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Béla Kun was the leader of the Hungarian Revolution of 1919
The Hungarian Soviet Republic or Soviet Republic of Hungary ( ) was a Communist regime established in Hungarymarker from 21 March until 6 August, 1919, under the leadership of Béla Kun. It was the first Communist government to be formed in Europe after the October Revolution in Russiamarker which brought the Bolsheviks to power in that country. Lasting only four months, the Soviet republic fell apart when Romanianmarker forces occupied Budapestmarker. The successor to the state was the Kingdom of Hungary, which was formed after the Romanian Army pulled out of Hungary.


The immediate cause of the formation of the Hungarian Soviet Republic was the failure of Count Mihály Károlyi's government of the re-born state of Hungary to organize the country's social and economic life after the loss of World War I and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After less than six months in power, Károlyi was dismissed by a coalition of Social Democrats and Communists.

The Hungarian Communist Party was small at this time, but its members were very active and it began expanding. An initial nucleus of the party had been organized just a few months earlier, in a Moscowmarker hotel on 4 November 1918; when a group of Hungarian prisoners of war and some other Communist sympathizers formed a Central Committee. Led by Béla Kun, they soon left for Hungary and started to recruit new members and propagate the party's ideas, radicalising many of the Social Democrats in the process. By February 1919, the party numbered 30,000 to 40,000 members, including many unemployed ex-soldiers, young intellectuals and ethnic minorities.

Kun founded a newspaper, called Vörös Újság ('Red News'), and concentrated on attacking Károlyi's government. During the following months, the Communist Party's power-base rapidly expanded. Their supporters began to stage aggressive demonstrations against the media. In one crucial incident, a demonstration turned violent on 20 February and the protesters attacked the editorial office of the Social Democrats' official paper, called Népszava (People's Word). In the ensuing chaos, seven people—including policemen—were killed. The government arrested the leaders of the Hungarian Communist Party, banned Vörös Újság and closed down the party's buildings. The arrests were particularly violent, with police officers openly beating the communists. This resulted in a wave of public sympathy for the Communist Party. On 1 March, Vörös Újság was given permission to publish again, and the Communist Party's premises were re-opened. The leaders were permitted to receive guests in their prison, which allowed them to keep up with political affairs.

On 20 March Károlyi announced that the Dénes Berinkey government would resign. On 21 March he informed the Council of Ministers that only the Social Democrats could form a new government, as they were the party with the highest public support. In order to form a governing coalition, the Social Democrats started negotiations with the Communist leaders—who were still imprisoned—and decided to merge their two parties under the name of Hungarian Socialist Party. President Károlyi, who was an outspoken anti-Communist, was not informed about this fusion. Thus, while believing to have appointed a Socialist government, he found himself faced with one dominated by Communists.

Communist policies

Following Lenin's model, but without the direct participation of the workers councils (soviets) from which it took its name, the newly united Socialist Party created a government called the Revolutionary Governing Council, which proclaimed the Hungarian Soviet Republic and dismissed President Károlyi on 21 March. This government consisted of a Socialist-Communist coalition, but with the exception of Kun, all commissars were former Social Democrats. The government was led by Sándor Garbai, but Kun, as Commissar of Foreign Affairs, held the real power. Under Kun, the new government, which had adopted in full the programme of the Communists, decreed the abolition of aristocratic titles and privileges, the separation of church and state, and they codified the freedom of speech and assembly, free education, language and cultural rights to minorities (the last of which, at least, was not implemented in practice).

The Communist government also nationalized industrial and commercial enterprises, and socialized housing, transport, banking, medicine, cultural institutions, and all landholdings of more than 40 hectares. The public support for Communists was also heavily dependent on their promise of restoring Hungary's imperial borders.

In a radio dispatch to the Russian SFSR, Kun informed Lenin that a "dictatorship of the proletariat" had been established in Hungary and asked for a treaty of alliance with the Russian SFSR. The Russian SFSR refused because it was itself tied down in the Russian Civil War. The Hungarian government was thus left on its own, and a Red Guard was established under the command of Mátyás Rákosi.

In addition, a group of 200 armed men—known as the Lenin Boys—formed a mobile detachment under the leadership of József Cserny. This detachment was deployed at various locations around the country where counter-revolutionary movements were suspected to operate. The Lenin Boys, as well as other similar groups and agitators killed and terrorised many people (eg. armed with hand grenades and using their rifles' butts they disbanded religious ceremonies). They executed victims without trial. This caused a number of conflicts with the local population, some of which turned violent.

