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First Independent Daily Features Hungarian Uprising Memoirs

February 9, 1989

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) _ For the first time in more than 40 years, an independent daily newspaper has begun publishing in this Soviet bloc nation, the latest sign of an increasing tolerance for openness in Hungarian media.

The first issue of Mai Nap (Today) contained an article that said the 1956 uprising should be commemorated with ″a national and historic holiday.″

Publication of the article plunged the 24-page tabloid, which is competing with Budapest’s official Esti Hirlap, into a controversy over the revolt that was crushed by Soviet tanks.

Imre Pozsgay, a leading reformer in the Communist Party’s ruling Politburo, last month called it a popular uprising.

Party leader Karoly Grosz and several senior officials opposed to Hungary’s fast-moving reform movement rebuked Pozsgay, insisting on maintaining the official line that the rising was a counterrevolution to destroy communism.

On Monday, the state-run MTI news agency carried statements by official and independent groups backing the widely popular Pozsgay.

The policy-setting Central Committee is to discuss the issue on Friday at a session that could result in major leadership changes.

Last weekend, the daughter of Imre Nagy, the premier who led the revolt, and widows of two Nagy colleagues who were executed with him for roles in the uprising called for a public reburial of the three.

It was in this atmosphere that Mai Nap began serializing the hitherto unpublished memoirs of the late Zoltan Vas, a senior party official.

In the memoirs, Vas stands up for Nagy and for Nagy’s aim ″to set up a typically Hungarian economic and political new socialist state system - and a new page in the history of Hungarian socialism.″

The memoirs quote Janos Kadar, the longtime party leader installed by the Soviets in 1956, as denouncing the ″counterrevolution″ as an ″armed uprising against state order and institutions.″

Vas, as quoted by Mai Nap, said in the memoirs, ″In my view, even if Kadar then so saw Oct. 23, 1956 (the start of the uprising), this day is a national and historic holiday of the Hungarian people like March 15, 1848.″

That date marked the start of the Hungarian uprising against the Hapsburg monarchy. Like the 1956 revolt against communist rule, it was suppressed.

According to Mai Nap, officials detained Vas in February 1973 on the grounds his memoirs contained anti-Soviet sedition. When Vas told investigators a copy had been deposited abroad, he was soon freed, the daily reported.

The independent tabloid, which also featured many photographs and sports stories, costs 1.7 cents a copy, well above the price of Esti Hirlap.

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