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.