The State Protection Authority (Hungarian: Államvédelmi Hatóság or ÁVH) was the secret police force of Hungary from 1945 until 1956. It was envisaged as an external appendage of the Soviet Union's secret police forces, but attained an indigenous reputation for brutality during a series of purges beginning in 1948, intensifying in 1949 and ending in 1953. In 1953 Joseph Stalin died, and Imre Nagy (a moderate reformer) was appointed Prime Minister of Hungary. Under Imre Nagy's first government from 1953 to 1955, the ÁVH was gradually reined in.
The agency was abolished by the revolutionary government of Imre Nagy during the Hungarian Uprising.
The subsequent government of János Kádár did not wish to resurrect the ÁVH under this name after 1956 (Kádár was tortured by the ÁVH in the 1950s), yet it flourished in the system of the Ministry of the Interior (Hungarian BM). This should be considered in the light of the use of the Soviet security apparatus directly in Hungary after the 1956 revolution, and in preparation for the trial of Imre Nagy and "his accomplices". Between 1956 and 1963 Kádár, a natural opportunist, fought an inner party battle against hardline Stalinists, although he accepted the services of many cruel former AVH torturers. Kádár's victory was signalled in 1963 by a general amnesty for the 1956 revolutionaries, an indication of the absence of a political police. Hungary would go on to be the only Warsaw Pact country without a formal intelligence service, since all intelligence and espionage functions were vested in the AVH, and later the Ministry of Interior.
During the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, elements of the insurgents tracked down and killed both known and suspected ÁVH officers and informants. When the Revolution began, a crowd of some thousand people attacked the police headquarters in Budapest, shouting slogans such as "tear down the star!" and "free the prisoners!", referring to the enormous red star that stood on the building's roof, a symbol of communism and to the many prisoners kept inside. Fearing for the lives of both himself and his officers, the chief of the police let the crowd into the building, allowing them to take any political prisoners they wanted.
During and after the siege of the Hungarian Working People's Party headquarters (in Republic Square, Köztársaság tér), some members of the ÁVH were lynched, a fact later extensively used in party propaganda to back up the claim that the revolution was of a "fascistic, anti-Semitic and reactionary" nature.
Persecution by József Dudás' militiaEdit
Attacks on the ÁVH only became a significant activity as informal truces developed between the student-controlled combat organisations and the Soviet troops in Budapest. Freed from the necessity of immediate combat, the József Dudás militia planned a series of reprisals against ÁVH officers, informants, and on a few occasions against ordinary Communist-party members caught up in the revolution. József Dudás' militia is often considered a far-right group, but others claim he was a communist; either way, his militia's violence is not contested.
On October 29, in the second week of the revolution, the Dudás militia attacked the headquarters of the secret police in Budapest, massacring the ÁVH inside. This event was well documented by both western and eastern journalists and photographers, and constituted the primary evidence against Imre Nagy and other members of his cabinet in the White Books.
A Western eyewitness said:
"The secret police lie twisted in the gutter [...] the Hungarians will not touch the corpse of an ÁVH man, not even to close the eyes or straighten the neck."
After Dudás' militia assaulted the building, the surrounding crowd lynched a number of ÁVH officers. Highly visible in photographs of this attack are the party's paybooks displayed on to the corpses, demonstrating that ÁVH soldiers received at least 10 times the wages of a manual worker.
Reaction of revolutionary forces to DudásEdit
When the students' and workers' councils discovered what the Dudás group was doing, they instituted armed patrols to arrest and detain ÁVH members for their own safety, and for future planned trials. As a result of Dudás' massacres, and the students' policy of arrest, many ÁVH voluntarily turned themselves in to students' or workers' councils to seek protective custody. This was a reflection of the shared student-worker policy of keeping the revolution pure and bloodless. Dudás was sought for arrest by the students' and workers' councils.
Unsurprisingly, when the Warsaw Pact intervened in the revolution to support the government, ÁVH officers carried out brutal reprisals against those who had killed their comrades. The ÁVH generally targeted all revolutionaries, and received significant assistance from the Soviet Union's security apparatus, who arrested the Nagy government, General Pál Maléter, and deported thousands of students and workers to the Soviet Union.