of the High National Council from 27 September to 7 December 1945. Rákosi was deputy prime minister from 1945 to 1949, and was acting Prime Minister from 1 to 4 February 1946 and on 31 May 1947. Initially, Rákosi and the Communists appeared willing to work within the system. From 1947 onwards, however, he and the Communists began pressuring the other parties to exclude those not willing to work with the Communists on the grounds that they were "fascists" or fascist sympathisers. Later on, after the Communists won complete control, Rákosi referred to this practice as "salami tactics," saying he had destroyed the non-Communist forces in the country by "cutting them off like slices of salami." The process began when Smallholder Party Prime Minister Ferenc Nagy was forced to resign in favour of a more pliant Smallholder, Lajos Dinnyés. By the 1947 elections, the Communists had won a majority, and had largely emasculated the next-largest non-Communist Party, the Social Democrats. By October 1947, Rákosi had dropped all pretense of democracy. He gave the non-Communist parties an ultimatum: cooperate with a new, Communist-dominated coalition government or go into exile.[17] By the end of 1947, the opposition parties had largely shunted aside their more courageous members, leaving them in the hands of fellow travellers willing to do the Communists' bidding. In the summer of 1948, the Communists forced the Social Democrats to merge with them to form the Hungarian Working People's Party
Hungarian Working People's Party
(MDP). However, the few remaining independent-minded Social Democrats were quickly pushed out in short order, leaving the MDP as an enlarged MKP. He also pushed out the Smallholder president, Zoltán Tildy, in favour of Social Democrat-turned-Communist Árpád Szakasits, and forced Dinnyés to resign in favour of the openly pro-Communist István Dobi. A year later, elections took place with a single list of candidates. Although non-Communists nominally still figured, in reality they were fellow travellers. This marked the onset of undisguised Communist rule in Hungary. Rákosi described himself as "Stalin's best Hungarian disciple" and "Stalin's best pupil". At the height of his rule, he developed a strong cult of personality around himself. Approximately 350,000 officials and intellectuals were purged under his rule, from 1948 to 1956.[18] Rákosi imposed totalitarian rule on Hungary
Hungary
— arresting, jailing and killing both real and imagined foes in various waves of Stalin-inspired political purges. In August 1952, he also became Prime Minister (Chairman of the Council of Ministers). However, on 13 June 1953, to appease the Soviet Politburo, he accepted the Soviet model of collective leadership. While he gave up the premiership to Imre Nagy, he retained the office of General Secretary. Nagy favoured a more humane way of governing, which Rákosi vigorously opposed. On 9 March 1955, the Central Committee of the MDP condemned Nagy for "rightist deviation". Hungarian newspapers joined the attacks and Nagy was blamed for the country's economic problems. On 18 April, the National Assembly unanimously sacked Nagy from his post. Although the Kremlin frowned on a return of Rákosi to the premiership, he and Nagy's successor, András Hegedüs, quickly put the country back on its previous Stalinist course. Economic policy[edit]

Rákosi during the 2nd World Festival of Youth and Students.

The post-war Hungarian economy suffered from multiple challenges. The most important was the destruction of infrastructure in the war (40% of national wealth, including all bridges, railways, raw materials, machinery, etc.)[19] Hungary
Hungary
agreed to pay war reparations totalling approximately US$300 million, to the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
and Yugoslavia, and to support Soviet garrisons. The Hungarian National Bank in 1946 estimated the cost of reparations as "between 19 and 22 per cent of the annual national income." In spite of this, after the highest historical rate of inflation in world history, a new, stable currency was successfully introduced in August 1946 on the basis of the plans of the Communist Party
Communist Party
and the Social Democratic Party. The low production of consumer goods and the backwardness of light industry resulted in frequent shortages, especially in the countryside, leading to discontent. In addition, the huge investments in military sectors after the outbreak of the Korean War
Korean War
further reduced the supply of consumer goods. Because of the shortages, forced savings (state bond sales to the population) and below-inflation wage increases were introduced. Forced retirement[edit]

Rakosi's grave in Budapest

Rákosi was then removed as General Secretary of the Party under pressure from the Soviet Politburo
Politburo
in June 1956 (shortly after Nikita Khrushchev's Secret Speech), and was replaced by his former second-in-command, Ernő Gerő. To remove him from the Hungarian political scene, the Soviet Politburo
Politburo
forced Rákosi to move to the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
in 1956, with the official story being that he was "seeking medical attention." He spent the rest of his life in the Kirgiz Soviet Socialist Republic. Shortly before his death, Rákosi was in 1970 finally granted permission to return to Hungary
Hungary
if he promised not to engage in any political activities. He refused the deal and remained in the USSR where he died in Gorky in 1971. After his death, his ashes were privately returned to Hungary
Hungary
for burial in the Farkasréti Cemetery
Farkasréti Cemetery
in Budapest. Only his initials are visible on the gravestone to avoid vandalism. Footnotes[edit]

