Nagy Imre Memorial House

Imre Nagy was born in Kaposvár in 7th of June 1896, in a Calvinist family of poor farm hands. Dropping out of secondary grammar school (because of his father’s losing his job and lack of money), Nagy earns a locksmith’s apprentice certificate and works in a workshop and in agriculture, too. Later he works in a lawyer’s office and at the same time goes to a commerce school until he is drafted into the army.

During World War I, he fights on the Italian front and is wounded in 1915. After recovery he gets a machine gunner’s training and is promoted to the rank of lance corporal. In 1916 he is sent to the Russian front, where he is wounded again and taken prisoner. He is kept in the Berezovka camp until summer 1918, and in 1919 he works for one year at Lake Baikal as ship builder, locksmith and lumberman. In the civil war he fights in the Red Army.

In 1920 he joins the Hungarian and Russian Communist Parties. During the captivity he learns Russian, German and French; he gets to know the fundamental principles and history of the labour movement. It is here that he becomes a convinced „left-sider” committed to the principle of equality and a fair human sociaty, to the idea of „Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”.

In 1921 he returns to Kaposvár, where he is employed by an insurance company and actively participates in the local Social Democratic Party and Trade Union. He marries Mária Égető, daughter of a well-know social democratic family, in a church wedding. They have one child. Because of confrontations, Imre Nagy is expelled from the party and becomes a founding member of the Socialist Workers’ Party of Hungary. He is arrested on several occasions and for this reason he loses his job and he is not able to support his family, so he emigrates to Vienna in 1928.

In 1928 and 1929 he works illegally in Budapest as the head of the Agricultural Department of the Communist Party, becomes editor of the Peasants’ Paper and plans to found a peasants’ party.
In 1930 he emigrates with his family to Moscow, Soviet Union. At the 2nd congress of the Communist Party of Hungary held in early 1930 he is accused of rightist deviation and forced to withdraw his views. In 1936 he is expelled from the party (arrested briefly and loses his job, too), but after a lengthy procedure, he is taken back. He works for the International Agricultural Institute (1930–1936) and the Statistical Office (1937–38). He writes a great number of articles, studies and books on agrarian issues in Hungarian, Russian and German. Several of his writings are published in the Hungarian periodicals Sarló és kalapács (Hammer and Sickle) and Új hang (New Voice). Later he becomes one of the editors of the Hungarian language programs of Radio Moscow and the editor in chief of Radio Kossuth broadcasted from Tbilisi during World War II.

In late 1944, Imre Nagy returns with his family to Hungary as the chief promoter of the land reform and a top member of the Hungarian Communist Party.

In his capacity as Minister of Agriculture of the Provisional Government, he implements the land reform in 1945. His dream comes true, the landless peasantry gets land.

After four months, however, he is relieved of his post as minister of interior affairs but continues to take care of agrarian matters in the party. 

After three months he is removed from the Ministry of the Interior for being „indulgent”.
Between 1947 and 1949 he is the Speaker of the Parliament, head of the Agrarian Department of the Hungarian Communist Party and a member of the Party’s Political Committee.
In autumn 1949 he is expelled from party leadership for opposing forced collectivisation. He becomes a very popular professor first at the University of Agriculture in Gödöllő then at other universities, gathering a great number of follower students around him. He also becomes member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
In late 1950 he is appointed Minister of Food and from early 1952 Minister for Farm Deliveries, then Deputy Prime Minister.
Appointed as Prime Minister on 4th July 1953, Nagy embarks on implementing significant reforms:

he ends forced pace industrialisation and collectivization, releases hundreds of thousands from work camps and prisons, cancels the translocation of families and the compilation of „kulak lists”, announces the policy of observing constitutional laws and the rule of law, religious tolerance, and denounces the personality cult and police abuse.


In 1954 he launches a comprehensive economic and political reform (including higher living standards, greater wages, lower prices, opening the way to setting up small businesses and quitting agricultural cooperatives, reducing compulsory farm deliveries etc.)
Mátyás Rákosi and his followers represent the opposite view and they try to stop Imre Nagy’s refomrs in every possible way. Imre Nagy’s reforms were too progressive for Moscow as well so he is removed from his post as Prime Minister in April 1955.
In the same time he was expelled from all state and party offices, as well as from the party and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He had a heart attack so he stays at home in a quasi house arrest.

During his short time as Prime Minister, ha creates the only positive economical and political platform in this period. The positive effects of the platform are completely suppressed in the Rákosi-era and by the Kádár regime. Ever since 1989 the anti-communist spirit has not allowed the social recognition of this positive reform period. 


