Árpád Göncz

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The native form of this personal name is Göncz Árpád. This article uses the Western name order.
Árpád Göncz
President of Hungary
1st President of the Third Republic of Hungary
In office
May 2, 1990 – August 4, 2000
Acting to August 3, 1990
Prime Minister József Antall
Péter Boross
Gyula Horn
Viktor Orbán
Preceded by Mátyás Szűrös
Succeeded by Ferenc Mádl
Speaker of the National Assembly
Acting President of the Third Republic of Hungary
In office
May 2, 1990 – August 3, 1990
Preceded by Mátyás Szűrös
Succeeded by György Szabad
Member of the National Assembly
In office
May 2, 1990 – August 3, 1990
Personal details
Born (1922-02-10) February 10, 1922 (age 93)
Budapest, Hungary
Nationality Hungarian
Political party Alliance of Free Democrats
Spouse(s) Zsuzsanna Göntér
Children 4 (Kinga Göncz)

Árpád Göncz (Göncz Árpád, Hungarian pronunciation: [ɡønts aːrpaːd]; born February 10, 1922 in Budapest) is a Hungarian liberal politician and former President of Hungary (May 2, 1990 – August 4, 2000). Göncz played a role in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. He was also founding member and Vice Chairman of Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) and Speaker of the National Assembly of Hungary before becoming President.

He is currently a member of the international advisory council of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.[1]

Early life[edit]

He graduated in law from the Budapest Pázmány Péter University of Arts and Sciences in 1944. He has also worked as a writer and has published several novels, plays and essays, and also translated a great number of prose works from English to Hungarian.

In the Second World War he was conscripted and ordered to Germany; however, he deserted and joined the resistance movement. In late-1944, Göncz found himself in Budapest when the Red Army encircled the Hungarian capital, beginning the Siege of Budapest.

After the war, in 1945 he joined the Independent Smallholders' Party and was the leader of the party's youth organization for Budapest as well as personal secretary to the general secretary. After the party was dissolved at the communist takeover, he worked as a manual labourer.

Árpád Göncz in 2005.

In the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 he worked in the newly recreated Hungarian Peasant Alliance. After the Soviet intervention on November 4, 1956, he participated in the writing of several memoranda and helped to transfer a manuscript of Imre Nagy abroad. He was arrested in May 1957 and sentenced to life imprisonment on August 2 of the same year, without the possibility of appeal. In 1960 he participated in the hunger strike of Vác. Along with more than 4,000 other revolutionaries and freedom fighters, he was released from prison under amnesty in 1963.

In the following decades, he worked as a specialized translator, translator of over a hundred literary works, and writer. Some of his notable translations include E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime and World's Fair,[2][3] Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Thomas Wolfe's Of Time and the River, William Faulkner's Sartoris, The Sound and the Fury, Absalom, Absalom! and A Fable, Ernest Hemingway's Islands in the Stream, J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano, William Styron's Lie Down in Darkness and The Confessions of Nat Turner, John Ball's In the Heat of the Night, Colleen McCullough's The Thorn Birds, Yasunari Kawabata's The Lake, John Updike's Rabbit Redux and Rabbit is Rich, and The Inheritors, Pincher Martin, The Spire, The Pyramid and Rites of Passage by William Golding. His own works include both novels and dramas; Sarusok (1974), Magyar Médeia (1976), Rácsok (1979) and Találkozások (1980) are worth mentioning.

Political career and President of Hungary[edit]

He was a founding member of the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) in 1988. In 1989 became President of the Hungarian Human Rights League. From 1989 to 1990 he was President and later Honorary President of the Hungarian Writers' Association. In May 1990 he was elected Member of Parliament. Göncz served as Speaker of the National Assembly of Hungary between May and August 1990. Under the Constitution, this also made him provisional president of Hungary. On August 4, he was elected for a full term as president by the National Assembly. He thus became Hungary's second freely elected head of state, and the first in 42 years who had no past ties to Communism. He was reelected in 1995 for another five-year term which he completed on August 4, 2000.

In 2000, he was honored with the Vision for Europe Award for his efforts in creating a unified Europe. In these periods he was very well received by the public, as he succeeded to remain free from politics, which helped him gain a wide acceptance.

He is married to Mária Zsuzsanna Göntér and has four children. Kinga Göncz, former foreign minister of Hungary, is his daughter.

Awards and honours[edit]


  • Dae Soon Kim : Göncz Árpád – Political Bibliography (Scolar, Budapest, 2012)
  • Dae Soon Kim: The Transition to Democracy in Hungary: Arpad Goncz and the post-Communist Presidency (Routledge, London and New York, 2013)


  1. ^ "International Advisory Council". Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on May 20, 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-20. 
  2. ^ Arpad Goncz: Steel worker, lawyer, playwright, translator, president of Hungary, Baltimore Sun, Hal Piper, September 23, 1990.
  3. ^ A Writer Moves Up, This Time in Hungary, New York Times, Glenn Collins, May 19, 1990.
  4. ^ Prime Minister of Malta Website, Honorary Appointments to the National Order of Merit)
  5. ^ Lithuanian Presidency website, search form
  6. ^ Slovak republic website, State honours : 1st Class in 2000 (click on "Holders of the Order of the 1st Class White Double Cross" to see the holders' table)

External links[edit]

  • His biography on the Office of the President of the Republic of Hungary site
Political offices
Preceded by
Mátyás Szűrös
President of Hungary
Succeeded by
Ferenc Mádl
Preceded by
István Fodor
Speaker of the National Assembly
Succeeded by
György Szabad