|Stephen Sisa : The Spirit of Hungary|
An Era of Light and Shadow
The Compromise marked not only a new national beginning, but also the twilight of that splendid generation in Hungarian history that had produced the "greatest Magyar" (Széchenyi), the "perfect Magyar" (Wesselényi), the "most famous Magyar" (Kossuth) and the "wisest Magyar" (Deák). Both Széchenyi and Wesselényi had already died by the time the Compromise was reached. Kossuth was in exile, and Deák had gone into retirement, though he continued to exert considerable influence over domestic affairs until death in 1875.
Those who followed in the footsteps of these great men in the next fifty years may have been brilliant in one way or another, but they were not destined to illuminate their era as did the four great Magyars we have already met. These leaders included Count Gyula Andrássy, the farsighted statesman of the Monarchy, and Andrássy's Minister of Education, Baron József Eötvös, a liberal, Western oriented aristocrat and a writer of international fame. Eötvös died in 1871, the year Andrássy was appointed Foreign Minister of the Monarchy. Next to them, the most remarkable of the crop of politicians and statesmen after the Compromise were Count Kálmán Tisza and his son, István Tisza.
There was one man, however, whose life spanned almost the entire era between 1867 and 1918, and who exerted more influence on the Monarchy than any other: the Emperor-King himself, Franz Joseph. Although his rule had begun in 1849 and lasted 68 years until his death in 1916, he is best remembered as the embodiment of the so-called K.u.K. era from 1867 on. (The term is an abbreviation of the phrase "kaiserlich und königlich" - császári és királyi - imperial and royal), denoting Franz Joseph's two titles: Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. Franz Joseph forged the indissoluble link between the two nations from the day of his coronation.
The era introduced by this act had both its bright and its dark sides.
The fact that the Compromise gave Hungary a degree of independence which she had not enjoyed since Mohács in 1526, was alone a gain of capital importance. The constitutional change also triggered an unprecedented upsurge in the nation's life. With feverish ardor, the people themselves began to make up for the backwardness in Hungary, that was still so noticeable in comparison with Austria and the West.
Foreign capital poured into the country and with its help a grandiose program of railway construction, with the capital as its hub, was completed, the main rivers were made navigable (finishing the work of Széchenyi), and roads were built and improved. In Hungary more land was reclaimed by draining than in Holland until World War II. The number of workers in industry - flour mills, breweries, mining, metallurgy, and so on-skyrocketed. and trade expanded. In its wake urbanization surged and nowhere else was the phenomenal development more visible than in the capital city of Buda which in 1873 merged with Pest, to form the single city of Budapest - fulfilling another of Széchenyi's dreams.
Helped by a stunning location, Budapest was transformed into one of the most beautiful cities in the world. On the outskirts of the capital, large industries, sizable even according to Western standards, sprang up, while imposing private and public buildings were erected in the city itself along wide boulevards and by the banks of the Danube. An immense Royal Palace crowned the Hill of Buda, overlooking the Danube, which was spanned by the graceful Chain Bridge (Lánchíd) and four more bridges, including one built exclusively for rail traffic. Pest saw the rise of the great contours of the University, the Opera House, the Court Theater, the Palace of the Academy and the Saint István Basilica, to name only a few of the beautiful edifices constructed during the era. Expressing the nation's ambition to rival Vienna and other Western capitals was the majestic Parliament building on the left bank. A monumental work of architecture inspired by Westminster Abbey in London, it cost 37 million golden crowns, an astronomical figure at that time.
The Year of the Millennium
The year 1896 marked Hungary's millennium. Preparations for this event had begun years earlier, involving the greatest Hungarian artists and architects of the age in a cultural effort, never before seen in the land. The erection of the Parliament building was one major achievement, and there were many others. Four hundred new schools were built for the millennial year, and a new road and channel were carved into the rocks of the Iron Gate of the Danube, opened with a celebration attended by Franz Joseph and the kings of Serbia and Rumania.
