|General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party|
1945 – 18 July 1956
|Succeeded by||Ernő Gerő|
|Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the People's Republic of Hungary|
14 August 1952 – 4 July 1953
|Preceded by||István Dobi|
|Succeeded by||Imre Nagy|
9 March 1892|
Ada, Bács-Bodrog County, Kingdom of Hungary, Austria-Hungary (now in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina in Serbia)
|Died||5 February 1971
Gorky, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union (now Nizhny Novgorod, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Russia)
|Political party||Hungarian Communist Party,
Hungarian Working People's Party
Mátyás Rákosi [ˈmaːcaːʃ ˈraːkoʃi] (9 March 1892 – 5 February 1971) was a Hungarian communist politician. He was born Mátyás Rosenfeld in Ada (in present-day Serbia). He was the leader of Hungary's Communist Party from 1945 to 1956 — first as General Secretary of the 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. His rule was aligned with USSR politics during Joseph Stalin's government. American journalist John Gunther described Rákosi as "the most malevolent character I ever met in political life."
Rákosi was born in Ada, then a village in Bács-Bodrog County in the Kingdom of Hungary (one of the two monarchies that at the time constituted The Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary), now a town in Vojvodina, Serbia. Born into a Jewish family, the fourth son of a grocer (his mother would give birth to seven more children), he later repudiated religion and totally repudiated Judaism.
He served in the Austro-Hungarian Army during the First World War and was captured on the Eastern Front. After returning to Hungary, he participated in the communist government of Béla Kun; after its fall he fled, eventually to the Soviet Union where he worked as part of the Communist International, including representing it at the Livorno congress of the Italian Socialist Party. After returning to Hungary in 1924 he was imprisoned, and was released to the Soviet Union in 1940, in exchange for the Hungarian revolutionary banners captured by the Russian troops at Világos in 1849. In the Soviet Union, he became leader of the Comintern. He returned to Debrecen, Hungary, on 30 January 1945, sent by Soviet leadership, to organize the Communist Party.
Leader of Hungary
When the Red Army set up a Soviet-approved government in Hungary (1944–1945), Rákosi was appointed General Secretary of the 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 onward, however, he and the Communists began pressuring the other parties to push out those not willing to work with the Communists on the grounds that they were "fascists" or fascist sympathizers. The process began when Smallholder Prime Minister Ferenc Nagy was forced to resign in favour of a more pliant Smallholder, Lajos Dinnyés. Later on, after the Communists won complete control, Rákosi referred to this practice as "salami tactics," saying he destroyed the non-Communist forces in the country by "cutting them off like slices of salami."
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. By the end of 1947, the opposition parties had largely shunted aside their more courageous members, leaving them in the hands of fellow travelers 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 (MDP). 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, they were actually fellow travelers. This marked the onset of undisguised Communist rule in Hungary.
Approximately 350,000 officials and intellectuals were purged under his rule, from 1948 to 1956. Rákosi imposed totalitarian rule on Hungary — arresting, jailing and killing both real and imagined foes in various waves of Stalin-inspired political purges – as the country went into decline. 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. Rákosi led vigorous attacks on Nagy's efforts to blunt the edges of the regime. On 9 March 1955, the Central Committee of the MDP condemned Nagy for "rightist deviation". Hungarian newspapers joined the attacks and Nagy was accused of responsibility for the country's economic problems. On 18 April a unanimous vote of the National Assembly dismissed 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.
The postwar Hungarian economy suffered from multiple challenges. The most important was the destruction of assets in the war (40% of national wealth, including all bridges, railways, raw materials, machinery, etc.) Hungary agreed to pay war reparations approximating US$300 million, to the Soviet Union, 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, the new, stable currency was successfully introduced in August 1946 on the basis of the plans of the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party. The low production of consumer goods and the backwardness of light industries resulted in frequent shortages, especially on the countryside, leading to discontent. In addition, the huge investments in military sectors after the outbreak of the 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.
Rákosi was then removed as General Secretary of the Party under pressure from the Soviet 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 forced Rákosi to move to the 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, in 1970, Rákosi was finally granted permission to return to 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.
- Gábor Murányi
- 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.
- Fernbach, D. 'Introduction', In The Footsteps of Rosa Luxemburg, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012; pg.16
- Mátyás Rákosi
- Hungary: a country study. 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 1585442984.
- Pető-Szakács: A hazai gazdaság négy évtizedének története 1945–1985. I. köt. Budapest, 1985, KJK
|Party political offices|
|General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party
|Prime Minister of Hungary
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