The American Legacy
Metropolitan Playhouse
The American Legacy

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A Timeline of Events
Learn more about the people, ideas, and events that feature in Shadow of Heroes. 


The Austro-Hungarian Compromise establishes dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, and gives Hungary some independence as its own state


July 28: World War One, largely a product of European nationalism, begins with the Austro-Hungarian Empire allying itself with Germany. 


November 7: Vladimir Lenin takes control of Russia in the October Revolution, creating the world’s first socialist state and establishing Leninism as the dominant application of Karl Marx’s theories.

Vladimir Lenin


March 2: The Communist International, or Comintern, established to advocate and promote the overthrow of all states in order to create an international communist government. The Comintern underscores Marxism’s stance that national interests run counter to the goals of communism by creating artificial divisions between oppressed working people.

March 21: During a tumultuous post-war period of revolution and counter-revolution,

la Kun establishes Hungarian Soviet Republic, a Communist state with very close ties to Lenin. The short lived government is ousted in August, after only 133 days.

la Kun

August: After the fall of Kun's government,

Ernő Gerő, Matyas Rákosi, and other future Hungarian leaders flee the country, with most winding up in the Soviet Union.


June 4: Following World War I, the Peace Settlement of Trianon established Hungarian independence from the Austria-Hungary Empire but requires huge territorial concessions, making it a small nation-state in need of reform and modernization.

Trianon required Hungary to give up much of its land to neighboring powers.

March 1: Miklos Horthy becomes regent of Hungary.


László Rajk

At 21 years of age, László Rajk

becomes a member of the illegal communist movement.

Grievances solidify around the need for more land and democratic institutions. Communists, socialists, fascists, and more all offer different solutions for the same problem.


A young János Kádár

 A young János Kádár joins the Hungarian Association of Young Communist Workers (KIMSZ) and the Hungarian Communist Party. Later that year, he's arrested for the first time.

Kádár becomes  secretary of the KIMSZ Central Committee and is subsequently arrested again.  1933


Nazi Germany proved itself an ally to Hungary in the late '30s.

Only fascist Germany provides the diplomatic and financial support for  Hungary's expansionist ambitions, and so Hungary allies closely with the Axis powers.


November 20: Hungary formally enters WWII on the side of  the Axis Powers alliance. 


Many foreigners fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War, including Americans in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, featured above.

Rajk is released from internment in France following his fighting in the Spanish Civil War. He returns to Hungary and became a leader in the Communist underground.


Kádár establishes himself as a politial survivor. Though briefly expelled from the party and working as a laborer, he becomese a secretary  of the powerful Central Committee in December, eventually leading it.


Stalin eventually allied the USSR with the UK and the US.

May 15: The Comintern dissolved, at least in part due to Joseph Stalin’s desire to assure his WWII Allies that he was not seeking to destabilize national interests.


March 12: After Horthy drags his feet on contributing to the Axis war effort and deporting Jews, Nazi Germany launches Operation Margarethe, effectively taking control of Hungary.

The Emblem of Hungary's fascist Arrow Cross Party

October 15: Horthy is forced to abdicate in Nazi’s Operation Panzerfaust. The fascist and anti-Semitic Arrow Cross party takes power.

Between October and December, with Soviet forces threatening, the Arrow Cross kill and deport thousands of Jews.


Kádár is imprisoned again as he tried to make contact with Communist leaders in Yugoslavia.

November: Kádár escapes, returns to Budapest, appointed to Budapest deputy chief of police.

Yugoslavia, the multi-national communist state, borders Hungary to the south.

December: Rajk is arrested by the Arrow Cross party and imprisoned.


February 4: With WWII winding down, Lenin's succesor

 Joseph Stalin and western leaders Winston Churchill and  Franklin D. Roosevelt convene the Yalta Conference to determine the fate of post-war Europe.  The measured deliberations  focused on  European nations’ right to representative government.

R to L: Churchill, FDR, and Stalin.

Despite the tone of Yalta and further summits, Stalin begins exercising enormous infuence over Eastern Europe within a few short years, creating a sphere of Soviet influence in which communism takes root. 

May 13. Rajk released from prison.

The Hungarian Smallholders' Party actually won a majority.

November: In nationwide elections the Communist party achieves only a small minority.
Marshall Kliment Voroshilov, however, commands the Red Army occupation of Budapest. He demands that the government constitute a coalition that includes communists in key positions.

Voroshilov brought communists to power in post-war Hungary.

Almost immediately, tensions crop up between those communists who returned from Russia, like Gerő and Rákosi, and those who never left, like Rajk and Kádár


March 20: Rajk is appointed Minister of the Interior, a position that commanded the secret police and significant power. He wielded these resources to consolidate Communist control. While in this position, he develops a rivalry with secret police chief Gábor Péter and party deputy secretary Mihály Farkas.


The logo of the Hungarian Communist Party

Kádár became a deputy general secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party and then the Hungarian Workers' Party, after having joined the powerful Political and Central Committees.


July: Senior American statesman George F. Kennan's "Long Telegram" is published in Foreign Affiars. It outlines the policy of "containment" of communism that held sway in American foreign policy for most of the 20th century.

American statesman George F. Kennan


June 24: The Berlin Airlift, in which western nations supplied West Berlin with food in the face of a soviet blockade, making the Cold War conflict between the USSR led Eastern Bloc and the western capitalist nations impossible to ignore.

August: Rajk is moved from the Interior Ministry to become Foreign Minister. 

Kádár takes over as Interior Minister, replete with its powerful and clandestine secret police.


May 30: Rajk is arrested on false charge and denounced as a Titoist, a servant of Josip Broz Tito, the Yugoslavian leader who had bitterly broken with Stalin just a year earlier.

Tito's break with the USSR infuriated Stalin.

His trial, involving almost a hundred charges, was heavily publicized, including radio broadcasts of some sessions.

The most important one’s painted him as betraying Hungary and Communism to American and Yugoslav interests.

September 24: He is sentenced to death. 
October 15: He is executed. 


Matyas Rákosi

Once more, Kádár is arrested, this time by the Rakosi government. He is removed from all party positions, and sentenced to life in prison. Reportedly, he is tortured by those whom he had previously overseen.


Matyas Rákosi becomes premier.


March 5: Stalin dies, throwing the USSR and its sphere of influence into some chaos. When the dust clears, Nikita Khrushchev holds power.


September: Kádár is released from prison and slowly rehabilitated.


February 25: Khrushchev delivers "On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences," otherwise known as the "Secret Speech," denouncing Stalin's violent tactics. This creates pressure on staunch Stalinist's like Rákosi.

July: The slow process of reclaiming prestige and power culminated in his being readmitted to the Central Committee

Ernő Gerő's brief tenure leading Hungary is known as the Gerő Interregunum.

July: Ernő Gerő briefly leads the government, as anti-establishment forces begin to marshall.