Imre Nagy becomes a leading figure of the opposition and in his writings he strongly criticises the Stalinist regime, the personality cult and dictatorship, and advocates national independence, sovereignty and the country’s military neutrality. A so called „Nagy Imre” circle comes into being around him, but he does not engage in any political action.

In the summer of 1955 a committee starts to examine and investigate the „Imre Nagy case” . In autumn of that year 59 intellectuals, writers, journalists, artist, all members of the Party, state their position in a Memorandum on the „new phase” that is on Imre Nagy’s politicy.

On the 7rd of June in 1956 Imre Nagy celebrates his 60th birthday. About 100 people come to this event to Imre Nagy’s home in Orsó street. (Nowadays this bulding is functioning as the Memorial House of Imre Nagy.) Next day the communist party condemns this event in a decision.

23rd October 1956 the demonstrating masses in Budapest demand Nagy’s appointment to head the government. Imre Nagy, on the Praliament’s balcony asks for confidence and promises solutions.

Despite the negative cannotation of the way he addresses people: „Comrades!” the masses trust him both as their former agrarian minister and their 1953 Prime Minister heralding reforms and rightfulness.
Firmly rejecting any kind of violence, he works to achieve a political solution through talks and negotiations with the delegates of the intelligentsia, workers’ councils, and armed groups. On 28 October he calls for a cease-fire and demands the withdrawal of the Soviet troops; on 30 October he announces the introduction of a multi-party system and sets up a coalition government. On 1 November he declares Hungary’s neutrality and withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact, and requests the support and the protection of the UN and the Security Council.

After the Soviet military intervention on 4 November, on Tito’s invitation Nagy and his colleagues and their families seek refuge at the Yugoslav embassy.
On 22 November, however, they leave the Embassy with a safe conduct of free passage given to them by the treacherous Kádár administration and are kidnapped by the KGB and driven to Romania.

If Imre Nagy signes his resignation and supports the Kádár goverment he would saved his life. But Imre Nagy does not betray the principals of the Revolution, his compatriots and his nation.

Based on a pact between the Kádár government and the Soviet and Romanian party leaderships, after being held in home custody, in April 1957 Imre Nagy and his colleagues are arrested and transported to the jail in Gyorskocsi street in handcuffs. Their families remain in Romania as hostages. As decided by the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party on 21 December 1957, the political trial begins. In the show trial Nagy unfalteringly denies the charges against him and maintains his principles and his belief in the purity of the revolution.

He is sentenced to death on 15 July 1958, and refuses to apply for clemency. Next day, 16 June 1958, at 5 a.m. he is executed together with minister of defence Pál Maléter and journalist Miklós Gimes. He is secretly buried in the courtyard of the jail. His body, wrapped in tar paper and bound with barbed wire, is transported to the most distant section of the nearby cemetery in 1961. He is buried face-down amongst the remains of criminals and zoo animals under the female name Piroska Borbíró. His place of rest remains unknown for 31 years. In 1989 he and the other martyrs are exhumed and after a funeral ceremony held on Heroes’ Square in Budapest 16 June, they are reinterred in plot 301 of the Municipal Cemetery of Rákoskeresztúr, while Hungary and the whole world is paying respects. The Supreme Court declares him innocent, and in 1996 the Parliament passes a law to eternally engrave Imre Nagy’s name on the nation’s mind.

Imre Nagy remained to be faithful to his beliefs and principles, to the country and the revolution until his death. His figure has become an example of morality and a symbol of loyalty to the people.


Motion Pictures



   ”My Hungarian brothers! [...] I am here to rejoice with you. The several century-long dream of the people of the land now becomes true: land will belong to the one who cultivates it. [...] Today, some one hundred years after our father Kossuth raised the flag of the freedom fight high, the hard-working people of the Hungarian soil march to re-conquer their homeland and take what is lawfully theirs.”


”Honourable Parliament! It is my greatest pleasure and honour in this solemn moment to occupy this place to which your trust elevated me, a simple man of the people. In this high office, my foremost ambition is to devote my full strength and modest talents, with faith, honour and selflessness, to help Hungary prosper and its working people thrive. [...] Since the liberation of the country, the Hungarian people have clearly shown that they are determined to live. But they can achieve great things only if the unity of the nation is not disrupted by internal disagreements, if adversity does not take away our energies from creative work. What millions of Hungarians wish the most is that the time would come when they can devote themselves to their work and enjoy the fruits of this work. This is what the Hungarian people want, and in my humble opinion the greatest task of the Honourable Parliament is to meet this goal. [...] It is a tremendous responsibility of all of us. I wish that all of the members of the Parliament, regardless of their party affiliation, whether they are in the coalition or in opposition, understand it. Learning from the mistakes of the past, we should always bear it in mind that if we are not fully aware of our responsibility to implement democracy demanded by the millions of workers, if narrow-minded selfishness, individual or partisan interests override the great, universal, national interests, if not all of us are preoccupied with the noble task of building a better future but spend our strengths on fighting back the ghosts haunting from the dark past, all our work would be fruitless and this legislative body would not be the Parliament of work but the scene of barren disputes and harmful battling, causing unfathomable damages to the country. [...] I stand up for democracy and therefore I wish to ensure the atmosphere of tranquillity which is necessary for effective work not through imposing severe house rules but through parliamentary self-discipline which creates the foundations for calm and dispassionate discussions and for the peaceful cooperation of parties, which is a precondition to the much wished internal peace of the country, too. [...]

