Regulating Bodies and Everyday Crimes: Criminality, Subculture, and Deviance in Communist Hungary, 1948-1956


Dissertation Fellowships in East European Studies




The Hungarian socialist regime sought to refashion every aspect of life on stalinist lines. Crime, and deviance more broadly construed, were dismissed as remnants of the bourgeois past and expected to melt away into air in due time. Hungarian men were to be dedicated, ideologically-sound workers; women, the same plus good mothers in their spare time. A promising scheme on paper, this was an abject failure in practice. Peasant transgressions (from shirking collective labor to illegal pig slaughtering) went largely unnoticed and unpunished. Although the cities were more closely monitored, they also provided more opportunities for profit and autonomy. Party members and non-members alike were consistently able to misinterpret, circumvent, and even outright ignore the state’s diktat to their advantage. Wage fraud and strikes in the factories, the thriving black market, illegal abortions, even hooligans roaming the Budapest streets in gangs—the limits of dictatorship were apparent at every turn.