Hungary History Soviet Union

Captain Aleksei Gusev never existed, but writer Béla Illés stated that he was a Russian soldier who chose to fight on the side of the Hungarian freedom fighters of 1848-1849. This is how Mr Illés wanted to improve Soviet-Hungarian friendship after WWII, and even the Soviets believed his story.

Mr Illés was born in Kassa (today Slovakia) and graduated from university in 1916, but after WWI, he left the country and took part in the illegal Communist movement in Czechoslovakia and Austria, because of which he was expelled from both countries. Afterwards, he went to the Soviet Union and returned to Hungary as a major of the Red Army in 1944-1945. Allegedly, he said that even Hungarian women were part of the loot.

In 1945,

the Soviet Red Army was feared and hated by all in Hungary

because of its horrific deeds against all civilians (murders, mass rapes, forced labour of Hungarians in the Soviet Union). This is why Béla Illés thought that he would create a Russian hero who supported the unsuccessful freedom fight of the Hungarians in 1848-1849 led by Lajos Kossuth. Therefore, he made up the character of Aleksei Gusev to connect the Hungarians and the Soviets since he found nobody in the past suitable for this aim. According to Mr Illés, Captain Gusev was a Russian officer who turned against the Imperial Russian Army before its invasion of Hungary in 1849 because he believed that no nations should oppress other countries. As a result, he was executed.

Then, Béla Illés spread the story in the Hungarian media, and even Gyula Illyés, the famous Hungarian novelist and poet, included his character in one of his novels. Communists also embraced Captain Gusev, he became a part of History books, and

factories and blocks of flats were named after him.

One of the most prominent streets of Budapest, the Sas Street, connecting Saint Stephen’s Basilica with the Szabadság (Freedom) Square was named after him, and there was even a plaque placed on the corner of the street.

Soviet “President” (1964-1965) Anastas Mikoyan praised him when he visited Hungary because Mr Illés said that he found evidence about the story in the archives of Minsk. In truth, the archives burnt down during WWII, so nobody could check whether he told the truth or not, but nobody cared. However, when a Hungarian delegation arrived in the Soviet Union to commemorate the deeds of Mr Gusev, they could not find his grave.

In the 1960s, when the power of the ideologists of the Rákosi-era waned, Mr Illés’s influence also weakened, so

more and more historians plucked up the courage to state the truth – that Captain Gusev never existed.

However, Gusev Street in the heart of Budapest, for example, bore that name until 1990, when it was renamed as Sas Street.

In other news, there was an officer in the Russian Imperial Army who chose to fight on the side of the Hungarians, the Polish Captain Kazimierz Rulikowksi. After the defeat of the Hungarian freedom fight, the Russian army court sentenced him to death for his deed. His grave is in Nagyvárad (Oradea, Romania), where the central cemetery of the city is named after him.

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