Monday, August 11, 2008

Hungary's reason to thank the Russians

My wife Zsuzsanna saw this comment on the Denis Matyajaszek thread:

When the Kremlin turned on Hungary and Czechoslovakia, they did that with "fiendly" (sic) tanks to save the people from kapitalism. I shall nerver (sic) forget 1956,what they did to my country, Hungary!!!Posted by Tessa Hegedus on August 11, 2008 6:44 PM

Here's Zsuzsanna's reply:

Tessa, I am Magyar too, and I too will never forget what the Soviet Union did to my country. They liberated it from the Nazis and by doing so saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews and other anti-Nazis. Never forget that Hungary took part in Operation Barbarossa, the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941 alongside the Nazis. The aggression was first from Hungary, not from Russia, and I say this as a Hungarian.Posted by Zsuzsanna Clark on August 11, 2008 7:08 PM

In the anti-Russian hysteria of the moment, it's important to get the facts right.

I might also add a personal note: during my time living in Hungary in the 1990s, I rented a flat from a Jewish landlord, an erudite and kindly man who became my good friend. Every year on the anniversary of the Soviet liberation of Hungary he would go to the Russian cemetery and lay a wreath. Had the Russians not arrived when they did- he and his family simply wouldn't be alive. I'd like to see someone explain to him that the Soviet Army in 1945 was not an army of liberation.


Anonymous said...

I think we've all got a lot to thank the Red Army for, not just the Hungarians.

KNaylor said...

Zsuszanna Clark should never forget what the Soviet Union did to Hungary when it subjected the entire nation to collective punishment through a Stalinist regime of terror under Matyas Rakosi. The word ‘liberation’ when applied to Hungary must be qualified by the fact that the dominance of one totalitarian regime over Hungary was replaced by another equally as odious and which never had any form of democratic legitimacy whatsoever.

After the war, the Communists polled just 17% of the vote. The most popular party was the Smallholders Party which was systematically destroyed by ‘salami tactics’ of Rakosi, a combination of political manipulation backed up by a systematic terror on those who before the war had not had any connection with Fascism at all. There was enthusiasm for radical social change and land distribution but not for the Communist Party. Men like Bela Kovacs was falsely accused of belonging to a secret right wing organization called the Hungarian Community Movement which did not even exist and sent to the Soviet Union for 9 years.

In the early 1950s Hungary was the most oppressive dictatorship in the Eastern bloc. The entire nation was looted and pillaged by the Soviet Union and treated as a colony. Agriculture was collectivized on the Soviet model and those ‘kulaks’ who resisted were sent to concentration camps by the AVO many of whom were former members of Ferenc Szalasi’s Arrow Cross. In a nation of ten million people between 1950 and 1953 1.3 million Hungarians were prosecuted and half of them jailed. Independent trade unions were banned.

Living standards in the first four years fell by 20% and and half a year’s salary was just enough to buy a man’s suit. Gero’s Five Year Plans set absurd work ‘norms’ which if fulfilled led to the norms being raised so that as the worker had proved he could make more his pay was effectively cut as they were paid o a piece rate basis. On top of that, ‘peace loans’ of 12% were heaped on top of all that and if people did not pay this ‘voluntary’ tax they were publicly regarded as a enemy of the people and made unemployed and jailed. The consequence was widespread corruption, theft, and embezzlement as surer ways of surviving in a system that encouraged ‘individual initiative’ only to then punish it.

The collectivization of agriculture was a disaster leading to widespread famine as famers preferred to kill their own animals instead of joining the collective where they would be forced to sell their produce at low fixed rates to feed the burgeoning urban populace of new industrial coal and steel tons like Sztalinvaros. Unwilling farmers who resisted the kolkhoz system were charged with the political crimes of sabotage and some 400,000 charged with ‘hoarding stocks’. ‘Kulaks’ were persecuted and their children denied university places. They found their homes had been requisitioned by the state and were subject to beatings and intimidatory violence.

