Who was Imre Nagy?

Imre Nagy, born in 1896, was the Chairman of the Council of Ministers in the People’s Republic of Hungary between 1953 and 1955 and again from 24th October 1956 to 12th November 1956 when the ill-fated 1956 Hungarian Revolution was brutally crushed by the Soviet army.

As prime minister, during his first term, Imre Nagy was under pressure to introduce popular reforms to Hungary however the political leaders of the Soviet Union did not support them and in 1955 he was sacked.

Imre Nagy

Imre Nagy

In 1956 protests following months of protests in Budapest and fighting between Soviet troops and pro-deocracy activists Imre Nagy again assumed the position of Chairman of the Council of Ministers. A Soviet withdrawal from Hungary was anticipated by the new government.

Imre Nagy aimed to introduce a multi-party political system and hold democratic elections in Hungary after announcing that Hungary was withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact however the revolution was not a success.

The UK and US did not immediately recognise Hungary as a neutral state in the ongoing cold war and by the 1st November 1956 Soviet tanks had entered Hungary and were heading for Budapest.

By the 8th November Budapest was once again under Soviet control with many tens of thousands of people arrested.

Imre Nagy seeked sanctuary in the Yugoslavian Embassy but was tricked in to leaving and was captured by Soviet forces. Imre Nagy and his family were deported to Lake Snagov in Romania.

With other reformer politicians, he was prisoned, held in solitary confinement and then sentenced to the death penalty. On the 16th June 1958 Imre Nagy was executed in secret.

A scene from 'The Unburied Man'

A scene from ‘The Unburied Man’

For more than thirty years, during the communist era, it was forbidden to discuss the 1956 Revolution or commemorate the tragic deaths of the 1956 martyrs.

In 1989 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Soviet withdrawal from Hungary Imre Nagy became a symbol of change. His remains and those of his fellow revolutionaries were reinturned at a ceremony that up to 100,000 people attended.

As a tribute to Imre Nagy a statue was inaugurated in 1996 at the Square of Martyrs (Vértanúk tere) in Budapest close to the Hungarian Parliament.

In 2004 Márta Mészáros directed A temetetlen halott (The Unburied Man), a biographical film about Imre Nagy.

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