Hungary Magazine

On this Day, in 1989: Imre Nagy and other leaders of the Hungarian Revolution were rehabilitated

On June 16, 1989, Imre Nagy, Pál Maléter and other prominent figures of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 were rehabilitated and reburied with full honours, on the 31st anniversary of their execution by the Communist authorities.

After the Red Army crushed the Hungarian Revolution in November 1956, Prime Minister Imre Nagy, Pál Maléter and other prominent figures of the uprising took refuge in the Embassy of Yugoslavia.

But despite assurances of safe passage out of Hungary by the Soviets, Nagy and his group were arrested when attempting to leave the embassy and taken to Romania.

“A lesson to all other leaders in socialist countries”

Imre Nagy, Pál Maléter and the others were eventually returned to Hungary where they were secretly tried for attempting to overthrow the Hungarian People’s Republic, and executed by hanging on June 16, 1958.

Nagy’s trial and execution were made public only after the sentence had been carried out. According to Fedor Burlatsky, a Kremlin insider, Nikita Khrushchev had Nagy executed “as a lesson to all other leaders in socialist countries”.

Nagy was buried, along with his co-defendants, in the prison yard where the executions were carried out and years later was removed to a distant corner of Budapest’s New Public Cemetery, Budapest, face-down, and with his hands and feet tied with barbed wire.

The Communist leadership of Hungary would not permit his death to be commemorated, or allow access to his burial place.

Imre Nagy and other leaders of the Hungarian Revolution rehabilitated

A cenotaph in his honour was erected in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris on June 16, 1988 and on June 16, 1989, on the 31st anniversary of his execution, Imre Nagy was rehabilitated and his remains reburied with full honors in the same plot after a funeral organised in part by the democratic opposition to the country’s Communist regime.

Over 200,000 people are estimated to have attended the historic event which strongly participated in bringing down the Stalinist regime.

More recently, opposition parties have accused Viktor Orbán’s right-wing government of historical revisionism after a popular statue of Nagy was removed from central Budapest to a less central location.

Find out more about Central European history in our On this Day series.

Coordinated by Ábel Bede, Kafkadesk's Budapest office is made up of a growing team of freelance journalists, editors and fact-checkers passionate about Hungarian affairs and dedicated to bringing you all the latest news, events and insights from Hungary.