|Transylvania - The Roots of Ethnic Conflict|
Peter Pastor's study outlines the diplomatic and political events that shifted control over Transylvania from Hungary to Rumania. Pastor traces the World War I developments and examines Rumania's shifting diplomatic maneuvers as well as the internal political developments within Hungary to the collapse of the Károlyi government in March, 1919.
Stephen Fischer-Galati approaches the Transylvanian developments mainly from the perspective of the political interests and concerns of the neighboring great powers. His study examines the Transylvanian-Rumanian-Hungarian confrontation in terms of the interwar perceptions of France, the Soviet Union, Italy, and Germany. He traces these relations from the end of World War I to the beginning of World War II.
Finally, Stephen D. Kertesz provides a meticulous, step-by-step summary of Rumanian-Hungarian relations from the period immediately preceding the Second Vienna Award to the post-war disposition of the Transylvanian question at Paris and New York in 1946--47. His analysis combines the insights of the diplomatic participant with those of the international political specialist and scholar. The Kertesz study traces the fate of Transylvania mainly in relation to Soviet objectives and policies at that time. It shows that even minor rectifications of the Trianon-established frontiers, initially supported by the American secretary of state, James Byrnes, received no serious consideration at the
Paris Peace Conference. The Trianon frontiers were reestablished. However, unlike the treaty following World War I, the Paris compact failed to guarantee the rights of minorities. The minorities of Transylvania were to be "protected" by the human rights provisions of the United Nations Charter. This consideration relegated the fate of minorities mainly to the realm of Rumanian domestic politics.
In 1856, the Congress of Paris sanctioned the union of the Rumanian Principalities, and on this occasion the Austrian diplomat Baron Prokesch-Osten observed that the "Rumanians aspire to create an independent state which is to include Bukovina, the Rumanian portion of Transylvania and the Banat, with the Balkans as frontiers." Twenty-two years later, in 1878, an independent Rumanian state was formed with objectives much like the ones predicted earlier. It aimed to expand its borders in order to include all Rumanians living in neighboring lands. The Hungarian province of Transylvania, whose population was fifty-five percent Rumanian, could not escape the attention of those who favored a greater Rumania. This implied potential confrontation as Hungarian policy at the turn of the century was based on the integrity of the imperium. Neither Hungary nor Rumania was willing to search for a mutually acceptable solution that could have led to bilateral agreements.
The Transylvanian question, a by-product of conflicting goals, awaited another solution, which would involve the great powers and be shaped by the needs of power politics. It did not lead to a mutually acceptable resolution of the problem. Increased great power involvement with this issue during the Great War and during the Hungarian revolution of 1918--19 led to instability and tension and to a solution that formed a new phase of the Transylvanian question.
In 1913, Rumania entered into the Second Balkan War against Bulgaria and with the subsequent Treaty of Bucharest of August 10, 1913, forced a defeated Bulgaria to cede southern Dobruja to Rumania. A similar war for Transylvania thus seemed very inviting and military confrontation with Hungary became a strong possibility.
Such a resolution of the Transylvanian question, however, was complicated since Rumania and Hungary were allies in the Triple Alliance. Moreover, an attack on Hungary represented an attack on the Dual Monarchy, and a war of such magnitude could only have been
carried out with great power support. This would have required Rumania to switch its loyalty to the Entente camp, which was possible. Concerning the situation, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Sazanov noted in December 1913, that
Rumania's position among the Balkan countries recalls in many respects that of Italy in Europe. Both powers suffer from megalomania, and as they are not strong enough to realize their plans openly, they have to content themselves with an opportunist policy, constantly watching to see on which side the power lies, and going over to that side.
The German leaders, representing the dominant power in the Triple Alliance, were also aware that Rumania could leave the alliance and thus contribute to the strength of the Entente. Germany, therefore, sought to urge a compromise solution upon Hungary. This was the first indication that a great power might resolve the Transylvanian question. On October 27 and 28, 1913, seemingly as a result of German pressure, the prime minister of Hungary, István Tisza, reentered into negotiations with leaders of the Rumanian National party in Hungary. Tisza had initiated similar talks in 1910 and believed that an agreement on educational reforms, concessions on the Rumanian language usage, and the formation of new election districts favoring the Rumanians would put an end to the appeal of irredentism.
