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.

“The ÁVH will also protect the working peasantry.”

Szabad Nép (Free People), the dictatorship’s daily newspaper, 1950

From 1948 onwards, the communists forced farmers to deliver produce to the state, with the quantities demanded increasing every year. Over the course of five years the amount required tripled! Farmers were arraigned on trumped-up charges, and hundreds of thousands of sentences were handed down to those peasants working the land who were found guilty of not complying with the delivery demands. Even death sentences could be passed. 

The peasantry was being bled dry in the name of a “Soviet-style” transformation of the economy: all resources were put at the service of the aggressive development of heavy industry. The aim was to force those engaged in agriculture to leave their homes and work in factories. Most of the agricultural produce was shipped to the Soviet Union as war reparations and as payment for the raw materials needed for development.

A rationing system of the kind familiar from the war years was introduced in order to address the man-made food shortages. In an attempt to replace Hungarian production methods with less developed Soviet methods, there was the forced introduction of crops such as rice and cotton, which had not been grown in Hungary. 

The expressions “illicit livestock slaughter” and “attic sweeping” became symbolic of the era. Peasants were not allowed to slaughter their own animals without permission, and were only allowed to do so if they gave a substantial portion of the resulting meat to the state. Many people therefore slaughtered their animals “black”: in secret. “Attic sweeping” meant that the political police, the ÁVH, would arrive unexpectedly and confiscate all produce that could be taken – often even seeds. 

First floor