The Communist system imposed after the Second World War was not a liberation. Moreover, other nations such as Poland were denied their freedom and had to watch as those leaders who had fought against the Nazis from the very beginning of the war until the end through the Home Army were denounced as Fascists and imprisoned or executed. The notion that the Soviet Union ‘liberated’ what became known as ‘Eastern Europe’ is also nonsense when the act which signaled the beginning of the war was the joint occupation of Poland in accordance with the Secret Protocols of the ‘Non-Aggression Pact’ signed by Molotov and Ribbentrop.

Just as mendacious is the assumption that the Soviet tanks in 1956 ‘saved’ Hungary from ‘capitalism’. No, they did not. Nagy Imre and most of the leaders of the Hungarian Revolution were committed patriots AND socialists, including the military leader of the resistance Pal Maleter who along with all the rest were hanged after Krushchev sent in the tanks and the MIGs and slaughtered thousands of fighters, many of them the Pesti Sracok, teenagers and students who were fighting for their freedom in the tradition of 1848.

There is no need to go into reverse spin and praise the Soviet crushing of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution simply because the struggle for democracy in Central Europe and the images of that year have been appropriated by neoconservative ideologues like Denis McShane. The Hungarian Revolution happened at a different time, a different place and was a genuine and spontaneous rising against a vile totalitarian system. The irony is that MacShane and others who fawn on the repellent Ferenc Gyurscany and claim the invasion of Iraq is in linear continuity with 1956 are no different in their falsification of history for propaganda purposes than the Communists.

Anonymous said...

yeah you can thank usa to now you can thank them for voting in and keeping the jew commie scum that sell the country cheap to the british bastards that brought the aids and dope ect... wherever whenever they went they commited genocide the west is just as bad as the russkies they both support the commie jews

Roland Hulme said...

I was out in Hungary a few years ago now - and got the impression that the Soviets did their public relations no favours.

I was TOTALLY out of my element in Hungary! Didn't speak a word of the language! But I'm a history major and enjoyed finding out about WWII. I remember sitting drinking Tokai with some old people as the young people translated their stories.

Stories like how, when they 'liberated' Budapest from the Nazis, the Soviet soldiers raped their way through the capital in much the same way the Nazis had done when they invaded.

And, of course, the brutal behaviour the Soviets exhibited when they crushed the uprising.

Your dear wife clearly has her own very valid opinion, as she's Magyar herself - but from my visit, I got a definite impression that the Russians were considered cold hearted bastards who'd commited horrible atrocities (at least, by the people who lived through them.)

One thing I've always been critical of on your blog is a habit to manipulate historical events to suit your own perspective (regarding the Kosovo question, for example.)

Regarding Zsuzanna's highly credible opinion: I still think you'd be hard pressed to find too many Hungarians who agree with her (especially the ones who lived through it.)

As far as the situation goes in Georgia - the Georgians brought it upon themselves and were clearly 'out of order.'

However, the Russian response is disproportionate and clearly more suited to their own cynical purposes than 'liberating' the two embattled provinces.

Remember - Russia doesn't 'do' breakaway Republics.

Anonymous said...

Are you going to write a post about how Georgia should thank the Russians?

Anonymous said...

In 1945, it was an army of liberation, but like the welcome guest who stays too long (to apply a Russian proverb), its welcome wore thin and became an army of occupation and deprived Hungary of being a master of its own fate...

Neil Clark said...

Karl: Zsuzsanna was only talking about the liberation in WW2. No one is praising the way the Soviets crushed the 1956 uprsing. Zsuzsanna is a supporter of Janos Kadar, and his liberal form of 'goulash communism'- don't forget that Kadar was imprisoned by Rakosi.
anonymous: "the west is just as bad as the russkies they both support the commie jews" really? can you provide some evidence that the west is supporting communism?

roland- I'd take those stories about the Russians raping their way to Budapest with a huge pinch of salt! Zsuzsanna will have more to say about her experiences with Russians in Hungary in her book.
Yes, Hungarian is a fiendishly difficult language, but well worth the effort.

douglas: The Goergian people have suffered greatly under the misrule of the authoritatian human-rights abusing Saakashwally, and if, as a by-product of recent events. Saakashwally falls from power- he really is hated in Georgia- then the Russians will indeed have done the Georgian people a huge favor.

jolies: well, the Russians are gone now, and now there are US military bases on Hungarian soil. Hungary arguably has less freedom in foreign policy today than it did under Kadar. The dream of a free and independent Hungary is just that at the moment.

olching said...

