|General Secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party|
25 October 1956 – 27 May 1988
|Preceded by||Ernő Gerő|
|Succeeded by||Károly Grósz|
|Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the People's Republic of Hungary|
4 November 1956 – 28 January 1958
( 1 year, 85 days)
|Preceded by||Imre Nagy|
|Succeeded by||Ferenc Münnich|
13 September 1961 – 30 June 1965
( 3 years, 290 days)
|Preceded by||Ferenc Münnich|
|Succeeded by||Gyula Kállai|
|Interior Minister of Hungary|
5 August 1948 – 23 June 1950
|Preceded by||László Rajk|
|Succeeded by||Sándor Zöld|
|Born||26 May 1912
|Died||6 July 1989
|Political party||Hungarian Communist Party, Hungarian Working People's Party, Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party|
János Kádár (26 May 1912 – 6 July 1989) was the General Secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party, presiding over the country from 1956 until his forced retirement in 1988. His thirty-two year term as General Secretary makes Kádár the longest ruler of the People's Republic of Hungary. During Kádár's rule, Hungary was stabilised and liberalised to such an extent never seen before in any Eastern Bloc countries until Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary, in part because of his role in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. He was replaced in 1988, when a younger generation in the Communist Party, consisting mostly of reformers took over.
Kádár was born in Fiume to a poor family, his father left his mother and him when he was very young, and he never met his father. After living in the countryside for some years, Kádár and his mother moved to Budapest. After quitting school, Kádár joined the Communist Party of Hungary's youth organisation, KIMSZ. Kádár would go on to become a notable figure of the pre-World War II communist party, even becoming First Secretary. As leader he dissolved the party, and reorganised it as the Peace Party. This new party failed to win any popular support for the communist cause, and he would later be accused, of dissolving the Hungarian communist party. With the German invasion of Hungary, the Peace Party tried again to win support from the Hungarian populace, but failed. At the time of the Soviet occupation, the communists led by Kádár were very small in size.
As a leader, Kádár was a team player, and took care to consult his colleagues before acting, and his tenure saw an attempt at liberalising the economic system to put greater effort to build up the consumer industry. His rule was marked by what later became known as the Goulash Communism. A significant increase in consumer expenditures because of the New Economic Mechanism (NEM), a major economic reform, reintroduced certain market mechanisms in Hungary. As a result of the relatively high standard of living, and more relaxed travel restrictions than that of other Eastern Bloc countries, Hungary was generally considered one of the better countries in which to live in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. On 6 July 1989, an ill Kádár died, after having been forced to retire. Kádár was succeeded by Károly Grósz as General Secretary on 27 May 1988.
While at the helm of the People's Republic of Hungary, Kádár pushed for the improvement in the standard of living. Kádár engaged in increased international trade with non-communist countries, most notably those of Western Europe. However, his view on tackling the inefficiencies of the communist system, were never carried out to its full extent because of the conservative leadership of Leonid Brezhnev. Kádár's legacy is still disputed to this day, but he was voted in a poll, the "best Hungarian" of the 20th century.
Kádár was born out of wedlock as János József Czermanek as the son of the soldier János Krezinger and Borbála Czermanek. Krezinger came from a peasant family in a remote village in Western Hungary. While his surname suggests he had Slavic origins, he was "Hungarian by language and culture" according to historian Roger Gough. During his military service, he met with Borbála, who was of Slovak ancestry. The story however on how they met is unknown. Anyhow, the most probable explanation is that Krezinger left after learning that Borbála was pregnant. Borbála gave birth to János in Fiume's Santo Spirito Hospital on 26 May 1912. Having given birth in the middle of the holiday season, no one wanted to hire a single mother with a child. His mother, Borbála went to look for Krezinger, but his family wanted nothing to do with them. She walked ten kilometres to the city of Kapoly[clarification needed], she was able to persuade a family by the name of Bálint to care of her child. For this however, they wanted pay. In the meantime Borbála looked for work in the nation's capital, Budapest.
