Éva Sz. Kovács
The activity of the Hungarian intelligence services in Austria (1945-1965)
After World War II the Hungarian state security turned to Austria with a special interest because it was the only country in which relation the Hungarian state security organs had general and special, external and internal counter-intelligence tasks.
Austria became a country beyond the Iron Curtain after the Austrian State Treaty, therefore all those general operative tasks, which should be executed against a country outside the socialist camp, were expected to be done also in connection with it. It means that agents had to be enlisted, an intelligence base had to be maintained, which should be controlled. This gave also an external counter-intelligence task for the Hungarian political police.
Primarily, there were geo-political reasons behind the special state security tasks in the Austrian relation, because Austria was the only neighbouring country of Hungary, which did not belong to the socialist camp. It also meant that this was the only escape route towards the West. As a consequence, the Hungarian state security services had a couple of special tasks, too: the special defence of the western frontier and its surveillance; the control of the population living in the frontier region; the prevention of border transgression; the arrest of the transgressors; the prevention of smuggling goods and humans; a special state security defence of certain industrial objects, or railways in the frontier region; disturbing western radio channels, etc.
At the same time, Austria was kept under observation because it accepted Hungarian emigrants into its refugee camps and finally because Austria was considered as “the penetrating channel of imperialism” to the socialist world. Therefore it also belonged to the special tasks of the Hungarian state security services to observe those Austrian and other western citizens (diplomats, businessmen, churchmen, tourists, etc.) living in Hungary, who kept contact with Hungarian citizens.
The author presents the priorities of the Hungarian intelligence through a couple of case studies of Hungarian informants settled in Austria.
On both sides of the barricade…
Social democrat observers and observed
The study introduces the various activities of two agents having similar abilities and political background. Once they were excellent representatives of the leadership of the Social Democratic Party in the country: László Pusztai (“Szepesi”) was the secretary of the youth platform of the party in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County, while Jenő Rákos (“Boros”) was the party secretary of Győr-Sopron County. In 1948 they were excluded from the Social Democratic Party because their views were ranked as rightist. Rákos managed to avoid conflict with the justice, but Pusztai was sentenced to prison for years during a show trial. Their induction as agents happened after the revolution of 1956 because of “damning evidences”. Their activities were almost the same: they had to observe “rightist” social democrats. “Boros” was employed in Hungary, among active politicians of the Social Democratic Party in Budapest, but he was also involved in the disintegration of the Hungarian emigration. Most of his reports are realistic descriptions of the age. He wrote both about elder party members living in “internal emigration” and youngsters trying to break out of isolation; about their conflicts and their possible activities; about their faithfulness to social democratic principles, which was always in conflict with their relationship to MSZMP.
The circle, which was observed by “Szepesi” was wider and more concrete. Due to his reports the political police managed to receive useful information about functionaries in Miskolc and its region; about the leaders of the social democratic youth movement in Budapest and in the country; the key figures of the illegal Social Democratic Party. The good communication skills and his engaging manners made “Szepesi” capable of gathering information about those former party members, who were later selected to cooperate with the state security service. He also reported about those social democrats who were in contact with emigrants, or at least were said so. “Szepesi” was sent to the world exhibition in Brussels where he gathered information about emigrant social democratic organizations, their problems and about the conflicts of their leaders. He left a very valuable written collection to history about the struggle of the emigration for having and keeping unity.
Hungarian-soviet representative football matches and the Hungarian state security
The significance of the Hungarian-soviet representative football matches went beyond their sport significance because of the unequal relationship of the two countries. Only symbolic struggles were possible against the soviets since Hungary’s position in the soviet camp could not be questioned. Sports and especially football became the field of these symbolic fights. It is especially true after 1956, because one of the main consequences of the suppression of the revolution was that open resistance against the occupation ends in hard reprisal. Therefore, it can be claimed that after 1956 Hungarian-soviet fights were removed to symbolic places: from Corvin lane, Juta hills, Széna square and Csepel to sport grounds.
Therefore, the Hungarian-soviet football matches could be interpreted as political acts and the state security services also interpreted it this way. They were especially interested in the opinions of the fans, in their expectations, but they also dealt with the attitude of the footballers. The study presents three matches in this regard: the world championship match in 1966 and two qualifying rounds for European championship in 1968. They are presented only in their state security significance, so party and sport leadership documents are neglected. But finally it turns out how many under-estimated or missed chances are still left in the research of the Hungarian-soviet relationship.
Culture and science from the perspective of the state security documents (1956-1989)
One of the crucial efforts of the communist party coming into power after World War II was to control and direct the cultural life. If the directives of the party leadership did not prove to be effective, then administrative measurements were taken and the whole mechanism of the political police was brought into motion. This process had already started right after the world war and lasted until the collapse of the regime. Those artists who wanted to free themselves from the intellectual bonds mostly emigrated, or chose passive opposition and kept silence. Those, however, who emphasized the independence of artistic work from politics and wanted to counterbalance for example soviet influence and pattern, found themselves soon under the close surveillance of the state security organs.
One of the characteristics of the communist cultural policy was to see all artefacts through ideological glasses. In the field of science, culture, youth and sport activity, the aim of the counter-intelligence was to reconnoitre and uncover those, who were thought to be dangerous for the party’s policy and ideology. They also tried to prevent that scientific achievements might get out of the country.
