Encyclopedia of Eastern Europe: From the Congress of Vienna to the Fall of Communism

By Richard Frucht | Go to book overview

K
Kádár, János (1912–89)

Prime minister of Hungary. Born to working-class parents, as a young man Kádár (who was born János Czermanik but adopted the code name Kádár when he became a revolutionary) took part in workers' strikes and joined the small Communist movement in Hungary. Imprisoned under the regime of Admiral Horthy (1868–1957), the Hungarian regent, he held various political posts after World War II, in the Hungarian People's Republic, before being imprisoned again during the purges of the (Mátyás) Rákosi (1892–1971) era of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

On October 25, 1956, during the first stage of the Hungarian Revolution against Soviet domination, Kádár and Imre Nagy (1896–1958), with approval from the Soviet leadership, became joint leaders of Hungary. Kádár, who was seen by some at the time as a centrist figure, was ambivalent about the revolution. When it became apparent that Moscow was prepared to crush the Hungarian insurgents, Kádár fled Budapest and offered to cooperate with the Soviets. He returned under Soviet escort on November 4, charged with leading a Soviet-sponsored regime that would end the “counterrevolution.” As prime minister of the new government, Kádár employed harsh measures to reestablish the primacy of the Communist Party. The chief leaders of the revolution, including Nagy, were executed, and many more were imprisoned. Because of these repressive steps in the late 1950s and his willingness to cooperate with the Soviet Union, Kádár was despised by many Hungarians as a traitor.

In the 1960s, however, Kádár slowly regained a degree of popularity. He made it clear that he had no intention of returning to the policies of the Stalinist era, and he showed a certain tolerance of non-Communists by insisting that “all those who are not against us are for us.” Moreover, he was willing to experiment with economic reforms. The New Economic Mechanism (NEM), introduced in the late 1960s, shifted the focus from heavy industry to the consumer sector and introduced a degree of private enterprise and increased trade with the West. Because the economic reforms were accompanied by a degree of political liberalization, Hungary was regarded by the early 1980s as the least rigid and most Western-oriented of the Soviet satellite countries. Later in the 1980s, however, when the desire for fundamental changes grew throughout the Communist world, Kádár was seen by Hungarian dissidents as a hindrance to fundamental reform. In 1988 he was forced by the reform wing of the Hungarian Communist Party to relinquish power. Kádár died in 1989, the year in which Communist regimes were toppled throughout Eastern Europe.

Judith Fai-Podlipnik and Thomas Sakmyster


Further reading

Held, Joseph. “Hungary on a Fixed Course: An Outline of Hungarian History, ” in Joseph Held, ed., The Columbia History of Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century. New York, 1992.

Hoensch, Jorg K. A History of Modern Hungary. New York, 1988.

Molnar, Miklós. From Béla Kun to János Kádár: Seventy Years of Hungarian Communism. New York, 1990.

Sugar, Peter, Peter Hanak, and Tibor Frank. A History of Hungary. Bloomington, Indiana, 1990.

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Encyclopedia of Eastern Europe: From the Congress of Vienna to the Fall of Communism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Contributors ix
  • Encyclopedia of Eastern Europe xv
  • A - Abakanowicz, Magdalena (1930–) 1
  • B - Babits, Mihaly (1883–1941) 45
  • C - Cankar, Ivan (1876–1918) 117
  • D - Dalmatia 211
  • E - East Prussia 235
  • F - Family 265
  • G - Gafencu, Grigore (1892–1957) 283
  • H - Habsburg Empire 317
  • I - Iancu, Avram (1824–72) 375
  • J - Jagiellonian University 395
  • K - Kádár, János (1912–89) 411
  • L - Labor 441
  • M - Macedonia (Geography) 469
  • N - Načertanije 519
  • O - Obradović, Dositej (Dimitrije) (C. 1739–1811) 543
  • P - Paderewski, Ignacy Jan (1860–1941) 555
  • R - Račić, Josip (1885–1908) 647
  • S - Sabin, Albert Bruce (1906–93) 707
  • T - Taaffe, Count Eduard (1833–95) 785
  • U - Udržal, František (1868–1938) 819
  • V - Varna 825
  • W - Wajda, Andrzej (1926–) 837
  • X - Xenopol, Alexandra D. (1847–1920) 863
  • Y - Yalta Conference 865
  • Z - Zadruga 899
  • Index 909
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