April 8-14, 1919. „Everything belongs to us”

Torma Galina

The Dictatorship of the Proletariat mourned the loss of Lóránd Eötvös, the military commissary confiscated all the country's horses for the Red Army, ordered all shops to sell their stocks and gave Margaret Island to the proletariat.

Lóránd Eötvös' funeral

 Loránd Eötvös

Lóránd Eötvös died on April 8, 1919. He was „a world-renowned master of physics and Hungarian national treasure of international science” – as the Természettudományi Közlöny wrote. The new system emphasized his importance and recognized the famous physicist's excellence, while trying to expropriate it and connect his name to the Soviet Republic, which shines through in Pesti Napló's article: „The most famous Hungarian scientist,, Lóránd Eötvös was the first to have the privilege of being buried by the Soviet Republic with a red funeral. The proletarian state's moving and noble gesture proves that communists hold men of science in the first place, who work for the entire human race in a quiet world rotating their beaker or looking through a microscope and starting equally prolific and monumental revolutions in the human mind as those masses, who go out on the streets for our future.” To avoid confusion on the scientist's noble origins, the Az Est paper resolved the possible contradiction with the following lines: „The scientist's and the laborer's destiny is the same by serving others. This is why the proletariat feels akin to Lóránd Eötvös who was born a baron, but that title was washed away in the old world by his wisdom and work.”

His red funeral took place on April 11. Representatives of the working class paraded with red flags. His casket stood in the National Museum foyer, covered with the university and science circle's flower wreaths and the Public Education Commissioner's giant pine- and laurel wreaths. As Pesti Napló wrote: „Instead of the old bourgeois mercenary-fed militarism, now the red guard's platoon stood cordon at the casket”, and a funeral speech was made by Public Education Commissioner, György Lukács, representing the Revolutionary Governing Council after the funeral ceremony. He failed to mention Lóránd Eötvös' brief political journey, which he took between June 10, 1894 and January 15, 1895, as Minister of Religious Affairs and Public Education. He said: „Eötvös was not a political person, and that moral fact lifted him up so high that scientists who served other interests could not be mentioned on the same page with him.” Izidor Fröhlich, teacher at the Polytechnic represented the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Hungarian University of Science in Budapest, the Hungarian Science Society and the Mathematics and Physics Society, Dezső Pekár, instructor represented students and Géza Bartoniek, director of Eötvös Kollégium represented all the colleges when bidding farewell to the deceased. The casket was put on a landau, and the six black horses left towards Kerepesi cemetery leading the march. Arriving at the grave, Pál Ferenczy, representing the National Association of Socialist Students and a student of Eötvös Kollégium bid farewell to the scientist.

Albert Berzeviczy, president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences wrote the following in his journal: „We buried baron Lóránd Eötvös today; both the Academy's and my personal wish was for me to say farewell to my predecessor in the Academy's name. However, the government decided to use the adored scientist's memory for their political purposes and declared him the »working proletariat's« own deceased, organized his funeral, put red soldiers next to his casket and forbade me from saying a few words. The only person present representing the government was commissar György Lukács, who stood on the podium in a grey raincoat and gave a confused political speech made up of the most banal lines of Bolshevism, which unsurprisingly offended the crowd of scientists who attended the event.” 

Lóránd Eötvös' funeral

Recruiting horses on the Soviet Republic's order

With the Hungarian Military Commissar's 5183/919. eln. 38. ruling, the government confiscated all horses in the country for the Red Army. They also ruled that „Everyone who owns/takes care of or has a horse or mule for some reason is required to bring them to the classification committee on a halter, and present the animals' paperwork (identification, records and whatnot).” The exact locations and dates were determined by the capital, municipality and county directorates. The Budapest horse recruitment was held between April 9 and 16. The stable horses from capital areas were to be presented at 6 different locations at a specific time. Classification committee members - directorate committee members, a horse expert and a military veterinarian - decided on the horses' military competence and estimated their value. The horses they found suitable were immediately taken and the owners were given a receipt in exchange with the horse's estimated value which they were going to wire them. They only paid in cash if the owner's livelihood depended on it. The horses were brought to collection facilities chosen by the Military Commissary, or transported directly to military units. All horses were recruited, except for those serving at public institutions - beside agricultural or industrial plants - such as the capital fire department, disinfection facility, capital freight plant and other public utilities, and the post office, ambulance and general- and central dairy companies. Plus racing-, training horses and thoroughbred breeding horses and mares which were training racing horses.

Information regarding the recruitment was published in Fővárosi Közlöny. No one received a personal invitation. There were some people who failed to appear at the given location at the given date, so they had to repeat the process. The next dates were between April 30 and May 3 in Budapest with a warning that there won't be any extra dates for classification, and it was mandatory to attend. Still, a week later they organized another event. The edict's wording was somewhat soft: „In favor of the bona fide defaulters before any retributions would be made, we would like to offer the opportunity for owners to bring in their horses and mules”, while threatened with serious sanctions: „Failing to bring in horses and mules are viewed as an offense against the military interests of the Soviet Republic, and will be severely punished by the Revolutionary Court.” At the same time the Military Commissary ordered military district HQs and county directorates to execute horse requisition until May 12. Horse registries were to report the number of requisitioned horses, and military district HQs were to take care of providing corps with the necessary amount of horses. However, it seemed like they still could not get enough animals, so on May 24 all draft horses of the capital were also recruited to serve in the Red Army.

