Forced labor of Hungarians in the Soviet Union

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The topic of forced labor of Hungarians in the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II was not researched until the fall of Communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. While exact numbers are not known, it is estimated that up to 600,000 Hungarians were captured altogether, including an estimated 200,000 civilians. An estimated 200,000 citizens perished.[1] It was part of a larger system of the usage of foreign forced labor in the Soviet Union.

In addition, an uncertain number of Hungarians were deported from Transylvania to the Soviet Union in the context of the Romania-Hungary Transylvanian dispute. In 1944, many Hungarians were accused by Romanians of being "partisans" and transferred to the Soviet administration. In early 1945, during the "degermanization" campaign[2] all Hungarians with German names were transferred to the Soviets in accordance with the Soviet Order 7161.[3]

POW and civilians

In Hungary[1] and among the Hungarian minority of Transcarpathia[4] the phenomenon has been referred to as málenkij robot, a corrupted form of the Russian malenkaya rabota (маленькая работа), meaning "little work". The expression originated during the first wave of deportations of Hungarian civilians: after an occupation of a Hungarian town, civilians were rounded up for "little work" regarding the removal of ruins. The largest single deportation during the first wave occurred in Budapest. Allegedly Marshal Rodion Malinovsky overestimated in his reports the number of Prisoners of War taken after the Battle of Budapest, and to make the numbers some 100,000 civilians were gathered in Budapest and its neighborhood.[1] The first wave took place mainly in north-western Hungary, on the path of the advancing Soviet Army.[5]

The second, more organized wave happened 1–2 months later, in January 1945, covering the whole of Hungary. According to the USSR State Defence Committee Order 7161, ethnic Germans were to be deported for forced labor from the occupied territories, including Hungary. Soviet authorities had deportation quotas for each region, and when the target was missed, it was filled up with ethnic Hungarians.[1][5] In addition, Hungarian Prisoners of War were deported during this period.

POW and civilians were handled by the Main Department for the Affairs of POWs and Internees of the NKVD (Russian abbreviation: GUPVI), with its own system of labor camps, similar to Gulag.

The deported people were transported in cargo wagons to transit camps in Romania and Western Ukraine. Survivor testimony suggests a high death rate in the camps and in transit from various causes, including epidemic dysentery, bad weather, and malnutrition.[1]

In the Soviet Union, the Hungarians were placed into approximately 2000 camps. A large number of them were subsequently identified: 44 camps in Azerbaijan, 158 in the Baltic States, 131 in Belarus, 119 in Northern Russia, 53 in the vicinity of Leningrad, 627 in Central Russia, 276 in Ural Mountains and 64 in Siberia.[1]

Political prisoners

The third group of deported, in addition to POW and civilians were Hungarians sentenced by Soviet tribunals for "anti-Soviet activities". These included the following categories.[6]

  • Former soldiers who served in occupation forces in the Soviet territory
  • Members of paramilitary youth organization Levente of teenagers who had to serve in auxiliary forces by the end of the war
  • High-ranked officials and non-leftist politicians

This group of prisoners was sent to Gulag camps, rather than GUPVI.

During de-Stalinization, the sentences of the survivors were annulled and 3,500 former convicts returned home. The total number of convicts was estimated by the organization of Hungarian Gulag survivors Szorakész to be about 10,000.[6]


The government of Ferenc Nagy started negotiations about returning Hungarians home in early 1946. The first wave of systematic returns occurred in June–November 1946, interrupted until May 1947. The last to come back, about 3,000 people, were returned only after Joseph Stalin's death, during 1953-1955. Hungarian sources estimate that 330,000-380,000 laborers returned in total, giving an estimate of about 200,000 perished in transit and in captivity.[1]

Notable survivors

György Faludy

In 1949 the Hungarian author and poet György Faludy was arrested on false charges imprisoned for 3 years at the forced labor camp of Recsk, Hungary. After the Revolution of 1956 he emigrated from the country to live in London, Florence and Malta. He moved to Toronto in 1967. Faludy visited Hungary again almost 20 years later in 1988 and a year later, he came back to Budapest and settled down.[7]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Tamás Stark,
  2. On September 26, 1944 the Romanian Council of Minister passed a decree on the dissolution of German nationality
  3. Mária Gál, Balogh Attila Gajdos, Ferenc Imreh, "Fehér könyv az 1944. őszi magyarellenes atrocitásokról" ("White Book of Atrocities against Hungarians in 1944"), (1995) Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, Kolozsvár/Cluj-Napoca
  4. Gyorgy Dupka, Alekszej Korszun (1997) "A Malenykij Robot Dokumentumokban", ISBN 963-8352-33-7 (documents about deportations of Hungarians from Carpathian Ruthenia)
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Forgotten Victims of World War II: Hungarian Women in Soviet Forced Labor Camps", by Ágnes Huszár Várdy, Hungarian Studies Review, (2002) vol 29, issue 1-2, pp. 77-91.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Tamás Stark, "Ethnic Cleansing and Collective Punishment: Soviet Policy Towards Prisoners of War and Civilian Internees in the Carpathian Basin" in: "Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe" (2003) ISBN 0-88033-995-0
  7. Gyorgy Faludy

Further reading