Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview
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mitted" conspiring for the murder of the victim. The organizer of the demonstration, a young clerk in the council house, was charged with murder and executed. The leadership of the village, including the local teacher, the parish priest, and some wealthier peasants were also tried, and sentenced to long imprisonment. The local teacher, called Sorn, spent twenty-four years in jail. The case was used by Rakosi (see Rakosi, Matyas) and his supporters to intensify their campaign against what they called the clerical reaction, and was a preliminary for the persecution of church leaders.


Aczel Tamas, and Meray Tibor, The Revolt of the Mind ( London, 1960).

Populist Movement in Hungary. Hungarian populism emerged in the early and mid-1930s, when a group of young intellectuals, university students, and writers began to survey the rural communities. Their purpose was to provide an accurate measure of the people's living conditions as well as social habits and customs in the rural areas. These young people, called the "village explorers," were excellent writers and propagandists of their cause. In countless monographs, they detailed life in the villages on the pattern of Gyula Illyes' (see Illyes, Gyula) book, People of the Puszta. Jozsef Darvas, Imre Kovacs (see Kovacs, Imre), Tibor Tardos, and many others opened the eyes of the public to the often miserable and brutal life led by the poor peasants. They were soon joined by Laszlo Nemeth (see Nemeth, Laszlo) a school- teacher, and ideologue of a so-called Third Road for Hungarian society. Nemeth proposed that Hungary should not follow either the socialist or the capitalist model of development, but a third road between the two, one that would preserve the essentially "Hungarian" characteristics of society. The populists believed that the Hungarian peasantry, long the so-called backbone of the nation, must be provided with a decent standard of living, and that they should not be exploited in the interests of the urban centers. For most of them, Budapest was "sin city," in that it was dominated by "aliens," namely, ethnic Germans and Jews who allegedly ran a conspiracy to keep the peasants ignorant, uneducated subjects, not citizens of a free Hungary.

The populists were unable to attract a mass audience before World War II. They remained a small, but dedicated group of people working hard for the realization of their aims. Since the Horthy regime, according to the populists, catered to the sin cities, they were in opposition to it. They also disliked the Germans and were willing to cooperate with anyone of the same persuasion, including the illegal Communist party.

However, some members of the populist movement went in different directions. While Imre Kovacs, Jozsef Darvas, and others proceeded to establish the March Front in 1937 as a vehicle of political opposition to the regime and, two years later, founded the National Peasant party, others moved to join the political right. The populist movement was, thus, split, and it became even less influential in Hungarian society.

In 1943, a meeting was organized for the populists at the village of Szarszo, near Lake Balaton in western Hungary, where they exchanged views and predictions about


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Dictionary of East European History since 1945
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