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Hungary Table of Contents



By the end of World War II, the public had little respect for the army because the war had been lost and the territory that had been reincorporated after 1938 was given back to Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia. Soviet officers believed Hungarian army officers to be as guilty as their German counterparts and, because of the undistinguished performance of the Hungarian army during the war, the Soviets had no respect for Hungary as a military force. The communists distrusted the former army officers, and these officers hated the communists. After the Hungarian People's Republic was established in 1949, many of these officers were punished and often sent to the harshest labor camps (see Postwar Hungary , ch. 1).

The postwar Hungarian army developed out of divisions put together to fight Germany after Hungary had made peace with the Allies in December 1944. Under Soviet pressure, however, the army was quickly demobilized in 1946, and most officers were removed because of pro-Western or anticommunist sympathies. A new force was then created under an independent command controlled by the Hungarian Communist Party, and a new army--the Hungarian People's Army--officially emerged in 1948. The military clause of the peace treaty that Hungary signed with the Allies permitted it to have an army of 65,000 troops and an air force of 5,000 personnel and ninety aircraft.

According to American expert Ivan Volgyes, Mihaly Farkas, the minister of defense from 1948 to 1953, served as the chief architect of the new Hungarian People's Army. Following Soviet orders, Farkas, himself an avowed Stalinist, set out to imitate the Soviet army and to Sovietize the Hungarian army. The HPA's organization mirrored that of the Soviet army. Its uniforms, ranks and insignia, decorations, and "general privileges" were all based on the Soviet model, as was the "dual command system," whereby the party attached political commissars to each military commander to ensure the political reliability and ideological commitment of the troops. These political officers were assigned by the Ministry of Defense's Main Political Administration (see Glossary) and were given instructions by the Administrative Department of the Secretariat of Hungarian Workers' Party (HWP--on November 1, 1956, renamed the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party--HSWP). Although this dual command system was still in effect in the late 1980s, it placed the most restrictions on military commanders in the period between 1949 and 1955.

Soviet influence further increased when, starting in November 1948, hundreds of Soviet military "advisers" were assigned to the Hungarian army at all command levels down to the regimental one. Although theoretically acting only as advisers, they influenced all important decisions. Beginning in December 1948, thousands of Hungarians began attending Soviet military and political academies to gain technical expertise and political indoctrination. Hungarian generals were sent to Soviet general staff schools (see Soviet Influence , this ch.).

The regime managed to create a communist officer corps by actively recruiting workers and peasants into the higher ranks of the military. By 1954 a little more than half of the officers were children of manual laborers, while about one-third came from peasant families. The officer corps provided upward mobility for the former "underclass," while providing material benefits in a country where standards of living were low compared with those of Western Europe.

Data as of September 1989