Foreign policy

In June , the HSR invaded the eastern part of Czechoslovakiamarker (today's Slovakiamarker), then controlled by Czechoslovakmarker forces and declared a Slovak Soviet Republic in Prešovmarker on 16 June 1919. In late May, after the Entente military representative demanded more territorial concessions from Hungary, Kun attempted to fulfill his promise to restore Hungary's borders. The Hungarian Red Army marched northward and achieved some impressive military successes: under the lead of the genius strategist, Colonel Aurél Stromfeld, ousted Czech troops from the north, and reoccupied the Hungarian part of the newly forming Czechoslovak state, and planned to march against the Romanian army in the east. Despite initial military success, however, Kun withdrew his troops about three weeks later when the French promised to the Hungarian government that the Romanian forces will withdraw from the Tiszántúl. This concession shook his popular support. Following the Red Army's retreat from the north, the Romanian forces were not pulled back. Kun then unsuccessfully turned the Hungarian Red Army on the Romanians, who broke through the weak Hungarian lines on 30 July, occupied and looted Budapest, and ousted Kun's Soviet Republic on 1 August 1919.


The situation of the Hungarian Communists began to deteriorate when, after a failed coup by the Social Democrats on 24 June, the new Communist government of Antal Dovcsák resorted to large-scale reprisals. Revolutionary tribunals ordered executions of people who were suspected of having been involved in the attempted coup. This became known as the "Red Terror", and greatly reduced domestic support for the government.

The Hungarian Soviet found it increasingly difficult to fight Czechoslovakia and later Romaniamarker with the small volunteer force, and support for both the war and the Communist Party were waning at home, partly due to the most dedicated Communists having gone and volunteered for combat. On 30 July Romania launched an attack on Budapest. Romania was eventually successful, and Béla Kun fled to Austria on 1 August together with other high-ranking Communists with only a minority remaining in Budapest, including György Lukács, the former Commissar for Culture and noted Marxist philosopher, to organise an underground Communist Party. The Budapest Workers' Soviet elected a new government, headed by Gyula Peidl, which only lasted a few days before the Romanian forces entered Budapest on 6 August, putting an end to the Hungarian Soviet Republic.

In the power vacuum created by the fall of the Soviet Republic and the presence of Romanian Army, the Conservative forces of István Bethlen and Miklós Horthy gradually took control of Western Hungary (which was outside the control of re-established Hungary). Semiregular detachments (technically under Horthy's command, but mostly independent in practice) initiated a campaign of violence against Communists, leftists and Jews, known as the White Terror.[79934] Many supporters of the Hungarian Soviet Republic were executed without trial, others (e.g., Péter Ágoston, Ferenc Bajáki, Dezső Bokányi, Antal Dovcsák, József Haubrich, Henrik Kalmár, József Kelen, György Nyisztor, Sándor Szabados, Károly Vántus) were imprisoned by trial ("comissar suits"). Most of them were later released to the Soviet Union by amnesty during the reign of Horthy, after a prisoner exchange agreement between Hungary and the Russian Soviet government in 1921. In all, about 415 prisoners were released as a result of this agreement. Kun himself and an unknown number of other Hungarian communists were executed in Stalin's purge of foreign communists in late 1930s.

See also


  1. The Library of Congress Country Studies – Hungarian Soviet Republic
  2. Borsanyi, Gyorgy, The life of a Communist revolutionary, Bela Kun, translated by Mario Fenyo; Social Science Monographs, Boulder, Colorado; Columbia University Press, New York, 1993, p178.
  3. Janos, Andrew C. & Slottman, William (editors) Revolution in perspective: essays on the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919, Center for Slavic and East European Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 1971, p68
  4. See resources in the article Red Terror.
  5. Ignác Romsics: Magyarország története a XX. században, 2004, p. 134
  7. Borsanyi, Gyorgy, The life of a Communist revolutionary, Bela Kun, translated by Mario Fenyo; Social Science Monographs, Boulder, Colorado; Columbia University Press, New York, 1993, p205.
  8. 2000 - BŰN ÉS BŰNHŐDÉS

Further reading

  • Borsanyi, Gyorgy The life of a Communist revolutionary, Bela Kun translated by Mario Fenyo, Boulder, Colorado : Social Science Monographs ; New York: Distributed by Columbia University Press, 1993.

  • Janos, Andrew C. & Slottman, William (editors) Revolution in perspective : essays on the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919: Published for the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Slavic and East European Studies, Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1971.

  • Menczer, Bela "Bela Kun and the Hungarian Revolution of 1919" pages 299-309 Volume XIX, Issue #5, May 1969, History Today History Today Inc: London, United Kingdom.

  • Pastor, Peter, Hungary between Wilson and Lenin : the Hungarian revolution of 1918–1919 and the Big Three, Boulder, Colorado: East European Quarterly ; New York : distributed by Columbia University Press, 1976.

  • Szilassy, Sándor Revolutionary Hungary, 1918–1921, Astor Park. Florida, Danubian Press 1971.

  • Tokes, Rudolf Béla Kun and the Hungarian Soviet Republic : the origins and role of the Communist Party of Hungary in the revolutions of 1918–1919 New York : published for the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford, California, by F.A. Praeger, 1967.

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