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Ivan Volgyes

Hungarian prisoners of war in Russia, 1916-1919

In: Cahiers du monde russe et sovitique. Vol. 14 N1-2. pp. 54-85.

Citer ce document / Cite this document : Volgyes Ivan. Hungarian prisoners of war in Russia, 1916-1919. In: Cahiers du monde russe et sovitique. Vol. 14 N1-2. pp. 54-85. doi : 10.3406/cmr.1973.1171

Rsum I. Volgyes, Les prisonniers de guerre hongrois en Russie, 1916-1919. Pendant les quatre annes de la Premire Guerre Mondiale, plus de 600 000 Hongrois furent faits prisonniers en Russie. Prs de 100 000 d'entre eux combattirent aux cts des Bolcheviks et pour le maintien du pouvoir communiste. Ils contriburent au succs des Bolcheviks en aidant rprimer l'insurrection des SR Moscou, en renforant les units communistes Jaroslavl' et en jouant le rle de leaders dans les units internationalistes de l'Arme rouge, pendant la guerre civile. Plusieurs raisons significatives dterminrent l'aide hongroise aux Bolcheviks : une discrimination de classe trop rigide introduite dans la vie des camps de prisonniers, aboutissant une tension particulire entre officiers et soldats ; l'attrait exerc par les promesses communistes d'un monde nouveau, plus juste ; l'habilet des Bolcheviks utiliser tour tour propagande et pression. Toutefois, bien que prs de 100 000 hommes aient t prts se battre pour les Bolcheviks russes, seule une quantit ngligeable tait acquise l'idologie communiste et trs peu d'entre eux devinrent membres des divers partis communistes. Abstract I. Volgyes, Hungarians prisoners of war in Russia, 1916-1919. During the four years of World War I, more than 600,000 Hungarians were taken prisoners in Russia. Of this group, nearly 100,000 fought on the side of the Bolsheviks and for the maintenance of the Communist power. They contributed to the Bolshevik success by helping to quell the SR uprising in Moscow, by reinforcing the Communist units in Iaroslavl' and by acting as leaders among the internationalist units of the Red Army during the Civil War. Several significant reasons determined Hungarian aid to the Bolsheviks: a too rigid class discrimination introduced into the prisoners camp life, resulting in special tension between the officers and men, the emotional attraction of the Communist promises of a fairer new world, and the skillful alternate use of propaganda and pressure by the Bolsheviks. However, although nearly a 100,000 men were willing to fight for the Russian Bolsheviks, only a minor number adopted the Communist ideology and very few actually became members of the various Communist parties.








I. The prisoners of war in Russia By the summer of 1916 the First World War had been going on for two full years. Untold millions died or were wounded on the fronts and many soldiers were taken prisoners. On the Eastern front the armies of Austria-Hungary suffered immense losses in life and materiel, yet these losses were light in comparison to the number of soldiers who were taken prisoners. Historians have been puzzled in examining the phenomenon of the capture of over 10 percent of the Austro-Hungarian army and even today there is no precise work detailing the reasons for the mass capture of these 1,500,000 men1, of whom some 600,000 were Hungarians.2 A numb erof causes may be postulated: 1. Estimates concerning the exact figures vary greatly. Based on its archives, the Austro-Hungarian Ministry of Defence evaluates the number of prisoners of war at 1,479,289, while Gaston Bodard, who worked in the statistical branch of that Ministry refers to 1,672,672 men captured in the East. The official Hungarian statistical journal quoted the lowest figures in 1927: 174,427. The Moscow Central Archives of Military History quoted 1,605,827 people captured by Russia. Recent Hungarian works concerning this subject also arrive at the figure of 1,600,000 men and these figures seem to be the closest to the actual number of prisoners of war taken from the joint army. Lajos Zilahy et al. (eds.), Hadifogoly magyarok trtnete (The history of Hungarian prisoners of war) (Budapest: Athenaeum, 1930): 73; Statisztikai Szemle, 7 (1927): 7; Antal Jozsa, "Adalkok az oroszorszgi magyar hadifoglyok trtnethez" (Additions to the history of the Hungarian prisoners of war in Russia), Hadtrtnelmi Kzlemnyek, 2 (1963): 640; Rossiia v mirovoi voine I14-I18 (Russia in the World War, 1Q14-IQ18) (Moscow, 1925): 41 and Gyula Varga, "Hadifoglyok a crizmus s a Kerenszkij uralom idejben" (Prisoners of war during the rule of czarism and under the Kerenskii regime), Sarlo s Kalapcs, 6 (1935): 41-42. 2. Elsa Brandstrom, Kriegsgefangenen in Russland und Sibirien, IQ14-IQ20 (Berlin, 1922): 8, 42-43. Considering that there were 47.07 percent soldiers of Hungarian origin in the army throughout the war, their percentage as prisoners of war is not particularly excessive. Archives of the Institute of Military History (Budapest), "Materials of the First World War," fond 3702, BI no VIIII, No. 10; Erzsbet Andics, A magyar munksmozgalom az ii4-i8-as vilghboru alatt (The Hungarian labor movement during the World War of I14-IQ18) (Budapest: Szikra, 1950): 13; Jen Gyrkei and Antal Jozsa, Magyar internacionalisth a Nagy Oktoberi Szodalista Forradalomban (Hungarian Internationalists in the great October socialist



(1) On the Eastern front Russian troops outnumbered the troops of the Central Powers and they were better equipped, especially with artillery. As a result of the shortage of men, the soldiers of the Central Powers had little chance to rest. Their resistance was weakened; their morale was low.1 (2) In view of residual pan-Slavism, some of the Slavic members in the armies of Austria-Hungary were reluctant to fight against the Russians. (3) Many soldiers in the army of Austria-Hungary understood Russian. This ability often facilitated the establishment of contact with the enemy on the front.2 (4) There was a strong anti-war feeling on the Eastern front, which was not manifest in the Western or Southern battlefields.3 This sentiment was heightened by the arrival of a large group of anti-war leaders, many of whom were socialists, who were sent to the front as a punishment for political activities.4 (5) There was a feeling on the part of many soldiers that their lot could not be worse. The prison camps with their relative safety looked like a secure haven for them.6 (6) The physical situation of the front facilitated the development of friendly contact between the opponents. In the East the fighting was less savage, less personal than on the Western fronts. Whole armies were encircled without even facing the enemy. As a result of these conditions there often were close contacts between the opposing sides.6 These were the major circumstances which influenced the capture of the large number of Austro-Hungarian soldiers. An additional factor, however, was the influence exerted by the anti-war propaganda of the Bolsheviks. The Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party revolution) (Budapest: Kossuth, 1957): 17 ff.; Gyula Jozsa, Ungarn und die Ungarischen Bolschewiken auf dent Weg zur Rdterepublik in Spiegel der Prawda und der Sowjetischen Historiographie (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Innsbruck, 1952): 15. Ferencz Munnich contradicted these figures in his "Forward" to the GyrkeiJozsa volume where he cites only 500,000 Hungarian prisoners of war. J. Gyrkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 5. 1. Edmund Glaise von Horstenau, Die Katastrophe (Zurich: Amalthea Verlag, 1929), II and IV: 139 and passim. 2. Oktiabr'skaia revoliutsiia i zarubezhnye slavianskie nrody (The October Revolution and the foreign Slavic peoples) (Moscow: Gospolitizdat, 1927): 275. 3. Moscow Military Archives, fond 21 18, 1 opis' 683: 39, 50; opis' 685: 30, 40, 77 X33 139-14; fond 2067, 1 opis' 2512: 43, 62, 63, 64, 77, 91, 103, 106 (Prisoners of war confessions to the Headquarters of the 3rd Russian army between Aug. and Nov. 1914). 4. Mihly Krolyi, Egy egsz vilg ellen (Against an entire world) (Munchen, 1923), I: 151-152. 5. L. Zilahy, op. cit., I: 77. 6. A magyar munkdsmozgalom trtnetnek vdlogatott dokumentumai (Selected documents of the history of Hungarian labor movement, further quoted as MMTVD) (Budapest: Kossuth, 1956), V: 31-35.



was split at the beginning of the war on the future policy of the Party.1 The leaders in Russia supported the war in the beginning and only after Lenin's violent opposition to it became known did they change their positions. Lenin actually desired his country's defeat. As early as October 17, 1914, he wrote: "For us Russians, from the point of view of the working class of Russia, there is not the slightest doubt. [. . .] that the least evil would be [. . .] the defeat of Tsarism in this war. For Tsarism is a hundred times worse than Kaiserism."1 Although he was against the war he refused to become an advocate of peace.8 Lenin believed that it was impossible to abolish war without abolishing social classes and without the establishment of socialism. Hence, war could not be ended merely by concluding peace. "Peace is the slogan of the Philistines and clergymen," he wrote. "The proletarian slogan should be: civil war."* In order to promote the idea of the civil war, Lenin urged fraterni zationbetween the troops of the opposing armies, the creation of new illegal revolutionary circles and the establisment of a new left-Socialist opposition. At the Zimmerwald and Kienthal conferences Lenin and the Bolshevik delegates in Switzerland supported this transformation of the "imperialist war" into a civil war, but it was easier to establish the policy than to carry it out as they conceived it. The aim of the Party was to infiltrate the trenches with their propaganda, and through the soldiers who opposed the war to encourage an end to the fighting. The success of the Bolsheviks was limited to the task of promoting anti-war and pro-civil war propaganda, although soldiers from the opposing sides often exchanged visits, sometimes even concluding tempo rary agreements not to shoot at one another.6 The only tangible results of the Bolshevik efforts seemed to be the lessening of tensions between opposing front line troops, but in 1915-16 few soldiers were willing to turn against their respective ruling classes. As the war years progressed, the Bolsheviks realized that the war prisoners were most accessible to their propaganda and in the second half of 1916, a more concentrated effort was made to win the sympathy of the captive soldiers. When these unfortunate men, many of whom already carried the seeds of socialist sympathies, arrived to the prison camps they were subjected to a series of circumstances which eventually 1. Bertram D. Wolfe, "War comes to Russia," Russian Review, 2(1963): 123-138. 2. V. I. Lenin, Sochineniia (Selected works) (Second edition) (Moscow: Gosizdat, 1931), XVIII: 81. 3. N. K. Krupskaia, Vospominaniia o Lenine (Remembrances of Lenin) (Moscow, 1932): 224-225 and O. H. Gankin and H. H. Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the World War (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1940), ch. IV-VI: 209-479. 4. V. I. Lenin, op. cit.: 66 and Georgii Zinov'ev, Protiv techeniia (Against the flood) (Moscow, 1925): 29. 5. Archives of the Institute of Military History, "Documents relating to World War I," Diary of Imre Bnhegyesi (No. 109) and Diary of Jen Arato (No. 2676).



