ruthless politicians of Mátyás Rákosi’s ilk. Although ostensibly a harmless theorist, Nagywas repeatedly the victim of Moscow power plays.
In 1955, in connection with the newanti-Malenkov coalition, he lost the prime ministership and was accused of “right-wingdeviationism.” His shining moment came when he led a reformist communist surge topower and regained the prime minister’s post, and still more briefly, after some hesitation,led a popular nationalist revolt against the Soviet Union from October 23 to November 4,1956. On November 4, 1956, Nagy was forced out of power by a massive Sovietintervention, and ultimately, at 5 a.m. on June 16, 1958, after a secret show trial, theHungarian quisling János Kádár (and Khrushchev) had him executed, to show other EastEuropean leaders just how far Moscow would permit liberal reforms in the Soviet bloc togo. Imre Nagy, it was said, despite the political setbacks it would bring him, was alwaysready to speak the truth, to refuse to perform self-criticism (“
”). Indeed,Machiavelli’s admonition seemed to address Nagy perfectly: “The man who neglects thereal to study the ideal will learn how to accomplish his ruin, not his salvation. Any manwho tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who arenot good.”
To be sure, Nagy’s refusal to recant did not always bring him ruin—not at first. Itearned him the respect of his people, especially the members of the Pet
fi Circle, aliterary-intellectual group with strong nationalist leanings.
As KGB Chairman IvanSerov reported to Moscow from Budapest three months before the Hungarian revolt,
One Soviet diplomat called Nagy a “malicious muddlehead” (“
”). I.Zamchevskii, “About Imre Nagy and his Politics with the Yugoslav Leaders,” ArkhivVneshnei Politiki Rossiiskoi Federatsii (AVP RF) [Archive of Foreign Policy of the RussianFederation], fond [f.] 077, opis' [op.] 37, papka [p.] 191, delo [d.] 39, list [l.] 86. AlsoDaniel F. Calhoun,
Hungary and Suez, 1956: An Exploration of Who Makes History
(Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1991), p. 57.
Niccolo Machiavelli, N. H. Thompson,
(New York: Dover Publications, 1992),pp. 39-40.
Circle was an organization of Hungarian communist intellectuals founded in1955. Sándor Pet
was a revolutionary poet during the 1848 revolt against Austria. (LajosKossuth was the Hungarian revolutionary leader in the 1848 uprising.)