Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Antall, József (1932–1993)

Historian, politician, and the first freely elected, post–Cold War prime minister of Hungary. Born on 8 April 1932 in Budapest to a politically active family, József Antall studied at the University of Budapest, went on to become a high school teacher, and participated with his students in the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. He was then involved in the Smallholders Party's negotiations with the Communist Party to help form a coalition government. When the negotiations broke down in 1957, Antall was arrested and removed from his teaching job. After working as a librarian for two years, he committed himself to the history of medical science and in 1964 became a researcher, then the deputy director, and finally director of the Semmelweis Museum of Medical Science.

In 1988 Antall returned to politics and became involved in the growing Hungarian reform movement, joining the newly created Hungarian Democratic Forum (HDF). He represented the party at the National Round Table Negotiations between the governing Socialist Party and the new reform parties. In October 1989 he assumed the presidency of the HDF and became its candidate for premier. The HDF won Hungary's first democratic elections in April 1990, and the Hungarian parliament elected Antall premier on 23 May 1990.

Antall's adherence to such values as democracy, conservatism, Christian morality, and social awareness were the by-products of his upbringing and education. Even in his teens, he was convinced of the necessity to abandon the communist system. At the Round Table Negotiations, his main objectives were the restoration of democracy and the rule of law. As premier, he moved swiftly to promote internal reform and took the first steps toward Hungarian membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). Antall died in Budapest on 12 December 1993 following a short illness.

Anna Boros-McGee


Further Reading
Kapronczay, Károly. Antall József. Budapest: Országos Pedagógia Könyvtár és Múzeum, 2001.; Sisa, Stephen. The Spirit of Hungary: A Panorama of Hungarian History and Culture. 2nd ed. Ontario: Wintario Project, 1990.
 

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