led many of them to support Bolshevism. These circumstances included: differences in treatment of nationality groups which led to development of anti-Tsarist f eelings, especially among the Hungarians ; rigid differences between treatment of officers and soldiers in the prison camps; and horrible conditions in the camps. Very early in the war, probably in 1915, the government of Russia began an unofficial policy of differentiation among the prisoners of war, trying to persuade the Slav nationalities to fight on its side against the Central Powers. The Slavic prisoners were approached soon after their captivity and many chose this course of action since they knew that independence for them could only be gained from the defeat and dismem berment of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.1 This policy of differen tiationin treatment led to sharp nationality tensions in the prison camps and clashes between Slavs and non-Slavs were recorded practically daily.* These clashes were further accentuated by the camp commanders who were more likely to choose Serbs, Czechs or other Slav nationalities for the few coveted clerical positions in the camps.8 To the Hungarian and Austrian prisoners of war this policy of discrimination seemed unjust and they attempted to find a remedy for it. The Tsarist government, however, was not willing to equalize the conditions of all prisoners of war; indeed it consciously perpetrated anti-Hungarian and anti-Austrian sen timents and hoped to develop a resentment that might eventually lead to a breakdown of the internal structure of its enemy, the Dual Monarchy. Hence, the Austrian, Hungarian and German prisoners found themselves in opposition to the policies of the Tsarist government. This resentment, added to the normal one of war prisoners, soon caused them to be sym pathetic to those who opposed the government of Russia; therefore, the anti-war and anti-government stand of the Bolsheviks gained the early support of these captives. Another factor influencing the development of the pro-Bolshevik ten dencies, especially among the Hungarian prisoners of war, was the fact even in the prison camps their officers maintained the differences in class structures so obvious to the common soldier, even in his homeland.4 Captured officers had to be given "the same rate of pay as officers of corresponding rank in the country where they are detained" according to Chapter II, Article 17, of the Second Hague Convention of 1907.6 As 1. Edward Bene, Nemzetek forradalma (The revolution of nations) (Bratislava, 1936): 320. 2. J. Gyrkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 18. 3. Their use probably resulted from the fact that the Slavic languages were closer to Russian than either Hungarian or German. Thus the Slav prisoners of war were able to communicate with the camp administrators and commanders while the Hungarians and Germans simply could not understand their captors. E. Brandstrom, op. cit.: 9. 4. 97 percent of the prisoners were soldiers or non-commissioned officers and the remaining 3 percent were officers. A. Jozsa, art. cit.: 630, 633. Also National Archives of Hungary, M. E., 1918, fond XVI, 8921. 5. James Brown Scott (d.), The Hague conventions and declarations of 189c and 1907 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1918): 114.



a result, the officers were given 50 to 75 rubles per month while the over 1,500,000 soldiers had no means of earning money or getting any pay if they did not go to work. While Article 6 of Chapter II of the same con vention allowed the men and non-commissioned officers to work, and while it is true that they had to be paid for their work, it was clearly stated that their wages "shall go toward improving their position, and the balance shall be paid them on their release, after deducting the cost of their maintenance."1 Due to this provision there was a great deal of corruption and embezzling; and although most prisoners worked, only the officers seemed to be in a position to live as human beings while the soldiers were left to their own devices. Even Zilahy's work, which presented a distorted picture of the army officers, had to concede that: "The gaping distance between the officers and the men became obvious at the moment of the capture, for while the former usually had some money and valuables with which he could help himself, however sparingly, while he was transported to his place of final internment which in Russia under normal circumstances lasted 5 to 6 weeksthe soldiers existed without a penny, [and were] thrown into the greatest uncertainty."2 The camps were often located quite near industrial compounds, but this proximity did not assure the soldiers a more civilized treatment or even the possibility of getting medical assistance. On the contrary, the rate of death was higher in Russian prison camps than in the POW camps of any other country and nearly 300,000 prisoners of war perished.3 Typhoid and dysentery took a frightful toll, especially among the Austro-Hungarian prisoners. These nationalities also suffered more than the Germans because their government failed to protest to, or retal iate against the Russian government to force an improvement in the conditions. "If Vereshchagin and Repin were alive today a prisoner wrote they would describe the camp thus: barrack walls reach to infinity dressed up in ice from the constant dew settling on them [. . .] Beds line up like separate floors, always in half darkness with feverish, typhoid-stricken, animal-like faces [on them]. Rats gnaw at the corpse placed under the bottom bench [. . .] In the courtyard in nice order befitting soldiers, corpses are placed in cross-like fashion a row of legs, a row of heads, a row of legs, a row of headslike so many pieces of wood. Some corpses stick their frozen, tight-fisted hands erect as if they were threatening somebody. The cold is so intense that it is impossible to dig a grave; thus, corpses must be kept [in the open] until spring. The snowfall often covers up a row; then during the noon hours, the sun melts the snow from some of the faces; icicles form and hang from heads, hands, legs . . ."* 1. Ibid.: 109. 2. L. Zilahy, op. cit.: 60. 3. National Archives of Hungary, he. cit. 4. Mihly Balogh, A magyar internacionalistdk Oroszorszgban (The Hungarian Internationalists in Russia) (Budapest: Kossuth, 1957): 116.



During the summer the living conditions were just as bad. "The dark, damp cabins made of clay were filled with prisoners, unbelievable heat, millions of fleas and leeches."1 Furthermore, frequently the soldiers had little to eat. One prisoner wrote: "Presently I am working only because I am forced to. We live like animals. We get food only as a token gesture and the pay is enough only to buy tobacco, but even that not for all of us. If we ask more food, we get locked up and then we can get only water. "a The conditions were certainly enough to drive one to insanity.8 It is no wonder that as time went by these unfortunate people, re jected by their governments, looked down upon by the officers from the relative comfort of their quarters, unwilling to fight against their fellow soldiers and decimated by disease, turned to the only quarter from which their redemption might come: the Russians who opposed the war. After 1915 the Russians who most consistently opposed the war were the Bolsheviks. II. The Hungarian prisoners of war and the Bolsheviks prior to March, 1917 Outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg the strongest Bolshevik organi zations in Russia were located near Tomsk, Omsk, Krasnoiarsk and Ivanovo- Voznesenk.4 It is interesting to note that it was in these centers that nearly 40 percent of the 600,000 Hungarian prisoners of war worked,6 and it was also in these centers that the first Marxist circles were formed among them. In these industrial centers the Bolshevik organizations succeeded in identifying themselves with the cause of many a prisoner of war because their basic desires were similar since prisoners and Bolshe viks alike opposed the war. Their viewpoints about ending the war differed slightly because the Bolsheviks wanted to turn it into a civil conflict while the prisoners merely wanted to end it and go home; however, for a time, an alliance was formed. This marriage of convenience between the Hungarian prisoners of war and the Russian Bolsheviks was to last through much of the Russian Civil War.6 1. Maria Fortusz, "Pozsonyi Ferencz-vrsgardista es vrspartizan" (Ferencz Pozsonyi-Red guard and Red partisan), Hadtrtnelmi Kzlemnyek,2, (1964): 232. 2. L. Zilahy, op. cit.: 205. 3. Cf. ibid. 4. A. Jozsa, art. cit.: 659 and Ferencz Sipos, "A vrs Manchesterben" (In the red Manchester), Sarlo s Kalapcs, 5 (1932): 49. 5. J. Gyrkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 17. 6. Gyrgy Milei, "A magyar hadifoglyok kommunista szervezeteinek kialakulsa s tevkenysge Oroszorszgban, 1917-1918" (The formation and activities of the Communist organizations of the Hungarian prisoners of war in Russia, 19 17 1918), in Magyar-orosz trtnelmi kapcsolatok (Hungarian-Russian historical con nections) (Budapest: Miivelt Np, 1956): 215-406.



One of the most active pro-Bolshevik groups was founded at Tomsk. There is a large amount of information available about the organization, at Tomsk since many of the later leaders of the Hungarian Commune were imprisoned there. In early 1916, a Marxist group was organized with a membership including Ferencz Munnich, Bla Jarosz, Kroly Reiner, Gza Pavlik, Imre Szilgyi, Ern Seidler, Gyrgy Grdi, Jzse Rabinovits, Ern Lipschitz and others.1 Bla Kun, who was to play such an important role in the Hungarian Communist movement, was accepted into this small organization when he arrived in Tomsk before the beginning of June.2 It is difficult to discern whether the first contact between the organi zation and the Bolsheviks was instigated by the Russians or by the pris oners of war.8 At any rate, it seems that by the summer of 1916 Kun, with the help of Munnich and Seidler,4 was in contact with the Russian group, and that the organization was strongly attracted to the ideals of the Bolshevik faction.6 The activity of the socialist group, apparently, was considerably strengthened by Bla Kun. "Bla Kun's appearance definitely pushed the activities of the group in a. Marxist direction. The group made contacts with the Siberian Bolshevik organizat ions, it was in this way that we first were able to get some of Lenin's writings. and These gave many of the answers to some of the questions which occupied Kun for a decade. Seminars were held in the prison camp with the Hungarian and Austrian Social democrats."6 An interesting question may be advanced in regard to the actual political affiliation of the Hungarian socialist prisoners. Since the Menshevik and Bolshevik group was not separated in Tomsk until August, 1. G. Jozsa, op. cit.: 126; Mrs. Bla Kun, Kun Bla (Budapest, Kossuth, 1966): 56; I. S. rlik, "Vengriia na frontakh grazhdanskoi voiny v SSSR" (Hungary on the fronts of Civil War in USSR), Istoriia SSSR, 4 (1957): 170; Mrs. Bla Kun, "A prtalapits" (The founding of the Party), Kortrs, 11 (1959): 742; "Kun Bla 1917-18-ban Tomszkban megjelent irsai" (The writings of Bla Kun published in Tomsk, 1917-1918), Pdrttrtneti Kzlemnyek, 1 (1962): 108-109; Tamas Kocsis, "Emlkek a forradalombol" (Memories from the Revolution), Magyar Nemzet (Nov. 7, 1961): 7. 2. The exact date of arrival of Bla Kun to Tomsk is not known. The party questionnaire filled out by him on July 1, 1921 and kept in the Archives of the October Revolution in Moscow (a photocopy of which has been made available to the author) states that he became a member of the Tomsk organization before June, 1916. Since a few weeks had to pass before he could get to work, get in touch with a highly conspiratorial, illegal body and learn enough Russian to communicate his. intent, the date referred to above is highly improbable, but it is the only one quoted anywhere. Mrs. Bla Kun, op. cit.: 31, 54. 3. Soviet sources claim that the Russian Bolsheviks initiated the first contacts, while the Hungarian sources insist on the Hungarians' initiative in seeking out the Russian Bolsheviks. "Vengerskie internatsionalisty v velikoi oktiabr'skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii" (Hungarian Internationalists in the great October socialist Revolution), Voprosy Istorii, 7 (1959): 157. 4. I. S. Orlik, art. cit.: 170; G. Milei, "A magyar hadifoglyok," art. cit.: 325. 5. T. Kocsis, art. cit.: 7. 6. Ferencz Munnich, "Elszo" (Preface), to Kun Bla a Magyar Tancskoztrsasdgrl (Bla Kun concerning the Hungarian Soviet Republic, hereinafter quoted as Kun Bla) (Budapest: Kossuth, 1954): 12.



