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Kádár, János 1912- 1989

János Kádár was the General Secretary of the Communist Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party from 1956 to 1988, and twice served as prime minister of Hungary, from 1956 to 1958 and from 1961 to 1965.


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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 in 1949 became minister of the interior and head of the Budapest secret police.

Appointed as a party leader in a heavily industrialized 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.

Nagy began a process of liberalization, 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, János Kádár became leader of the country. 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 the 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.

During Kádár's rule, tourism increased dramatically, with many tourists from Canada, the USA, and Western Europe bringing much needed money into Hungary.

János Kádár held power in Hungary until 1988 when Communism began to collapse and his own ill-health intervened. He was generally known as one of the more moderate East European communist leaders, although he supported the Warsaw Pact suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968. The Hungarian secret police also kept many Hungarians living in a state of fear, and arrested more than 10,000 people.

Popular Documents

November 4, 1956

Stenographic record of a 4 November 1956 meeting of Party activists

Khrushchev describes the events of the counterrevolution in Hungary and the crisis in Poland. He recounts the CPSU's consultations with other communist parties in the socialist camp to determine their attitude toward Soviet intervention, particularly in Hungary. Leaders from China, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia agreed with the Soviet position, but Polish leaders opposed the presence of Soviet troops in Hungary. Khrushchev reports that following these meetings, the CPSU CC Presidium decided to prepare for an attack on the counterrevolutionary forces in Hungary. He then reads aloud an open letter which declares the Hungarian Revolutionary Workers and Peasants Government. He gives details about the suppression of the counterrevolution by Soviet armed forces and the positive reaction of the socialist countries. He states that the lessons of the counterrevolution are to improve relations with the fraternal parties and the socialist countries and to treat them with respect; to improve political work among students and the masses so that they are not mislead by counterrevolutionaries; and to strengthen the Soviet Army.

June 24, 1957

Minutes of the Meeting of the CPSU CC Plenum on the State of Soviet Foreign Policy

The Soviet leadership discusses the state of Soviet foreign policy after the Hungarian crisis and Khrushchev’s visit to the US. Molotov criticizes Khrushchev for recklessness in foreign policy direction. Soviet inroads in the Middle East and the Third World are analyzed. The effects of the crises in Eastern Europe are placed in the context of the struggle against US imperialism.

November 2, 1956

Working Notes from the Session of the CPSU CC Presidium on 2 November 1956

The CPSU CC Presidium is confronted with reports from Hungary of mass demonstrations, armed counterrevolutionary groups, and the support for Nagy by the opposition. The CC is told about the Hungarian decision to declare neutrality and the likely confrontation between Soviet and Hungarian troops should the former continue to advance toward Budapest. Also discussed is the split within the HWP and possible Soviet responses.

November 10, 1956

Gazette of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, 1956, No. 40 (Overall Issue No. 66)

This issue begins by denouncing British and French aggression against Egypt during the Suez Canal Crisis. It also includes a Chinese statement about the Soviet Declaration "to Strengthen Friendship and Cooperation [with] Other Socialist States," which acknowledges tensions between socialist countries and the need to address people's demands in Hungary and Poland. The next sections feature a message from Zhou Enlai to János Kádár, who would lead Hungary after the failed Revolution of 1956, and Sino-Nepali correspondence.

November 22, 1978

Meeting of the Political Consultative Committee of the Warsaw Treaty Member Countries

Meeting minutes taken by Romanian Ambassador Vasile Sandru at sessions of the Warsaw Treaty Political Consultative Committee, taking place in Moscow on 22-23 November 1978. Session I contains a speech by Leonid Brezhnev in which he discusses détente, Warsaw Pact economic cooperation, disarmament, national liberation movements, and relations with China, the Western countries, and Japan. In Session II and III political leaders of the other Warsaw member countries respond to Brezhnev’s speech. Session IV features a report by Commander-in-Chief Viktor Kulikov on the United Armed Forces. He recommends an increase in military expenditures. All of the leaders agree, except for Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania.