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The country of secret agents: Hungary in the communist era

The country of secret agents: Hungary in the communist era

Thousands of agents helped maintain the communist rule in Hungary between 1945 and 1989; however, even almost 30 years after the change of the regime, their names remain a secret. Some say that this should never be changed while others claim that Hungary should not have entered the 21st century without knowing who wrote the reports and who were the victims.

Smothering atmosphere

In the ’60s and ’70s, it happened numerous times that some young people were not admitted to higher education, but nobody knew why. It also happened that some promising careers suddenly broke, and talented scientists, professionals or clergymen disappeared in background offices to deal with unimportant documents. Many people felt that there was somebody watching them and reporting everything they do or say, and therefore, they tried not to say anything sensitive to others.  This resulted in citizens who were

afraid to talk about political or economic questions,

saying that these are difficult problems, and the party will solve them. Not surprisingly, the young Hungarian democracy still struggles a lot with such harmful social conditioning.

The reason was the extensive agent network run by the Communist regime in Hungary to maintain and protect their power. Their network

covered almost every aspect of everyday life.

There were agents at the church, at the workplace and even in the homes of people. Students reported their teachers and teachers their students, department leaders wrote about what their employees discussed, and every block of flats had spies who kept an eye on everybody living there, and, of course, they reported about each other as well.

Thus, it is not surprising that thousands of shrewd and talented Hungarians left the country, and in 1956, Hungarians wanted to get rid of the communist regime together with their puppet master, the Soviet Union.

Revealing the list of the agents?

After the change of the regime, many politicians wanted to reveal the names of the secret agents of the Communist era. They said that people deserve to know who destroyed their career or made their relatives leave the country. Interestingly, the till then anti-communist Alliance of Free Democrats baulked the acceptance of a lustration bill, saying that everybody should move forward instead of dealing with issues of the past. The same happened in the last three decades continuously: government parties always voted down such initiatives. In opposition, Fidesz wanted to reveal the names of the agents, while as a government party, they try to slow down the procedure. The same applies to the Socialists.

According to Historian Krisztián Ungváry, an expert of the issue, it is important to reveal the names even now because many in the political or economic elite claim that they fought against the communist regime, but in reality, they helped to maintain the rule of the Hungarian communists, and

people deserve to know the truth. 

He added that it raises questions regarding national security if there are many people, for example, in the political elite who can be blackmailed with their past. When PM Viktor Orbán and his former friend and ally Lajos Simicska turned against each other, the latter claimed that the prime minister reported about his acquaintances, even though he did not prove his accusations later.

Slovakia ahead of Hungary

Krisztián Ungváry said that in Slovakia and in the Czech Republic, everybody can check on the internet who was an agent during the Communist era. However, in Hungary, only those researchers can access the documents who already published papers on the issue. But, of course, a beginner cannot publish anything without reading the documents. Therefore, the whole system is unserviceable which was, in fact, the intention of the political elite who created it in 2003.

According to Réka Földváryné Kiss, head of the Committee of National Remembrance, the full list of agents working between 1945 and 1989 cannot be compiled. As we reported before, former PM of the late 1980s, Miklós Németh, believes that

the only credible list of the secret agents and informers is held in Moscow even today.

Anyway, Krisztián Ungváry says that even a fragmental list would be better than nothing. However, this is unimaginable without accepting a proper lustration law. And, as we reported before, even though LMP and Jobbik would like to reveal the lists (and the Socialists also support them), the government majority always vote them down.

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