1917, and since they collaborated to publish a journal, Novaia zhizri, it would be logical to assume that within the prisoners' group Menshevik and Bolshevik tendencies co-existed.1 Although temperamentally Kun and many of his comrades were closer to Bolshevik line, it is probable that Kun and his group did not identify themselves with the Bolshevik faction until the separation of the groups in 1917. Kun's first article, published on April 12, 1917 in Novaia zhizri, indicated that he himself was not quite committed.2 The group's work in Tomsk was severely limited by camp regulations and Kun's position was also made ambivalent by them. Although he rated junior officer's quarters, his "fraternization" with the soldiers brought him closer to them than to his fellow officers. It is not known whether Kun received his pay like other officers or whether he chose to do physical labor during his captivity, but his importance inside and outside of the camp seemed to rise as the Tsarist Empire fell apart in the last days of February 1917. From that date, more and more evidence of Kun's activities can be found in Tomsk. III. The Kerensky era and the prisoners of war The February 1917 Revolution brought the Kerensky government to power and offered a hope of liberation to the captive soldiers. However, the policies of the liberal government further alienated the non-Slav, Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war and increased the Bolshevik sympathy among them. The reasons for the increased support the Bolsheviks received were: (1) the Kerensky government's continued support of Slav groups which hoped to gain independence from the defeat of the AustroHungarian Monarchy ; (2) the further alienation of the non-Slav prisoners of war as a result of the Russian government's determined policy of continuation of the war; and (3) the skillful agitation of the Bolsheviks aimed at winning the favor of the discontented Austro-Hungarian pris oners of war. The February Revolution did not put new life into the decimated POW camps. The collapse of organized authority and rising inflation brought only worse conditions for most of the war prisoners, especially for the Austro-Hungarians.8 1. "Kun Bla irsai," art. cit.: 109. 2. Ibid.: no. 3. A notable exception to the worsening of the situation can be found for those who volunteered for the various Slav legions to fight against the Central Powers. This was a policy which the Provisional Government continued to pursue. "The Provisional Government adopted a more sympathetic attitude towards the Czechs and Slovaks and permitted the expansion of the Druzhina into an entire army corps [. . .] This unit, generally known as the Czech Corps[. . .] by the fall of the year[. . . had] grown to a point where it consisted of two full-fledged divisions with some supporting service units." (George F. Kennan, The decision to intervene



" The rise of the [new] government sent a wave of chauvinist humiliation and pogroms into the prison camps. The guards of the camps were changed. Those prisoners of war who worked had to wear a yellow patch with the marking VP [for voenno-plennii prisoner of war] on it. The camps were pervaded by the spirit of a jail; those prisoners who worked fled by the score because of the unbearable treatment."1 While it became harder to live in the camps, it was equally true that through the Bolsheviks it became increasingly easy for many to simply move into the cities.2 As the strength of the Bolsheviks increased in the industrial centers during 1917, they were often instrumental in securing permission for the prisoners to come and reside in the cities. Since the Kerensky government seemed to be committed to continuing the war the Hungarian prisoners of war were natural allies of the Bolshe viks both in the fight to end the war and in the political struggle to end the Kerensky regime. After Lenin's arrival in Russia and following the publication of his April Theses, the Bolshevik Party intensified the recruiting of the dissatisfied prisoners of war to aid the Bolshevik cause.3 The Bolsheviks hoped that if they gave support to the prisoners of war, the captive soldiers would spread Bolshevik propaganda among the masses of their comrades.4 The political and altruistic reasons of the Bolsheviks for assistance to the prisoners of war can be gauged from an article in Pravda, published shortly after the February Revolution. On June 12, the Russian Bureau of the Central Committee of the RSDRP recommended to the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, that the conditions of the prisoners of war be improved because "every step, which enhances the mutual trust among the workers' democracies of the belligerent powers, brings closer the beginning of peace negotiations."6 The Bolsheviks kept up their barrage of propaganda and were consider ably aided in their efforts by the fact that the Hungarian, Austrian and German prisoners could turn to no one else; no other party in Russia made an attempt to enlist their support. Although it has been argued that it was through monetary rewards and the hope of freedom that the Bolshe viks were able to enlist the support of the intelligentsia in the prison camps, the promise of freedom and the hope of returning to Hungary, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958): 137.) The Slav groups also received support from Thomas G. Masaryk's visit to Russia during the summer of 1917. As an unexpected result of this visit they were granted greater freedom and priv ileges than the Hungarian and German prisoners. 1. J. Gyrkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 20. Dwinger also admits that "since the February Revolution the prisoners' food had noticeably deteriorated in quality and quantity, the ruble fell in value, the price of goods rose. " (Edwin Erich Dwinger, The army behind barbed wire (London: Allen and Unwin, 1930): 250.) 2. Jno Lukcs, Magyar-orosz kapcsolatok 1914 ta (Hungarian-Russian ties since 1914) (Budapest: Miivelt Nep, 1956): 12. 3. F. Sipos, art. cit.: 49. 4. J. Gyrkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 20, 168. 5. Alexandra Kollontai, "Plennye russkogo imperializma" (Prisoners of Russian imperialism), Pravda (Petrograd) (June 16, 1917): 3.



however, were enough for most Hungarian soldiers to turn to those who promised it.1 The Hungarian prisoners were the most vulnerable to Bolshevik propaganda. Brandstrom wrote: "Among the wax prisoners, the Hungarians formed the largest group. The large social gap, evident in Hungary, showed up clearly in the prison camps as well [. . .] Hungarian groups lived in isolation because of their language, few could speak German. Perhaps it was the Hungarians who suffered the most in the prison-camps, since their hot-headed and unbalanced personalities made the lack of freedom unbearable for them. In addition, they were the least equipped with the ability of furnishing their quarters, and compared to the other prisoners of war they lived under the least favourable material and hygienic circumstance. " Furthermore, the Hungarian prisoners of war were also fertile soil for their fellow Hungarians who espoused the Bolchevik cause and were convinced of the righteousness of it. The words of these Hungarian Bolsheviks in the camps were received with great favor: "The soldiers who had not heard speeches in their mother tongue for years drank up every word of the agitators as the hot sand of the deserts of Turkestan [soaks up] the first drop of rain after the dry season. The soldiers were tired, they had suffered terribly from the unimaginable miseries of the front and camp life. They had been tormented by Russians, infections, famine and the neglectful attitude of their own government. For years they had seen their best comrades fall dead on their side; they had heard their last words crying for a child or a mother, and they knew that it was only a matter of time before they too would rot on the cots of the camp. Then the agitators came talking about the end of the war and about punishment for those who caused all the miseries; they spoke of a new world order where the old crimes would stop; and what is more important, [they promised] freedom from the damned camp surrounded by fences. [They said] shoes and underwear would be available. They would give them to you and if they did not, you could just take them. [They said] these [items] would be put in your hands, and once we were out of the camp and had enough to eat, we could go home. [They said] we can break through even the sufferings of Christ, so join us brother. And the tormented souls joined, and they received guns."8 A quotation from one of the anti-Communist works written during the Horthy era further delineates the causes fort the massive rallying of Hungarians to the Bolshevik cause: "For those who were starving it was an important thing that in a country where all were starving, they [would be] the first to receive some food; where they, who only wore rags in a country where everyone wore rags, would receive good clothes; that they, upon whom all had trampled, would now be given the fantastic power over life and death. These were the factors that made them obedient servants of their commanders . . ."* and supporters of the Bolsheviks.8 1. Bla Fabin, "Az orosz minta" (The Russian pattern), in Gusztv Gratz, A bolsevizmus Magyarorszdgon (Bolshevism in Hungary) (Budapest: Franklin, 1921): 68. 2. E. Brandstrom, op. cit.: 103-104. 3. . Fabin, art. cit.: 68-69. 4. Ibid.: 69. 5. "Vengerskie internatsionalisty," art. cit.: 27.



The Hungarian Socialists became increasingly active after the Febru ary Revolution and they began to identify themselves increasingly with the Bolshevik faction.1 It appeared to the Hungarians that only a Bol shevik success could bring an end to the war and a possibility for them to return home. It was only from a Bolshevik government that they could have hoped for a change in their material situation. It was not until after the October Revolution, however, that a con centrated effort was made to unite the separate hundreds of thousands of prisoners into groups that were to be a great asset to Bolshevik power. IV. Hungarian prisoners of war and the October Revolution The most important contributions of the Hungarian prisoners of war to the Bolshevik cause took place between October 1917 and Novemb er although even during the October Revolution, many Hungarians 1918, fought with the Bolsheviks and achieved considerable notoriety for bravery. In Petrograd, for example, there were apparently so many Hungarians participating in the October Revolution on the Bolshevik side, that even provincial Hungarian newspapers could not fail to report the news.2 While the Bolshevik take-over in Petrograd was relatively easy, in Moscow it succeeded only after fierce fighting. The most serious fighting in Moscow took place on November 13 and 14 around the Kremlin and at the Nikita gate. In both cases Hungarian "internationalists" took part in the struggle: "... 200 armed revolutionaries, including 22 Hungarians, went to the Nikita Street, across Theater Square which was packed with artillery pieces. At the end of the street terrible fighting took place [. . .] The 22 Hungarians were in the fire [. . .] Some Hungarian revolutionaries fell. Ferencz Jancsik was wounded in the right leg. Lying on top of corpses and wounded [soldiers] he continued to shoot until he lost consciousness."8 At the Guzhon factory, an additional contingent of several hundred Hungarian prisoners of war worked with the Bolsheviks. They fought in the battle for the Kremlin and at the Alekseev cadet school.* The 1. After the February Revolution Kun's writings also began to take a more militant and pro-Bolshevik tone. Novaia zhizn' (Tomsk) (Apr. 22, 1917); Znamia revoliutsii (The name of the Bolshevik paper in Tomsk after the 191 7 break with the Mensheviks) (Oct. 28, 1917); Sibirskii rabochii (Tomsk) (Dec. 1, 1917; Jan. 2-3, 1918) and in the Znamia revoliutsii (Apr. 14, 1918) quoted in "Kun Bla irsai," art. cit.: 110-130. 2. "Hadifoglyaink is rsztvettek a bolsevikok forradalmban" (Our prisoners of war also participated in the revolution of the Bolsheviks), Kolozsvri Hirlap (Jan. 2, 1918): 1. 3. M. Balogh, op. cit.: 102. 4. J. Gyrkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 24-25.



