Béla Kun

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Kun, Béla

Kun, Béla (bāˈlŏ ko͞on), 1886–1937, Hungarian Communist. A prisoner of war in Russia after 1915, he embraced Bolshevism. After the outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917 he was sent to Hungary as a propagandist. In 1919, Count Michael Károlyi and his government resigned and the Communists and Social Democrats formed a coalition government under Kun. Kun set up a dictatorship of the proletariat; nationalized banks, large businesses and estates, and all private property above a certain minimum; and ruthlessly put down all opposition. He raised a Red Army and overran Slovakia. The allies forced Kun to evacuate Slovakia, and a counterrevolution broke out. Kun was at first victorious over the counterrevolutionists, but he was defeated by a Romanian army of intervention and was forced to flee to Vienna. Kun's Red Terror was followed by a White Terror. Nicholas Horthy de Nagybanya became regent of Hungary. Kun, after being held at an insane asylum in Vienna, went (1920) to Soviet Russia. He reappeared (1928) in Vienna and was briefly imprisoned but was allowed to return to the USSR. There he took an active part in the Comintern until he was accused of anti-Stalinism and perished in the Communist party purges of the 1930s. In the late 1950s and 1960s his reputation was restored in the USSR.


See study by R. L. Tökés (1967).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kun, Béla


Born Feb. 20, 1886; died Nov. 30, 1939. Active in the Hungarian and international workers’ movement. Born in the small town of Szilágycseh, in present-day Transylvania; son of a village scribe. Graduated from secondary school in Cluj. Joined the Social Democratic Party of Hungary (SDPH) in 1902. In 1904-05 he studied in the law faculty of the university in Cluj and worked as a journalist and in a sick pay office in Cluj. In 1913 he was sent by the Cluj organization to the Twentieth Congress of the SDPH.

During World War I, Kun was drafted into the army (1914). In 1916 he was taken prisoner of war in Russia. In Tomsk he established contacts with the local RSDLP (B) organization and headed a revolutionary group of officer prisoners of war. He joined the Bolshevik party in 1917. After the February Revolution of 1917, he worked with the Tomsk Bolshevik Provincial Committee. He contributed to the journal Sibirskii rabochii (Siberian Worker) and the newspaper Znamia revoliutsii (Banner of the Revolution). In January 1918 he-went to Petrograd and then to Moscow. He met repeatedly with V. I. Lenin. Together with T. Szamnelly, Kun edited the newspapers Nemzetkozi Szocialista and Szocidlis forradalom. He spread the ideas of Bolshevism among the prisoners of war. In March 1918 he founded the Hungarian group of the RCP (B); he was chairman of the Central Federation of Foreign Groups of the RCP (B), founded in May 1918. He became a leader of the international detachments of the Red Army and took part in the defense of Petrograd, in the battles near Narva, and in the suppression of the rebellion of the Socialist Revolutionaries in Moscow.

In November 1918, Kun returned to Hungary illegally and became one of the founders of the Communist Party of Hungary (CPH), which was created on Nov. 24, 1918. He was elected chairman of the party. In February 1919, together with a group of other Communists, he was arrested by the bourgeois government. He remained in prison until the proclamation of the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919 (HSR) on March 21. From the first days of the HSR, Kun served as people’s commissar for foreign affairs; he was also people’s commissar for military affairs. He played a prominent role in the organization of Soviet power and the development of the principles of domestic and foreign policy of the HSR.

After the defeat of the HSR, Kun emigrated to Austria, where he was interned. In 1920 he left for Soviet Russia. He took part in the armed struggle against the White Guards in the Crimea and was a member of the Revolutionary Military Council on the Southern Front and chairman of the Crimean Revolutionary Committee. In 1921 he was in Germany, where he was one of the leaders of the March demonstrations of the German proletariat. From 1921 to 1923 he was a party leader in the Urals. He was a member of the Presidium of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee.

In September 1923, Kun was appointed representative of the Central Committee of the RCP(B) to the Central Committee of the Komsomol. He participated in the work of the Comintern and became a member of its executive committee in 1921. At the same time, he carried on his work as the leader of the illegal CPH. He was arrested in Vienna in April 1928 but was soon released because of pressure from progressive international public opinion. After returning to the USSR, Kun continued his political activity. In 1927 he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.


A Magyar Tanácsköztársaságról Budapest, 1958.
Vdlogatott irások és beszédek, vols. 1-2. [Budapest] 1966.
In Russian translation:
Uroki proletarskoi revoliutsii v Vengrii. Moscow, 1960.


Kun, I. Béla Kun: Vospominaniia. Moscow, 1966. (Translated from Hungarian.)
Dersi, G. A publicista Kun Bela. Budapest, 1969. (Bibliography, pp. 171-94.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
When Lukacs became deputy commissar for culture in Hungary's short-lived Bela Kun Bolshevik government, he proclaimed a program of "cultural terrorism." He asked, "Who will save us from Western civilization?"
Keen-eared listeners playing records from the early 1930s by the Bela Kun Dance Orchestra of Berlin will recognise the voice in songs like Irving Berlin's Always, as that of Richard Tauber, although he remains uncredited on the label.
They make a dramatic sight, no more so than the 10-metre-high, flag-waving soldier erected in 1969 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Red Army, a giant pair of rusting cupped hands and 1919 Hungarian Revolution leader Bela Kun urging on a group of soldiers and workers.
Anti-Semitism was nothing new to the region, but it didn't help that Jews comprised the leadership of the short-lived Communist regime led by Bela Kun (Kohn) in 1919.
One of the many unhappy byproducts of that dissolution was the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919, a tyrannical regime led by Bela Kun who, like 31 of 44 other "commissars," was of Jewish origin.
He worked hard to exclude Russia from World War I peace negotiations and helped oust Communist leader Bela Kun in Hungary.
In only one country in central Europe, `Hungary, had a Bolshevik regime held power for any length of time before 1945, and that still brief experience -- the Bela Kun regime of 1919 -- had only confirmed how unpropitious the soil was for such experiments.
Soon after the war's end in 1918, Miklos Horthy came to power in Hungary, ousting the Jewish Bolshevik Bela Kun. He imposed a phalanx of harsh restrictions on Jewish professionals.
A socialist, he welcomed the first communist regime of Bela Kun in 1919.