In Budapest, a magnificent Memorial for the Millennium (Ezredéves Emlékm), graced by the ten statues of Hungarian kings donated by the King, was erected to honor the great rulers of the nation. The world-famous painter Mihály Munkácsy evoked the memory of the Conquest in his great work titled Honfoglalás; Árpád Feszty illustrated the story of the Magyars' arrival in the Carpathian Basin in a monumental circular painting which was subsequently exhibited in many foreign capitals, and the nation brought home the remains of Rákóczy, Thököly and Ilona Zrínyi. Thököly was buried in Késmárk, while Rákóczy and Ilona Zrínyi were placed in the Cathedral of Kassa in Upper Hungary (presently Kosice).
A special feature of the commemorative year was the year-long World Exhibition organized in Budapest, in which a proud nation displayed its achievements in the name of peace and progress.
Budapest became the lively center of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The King and Queen moved their court there and the foreign diplomatic corps followed. Budapest also hummed with the comings and goings of foreign monarchs and delegations eager to take part in the festivities. The World Exhibition left a legacy of several permanent structures, including Vajdahunyad Castle (a copy of the original in Transylvania) now the site of the Agricultural and Transportation Museums and the first electric subway line in Europe.
The emotional high point of the festivities was the Millennial Parade, a sparkling display of Magyar
spirit and artistry. Adding depth to the observance of that millennial year was a Treuga Dei, an "armistice" in the political affairs of the nation, enabling the people to recall in undisturbed solemnity the ancient glory of past ages and to celebrate the new achievements of Hungarian genius. Hungary received a homage of sorts from her minorities when, in 1895, the Congress of Nationalities of Hungary solemnly declared that "the Serbian-Slovakian-Rumanian alliance will respect the integrity of the lands belonging to Saint István's Crown."
Judging from the splendor and dimensions of the millennial festivities, it appeared that Hungary, after centuries of suffering and struggle for survival, had at last arrived at a new pinnacle in her history.
The Dark Side of the Compromise
However, where there is light, there is also shadow.
By the year of the Millennium Hungary had joined Austria, as a member of the Triple Alliance which also included Germany and Italy.
The foremost prophet of doom was Lajos Kossuth, who viewed the Compromise with alarm and sent Deák what was to become known as the famous "Cassandra letter." In this letter he predicted that Hungary, having bound its fate to that of the German nation and the Habsburgs, would go down with them. Ultimately his prophecy turned out to be fearfully accurate.
Kossuth blamed Deák for giving up the nation's right of true independence, and asserted that the conditions he had accepted went against the interests of the state's very existence. "I see in the Compromise the death of our nation," he wrote. Some of Kossuth's views were motivated by animosity towards the Habsburgs, but others were prompted by very real fears and the shortcomings of the Ausgleich (the Germans' term for the Compromise). Deák knew about them, too, but considered the agreement a pragmatic solution, the most that could he achieved under the circumstances, with improvements possibly coming later. Kossuth, however. refused to compromise because it meant ill end to his dreams of revolution for which he had been working in exile for decades.
Deák did not directly answer Kossuth's "Cassandra letter." However a year later, when strong agitation against the dynasty erupted in some counties in the wake of Kossuth's repeated warnings from abroad, he said:
"I question whether anyone who keeps raising unattainable national desires and hopes, and spreads the seeds of discontent by minimizing and denigrating the results al ready achieved, can be regarded as a benefactor of the people."
In the eyes of the Hungarian critics, one of the most objectionable parts of the Compromise was the provision for common defense in which the Honvéd units under Magyar command played a subordinate role. They represented little more than a national guard, while the control of the joint army of the Monarchy was in Austrian (and Czech) hands.
The Army's official language was German and it remained basically a foreign body in the non-German countries of the Monarchy.