The leaders of the Rumanian minority in Hungary did not consider Tisza's offer substantial enough. Although Emperor-King Francis Joseph did his best to convince Tisza to continue negotiations for the sake of the Dual Monarchy's foreign policy, on February 20, 1914, the prime minister reported to Parliament that his offers had been rejected. The opposition Independence party, which objected to any concession, welcomed the news.
The Independents, whose basic aim was to loosen Hungary's ties with Vienna, accused Tisza of succumbing to German and Austrian pressures. The paper Magyarország [Hungary], closely identified with the Independents' policy, declared that the "two Istváns represent the beginning and the end of the unitary state." This was the reference to King Saint István (Stephen), the eleventh-century founder of the Hungarian state, and to István Tisza, who, because of his attempted deals, was seen as its destroyer. As a final line of defense, the paper demanded quid pro quo: high offices for some Magyars living in Rumania in return for Tisza's offers.
The Magyar politicians in Transylvania were also moved by Tisza to change the status quo. They believed that any change from within
would embolden Rumania. For this reason, on December 7, 1913, the Transylvanian Alliance, Erdélyi Szövetség, was established under the leadership of István Apáthy, a leader of the Independents in Transylvania. The new organization was to prepare the Transylvanians for self-defense and alert all the Hungarians of the fact that the province was virtually defenseless against an attack by Rumania. In the interest of Transylvania, Apáthy also called for universal suffrage. This policy would have increased the political power of the Rumanian minority in Hungary. However, since the Hungarians had a plurality in Hungary as a whole, their universal enfranchisement also would have increased their strength. It was felt that this, in turn, would facilitate protection of Hungarian interests in those Hungarian districts where they were in a minority.
The Independent party leaders were increasingly convinced that Rumanian aspirations over Transylvania were encouraged by Germany. For this reason, Count Mihály Károlyi, who considered the shaping of the party's foreign policy platform as his bailiwick, called for changes in the Dual Monarchy's foreign policy. He saw a need for an Austro-Hungarian rapprochement with the Entente, and this prompted his trip in the spring of 1914 to Paris, where he had an interview with French Prime Minister Raymond Poincaré. Károlyi had also intended to visit Russia, another member of the Entente, because Rumania had claims on Russian-held Bessarabia, and he viewed Russia as a potential ally. Károlyi believed an Entente alliance would bring about a solution to the Transylvanian question that would be favorable to Hungary. Yet such a one-sided solution would not have contributed to the area's tranquility. This was the first time that French input to the Transylvanian question was considered, and, ironically, five years later it was the French who were instrumental in bringing about a one-sided resolution that favored Rumania rather than Hungary.
The opposition's views were not able to alter the Dual Monarchy's foreign policy in the months preceding the war. Their vociferous protests, based on Magyar nationalism, reinforced the resolve of the champions of the Habsburg cause who sought to minimize Hungarian influence in the empire. The heir to the throne, Francis Ferdinand, was receptive to German exhortations and Rumanian pressures that reinforced his desire to reorganize the empire.
In November, 1913, Nicolae Filipescu, the war minister and leader of the conservative faction in Rumania that considered Russia as the everlasting enemy, revived a favorite solution to the Transylvanian problem. It was proposed that with the transfer of Transylvania to
Rumania, the Rumanian kingdom could join a federated Grossöstereich, enjoying rights similar to those accorded to Bavaria by the German Empire. These proposals were received with enthusiasm by the new Austro-Hungarian ambassador in Bucharest, Ottokar Czernin, who was Francis Ferdinand's most trusted advisor on foreign affairs. The assassination of Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo ended prospects for such a solution, much to the relief of the Hungarians, who disliked him. Because of the heir's well-known unpopularity in Hungary, the assassination was at first attributed to the Hungarians.
World War I, which was triggered by the assassination, pitted the Triple Alliance against the Entente, but Rumania, though a member of the Triple Alliance, abstained from action. As Sazanov predicted, it awaited the most opportune moment and the most favorable offer of compensation before choosing sides.
On July 30, even before the empire declared war on Russia, which was then mobilizing, Sazanov offered Transylvania to Rumania in return for its support of the Entente, and the next day Russia proffered Rumania the same prize for neutrality. The latter proposal, which could not have been matched by the Central Powers, was accepted by Rumania in a secret treaty signed in Saint Petersburg on October 1. This treaty was the first diplomatic recognition of Rumania's claim to Transylvania by a great power.
