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Hungarian Soviet Republic
The Hungarian Soviet Republic was the political regime in Hungary from March 21, 1919 until the beginning of August of the same year, and it is the second Communist (or soviet) government in world history, after the one in Russia (1917).
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 reorganize the country's social and economic life on the shambles left over after the lost war and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After less than six months in power, Károlyi admitted the failure of his policies, resigning in favor of the young Hungarian Communist Party. The party was very small at this time, but its members were very active and it grew rapidly. Károlyi intended to leave the communists in power in order to pass onto them the responsibility of dealing with the difficult matter of the Entente's territorial requests.
The Hungarian Communist Party thus had a meteoric, if precocious, rise to political power. An initial nucleus of the party had been organized just a few months earlier, in a Moscow hotel on November 4 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, radicalizing many of the Social Democrats. By February 1919, the party numbered 30,000 to 40,000 members, including many unemployed ex-soldiers, young intellectuals and Jews.
Kun founded a communist newspaper, and concentrated on attacking Károlyi's government. He was arrested and sent to prison, but the newspaper continued to be printed. After receiving the Vix Ultimatum (that required more Hungarian territorial cessions), on March 20 Károlyi released Kun from prison and basically gave him control over the government, so that he would be the one forced to deal with the ultimatum. Following the model laid out by Lenin, Kun created a government of People's Commissars, which proclaimed the Hungarian Soviet Republic on March 21. Initially, the Sándor Garbai government consisted of a Socialist-Communist coalition, but Kun's Communists leaped into action and managed within days to dismiss their socialist comrades - considered to be bourgeois. The new government decreed the abolition of aristocratic titles and privileges, the separation of church and state, and guaranteed the freedom of speech and assembly, free education, language and cultural rights to minorities.
In a radio dispatch to Soviet Russia, Kun informed Lenin that a "dictatorship of the proletariat" had been established in Hungary and asked for a treaty of alliance with Soviet Russia, to defend against the inevitable hostile reaction from the Entente. Soviet Russia was willing, but unable to lend a helping hand to the fledgling Hungarian republic, 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.
The Communist government nationalized industrial and commercial enterprises, and socialized housing, transport, banking, medicine, cultural institutions, and all landholdings of more than 40 hectares. While undertaking these domestic measures, Kun also kept in mind the fact that his communists were heavily dependent on popular support for his foreign policy of restoring Hungary's borders.
Kun attempted to spread communist revolution to neighboring regions that had previously belonged to Hungary. After his military victory over the Czechoslovak army, on June 8 American President Wilson demanded a halt to the Hungarian Red Army's advances and invited the Hungarian government to Paris to discuss Hungary's frontiers. Kun believed that the Soviet Russian government would intervene on Hungary's behalf and that the worldwide workers' revolution would spread from East toward West. A spurious Slovak Soviet Republic was proclaimed on June 16, in the southern and eastern Slovakia.
The situation of the Hungarian Communists began to deteriorate when, after a failed coup by the National Social-Democrats on June 24, the new Communist government of Antal Dovcsák resorted to large-scale reprisals. Revolutionary tribunals ordered 590 executions of people who were suspected of having been involved in the attempted coup. Meanwhile, the government's agricultural policies alienated many peasants, and its secular nature greatly offended the clergy. Its popular support began to decline.
In addition, Soviet Hungary faced external threats. The advance of its armies had been halted in the North, and Soviet Slovakia fell to counter-revolutionary forces at the end of June. At the same time, the Romanians invaded from the East, and advanced across Hungary all the way to the gates of the capital, engaging the Red Guards in a pitched battle before Budapest. The battle was eventually lost, and Béla Kun fled to Austria on August 1 together with other high-ranking Communists with only a minority remaining in Budapest, including Lukacs the former Commisar 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 it was eliminated by the Romanians. Budapest was occupied by Romanian forces on August 6, putting an end to the Hungarian Revolution and the Hungarian Soviet Republic.
- 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.
- Volgyes, Ivan (editor) Hungary in revolution, 1918-19 : nine essays Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, 1971
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