Zoltán Halász / András Balla  / Zsuzsa Béres (translation)

     Excerpt from the book”Hungary” (4th edition)/Corvina/1998)


     Originally published at:




Hungary in the Inter-War Years

After the fall of the communist regime and the departure of the Romanian troops from the country, a National Army created under the command of Admiral Miklós Horty, the one-time aide-de-camp of Emperor Francis Joseph, advanced on Budapest. Elections were held and on March 1, 1921, the National Assembly appointed Miklós Horty regent of Hungary.

After the election of the National Assembly, but before the election of the Regent, the Treaty of Trianon was signed. The provisions of this peace treaty were extremely severe. Hungary's territory was reduced to a third of its previous size, and the country was forced to pay a large indemnity. What's more, the territorial provisions of the treaty resulted in three million Hungarians being placed under the jurisdiction of neighbouring countries.

The Treaty of Trianon shocked Hungary not only by severing millions of Hungarians from the mother country - this could have been gradually made acceptable by the application of minority rights and the kind of handling of national frontiers now in evidence in Western Europe - but also by wrecking Central Europe's historical economic region.



Between the two world wars Hungary achieved a measure of economic development, though suffering heavy losses during the universal economic crisis of the thirties. Hoping for the recovery of the territories that had been lost as a result of the Treaty of Trianon, Hungary in her foreign policy got more and more under the influence of the Axis Powers. As a result of the Vienna Verdicts agreed upon in 1938 and in 1940, Hungary in fact recovered some of the territories annexed to Slovakia and Romania. Unfortunately, the country was by her alliance with the Axis Powers drawn into World War II, which she entered in 1941, by sending an army to the eastern front.


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World War II brought heavy losses to Hungary: during the Battle of Stalingrad and the offensive on the Don, 40,000 soldiers of the Second Hungarian Army were killed and 70,000 were captured by the Soviet troops, and heavy damage was inflicted on Hungarian towns by the air raids of the Allies. The resistance against the country's involvement in the war grew and in March, 1944 Hitler, anxious to keep Hungary in the war, decided to occupy it. He sent for Horthy and while the Regent was staying in the leadership quarters in Germany, Hitler's troops marched in.

Horthy remained in his post as Regent and the new Hungarian puppet-government fulfilled all the demands of Veesenmayer, the German plenipotentiary. Further Hungarian troops were sent to the front, the Gestapo took the drive against the anti-Nazis, and more than half a million Jews were deported to the German death-camps. After Romania, Finland and Bulgaria followed by Italy's example and went over to the Allies, Horthy sent secret envoys to Moscow and a cease-fire agreement was signed. After the cease-fire proclamation was read over Budapest radio, however, Horthy's son, Miklós Horthy Jr., was taken prisoner by the Gestapo. Horthy was forced to sign a document appointing the Arrow Cross leader Ferenc Szálasi National Protector and then was taken to Germany with his family, where he lived in captivity. After the war, Horthy moved to Portugal, where he died in exile in 1957.

The war continued. The German army was finally driven out of Hungary by the Soviet army in April, 1945. The war took the lives of half a million Hungarians, and forty per cent of the nation's material resources were destroyed. The provisions of the Treaty of Trianon were reinstated and Hungary was forced to pay a large indemnity.


Reconstruction, Stalinism, the 1956 Revolution

A period of reconstruction followed the war. Hungary became a republic, democratic elections were held, and a coalition government was formed. The Hungarian Communist Party, however, supported by the occupying Soviet army and the KGB, did not accept the result of the democratic process. The lawful government of the country was toppled by unlawful arrests, deportations to Siberia, and other means. The communists assumed power, introduced a reign of terror. The collectivisation of agriculture, the forced development of heavy industry, the rigid central planning, ruined the economy in a few years. As a result of the growing resistance of the Hungarian people, a revolution that broke out on October 23, 1956, toppled the regime headed by Mátyás Rákosi. The government of Imre Nagy announced the beginning of a new, democratic era, and Hungary's withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact. The revolution seemed triumphant: the Soviet troops withdrew and peace returned to the country. On November 4th, however, the Soviet army invaded the country in overwhelming numbers and while Prime Minister Nagy applied in vain for the help of the UN, they crushed the uprising. Thousands were arrested, deported or executed. Imre Nagy and other leaders of the revolution applied for asylum at the Yugoslav embassy in Budapest, but they were deported to Romania, later brought back to Hungary, and after a show trial, executed in 1958.


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The Kádár Regime. The Rebirth of Parliament Democracy

After a period of bloody oppression, the regime of János Kádár tried to introduce a kind of "goulash communism": the living standard of the population was slightly improved, and travel to the West was allowed within limits. By introducing the slogan "Who is not against us is with us," Kádár tried to pacify public opinion hostile towards the regime. The system of "socialist planning", however, even as modified by the "reform of the economic management" introduced in 1968, did not work and the economy could be kept going only by amassing foreign depts. The growing inflation, the lowering of the living standard, the hopeless economic situation of the country, aroused growing opposition, even within Communist Party ranks. János Kádár was forced to retire and after a transitory period, the reform-communist government of Miklós Németh took over.

During the summer of 1989, conferences took place among the representatives of government and the budding parties of the opposition. A system of free elections and a way towards multiparty democracy was elaborated. At the same time, the Hungarian government opened the country's frontiers to citizens of Soviet-occupied East Germany who wanted to flee to the West. The chain-reaction caused by this measure introduced the historical changes in East-Central Europe, which brought the demise of communist rule in several countries.

Based on the agreements concluded by the representatives of the Hungarian government and of the parties of the opposition, general elections were held in April, 1990. The newly elected parliament revised the Constitution and elected the president of the Hungarian Republic. In September 1990, municipal elections were held, completing the establishment of parliamentary democracy in Hungary.


© Zoltán Halász
English translation by Zsuzsa Béres
Translation revised by J.E. Sollosy

Bibliographic data:
Title: Hungary (4th edition)
Authors: Zoltán Halász / András Balla (photo) / Zsuzsa Béres (translation)
Published by Corvina, in 1998
159 pages
ISBN: 963-13-4129-1, 963-13-4727-3