In addition to Austrian domination of the armed forces, the character of the Court also remained basically German. Whenever the ruler appeared in public in Austria or Hungary, it was the Austrian Kaiserlied, Gott erhalte unser'n Kaiser -" God Save our Emperor" - that was played in his honor. (In later years the Hungarian National Anthem was also played during the King's visits in Hungary.) The diplomats of the Monarchy were also either mostly Austrians or Czechs (the most loyal minority) with the exception of Count Andrássy, who was named Foreign Minister in 1871.
When Andrássy was asked why there were no dual embassies abroad representing Austria and Hungary separately, he quipped:
"To represent one and the same policy we don't need two ambassadors. Should we have two policies with two ambassadors, it would no longer be a Monarchy, in which case we would need no ambassador at all.''
Although, theoretically, the royal couple had two residences, one in Vienna and the other in Budapest, the King used the Royal Palace in Buda only rarely, for he regarded Vienna as his home.
A Defensive Alliance Against Russia
While Count Gyula Andrássy was in office, he not only conducted the foreign affairs of the Monarchy brilliantly, but also took care that Hungary's interests were well protected within the framework of his policy.
When he was appointed foreign minister in 1871, he relinquished his post as the Premier of Hungary. At the Foreign Ministry, located at the Ballhausplatz in Vienna, he presided with distinction over a cosmopolitan bureau of Austrians, Magyars, Croats, Czechs, Serbs, Poles and Italians for seventeen years.
Andrássy was a contemporary of Otto von Bismarck, who unified the German states into a great European power. His first great success, in 1873, was the Dreikaiserbund (Three Emperors' League), which ensured good relations between the Monarchy and Germany, as well as with Russia, which was becoming dangerously Panslavist.
During the days of those negotiations Andrássy
could be seen walking arm in arm with Russian Foreign Minister Prince Gorchakov. He was chided by a Western diplomat for showing such affection for his Russian counterpart.
Well, my friend," Andrássy retorted, "When some-one wants to push you down a precipice, the best policy is to hold tightly onto his arm."
After the Dreikaiserbund, Andrássy's skillful diplomacy elicited a concession from the Russians in the Treaty of Budapest of 1877, which provided for the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Balkans by Austro-Hungarian troops whenever the Monarchy deemed it necessary. The treaty was signed when Russia was facing an impending war with Turkey - a nation which had political sway over the Balkan countries - and Russia was anxious to placate the Monarchy lest it sides with the Turks. At that time, Russian imperialism was casting its shadow upon Hungary, not from the East, but primarily from the Balkans through Slavic and Orthodox religious connections.
The war ended with a Russian victory which liberated Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and Wallachia from Turkish domination. Since the Treaty of San Stefano failed to restore balance to the area, in the ensuing Congress of Berlin, attended by major European powers, including England represented by Disraeli, the Monarchy was formally entrusted with the occupation of Slavic Bosnia and Herzegovina, while Wallachia and Moldavia were united in a kingdom named Rumania by Count Andrássy. Because they were Slavic, the Monarchy occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina reluctantly. But Andrássy preferred that they remain under the Monarchy's umbrella rather than under Russian tutelage because he had to reckon with Panslavism.
Andrássy's entire foreign policy was guided by considerations of defense against Russia, and he therefore welcomed Bismarck's offer of an alliance between Austria-Hungary and Germany. The "triumvirate" relaxed the censorship of the press and eliminated all remaining restrictions concerning Jews. In Hungary it was especially Eötvös who employed his eloquent tongue and pen on behalf of the full emancipation "of the children of Israel."
The Failure of Magyarization
Baron József Eötvös most important political achievement was the Nationalities Act in 1868.
One of the grave consequences of the Compromise was the alienation of Hungary's various nationalities. As a result of the Ausgleich, only the Croats were granted a sort of home rule within the Hungarian state, while Transylvania and Voivodina, cut off from the country since 1849, were reunited with Hungary. These ethnic minorities now practically demanded that Hungary be formed as a multinational state with six official languages and corresponding administrative and electoral divisions.
The Nationalities Act, while stressing the political unity of the Kingdom, provided national minorities with far-reaching rights, including the right to have their own elementary and middle schools with the free use of their own tongues.