Sale on Rákóczi út

The Social Production Commissariat's research department started an inspection on store supplies in early April. Where they found overpriced items, or unnecessarily large quantities, they confiscated stocks and organized a sale for the working class. The Commissariat wanted to make quality items accessible for the working proletariat, which were only affordable for the wealthier prior to that era, for a price that would be comfortable for the proletariat, regardless of the purchase price. In the seized shop's windows they put up a large sign saying that "this shop's stock is now on sale thanks to the Social Production Commissariat's research department". Considering that the working class ran out of all their clothing over the "usury years", the Commissariat started the sale as early as April 8. First the Kemper hat company's Fehérvári út and Apród út shops' stocks went on sale. Three to four thousand hats were sold that day, each piece for 12 Krones, which was fifth of the usual retail price. Two days later laborers invaded Rákóczi út to buy underwear. A long line was waiting in front of the one storey building on the Rákóczi út - Múzeum körút intersection, where people with union IDs could buy the famous Ede Lusztig company's women's and men's underwear, stockings, handkerchiefs and ties. A little further on Rákóczi út 56 at the Steiner brother's women's ready-to-wear shop women's blouses, skirts and negligees were on sale. Next to them, on Rákóczi út 62 at Ignác Knöpfler's men and women's fashion shop they were selling similar items as Ede Lusztig. Hats were also on sale at the Turul hat factory's Király utca 33 shop, where a huge amount of stocks were sold alongside 2000 meters of velvet (6-7 Krones per meter). Large crowd gathered at the four stores while the Red Guard was trying to enforce the law. However, several were unsatisfied at the end of the day, who could not get in or by the time they did, the shops were already sold out.


 People standing in four lines both right and left on Rákóczi út 2.

Although the Social Production Commissariat wanted to have a regular sale and publish the list of shops in Vörös Ujság and Népszava, it never came to that. Instead, the day after the Rákóczi út sales a short report appeared in Népszava: „The sale of affordable goods in stores will be suspended until Jenő Varga comrade's further notice.” The journalist asked Jenő Varga about the issue, who replied as follows: „Storeowners, whose stocks were sold for a reduced price on Thursday on the Social Commissariat's order, committed malpractice while taking care of inventory. This is why they are being punished. Which would be fine. However, the way these sales were conducted was wrong, as affordable goods were now unavailable for the proletariat working in factories, and also it gave way to misuse. So next time - if there will be one -, the goods will be sold for tickets or through unions.” The aforementioned misuse was detailed in a later article. Many, especially those who were part of purchasing groups managed to buy larger quantities by going back in line, to resell the items for a higher price.  

Margaret Island belongs to the proletariat

The Capital Commissariat issued a regulation on March 28 cancelling the admission fee to Margaret Island. The ruling came to act on April 4, and from then on everyone was allowed to enter the island free of charge. At the same time, several gardens of Budapest also became public, such as Várkert, Károlyi-kert and Orczy-kert. The April 13 ceremonial opening of Margaret Island was carefully planned. The Budapest Commissariat dressed up the arched walkway leading to the place of the ceremony (Alsószigeti restaurant) with pine twigs and red flags, and put a giant sign on the entrance pavilion, saying „Everything belongs to us”. A podium covered with red garment was erected at the restaurant's terrace for the speakers, and marching bands, gypsy bands and laborers' choirs were invited to entertain the proletariat. The Commissariat commissioned unions and tourist associations with the organization. They told unions to send 30-50 representatives and 3-5 organizers. They also instructed all Budapest schools to attend the ceremony with a detailed plan which several newspapers published: „The capital's Public Education Committee ordered all students to gather in school with their superiors at a time which allows them to arrive at the entrance of Margaret Island at 14:00. Appointed supervisors will show them around the grass courts as planned, where the children could play. Students shall bring their own toys. They can play until 16:00 then teachers shall bring them back to school.” For the capital's public and high school students, the Public Education Committee organized an athletic competition and soccer from 15:00 at the Hungarian Athletic Club's field.


 Opening Margaret Island

Pesti Napló started their report with the following: „Budapest's jewel, Margaret Island was dressed in red, a place which used to be a favorable summer meeting point and playground for the bourgeoisie. People of the sad times of show politics wanted to build a church here in this fairy garden for the 32-page Bible and the devil's windlass, called roulette after the gaming hell of Monte Carlo. On Sunday afternoon a flood of red flags, endless waves of red garments and all the splendor of the awakening spring welcomed laborers who were longing for some relaxation after a week of hard work, and the tens of thousands of pale proletarian children, who came to Margaret Island for the opening ceremony.” The opening ceremony started after 15:00. From the podium, Károly Weisz, public health representative of the capital, Mór Preusz, László Dienes and Sándor Vincze commissars of the capital talked to the union delegates and students. Around the island – at the lower restaurant, the lower confectionery, the sports club and the upper restaurant – three red marching bands and Laci Rácz the 36th's gypsy band played the Marseillaise and the Internationale. But most of the people were gathered at the sporting facilities to attend the athletic competitions and soccer games. Although the weather did not seem too nice that day, it only rained for a couple minutes, so guests stayed on the island until late night. 

 Margaret Island belongs to the proletariat

Several construction plans were made for the island which was now open to the public.  Architects designed a stadium and a lido here, and the latter was realized that year. Interestingly, the biggest opponent was an architect who wanted to build a swimming pool. This is what he wrote about his plans, which Sporthirlap published in their June 9, 1919 issue: „I designed a 100 meter long open air swimming pool with a 4-5000 seat grandstand, flat roof dressing rooms and sandy terraces on the Italian rooftop.” The architect was Alfréd Hajós, and his swimming pool was built more than 10 years later in 1930 on Margaret Island, named Alfréd Hajós National Swimming Stadium which stands there to this day.