His mother was able to visit during the holidays, meaning only a few times a year. His foster father, Imre Bálint took care of him. But it was Bálint's brother, Sándor Bálint Kádár would remember as his "true" foster father. While Imre had joined the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I, Sándor was left to take care of Kádár. Sándor clearly showed much interest in the boy, and seems to be the only man Kádár had a good relationship with throughout his early childhood. Due to the great strain put on the family because of World War I, Kádár started working in an early age and helped Sándor take care of his sick wife. Kádár, as an old man, noted how early experiences in his childhood moved him towards Marxist-Leninism, the most notable one being when he was accused of setting a building on fire instead of catching the true culprit, the inspector's son. Suddenly in 1918, at the age of six, Borbála reclaimed him and moved him to Budapest and was enrolled in school. In school he got bullied by classmates and his teacher for his bumpkin manners and his peasant terms. At the same time as his troubles at school, it took time before he and Borbála became "friends". His mother being a devoted Catholic, was surprised to find out that Kádár was not brought up as one.
In addition to being an assistant caretaker, Borbála delivered newspapers in the morning. She did all this to ensure Kádár getting a better education that she did. Piroska Döme, who met Borbála much later to life, notes that her hands were disfigured because of manual work. In the summer time, Kádár would find work in the countryside. As Kádár later said, he was seen as "alien" by his contemporaries, in the countryside they would call him a "city boy" while in the city they would call him a "country boy". Living in Városház street gave him a good start at life, but his family's poverty and illegitimacy made him stand out, this made normal social development for a boy of his age difficult. Then in 1920, Borbála got pregnant again, with the man impregnating her leaving. Kádár had to help Borbála take care care of her new son, and his half-brother, Jenő. Because of the pregnancy Borbála lost her job, and they moved to 13th District of the Angyaföld area. Borbála refused to talk about Kádár's father, something which left Kádár bewildered.
Kádár attended the Cukor Street Elementary School and passed. It offered what Borbála always wanted for him, and Kádár proved to be a bright student. However his discontent regarding his current situation manifested in him skipping school on various occasions. Endangering Borbála's future hopes of him, she usually hit him many times when it became known to her that he skipped class. He proved to be an able student in most subjects on only moderate efforts. Yet he saw no reasons studying too hard, and usually skipped school to play football or other sports. He did read often however, but his mother was unimpressed by this and ironically asked him if he was a "gentleman of leisure". Kádár left school at the age of fourteen in 1926. His education gave him a promising opportunity in light industry, it did however, take a year for him to find a job after being turned down as a car mechanic. In 1927, he became a typewriter mechanic, a profession which had a high standing among the Hungarian working class, there were only 160 of them in the country.
His first meeting with Marxist literature came in 1928 after he won a junior chess competition organised by the Barbers Trade Union. His prize was Friedrich Engels's Anti-Dühring. The tournament organiser explained to Kádár that if he didn't understand it after his first reading, he should re-read it until he understood it. Kádár followed his advice, even if his friends were "unimpressed" by his reading. As he later noted later in his life, he did not understand the reading but it got him thinking: "Immutable laws and connections in the world which I had not suspected." While it may be true that as Kádár comments that the book had great influence over him, it was in 1929 when he was fired after he flared up at his employer after he talked condescendingly towards Kádár. When the Great Depression hit Hungary, Kádár was the first to be fired. What ensued was low paid jobs and poverty. He later became unemployed, and it was this experience which brought him into contact with the Communist Party of Hungary. According to Kádár he became a member of the party in 1931.
In September 1930, Kádár took part in an organised trade union strike. The strike was crushed by the authorities, and many of his fellow communists were arrested. In the aftermath of the failed strike, he supported the party by gathering signatures for candidates of the Socialist Workers' Bloc, an attempt by the Communist Party to create a front which would win over new supporters. This attempt was thwarted by the authorities, and new arrests ensued. In June 1931, he joined the communist youth organization, the Communist Young Workers' Association (KIMSZ). He joined the Sverdlov party cell, named after Soviet Yakov Sverdlov. His alias within the party became János Barna. During his early membership, the party was illegal, following the crushing of the 1919 Hungarian Soviet Republic. In December 1931, the authorities had been able to track him down, and Kádár was arrested on charges of spreading communism, and being a communist. He denied the charges, and because of lack of evidence, was released. He was however under constant police surveillance, and after some days, he was back in contact with KIMSZ. He was given new responsibilities, and by May 1933 he became a member of the KIMSZ Budapest committee. Because of his promotion in the communist hierarchy, he was given a new alias, Róna. The party suggested, but Kádár rejected, the offer of studying at the Lenin Institute in Moscow, claiming that he could not leave his family alone. His advance up the hierarchy came to an end when he was arrested on 21 June 1931 with other communist activists. Kádár cracked because of police brutality, when he later confronted his fellow arrested communists, he realised he had made a mistake and denied and retracted all his confessions. He was sentenced to two years in prison. Because of his confessions to the police, he was suspended from KIMSZ.
