Janos Kadar was born in in Fiume (now called Rijeka, Croatia) in 1912. He worked in a factory and as a result of trade union activities became a member of the Hungarian Communist Party in 1935.
During the Second World War Kadar was a member of the Czech Resistance movement. The Red Army invaded Hungary in September 1944. It set up an alternative government in Debrecen on 21st December 1944 but did not capture Budapest until 18th January 1945.
In elections held in November, 1945, the Hungarian Communist Party won only 20 per cent of the votes. However, the communist filled all the important posts with Matyas Rakosi, the party general secretary, becoming the most important political figure in Hungary.
In 1946 Kador became deputy chief of Budapest's police. He was then appointed Minister of the Interior where he gained a reputation as a persecutor of those who questioned the policies of the government. For example, he was responsible for the arrest of Laszlo Rajk, the foreign secretary, who had criticized attempts by Joseph Stalin to impose Stalinist policies on Hungary.
However, in 1950 he was arrested and charged with being a supporter of Josip Tito of Yugoslavia. Kador was put in prison and he was not released until the end of 1953. During this period an estimated 2,000 people were executed and over 100,000 were imprisoned. These policies were opposed by some members of the Hungarian Workers Party and around 200,000 were expelled by Matyas Rakosi from the organization.
Kador was given a minor post as party chief in Budapest's Thirteenth District. This was an heavily industrialized area and over the next few years Kador built up a large following amongst the workers who were demanding increased freedoms for trade unions.
Rakosi had difficulty managing the economy and the people of Hungary saw living standards fall. His government became increasingly unpopular and when Joseph Stalin died in 1953 Matyas Rakosi was replaced as prime minister by Imre Nagy. However, he retained his position as general secretary of the Hungarian Workers Party and over the next three years the two men became involved in a bitter struggle for power.
As Hungary's new leader Imre Nagy removed state control of the mass media and encouraged public discussion on political and economic reform. This included a promise to increase the production and distribution of consumer goods. Nagy also released anti-communists from prison and talked about holding free elections and withdrawing Hungary from the Warsaw Pact.
Matyas Rakosi led the attacks on Nagy. On 9th March 1955, the Central Committee of the Hungarian Workers Party condemned Nagy for "rightist deviation". Hungarian newspapers joined the attacks and Nagy was accused of being responsible for the country's economic problems and on 18th April he was dismissed from his post by a unanimous vote of the National Assembly. Rakosi once again became the leader of Hungary.
Rakosi's power was undermined by a speech made by Nikita Khrushchev in February 1956. He denounced the policies of Joseph Stalin and his followers in Eastern Europe. He also claimed that the trial of Laszlo Rajk had been a "miscarriage of justice". On 18th July 1956, Rakosi was forced from power as a result of orders from the Soviet Union. However, he did managed to secure the appointment of his close friend, Erno Gero, as his successor.
On 3rd October 1956, the Central Committee of the Hungarian Communist Party announced that it had decided that Laszlo Rajk, Gyorgy Palffy, Tibor Szonyi and Andras Szalai had wrongly been convicted of treason in 1949. At the same time it was announced that Imre Nagy had been reinstated as a member of the Communist Party.
The uprising began on 23rd October by a peaceful manifestation of students in Budapest. The students demanded an end to Soviet occupation and the implementation of "true socialism". The following day commissioned officers and soldiers joined the students on the streets of Budapest. Stalin's statue was brought down and the protesters chanted "Russians go home", "Away with Gero" and "Long Live Nagy".
On 25th October Soviet tanks opened fire on protesters in Parliament Square. One journalist at the scene saw 12 dead bodies and estimated that 170 had been wounded. Shocked by these events the Central Committee of the Communist Party forced Erno Gero to resign from office and replaced him with Janos Kadar.
Imre Nagy now went on Radio Kossuth and announced he had taken over the leadership of the Government as Chairman of the Council of Ministers." He also promised the "the far-reaching democratization of Hungarian public life, the realisation of a Hungarian road to socialism in accord with our own national characteristics, and the realisation of our lofty national aim: the radical improvement of the workers' living conditions."
On 30th October, Imre Nagy announced that he was freeing Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty and other political prisoners. He also informs the people that his government intends to abolish the one-party state. This is followed by statements by Zolton Tildy, Anna Kethly and Ferenc Farkas concerning the reconstitution of the Smallholders Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Petofi Peasants Party.
Nagy's most controversial decision took place on 1st November when he announced that Hungary intended to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact. as well as proclaiming Hungarian neutrality he asked the United Nations to become involved in the country's dispute with the Soviet Union.
On 3rd November, Nagy announced details of his coalition government. It included Kadar, George Lukacs, Geza Lodonczy, Zolton Tildy, Bela Kovacs, Istvan Szabo, Anna Kethly, Pal Maleter, Gyula Keleman, Joseph Fischer, Istvan Bibo and Ferenc Farkas.
Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union, became increasingly concerned about these developments and on 4th November 1956 he sent the Red Army into Hungary. Soviet tanks immediately captured Hungary's airfields, highway junctions and bridges. Fighting took place all over the country but the Hungarian forces were quickly defeated.
Imre Nagy sought and obtained asylum at the Yugoslav embassy in Budapest. So also did George Lukacs, Geza Lodonczy and Julia Rajk, the widow of Laszlo Rajk. Kadar, who claimed that Nagy had gone too far with his reforms, became Hungary's new leader.
Kadar promised Nagy and his followers safe passage out of the country. Kadar did not keep his promise and on 23rd November, 1956, Nagy and his followers, were kidnapped after leaving the Yugoslav embassy.
On 17th June 1958, the Hungarian government announced that several of the reformers had been convicted of treason and attempting to overthrow the "democratic state order" andImre Nagy, Pal Maleter and Miklos Gimes had been executed for these crimes. Geza Lodonczy and Attila Szigethy were both to die in suspicious circumstances soon afterwards.
Over the next few years Kadar did introduce a series of economic reforms which helped to raise living standards. He held power until resigning as leader of the Hungarian Communist Party in 1988.
Janos Kadar died in 1989.