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Mátyás Rákosi

General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party
In office
1945 – July 18, 1956
Succeeded by Ernő Gerő

In office
August 14, 1952 – July 4, 1953
Preceded by István Dobi
Succeeded by Imre Nagy

Born March 9, 1892(1892-03-09)
Ada, Austria-Hungary
Died February 5, 1971 (aged 78)
Gorky, Soviet Union
Nationality Hungarian
Political party Hungarian Communist Party,
Hungarian Working People's Party
The native form of this personal name is Rákosi Mátyás. This article uses the Western name order.

Mátyás Rákosi (born March 9, 1892[1][2] as Mátyás Rosenfeld, died February 5, 1971[3]) was a Hungarian communist politician, born in present-day Serbia. He was the ruler de facto of the communist Hungary between 1945 and 1956[4] — first in his capacity as General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party (1945–1948) and later as General Secretary of the Hungarian Working People's Party (1948–1956).[5] His rule was characterised as a Stalinist type dictatorship.[6][7]


Early years

Rákosi was born in Ada, a village in Bács County[1] in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in Vojvodina, Serbia). Born into a Jewish family, the fourth son of a grocer (his mother would give birth to seven more children)[1] he later repudiated religion and totally repudiated Judaism, consistent with Communist doctrine, which was atheistic.[8]

He served in the Austro-Hungarian Army during the First World War and was captured on the Eastern Front. After returning to Hungary, he participated in the communist government of Béla Kun; after its fall he fled, eventually to the Soviet Union. After returning to Hungary in 1924 he was imprisoned, and was released to the Soviet Union in 1940, in exchange for the Hungarian revolutionary banners captured by the Russian troops at Világos in 1849.[9] In the Soviet Union, he became leader of the Comintern. He returned to Debrecen, Hungary, on January 30, 1945, sent by Soviet leadership, to organize the Communist Party.[9]

Leader of Hungary

When the communist government was installed in Hungary, Rákosi was appointed General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party. He was a member of the High National Council from September 27, to December 7, 1945. Rákosi was acting Prime Minister from February 1, to February 4, 1946 and on May 31, 1947. In 1948, the Communists forced the Social Democrats to merge with them to form the Hungarian Working People's Party.

Rákosi described himself as "Stalin's best Hungarian disciple" and "Stalin's best pupil." He also invented the term "salami tactics", which related to his tactic of eliminating his non-Communist rivals by "cutting them off like slices of salami." At the height of his rule, he developed a strong cult of personality around himself.

Under Rákosi, an imitator of Stalinist political and economic programs, and dubbed the “bald murderer,” Hungary experienced one of the harshest dictatorships in Europe. Approximately 350,000 officials and intellectuals were purged from 1948 to 1956.[10] Rákosi imposed totalitarian rule on Hungary — arresting, jailing and killing both real and imagined foes in various waves of Stalin-inspired political purges – as the country went into decline. In August 1952 he also became Chairman of the Council of Ministers, but on June 13, 1953, to appease the Soviet Politburo, he was forced to give up the office to Imre Nagy, yet retained the office of General Secretary. Rákosi led the attacks on Nagy. On 9 March 1955, the Central Committee of the Hungarian Worker's Party condemned Nagy for "rightist deviation". Hungarian newspapers joined the attacks and Nagy was accused of being responsible for the country's economic problems and on 18 April he was dismissed from his post by a unanimous vote of the National Assembly. Although Rákosi did not resume the premiership, he quickly put the country back on its previous course.

Economic policy

The postwar Hungarian economy suffered from multiple challenges. The most important was the destruction of assets in the war (40% of national wealth, including all bridges, railways, raw materials, machinery, etc.)[11] Hungary agreed to pay war reparations approximating US$300 million, to the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, and to support Soviet garrisons. The Hungarian National Bank in 1946 estimated the cost of reparations as "between 19 and 22 per cent of the annual national income." In spite of this, after the highest historical rate of inflation in world history, the new, stable currency was successfully in August 1946 on the basis of the plans of the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party. While consumer goods production was still low, industrial production exceeded the level of 1938 by 40% in 1949 and tripled by 1953.[12] However, the backwardness of light industries resulted in frequent shortages, especially in the provinces, leading to discontent. In addition, the huge investments in military sectors after the outbreak of the Korean War further reduced the supply of consumer goods. Because of the shortages, forced savings (state bond sales to the population) and below inflation wage increases were introduced.

In spite of the significant and historic achievements in the industrialisation of the country, because of the discontent and economic imbalances corrective, though ad-hoc, measures were introduced 1953 that favoured light industries and agriculture.

Forced retirement

Rákosi was then removed as General Secretary of the Party under pressure from the Soviet Politburo in June 1956 (shortly after Nikita Khrushchev's Secret Speech), and was replaced by Ernő Gerő. To remove him from the Hungarian political scene, the Soviet Politburo forced Rákosi to move to the Soviet Union in 1956, with the official story being that he was "seeking medical attention." He spent the rest of his life in the Kirgiz Soviet Socialist Republic. Shortly before his death, in 1970, Rákosi was finally granted permission to return to Hungary if he promised not to engage in any political activities. He refused the deal, and remained in the USSR where he died in Gorky in 1971.

After his death, his ashes were secretly returned to Hungary for burial in the Farkasrét Cemetery in Budapest.


  1. ^ a b c Gábor Murányi
  2. ^ Mátyás Rákosi -
  3. ^ Matyas Rakosi - History of 1956
  4. ^ Matyas Rakosi - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  5. ^ Bertényi Iván - Gyapai Gábor: Magyarország rövid története (Maecenas, 2001, in Hungarian)
  6. ^ Hungary :: The Revolution of 1956 - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  7. ^ Gyorgy Litvan | Obituaries | Guardian Unlimited
  8. ^ Reference for History of the Jews in Hungary -
  9. ^ a b Mátyás Rákosi
  10. ^ Granville, Johanna (2004). The First Domino: International Decision Making During the Hungarian Crisis of 1956. Texas A & M University Press, College Station, Texas. ISBN 1585442984. 
    Related news articles:
  11. ^ Pető-Szakács: A hazai gazdaság négy évtizedének története 1945–1985. I. köt. Budapest, 1985, KJK
  12. ^ Pető-Szakács: A hazai gazdaság négy évtizedének története 1945–1985. I. köt. Budapest, 1985, KJK
Political offices
Preceded by
General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party
Succeeded by
Ernő Gerő
Preceded by
István Dobi
Prime Minister of Hungary
Succeeded by
Imre Nagy


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