Hungarians played also an important role in the Bolshevik victories on the Mongolian border;1 in Central Russia;2 in Krasnoiarsk8 and Uzbekistan;4 in Serpukhovo, Ivanovo- Voznesensk, Khabarovsk, Kiev, Poltava, Ekaterinoslav, Irkutsk, Kostroma, Tver', and Tomsk;6 in Turkestan and Tashkent; in Iaroslavl' and Liubim; in Astrakhan; in Orenburg; as well as in Saratov and in Kazan'.* As a result of the Bolshevik seizure of power, a new phase started for the Hungarian prisoners of war. This phase was initiated by the new policy toward them. The policy called for: (1) continued separation of officers from the enlisted men and discrimination against the officers; (2) printing of pro-Bolshevik newspapers in the native languages of the prisoners; and (3) reprisals by privation of those who opposed the Bol shevik cause. The first provision of the policy was not too difficult to implement because of the already existing bitter antagonism between the officers and the soldiers. To play on this antagonism, the new government placed the officers into "collecting camps" even though they were tech nically freed from captivity.7 The prisoners in these " collecting camps" received so little food that many of them died. Although Zilahy con cedes that Trotsky personally ordered that the officers were not to be discriminated against,8 it cannot be denied that the tables were turned.9 The officers lost most of their former privileges and their orderlies. They had to rely on their own strength in bringing water, firewood and other necessities to the camps. Also, the officers' camps were often placed under the supervision of their former soldiers.10 The Bolshevik propaganda aimed at the soldiers themselves attempted to bring as many as possible into the Bolshevik camp and to enlist them 1. Mrton Juhsz, "Harcolni mindemitt a forradalomrt" (To fight everywhere for the Revolution), Npszabadsg (Oct. 15, 1957): 5. 2. Miklos Gerencsr, "Lenin kzfogsa" (Lenin's handshake), ibid. (Oct. 31, 1957): 4-53. M. Fortusz, art. cit.: 232. 4. L. Fazilhodzsajev, "Hogyan vettk ki rsziiket a magyar internacionalistk a Nagy Oktoberi Forradalombol Uzbekisztnban" (How did the Hungarian Inter nationalists participate in the great October socialist Revolution in Uzbekistan?), Borsodi Szemle, 5(1961): 556. 5. Andrs Zsilk, "Az OK(b)P magyar csoportjnak szerepe a Vrs Hadsereg internacionalista egysgeinek szrvezsben/1918-1919" (The role of the Hungarian group of the RC(b)P in the organization of the Red Army's international units), Trtnelmi Szemle, 3 (1961): 347. 6. J. Gyrkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 24; "Vengerskie internatsionalisty, " art. cit.: 157-162; Gyrgy Milei, "A magyar hadifoglyok a Nagy Oktoberi Szocialista Forradalomban" (The Hungarian prisoners of war in the great October socialist Revolut ion), let s Tudomny (Nov. 10, 1957): 1411-1415 and Antal Jozsa and Gyrgy Milei, A rendithetetlen szdzezer (The determined 100,000) (Budapest: Kossuth, 1968): 33-168. 7. L. Zilahy, op. cit.: 51. 8. Ibid.: 336. 9. B. Fabin, art. cit.: 133. 10. J. Gyrkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 25 and KarlThomann, "A hadifoglyok szerepe az oroszorszgi forradalomban" (The role of the prisoners of war in the Russian revolution), Sarlo s Kalapdcs, 4 (1931): 43.



in the Red Army or in international units which later were to be known as "Red Internationalists." Even where there were no Bolshevik orga nizations, the new camp commanders did everything in their power to win peacefully if possible the allegiance of the prisoners of war. In Simbirsk, for example, after the October Revolution, the "... new commander of the prisoners of war camp declared that all prisoners except officers could leave the camp freely, could establish themselves in the city and could work there under the same conditions as the Russian workers. He ordered the compilation of a list, by barracks, of the needs of the prisoners of war for clothes and shoes and the next day [they] got them."1 The publication of pro-Bolshevik leaflets and journals in the native languages of the prisoners was the primary means of spreading propa ganda. Very soon after the October rising the Hungarian Social Democ ratswho joined the Bolshevik groups began to receive published pro paganda materials in Hungarian.2 Besides the Hungarian newspapers in Petrograd and in Moscow at the end of 1917, the Forradalom (Revolut ion) Omsk, the breds (Awakening) in Samara, the Vilgszabadsg of (World Freedom) in Penza, the Forradalmr (Revolutionary) and the Vilgforradalom (World Revolution) in Perm', and various other papers in Krasnoiarsk, Tsaritsyn, Tashkent and Ekaterinburg were published under the auspices of local Bolshevik organs.3 Although, theoretically, these newspapers were merely socialistic, they clearly supported the Bolshevik aims.4 The impact of the propaganda materials and their effect on the pris oners can be judged easily from the fact that these papers usually contained the first printed words that the Hungarian prisoners had seen in their own tongue since they were captured. It was "under the influence of these papers and additional propaganda that many joined the Red Army and the internationalist units."5 Several Horthy-era historians charged that where the Bolsheviks were unable to reach the soldiers and to convert them peacefully to their side "there came the merciless weapon: starvation."6 We have no definite evidence that starving the prisoners for political purposes was a common practice.7 Yet, given the general atmosphere and the desire of the Bolsheviks to win at any cost, it is possible that violence of every kind, 1. Dezs Farag, "Beszlgets Leninnel" (Discussion with Lenin), Magyar Nemzet (Apr. 22, 1956): 5. 2. Lszlo Vass, "Szamuely futrja" (Szamuely's messenger), Npszabadsg (Oct. 19, 1957): 4. 3. Andrs Sikls, A z iQi8-igi vi magyarorszgi forradalmak (The rvolutions in Hungary in I18-191) (Budapest: Tanknyvkiado, 1964): 59-60. 4. M. Balogh, op. cit.: 133. 5. Sndor Gbor Pogny, "Magyar vrskatonak Oroszorszgban" (Hungarian Red Army soldiers in Russia), Hadtrtnelmi Kzlemnyek, 20-22 (1919-1921): 137. 6. . Fabin, art. cit.: 69. 7. Lukcs vehemently insisted, however, that Fabin "is completely wrong in stating that the Hungarian prisoners were forced to join the revolutionary army." (J. Lukcs, op. cit.: 13.)



including starvation, has actually been utilized. However, given the psychological, social and economical forces which had operated on the Hungarian prisoners of war, the pressure of starvation as a general policy must be ruled out. What is probable is that the Bolsheviks fought actively against former army officers and against those who joined the Whites. Bolsheviks must have shown little mercy to these people. Dwinger's statement probably reflects the existing sentiment of the Bolsheviks: "Whoever supports the White Corps will be shot [. . .] Whoever among the prisoners of wax enters our ranks at once will become a free Russian citizen and will be given pay and arms."1 This policy of the carrot and the stick, as well as the barrage of pro paganda and its repetition ad nauseum were successful. In the end, 80,000 to 100,000 Hungarians fought for the Bolsheviks.2 V. The formation of active pro-Bolshevik organizations AMONG THE PRISONERS OF WAR First phase: Disorganized local groups Toward the end of 1917, various revolutionary groups spread through out prison camps even in territories where Bolshevik power was not the yet established.3 In the beginning, these groups operated independently of one another and, in fact, carried on widely different activities that were not too effective. Before the October Revolution, the only ideological premise upon which all of them would have been able to agree was calling an end to the war. The first sign that any plans were made to unify the activities of all of these groups was the publication in Pravda of an appeal in the name of the Social Democratic Organization of the Prisoners of War in Russia, asking for an immediate, general and democratic peace.4 It is highly unlikely, however, that any such organization existed except in the dreams of the Bolshevik leaders. It was rather slowly that the core of the future leaders of the prisoners of war movement began to concentrate in Petrograd and Moscow. The Hungarians started organizing earlier than other groups. The 1. E. E. Dwinger, op. cit.: 261. 2. G. Jozsa, op. cit.: no; A. Jozsa, G. Milei, op. cit.: 4 and Jozsef Babai, "100,000 magyar hadifogoly harca a szovjethatalomrt" (The fight of 100,000 Hung arian prisoners of war for Soviet power), Magyar Nemzet (Febr. 2, 1957): 8. 3. The most active organizations were located in Tomsk, Omsk, Chita, Krasnoiarsk, Nikolaevsk, Irkutsk, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Saratov, Orenburg, Voro nezh, Barnaul, Tambov, Ufa, Tiumen', Iaroslavl', Ekaterinburg, Perm', Tashkent, Tobol'sk, Samarkand, Tver', Petrograd and Moscow. Jozsef Rabinovits, "A forradalmi hadifogoly prtszervezetek mukdsrl" (Concerning the activities of the Party organizations of revolutionary prisoners of war), Sarlo s Kalapcs, 7(1931): 34-394. "Proklamatsii" (Proclamations), Pravda (Jan. 4, 1918): 3.



first gathering took place in Moscow on December 5, 1917. It was held in Room 353 of the Hotel Drezden on Skobolev Square.1 The meeting was organized by the former ironsmith, Ferencz Jancsik, who was wounded while fighting on the side of the Bolsheviks in Moscow. He was elected president of the organization committee of a larger meeting planned for December 25. At the latter meeting the delegates adopted the name, Prisoners of War Committee for Moscow, and entrusted Jancsik with the unenviable job of establishing local committees in and around Moscow.* According to available information, he did his task admirably well, for the tiny organization that started out on December 5 with 200 memb ershad grown by the end of December to 20,000 members from Moscow and its environs.3 From the time of the December 25 meeting, these 20,000 prisoners of war were controlled, supported and co-ordinated by 256 committees.4 While in and around Moscow the development of the committees started operating in early December, the situation was different in Petrograd. Petrograd was in turmoil throughout the first few months of Bolshevik rule. Although there were several thousand German and Hungarian prisoners of war in Petrograd, no organizational core was developed there to rally them to the Bolshevik side. The only attempts to organize the prisoners of war in Petrograd were through various largescale meetings which were usually held in the Cirque Modern. The single really important large-scale meeting, for the former captives in Petrograd, was held on December 29. This gathering was attended by more than 5,000 Hungarian, German, Czech, Rumanian, Polish and Yugoslav prisoners of war, the organizers appealed to the prisoners to join the Bolshevik movement.6 In addition to the committee in Moscow and the various groups in Petrograd, local committees were also established elsewhere in Russia. These groups were known under various names. There existed an Inter national Committee of Prisoners of War in Iaroslavl', a Socialist Comm ittee of Prisoners of War in Tver', and a Soviet of Prisoners of War Workers in Saratov and in Serpukhov.6 In Omsk, where more than 20,000 Hungarian prisoners of war lived, was founded a Revolutionary Union of Foreign Internationalist Socialist Workers and Peasants and along with it an International Social Democratic Party of Hungarian Prisoners of War.7 In Irkutsk during the very first days of January a Social Democratic Organization of Foreign Workers came into existence.8 1. "Vengerskie internatsionalisty, " art. cit.: 33. 2. J. Gyrkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 25. 3. "Vengerskie internatsionalisty," art. cit.: 33. 4. J. Rabinovits, art. cit.: 36. 5. G. Milei, "A magyar hadifoglyok," art. cit.: 340; J. Gyrkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 26 and "Vengerskie internatsionalisty," art. cit.: 34. 6. G. Milei, "A magyar hadifoglyok," art. cit.: 346. 7. MMTVD, V: 103. 8. E. Wimmer, "Az irkutszhd hadifogolymozgalom 1918-ban" (The prisoners of war movement in Irkutsk in 1918), Sarlo s Kalapcs, 2 (1931): 38-39.