Russia's commitment was made in the name of the Entente, although the treaty was drawn up unilaterally. It was not, however, challenged by her Western allies. At the outbreak of the war, Russia thus became the primary power proposing to decide the fate of Transylvania, and although this role was lost to Russia in 1917, it was recovered by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II.
On April 25, 1915, the Rumanian government presented the Entente with demands which, if fulfilled, would put the country in the ranks of the Entente. The territories for which Rumania asked would stretch its borders from the river Prut to the river Tisza; they included Bukovina, Transylvania, and the Banat. Early in July, the Russians accepted the Rumanian terms, and later the Western allies also gave their approval. These demands were essentially the same as those included in the Secret Treaty of Bucharest the following year.
In the light of Russia's generous offers, Germany's counteroffer of Russian-held Bessarabia in exchange for Rumania's neutrality had little weight. The Rumanian government seemed bent on gaining Transylvania. Mindful of the fortunes of war, it was swayed by its prime minister, Ion Bratianu, who as early as August 3, 1914, had declared
that "the question of the Rumanians in Transylvania dominates the whole situation."
Even though Russia agreed to the transfer of Transylvania, Rumania continued to seek concessions from the Central Powers that would bring about the same results. Thus on September 7, 1914, Czernin transmitted a Rumanian offer to Vienna. It requested the transfer of Bukovina to Rumania and Transylvania's political autonomy in return for Rumania's neutrality and possible future alliance. The proposal, had it been accepted, would have assured territorial gains without Rumania having to fire a shot.
The offer was dismissed by Tisza, who believed Hungary could hold out until the arrival of German troops if hostilities developed with Rumania. Although Germany did its best to force Tisza to initiate further concessions, his counteroffer to Rumania was limited to the transfer of the Austrian Bukovina province. Responding to German pressure, Tisza angrily noted that "the tragic role played by poor Francis Ferdinand in the fool's game with the Rumanians" has been adopted by the Germans.
The German desire to keep Rumania out of the war forced Tisza to revive the proposals that had been made earlier that year. This time however, he approached the religious leaders of the Rumanian communities in Hungary and Transylvania, and he even offered the Rumanians of Hungary the right to display the Rumanian colors and amnesty for political prisoners. The clergy was favorable to these offers, but the official circles in Rumania were not. The Hungarian Independence party also opposed the concessions. On November 9, the day after Tisza publicized his proposal, Magyarország accused the prime minister of trying to change the unitary state into a tribal federation. In a facetious tone, the paper called on Metropolitan Metianu, the negotiator for the Rumanian minority, also to represent the Magyar tribe, whose colors and language were not recognized in the Imperial Army. To end the Habsburg domination, the paper demanded universal suffrage, which was felt would free the "Magyar tribe" from the repression.
It was evident that Tisza's offer was insufficient to satisfy the Rumanians, yet too generous to please his opponents in the Hungarian Parliament at a moment when he wished to shape an "union sacré" in Budapest. Therefore, Tisza abandoned his proposals when it became evident that, for the present, Rumania would not join the Entente on the shaky Eastern Front.
The Entente's push for Rumania's entry into the war came in June, 1916, in the wake of the Russian offensive, which was then weakening.
Perceiving Rumania's role as pivotal, Entente envoys in Bucharest signed a secret treaty with the Rumanians on August 17, which gave Rumania practically all of the Magyar lands on the left bank of the Tisza River. The Entente accorded Rumania a territory where Magyars outnumbered the Rumanians and where the borders far surpassed the historical frontiers of Transylvania; but unknown to Rumania, a secret Franco-Russian accord was also drawn up that called for the review of wartime promises to Rumania at the conclusion of the hostilities. Territorial changes were to be shaped by post-war conditions. Yet, despite the shaky legitimacy of Rumanian demands, Bratianu correctly pointed out that "whatever the outcome of the war, the claims established will remain."
Great power interest determined the solution of the Transylvanian question rather than the needs of Hungary or Rumania. Rumanian Marxist historians now claim that Rumania's entry into the war was motivated by a desire to liberate the Rumanians in Hungary. No criticism is voiced about the true nature of the Secret Treaty of Bucharest, which merely corrected one injustice with another. Instead of a Rumanian irredenta in Hungary, a Hungarian irredenta was to be created in Rumania.