After being released for parole, he was politically in limbo. The hope of rejoining the Communist Party was shattered by the Comintern's decision to dissolve the national communist party in Hungary. The few remaining members of the party were told to infiltrate and work co-operatively with the Social Democratic Party of Hungary and trade unions. Kádár had in the meantime been able to persuade himself that it was because of changes within the party, and not his confessions, which had led to none of his associates making contact with him. He did, at the same time, have four more months of his prison sentence to serve before being released. In prison Kádár met with Mátyás Rákosi, a commissar of the Hungarian Soviet Republic and a renowned political prisoner. While Kádár later claimed that there grew a father-son like bond between them, the more plausible truth is that there grew a "somewhat adolescent cheekiness" between the two. In prison, Rákosi interrogated Kádár, and came to the conclusion that his confessions were due to his "shortcomings". After being released from prison for good, some former party activists made contact with him and instructed Kádár to infiltrate the Social Democratic Party with them. Within the party, Kádár and his associates made no secret of their Marxist views, frequently talking about the struggles of the working class and their gaze, which was directed towards the Soviet Union.
Kádár still lived in poverty, and found it hard to blend in with the upper working class and the intelligentsia. Paradoxically, his main Communist contact in the Social Democratic Party was a sculptor named György Goldmann. Kádár evolved into an effective speaker on "bread and butter issues", but failed at having any success on more serious and complex topics. In 1940 he was recalled to the party's ranks. At the beginning of its refounding, the party liked to use members without any police records, therefor Kádár was given more responsibilities within the infiltration of the Social Democratic Party . During May and June the police arrested and rounded up several party activists, including Goldman, but Kádár had managed to go into hiding. As early as May 1942, Kádár became a member of the newly formed Central Committee of the Communist Party, mostly due to the lack of personnel, seeing that the majority of them had been sent to prison. István Kováca, the acting party leader from December 1942, said; "he [Kádár] was extremely modest, a clever man but not then theoretically trained". Kováca brought Kádár into the party leadership and gave him a seat in the Secretariat of the Central Committee. By January 1943, had been able to get in touch with some seventy to eighty members, but this effort was torn apart by a new round of mass arrests, with Kováca being among them.
The new leadership after the last mass arrest consisted of Kádár as First Secretary, Gábor Péter, István Szirmai and Pál Tonhauser. During Kádár's first tenure as leader of the party, he faced many problems, the most important being that the communists were becoming increasingly irrelevant in a fast-changing situation, mostly because of the Hungarian government's continuing interference. In a meeting with Árpád Szakasits, a left-leaning Social Democrat, Kádár was asked to stop the party's illegal infiltration of his party. This meeting led to criticism being mounted against him during a Central Committee plenum meeting. In February 1936, Peter came up with an idea; his idea was to dissolve the party so that party members independently could spread communism, while a small secret leadership structure could keep itself together for some years. This, he said, would stop the continuing mass arrest of the communist party personnel and in turn strengthen the party for the future. While at the beginning Kádár was against such an idea, the idea grew on him and came to the conclusion that instead of dissolving the party, he would pretend to dissolve it and rename the party which would effectively throw the Hungarian authorities off their trail. The so-called "new party" was formed in August under the name, Peace Party. This decision was not supported by all, and the Moscow-based Hungarian Communists led by Mátyás Rákosi condemned the decision and domestic militants. Kádár disagreed with the criticism laid against him, claiming it was a "tactical retreat" which led to the renaming of the party, but with no changes to either the party's principals or structures. His attempted plan to fool the police failed, and the police continued arresting Hungarian Communists. Later in his life, this would be one of the few topics of his life Kádár would refuse to discuss.
