World News

Former Hungarian PM Who Breached Iron Curtain Dies at 80

Former Hungarian prime minister Gyula Horn, who played a key role in ending communism in eastern Europe, has died in Budapest after a long illness. He was 80.

Mr. Horn's death was announced Wednesday by the government in Budapest and the Hungarian Socialist Party he led to victory in 1994 elections.

He was best known internationally as communist Hungary's last foreign minister, who in September 1989 announced the opening of Hungary's border with Austria. The move allowed tens of thousands of East German refugees to travel to West Germany for the first time in nearly three decades.

That breach of the Iron Curtain, which divided countries of the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact from those of western Europe, led to the collapse of communism in Europe months later.



Mr. Horn's role in the reunification of Europe earned him praise and respect abroad, particularly in Germany. After embracing free market policies, he was elected prime minister in 1994.

He later faced strong criticism at home for his 1956 role as a young communist militant who helped Soviet troops crush an anti-Soviet uprising in Budapest.

In 2007, then-president Laszlo Solyom refused to award Mr. Horn a state honor, citing the former leader's lack of remorse for his role in the 1956 uprising.

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