Forced labor of Hungarians in the Soviet Union

The forced labour 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 deported, including an estimated 200,000 civilians. An estimated 200,000 perished.[1] Hungarian forced labour was part of a larger system of foreign forced labour in the Soviet Union.

Memorial plaque for forced labour of Hungarians in the Soviet Union

In addition, an unknown 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 "de-Germanisation" campaign[2] all Hungarians with German names were sent to the Soviet Union, in accordance with Soviet Order 7161.[3]

POWs and civiliansEdit

In Hungary[1] and among the Hungarian minority of Transcarpathia,[4] such forced labour 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 occupation of Hungarian towns, civilians were rounded up for "little work", the removal of ruins. The largest single deportation of the first wave occurred in Budapest. Soviet Marshal Rodion Malinovsky's reports allegedly overestimated the number of prisoners of war taken after the Battle of Budapest, and to make up for the shortfall, some 100,000 civilians were detained in Budapest and its suburbs.[1] Those deported in the first wave were mainly located in northwestern Hungary, in the path of the advancing Red Army.[5]

The second, more organised wave occurred 1-2 months later, in January 1945, and involved people from across Hungary. According to Soviet State Defence Committee Order 7161, ethnic Germans were to be deported for forced labour from the occupied territories, including Hungary. Soviet authorities had deportation quotas for each region, and when the target was missed, it was completed with ethnic Hungarians.[1][5] Hungarian prisoners of war were also deported during this period.

POWs and civilians were handled by the NKVD's Main Department for Affairs of POWs and Internees (known by its Russian acronym, GUPVI), with its own system of labour camps, similar to the Gulag.

Deportees were transported in freight cars 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, harsh weather, and malnutrition.[1]

In the Soviet Union, Hungarians were placed in approximately 2,000 camps. A large number of camps 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 the Ural Mountains and 64 in Siberia.[1]

Political prisonersEdit

Another group of deportees consisted of Hungarians sentenced by Soviet tribunals for "anti-Soviet activities". These included the following categories:[6]

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

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

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


The government of Ferenc Nagy started negotiations for the return of Hungarian deportees in early 1946. The first wave of widespread returns occurred June to November 1946, and was interrupted until May 1947. The last group of Hungarians to return, numbering about 3,000, was only able to do so in 1953-1955, after Joseph Stalin's death. Hungarian sources estimate that 330,000-380,000 forced labourers returned in total, leaving an estimated 200,000 who perished in transit or captivity.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g 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
    • English translation: "The White Book of Atrocities Against Hungarians in the Autumn of 1944" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 4, 2011. Retrieved 2006-07-12., Corvinus Library - Hungarian History
  4. ^ Gyorgy Dupka, Alekszej Korszun (1997) "A Malenykij Robot Dokumentumokban", ISBN 963-8352-33-7 (documents about deportations of Hungarians from Carpathian Ruthenia)
  5. ^ a b "Forgotten Victims of World War II: Hungarian Women in Soviet Forced Labor Camps" Archived 2009-12-11 at the Wayback Machine, by Ágnes Huszár Várdy, Hungarian Studies Review, (2002) vol 29, issue 1-2, pp. 77-91.
  6. ^ a b 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

Further readingEdit

  • Imre Tatár, "Bánhidától Kijevig: egy volt munkaszolgálatos emlékezése a hazai táborra és a szovjet hadifogságra" (From Banhida to Kiev: memories of a former labour camp inmate of his time in a Hungarian camp and Soviet captivity), Hadtörténelmi közlemények (2002), vol. 115, issue 4, pp 1156–87.
  • Genocide or genocidal massacre?: The case of Hungarian prisoners in Soviet custody Archived 2021-05-12 at the Wayback Machine, Human Rights Review (2000), vol. 1, issue 3, pp 109–118.
  • Венгерские военнопленные в СССР: Документы 1941-1953 годов. Moscow, 2005. ISBN 978-5-8243-0659-0 (in Russian)
  • Áztat tollal nem írhatom ... , Collective, Janus Pannonius Múzeum Pécs, May 2017, 97p. (ISBN 978-963-9873-48-3). (in Hungarian) Some memories of the survivors of this forced labour: Irén Frank (Dr. János Mesterházy's wife), Katalin Diszlberger (Ede Kretz's wife), Borbála Pálfi (István Elblinger's wife), Rozália Lauer (Mihály Hauck's wife), Teréz Löffler (Mátyás Lauer's wife), Veronika Relics (Márton Grubics's wife), Anna Trickl (Károly Guhr's wife), Erzsébet Schäffer (Menyhért Schauermann's wife), Teréz Arnold (János Schramm's wife), Mária Arnold (György Schraub's wife), János Árvai (Albrecht), Imre Tillinger, Rózsa Wilhelm (Imre Tillinger's wife), József Kampfl, Marika Szenácz, György Arnold, József Lábadi, János Guth, Mihály Neumann, József Pári, Terézia Koszter (József Pári's wife), János Müller, Mária Schultz (János Müller's wife), Viktor Geiger.
  • Viktor Geiger (tran. Antonia Jullien), Viktor et Klára, Paris, L'Harmattan, 2015, 205p. (ISBN 978-2-343-06863-3). (in French) An extraordinary insight into Communism in Stalin's time. The author describes the everyday life of a Soviet labour camp in detail using black humour but never giving in to hatred.