On the evening of August 27, a half hour after its invasion of Transylvania, the Rumanian government declared war on the Dual Monarchy. Since the Hungarian-Rumanian frontiers were not fortified, initial advances proceeded smoothly. The frontier villages and the old Saxon town of Brassó (Kronstadt, Brasov) were occupied. Logistic problems and poor leadership, however, limited the invading force of 400,000 to the occupation of southern Transylvania.
In the third week of September, the Central Powers began a counteroffensive with 200,000 troops, and by the end of November their armies were threatening Bucharest. Early in December, the arrival of a French military mission, headed by General Henri Berthelot, was expected to fill the leadership gap in the Rumanian army. Berthelot, who was Joffre's chief of staff during the Battle of the Marne, hoped to repeat the feat along the Arges River and to execute a "Rumanian Marne." His efforts consumed the remaining Rumanian reserve divisions without halting German advances.
The Rumanian capital fell that same month, forcing the Rumanian government to retreat to Jassy. Two-thirds of Royal Rumania (the Regat) was now occupied by the Central Powers, but as long as the Russian allies provided support for the Rumanian government, the Rumanian army managed to hold the line. The Bolshevik revolution and Russia's subsequent withdrawal from the war, however, forced the Rumanians
to seek an armistice. This was signed on December 9, 1917, against treaty obligations and the wishes of the Allies, who favored the withdrawal of the Rumanian army into southern Russia. Following the armistice, it was left to the Central Powers to divide the spoils. It was now Hungary's turn to demand Rumanian territories. Although the examined Rumanian Marxist literature claims that Hungarian "imperialist" territorial interests spread well south of the Danube, evidence contradicts this view.
The Hungarian nationalists of the Transylvanian Alliance declared as early as September, 1917, that there should be no intervention in the sovereign affairs of Rumania. This odd declaration was based on the fears that if this policy were not followed, the projects of Francis Ferdinand could be revived and a personal union between Austria-Hungary and Rumania could develop. This was perceived as being against Hungarian interest and a way through which Rumania could gain Transylvania "through the back door."
Instead, the Alliance went on record as favoring only slight frontier adjustments, which would push the Hungarian frontier to the Rumanian side of the Carpathians. The new strip or border defense zone (határõrvidék) was to be settled with "dependable" populations so as to prevent the recurrence of another swift Rumanian invasion. The position was embraced by Prime Minister Sándor Wekerle, who replaced Tisza, and on December 4 Apáthy was notified that the Hungarian government favored frontier adjustments for which Rumania could be compensated.
Minutes of the Council of Ministers indicate support of the moderate stand by the Wekerle cabinet, but the Hungarians' major fear was that imperialistic German demands would interfere with Rumania's traditional role as Hungary's trading partner, which would result in the loss of all Hungarian political leverage in Rumania. Moreover, they suspected that a conquered Rumania, stripped of the chance for independent economic development, would present a constant revisionist threat to Hungary. In light of the German position, moderation was favored, which would facilitate negotiations and lead to a speedy peace.
Following negotiations, the Peace Treaty of Bucharest was signed on May 7, 1918, which assured Hungary of new frontiers along a 500-kilometer stretch, 2 to 5 kilometers from the original line. This took away about 5,000 square kilometers from Rumania. However small these changes, they indicated that Hungary had embarked upon territorial aggrandizement into lands which historically had not belonged to her. In June, 1918, the ministerial council called for absorption by
the neighboring districts and counties of these new strips, which were added to the imperium. This edict indicated the territorial enlargement of Transylvania within the Magyar state. The solution, which was achieved by Germany's dominance over Rumania, indicated a one-sided arrangement. A search for a just compromise was again evaded due to great-power involvement in the Transylvanian question, and Hungarian territorial gains proved to be short-lived. By October, 1918, it became evident to the Central Powers that the war was lost. To save the floundering Habsburg realm, Emperor Charles issued his Manifesto of October 16. It proclaimed the federalization of the Austrian half of the Dual Monarchy, but stressed that the change "did not touch the integrity of the lands of the sacred Hungarian crown." The call came too late to save the empire; in the Hungarian kingdom the nationalities demanded the right of self-determination.
|Transylvania - The Roots of Ethnic Conflict|