A modern critic of the Magyars, Prof. Arthur I. May, wrote in his work The Habsburg Monarchy:
"All in all, the Nationalities Act of 1868 was one of the most enlightened measures of its kind ever adopted, even more liberal than the minority safeguards incorporated in the peace settlements of 1919-20 which, indeed, were largely modeled on the Hungarian precedent of 1868."
By that time, however agitation among the minorities surpassed the spirit expressed in the Bill. What they wanted was not protection, but rather large tracts of territories sliced from the country where they could establish their own rule. The Magyars resisted any further concessions and, disenchanted, allowed the Act to become a dead letter within a few years.
What the Magyars passed instead was the Education Act of 1879, a hard-line reaction against the minorities' demands, both as a measure of self-defense, and a way to end the impasse. The Act made the teaching of the Hungarian language compulsory in all primary schools; the assimilation of the non-Magyar intelligentsia was encouraged by opening high positions to those who would accept the Magyar ways. Every place in Hungary was given an official Magyar name; it was made easy for those of non Magyar descent to change their names to Magyar ones, and officials were encouraged to do so.
At the same time Slovakian schools were closed under the pretext that they had been teaching Pan-
slavism, and the same fear prompted the government to keep the minorities under-represented in the National Assembly.
While the Magyarization policy succeeded in creating a Hungarian language administrative class and contributed to the growth of the Hungarian population in the cities, it utterly failed to 'bring about a real change in the ethnic composition of the country, nor was it a serious threat to the nationalities' existence.
In Inner Hungary the proportion of the population giving Magyar as its mother-tongue had risen from 46.6% in 1880 to 51.4% in 1900, but in other parts of the country no real change occurred.
As Professor Eugene McCartney pointed out in his History of Hungary:
The effect of all the efforts on the ethnic map of Hungary, regarded in broad terms. was practically nil. It is doubtful whether the Magyarization of the schools changed the ethnic character of a single village.
The little Slovak or Ruthen, who spent his schooldays painfully acquiring a few scraps of Magyar (and often acquiring precious little else) forgot them happily and completely as soon as the school doors closed behind him. Where changes did occur, it was as a result of some special cause: large-scale emigration, or the establishment of a factory; and these changes were by no means always favorable to the Magyar element. A writer who investigated the question in 1902 reported that during the Liberal period the Magyars had actually lost 465 communes to the nationalities while gaining only 261 from them. Their chief gains had been from the Slovaks (chiefly in central Hungary), their chief losses to the Rumanians and Germans.
"Of all nationalities in Hungary,. the Ruthens had been the biggest losers (chiefly to the Slovaks), then the Magyars, then the Serbs (chiefly by emigration to Serbia). The biggest gainers on balance had been the Rumanians, then the Slovaks, then the Germans...
The Hungarians had thus been unable to obliterate the multinational character of the ethnic map of their country..."
The Idea of a Danubian Confederation
Hungary's nationalities problem had been tackled from a different angle by Kossuth. While in exile in 1850, he was approached by the Rumanian Hungarophile Nicolae Balcescu and László Teleki, who proposed the idea of a Danubian Confederation modeled after that of Switzerland. Kossuth accepted its basic principle and after Balcescu's early death he negotiated repeatedly with various ethnic leaders in exile. These negotiations resulted in a final draft in 1862. In it he pointed out that all the small nations on the Danube had need of one another and that their only hope for peace and tranquillity lay in a confederation.
This confederation would include Hungary proper and Transylvania, Rumania, Croatia, Serbia and the Southern Slavic provinces, which would be joined to Serbia. The inhabitants of Transylvania would decide, at an assembly convoked for the purpose, whether they wished to be joined to Hungary or to remain independent.
Kossuth hoped that such a confederation with its more than thirty million inhabitants would carry sufficient weight in European politics to ensure the permanent independence of these peoples. Hope for the realization of Kossuth's plan was based on the expected collapse of Austria, which never materialized in Kossuth's lifetime.
