June 24-30, 2019. The Monitors' Revolt

Barkóczi Janka

By summer, people were becoming more and more disgruntled and started attacking the Soviet Republic's system on several fronts. The tension led to an armed conflict in Budapest by the end of June, made legendary by the warships' revolt on the Danube.

The city on alert on the day of the counter-revolution

Followers of the counter-revolution organized a national uprising in secret. They were planning an event for the first half of June, but the conspiracy was revealed by spies of the Soviet Republic, and organizers - such as baron Zsigmond Perényi - were arrested on June 9. Although the original idea was blown, there were a couple more underground cells that managed to stay active and continue preparations. The new leaders had military backgrounds, and barracks and army bases became the counter-revolution's centers, mainly Ludovika Academy and the Engels artillery barrack in Angyalföld (previously Prince William barrack).

The counter-revolution began on June 24, when counter-revolutionists gave the signal by firing the Engels barrack's cannons. At the same time, 27 officers, 257 academics and pinnace officers protested at Ludovika and Óbuda. The rebels unarmed the red soldiers who were guarding the barracks and took József telephone center, while the Danube flotilla's flagged ships, Maros monitor, Pozsony and Csuka pinnaces left to help them.

When the ships reached Hotel Hungaria, - the central government base recently renamed to Soviet House - Pozsony fired three shots to indicate their presence. The high security building housed commissars and leading government officials, therefore attacking such a place meant to be serious statement. When Military Commissar Béla Szántó arrived to the Soviet House, he evacuated the hotel's Danube-facing rooms and organized security. They tried to scare off the ships with machine guns, which they continued the next day when Komárom pinnace and the legendary Lajta monitor joined the revolt. The Monitors' Revolt (named after the distinctive ship) continued for four more days on the river. The fights caused several casualties, for example László Csicsery battleship lieutenant who died on the deck of Lajta in Paks. He was the last royal navy officer to be killed in action.


The film news show the Red Army's counter-attacks, but these images were probably recorded later and the events were reenacted exclusively for the news. The method, as in distributing staged materials as reports was relatively conventional at the time. The image of lurking and fighting soldiers on the Danube shore became symbolic and was recorded from several other angles.

The government ended the counter-revolution on June 28. The fight was organized by Commander József Haubrich at the IV. corps. HQ which was supposed to protect the capital. The 32nd infantry regiment and factory workers also fought in Haubrich's army. After the Soviet Republic fell, the battleships which participated in the revolt were brought to Belgrade, from where the pinnaces returned in 1920, but no monitors served in the Hungarian army ever again.

Comrade Haubrich inspects the Jancsik military base

Commander József Haubrich appears at another more peaceful event in the news: at the opening ceremony of the Red Guard's II. battalion's Hernád utca barrack, where he was accompanied by Commander-in-Chief of the Red Guard, Ferenc Jancsik, his deputy Gyula Szikra and Commissar of Public Education György Lukács, who's sporting his unique glasses and a striped coat while smoking a cigarette and talking to the soldiers about him defending the Soviet House during the Monitors' Revolt.

Funeral for proletarian casualties of the counter-revolution

The next day on June 29, 1919 a funeral was held for the victims of the counter-revolutionary revolt. The 18 soldiers and red guards were mourned by the state, and paid their respects at the Parliament square. The catafalque placed on the Parliament steps were guarded by the 32nd and 1st red infantry battalion and the 1st red artillery company who put oak leaves and red roses on their hats for the event. The entire staff of the Soviet Republic's Governing Council attended to demonstrate their unity and stability. The marching band played the Internationale while the Budapest gypsy musicians played the song They put the corpse on the courtyard and the Acélhang choir sang dirges. Many paid their respects to the fallen red soldiers, such as Sándor Garbai, Béla Vágó and József Haubrich. Haubrich's role was a little unclear, as the news' portrayal was one-sided. He was later suspected to have waited with the counter-attack until the very last minute on purpose, as he was part of the conspiracy. He was sentenced to death in 1920 in the infamous „Commissar-case”, and was brought to the Soviet Union on prisoner-exchange where he became a factory worker. In 1938 he was arrested again, sentenced to death and killed for suspicion of spying.  

The mourning crowd followed the 18 hearses to Kerepesi cemetery and met numerous saluting workers' battalion members on the way. People gave speeches before the funeral began: Ferenc Pollák bid farewell representing the 32nd, and writer Mariska Gárdos, an early icon for the women's movement spoke on behalf of the Socialist Working Women's National Organizing Committee.