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Pictures from the Life of 1956’s Martyr PM Imre Nagy – Photo Gallery!

Fanni Kaszás 2020.06.16.

Exactly 31 years ago, on June 16, 1989, Imre Nagy, the martyred prime minister of the 1956 Revolution, and his four associates were reburied. They were sentenced to death in a biased and pre-determined trial and executed on June 16, 1958 for their activities during the revolution. The commemoration of the five politicians who were the victims of the retaliation of the Kádár era was also a symbolic demonstration against the declining communist system, with hundreds of thousands of Hungarians participating. To commemorate the event, we have selected some archival photos from the collection of Fortepan. 

Imre Nagy with his wife and their little daughter Erzsébet. (photo: Fortepan, donated by Katalin Jánosi)

Imre Nagy, a Musovite communist, was a key politician following World War II. Although he belonged to the party’s inner circle, he was often critical of party leader Mátyás Rákosi. After Stalin’s death in 1953, he became prime minister and supported agricultural development instead of forced industrialization, closed the internment camps, and rehabilitated a number of political convicts. His policy reforms did not last for long as Rákosi returned from Moscow in 1955 to reclaim his position as leader of the party. Shortly thereafter, Imre Nagy was accused of “right-wing deviation” and forced to resign. On the second day of the 1956 revolution, Nagy became prime minister once again, but his second term ended with his government being brought down by the Soviet invasion.

Imre Nagy with his daughter Erzsébet and his grandchild. (photo: Fortepan, donated by Katalin Jánosi)

After the 1956 revolution was crushed by the Soviets, the Kádár regime announced the events between October 23rd and November 4th as a “counter-revolution,” declaring its leaders to be “enemies of the people.” Imre Nagy, then prime minister of Hungary, was charged with treason and organizing the overthrow of the Hungarian people’s democratic state. Nagy was tried, found guilty, sentenced to death, and executed by hanging on June 16, 1958. He was buried face-down in an unmarked grave and Soviet-backed János Kádár forbid anyone to speak his name.

Christmas, 1951, Imre Nagy with his grandchild. (photo: Fortepan, donated by Katalin Jánosi)

Since the change of regime, Imre Nagy’s personality and legacy have been a point of contention. Leftist philosopher Miklós Tamás Gáspár once said: “Nagy was guilty, a hero, and a victim at the same time. Understanding this means understanding the tragedy of the labor movement and the Hungarian people.” In 1989, his reburial drew a crowd of 250,000 and is regarded as a springboard for Viktor Orbán’s political career.

Milestone of the Regime Change: 1956 Martyr PM Imre Nagy Reburied 30 Years Ago

The reburial of the martyred prime minister, and thus the re-evaluation of the 1956 events was a central topic of debate in Hungary for a long time. In May 1988, Kádár, who was the symbol of the whole regime, was removed from power: the loosening of the MSZMP began, and the internal opposition within the party became stronger. As world politics were in transition, the time came for the communists (who wanted to retain their power) to show a nicer face and make gestures.

Christmas, 1948, Imre Nagy with his daughter Erzsébet (right) and her husband Ferenc Jánosi and his grandchild. (photo: Fortepan, donated by Katalin Jánosi)

The date of the funeral was formally set by the committee and the Ministry of Justice, while the parties of the so-called “Opposition Round Table” were organizing a mass demonstration for the reburial with the goal of a peaceful political transition from a one-party state to a multi-party democracy.

1950, Budapest. Imre Nagy with his wife’s relatives, former Prime Minister Sándor Wekerle’s family. (photo: Fortepan, donated by Katalin Jánosi)

During the five-hour commemoration, former political prisoner and future president Árpád Göncz, and former political convict and future MP Imre Mécs, addressed the crowd with their speeches. A young and relatively unknown opposition politician from Fidesz also gave a powerful speech on behalf of the younger generations. His name was Viktor Orbán, current prime minister of Hungary.

Kossuth Lajos Square, the balcony of the Parliament. On October 23, 1956, Prime Minister Imre Nagy spoke to the revolutionary crowd, to the right, Deputy Prime Minister Ferenc Erdei. (photo: Fortepan, donated by Fortepan)

Military court, defendant Imre Nagy’s last words in the lawsuit against him and his associates, movie frames from the footage of the trial. (photo: Fortepan/Hungarian National Archives)

Military court, announcement of the verdict in the lawsuit against Imre Nagy and his associates, movie frames from the footage of the trial. (photo: Fortepan/Hungarian National Archives)

1988, a commemoration held at plot 301 of the Új Köztemető a year before the state reburial of Imre Nagy and his associates. (photo: Fortepan, donated by Hodosán Róza)

1989, Heroes’ Square, reburial of Imre Nagy and his 1956 associates. (photo: Fortepan, donated by Ágnes Vészi)

1989, Heroes’ Square, reburial of Imre Nagy and his 1956 associates. (photo: Fortepan, donated by Ágnes Vészi)

1989, Heroes’ Square, reburial of Imre Nagy and his 1956 associates. (photo: Fortepan, donated by Ágnes Vészi)

1989, Heroes’ Square, reburial of Imre Nagy and his 1956 associates. (photo: Fortepan, donated by Ágnes Vészi)

1989, Heroes’ Square, reburial of Imre Nagy and his 1956 associates. (photo: Fortepan, donated by TM)

1989, Heroes’ Square, reburial of Imre Nagy and his 1956 associates. (photo: Fortepan, donated by TM)

Új Köztemető, plot 301. Reburial of Imre Nagy and associates. (photo: Fortepan, donated by Ágnes Vészi)

Új Köztemető, plot 301. Reburial of Imre Nagy and associates. (photo: Fortepan, donated by Ágnes Vészi)

featured photo: Fortepan, donated by Katalin Jánosi