The wide variety of the names of these groups reveals not only the disjointed nature of the movement, but also the lack of definite plans on the part of the Bolshevik government in the utilization of the former captives. The Bolshevik leaders were looking for means to translate the sympathies of the prisoners of war into action but were slow in developing the organizational tools necessary for exploiting these sympathies. It must have seemed obvious to the Bolshevik leaders that centralization was needed; the difficulty lay in the fact that they were unable to achieve it during the first months of their rule. On January 18, 1918, at a meeting of the Central Executive Comm ittee of the Bolshevik Party, the Ail-Russian Prisoners of War Comm ittee was established at the suggestion of Iakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov. Ivan Ul'ianov was appointed to head the group.1 In order to attain the maximum quantity of the former war prisoners, special newspapers in foreign languages were published during the last months of 1917. Toward the end of December the first Bolshevik news paper in Hungarian, the Nemzetkzi Szocialista (International Socialist)* was printed in Petrograd. This journal appeared shortly after others newspapers and leaflets already being published in German, Czech, Serbian and other languages.8 The Nemzetkzi Szocialista, like its sister journals, was supported and directed by the Department of International Propaganda of the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs.4 There is no identi fication of the paper's first editor but Bla Kun took over that task on January 15, 1918, and until the last publication on February 19, 1918, he edited it and wrote many of its articles.6 On January 22, the Department of International Propaganda of the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs appointed Bla Kun to the post of chief organizer of the Hungarian pris oners of ware. When on February 10, 1918, the Germans began their attack against Soviet Russia, Kun called for mass meetings in which he attempted to rally the war prisoners to the side of the Bolsheviks. Also, under the direction of such accomplished leaders as Frigyes Kariks, the organiza1. Ivan Ul'ianov, "Oktiabr'skaia revoliutsiia i voennoplennye" (The October Revolution and the prisoners of war), Proletarskaia Revoliutsiia, 9(1929) : 100-101 and Gyrgy Milei, "A szovjetoroszorszgi magyar kommunista hadifogolymozgalom eszmei arculatnak nhny krdse (1918)" (Some questions concerning the ideolo gicaltraits of the Hungarian Communist prisoners of war movement in Soviet Russia in 1918), Pdrttrtneti Kzlemnyek, 3 (1956): 35-69. 2. "Negyven ves az els magyar kommunista ujsg" (The first Hungarian Communist newspaper is forty years old), Npszabadsg (Jan. 1, 1958): 4 and G. Jozsa, op. cit.: 141. 3. Vosmoi s"ezd RKP (b) (Eighth Congress of the RCP (b) ) (Moscow, 1933): 434. 4. Kun arrived in Petrograd shortly after the first issue of the paper was printed, between January 1 and 15, 1918. Boeyoe sodruzhestvo trudiashchikhsia zarubezhnykh stran s narodami sovetskoi Rossii, iij-i22 (The solidarity battle of the workers offoreign lands with the people of Soviet Russia, iij-1922) (Moscow, 1957): *575. Kun Bla, op. cit.: 539 and Tibor Szamuely, Riad (Alarm!) (Budapest: Kossuth, 1957): 17. 6. G. Milei, "A magyar hadifoglyok," art. cit.: 344.



tion distributed leaflets on the German front calling on the soldiers of the Central Powers not to fight against "their Russian brethren."1 When the German advance continued, Kun himself led a small group of Hungari an prisoners of war to the front at Narva where they distinguished themselves in action.2 The pro-Bolshevik prisoners of war movement had also an important internal function. Aside from the actual armed help given to the regime, their meetings served to reassure the Soviet leaders, the Bolshevik Party side" and that their the would people that the "world these crucial members and many ofcauseRussian be victorious. During was on their years of Soviet isolation from the mainstream of international affairs, when articles from foreign Communist papers were cited as evidence of the strides the cause of Bolshevism was making, a certain amount of security and comfort must have been drawn from the meetings of the dispossessed prisoners of war supporting the Bolshevik cause. The signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on March 3, 1918, began yet another era in the organization of the prisoners of war. With the peace between the Russians and the Central Powers, the activities of the pro-Bolshevik committees of the war prisoners greatly increased. Second phase: Development of national Bolshevik factions The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk had several important effects on the prisoners of war movement. Theoretically, it ended of course the captiv ity the prisoners of war, and also theoretically, it limited the activities of of the Soviet government in regard to propaganda among the prisoners and their enlistment into the army. As Kennan observed, this provision was "perhaps the cruellest cut of all to the communist mind," but it was obvious that the "Soviet government entered upon the agreement with a total absence of good faith. "8 In concession to the terms of the Treaty, a few organizations were disbanded and a few newspapers, among them the Nemzetkzi Szocialista, were suppressed, but other newspapers immed iately appeared.4 As a result of the closing of the Nemzetkzi Szocialista and the transfer of the capital, Kun and the other Petrograd leaders of the Hungarian movement came to Moscow. Among the Bolshevik leaders there was a general agreement on the question of developing national Communist movements which would pro1. For reproductions of these and other anti-war leaflets see "Materiali Muzeia revoliutsii SSSR" (Materials of the Revolutionary Museum of the USSR), Novaia i noveishaia istoriia, 4 (1957): 224. 2. Bla, op. cit.: 540; G. Milei, "A magyar hadifolglyok. . . forradalomban," art. cit.: 1412; A. Jozsa, art. cit.: 105-144; T. Szamuely, op. cit.: 18; A. Jozsa, G. Milei, op. cit.: 62-63 and A. L. Freimann, Revoliutsionnaia zashchita Petrograda v fevrale-marte 1918 g. (The revolutionary defence in Petrograd in February-March, 1918) (Moscow-Leningrad, 1964): 224-226. 3. George F. Kennan, Russia leaves the war (Princeton: Princeton University Press, I958): 37* 4. J. Gyorkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 27.



vide the Russian Bolsheviks with support when the world revolution would begin. That this revolution was to occur inevitably in the immed iate future was a foregone conclusion.1 Creating a disciplined staff to take part in it, however, was of paramount importance. For this reason, Lenin attached great importance to the training of the foreign cadres, and in spite of his busy schedule, he often took time to attend various prisoners of war gatherings and seminars.2 After the signing of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, the prisoners of war movement began operating on a new program. Article after article appeared, exhorting the prisoners of war to join the Bolsheviks. On March 10, an article in the Forradalom of Omsk called the Hungarians to arms for "land, bread, peace, freedom."8 Bla Kun, writing in Pravda on March 14, assessed the change in an impressive and well-timed article, the best on the subject, pointing out the new direction that the movement had to take.4 The movement began to get some direction between March 10 and 14 when it was decided that Ivan Ul'ianov, the Commissar for Prisoners of War Affairs, should call an All-Russian Prisoners of War Congress in the near future.6 On March 14, a Conference of Internationalist and Left Social Democratic Prisoners of War was held in Moscow to organize the All-Russian Congress. At the meeting centralized committees for Agita tion and Propaganda, Education and Information Affairs were formed, and a separate group was created for the purpose of directing the organi zation of the Ail-Russian Congress.* The importance of this meeting can be inferred from the fact that Lenin chose to attend it.7 The conference recommended the creation of foreign groups within the Russian Communist Party. The primary aim of these groups was to enlist support in defence of Soviet Russia, but the Party also hoped that the foreign groups would become the core of future international revolutionary organizations. On March 15, the very day after the conference ended, the Rumanian group was the first to establish an independent Communist Section.8 Although it is not known how many members participated in the section, the fact that it could be established within 24 hours indicates that there were very few participants. The Hungarian group was established on March 24.* At its inception the Hungarian group of the Russian Com1. V. I. Lenin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii (Complete collection of works) (Moscow: Gos. Izd. Pol. Lit., 1963), XXXVIII: 192, 213, 235 and passim. 2. L. Vass, art. cit.: 4. 3. MMTVD, V: 103. 4. Bla Kun, "Noyye puty agitatsii sredi voennoplennykh" (New ways of agitation among the prisoners of war), Pravda (Mar. 14, 1918): 3. 5. I. Ul'ianov, art. cit.: 101. 6. Ibid. 7. J. Gyrkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 27. 8. Vos'moi s"ezd. . ., op. cit.: 439. 9. Rudolf Tks and several Hungarian Communist historians claim that the Hungarian group was established first. See his excellent Bla and the Hun-



munist Party had merely four participants : Bla Kun, Tibor Szamuely, Ern Pr and Endre Rudnynszky. Kun filled the post of presidency, Szamuely took charge of military organization, Pr acted as secretarytreasurer, and Rudnynszky was responsible for the publication of a new journal that was to replace the Nemzetkzi Szocialista.1 The organization of these groups seemed to have screened the realities of a deep split within the war prisoners movement. One of the view points prevalent among the prisoners favored an organization that would promote their welfare and facilitate their return to their homeland. Kun admits: "The desire for peace was great among the prisoners of war, but the illusions of peace were even greater. 'Home, home, we need no more weapons' was the mood among a very large segment of the masses. . ."2 These people generally supported the Social Democratic parties in their homeland and were against a split with them. The Bolsheviks, however, envisioned the prisoners' of war movement to be "a school for communism and the source of international Red Armies," that would prepare "the cadres of the independent communist parties which were to be founded in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy."8 But the Hungarian Bolsheviks were not in the most favorable position to successfully rally the prisoners of war to the Bolshevik side. It was natural for most of the prisoners of war to support the Bolshevik Party as long as it preached peace and advocated the possibility of returning home, but it was quite a different thing to enter into another war for them. The Bolsheviks, however, received help from unexpected quarters. Many of the prisoners of war who returned to their homeland found that they were shipped out to another front, while others were interned in camps as Bolshevik suspects. The fear of Bolshevism on the part of the Central Powers undoubtedly helped also the Bolshevik cause. This fear manifested itself in "sabotaging the return of the prisoners, and even chasing individual escapees back into Russia from the still existing barbed wires in front of the trenches."4 garian Soviet Republic (Stanford: Hoover Institution, 1967): 68; Jeno Gyorkei (d.), Vengerskie internatsionalisty v velikoi oktiabr'skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii (The Hungarian internationalists in the great October socialist Revolution) (Moscow: Voenno Izd., 1959): 107-109; M. F. Lebov, Vengerskaia sovetskaia respublika iiq goda (The Hungarian Soviet Republic of iqiq) (Moscow: Izd. Kom. Lit., 1959): 35; Gyrgy Szamuely, "A kommunistk magyarorszgi prtjnak elkszitse" (The preparation of the Communist Party of Hungary), Sarlo s Kalapcs, 4 (1932): 49-53; A. A. Struchkov, "Internatsional'nye gruppy RKP (b) v voinskie formirovaniia v sovetskoi Rossii / 19 18- 1920 gg." (The Internationalist groups of the RCP (b) in the formation of Soviet Russia, 1918-1920), Istoricheskii Arkhiv, 4 (1957): 3-36 and V. I. Lenin, op. cit., XXIV: 753-759. 1. Kun Bla, op. cit.: 541. 2. Ibid. 3. A. Zsilk, art. cit.: 350. 4. Bla, op. cit.: 541 and Vernon Kellogg, "Poland on the verge of bolshevism," Atlantic Monthly (July, 1919): 128.