The Magyars regarded Kossuth's plan with mixed feelings. It was felt that what the country needed was a Western orientation to seek allies for checking the aspirations of the peoples on the Lower Danube who coveted portions of Hungarian territory. An alliance with the more highly cultured Germans and Czechs seemed preferable to federal ties with the Orthodox Slavs and Rumanians. Due to the roles these groups played in the Hungarian War of Independence, animosity against them in Hungary was too great to allow their acceptance in a confederation.
Even if the concept or a Danubian Confederation had been accepted by the Magyars, it would have been turned down as anachronistic by the nationalities who were now fighting for their own nationhood.
The fact that Hungary did not have lobbyists for her cause abroad contributed to the country's gradual isolation from the Western world. With the gradual demise of the émigrés of 1849, who had maintained some kind of contact with foreign politicians and journalists, international ties dried up and Hungarian public life became sequestered in its own little Carpathian world. Due to lack of Hungarian diplomats abroad, the Magyars formed a mistaken view of foreign countries and vice-versa, and Hungary slowly became, in the eyes of the West, a terra incognita, a part of Austria.
However, foreigners who had a chance of becoming acquainted with Hungary were usually enchanted by their experiences. One such visitor was Theodore Roosevelt, who spent some time there during his peregrinations around Europe in 1910. About his impressions he wrote:
I was struck in Hungary.... by the fact that I was really more in sympathy with the people whom I met than with the corresponding people of the larger continental nations. Their ways of looking at life were more like mine, and their attitude toward the great social and economic questions more like those of my friends in America. The Hungarian women, for instance, were almost the only women of Continental Europe with whom I could talk in the same intimate way that I could
with various American and English women whom I have known...
The Hungarian women are charming. They seemed to have the solid qualities of the North Germans, and yet to have the French charm which the Germans so totally lacked... I greatly liked the Hungarian men... I met an unusual number who were both interesting and interested in things that were worth-while; and who were keenly alert about political and economic matters, and were enthusiastic sportsmen or were well-read or had other interests that were not merely stodgy...
Altogether, I could not overstate how thoroughly at home I felt in Hungary... (B.J. Bishop: Theodore Roosevelt and His Time. New York 1929).
Jewish Immigration - Hungarian Emigration
There was only one group which embraced the Educational Act and liberalization enthusiastically: the Jews.
Hungary's Jewish population was partially emancipated in 1848, and many of them had fought and died in the War of Independence on the Magyar side. During census taking they invariably considered themselves fully assimilated Magyars.
According to Prof. Arthur J. May:
No Hungarian bourgeois was more Magyar in his outlook and feeling than the assimilated, Magyarized Jew; and nothing gratified such an individual so much as to be able to pass for an authentic Magyar...
In the main, Hungary's Jews were ardent patriots, advancing the material and intellectual life of the country, sturdy defenders of the rights of Hungary in its dealings with Austria, fervent apostles of Magyarization. In season and out the Jewish-owned press, the largest part of the Hungarian journalistic world, vigorously supported the campaign to denationalize non-Magyars and eloquently proclaimed the convictions of Magyar chauvinism.
The attitude of the Hungarian government toward Jewry was consistently liberal, an encouragement to immigration and assimilation...
But the immigration of the Jews was a mixed blessing for Hungary, as it opened up the inexhaustible reservoir of Galicia and Russia from which hundreds of thousands of orthodox Chassidim Jews poured into the country. These Jews knew nothing of the tradition of the land, and did not speak its language. While in 1720 the number of Jews in Hungary was a mere 12,000, in 1850 they numbered 366,000 and by 1869 there were 542,000. In 1900, their number increased to 830,000 with still more coming at a time when worsening economic conditions compelled the mass emigration of hundreds of thousands of Magyars, Slovaks and other nationalities to America. This emigration was enormous: between 1890 and 1910 approximately 1,500,000 Hungarians emigrated to the United States alone; in a single year - 1907- 338,452 people left Hungary and its Austrian partner for the United States - 203,332 of them Hungarians - in the largest voluntary human migration from one country to another in a single year in modern history.
