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Mátyás Rákosi
Kommunista politikusok a tribünön fortepan 79084 (profile-4).jpg
Rákosi on 1 May 1947
First Secretary of the Hungarian Working People's Party
(to 28 June 1953 as General Secretary)
In office
12 June 1948 – 18 July 1956
Preceded by Himself
as General Secretary of the KMP
Succeeded by Ernő Gerő
43rd Prime Minister of Hungary
2nd Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the People's Republic of Hungary
In office
14 August 1952 – 4 July 1953
Preceded by István Dobi
Succeeded by Imre Nagy
In office
14 May 1947 – 31 May 1947
Preceded by Ferenc Nagy
Succeeded by Lajos Dinnyés
In office
1 February 1946 – 4 February 1946
Preceded by Zoltán Tildy
Succeeded by Ferenc Nagy
General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party
In office
23 February 1945 – 12 June 1948
Preceded by Party illegal; various factions
Succeeded by Himself
as General Secretary of the MDP
Personal details
Mátyás Rosenfeld

(1892-03-09)9 March 1892
Ada, Austria-Hungary
Died 5 February 1971(1971-02-05) (aged 78)
Gorky, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Nationality Hungarian
Political party MSZDP (1910–1918)
MKP (1918–48)
MDP (1948–56)
MSZMP (1956–62)
Spouse(s) Fenia Kornilova (1903–1980)
Military service
Allegiance  Austria-Hungary
Red flag.svg Hungarian Soviet Republic
Branch/service Austro-Hungarian Army
Red flag.svg Hungarian Red Army
Years of service 1914–1915
Rank Commander of the Red Guard
Battles/wars World War I Revolutions and interventions in Hungary (1918–20)

Mátyás Rákosi ( born Mátyás Rosenfeld; 9 March 1892 – 5 February 1971) was a Hungarian communist politician who was the de facto leader of Hungary from 1947 to 1956. He served first as General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party (1945–48) and later holding the same post with the Hungarian Working People's Party (1948–56).

Rákosi had been involved in left-wing politics since his youth, and in 1919 he was a leading commissar in the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic. After the fall of the Communist government, he escaped the country and worked abroad as an agent of the Comintern. He was arrested in 1924 after attempting to return to Hungary and organize the Communist Party underground, and would ultimately spend over fifteen years in prison. He became a cause célébre in the international Communist movement, and the predominantly Hungarian Rakosi Battalion of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War bore his name. Rákosi was finally allowed to leave for the Soviet Union in 1940 in exchange for prized battle flags captured by Tsarist Russian forces after the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

As the Red Army drove the German Wehrmacht out of Hungary at the end of World War II, Rákosi returned to his home country in early 1945 and became the leader of the re-founded Hungarian Communist Party. The Party suffered a crushing defeat in Hungary's postwar free elections at the hands of the pro-democracy Independent Smallholders' Party. However, at Moscow's insistence the Communists received key positions in the government including the Interior Ministry, while Rákosi himself became a heavily influential deputy prime minister. From this position the Communists were able to use political intrigue, subterfuge, and conspiracy to destroy their opponents piece by piece, in what Rákosi would later term "salami tactics." By 1948 they had gained total power over the country, and in 1949 the country was proclaimed a people's republic with Rákosi as its absolute ruler.

An ardent Stalinist, his government was very loyal to the Soviet Union, and Rákosi even set up a personality cult of his own modeled on that of Stalin. He presided over the mass imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian people and the deaths of thousands. He orchestrated show trials modeled on those of the USSR, among the most prominent victims of which was his former lieutenant László Rajk. His policies of collectivization and mass repression devastated the country's economy and political life, causing massive discontent. After the death of Stalin in 1953, Rákosi was partially demoted at Moscow's behest and the reformist Communist Imre Nagy became the new Prime Minister. However, Rákosi was able to use his continuing influence as First Secretary to thwart all of Nagy's attempts at reform and ultimately force the latter out of office in 1955.

But after Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's famous "Secret Speech" in early 1956 denouncing the crimes of Stalin, Rákosi found his position fatally compromised. Large numbers of people within the Party and society at large began to speak out against him and call for his resignation, as information about the Party's past abuses came to light. Rákosi was finally forced to resign in July 1956 and leave for the Soviet Union, replaced by his second-in-command Ernő Gerő. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 occurred barely three months later as a result of the abuses of Rákosi's system, and his former rival Imre Nagy would become a dominant figure in the Revolution. Soviet troops ultimately crushed the uprising and installed a new Communist government under János Kádár.

Rákosi would live out the rest of his life in exile in the Soviet Union, denied permission to return home by the Hungarian government out of fear of mass unrest. He would die in Gorky in 1971 and his ashes returned to Hungary in secret. Rákosi is generally seen as a symbol of tyranny and oppression in Hungary.

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