The Bolshevik Party regarded the national groups as integral parts of the Communist movement and the national groups, in turn, advocated the same goals as the Bolshevik Party. The day following the establis hmentthe Hungarian group of the Russian Communist Party, Bla Kun of and Ern Pr addressed a letter to the Central Committee of the RCP, stating that the Communists' Hungarian group "accepts the viewpoint of the RCP(b) (both) practically and theoretically."1 The group's first undertaking was to publish a newspaper entitled Szocilis Forradalom (Social Revolution) , which made its appearance on April . Fifteen to twenty thousand copies were published twice a week until November 20, 1918, when the circulation was cut back to once a week.8 In the beginning the newspaper was mainly written and edited by Kun and Szamuely. The Hungarian group grew in membership from a very modest beginning until it had suborganizations in Astrakhan, Kursk, Orel, Perm', Samara, Saratov, Samarkand, Tambov, Voronezh, Riazan', Ser pukhov, Tsaritsyn, Tver', Kazan', Nizhnii-Novgorod and among the Red Army units.4 From March 24 to the end of December the Hungarian group, however, could only claim ninety members.6 This is a very unimpressive figure even if it is noted that there were probably an addi tional 150 to 170 Hungarian Communists who did not belong to any local organization. Considering that the number of Hungarians in Russia was above 500,000 it is apparent that the success of these organizations was limited. In retrospect it seems that it was easier to get the Hungari ansjoin the Red Guards, where some 80,000 to 100,000 men fought to for Soviet Russia, than to get them to join the Bolshevik Party or its Hungarian group. During the latter part of March and the early part of April, the various foreign groups concentrated their efforts on organizing the All-Russian Prisoners of War Congress which was held in Moscow between April 13 and 17. The Congress, however, began to shape up as a fight between the Bolshevik and non-Bolshevik factions.* The Bolshevik faction had on its side one all-important factor: support of the government of the Soviet Russia. On the evening of April 13, 250 delegates, who had arrived one day before the ofiicial opening, found that the leaders of the Bolshevik groups within the movement already had agreed on an agenda that opposed the Social Democrats and was 1. Dezs Nemes, "A Nagy Oktoberi Szocialista Forradalom es a magyar forradalmi erk harca az imperialista hboru s a Monarcbia ellen" (The great October socialist Revolution and the fight of the Hungarian revolutionary forces against the imperialist war and against the monarchy), Szdzadok, 1-4 (1957): 85 and M. F. Lebov, op. cit.: 35. 2. J. Gyrkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 28 and G. Milei, "A magyar hadifoglyok. . . forradalomban, " art. cit.: 14 13. 3. Vos'moi s"ezd. . ., op. cit.: 437. 4. Ibid.: 437-438. 5. Ibid. 6. Kun Bla, op. cit.: 540.



aimed at the adoption of a Bolshevik program at the Congress.1 The visiting delegates were housed in the Pokrovskii (later Dzerzhinskii) Caserne, where Jancsik's International battalion was stationed.2 One wonders if the quarters of the delegates were purposely placed in an area of highly concentrated government strength for purposes of added "persuasion." The morning of April 14 was spent with the individual national groups holding their own meetings and jockeying for various elective posts. The previous day's announcement in the newspapers and the posters on the wall promised an interesting meeting. Izvestiia proclaimed that: "A great meeting of the prisoners of war is announced for Sunday, 14 April, 1918, at 1 p.m. in the Political [or Politechnical ?] Museum of Liubianskii Avenue. Speakers: Ivan Ul'ianov in Russian, Bukharin in German, Bronskii in Polish, Kun in Hungarian, Irma Geliarikh in German, Bene in Czech, Gennarii in Rumanian. The entrance for prisoners of war and Russian soldiers is free, for workers 1 ruble, strangers (postoronnikh) 3 rubles. "8 At the opening of the Congress it was decided that the official lan guages were to be Russian, German and Hungarian. That Hungarian was accepted as an official language reflects the fact that "a large percent age the delegates and of the audience was Hungarian."4 There are of indications that Hungarians outnumbered the second largest group the German speaking contingent almost by two to one. Garasin stated that more than 70 percent of the delegates were Hungarian, but his figure is slightly too high to be acceptable.6 At the opening session of the Congress there were between 300 and 400 delegates, but only 201 had proper credentials as representatives of the 520,426 "organized prisoners of war."6 The Congress must have been one of those revolutionary mass events which seem to intoxicate the participants. One of the delegates wrote: "It was barely 1 o'clock when the delegates to the Congress marched into the meeting, but the large hall was already so packed that even in another large hall there was enough of an audience for a second meeting and many were stranded in the hallways and on the street. It is without doubt that the audience was interested in the agenda. The Congress was advertised by posters everywhere and since there 1. G. Milei, "A magyar hadifoglyok, " art. cit.: 368 and J. Gyrkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 28. 2. Rudolf Garasin, "Magyarokaforradalomban" (Hungarians in the revolution), Magyarorszdg (Nov. 6, 1957): 6. 3. Izvestiia (Apr. 13, 1918): 1. 4. Istoricheskii Arkhiv, 4 (1957): 29-31. 5. J. Gyrkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 186. 6. The actual number of delegates is open to question. Estimates range from 300 to 2,000 people. For a detailed discussion see Ivan Vlgyes, Communism comes to Hungary (Unpublished Ph. D. Dissertation, The American University, Washington, D. C., 1968): 133-134 and "Proletrfoglyok orszgos kongresszusa" (National Congress of prolet prisoners), Forradalom (Omsk) (May 21, 1918): 1.



were Russian, German, Hungarian, Czech, Polish and Rumanian speakers, the number of Russians in the audience was fairly large. The meeting began exactly at 2 p.m. The orchestra of the Latvian Division played the International, which was listened to by a standing audience. Then the president of the Moscow Committee made a short greeting speech in Russian and gave up the rostrum to Comrade Ivan Ul'ianov who had brought the message of the revolutionary soldiers and Cossacks."1 Ivan Ul'ianov's speech set the tone for the Congress. He said, "The Western proletariat must utilize the experiences of the Russian revolution and break down imperialist [order. . .] they must become true socialists. . ."a Next, Kun rose to address the group. observing that: He began his speech by

"We have lost everything during the four years of the war [. . .] Your women have withered away, your children and your aged parents have been brought to the grave by famine. Now after four miserable years of suffering on the front and in the camps you are returning home to continue fighting on the French, Italian or Balkan fronts [. . .] Go home, but turn the gun that is thrust in your hands against your true enemy. Inflame the country you are returning to, but inflame it not with hatred, but with true fire. Put an end to the state of the capitalists, priests and robber barons. Returning prisoners of war: 'Revolt.'"8 The crowd became receptive to his speech and he began to intoxicate them with the feeling of their own power. "You have seen the Russian Revolution and it showed all of you that the power to save the proletariat is in your own hands. Let not yourselves be frightened by the chief magistrates, by police directors, gendarmes or cops. . ."4 The crowd responded in Hungarian: "Down with them all!" had another message for them: But Kun

"At home they are going to tell you that the homeland is in danger and will send you away to the French or Italian fronts or somewhere into the mountains of the Balkans. But why should you fight? For the homeland? The proletariat has no homeland. That is only the fatherland of the bourgeoisie, and they will send you to defend that fatherland. Turn your weapons against your officers . . . against your generals, against the palaces. Everyone of you be the master teacher of revolution in your divisions. Tell your brethren what has happened here, tell them that only the revolution can save us all from destruction."6 The long applause that followed may have been the work of pre arranged clappers, but the violent speech exhorting the soldiers to revolu tion was falling on receptive ears. A resolution was adopted by the Congress on that date. It was recommended for adoption by the Committee of the Moscow Internation1. 2. 1918): 3. 4. 5. Ibid, and R. Garasin, art. cit.: 6. "S"ezd voennoplennykh" (The Congress of prisoners of war), Pravda (Apr. 16, 1. "Proletarfoglyok. . .," art. cit.: 1. "S"ezd voennoplennykh," art. cit.: 1. Ibid.


alist Military District and thus reflected the opinion of the Bolshevik Party. There was no doubt that unless the Congress accepted the resolu tion their fate would be similar to that of the Constituent Assembly support or dispersal. The resolution read: "The All-Russian mass meeting of the prisoners of war, held in Moscow on April 14, expresses its solidarity with the Russian worker-peasant government, and expresses its deepest displeasure with the reactionary, imperialist bandits, who have forced unbearably harsh peace conditions on free Russia, and who are still continu ing gangster attacks against Russian territories. We state our firm deter their mination that at home were are going to begin a revolutionary battle in Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria in the form of an armed uprising, and we "will not rest until we destroy capitalism and militarism and on their ruin we will build the free soviet republics."1 The decision taken by the Congress was therefore that the participat ing prisoners of war were to assist the Bolsheviks in their fight against the Allies and the Whites. This was a clear victory for the Bolshevik Party, for all it wanted was an unequivocal guarantee of support for the newly created Red Army and the development of Communist cadres among the prisoners of war who could direct the agitation and propaganda work. The acceptance of the vaguely worded resolution also indicates the recog nition that the prisoners' of war movement would best serve the interests of the Bolshevik cause if it did not appear to be a strictly Communist organization. In short, the groups were to be the forerunners of the front-organizations utilized later on so often as a tool by the Soviet foreign policy. The second day again was spent in deliberations among the national groups, and each group elected two presidents, two secretaries and two interpreters. The Congress was assembled once more in the former House of the Association of Aristocrats on Tuesday morning, April 16. One significant decision of the Congress was the founding of the Foreign Internationalist Socialist Workers' and Peasants' International Association (hereafter called the Association) and until September, 1918, this Association was primarily responsible for the coordination of the agitation and education work among the prisoners of war. It also served as a rallying point for the organizational work of the Red International units. A 21-member Central Committee was elected to be responsible for the activity of the Association, but it was clear that this organ was not quite what the Party wanted. On April 17, 1918, a resolution was passed by the Congress concerning the question of agitation: "After the peace of Brest large numbers of prisoners of war were returning home. Among them revolutionary propaganda activity had to be initiated [so that] even in [their] home they should be soldiers of the cause of peace and social ism. The Congress addressed a proclamation to 'Those who are returning home' 1. Ibid.



