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The Red Terror in Hungary (Hungarian: vörösterror) was a period of heightened political tension and suppression in 1919 during the four-month period of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, primarily towards anti-communist forces. The communist party and communist policies had considerable popular support among the proletarian masses of large industrial centers - especially in Budapest - where the working class represented a higher ratio of the inhabitants. In the Hungarian countryside, the authority of the government was often nonexistent, serving as a launch-point for anti-communist insurgency. The new government followed the Soviet solution: the party established its revolutionary terror groups (such as the infamous "Lenin Boys") to "overcome the obstacles" of the worker's revolution. It received its name in reference to the Red Terror of Soviet Russia. It was soon followed by the White Terror against communists, industrial workers and Jews.
In March 1919, the Party of Communists in Hungary, in alliance with the Social Democratic Party of Hungary, gained control of the government of Hungary after president Mihály Károlyi stepped aside. Soon after, a coup by Party of Communists in Hungary, led by Béla Kun, established the Hungarian Soviet Republic.
Tibor Szamuely wrote in the pages of the Vörös Újság (Red News): "Everywhere counter-revolutionaries run about and swagger; beat them down! Beat their heads where you find them! If counter-revolutionaries were to gain the upper hand for even a single hour, there will be no mercy on any proletarian. Before they stifle the revolution, suffocate them in their own blood!" With their support, József Cserny organised a group of some 200 individuals known as "Lenin Boys" (Lenin-fiúk), whose intention was to uncover "counter-revolutionary" activities in the Hungarian countryside. Similar groups operated within Budapest.
Two months after gaining power, the government attempted to restore Hungary to its pre-World War I boundaries, first by recapturing parts of present-day Slovakia, and then attempting to recapture Transylvania from Romania. These unsuccessful recapture attempts, as well as the inefficacy of the government during the war period, lowered the popular support for the Communist Party, and on June 24 the Social Democratic Party attempted a coup to take control of the government. This attempted coup failed, and in its wake a series of reprisal arrests and lootings occurred in retaliation against the Social Democrats.
The Hungarian Soviet Republic ended in the first week of August 1919, when Romanian forces pushed all the way into Budapest. Kun went into exile in Russia; Szamuely fled to Austria but was captured and killed there. József Cserny was arrested and tried in November 1919; the Hungarian Bar Association refused to defend him at trial, so a lawyer was appointed by the court. He was executed in December.
As was common in the political unrest of the 20th century, the Red Terror was answered by a wave of counter-reprisals once the Party of Communists leadership fled. These attacks on leftists, remaining revolutionaries and Jews are known as the "White Terror" and were far more brutal, extensive and indiscriminate than the Red Terror.