Hungary History in the 20th Century
The period from 1867 to 1914 was the time of a great economic and intellectual evolution of Hungary, an era in which the country’s agriculture reached impressive developments, which benefited from the vast outlet represented by the territory of the Habsburg monarchy, and industry. The interest of political life was limited only to relations with Austria, although the compromise was recognized by all parties, except for the one which rested on the enormous popularity of L. Kossuth, living in exile in Turin. A certain evolution took place within the framework of the compromise. Thus the head of the government, Count Julius Andrássy, succeeded in obtaining from the king the formation of a corps of Magyar troops (the honvéd) and the decree for the dissolution of military borders (1868). In 1868, after long and difficult negotiations, the compromise with the Croats was concluded, on the basis of a very large autonomy of the Croatian kingdom, which had the right to send a certain number of deputies to the Hungarian parliament for common affairs with Hungary. The city of Rijeka had the position of “separate body”, directly annexed to the kingdom of Hungary. A significant part of the Croatian people, dissatisfied with this compromise, sided around A. Starčević and G. Frank, continuing the struggle for an independent Croatian kingdom.
According to best-medical-schools, Deák’s governing party, unable to face financial difficulties, was obliged in 1875 to merge with the large party headed by Colomanno Tisza which from 1875 to 1890 was continuously in government. It is true that Tisza had certain merits, such as supporting G. Andrássy’s policy aimed at the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and restoring balance in the state budget, but she too cautiously avoided radical reforms and finally had to yield to pressure from public opinion, generally unsatisfied with the compromise of 1867, especially in the part concerning military measures. The essential direction of evolution was determined by liberalism which in the years 1894-95, under the government of T. Wekerle, with the laws concerning civil marriage law and emancipation of the Jews, achieved a sensational victory. Parliamentary life was often paralyzed by the obstruction of the opposition parties, a disease of political life that even the energetic son of C. Tisza, Stefano, was unable to remedy at first. Finally, the Liberal Party, having ceased to represent the Hungarian public opinion, remained in the minority and its place was occupied in 1905 by the coalition of opposition parties.
The weak sides of the domination of the Liberal party were the neglect of the social field and the inability to solve the question of minorities. However, it must be recognized that this last problem proved to be truly insoluble due to the very nature of the opposing principles of the two fields. The Hungarian nation remained faithful to the idea of the nation-state of Hungary, seeking to ensure political equality for all citizens. On the other hand, the tendencies of the minorities were such as to threaten the unitary structure of the state, indeed the very existence of strong nuclei of the Magyar race. Thus the Slovak nationalists tried to form a Slavic territory with districts inhabited by a Slovak majority; for the same reason the Romanians were against the union of Transylvania with the kingdom, while the Serbs remained attached to the idea of an autonomous Serbian voivodeship. The minorities therefore demanded the dismemberment of the state territory, a request that could never be accepted by the Magyars. The various Hungarian governments, impressed by the nightmare of Pan-Slavism, could make mistakes, but such mistakes never jeopardized the existence of minorities, while the tendencies of minorities were increasingly concentrated in the desire for union in nation states.
The government of the opposition parties, partly due to the resistance of Franz Joseph, partly due to its internal weakness, was unable to carry out the most important points of its program, such as universal suffrage, the establishment of a national bank, the ‘customs autonomy, etc. In 1910 the coalition government fell, which was succeeded by the party of Count Stefano Tisza, who strictly adhered to the antiquated political structure. Tisza’s great merit was in putting an end to parliamentary obstruction.
The propaganda initiated by Romania and Serbia against the integrity of the Hungarian kingdom, as well as the Pan-Slav propaganda, manifested in threatening forms, were indisputable facts, such as to give the world war the character of a struggle for the existence of the Magyar race. And yet S. Tisza was at first flatly opposed to the idea of war, although she ended up accepting it later. When the world conflict broke out, it was Tisza himself who led the nation with iron energy. Given the difficult nature of the country’s conditions, the phenomenon that arose in 1916 was extremely dangerous, when the radical elements, led by Count Michele Károlyi, tried to bring the agitation into the masses with the demand for universal suffrage, at the same time turning against the German allies. In the spring of 1918 Tisza, not wanting to favor the idea of the new King Charles, aimed at resolving the question of the vote, resigned. The relative law was presented to parliament by the government of A. Wekerle. The worsening of the military situation favored the agitation of the radicals. A National Council was formed and on October 31 the revolution, becoming victorious, did not take long to proclaim the end of hostilities, the dissolution of the alliance with Germany and the right of free decision of minorities. On the same day S. Tisza was assassinated by the mob. King Charles, with his declaration of Eckartsau of November 13, withdrew from state affairs and the republic was proclaimed on November 16. The government, however, proved powerless in the face of growing anarchy and communist propaganda. The humiliating demands of the allied powers, presented by a French officer, caused general despair in Hungary. Taking advantage of this state of mind, as well as the lack of a political orientation of the government, the Communist Party, headed by Béla Kun, came to terms with the Socialist Party, proclaimed the republic of the Hungarian Soviets (2i March 1919). The domination of the Communists in a short time ruined the economic and moral remains of Hungarian life and had no other success than the military one against the Czechs; it collapsed on July 31 as a result of the internal resistance of the Hungarian people and the defeat inflicted on the Communists by the Romanian army. The forces of the counter-revolution, having come to power, reconstituted the kingdom and, given the absence of the king, elected Admiral Nicola Horthy, the soul of the national counter-revolutionary movement (1920), as regent. The national assembly was forced by the former enemy powers to vote on a law for the dethronement of the Habsburg dynasty.
On June 4, 1920, the peace treaty was signed at the Trianon, considered by the whole nation, regardless of party, as unjust and contrary to the minimum demands for equity. In fact, the treaty, in addition to depriving Hungary of the geographical borders and of the raw materials necessary for the life of the population of considerable density, removes 71.5% of the state territory and two thirds of the population of the ancient kingdom, subduing more than three millions of Magyars to the hegemony of foreign races. In 1921 King Charles made two abortive attempts to return to the throne. In the same year, the residents of the city of Sopron voted for Hungary instead of Austria. The ten years of the rule of Count Stephen Bethlen were the time of consolidation of the new mutilated state; L’ entry into the League of Nations (1923) made stabilization possible with the Italo-Hungarian friendship pact of 1927 Hungary came out of its diplomatic isolation. The outbreak of the economic crisis forced S. Bethlen to withdraw from the government in 1931 and since 1932 the government of General S. Gömbös, who was succeeded in 1936 by C. Daranyi, works to solve serious political, social and economic problems.
In foreign policy, it should be particularly remembered how the Italo-Hungarian friendship took shape, in this last period, in the Rome protocol of 17 March 1937, with which Italy, Hungary and Austria agreed to a policy of understanding and agreements, in the political and economic fields: a strengthened understanding – after Hungary, like Austria, opposed the application of sanctions against Italy in Geneva in October 1935 – with the additional protocols of Rome of 23 March 1936, with which the three aforementioned states decided to form themselves as a group, creating a permanent body for mutual consultation, made up of the respective foreign ministers.The visit of the regent Nicola Horthy to Rome (November 1936) and the sovereigns of Italy to Budapest (May 1937) was an expression of these particularly cordial relations between the two countries.