Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview

pletely abandoned. By the end of the communist era, the ratio of people living from agricultural labor was reduced from 55 percent in 1945 to about 18 percent in 1990.

The peasantry was, however, increasingly stratified as the years went by. Because of the economic reforms of the late 1960s, there emerged a group of well-to-do peasant entrepreneurs who worked their household plots and sold their produce in the markets of nearby cities. They were increasingly prosperous, and they practically rebuilt the villages. By the end of the 1970s, the typical peasant house was a thing of the past in Hungary. Villages were paved, they had electricity, and the roofs of new houses sprouted television antennas. Most of the new houses were built with indoor pluming, running water, and indoor toilets. Visitors were struck not only by the changed villages, but also by the cemeteries; they were full of elaborately carved monuments, showing that peasants now even had money to spend on unnecessary consumption.

At the other end of the scale, one could find the ordinary collective farm workers who were either unable or unwilling to work two shifts (one at home, one at the job). They were generally poor, although few of them starved.

The largest group of society, and the stratum in whose name the communists ruled, was the least powerful and the most exploited, namely, the industrial workers. They had some opportunity to work extra hours and participate in the second economy, but not many of them were in the position to work for themselves. Not surprisingly, industrial workers were the most alienated segment of the population.


Bibliography

Konrad Gyorgy, and Szelenyi Ivan, The Intelligentsia on the Road to Class Power ( New York, 1979); Lendvai Paul, Hungary: The Art of Survival ( London, 1988); Szelenyi Ivan, Urban Inequalities Under State Socialism ( Oxford, 1983).

Szakasits, Arpad (1888-1965). Szakasits, born to a working class family, joined the Hungarian Social Democratic party in 1903. He was a member of the first Soviet government in Hungary in 1919 as a member of the ministry of the interior. After 1920, he was imprisoned and spent three years in jail. Between 1925 and 1948, he was a member of the leadership of the Social Democratic party. In 1948, he was one of the signers of the document that united the Social Democratic and Communist parties in a Hungarian Worker's party. He was a member of the provisional, then the first coalition government of Hungary. After the merger of the two parties, he was one of the presidents of the new united party.

In 1949, he was appointed president of the Hungarian Republic. The following year, however, Szakasits fell victim to the purges and spent the next six years in prison. In 1956, he was released and rehabilitated. He did not participate in the Revolution of 1956 (see Revolution of 1956). In 1958, he was appointed by Kadar president of the Union of Journalists. A year later, he was the new president of another communist front organization, the Alliance of Hungarians of the World. He held the position until his death in 1965.

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