150. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Hungary1

255571. For Ambassador. Subject: The Crown of St. Stephen.

1. During their October 1 meeting at UNGA the Secretary, in accordance with the Presidential Directive/NSC–21, informed Hungarian Foreign Minister Puja of our willingness to return the Crown and asked you to work out the details of the return with Puja.2

2. You should seek an early appointment with Puja to work out the transfer scenario.3 In your talks you should keep in mind the following essential conditions:

—That various segments of the Hungarian public, including the Roman Catholic Cardinal Primate, participate in ceremonies in which the Crown is returned.

—That the Crown will be displayed publicly and appropriately in an historical location not associated with the Communist Party on a permanent basis.

—That the Crown will be treated with respect.

In addition, we wish to arrange a ceremony which will emphasize the national, religious and cultural nature of the Crown. We will seek to underline the fact that the American people are returning to the Hungarian people a national treasure which rightly belongs to the Hungarians. We would plan to secure a public statement from the Hungarian Government to the effect that Hungarians from all over the world are welcome to visit Hungary and view the Crown.

3. Our detailed guidance for your scenario talks follows:

A) Place of return—Budapest. The USG transported the Crown and regalia from Europe and believes it fitting to effect the return in Hungary.

B) US delegation—The President, as Chief of State, will appoint a senior USG official to head the American delegation. We will ask distinguished Senators and Representatives to be participants, as well as a senior State Department official.

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C) Date of return—In order to meet the scheduling requirements of the proposed head of the US delegation, we wish return to take place on Saturday December 3 or Sunday December 4. We will confirm the exact date later. Our delegation chief, who will be accompanying the President, would break off from the Presidential party upon completion of the Warsaw visit (the morning of December 2 or 3) and would fly directly to Budapest. The remainder of the American delegation would travel directly from Washington to Budapest.

D) Hungarian participants—We wish to return the Crown, as property of the Hungarian nation and people, to the Head of State or his designated representative. (FYI: Because of domestic political sensitivities here we must avoid handing the Crown over to Kadar himself or to anyone associated exclusively with the party. End FYI.) We would expect senior representatives of the Hungarian Government, the National Assembly and mass organizations would participate. The Cardinal Primate and leaders of the major Protestant denominations and the Jewish community should be active participants. While we do not wish to encourage Hungarian Socialist Workers Party participation, we realize it is an important national organization and we will not object to the presence of its representatives.

E) Nature of the public ceremony—The ceremony of the return should be a solemn public event at an appropriate venue (Parliament, the Royal Palace, Coronation Church), designed to underscore the historical, cultural, religious and national tradition of the Crown as well as the “people-to-people” aspect of the return. We expect that remarks at the ceremony will be confined to pre-agreed statements which refer only to traditional US-Hungarian ties, friendship between our two peoples and desire to continue to development of better bilateral relations.

F) Media participation—We anticipate that the return ceremony will be a subject of international media interest and we wish to ensure that press, radio and TV representatives (including VOA) will be able to report the event from Budapest.

G) Transportation of the regalia from the United States—In order to provide the utmost security for the regalia during transfer, we would plan to send the Crown and regalia aboard a US Air Force airplane together with the delegation. The plane would arrive approximately 24 hours prior to the ceremony of the return, both to provide a rest period for the US delegates and to allow for the possibility of poor landing conditions at that time of the year.

H) Public announcement—A joint communique announcing the return of the Crown should be made by the White House and Hungarian authorities just prior to the departure of the Crown and delegation for Budapest. Text of the suggested joint communique follows: Quote [Page 459] (title) “The President of the United States of America has determined that it is appropriate and fitting that the Crown of St. Stephen and other Hungarian coronation regalia, which have been in the custody of the United States since the close of World War II, be returned to the people of Hungary. For this purpose the President has designated (name) as his personal representative to lead the delegation of members of the Executive and Legislative Branches of the American Government who will return the Crown. (Para) The return of the Crown will take place in Budapest at (time and venue), (name), personal representative of the President of the Presidential Council of the Hungarian People’s Republic, will head the group of distinguished Hungarians who will receive the Crown. (Para) The Government of the Hungarian People’s Republic will place the Crown of St. Stephen and the coronation regalia on permanent public display in the (venue) at Budapest for Hungarians everywhere and foreigners alike to see. Unquote.

6. Leaders of the American-Hungarian Federation have informed Ambassador Esztergalyos that Hungarian-American opposition to the return of the Crown could be reduced were the GOH to make some gesture(S) to Hungarians abroad, such as letting it be known that an amnesty has been declared for political prisoners in Hungary and that any Hungarian abroad would be granted a visa to see the Crown. While these two ideas are not absolute requirements, we believe the GOH should fully consider them and the kind of post-return relationship they wish with Hungarians and persons of Hungarian descent who reside outside Hungary.

7. Finally, we have heard vague rumors from the American-Hungarian community to the effect that the Hungarian regime may hold on to the Crown and coronation regalia for a time, then transfer them to the Soviets. While we do not set much store by these reports, we would nevertheless appreciate Embassy’s views on the likelihood of this development.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840070–0726. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Drafted by Gerth; cleared by Andrews, Luers, Vest, and Tarnoff; and in S/S approved by Nimetz.
  2. See Document 147.
  3. In an October 7 memorandum to Brzezinski, Tarnoff outlined the Department’s proposed scenario for the return of the Crown. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 27, Hungary: 1–12/77)