János Kádár was a hard-line Hungarian communist leader who supported Soviet intervention in Hungary in the 1956 Hungarian Uprising. Kádár was everything that Imre Nagy was not and the end result of the Uprising was that Nagy was imprisoned and eventually executed while János Kádár was, with the full support of Moscow, made the head of government in Hungary.
János Kádár was born in 1912 at Kapoly. When he was old enough Kádár worked in a factory and became involved in trade union activity. Because of the general prevailing attitude to communism throughout most of Europe, the young János Kádár, aged 20, joined the Hungarian Communist Party in 1932 in secret – at this moment in time, despite its grandiose title, the Hungarian Communist Party was a secret underground political movement. By 1942, he had advanced within the party so that he was on the central committee. János Kádár also fought for the Hungarian resistance movement against the Nazi occupiers.
After the Red Army liberated Hungary, classic Cold War politics took over the nation. Forced to be part of Joseph Stalin’s Warsaw Pact, the politicians who ran Hungary were handpicked by the hierarchy in Moscow. Loyalty was not only expected but also demanded. The KGB, one way or another removed protestors throughout the Eastern Bloc. In an election in Hungary in November 1945, the Hungarian Communist Party only polled 20% of the votes, but they formed the government with Matyas Rakosi at the head of it.
With a communist government established in Budapest, Kádár was made Minister of the Interior between 1948 and 1950. The head of the Hungarian Communist Party, Mátyás Rákosi, either viewed Kádár as a challenge to his authority or simply did not like him. It is thought that this was behind the arrest of Kádár in April 1951 by the Hungarian Secret Police. He was tortured and held in solitary confinement at a prison in Vác. However, Kádár was released in July 1954 but was kept out of politics. He only made a political re-appearance at the highest level when Rákosi left office in July 1956.
In the same month that Rákosi left office, Kádár was given a senior position within the party’s executive. On October 25th he was made First Secretary of the Party and was initially associated with the reforms introduced into Hungary at this time. However, to Kádár, things were moving too fast and too much away from what Moscow would approve. When Nagy announced that Hungary would leave the Warsaw Pact and would become a neutral nation, Kádár left Budapest fearing the worst. Kádár proclaimed a new “Revolutionary government of the peasants and workers’ in Eastern Hungary” and pledged that he, János Kádár, would save Hungary from the “fascist reactionaries” in Budapest.
On November 4th 1956, Soviet forces took over the major airports of Hungary and sent tanks into Budapest. Buildings thought to be harbouring just one sniper were totally destroyed – a policy that resulted in large areas of the city being ruined. The people of Budapest paid a high price for the few days of freedom they had experienced. It is thought that 20,000 died and over 200,000 fled the country in fear of their lives.
János Kádár supported the Soviet ‘intervention’ – though many in Hungary saw it as nothing more than a full-scale invasion (though the Russian troops involved were actually based in Hungary itself).
Kádár gave Nagy a written note that guaranteed safe passage once it became obvious that the rebellion had failed. Nagy had gone to the Yugoslav embassy to seek refuge but Kádár’s note tempted him out. He was immediately arrested and spirited out of Hungary. Two years later Nagy was sent back to Hungary and after a secret trial, he was hanged.
János Kádár became Prime Minister in post-rebellion Hungary. He held this position until 1958. After giving up this post, he maintained his grip on Hungarian politics by being appointed the party’s First Secretary.
Between 1961 and 1965, János Kádár became Prime Minister again. He introduced policies of reconciliation and cautious liberalisation.
In May 1988, János Kádár, having been replaced by Karoly Grosz, was appointed Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party President. It was purely a titular appointment for the 72-year-old man.
János Kádár died in 1989.