After the German invasion of Hungary, the Peace Party, with other parties, established the Hungarian Front, the party's potential allies were still very wary of them. Therefore the Popular Front was never able to win much support amongst the populace. In the aftermath of the invasion, the party under Kádár's leadership started partistan operations and created their own Military Committee. Kádár tried to cross the border into Yugoslavia in hope of making contact with the Yugoslav partisans and their leader, Josip Broz Tito. At the same time, Kádár probably hoped to establish better, and stronger, relations with the USSR; something they had been trying to do since 1942. Kádár was given a new identity as an army corporal trying to cross the Hungarian-Yugoslav border. This attempt failed, and he was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. The authorities never figured out his real identity therefor members such as Rákosi thought he was a secret agent for the police. There is however no hard proof for these accusations, and incompetence remains the sole plausible reason. It was later proven, when SS officer Otto Winckelmann reported to Berlin that Kádár had been arrested, they had mistakenly confused Kádár for another communist.
Kádár, while in prison, was able to send out messages to Péter, and other high-ranking party members, they were able to orchestrate a scheme to free him. In the meantime, the leader of Hungary Miklós Horthy was conspiring against the German occupiers. There were rumours that claim that Horthy tried to get in contact with Kádár, but did not know that he was in prison. Horthy was deposed by the German government and replaced by Arrow Cross Party leader Ferenc Szálasi. Szálasi's policies had an immediate effect on Kádár; he had emptied the prison Kádár lived in and sent them to concentration camps. Kádár was able to escape and made his way back to Budapest. Immediately after his return to Budapest, Kádár headed the communist party's military committee. The committee tried to persuade workers to help the Soviet forces, but was not able to muster much support from the populace, therefor its effect were marginal at best. After the Soviet victory in Budapest, he changed his name from Csermanek to Kádár, literally meaning "cobber" or "barrel-maker".
After the Soviet liberation of Hungary, the Soviet-Hungarian Communist leadership sent Zoltán Vas and the new Soviet approved Central Committee of the Communist Party of Hungary; Kádár became a member of this so-called "new" committee. At first, Kádár would rise up the ranks, not because of ideology, or knowledge of economy and agriculture, but instead for his organisational skills. Kádár helped form the Communist Party's headquarters in Hungary, and later, designed the party's membership card. The Soviet troops stationed in Hungary committed mass rapes and pillaged Budapest and the countryside, Kádár, when writing a letter to the Ministry of the Interior, he wrote; "the Soviet command caused really big difficulties in our work, especially in the beginning, and they still do". In these conditions Kádár was appointed deputy chief of police. Nonetheless his rise in the communist hierarchy was not an easy one, Rákosi's party deputy Ernő Gerő felt his decision to dissolve the party during the war was a rash decision, and others, who worked alongside Kádár during the war felt he had been over-promoted and were keen to put an end to it. His political eclipse did not last long, and when Rákosi returned he became a member of the newly formed Politburo of the Communist Party of Hungary. Later on, in February 1945, Rákosi was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party of Hungary.
Rákosi's leadership consisted of Mihály Farkas the Minister of Defence. Kádár and Béla Kovács noted with puzzlement the leadership's total lack of interest in the domestic Communist's experience and outlook. As head of cadres, Kádár supervised membership appointments to the party. This position gave him contacts, some of whom would become very important to him in his later life. After failing to secure a majority in Parliament after the 1945 election, the Communist leadership started the divide and conquer strategy known as salami tactics. Kádár became a prominent figure during the period between the 1945 and the 1947 Hungarian parliamentary elections. Kádár had evolved a sense of rivalry with the Social Democratic Party of Hungary, claiming the party was "thrashing" them in government, and that they made it impossible for the Communists to negotiate policy with the Hungarian trade unions.
In 1946 Kádár campaigned for the communist party in workers districts and factories. These areas were heavily contested between the Communists and the Social Democrats. The Communists were able to persuade the Social Democrats to hold elections in factories where the communists held the majority. The clear majority results gained by the Communists during this election prompted the Social Democrats to postpone the rest of the election. At the 3rd Congress of the Communist Party of Hungary, Kádár was appointed one of Rákosi's two deputies. He was appointed deputy because of social and ethnic background, the majority of the leadership were of Jewish origins and were intellectuals, Kádár was however a Hungarian worker. In the aftermath of his appointment, he enrolled himself in Russian lessons and grew fond of reading, his favorite being The Good Soldier Švejk.