Honourable Parliament! As men of my age tend to say, I am past my prime, and life did not indulge me. As a man of the people, I shared all their grief and distress. But it is the people from whom I got my greatest strengths even in the hardest of times. However high my position is, I shall remain with them. I pledge to be a faithful son of my country, a selfless and honest servant of the Hungarian people!”



   Our slogan is ’national unity’ – we started our work in Debrecen with this slogan. National unity has done an enormous service to the Hungarian people. [...] It is going to give us the force to further build our road to prosperity. [...] Our strength is in our unity. This is an old truth and eventually we have understood it. Hungarians don’t fight and hate each other. [...] Our joining forces now will end the curse and will create the Hungarian national unity, bringing together the strength of every Hungarian to achieve a single goal, the restoration of the country. This unity will be forged in the spirit of Kossuth, Petőfi, Táncsics. Our program will be drafted on the basis of our legacy from 1848. [...] This wonderful, huge national unity will give our cause, the freedom of Hungary, victory!”


   ”March 1848! Is there one single Hungarian patriot whose heart does not throb with enthusiasm remembering this great time? Kossuth, Táncsics, Petőfi! Is there one true Hungarian patriot whose cheeks are not flushed with national pride hearing these names? [...] The Hungarian people, who had submerged during tumultuous centuries of European history, rose once again in 1848, and embracing the progressive ideas of the era and in a wonderful heroic fight became the leader of the freedom-loving peoples. Hungarians proved that self-sacrifice and the noble ideals of progress, freedom of people and humanism can make a tiny nation great and glorious!”



   ”We came to this place of pilgrimage, where the nation’s great decision was made one hundred years ago to renew our commitment to our greatest national treasure, our independence [...] We came to this place of pilgrimage to swear: we will safeguard our independence as nothing else and, if necessary, protect it to our last drop of blood!”


   ”The government deems it right and necessary to slow down the cooperative movement, and in compliance with the principle of voluntariness, it will make it possible for those [...] who want to return to private farming […] to quit the cooperatives at the end of the economic year. Furthermore, it will grant permission to dissolve cooperatives if the majority of the members wish so.

[…] the kulak lists shall be cancelled. [...] The government regards giving support to private farm production its primary task.”
”all shall be freed whose crime is not so serious that setting them at large […] would endanger public safety […] At the same time, the government cancels the institution of internment, and internment camps will be dissolved.”
”The large number of court and petty crime procedures, the widely used administrative methods, […] forced farm deliveries, tax collection, kulak lists, mass-scale abuses in the area of redistribution of farm plots [...] embitter [...] people’s lives. A most urgent task of the government is to strengthen the rule of law.”
”More indulgency should be exercised towards religions [...] the government shall denounce and shall not tolerate to use the tools of enforcement.”
”[...] the government feels it right to allow private entrepreneurship and to make [...] issuing business licences possible and at the same time to ensure entrepreneurs the necessary conditions of functioning: supply of goods, credit etc.”


   ”Here, in this room, we feel the history making power of patriotism. The throbbing of the hearts of nine and a half million of Hungarians, the shared eagerness of the souls of nine and a half million of Hungarians [...] to achieve the happiness and free life of our nation, the prosperity and independence of our homeland and the peace of our country […] And if someone asks what the Patriotic People’s Front is, our answer is: this is the Patriotic People’s Front […] The poetic vision comes true: if the land is God’s hat, the work of our great and industrious people is the most beautiful bunch of flower on it!”



   ”As long as my finite mental and physical strength will allow me, I will fight. I will never be indifferent, weak-hearted or unconcerned. […] Should I find myself alone here – I still won’t give up.”


   ”What I betrayed was not the ideal, but the system which betrayed the ideal. […] I was never a traitor, and I am not one this time, either…”

The vilest and most mendacious accusation of the Hungarian people, the most atrocious act against its honour and self-esteem is the charge of counter-revolutionariness. This is a slap on the face of the whole nation. […] The story of the Hungarian „counter-revolution” was concocted to serve as an excuse for the Soviet invasion of Hungary. There was no counter-revolution in Hungary.”

