De-Stalinisation in Hungary from a Gendered Perspective: The Case of Júlia Rajk

  • Andrea Pető


‘Grief is the common language of humanity,’ commented Radio Free Europe on 6 October 1956 at the time of the reburial of László Rajk, the hardline communist Minister of the Interior in Hungary, who was executed as an alleged ‘Titoist’ after a show trial in 1949.1 In this chapter, I analyse two unique features of the process of de-Stalinisation in Hungary. The first is its timing: the process began much earlier than in any other eastern bloc country, and indeed almost immediately after the death of Stalin, with the appointment of a reformist, Imre Nagy (1896–1958), as Prime Minister in July 1953.2 The second is the key role played in the process by a woman, namely Julia Rajk (1914–1981), László Rajk’s widow. The two processes are linked, as Julia Rajk and her husband belonged to a privileged group in post-1945 Hungarian society, having been prominent members of Hungary’s underground communist movement in the 1930s and early 1940s. Yet this influential couple, and their infant son, fell victim to the first Soviet-style show trial in Hungary in 1949.


Rehabilitation Process Central Committee Show Trial Party Leadership Party Member 
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  1. 2.
    M. Baráth, ‘Az MDP vezetése és a rehabilitáció (1953–1956)’, Múltunk, no. 4. (1999), pp. 40–97.Google Scholar
  2. 46.
    On the Pet?fi circle, see A. B. Hegedus, ‘The Pet?fi Circle: The Forum of Reform in 1956’, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, vol. 13, no. 2 (1997), pp. 108–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Andrea Pető 2015

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  • Andrea Pető

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