Kádár, as in 1946, was a Communist Party campaigner, and was described by historian Robert Gough as "a great success". The Communist Party won a majority in parliament in 1947, and because of the escalation of the Cold War, the Soviet leadership ordered them to create a one-party state. Kádár played an active role in the creation of the Hungarian Working People's Party; created by a merger of the Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party. At the unification congress Kádár made a speech which made little impact on the Communist movement in Hungary. In May 1948 Kádár visited the Soviet Union, and for the first and last time in his life he saw Joseph Stalin with his own eyes. During his visit to the USSR, Kádár's brother, Jenő died. On 5 August 1948 László Rajk was appointed to the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Kádár took his place as Minister of the Interior. As Interior Minister, he did not have real power as the most important organizations of internal state security operated under the direct control of Rakosi and his closest associates. In 1949, Borbála died, and Kádár married his future wife, Maria. Just as Stalin had launched a Great Purge against those with knowledge of the pre-Stalin party, Rákosi launched a purge against those who had worked in Hungary, and not in the Soviet Union, during World War II and before. In retrospect, it is clear that Kádár was appointed Minister of the Interior with the deliberate aim to involve him in the "show trial" of Laszlo Rajk, although the investigations and proceedings were handled by the State Security Agency with the active participation of the Soviet Secret Police. Rakosi later boasted of "spending many a sleepless night" in unraveling the threads of the "anti-party conspiracy" led by Rajk and his "gang." During the public trial, Rakosi personally gave instructions to the judge over the phone. Rákosi would later attempt to blame Kádár for Rajk's death. Later in his life Rákosi said that Rajk died screaming "Long live Stalin! Long live Rákosi!" while Tibor Szönyi died without saying a word and András Szalai crying. Farkas and Gábor Péter, upon the death of Rajk and the others, said "provocateurs to their last breaths". This event didn't assure Kádár; making him doubt if any of the accusation leveled against his co-workers were true. It is believed that after Rajk's death Kádár was seen vomiting; these rumours have not been confirmed by any sources from that time. Rákosi contacted him the following the day, asking him why he was in a such a bad mood, and continued, saying; "Did the executions affect you that much?". There a rumours, which are probably not reliable, which claims that Kádár visited Rákosi to tell him about his reaction to the execution. Later, during a party presentation to a college, Kádár emphasised on party austerity. This presentation might reflect on Kádár's reaction to Rajk's execution and his revelation that he might become the next victim of government repression. When holding his presentation, he was described by his audience as a "haggering", "distressed" and as a man under a lot of "strain".
Rákosi told Kádár, in late August 1950, that former Social Democratic party leader Árpád Szakasits had confessed to being a spy for the capitalistic countries. Szakasits' imprisonment would be the start of a long purge against former social democrats, trade union officials, and high-standing communist party members. The purge would last until 1953, the extent of the purge went so far that the ÁVH held files on around one million, literally one tenth of Hungary's population at that time. The purges were enacted when Rákosi and his associates were in the middle of the country's collectivising agriculture and the rapid industrialisation efforts. Ernő Gerő's ambition to make Hungary a land made out of "steel and iron" led to a decline in the national standards of living. At this point Rákosi had started distrusting Kádár, leading Kádár to resign as Ministry of the Interior citing health and stress reasons for his choice. Kádár believed the longer down the ladder he climbed there was a bigger chance of not being purged. In this he was wrong, and he along with new Minister of the Interior Sándor Zöld, were criticised for doing a proper enough job to remove the anti-socialist movement within the country. Kádár would later refute most of the allegations the Rákosi leadership put against, but to no avail, and for every letter he wrote to refute an allegation another allegation was put against him. He eventually gave up and in one letter Kádár even admitted to his faults; claiming that he was still "politically backward" and "ideologically untrained" when he headed the pre-war Communist Party as First Secretary. Kádár concluded that he had been fooled by the capitalists and therefore offered his resignation from active politics. Instead of resigning, and losing his seats in the Central Committee and the Politburo, his membership in these organs were renewed at the party congress. Believing that his position was secure and that Rákosi had given him another chance, thought nothing more of it. This proved to be wrong, and by the end of March 1951, Rákosi informed the Soviets that Kádár along with Zöld and Gyula Kállai were to be imprisoned.