Since the Jews preferred urban life, they gradually became part of the middle class, acquiring, with their innate resourcefulness, diligence and intellectual drive, enormous influence in industry,. commerce,. in agriculture as landowners and in the cultural life of the country, primarily as journalists. Around the turn of the century 42.2% of all journalist, 45.2% of all lawyers, and 48.9% of all doctors were Jewish. In the field of science and the humanities, they contributed considerably to Hungary's achievement.
The phenomenal advance of the Jews, many of them as yet unassimilated, engendered sporadic anti-Semitic outbursts and even the formation of a short-lived anti-Semitic party in 1884.
The tensions that arose from the arrival of the Jews and their rapid rise to prominence were considered to be a social not a racial phenomenon, a dissatisfaction with the socio-economic conditions. Except for two brief periods in 1919 and 1944-45, Hungary continues to be a tolerant society, a haven for the Jews compared to the suppression and persecution they often had to suffer in neighboring states.
A Respected Ruler
Under the circumstances, the governing of Hungary and of the Monarchy. for that matter, became an increasingly difficult affair, all the more, because, apart from internal strife, Kossuth from abroad continued to exercise a disturbing influence on the political life of the country for more than forty years.
The decades following the Compromise saw the emergence and dissolution of various political parties and leaders. Basically there was the party founded by Deák, Andrássy and Eötvös which supported the Compromise, and an opposition party which advocated separation from Austria in the spirit of 1849, egged on by Kossuth from abroad. After Andrássy's departure in 1871, there was a succession of weak governments, until in 1887, Kálmán Tisza took over and held the premiership with shrewdness and great tenacity for the next fifteen years. His son, István Tisza, would follow in his footsteps after the turn of the century to hold the reins of government from 1903 to 1905 and then again from 1913 to 1917. We shall meet him again in later chapters.
With governments and politicians in a chaotic state of flux, the only solid rock in these stormy seas of the Monarchy's history was the Emperor-King.
Franz Joseph was an uncomplicated man whose formative years coincided with the epoch-making era of 1848-49. Feelings for dignity and duty took com-
plete control of the Emperor-King, who served the Monarchy with self-sacrificing devotion.
Franz Joseph, who believed his authority came directly from God, described himself to Theodore Roosevelt as the last European monarch of the old school. His personal motto was Viribus unitis ("with united strength"), a motto realized in the Compromise of 1867, which. in turn, accorded him his second ambition - the Hungarian Crown. Once achieved, his supreme goal was to keep the Empire united.
As the years of his reign progressed, he survived the political storms around him only to endure, with characteristic fortitude, a chain or personal tragedies unprecedented within a royal family. Almost contemporary with the defeat at Königraetz came news of the tragic fate of his younger brother Archduke Maximilian, who became Emperor of Mexico only to be killed by a firing squad in 1867. Maximilian's wife, Charlotte, a Belgian princess, went mad. In 1889, the suicide at Mayerling of his only son, Rudolph, shook not only the Emperor-King but the Empire as well. In 1898, his wife, the beloved Empress and Queen Elizabeth, after nine years of melancholy, was murdered by an Italian anarchist. The final blow, the assassination of his heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife by the bullets of a Serbian conspirator at Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 was still to come.
Though he was not a beloved ruler, he was respected by all, even by those who disliked him. Franz Joseph was scrupulously honest, and a man of his word. He became known as the "most constitutional king" of Hungarian history, who honored his coronation oath to the utmost. As the Emperor-King wrote in a letter to his heir, Franz Ferdinand, "One has to remain honest even in politics..."
Franz Joseph's sense of duty remained strong within him even to the end. Forced into bed on the eve of his death,. he is said to have protested, "I still have much to do... I must get on with my work."
|Stephen Sisa : The Spirit of Hungary|