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Hungarian spy radio sets - under construction

During the Cold War, Hungary was a communist state behind the so-called Iron Curtain. It was part of the Warsaw Pact and had a range of different intelligence and security agencies, some of which had strong ties with the Russian KGB. The most suppressive organisation was the ÁVH (formerly known as: ÁVO), which was dissolved in 1956. After 1956, Hungary no longer had a Secret State Police, but did have an active Intelligence Agency (BAS), of which not much is known. BAS is also referred to as Department III of the Ministry of Internal Affairs [1].
Coat of Arms of Hungary. Image via Wikipedia.

Especially Department III/I of the BAS was active in international espionage throughout the Cold War, with some 500 agents, mainly in countries like Austria, West-Germany and Italy and, to a lesser extent, in Belgium [2]. Usually, the Hungarian Embassy in the guest country acted as a diplomatic cover for the (illegal) agents of the BAS, with the Resident passing information back to his Control in Budapest. For clandestine communication, a variety of spy radio sets were used.

Hungarian spy radio sets
Modular short-wave spy radio set in suitcase
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Radio Direction Finder for 121.5 MHz distress beacons
Intelligence Agencies
During the Cold War (1945-1990), Hungary had many different intelligence agencies, just like most other countries behind the Iron Curtain. As the names and structures of these organisations changed a number of times over the years, we have listed them here in chronological order:

1945-1946   PRO → Budapesti Fokapitányság Politikai Rendészeti Osztálya
Police Main Command Political Department of Hungary, established immediately after the end of WWII, in 1945. Succeeded by the ÁVO in 1946.
1946-1950   ÁVO → Államvedélmi Osztálya
Hungarian State Police State Protection Department, established in 1946 as the successor of the PRO. Succeeded in 1950 by the ÁVH.
1950-1956   ÁVH → Államvedélmi Hatóság
State Protection Autority of Hungary, established in 1950 as the successor to the ÁVO. Hunted down everyone who was vaguely against the rule of Moscow over Hungary. Dissolved in 1956. After this, Hungary never had another Secret State Police. The AVO was located at 60 Andrassy Place in Budapest, in the same building where the Hungarian Nazi Arrow Cross Party was housed during WWII. The building is now a museum and is known as 'House of Terror'. (Wikipedia)
1956-1990   BAS → Belügyminisztérium Állambiztonsági Szervek
State Security Department of the Ministry of Interior, active from 1956-1990. Also known as Belügyminisztérium III (Ministry of Internal Affairs III) with various Departments, such as III/I (espionage) and III/II (counter-espionage).
1990-2010   KNBSZ → Katonai Nemzetbiztonsági Szolgálat
Military National Security Service.
1990-2010   NBSZ → Nemzetbiztonsági Szakszolgálat
Special Service for National Security.
2010   AH → Alkotmányvédelmi Hivatal
Constitution Protection Office. Current Hungarian internal security intelligence agency, established in 2010 as the successor to the NBSZ. Responsible for counterintelligence, anticorruption, economic security and related proactive measures. Also investigative body against organized crime and subversion. (Website) (Wikipedia)
2010   IH → Információs Hivatal
Information Office. Current intelligence agency of Hungary, involved in non-military intelligence gathering, mainly abroad. (Wikipedia)
Ministry of Internal Affairs - Department III
Like in most countries, Hungary's major intelligence agency during the Cold War, the BAS, operated under responsibility of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where it was also known as Department III. This department was further divided into the following Sections:

  1. Intelligence
  2. Counter-intelligence
  3. Internal Reaction (and Sabotage)
  4. Military Response
  5. Technical Operations
  1., Állambiztonsági tisztek listája (1956-1989)
    Website, 12 April 2005. Retrieved August 2015.

  2. Kristof Clerix, Spionage, Doelwit Brussel
    ISBN 978-90-223-2771-5. September 2013. pp. 85-109.
Further information
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Crypto Museum. Created: Tuesday 18 August 2015. Last changed: Tuesday, 16 July 2019 - 17:16 CET.
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