A History of Modern Hungary, 1867-1994

By Jörg K. Hoensch; Kim Traynor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
The Creation of the Hungarian People's Democracy, 1945-56

THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC BACKGROUND TO THE GRADUAL COMMUNIST TAKEOVER, 1945-48

With the expulsion of the last Wehrmacht units on Hungarian soil on 4 April 1945 and the country's complete occupation by the Red Army the war had come to an end. Yet it was a long time before Hungary achieved the stabilisation necessary to create a democratic order and overcome the immense damage caused by the war. In many places the Soviet soldiers had been greeted as liberators, but excesses like rapes, indiscriminate arrests and the deporation of over 250,000 persons to forced labour camps in the Soviet Union soon changed the civilian population's perceptions. The piecemeal dismantling of plant and installations to pay for reparations and the unlimited power accrued by the chairman of the Allied Control Commission, Marshall K. E. Vorošilov, made people adopt a more realistic attitude as the character of the new régime began to emerge more clearly. Around 400,000 Hungarians had been killed in the Second World War. Direct damage to property was estimated at about 22 billion pre-war pengé, a figure which represented about four or five times the national income for 1938 and about 40 per cent of the nation's total wealth. The destruction of all the bridges over the Danube and the Tisza and heavy losses in the transport sector, amounting to 35 per cent of Hungary's railway installations, over 80 per cent of its rolling stock and the entire Danube fleet, had a particularly damaging effect. A quarter of all dwellings had suffered shelling and bomb damage. The housing stock in Budapest had been particularly badly hit. According to initial estimates, 50 per cent of the country's industrial installations and plant had been

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