which was circulated in the camps and among those who were going home. Among other [provisions] it called upon the former prisoners of war to revolt, to take the state power in their own hands, to create the dictatorship of the proletariat and to end the exploitation and oppression of the workers."1 But the most important decision taken by the Congress related to the formation of international units which were to support the fighting Red Army. These units were to enlist the prisoners of war who wished to fight. They were to be independent units operating in a parallel way with other units of the Red Guard and the Red Army. To supervise the creation and operation of these international or rather multi-national brigades, a separate committee was formed under the Central Executive Committee of the Congress. The task of these units, as envisioned by the members of this Military Committee was twofold: the armed support of Soviet Russia on the fronts; and aid in the form of armed, trained units, to the revolutionary forces in the prisoners' respective homelands.2 The move to enlist the prisoners of war in these internationalist units, however, still lacked coordination. The distance which divided the groups and the confused territorial situation of the Civil War are partly to be blamed for the disorganized situation. In addition, there seems to have been strong opposition to fighting among a certain segment of the prisoners of war whose only desire was to go home. It was one thing to decide that there will be international units, but quite another to get the soldiers to join them. For lack of a central administration, trained leaders and resources, the plans of the Association bogged down in paper work. The Russian Bolsheviks, however, were in a near desperate situa tion. What they needed was not a well-phrased declaration, but immed iate action. The increasing need for enlistment in the army caused Lenin to recommend that the work of the national groups be directed by a Federat ion the Foreign Groups of the Russian Communist party (hereafter of called the Federation). This Federation was established on or about May 9, 1918.8 Its purpose was threefold: (1) to convert the prisoners of war to the ideals of Bolshevism; (2) to enlist their aid in spreading the revolutionary ideas to their homeland; and (3) to enlist those prisoners of war who stayed in Russia into the fighting units of the Red Army. From its inception this group became the center for every activity that had to do with foreign propaganda and the organized propagation of the Bolshevik ideas. In this respect the Federation was the forerunner of the Communist International. By September 1918, the Federation replaced the Association which had ceased to exist. There probably were eight subgroups within the Federation. These included Hungarian, English, Italian, German, Rumanian, French, Cze choslovak and Yugoslav contingents. It is clear that the Hungarians 1. J. Gyrkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 29. 2. A. Zsilak, art. cit.: 350. 3. Vos'tnoi s"ezd. . ., op. cit.: 435.



comprised the largest portion of the membership.1 The great number of the Hungarians was probably the prime reason for the election of Bla Kun as president of the Federation. The importance of this group was not lost on Lenin who reported on the work of the foreign groups to the Eighth Congress of the RCP(b): "I must call your attention to the work of the foreign groups. I know this area of work since I had an opportunity to briefly look at these foreign groups. In the beginning their number was 7 [sic]; now it is 9 [. . .] We must say that here is the true foundation of that work which we have accomplished for the Third International [. . .] If we were able to accomplish so much during such a short period of time during the Congress of the Communists in Moscow (i.e., the founding Congress of the Third International), this is entirely due to the gigantic preparatory work of the Central Committee of our party and its secretary, Comrade Sverdlov. Propaganda and agitation were continued among the foreigners in Russia and a whole assortment of foreign groups were organized. Dozens of these groups were allowed to get to know our most fundamental plans [. . .] Hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war from those armies which were organized by the imperialiststrictly for their own goals returned to Hungary, Germany and Austria, and made it possible for the bacilli of Bolshevism to deeply penetrate into these countries; and if there are groups and parties there which are in solidarity with us, then it is due to the unobtrusive works of the foreign groups in Russia . . "a The major concern of the Federation was agitation and propaganda. This work, aimed at converting the foreigners still in Russia to the Bol shevik cause, was under the direct supervision of Sverdlov. He, however, did not interfere with the day to day work of Ivan Ul'ianov, the Commiss arPrisoners' of War Affairs. for The biggest problem facing the Federation in its propaganda efforts was the lack of any translations of Marxist works into the various lan guages of the war prisoners. Not even adequate versions of the Com munist Manifesto could be found. Under such conditions, the national groups, and especially the Hungarian group, had to rely on mass lectures and try to publish new translations of the Marxist works. Soon after the Federation was established, the Hungarian groups began striving to implement its threefold policy. Since the key to the success of these aims was propaganda, the Hungarians organized agita tors' schools and began publishing Communist works in Hungarian. The first agitation-propaganda seminar conducted by the Hungarians was hastily organized in Moscow at the beginning of March. Its program 1. A. A. Struchkov, art. cit.: 5. M. F. Lebov, however, excludes the English and French groups from his listing of the Federation members. A list included in the same issue in which Struchkov's article appears also fails to list the French and English groups. (Ibid.: 29-31.) To complicate matters still further, the Septem ber 191 8 issue of Szocidlist Forradalom lists the following groups as Federation 21, members: Finns, Germans, Hungarians, Czechs, Yugoslavs and Rumanians (p. 3). At any rate, by September, 19 18 there were 724 Hungarians, 400 Germans, 438 Czechs and Slovaks, 177 Yugoslavs, 42 Rumanians and 10 Italians listed as members of foreign groups. A. M. Matveev, U istokov vechnoi drmhby (At the fount of eternal friendship ) (Novosibirsk, 1959): 37. 2. Vos'moi s"ezd. . ., he. cit.



was revamped until it served as a prototype for the other Hungarian groups. There were five such seminars held between May and November.1 They probably lasted three to four weeks and covered a wide variety of subjects. There were five general themes: (i) the Hungarian Workers' Movement, (2) the Communist Manifesto, (3) the Russian revolution, (4) the state and imperialism, and (5) the Marxist "theory of value." These courses were generally held in the Moscow Bol'shoi Theater and most of the lectures were delivered by Bla Kun, Tibor Szamuely and Kroly Vntus.2 But only 102 agitators were trained there in the five sessions which would mean that there were about 20 students participat ing of the lecture series.8 in each "The participants were required to be [at least] vaguely acquainted with the field of the workers' movement. Only those [were encouraged] to apply who were willing to dedicate all their talents and time to the sacred cause of the liberation of the proletariat."4 The lectures were held from 9 to 10 every morning and were followed by two hours of discussion. The topics were discussed in the following order: (1) the state; (2) imperialism; (3) the church; (4) the army; (5) the theories of Marxism; (6) political economy; (7) the agrarian question; (8) the development of capitalism; (9) the Russian revolution; (10) the role of the workers, the peasants, and the intelligentsia in the social revolution; (11) the dictatorship of the proletariat; (12) money and the dictatorship of the proletariat; (13) the means of production and trans portation in the dictatorship of the proletariat; (14) the schools of the future; (15) the art of the future; and (16) Communism.6 A further duty of the agitation-propaganda division of the Federation was the publication of Marxist texts in Hungarian. Ern Pr and Gbor Mszros, who supervised publication of the Communist Library Series, were chiefly responsible for this function. The series, in general, contain ed fundamental documents and other material relating to Marxism and included translated works of Lenin, Marx and Engels. Popular works of more agitative character were also published under the title, Forradalmi Irdsok (Revolutionary writings).* A second aspect of the Federation's policy concerned spreading pro paganda into the homeland of the prisoners of war. The failure of the Hungarian organization in implementing this policy is the only note worthy factor. 1. mmtvd, 5: 117. . Ibid.: 379-380. 3. Vos'moi s"ezd. . ..loc.cit. Lenin occasionally graced these training sessions with his presence, making brief, exhortative speeches. L. Vass, art. cit.: 4. 4. MMTVD, V: 115. 5. Ibid. . For the full text of these pamphlets see Kun Bla, op. ct.: 76-83, 100-107, 112-123.



"Only after the October Revolution [in Budapest], did the [Hungarian] group begin sending agitators to Hungary regularly. Until November ist 20 agitators were sent to Hungary, though from November to March more than 80 [followed]."1 If one considers that no more than 100 trained agitators arrived in Hun gary before the proclamation of the Hungarian Soviet Republic on March 21, 1919, it becomes clear that the presence of these Bolsheviks had no significant influence on the course Hungarian history was to take. The third aspect of the Federation's policy related to the enlistment of the former prisoners of war into international units. The Federation of Foreign Groups began recruiting from the very day of its establishment. As soon as it was able to collect a clerical and administrative staff it started active agitative work aimed at enlisting the maximum number of war prisoners into international Red Guard or Red Army units. On the streets of Moscow posters announced the functions of the Federation: "Recently the Federation has begun to supply party material to the Red Inter groups' nationalists agitational work. frontthese to establish connections between theseparate fighting on the For and purposes the Federation opened a various office in room 301 of the Hotel Drezden in Moscow. The Federation's office is open between 10-12 a.m. and 2-6 p.m. for those interested and those wanting informat ion. inquiries regarding internationalists serving in the Red Army, foreigners, All former prisoners of war, deserters and refugees, or regarding party literature, should be addressed there . . ."2 Almost all those who were connected with the organizational work of the Red Army units began to frequent the Hotel Drezden. Within a short time, the hotel became a central meeting place for many foreigners who milled around the musty corridors.8 The Federation created a Military Division which had the responsib ility directing the recruitment of internationalists. Tibor Szamuely for served as the Hungarian representative. The members of the Division agitated behind the front, organized local subgroups where there were none, and established contact with already existing organizations. Through the centralizing work of the Military Division, the small local groups gained in effectiveness and did a creditable job of organizing the volunteers and enlisting the unorganized. From the very beginning of Bolshevik power newspapers and posters carried the message of revolution to the prisoners of war. The Szocilist Forradalom, however, now exhorted: "Join the Red Army of the Russian Proletariat, so that you may fight against the eternal, irrconciliable enemy of the proletariat of the world, not only with your words, but with your weapons! "* 1. Vos'ntoi s"ezd. . ., he. cit. 2. MMTVD, V: 115. 3. For a fictional account see Pter Fldes, Hotel Drezda (Hotel Dresden) (Budapest: Mora, 1965). 4. MMTVD, V: 114.



