Formally, the Communists gained independent power in the elections on 15 May 1949. On 20
August 1949, a constitution modelled on that of Stalin was adopted. The country was renamed
the Hungarian People's Republic. The crackdown on opponents of the new authorities
continued. The State Security Department (Államvédelmi Hatóság so-called AVOs), the
political police, played an important role in this process. It was a huge organization with tens
of thousands of employees and 300 thousand informants, which controlled all areas of life in
the country. Between 1952 and 1955, it brought proceedings against one in five adult citizens,
bringing 650,000 people to justice. More than 300,000 of them were sentenced, most of them
peasants (to emphasize the scale of repression, it should be mentioned that in 1953 Hungary
had about 9,200,000 inhabitants).
The Rákosi state was characterised by centralisation of power and terror. Old ideological
communists were dealt with, churches were actively fought - the agricultural reform deprived
the economic base of religious organizations, and in a show trial Primate Mindszenty was
sentenced to life imprisonment. Old elites were also fought, including through the
resettlement of their representatives.