KUN, BÉLA (1886–1938), communist who was dictator of Hungary for a short period in 1919. Born in Szilagycseh, Kun joined the Social Democratic Party when only 16 and became secretary of the Workers' Sick Fund in Klausenburg. He fought in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War i and was captured by the Russians. He spread revolutionary ideas among his fellow prisoners in Tomsk and in February 1918 became a member of the Tomsk committee of the Bolshevik Party. He was released following the armistice in November 1918. Kun returned to Hungary shortly after the outbreak of the Hungarian revolution. He founded the Communist newspaper Vörös Ujság (Red Newspaper) and attempted to overthrow the moderate government in Hungary and replace it by an extreme revolutionary regime as in Russia. Arrested and imprisoned for incitement to violence in February 1919, Kun was released a month later when the government fell and he was made a member of a new cabinet of Socialists and Bolsheviks. Within a short period the moderate elements were removed from the government, Hungary was proclaimed a Soviet republic, and Kun became commissar for foreign affairs and dictator.
Kun was inspired by fanaticism and tremendous energy. His extremism led to growing discontent among the landed classes while he failed to receive the promised Russian aid from Lenin, with whom he was in regular contact. In August 1919, after the failure of the counteroffensive against the Romanian army invading Hungary, Kun fled to Vienna and then to Moscow. He was made political commissar of the Red Army of the South, and after 1920 promoted communism in Germany and Hungary through the Communist International of which he was a member of the executive. In the 1930s *Stalin turned against the supporters of international revolution as advocated by *Trotsky. Kun was discredited and disgraced and was executed on August 29, 1938. The Soviet Communist Party announced that he was tried during the Stalinist purges on charges of being "a Trotskyite conspirator, plotting to undermine the Communist International," and executed several hours after being sentenced to death. He was rehabilitated in 1955. Kun was completely alienated from Judaism.
R.L. Tőkés, Béla Kun and the Hungarian Soviet Republic (1967), incl. bibl.
Béla Kun (bā´lŏ kōōn), 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).
Béla Kun: see Kun, Béla.