Imre Nagy is a communist Hungarian
who was an important figure from World War I
to the Cold War
Nagy was born on June 7, 1896, into a peasant family in Kaposvar, Hungary. During his conscription in the Austro-Hungarian army the Czarist army captured him. Nagy became a Russian citizen and a member of the Bolshevik party. Nagy participated in the communist revolution in Hungary led by Bela Kun and took a small role in Kun’s regime. After Kun’s fall on August 1, 1919, Nagy fled. During the authoritarian Horthy regime, Nagy returned to Hungary, secretly organizing an underground Communist Party, but he was fled back to Moscow in 1927.
During the Soviet occupation of Hungary after World War II, Nagy returned to Hungary and held several positions in the new government. He was made deputy premier under communist leader Matyas Rakosi but was elevated to premier after Stalin's death, when Malenkov, who became premier in the U.S.S.R., favored Nagy over the other Hungarian communists.
Nagy advocated a reformist “New Course” that included relaxing the pace of industrialization, allowing peasants to leave collective farms and relaxing police terror. However, when politics in Moscow shifted in 1955 and Malenkov fell out of favor, Nagy fell out of favor, too. He was forced to resign his post and was kicked out of the Communist Party.
The reappointment of Rakosi, a Stalinist, and Khrushchev's “secret speech” to the 20th Communist Party Congress, events in Poland, domestic events in Hungary, and the reburial of victims of the Hungarian Stalinist purges, all led to widespread unrest.
An emergency meeting of the party Central Committee on the night of October 23 appointed Nagy prime minister. During his brief tenure as prime minister (only 10 days) during the Hungarian Revolution, Nagy attempted to bring events under control, working within the bounds set by the Soviets while reforming Hungarian politics. He offered amnesty to the demonstrators, abolished the one-party system and thought that he had negotiated the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary. However, when he realized that he had been deceived by the Soviets, he withdrew Hungary from the Warsaw Pact and declared Hungarian neutrality.
The Soviets invaded Budapest on November 4, 1956. Unable to escape the Soviets, Nagy was captured. After trying to persuade him to accept the government of Janos Kadar Nagy was jailed and then executed on June 16, 1958.