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Mátyás Rákosi
General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party

In office
1945 – 18 July 1956
Succeeded by Ernő Gerő
Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the People's Republic of Hungary

In office
14 August 1952 – 4 July 1953
Preceded by István Dobi
Succeeded by Imre Nagy
Personal details
Born (1892-03-09)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(1971-02-05) (aged 78)
Gorky, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union (now Nizhny Novgorod, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Russia)
Nationality Hungarian (Jew)
Political party Hungarian Communist Party,
Hungarian Working People's Party
Spouse(s) Fenia Kornilova
Religion None (Atheist)

Mátyás Rákosi [ˈmaːcaːʃ ˈraːkoʃi] (9 March 1892[1][2] – 5 February 1971[3]) was a Hungarian communist politician. He was born Mátyás Rosenfeld in Ada (in present-day Serbia).[4] He was the leader of Hungary's Communist Party from 1945 to 1956[5] — 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.[6] His rule was aligned with USSR politics during Joseph Stalin's government.[7][8]

Early years

Rákosi was born in Ada, a village in Bács-Bodrog County[1] in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in Vojvodina, Serbia). Born into a Jewish family, the fourth son of a grocer (his mother would give birth to seven more children),[1] 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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[10]

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. By late 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. 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 1948, Rákosi had dropped all pretense of democracy. That summer, 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.

Rákosi described himself as "Stalin's best Hungarian disciple" and "Stalin's best pupil". At the height of his rule, he developed a strong cult of personality around himself.

Approximately 350,000 officials and intellectuals were purged under his rule, from 1948 to 1956.[11] 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.[citation needed] 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.

Economic policy

Rákosi during the 2nd World Festival of Youth and Students.

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.)[12] 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. While consumer goods production was still low, industrial production exceeded the level of 1938 by 40% in 1949 and tripled by 1953.[12] However, 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.

Forced retirement

Rakosi's grave in Budapest

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.

After his death, his ashes were secretly returned to Hungary for burial in the Farkasrét Cemetery in Budapest.[citation needed]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Gábor Murányi
  2. Mátyás Rákosi –
  3. Matyas Rakosi – History of 1956
  4. Lendvai, Paul (2003). The Hungarians: 1000 Years of Victory in Defeat. London: C. Hurst and Co, Ltd. pp. 430. ISBN 1-85065-6827. 
  5. Matyas Rakosi – Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  6. Bertényi Iván – Gyapai Gábor: Magyarország rövid története (Maecenas, 2001, in Hungarian)
  7. Hungary :: The Revolution of 1956 – Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  8. Gomori, George (30 November 2006). "Gyorgy Litvan". The Guardian. London.,,1960064,00.html. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  9. Fernbach, D. 'Introduction', In The Footsteps of Rosa Luxemburg, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012; pg.16
  10. 10.0 10.1 Mátyás Rákosi
  11. Granville, Johanna (2004). The First Domino: International Decision Making During the Hungarian Crisis of 1956. Texas A & M University Press, College Station, Texas. ISBN 1-58544-298-4. 
    Related news articles:
  12. 12.0 12.1 Pető-Szakács: A hazai gazdaság négy évtizedének története 1945–1985. I. köt. Budapest, 1985, KJK

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party
Succeeded by
Ernő Gerő
Political offices
Preceded by
István Dobi
Prime Minister of Hungary
Succeeded by
Imre Nagy

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