Peasants

The hall shows the period when the peasantry was forced to hand over a fixed quota of its surplus agricultural produce and livestock to state organs at fixed prices. The monitors display contemporary propaganda films about the fulfilment of the delivery obligations and about socialist work competitions. Former so-called kulaks talk about the atrocities, the commandeerings, the so-called "attic sweepings", the humiliations. We have placed contemporary documents on the walls, regulating the peasants' obligations, food coupons, and the slaughter of animals. The "white piglet" symbolizes under the counter slaughters.

After the devestation of the Second World War, the Hungarian peasantry began to rebuild the country in hopes of a better life. Through the expropriation of estates in 1945, hundreds of thousands of Hungarian peasants came into possession of land. The old and new landowners hoped that this would allow them to cultivate their future means of survival.

However, the wartime regulations did not end with the putting down of weapons. The farmers still had to first fulfill their delivery quota obligations and only then could they sell their products freely. The Hungarian peasantry not only had to provide food for the population and the occupying Soviet army, but for reparations as well. The delivery quotas followed an order: first the ration per person, next the sowing seed, which remained with the farmer and finally, the rest to be delivered.

With the communists aiming towards a total grasp on power, they began to simultaneously carry out a ruthless fight against the peasantry. Between 1948 and 1953, the public burden of farmers increased by threefold and in 1952 they changed the order: first came the rest of delivery quotas, second the sowing seed and lastly the ration per person. Most of the time nothing was left. So the communists started the practice of ˝attic sweeping˝.  Collectors arrived with members of the ÁVH. Whole villages shook in fear.

The Party tried everything in its power to destroy the traditional peasant way of life and force them to leave their land. This had two aims: first, the Soviet Union was preparing, and thus the Soviet satelite countries including Hungary, for World War III with significant investments in weapons and heavy industry. These huge investments were funded in part by the plundering of the agricultural sector. They also needed manpower for heavy industry.  In addition, the communist system would not tolerate the existence of an economically independent community with their own system of values. The liquidation of the land-owning Hungarian peasantry, and destroying their traditional communal life style, was absolutely indispensable to the consolidation of the party´s dictatorship over the citizens. Following the Soviet model, the ˝kulaks˝ or the wealthy peasants were caught in a crossfire. There is no equivalent in Hungarian for the word ˝kulak˝ and the Communists did not bother to translate it.  Anyone was open prey to be designated a kulak, that is to say, a public enemy. The Kulak lists that were developed always included the most important and productive farmers in the villages. In theory, a kulak had to have 25 or more Hungrarian acres of land, however, in practice, the local party leaders could judge anyone to be a kulak. The kulaks were pressured with surtaxes, increased compulsory delivery quotas, as well as with psychological and physical terror. Brigades of ˝kulak beaters˝ regularly made the rounds of villages and committed open acts of brutality and threats to keep the population in a state of fear. They wanted to wear down the peasants with forced labor and resettlements as well as property seizures, trials for invented charges and severe prison sentences and executions. Four hundred thousand peasants were accused of public supply crimes. The resistance was so great that certain villages saw a fifth of its population carted off to prison for ˝plotting against the people˝ and many lost their lives.

It is no wonder that some 300,000 peasants left their land. Ten percent of cultivated land was left fallow. The farmers that stayed behind quickly lost any incentive to produce, leading to an enormous shortage of food and the introduction once again of rationing. In their typical fashion, as one system after another collapsed and failed as a result of the command economy and their collective ideology, the communist bosses would seek out the saboteurs, since every failure of the socialist system was blamed on the ˝people´s enemy.˝ The saboteurs who had only to be exposed. Thus, another search for scape goats would begin. A series of false charges and trials took place one after the other, which led to prison sentences for many farmers. The communists would claim that the lack of meat was the fault of the managers of the Meat Sales Company, and they would be executed. ˝Threshing sabotage˝ could be punished by a death sentence. ˝Secret slaughtering˝ crimes received long prison terms.

˝Modern, decades-long Soviet agricultural experiences˝ were forced upon the farmers in the Hungarian countryside. This model destroyed the farming infrastructure and Hungary went from an exporter of numerous agricultural products to an importer in a short period. Following these ˝advanced˝ experiences, one of the more incredible and memorable decisions of the new masters of central planning was the communists´ attempt to force farmers to grow cotton and rice in Hungary.

Eventually private farms in Hungary were liquidated by forced collectivization in accordance with the Soviet model.  These attempts succeeded in ending the resistance of the Hungarian peasantry by the 1960s.

First floor