“Eyes across the Atlantic—Hungary’s State Security and Canada’s Hungarians, 1956 – 1989.”*

International Conference on NKVD/KGB Activities and its Cooperation with other Secret Services in Central and Eastern Europe 1945 – 1989 (SÚZA, Bratislava, November 15, 2007)
This paper is a case study on how Hungary’s State Security agency gathered intelligence on Canada, and especially on Hungarian Canadians. Using archival sources stored at the Historical Archives of Hungarian State Security in Budapest, this paper will show how Hungarian state security attempted to infiltrate Hungarian-Canadian community organizations,  fraternal benefit organizations and newspapers, as a way in which to monitor and gather information on Canada’s rapidly growing Hungarian communities, and on Canadian society in general.

More than 38,000 Hungarians arrived in Canada as refugees in 1956-1957, following the suppression of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. They joined the 46,000 Hungarians who had immigrated to Canada since the beginning of the twentieth century. Even before 1956, Canada’s Hungarian communities were politically charged with the ideological conflicts of the “old country,” namely the divide between those who subscribed to nationalist, conservative and staunchly anti-communist beliefs, and those who gravitated towards Communist and left-wing views more generally. Each “camp” had its own community organizations, such as affiliated churches, fraternal benefit societies, social organizations and newspapers. These associations tended to maintain close ties with sympathetic governments and political parties in Hungary. The political activities of Canada’s oldest weekly newspapers—the staunchly pro-Communist Kanadai Magyar Munkás (Canadian Hungarian Worker) and the conservative Kanadai Magyar Újság (Canadian Hungarian News)-- reflected this divide among Canada’s Hungarians. These newspapers also demonstrated how, at different points in history, ethnic organizations provided friendly authorities in Hungary with information on the activities of one of the largest Hungarian émigré communities in the Western world.

Hungary’s post-1945, Communist state security agencies—the ÁVO and the ÁVH—had a keen interest in the activities of Hungarian-Canadians, and especially those who were deemed to hold “reactionary” and right-wing sympathies. This interest grew after 1956/57, with the rapid expansion of Hungarian communities in Canada, the perceived increase in anti-Communist political activities and the establishment of new organizations aimed at catering to the needs of the “fifty-sixers.” There was widespread suspicion among anti-Communist Hungarians in Canada that they and their organizations were being monitored by people who collaborated with Hungary’s Communist authorities. While some of these suspicions were unfounded, documents preserved at the Archives of Hungarian State Security in Budapest provide evidence that socialist Hungary did, in fact, turn to informants to gain insight into the political activities of Canada’s Hungarian communities. This paper will examine the “eyes and ears” of Hungarian state security in Canada during the Cold War and will look at the mechanism used to gather information on these communities, as well as on Canada’s political activities in this period.

Christopher Adam

*Slovak translation: "Pohlady cez Atlantik – Madarská štátna bezpecnost a kanadskí Madari, 1956 – 1989"