On 18 April , Zöld had killed his whole family and committed suicide after finding out that Rákosi and his associates had decided to purge him from the party. When the authorities found their bodies, they decided to quickly gather the remaining two before they did something rash too. Kádár who did not know of what had just taken place was at home taking care of his Maria, who had been in and out of the hospital. The Hungarian leadership decided to call him, asking Kádár to meet them at the party headquarters, when leaving his home he was stopped by ÁVH officers and the ÁVH head Gábor Péter.
Only a year later, Kádár found himself the defendant in a show trial of his own – on false charges of having been a spy of Horthy's police. This time it was Kádár who was beaten by the security police and urged to "confess". During Kádár's interrogation, the ÁVH beat him, smeared him with mercury to prevent his skin pores from breathing, and had his questioner urinate into his pried-open mouth. He was found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment. His incarceration included three years of solitary confinement, conditions far worse than he suffered while imprisoned under the Horthy regime.
He was released in July 1954, after the death of Stalin and the appointment of Imre Nagy as Prime Minister in 1953.
Kádár accepted the offer to act as party secretary in the heavily industrialised 13th district of Budapest. He rose to prominence quickly, building up a large following amongst workers who demanded increased freedom for trade unions.
Nagy began a process of liberalisation, removing state controls over the press, releasing many political prisoners, and expressing wishes to withdraw Hungary from the Warsaw Pact. He formed a coalition government. Although the Soviet leaders issued a statement that they strove to establish a new relationship with Hungary on the basis of mutual respect and equality, in the first days of November, the Presidium of the Soviet Communist Party took a decision to crush the revolution by force.
In the meantime, the Hungarian Working People's Party decided to dissolve itself and to reorganize the party under the name of Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party. On 25 October 1956, Kádár was elected General Secretary. He was also a member of the Imre Nagy Government as Minister of State. On 1 November 1956, Kádár, together with Ferenc Münnich, left Hungary for Moscow with the support of the Soviet Embassy in Budapest. There the Soviet leaders tried to convince him that a "counter-revolution" was unfolding in Hungary that must be put to an end at any cost. Despite his opposition to the leaving the Warsaw Pact decided by Nagy, allegedly he first resisted the pressure and argued that the Nagy government did not wish to abolish the Socialist system. He yielded to the pressure only when the Soviet leaders informed him that the decision had already been taken to crush the revolution with the help of the Soviet troops stationed in Hungary and that the old Communist leadership would be sent back to Hungary, were he not willing to assume the post of Prime Minister in the new government. The Soviet tanks moved into Budapest to crush the revolution at dawn on 4 November 1956. The proclamation of the so-called Provisional Revolutionary Government of Workers and Peasants, headed by Kádár, was broadcast from Szolnok the same day.
He announced a "Fifteen Point Programme" for this new government:
The 15th point was withdrawn after pressure from the USSR that a 200,000 strong Soviet detachment be garrisoned in Hungary. This development allowed Kádár to divert huge defence funds to welfare.
Nagy, along with Georg Lukács, Géza Losonczy and László Rajk's widow, Julia, fled to the Yugoslav Embassy. Kádár promised them safe return home at their request but failed to keep this promise as the Soviet party leaders decided that Imre Nagy and the other members of the government who had sought asylum at the Yugoslav Embassy should be deported to Romania. Later on, a trial was instituted to establish the responsibility of the Imre Nagy Government in the 1956 events. Although it was adjourned several times, the defendants were eventually convicted of treason and conspiracy to overthrow the "democratic state order". Imre Nagy, Pál Maléter and Miklós Gimes were sentenced to death and executed on 16 June 1958. Geza Losonczy and Attila Szigethy both died in prison under suspicious circumstances during the court proceedings.
