Select language:

In English

Home > Database > Hungary > Historical Overview > 1918-1939

Get Informed

Print this article


Hungary; Hungarian: Magyarország, pronounced, officially the Republic of Hungary, is a landlocked country in the Carpathian Basin of Central Europe, bordered by Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia. The People's Republic of Hungary or Hungarian People's Republic (Magyar Népköztársaság) was the official state name of Hungary from 1949 to 1989 during its Communist period under the guidance of the Soviet Union. It was in this communist regime that the first major opposition movement to the Eastern Bloc communism was formed during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 in which Hungarians demanded freedom, democracy, and an end to political oppression, but they were forced into submission when the Soviet Red Army invaded Hungary and forcibly crushed the revolution and killed the revolution's leadership. The state remained in existence until 1989 when opposition forces consolidated in forcing the regime to abandon communism. The communist state considered itself the heir of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, which was formed in 1919 and was the second communist state formed after Soviet Russia.

In 1918, as a political result of defeat in World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy collapsed. Prime-Minister. Tisza was murdered in Budapest by a gang of soldiers during Aster Revolution of October 1918. On October 31, 1918, the success of the Aster Revolution in Budapest brought the leftist liberal count Mihály Károlyi to power as Prime-Minister. Károlyi was a devotee of Entente from the beginning of the war. On November 13, 1918, Charles IV surrendered his powers as King of Hungary; however, he did not abdicate, a technicality that made a return to the throne possible. In 1918, by a notion of Wilson's pacifism, Károlyi ordered the full disarmament of Hungarian Army. Hungary remained without national defense in the darkest hour of its history. Sorrounding countries started to arm. The First Republic was proclaimed in November 16, 1918, with Károlyi being named as president. The Károlyi government pronounced illegal all armed associations and proposals which wanted to defend the integrity of the country. The Károlyi government's measures failed to stem popular discontent, especially when the Entente powers began distributing slices of Hungary's traditional territory to Romania, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia. French and Serbian forces occupied the
southern parts of Hungary.

By February 1919 the government had lost all popular support, having failed on domestic and military fronts. On March 21, after the Entente military representative demanded more and more territorial concessions from Hungary, Károlyi signed all concessions and resigned. It also marked.
the end of the Hungarian Democratic Republic and creation of new republic known as Hungarian Soviet Republic.

The Communist Party of Hungary, led by Béla Kun, came to power and proclaimed the Hungarian Soviet Republic. The Communists also promised equality and social justice. The Communists - "The Reds" - came to power largely thanks to being the only group with an organized fighting force, and they promised that Hungary would defend its territory without conscription. (possibly with the help of the Soviet Red Army). Hence: the Red Army of Hungary was a little voluntary army (53,000 men). Most soldiers of the Red Army were armed factory workers from Budapest. Initially, Kun's regime achieved some impressive military successes: the Hungarian Red Army, under the lead of the genius strategist, Colonel Aurél Stromfeld, ousted Czech troops from the north and planned to march against the Romanian army in the east. In terms of domestic policy, the Communist government nationalized industrial and commercial enterprises, socialized housing, transport, banking, medicine, cultural institutions, and all landholdings of more than 400,000 square metres. The support of the Communists proved to be short lived. In the aftermath of a coup attempt, the government took a series of actions called the Red Terror, murdering several hundred people(mostly scientists and intellectuals). The Soviet Red Army was never able to aid the new Hungarian republic. Despite the great military successes against Czechoslovakian army, the communist leaders gave back all recaptured lands. That attitude demoralized the voluntary army. The Hungarian Red Army was dissolved before it could successfully complete its campaigns. In the face of domestic backlash and an advancing Romanian force, Béla Kun and most of his comrades fled to Austria, while Budapest was occupied on August 6. Kun and his followers took along numerous art treasures and the gold stocks of the National Bank. All these events, and in particular the final military defeat, led to a deep feeling of dislike among the general population against the Soviet Union (which did not offer military assistance) and the Jews (since most members of Kun's government were Jewish, making it easy to blame the Jews for the government's mistakes)

The new fighting force in Hungary were the Conservative Royalists counter-revolutionaries - the "Whites". These, who had been organizing in Vienna and established a counter-government in Szeged, assumed power, led by István Bethlen, a Transylvanian aristocrat, and Miklós Horthy, the former commander in chief of the Austro-Hungarian Navy. The conservatives determinded the Károlyi government and communists as capital treason. Starting in Western Hungary and spreading throughout the country, a White Terror began by other half-regular and half-militarist detachments (as the police power crashed, there were no serious national regular forces and authorities), and many arrant Communists and other leftists were tortured and executed without trial. Radical Whites launched pogroms against the Jews, displayed as the cause of all territorial losses of Hungary. The leaving Romanian army pillaged the country: livestock, machinery and agricultural products were carried to Romania in hundreds of freight cars. The estimated property damage of their activity was so much that the international peace conference in 1919 did not require Hungary to pay war redemption to Romania. On November 16, with the consent of Romanian forces, Horthy's army marched into Budapest. His government gradually restored security, stopped terror, and set up authorities, but thousands of sympathizers of the Károlyi and Kun regimes were imprisoned. Radical political movements were suppressed. In March, the parliament restored the Hungarian monarchy but postponed electing a king until civil disorder had subsided. Instead, Miklos Horthy was elected Regent and was empowered, among other things, to appoint Hungary's Prime Minister, veto legislation, convene or dissolve the parliament, and command the armed forces.


  • At least 2500 Hungarians died in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and 200,000 fled the country
  • Hungary was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1944