The author examines the different state security methods and techniques of control through the directives and orders of the Ministry of the Interior, which preserve the memory of the cultural policy of the Kádár-regime.
The secret mission of a Hungarian seafaring vessel
In December, 1987 a young, discharged maritime engineer reported himself to the Central Crew Commanding Department of MAHART in the hope of getting a job soon. Finally, after a couple of trials, he succeeded: on 5th January, 1988 he could enrol. His position was “an aspirant to deck officer” officially, actually he was employed as a sailor, but for him it did not matter: finally he could make his way to Yugoslavia, where his vessel “Budapest” was stationed. The destination of the vessel was Bombay officially, but already in Budapest, at the Eastern Railway Station his colleagues made hints enigmatically that probably their destination “was not exactly” Bombay. He arrived to his vessel on 7th January, which had been already partly loaded. One could guess the real content of the load because of its military green colour. At that time it was widely known among the crew that the real destination of the vessel is not India, but Iran.
During the cruise there were two affairs why state security organs started an examination. Because of breaking the state secret, a couple of the crew was questioned, numerous analyses were examined and the report of the captain about the cruise was also attached. Using these data the author reconstructs the details and the background of the hidden journey of the seafaring vessel in his article.
Freedom of speech and freedom after speaking
Freedom of opinion in the end of the 1980s in Hungary
During the party-state rule there was officially no explicit opposition in Hungary in its legal sense. Playing the part of the opposition was counted among intolerable activities and therefore even the notion of “opposition” was banished. Despite of this, opposition, not in legal, but in its political sense, could not be eliminated altogether. It could be pushed into background at the very most. Sooner or later the party had to face those groups or individuals who declared different views from the party’s official line and had to distinguish between those who accepted socialism, but criticized it sharply and those who opposed the regime itself.
In the monolithic ideological system the freedom of speech and opinion could not be guaranteed because they contradicted each other and it was only the question of time until the truth about the empty declarations was revealed. By the end of 1989 the constitutional expectation that there had to be freedom also after speaking, i.e. the realization of the freedom of speech and opinion had to have no legal or criminal consequences. In practice juridical system codified later what in certain cases actually happened. The system without an opposition could not survive, in the lack of political pluralism the economic and political crises could not be solved.
As the second part of her study (the first has already been published previously in Betekintő 2013/1), the author examines the process how the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and opinion changed its meaning. Based on an analysis of the minutes of the state security headquarters’ meetings the study illustrates how the meaning of “the enemy” turned to be into “the hostile opposition”, then “opposition” in short, later “an alternative organization” and finally “citizen”, or “party”. At the end of this process Hungary’s guarantees for fundamental rights coincided with the international norms as declared in international agreements, which were based on legal guarantees and not on unforeseeable political decisions.
A Chronicle of a hard times’ repressive organization
A book review about Rolf Müller: Politikai rendőrség a Rákosi-korszakban (Political police in the Rákosi era), Jaffa Kiadó, 2012.
Numerous books and studies deal with one of the most ill-famed and inhuman repressive organization in Hungarian history, the State Security Authority. Nevertheless, Rolf Müller is the first author, who dedicated a separate volume to show how the political police actually worked in the darkest era of the communist regime. He introduces not individual cases or show trials, but the history of the organization, the life and career of its main leaders, the everyday life of its members, their training, equipment and the network of informants. The author is an expert on archival sources of the State Security Authority and used the most important sources to write the history of the political police, for example on the basis of the meetings of troop leaders in 1947. He also used Mátyás Rákosi’s speech, which he had held in the centre of the ÁVH on 30th May, 1952; Rákosi’s letters written to the Bulgarian leader, Georgi Dimitrov; the notes of Gábor Péter, which he made for the first secretary of the party; János Kádár’s speech in 1950 at the meeting of the one-year party academy, etc. It is an important, useful handbook about the most infamous organization of the Rákosi era, which will certainly be one of the most referred volumes for years for those researchers who deal with the period.
The Iron Curtain in Hungary
A book review about János Sallai: Egy idejét múlt korszak lenyomata. A vasfüggöny története. (Abdruck einer versunkenen Epoche. Geschichte des Eisernen Vorhangs. - An Impression of a Bygone Era. The History of the Iron Curtain.) Budapest, Hanns Seidel Alapítvány, 2012. 326.
The most characteristic symbol of Europe in the second half of the twentieth century was the Iron Curtain. The hermetical seal, which expanded from the North Sea to the Adriatic, was more than a mere borderline; it symbolized the antagonistic conflict of the two opposing world orders. The first symbolic usage of the Iron Curtain was attributed to the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who used this metaphor in his Fulton speech in March, 1946.
János Sallai is an engaged researcher of the subject, who has authentic knowledge about the everyday life of the border guards because of his previous life experiences. His book is a logical, standard work, which presents the history of the Hungarian section of the Iron Curtain from its beginnings until its removal. The author used the documents of the National Headquarters of the Border Guards, which is now preserved in the National Archives of Hungary. He also used oral history besides the written material, gathered contemporary interviews that had been published in the press and evaluated them. The volume is especially valuable because it is published in three languages; the English and German translations make it possible to spread the results of his research worldwide.