Béla Kun and the Hungarian Revolution of 1919

For about four months, writes Bela Menczer, a Communist government attempted to deal with the problems of the former partner in the Habsburg empire.

Fifty years ago, on March 21st, 1919, the only Soviet-type government outside Russia seized power in Budapest. Why was Hungary for a short time after the First World War the only Communist country in central Europe and why, after the Second World War, was she Moscow’s most reluctant satellite, as the rising of 1956 proved? To understand this, we must recall the story of a great tragic figure, Count Stephen Tisza, who was murdered in 1918; a well-intentioned failure, Count Michael Károlyi, who died forgotten in exile in 1955, and an obscure minor official called Béla Kun, who perished in Russia during Stalin’s purges in 1937.

The Liberal Revolution in Russia, in March 1917, had an immediate repercussion in the Habsburg Monarchy. A new era began. The young Emperor-King Charles, who had succeeded his great-uncle Francis-Joseph in November 1916, and who from the first moment had been determined to put an end to the war, with or without the consent of his German ally, decided to initiate a far-reaching policy of democratic reform, especially in the Hungarian half of his Monarchy.

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