Well Budapest did experience mass rape. It was WWII and apart from Berlin and perhaps Vienna suffered most in that respect.

But nonetheless, for sections of Hungarian society 1945 was a liberation. Particularly for left-wingers and for the decimated Jewish community. The violent aspects of 1945 have certainly up- or downplayed depending on what political narrative is being put forward.

Karl, which source are you using for the 1.3 million Hungarians (half of them imprisoned), because as far as I'm aware the Stalinist period from 49 - 56 resulted in the imprisonment of up to 100,000 Hungarians 'only'.

On 1956 I'd recommend Terry (Terence) Cox's word (1956: 40 years on and Challenging Communism in Eastern Europe: 1956 and its Legacy). Even there it's interesting to see how different political narratives use 1956 in various ways.

Anonymous said...

However 1956 was not any sort of liberation of the Hungarians. Perhaps it can be justified as being pre-emptive soviet self defence to keep nukes from the Ukrainian border but it wasn't a good thing.

On the 3rd hand it is little known that there was a previous communist regime in Humgary inder Bela Kun & a previous invasion. At the end of WW1 there was a Hungarian communist government which was displaced by a western supported invasion from Rumania. Plus ca change.

Anonymous said...

Knaylor - "...Living standards in the first four years fell by 20%..."

'First four years ' of what? Are you seriously saying that they fell below the standards during the war? If so, they shouldn't have attacked Russia, should they! I suppose life in Russia was a bit grim after the war too - something to do with the Germans and Hungarians killing 20 million Russians and laying waste to the country, maybe. Anyway, I'm sure the 'dying standards' also dropped in Hungary, quantatively that is.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, why should Hungary thank the Russians? If it weren't for those pesky Russian peasants, dying in their millions in the eastern front, Hungary would have probably ended up on the winning side of WW2.

@knaylor, nobody said that what Soviets have brought to Hungary was good and modern, in any sense of the word, but please do remember that 1) it was pretty much the same system they had back home, 2) Hungary lost the war and had to pay the price.
Why are we all suddenly in the "yeah they were with the Nazis, but Soviets were just as bad" mode? Well, had Hungary bit the bullet and went March 27th on Adolf, who knows how things might have played out...

@Neil, I'd say "Some Hungarians' reason to thank the Russians", namely those anti-Nazi and Jewish men and women that would have been exterminated by the Axis friendly Hungarian government, given enough time. Rest of them... I'm not so sure. Perhaps, with Allies defeated, they'd have gotten all of the 64 counties back, and then some.

israelite said...

The Russia of today is not the same as the USSR of 1956. For one, Russia today is run by Russians for Russians.

The first Communist dictator of Hungary, Rakosi, was born in Serbia and was a reflection of those who controlled Bolshevik Russia.

While condemnation of National Socialism continues unabated, it should be remembered that the person responible for arranging the deportation of 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz was a Zionist by the name of Dr. Rudolf Kastner. This was part of a deal that saw around 1300 useful Zionists put on a train to Palestine.

Kastner was to be assassinated in Israel in the 50s when publicity re the Zionist collaboration with the Nazis was becoming too public.

The Soviet takeover of Hungary was never meant to benefit the Hungarian people but to bring them under the domination of the foreign interests which controlled Soviet Russia. The Russian advance into Ossetia is to free the Ossetians from the control of American and Israeli interests.

The present Georgian Minister of Defence, Davit Kezerashvili, is an Israeli and former member of the Israeli Defence Force.

Russia's intervention in Ossetia was similar to that of Germany when she invaded Poland, in part, to prevent further deaths of ethnic Germans in Poland who were being slaughtered by NKVD thugs from Soviet Russia.