”In the course of a few days, armed fighting evolved into armed national uprising with the participation of the broad masses [...] swelled into a gigantic popular movement. [...] National or revolutionary committees or workers’ councils were set up everywhere to organise and lead the revolution. The objectives and slogans of the revolution became the same everywhere, upholding the ideals of national independence, sovereignty, equality and non-interference. These demands, which constituted the progressive content of the revolutionary uprising and of the national freedom fight, and became closely tied to the protection of the socialist achievements and with the demand to expand socialist democracy, were rooted deeply in the broadest masses. [...] These were rightful national demands that should have been met long ago.”

”What is at the core of the Hungarian tragedy is that the ideals of socialism and of national independence clashed. [...] In this country – not out of the fault of the Hungarian communists or of the Hungarian nation – it led to armed fighting. […] For the most obvious purpose of serving the goals of Russian imperial chauvinism, the Soviet Communist Party and the Soviet government […] insist on maintaining the forms of ideological, political and governmental dependence that were developed in Stalin’s regime.”
”[the masses] fought a party leadership […] which established dictatorship within the party […] which turned against the people, introduced the rule of terror, committed untold numbers of acts of unlawfulness, betrayed the elementary interests, the independence of the country – to put is short, it committed high treason. […] Fighting this kind of leadership and this kind of party […] is not a crime but a virtue.”

”The issue of having a one party or a multi-party system came up sharply. […] Socialism does not have any tenet making the single party system a key feature of people’s democracy or of socialism. […] People’s democracy will have variants in which the multi-party system dominates. [...] There is and there has to be a people’s democracy based on a multi-party system. […] In our case, the single-party system came to a crisis, and we have made the first steps towards introducing people’s democracy with a multi-party system. […] The democratic foundations of society, on which we progressed towards socialism, seem to be more secure and firmer in a multi-party political and social system.”

”Quitting the Warsaw Pact, removing the Soviet troops, declaring neutrality and the introduction of a multi-party democracy were the basis for restoring peace, for consolidating the political and economic life, for embarking on the road towards prosperity. This is not a counter-revolutionary but a democratic basis.”

”Another of the overall demands of the working class was the recognition of workers’ councils. These councils were regarded as great achievements and were planned to play a crucial role in the country’s economic system and were thought to be the tools to guarantee […] workers their rightful position in governing the country […] they would have meant a special form and organ of power, which […] would have put the popular power on firmer bases, vested in the working class […] they would have made the Hungarian proletariat the true rulers of the country, the holders of power.”
”The struggle of a people to build the main conditions of their national existence, to protect their national ideals, to fight under the flag of independence, freedom and equality […] can never be a counter revolution. This fight is a national revolutionary uprising.”

”After the unprecedented offence against the self-esteem and honour of the Hungarian people during the events following 4th November, could the current leadership be the worthy representative of the idea and dignity of the nation? […] The facts forcefully prove that it could not because they are illimitably obsequious. No one will absolve them from the rightful accusation of high treason. […] The tragedy of the Hungarian nation started with Rákosi and was fulfilled with Kádár. He committed a crime against the nation he can never set right: he is a traitor of the country.”

”In the light of objective facts and historical truth, we can see why the lie about the counter-revolution was necessary. It was necessary to justify and explain the unjustifiable and unexplainable armed intervention of the Soviet government and of the Soviet Communist Party, the occupation of Hungary, the conspiracy against the lawful government and its expulsion with arms.”



   ”[...] In the indictment, the prosecutor asked for the gravest, i.e. capital punishment. His argument was, inter alia, that it is the nation who would not accept a merciful sentence. Thus, I put my fate in the hands of the nation.”


   ”I ask the honourable Council of the People’s Court to let me briefly explain my stance concerning the issue of clemency. In my personal opinion, I regard the death sentence passed by the honourable Council of the People’s Court unfair, its arguments ungrounded and therefore, although I know that I cannot appeal the sentence, I cannot accept it. My only consolation in this situation is my conviction that sooner or later the Hungarian nation and the international working class will clear me of these grave charges, the burden of which I have to bear now and as a consequence of which I have to sacrifice my life – but this I have to accept. I feel there will come a time when these issues can be re-evaluated in a calmer atmosphere, with clearer insight and better knowledge of the facts, and justice can be made in my case. I feel I am the victim of a grave mistake, a judicial mistake. I am not asking for clemency.”


MTA Imre Nagy Memorial House
43. Orsó street, H-1026 Budapest
Phone/fax: +36-1-392-5011, +36-1-392-5012