864.00/1–648: Telegram

The Minister in Hungary (Chapin) to the Secretary of State


16. Situation in Hungary not yet deteriorated to point described for Bulgaria (Sofia’s 50 December 31).2 Undoubtedly the western outlook Hungarian people, greater and more enlightened strength Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches as opposed to Orthodox Church, geographical location country, advanced stage education and culture, greater industrialization and above all Hungarian popular consciousness constituting island in Slavic sea, have combined to slow process Sovietization.

Political control of government however is in fact if not in appearance complete, and all effective opposition has fled, been imprisoned or cowed into silence. Process economic and social Sovietization can now go forward more or less at will although too rigid forcing might create unrest particularly peasant masses. A groundwork being laid Sovietization Hungarian economy through outright Russian control former German assets, nationalization heavy industry and more recently of banks which have always not only controlled but managed Hungarian industry. Control agriculture however lagging behind and Rakosi3 admitted to me Saturday January 3 that forced extension cooperative [Page 280] system to peasants must be slow although government hoped to intensify educational projects this direction this year and next.

Packed judiciary complemented by peoples’ courts drawn extreme left-wing with secret economic and political police such as to keep all Hungarians in line. Such domestic newspapers as not sympathetic to Communist cause have been suppressed and freedom speech assembly long since disappeared.

Through purges, recruitment and training a small new Hungarian Army completely loyal to Communists now being formed which with an already greatly expanded and well indoctrinated police should effectively control situation once Russian troops removed and which should form cadre for such expansion as later thought necessary integrate Hungary in satellite military system.

Nevertheless vast majority Hungarian people all ranks and classes look toward west and hope for liberation from Russian satellite control. Illustration was joke, widely circulated in Budapest regarding poster of Tito4 displayed time his visit, which stated Hungarian people “100% for Marshal Tito” translate “95% for Marshall and 5% for Tito”.

Concur generally in Minister Heath’s5 opinion that every month sees further Communist consolidation and unless we can halt this process before long Hungary also will be closed territory which can be opened only by military force. As I see it from here however and have reported to Department in my despatches 3284, July 226 and 3470 October 2,7 remedies at our disposal are extremely limited and becoming more so. What might have been effective two years ago was no longer possible last July and what might have been effective last July is of diminishing value today.

Specifically I doubt whether protest on treaty violations invoking Article Two would be effective so far as Hungarian developments unless we can pursue matter further than expression high moral principles. However Department may wish to evaluate utility of protest should it be considering raising Hungarian and satellite case with carefully selected and well-documented instances of treaty violations.
No case could be made as yet with regard to Hungarian violation of military clauses of the treaty.
Publicity is of course of maximum utility and constitutes our best weapon. It is for this reason I hope that bulletin8 which has perhaps [Page 281] wider circulation here than in other satellite countries may be continued at present high level. In view of difficulties attending continued work of AP correspondent De Luce here (mytel 2021, December 30)9 doubt effectiveness or even possibility of obtaining permission for more American press correspondents inside Hungary even should they be willing become routine stooges. Rakosi informed me Saturday that if American correspondents reported “unfriendly lies” about Hungary he would prefer to have them do so from Vienna rather than from Budapest since this at least detracted from verisimilitude.
Hungary is of course not so closely tied up with the Greek situation10 as is Bulgaria although campaign to raise funds for Greek insurgents is gathering momentum and reports of subsidies for Hungarian recruits to internal [international?] legion are partly confirmed. Threat of Hungarian Government in exile would have little value unless it should include personalities of greater leadership than those now in United States, unless there was neutral border touching Hungary across which such government might communicate and unless US and UK prepared to give such government some support.

In conclusion I still feel that even though vast majority Hungarian people are anti-Russian and favor western democracy it most essential to make a categorical and specific declaration of our policy aims in southeastern Europe including repudiation support for all reactionary groups representing Horthy11 régime and feudalism (my despatch 3482, October 22).9 Fact must be kept firmly in mind that to peoples accustomed to existence scarcely above subsistence level and but recently freed from feudalism, socialist economy of itself does not arouse particularly poignant fear or hatred, although expanding Russian absolutism and concomitant terror campaign by native Communist agents of Mother Russia with complete denial four freedoms do. Europeans in general and Hungarians in particular have had centuries experience with Russian imperialism whether under old or new czars; they able to perceive its insatiable appetite and objectives unchanged whatever may be its outward dress or strategy.

Accordingly suggest theme of dynamic and progressive political democracy must be hammered continually together with carefully differentiated theme combating Russian imperialism rather than Communist ideology. Until we recover initiative in semantics our propaganda this area will never be completely effective.

Sent Department 16; repeated London 1, Sofia 3, Bucharest 4, Belgrade 2. Department please pass to Moscow as 2.

  1. Same as telegram 1248 from Sofia printed in Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. iv, p. 190.
  2. Mátyás Rakosi, Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister and General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party.
  3. Marshal Josip Broz-Tito, Yugoslav Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.
  4. Donald R. Heath, American Minister in Bulgaria.
  5. Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. iv, p. 340.
  6. Ibid., p. 384.
  7. The Department of State Wireless Bulletin, a daily review of statements and events relating to American foreign policy, was prepared by the International Press and Publications Division of the Department of State and transmitted overseas for the information of Foreign Service Officers and for publication of appropriate parts in the foreign press.
  8. Not printed.
  9. For documentation on the interest of the United States in the civil war in Greece and the violations of Greece’s Northern frontier, see pp. 222 ff.
  10. Admiral Nicholas (Miklos) Horthy, Regent of Hungary, 1922–1924.
  11. Not printed.