The sinister history of the CEU building

Nádor Street 9 is now the home of the Central European University (CEU), but the building has a pretty sinister Cold War history.

From 1945 this was the HQ of the Supreme Council of Economy (Gazdasági Főtanács), which was an instrumental weapon of the Soviet Union to achieve the economic enslavement of Hungary even before the complete Communist political takeover of the country. The Council operated independently of the democratically elected Parliament, and under the supervision of the Soviet military command; it served primarily the economic interests of Moscow.

cold war, buapest, ceu, walking tour, communism, soviet union, history
The headquarters of the Supreme Council of Economy in 1948; the headquarters of the Central European University, 2017

This was catastrophic for a country so poor and devastated after World War II. “Roughly 40% of the total expenditures of the Hungarian budget are being spent for [war] reparations, costs of [the Russian] occupation and subsidies for the Russo-Hungarian trade” – protested a desperate Hungarian Minister (Ambassador), Aladár Szegedy-Maszák in Washington on June 2,1947 against “the totalitarian aggression of which my country has fallen victim”.

“Living under the oppressive abuses of the occupation Army and under the terror of the armed Communist minority, Hungary is not a free country and the Hungarian Government is not a free agent any longer. Hungary is therefore not in a position to protest and to resist the oppression by overwhelming and ruthless force” – he said in a note to U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall.

This was just two days after the Communists abducted the son of the duly elected Hungarian Prime Minister and forced him to resign. The new government ordered Szegedy-Maszák back to Budapest for “consultation”, but, fearing for his safety, he refused. Instead, he left his post and remained in the United States in political asylum.

If you wish to know more about the Cold War in Budapest, and especially how the United States fought it here, sign up to our private walking tours. If you don’t want to miss our regular blog posts, don’t forget to follow or ‘like’ our Facebook page.

Photo: Fortepan / Google Street View

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