After the establishement of the Federation, the People's Commissari at of Defence began supplying the various groups with money, proper credentials and printed posters for their use. These posters were phrased in a variety of ways, but the message seldom altered: "Russia does not need mere words, mere good wishes. Russia needs work, discipline, organization and fearless fighters."1 Although it is clear that Russia needed as many soldiers as could be enlisted, the political indoctrination of the recruits was considered an important task entrusted to the international units. There are, however, indications that the Military Division was more successful in making internationalists out of the prisoners' of war masses than the propaganda division in making Bolsheviks out of the internationalists.2 The military contributions of the Federation were significant. By October 1918, the Federation had well over 50,000 soldiers fighting in international units or in the formations of the Red Army. Ten thousand of these internationalists were on the Nizhne-Udensk-Baikal front; around twelve thousand fought on the Caspian-Caucasian front; while at least ten thousand internationalists were concentrated on the front in Turkestan.8 The percentage of Hungarians among these international fighting units is estimated to be between 60 to 80 percent.4 Among the com manders and leaders of the internationalists, Hungarians were par ticularly dominant. The commander of the First International Division was Laj os Wienermann.6 Lajos Gerends led an international cavalry unit and Gyula Varga commanded the 216th International Division which fought in the region of the Volga. The commanders of the First Inter national Division of Astrakhan were Lajos Gavr, Jzsef Domok, Sndor Szab and Jen Sugar.6 A special cavalry group was organized by Rkus Gyurk.7 Gyula Nikli was one of the commanders of the Tsaritsyn Inter national Division, while Sndor Kellner organized an international division in Samara (or Saratov?).8 Ferencz Munnich, Kun, Szamuely and Pr fought on the Ural front and at Perm'.9 Rudolf Garasin fought at 1. "Izvestiia narodnogo komissariata po voennym delam" (News of the people's Commissariat of War), quoted in A. Zsilk, art. cit.: 351. 2. Proletarskaia revoliutsiia, 7 (1929): 109. 3. Sndor Sziklai, "A kommunista pr mukdse a turkesztni fronton" (The activities of the Communist Party on the Turkestan front), Sarlo es Kalapdcs, 4 (1932): 58 and L. Fazilhodzajev, art. cit.: 556-559. 4. Sergei Lazo, Vospominaniia i dokumenty (Remembrances and documents) (Moscow, 1938): 335. J. Gyrkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 92-93. 6. Lajos Gavr, "Internacionalistk az orosz polgrhborban" (International ists in the Russian Civil War), Sarlo s Kalapdcs, 1-2 (1929): 69-74. 7. Maria Fortusz, "Gyurk Rkus kiilnleges rendeltetsii lovasszzada" (The special purpose cavalry brigade of Rkus Gyurk), Hadtrtnelmi Kzlemnyek, 2 (1961): 285-295. 8. J. Gyrkei, A. Jozsa, op. cit.: 31. 9. Ferencz Munnich, Viharos ut (Stormy road) (Budapest: Szpirodalmi, 1966): 44-46.



Nizhnii-Novgorod (today Gor'kii) and at Kiev.1 Ferencz Pozsonyi fought in Siberia;2 Mrton Juhsz was at the Mongolian border;8 Lajos Kiss fought in central Russia,4 and Aladr Dukesz, K. Ludwig and D. Forgcs in Siberia. Mte Zalka who later became famous as General Lukcs in the Spanish civil war, also fought in Siberia and was noted for his bravery.6 Probably the greatest military service that the Hungarians rendered to the Soviet regime occurred not on the distant fronts, but in the city of Moscow during the July rising of the Social Revolutionaries. Trotsky assessed the situation as follows: "The spring and summer of 1918 were unusually hard [. . .] At times it seemed as if everything were slipping and crumbling, as if there were nothing to hold, nothing to lean upon. One wondered if a country so despairing, so economi cally exhausted, so devastated, had enough sap left in it to support a new regime and preserve its independence. There was no food. There was no army. The railways were completely disorganized. The machinery of state was just beginning to take shape. Conspiracies were being hatched everywhere."6 The Germans occupied a large portion of the West. On the Volga the Czech Legion was taking control; Moscow was directly threatened from the East; and in the North, French, English and American troops were threatening Vologda. In the midst of this difficult situation an uprising, which almost brought down the young Soviet power, broke out in the heart of Moscow. The Moscow rebellion was organized and engineered by the Social Revolutionary Party (hereafter SR's) and began with the assassination of Count Mirbach, the official representative of Germany. The assassina tion of Mirbach triggered the revolt which was to rely upon the rank and file of the SR's and the Popov Cheka battalion, with several hundred men. The left SR's moved swiftly. The revolutionary forces had at their dis posal artillery, hand grenades and "from 800 to 2,000 soldiers."7 They established their headquarters in the Morozov Palace, and seized the Central Moscow Post-Office, thereby controlling telegraphic communicat ions. During the fighting that ensued, the situation was extremely serious because the Soviets had little or no forces left in the capital to fight the Social Revolutionaries. The SR's in command of the postoffice sent out two telegrams. One, addressed to all Russians, announced the assassination of Mirbach; and a second to all telegraph operators ordering them to stop all other telegrams signed by the Bolshevik leaders. The SR forces captured parts of the city and even arrested Smidovich, the 1. Terez Lukcs, "Nyilt az ajto s ott llt Lenin" (The door opened and Lenin was standing there), Esti Hirlap (Nov. 6, 1962): 2. 2. M. Fortusz, "Pozsonyi Ferenc," art. cit.: 231. 3. M. Juhsz, art. cit.: 5. 4. M. Gerencsr, art. cit.: 4-5. 5. G. Milei, "A magyar hadifoglyok, " art. cit.: 375-377. 6. Leon Trotsky, My life (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, i960): 395. 7. Louis Fischer, The life of Lenin (New York: Harper and Row, 1964): 242.



President of the Moscow Soviet. What was even more important, they ordered General M. A. Muravev, the commander of the Soviet army on the Volga, to march immediately on Moscow. This was the real danger; with the Bolshevik power threatened everywhere, Muravev, who was a left SR himself, could have added the extra power needed to crush the Bolsheviks. If the rebels held out, no one knew what the next morning might have brought. It was Trotsky who took charge of the operation to crush the revolt. He brought in two Latvian battalions and began scouting for loyal troops in the capital. Around midnight on July 6, Kun as the Commander of the Hungarian group in Moscow, was ordered to bring all the members of the various Hungarian groups who could be assembled in the Kremlin courtyard.1 There they were joined by a Latvian company of about 50 men and were ordered to retake the Central Post-Office Building. About 150 men started out, led by Kun with Szamuely as deputy com mander. They met no opposition until they reached the building of the Central Post-Office. That building, however, was guarded by an armored car, the arms of which were aimed at the entrance to the building. Three groups of six Latvians each were sent to disarm the car and they accomplished this task without any difficulty. As soon as the armored car presented no danger, the Hungarian group rushed the building and disarmed 8 to 10 Social Revolutionary soldiers who were in the large entrance hall and were so surprised that they surrendered immed iately.2 The second floor, from where the telegrams were constantly being sent, was taken in the same way, though here there was more oppositiontwo or three shots were fired, but no one was hurt. Within minutes the rebels were disarmed and locked in the first floor hall, and weapons were collect ed all over the building. Although Fischer states that by 2 a.m. from the revolt was crushed,3 it is more probable that it took about three days to re-establish order in Moscow.4 The Iaroslavl' counter-revolution was a much more serious affair than the SR rising in Moscow. "It was two weeks before the Soviet forces succeeded in retaking Iaroslavl'. Bloodshed and reprisals were severe on both sides. This was now full-fledged civil war, with no quarter given. The BolsheviM alone, after the recapture of Iaroslavl', executed there more than 400 persons by way of reprisals."5 The Hungarians also assisted the Bolsheviks at Iaroslavl' also. The

1. Pl Gisztl, "A moszkvai eszer lzads leverse es a fposta visszafoglalasa" (The repression of the SR mutiny in Moscow and the recapture of the main PostOffice), Hadtrtnelmi Kzlemnyek, 4 (1957): 182. 2. Istvn Pintr, "Riad Moszkvban" (Alarm in Moscow), Npszabadsdg, (Oct. 23, 1957): . 3. L. Fischer, op. cit.: 242. 4. P. Gisztl, art. cit.: 183. 5. G. F. Kennan, The decision. . ., op. cit.: 435.



Moscow International Hungarian Brigade led by Ferencz Jancsik fought against Savinkov for 16 days until this rebellion against the Bolsheviks was broken.1 These two actions established a permanent place for the Hungarian internationalists in the Soviet history.2 The praises of the various commanders of the Russian Red Army serve as an indication of the general value of the foreign troops and of the Hungarians in particular. Marshall S. M. Budennii, the commander of the Red Cavalry units, stated that the internationalists under his com mand excelled in the fighting and increased the fighting capacity of his cavalry.3 Matveev, one of the old Bolsheviks of the Party, related the comments of Sergei Lazo, the organizer of the Red Guards and partisan units in Siberia and the Far East: "The internationalists are fighting very well. The overwhelming majority of them are Hungarians (80 to 85 per cent)1 [. . .] Everyone of them as former soldiers have battle experience. In the fighting they are enthusiastic; they wage battle vigorously. They are faithful to the revolution [. . .] In the majority of the units where the commanders are Bolsheviks there is persistence, order . . ."* Yet, criticism also was brought up against the Hungarian internat ionalists. Although they fought well in general, Lazo was compelled to say that "among the Hungarians the Bolshevik agitation is unfortu nately weak. Few among them are politically educated . . ."5 This cr iticism clearly points out again that although many Hungarians were willing to fight, and fight well for the Soviet regime, few of them were interested in becoming politically active, educated Communists.6 Physical pressure the lack of food was certainly a major compelling force in the enlistment of the soldiers; but many of them were carried away by the general spirit of revolution and many merely wanted to escape from the abuses the Whites and the Czech Brigade perpetrated against the Hungarians. Still others joined because of a lack of alter natives or from a sense of gratitude toward the Bolshevik government that freed them from the degradation of the state of war prisoners. All these motivations, however, did not make Bolsheviks out of them and though they might have been influenced by the new power of the hitherto powerless proletariat, they were probably more concerned with reforming conditions in Hungary than in bringing Bolshevism to their own country. Therefore, when they were regarded as Bolsheviks and were treated with 1. T. Lukcs, art. cit.: 10. 2. Istoriia grazhdanskoi voiny v SSSR (The history of the Civil War in the USSR) (Moscow: Gos. Izd. Pol. Lit., 1957): 223. 3. E. Vesenin and A. Svetlov, Milliony druzei (Millions of friends) (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1940): 86. 4. S. Lazo, op. cit.: 33. 5. Ibid. 6. A. Zsilak, art. cit.: 353.



hostility upon their return to Hungary, it could not help but convince them that the Bolshevik doctrines they had heard in Russia were, after all, true. Thus, many of them truly became Bolsheviks only after they had arrived back in their homeland when the guns of August had already ceased firing. Lincoln, Nebraska, 1972.