^ a b c Gábor Murányi Archived 2008-01-24 at the Wayback Machine. ^ Mátyás Rákosi
Mátyás Rákosi
– Encyclopedia.com ^ Matyas Rakosi – History of 1956 ^ Lendvai, Paul (2003). The Hungarians: 1000 Years of Victory in Defeat. London: C. Hurst and Co, Ltd. p. 430. ISBN 1-85065-6827.  ^ Matyas Rakosi – Britannica Online Encyclopedia ^ Bertényi Iván – Gyapai Gábor: Magyarország rövid története (Maecenas, 2001, in Hungarian) ^ Hungary :: The Revolution of 1956 – Britannica Online Encyclopedia ^ Gomori, George (30 November 2006). "Gyorgy Litvan". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 12 May 2010.  ^ Gunther, John (1961). Inside Europe Today. New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 336. LCCN 61-9706.  ^ Pünkösti, Árpád: A szerelmes Rákosi, In: Forrás, 2003-10 ^ A Belügyminisztérium 1903. évi 86113. sz. rendelete. Névváltoztatási kimutatások 1903. év 42. oldal 38. sor ^ Pünkösti Árpád: Rákosi, Sztálin legjobb tanítványa , mek.oszk.hu ^ ELTE Egyetemi Levéltár. Retrieved 2016-12-27. ^ Propagandafilm forgatókönyve Rákosi Mátyás 60. születésnapjára (MOL M-KS 267. f. 65. cs. 388. ő. e. - Magyar Országos Levéltár MDP Rákosi Mátyás titkári iratai). Géppel írt másodlat. ^ Fernbach, D. 'Introduction', In The Footsteps of Rosa Luxemburg, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012; pg.16 ^ a b Mátyás Rákosi ^ Hungary: a country study. Library of Congress
Library of Congress
Federal Research Division, December 1989. ^ Johanna Granville, The First Domino: International Decision Making During the Hungarian Crisis of 1956", Texas A & M University Press, 2004. ISBN 1-58544-298-4. ^ Pető-Szakács: A hazai gazdaság négy évtizedének története 1945–1985. I. köt. Budapest, 1985, KJK

External links[edit]

Mátyás Rákosi
Mátyás Rákosi
at Find a Grave Newspaper clippings about Mátyás Rákosi
Mátyás Rákosi
in the 20th Century Press Archives of the German National Library of Economics
German National Library of Economics
(ZBW).

Party political offices

Preceded by various factions General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party 1945–1948 Succeeded by —

Preceded by — General Secretary of the Hungarian Working People's Party 1948–1956 Succeeded by Ernő Gerő

Political offices

Preceded by position established Minister of State alongside others 1945–1949 Succeeded by Ernő Gerő

Preceded by Jenő Szöllősi Deputy Prime Minister of Hungary alongside Árpád Szakasits
Árpád Szakasits
(1946–1948) 1946–1952 Succeeded by Ernő Gerő Imre Nagy István Hidas Károly Kiss Árpád Házi

Preceded by István Dobi Prime Minister of Hungary 1952–1953 Succeeded by Imre Nagy

v t e

Prime Ministers of Hungary

List by length of term graphical records

Revolution of 1848

Batthyány (Récsey) Kossuth Szemere

Kingdom (1867–1918)

Andrássy Lónyay Szlávy Bittó Wenckheim K. Tisza Szapáry Wekerle Bánffy Széll Khuen-Héderváry I. Tisza Fejérváry Wekerle Khuen-Héderváry Lukács I. Tisza Esterházy Wekerle Hadik

First Republic

M. Károlyi Berinkey

Soviet Republic

Garbai Peidl

opposed by G. Károlyi Pattantyús-Ábrahám

Republic (1919–20)

Friedrich Huszár

Kingdom (1920–1946)

Simonyi-Semadam Teleki Bethlen G. Károlyi Gömbös Darányi Imrédy Teleki Keresztes-Fischer Bárdossy Keresztes-Fischer Kállay Sztójay Lakatos Szálasi Miklós Tildy

Second Republic

Rákosi F. Nagy Rákosi Dinnyés Dobi

People's Republic

Dobi Rákosi I. Nagy Hegedüs I. Nagy Kádár Münnich Kádár Kállai Fock Lázár Grósz Németh

Third Republic

Németh Antall Boross Horn Orbán Medgyessy Gyurcsány Bajnai Orbán

Italics indicates interim holder.

v t e

Leaders of the ruling Communist parties of the Eastern Bloc

Communist Party
Communist Party
of the Soviet Union

Vladimir Lenin Joseph Stalin Georgy Malenkov Nikita Khrushchev Leonid Brezhnev Yuri Andropov Konstantin Chernenko Mikhail Gorbachev

Party of Labour of Albania

Enver Hoxha Ramiz Alia

Bulgarian Communist Party

Georgi Dimitrov Valko Chervenkov Todor Zhivkov Petar Mladenov

Communist Party
Communist Party
of Czechoslovakia

Klement Gottwald Antonín Novotný Alexander Dubček Gustáv Husák Miloš Jakeš Karel Urbánek

Socialist Unity Party of Germany

Wilhelm Pieck Walter Ulbricht Erich Honecker Egon Krenz

Hungarian Working People's Party Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party

Mátyás Rákosi Ernő Gerő János Kádár Károly Grósz

Polish Workers' Party Polish United Workers' Party

Bolesław Bierut Edward Ochab Władysław Gomułka Edward Gierek Stanisław Kania Wojciech Jaruzelski Mieczysław Rakowski

Romanian Communist Party

Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej Gheorghe Apostol Nicolae Ceaușescu

League of Communists of Yugoslavia

Josip Broz Tito (1980–1990, rotating leadership)

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Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 44304195 LCCN: n89658715 ISNI: 0000 0001 2279 0806 GND: 118748939 SELIBR: 276126 SUDOC: 027088677 BNF: cb11921072c (data) SN

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