Red Terror (Hungary)

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József Cserny with members of the "Lenin Boys".

The Red Terror in Hungary (Hungarian: vörösterror) was a period of heightened political tension and suppression in 1919 during the four-month period of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, primarily towards anti-communists. The communist party and communist policies had only real popular support among the proletarian masses of large industrial centers - especially in Budapest - where worker class represented high ratio of the inhabitants. The Communists remained bitterly unpopular[1] in the Hungarian countryside, where the authority of that government was often nonexistent.[2] The communist government followed the Soviet solution: the party established its terror groups (like the infamous "Lenin Boys") to "overcome the obstacles" in the Hungarian countryside. It received its name in reference to the name of the Red Terror of Soviet Russia. It was soon followed by the White Terror against communists.


In March 1919, the Party of Communists in Hungary, in alliance with the Social Democratic Party of Hungary, gained control of the government of Hungary after president Mihály Károlyi stepped aside. Soon after, a coup by Party of Communists in Hungary, led by Béla Kun, established the Hungarian Soviet Republic.

Tibor Szamuely[3] wrote in the pages of the Vörös Újság (Red News): "Everywhere counter-revolutionaries run about and swagger; beat them down! Beat their heads where you find them! If counter-revolutionaries were to gain the upper hand for even a single hour, there will be no mercy for any proletarian. Before they stifle the revolution, suffocate them in their own blood!"[4] With their support, József Cserny organised a group of some 200 individuals known as "Lenin Boys" (Lenin-fiúk), whose intention was to uncover "counter-revolutionary" activities in the Hungarian countryside. Similar groups operated within Budapest.

Two months after gaining power, the government attempted to restore Hungary to its pre-World War I boundaries, first by recapturing parts of present-day Slovakia, and then attempting to recapture Transylvania from Romania. These unsuccessful recapture attempts, as well as the inefficacy of the government during the war period, lowered the popular support for the Communist Party, and on June 24 the Social Democratic Party attempted a coup to take control of the government. This attempted coup failed, and in its wake a series of reprisal arrests and lootings occurred in retaliation against the Social Democrats.[5][6]

The revolutionary tribunals executed between 370 and 587 of those in custody;[7] others have placed the number at 590.[8]

The Hungarian Soviet Republic ended in the first week of August 1919, when Romanian forces pushed all the way into Budapest. Kun went into exile in Russia; Szamuely fled to Austria but was captured and killed there. József Cserny was arrested and tried in November 1919; the Hungarian Bar Association refused to defend him at trial, so a lawyer was appointed by the court.[9] He was executed in December.

As was common in the political unrest of the 20th century, the Red Terror was answered by a wave of counter-reprisals once the Party of Communists leadership fled. These attacks on leftists, remaining revolutionaries and Jews are known as the "White Terror"[10] and were far more brutal, extensive and indiscriminate than the Red Terror.[11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robin Okey (2003). Eastern Europe 1740-1985: Feudalism to Communism. Routledge. p. 162. ISBN 9781134886876. 
  2. ^ John Lukacs (1990). Budapest 1900: A Historical Portrait of a City and Its Culture. Grove Press. p. 2012. ISBN 9780802132505. 
  3. ^ Szamuely Tibor in 20th of April 1919. said on a speech in Győr: "Now the power is in our hands. Who wants the old reign to come back, they should be hanged quickly. The one of this kind must be neck-bitten. The victory of Hungarian proletariat till this time required no serious numbers of victims. But now there is the need of bloodshed. We mustn't be afraid of blood, the blood is like steel: strengthens the hearth and strengthens the proletarian class. Blood will make us gigantean. [...] We will exterminate the whole bourgeoisie, if we have to."[citation needed]
  4. ^ Vörös Újság, 11 February 1919
  5. ^ Honismeret Archived 2007-11-02 at the Wayback Machine. 2003
  6. ^ [dead link]A modernizacia kora Archived 2007-10-21 at the Wayback Machine. 2003
  7. ^ Sorensen: "Did Hungary Become Fascist?"; see Leslie Eliason - Lene Bogh Sorensen: Fascism, Liberalism, and Social Democracy in Central Europe: Past and Present, Aarhus Universitetsforlag, 2002, ISBN 87-7288-719-2
  8. ^ Tibor Hajdu. The Hungarian Soviet Republic. Studia Historica. Vol. 131. Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae. Budapest, 1979
  9. ^ "Magyar Reds On Trial," New York Times, November 27, 1919
  10. ^ Bodo, Bela, Paramilitary Violence in Hungary after the First World War, East European Quarterly, Vol. 38, 2004
  11. ^ Janos, Andrew C. (2012-01-20). The Politics of Backwardness in Hungary, 1825-1945. Princeton University Press. p. 202. ISBN 1400843022. 
  12. ^ White Terror