Kádár assumed power in a critical situation. The country was under Soviet military administration for several months. The fallen leaders of the Communist Party took refuge in the Soviet Union and were planning to regain power in Hungary. The Chinese, East German, and Czechoslovak leaders demanded severe reprisals against the perpetrators of the "counter-revolution". Despite the distrust surrounding the new leadership and the economic difficulties, Kádár was able to normalize the situation in a remarkably short time. This was due to the realization that, under the circumstances, it was impossible to break away from the Communist bloc. The people realized that the promises of the West to help the Hungarian revolution were unfounded and that the logic of the Cold War determined the outcome. Hungary remained part of the Soviet sphere of influence with the tacit agreement of the West. Though influenced strongly by the Soviet Union, Kádár enacted policy slightly contrary to that of Moscow, for example, allowing considerably large private plots for farmers of collective farms.
In notable contrast to Rákosi, Kádár declared that "he who is not against us is with us." He gradually lifted Rákosi's more draconian measures against free speech and movement, and also eased restrictions on art and literature. Hungarians had much more freedom than their Eastern Bloc counterparts to go about their daily lives. While his regime was not nearly as harsh as other Communist regimes (and certainly less so than the first seven years of out-and-out Communist rule in Hungary), it wasn't a liberal one either. The Communists maintained absolute control over the government and also encouraged citizens to join party organizations. The secret police, while operating with somewhat more restraint than in other Eastern Bloc countries (and certainly in comparison to the Rákosi era) were nonetheless a feared tool of government control. The media remained under censorship that was considered fairly onerous by Western standards, but far less stringent than was the case in other Communist countries.
As a result of the relatively high standard of living, and more relaxed travel restrictions than that of other Eastern Bloc countries, Hungary was generally considered one of the better countries in which to live in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. The dramatic fall in living standards after the fall of Communism led to some nostalgia about the Kádár era. However, the relatively high living standards had their price in the form of a considerable amount of state debt left behind by the Kádár régime. As mentioned above, the regime's cultural and social policies were still somewhat authoritarian; their impact on contemporary Hungarian culture is still a matter of considerable debate.
During Kádár's rule, tourism increased dramatically, with many tourists from Canada, the USA, and Western Europe bringing much needed money into Hungary. Hungary built strong relations with developing countries and many foreign students arrived. The "Holy Crown" (referred to in the media as the "Hungarian Crown", so as to prevent it carrying a political symbolism of the Horthy régime or an allusion to Christianity) and regalia of Hungarian kings was returned to Budapest by the United States in 1978.
Kádár was known for his simple and modest lifestyle and had a strong aversion against corruption or ill-doing. His only real hobby was chess. (see Victor Sebestyen "Twelve Days" p. 141).
Kádár was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize (1975–76). He was also awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union on 3 April 1964
János Kádár held power in Hungary until May 1988, when he resigned as General Secretary mainly due to mounting economic difficulties and his own ill-health. At a party conference on 27 May 1988, he was replaced as General Secretary by Prime Minister Károly Grósz who strove to continue Kádár's policies in a modified and adjusted form adapted to the new circumstances. Kádár was named instead to the rather ceremonial position of Party President. He did not wish to be re-elected to the Political Committee, the most important decision-making body of the party. In early 1989, as Grósz and his associates in turn were being sidelined by a faction of young "radical reformers" who set out to dismantle the socialist system, Kádár, now visibly senile, was removed completely from political office. He died on 6 July 1989 at age 77.
In Hungary and elsewhere, Kádár was generally known as one of the more moderate East European Communist leaders. While he remained loyal to the Soviet Union in foreign policy, based on the hard lessons of the 1956 uprising, his intent was to establish a national consensus around his policies at home. He was the first East European leader to develop closer links with the Social Democratic parties of Western Europe. He tried to mediate between the leaders of the Czechoslovak reform movement of 1968 and the Soviet leadership to avert the danger of a military intervention. When, however, the decision was taken by the Soviet leaders to intervene in order to suppress the Prague Spring, Kádár decided to participate in the Warsaw Pact operation.
Kádár's grave at the Kerepesi Cemetery in Budapest was vandalized on 2 May 2007; a number of his bones, including his skull, were stolen, along with his wife Mária Tamáska's urn. A message reading "murderers and traitors may not rest in holy ground 1956–2006" was written nearby. The two dates refer to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and the 2006 protests in Hungary, respectively. This act was greeted with universal revulsion across the political and societal spectrum in Hungary. Police investigations focused on extremist right-wing hooligans groups which had been aspiring to "carry out an act that would create a big bang."
|General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party
|Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the People's Republic of Hungary
|Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the People's Republic of Hungary