BASEES Annual Conference 2022

Financing the People?: credits, private construction, and the materialisation of need in Hungary (1949-1956)

Fri8  Apr04:20pm(20 mins)
Teaching Room A


Szinan Radi


This paper will look at consumer credits in early-socialist Hungary between 1949 and 1956. While Hungary prioritised heavy industry at the expense of consumption and cut larger society off credits during Mátyás Rákosi’s Stalinist dictatorship, in early 1954 the Imre Nagy government remade credits available to the public in order to facilitate private home build. Although this measure had an immediate and unparalleled popularity within society, the Stalinist economy was incapable to satisfy demand. Based on archival files of Budapest district councils and other social historical evidence, this paper will analyse the Nagy government’s attempt to reform its socio-economic contract with society through the lens of credits. The paper argues that credits were important drivers of historical change in early-socialist Hungary. As opposed to the Kádár era, however, instead of cementing the regime’s legitimacy, they revealed the regime’s weaknesses in macroeconomic matters, not only to everyday citizens, but even to communist party members and authorities of various levels.