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János Kádár

János Kádár, né János Csermanek (May 26, 1912July 6, 1989), was the leader of Hungary from 1956 to 1988, and twice served as Prime Minister of Hungary, from 1956 to 1958 and from 1961 to 1965.


Early Life

Born in Fiume, in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Kádár joined the illegal Hungarian Communist Party in 1931, and was subsequently arrested several times for unlawful political activities.

During the Second World War, Kádár fought with the Czechoslovakian resistance.

In 1946 he was elected deputy secretary-general of the Hungarian Communist Party, and then in 1949 became minister of the interior and head of the Budapest secret police. Kádár became known as a fanatical supporter of the government and of Josef Stalin, arresting László Rajk, who had criticised the Soviet Union's attempts to impose a Stalinist style government on Hungary.

In 1951 he was charged with being a supporter of Tito and therefore a traitor by the Hungarian premier Mátyás Rákosi, but was released in 1953.

Appointed as a party leader in a heavily industrialised district of Budapest, Kádár rose to prominence quickly, building up a large following amongst workers who demanded increased freedom for trade unions, and became the deputy premier in the newly created government headed by Imre Nagy.

Role in the Hungarian Revolution

Nagy began a process of liberalisation, removing state controls over the press, releasing many political prisoners, and expressing wishes to withdraw Hungary from the Warsaw Pact. Kádár was strongly opposed to these policies and began to bitterly dislike Nagy.

Kádár was a central figure in the important events after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution which saw Nagy's downfall. Following the Soviet invasion of Hungary and Nagy's ouster, on November 8, at 5:05 in the morning, Kádár announced via the Red Army's radio system the formation of a "Revolutionary Worker-Peasant Government" consisting entirely of Communists. Kadar became prime minister and leader of the Communist Party, which was renamed the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party.

He announced a "Fifteen Point Programme" for this new government:

  1. To secure Hungary's national independence and sovereignty
  2. To protect the people's democratic and socialist system from all attacks
  3. To end fratricidal fighting and to restore order
  4. To establish close fraternal relations with other socialist countries on the basis of complete equality and non-interference
  5. To cooperate peacefully with all nations irrespective of form of government
  6. To quickly and substantially raise the standard of living for all in Hungary
  7. Modification of the Five Year Plan, to allow for this increase in the standard of living
  8. Elimination of bureaucracy and the broadening of democracy, in the workers' interest
  9. On the basis of the broadened democracy, management by the workers must be implemented in factories and enterprises
  10. To develop agricultural production, abolish compulsory deliveries and grant assistance to individual farmers
  11. To guarantee democratic elections in the already existing administrative bodies and Revolutionary Councils
  12. Support for artisans and retail trade
  13. Development of Hungarian culture in the spirit of Hungary's progressive traditions
  14. The Hungarian Revolutionary Worker-Peasant Government, acting in the interest of our people, requested the Red Army to help our nation smash the sinister forces of reaction and restore order and calm in Hungary
  15. To negotiate with the forces of the Warsaw Pact on the withdrawal of troops from Hungary following the end of the crisis

Kádár also added that "anyone not against us is with us", and that "ordinary people could go about their business without fear of molestation or even much surveillance and could speak, read, and even write with reasonable freedom".

Generally speaking, all but the 14th point was in line with the wishes of the Hungarian people. There had been almost universal support for the uprising, and the 14th point proved what the people of Hungary feared about Kádár: that he was merely a mouthpiece for the Soviet Union.

The 15th point was withdrawn after pressure from the Warsaw Pact that a 200,000 strong Soviet detachment be garrisoned in Hungary. This development allowed Kádár to divert huge defence funds to welfare and let the Hungarian armed forces deteriorate. As a long-standing consequence, Hungary today is barely able to meet its NATO membership obligations.

Nagy, along with Georg Lukács, Géza Losonczy and László Rajk's widow, Julia, fled to the Yugoslavian embassy. Kádár promised them safe passage out of the country, but failed to keep this promise and had them kidnapped after they left the embassy on November 23, 1956.

On June 17, 1958, Kádár's government announced that several of Nagy's reformers had been convicted of treason and attempting to overthrow the "democratic state order", and that Imre Nagy, Pál Maléter and Miklós Gimes had been executed for these crimes. Geza Losonczy and Attila Szigethy both died in suspicious circumstances soon afterwards.

The Kádár era

Though a virtual puppet of the Soviet Union, Kádár often enacted policy contrary to that of the Soviet Union, for example, allowing considerably large private plots for farmers of collective farms. Yet, Hungary was unable to back out of self-damaging events like the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia or the 1973 economic reversal which aligned Hungary with Leonid Brezhnev's stagnating USSR.

As a result of the relatively high standard of living, and more relaxed travel restrictions that that of other Eastern Bloc countries, Hungary was one of the best places ("the happiest barrack") to live in Eastern Europe during the Cold War.

During Kádár's rule, tourism increased dramatically, with many tourists from Canada, the USA, and Western Europe bringing much needed money into Hungary. Hungary built strong relations with developing countries and many foreign students arrived. The "Holy Crown" and regalia of Hungarian kings was returned to Budapest by the United States in 1979.

Deposition and Death

János Kádár held power in Hungary until 1988, when Communism began to collapse and his own ill-health intervened. He was removed from the Politburo and replaced as General Secretary by Prime Minister Károly Grósz in May 1988, being named instead to the powerless ceremonial position of Party President. In early 1989, as Grósz in turn was being sidelined by more progressive elements, Kádár, now visibly senile, was removed completely from political office, dying not long afterwards. Kádár was generally known as one of the more moderate East European Communist leaders, although he nevertheless supported the Warsaw Pact suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968, and the Hungarian secret police nonetheless kept many Hungarians living in a state of fear, and arrested more than 10,000 people.

A barbed wire fence at the Austrian border built in 1968 also restricted emigration.

As of 1993, the hammer and sickle and the five armed red star, along with the swastika, SS rune and arrow cross, were banned in Hungary. This law is currently being challenged in EU court, due to its perceived arbitrary nature with regards to communist symbols.

Preceded by:
Ernő Gerő
General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party
Succeeded by:
Károly Grósz
Preceded by:
Imre Nagy
Prime Minister of Hungary
Succeeded by:
Ferenc Münnich
Preceded by:
Ferenc Münnich
Prime Minister of Hungary
Succeeded by:
Gyula Kállai

Template:End boxbg:Янош Кадар de:János Kádár eo:KÁDÁR János fr:János Kádár nl:János Kádár fi:János Kádár he:יאנוש קאדאר


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