“My Own Personal Tragedy”
On 1 November 1956, Janos Kadar disappeared. This was concerning – as the General Secretary of Hungary’s Communist Party and the Minister of State of the Nagy government, Kadar had also just told the Soviet Ambassador Yuri Andropov that he would fight any Soviet troops that reappeared in Hungary using his bare hands. Imre Nagy was worried, but he wasn’t thinking of betrayal.
Surely Kadar, a committed Communist who had been tortured and imprisoned by the Soviet-supported Rakosi government would not desert his countrymen as they stood on the brink of self-determination. Never mind that the note for his 1951 arrest had been signed by Imre Nagy himself.
But, actually, Kadar would. And he did. That night, as Nagy surveyed the chaos looking for the Minister of State, Kadar was in Moscow meeting with Khrushchev.
Details of the meeting between the Presidium and the Hungarian counter-revolutionary are sparse, and many of them rely on what Kadar himself would admit to.
He did agree to take over the Hungarian government – he said because the only alternative offered by the Soviets was a return to the Gero/Rakosi regime. And the Soviets assured him that the upcoming invasion was decided and irreversible.
Kadar felt he had no choice. He did admit, however, in one interview, that he “did not resist as much as I could have.“
As Kadar came into power at the head of the invading Red Army, he introduced a Fifteen Point Plan to move Hungary forward. Number fifteen on that list was “To negotiate with the forces of the Warsaw Pact on the withdrawal of troops from Hungary following the end of the crisis.“
This was followed by a treaty that allowed for a Soviet force 200,000 strong to be permanently stationed in Hungary. In all fairness, the troops were already in Hungary, the UN had merely shaken its finger at the Soviet Union for interfering in Hungary’s domestic affairs, and there was really no way to get the Soviets out.
Kadar also signed a safe-conduct for Imre Nagy and his government, who had claimed asylum at the Yugoslav Embassy. It was completely ignored by the Soviets, who used the opportunity to kidnap Nagy et al and transport him to Romania for two years of torture before his execution.
He later confessed to a role in the Nagy affair, and described it as his “own personal tragedy.”
But these things were still in the future as Kadar negotiated with the Soviets and returned to a Hungary he would rule for the next 31 years.
See our series on the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 here.
- November 11, 2020