National traditions and the leader cult in communist Hungary in the early cold war years

Twentieth Century Communism - ISSN 1758-6437
Volume 2009 Number 1

National traditions and the leader cult in communist Hungary in the early cold war years
, pages -

Abstract

Despite the seemingly contradictory nature of nationalism and communism, the communist parties of the (would-be) Soviet bloc made a strong appeal to national traditions from 1945 on, and invested extraordinary efforts into the reconciliation of communist ideology with national identity and national symbolism even after the take-overs had been completed in 1948-1950. The process of the re-invention of traditions followed a well-established Soviet practice, and also manifested in the construction of communist leader cults in national contexts. The article demonstrates how the cult of the Hungarian party leader Mátyás Rákosi recycled the major tropes of Hungarian cultic traditions. Unlike the cult of Stalin that drew parallels between great state builders of Russian history and the secretary of the CPSU, the Rákosi-myth exploited Hungarian ‘rebellious’, or freedom fighter traditions. Communist propaganda attempted to insert the figure of the Hungarian party secretary into a historical continuum of freedom fighters and compared Rákosi to the most important revolutionaries of the past, most importantly, to Lajos Kossuth, leader of the 1848-49 “War of Independence”. Such representations portrayed Rákosi as the “ultimate freedom fighter”, who successfully completed what his predecessors could not, and was thus capable of leading the nation towards socialism. Despite the strong appeal to national sentiments, however, the Rákosi-cult remained essentially the product of Soviet cultural transfer. The iconographic representations of Rákosi showed Byzantine features; the metaphors describing him were strikingly similar to the essential attributes of Stalin; and the cult’s major rituals were also copied from the Soviet Union.

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To cite this article
(2009) National traditions and the leader cult in communist Hungary in the early cold war years, Twentieth Century Communism, 2009(1), -

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