Mátyás Rákosi

Rákosi on [[International Workers' Day|1 May]] 1947 Mátyás Rákosi (; born Mátyás Rosenfeld; 9 March 1892 – 5 February 1971) was a Hungarian communist politician who was the ''de facto'' leader of Hungary from 1947 to 1956. He served first as General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party from 1945 to 1948 and then as General Secretary (later renamed First Secretary) of the Hungarian Working People's Party from 1948 to 1956.

Rákosi had been involved in left-wing politics since his youth, and in 1919 was a leading commissar in the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic. After the fall of the Communist government, he escaped the country and worked abroad as an agent of the Comintern. He was arrested in 1924 after attempting to return to Hungary and organize the Communist Party underground, and ultimately spent over fifteen years in prison. He became a cause célébre in the international Communist movement, and the predominantly Hungarian Rakosi Battalion of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War bore his name. Rákosi was finally allowed to leave for the Soviet Union in 1940 in exchange for prized battle flags captured by Tsarist Russian forces after the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

As the Red Army drove the German Wehrmacht out of Hungary at the end of World War II, Rákosi returned to his home country in early 1945 and became the leader of the re-founded Hungarian Communist Party. The Party suffered a crushing defeat in Hungary's postwar free election, at the hands of the agrarian Independent Smallholders' Party. However, at Moscow's insistence the Communists received key positions in the government including the Interior Ministry, while Rákosi himself became a heavily influential deputy prime minister. From this position the Communists were able to use political intrigue, subterfuge, and conspiracy to destroy their opponents piece by piece, in what Rákosi would later term "salami tactics". By 1948 they had gained total power over the country, and in 1949 the country was proclaimed a people's republic with Rákosi as its absolute ruler.

Rákosi was an ardent Stalinist, and his government was very loyal to the Soviet Union; he even set up a personality cult of his own, modeled on that of Stalin. He presided over the mass imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian people, and the deaths of thousands. He orchestrated show trials modeled on those of the USSR, among the most prominent victims of which was his former lieutenant László Rajk. His policies of collectivization and mass repression devastated the country's economy and political life, causing massive discontent. After the death of Stalin in 1953, Rákosi was partially demoted at Moscow's behest and the reformist Communist Imre Nagy became the new Prime Minister. However, Rákosi was able to use his continuing influence as First Secretary to thwart all of Nagy's attempts at reform and ultimately force the latter out of office in 1955.

However, after Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's famous "Secret Speech" in early 1956 denouncing the crimes of Stalin, Rákosi found his position fatally compromised. Large numbers of people within the Party and society at large began to speak out against him and call for his resignation, as information about the Party's past abuses came to light. Rákosi was finally forced to resign in July 1956 and leave for the Soviet Union, replaced by his second-in-command Ernő Gerő. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 occurred barely three months later as a result of the abuses of Rákosi's system, and his former rival Imre Nagy became a dominant figure in the Revolution. Soviet troops ultimately crushed the uprising and installed a new Communist government under János Kádár.

Rákosi lived out the rest of his life in exile in the Soviet Union, denied permission to return home by the Hungarian government, out of fear of mass unrest. He died in Gorky in 1971, and his ashes were returned to Hungary in secret. Rákosi is generally seen as a symbol of tyranny and oppression in Hungary. Provided by Wikipedia
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