|Transylvania - The Roots of Ethnic Conflict|
in northern Transylvania. The commission spent almost two months in Transylvania, investigated hundreds of individual cases, and prepared a long report that recommended several measures to the Hungarian and Rumanian governments aimed at ameliorating the situations of their respective minorities. Italo-German military commissions were established in northern and southern Transylvania. These watchdog commissions informed the German and Italian governments of the troubles in Transylvania and tried to improve the situation of the minorities by means of direct intervention with the local authorities.
By the end of 1942, Mihai Antonescu, deputy prime minister and foreign minister, under the impulse of a strange misunderstanding, initiated a conciliatory policy toward Hungary, and the Hungarian government readily reciprocated. Both governments made some small conciliatory gestures and prepared a list of questions to be settled through bilateral negotiations. Kállay appointed Miklós Bánffy, a Transylvanian and former foreign minister, to begin informal negotiations with a Rumanian personage to be appointed by Ion Antonescu. Bánffy's official mission was intertwined with another Rumanian initiative. Iuliu Maniu, the Transylvanian leader of democratic opposition in Rumania, believed in early 1943 that British and American paratroops would be sent to Danubian Europe and wanted to meet secretly with István Bethlen, a former prime minister of Transylvanian origin, to discuss Hungaro-Rumanian cooperation against Germany. Bethlen received Maniu's confidential message and wanted to establish contact with him but had apprehensions that the Germans would be informed of their meeting and, therefore, asked Bánffy to get in touch with Maniu. As mentioned, Bánffy travelled legally to Bucharest and his mission was to discuss specific problems of the Hungarian minority in Rumania and those of the Rumanian minority in Hungary. He arrived in Bucharest on June 18, 1943, and met a few days later the Rumanian negotiator, Mironescu, a former prime minister and foreign minister. Bánffy was unable to discuss the problems designated in the memoranda of the two governments because Mihai Antonescu instructed Mironescu to discuss only territorial questions, while Bánffy was authorized to negotiate solely measures to be taken for the improvement of the situation of minorities in the two countries. Mironescu informed Bánffy that the Rumanian government had denounced in Berlin and Rome the Vienna Award and was unwilling to negotiate on the basis of the existing status quo. The Hungarian and Rumanian positions were irreconcilable and there was no reason to continue the meetings.
Thereafter, the indomitable Bánffy got in touch with opponents of the Antonescu regime. The most important was his conversation with
Maniu, who came to Bucharest to meet him. Since a police car watched Maniu's residence until 11:00 P.M., Bánffy visited him during the darkness of night. The two Transylvanians agreed that military cooperation between Hungary and Rumania would be desirable against the Germans, but Maniu wanted to include the Yugoslavs as well and emphasized that Rumania would never recognize the Vienna Award. While Bánffy proposed the maintenance of the status quo until the peace conference, Maniu demanded the immediate recognition of the Rumanian territorial claims and suggested that with the expected coming into being of large economic units the frontiers should lose their importance. The failure of Bánffy's mission on both official and opposition levels demonstrated the inexorable nature of the conflict between the two countries. The policy of rapprochement came to an inglorious end. Mihai Antonescu changed his mind, and the Germans continued their squeeze play, using the conflicting territorial aspirations of Hungary and Rumania to their advantage.
In Transylvania, the Italo-German conciliatory efforts proved to be superficial palliatives, and the Germans supported the Rumanians almost openly. This policy was strengthened by the fact that Rumania had a strategic key position in the war against Soviet Russia, had carried out a full mobilization, and in general had contributed to the German war effort incomparably more than Hungary. Hitler's dislike of Hungary was well known and has been proven by many documents. But he had a great liking for the Rumanian dictator, Ion Antonescu. As Hitler's interpreter, Paul Schmidt, later was to put it, Antonescu was "one of Hitler's closest intimates and was even kept more closely in the picture than Mussolini. He was the only foreigner from whom Hitler ever asked for military advice when he was in difficulties... He made long speeches just like Hitler, usually starting off at the creation of Rumania, and somehow relating everything he said to the hated Hungarians, and the recovery of Transylvania. This hatred of Hungary, too, made him congenial to Hitler, for the Führer despised the Magyars." Antonescu indicated to the Führer his determination to recover northern Transylvania by force of arms and "Hitler took a secret pleasure in Antonescu's outbursts against the Hungarians, and even went so far as to hint that he might perhaps give him a free hand later in his plans of conquest."
Surrounded again by a sort of revived Little Entente, which was protected this time by Germany, the Hungarian government, on its part, tried to rely on Italy. This policy was bound to fail because Italy gradually declined to the status of Hitler's vassal, and Mussolini decided to fight along with Hitler until the very last. Despite several
disappointments, the Hungarians tried to win Italy's support because they saw no other alternative.
For these reasons, the Hungarian government sought to explore tentatively the possibilities of electing an Italian king. The advanced age of the regent was another reason for such soundings. The Duke of Aosta, cousin of Victor Emmanuel III, and a possible candidate of the Hungarian government for the throne of Saint Stephen, became seriously ill and died in March, 1942. Then the Hungarians sought to strengthen Hungary's independence with the establishment of a personal union with Italy under King Victor Emmanuel. But the Duce reacted adversely to this plan, saying that he had entertained a similar proposition in regard to the Duke of Aosta, "but with him dead, nothing else will be done."
Prime Minister Kállay was anxious to clarify personally the delicate political problems in Rome and arranged for a trip to Italy in November of 1942. This was postponed by Mussolini because of the collapse of the Libyan front. "In fact, this is not the time to welcome any guests," remarked Ciano. Eventually Kállay visited Rome in early April, 1943. The main object of his visit was to gain Italian support for the policy of resistance to Germany. When Kállay referred to the fact that the Axis was retreating on every front, Mussolini interrupted him, saying that "Hitler assured him that in the summer he would settle with the Russians once and for all." Kállay replied that he could only discuss the presently existing situation and pointed out that "Hungary could not give a single soldier for this offensive." He avoided mentioning the question of separate peace, but brought up the possibility of a separate common policy within the Axis of Italy, Hungary, and possibly Finland and extolled the benefits of a desirable common Italo-Hungarian policy on the Balkans. Then he explained to the Duce that he wanted gradually to extricate Hungary from the war and lead it back into a state of nonbelligerency. Mussolini assured Kállay of his friendship, tried to justify Italy's foreign policy in a historical context, and warned Kállay that "We cannot even think of a separate peace."
During this period, there was some similarity between the foreign policies of Hungary and Rumania. Both countries overestimated Italy's capability to resist Germany and Mussolini's willingness to change the course of his pro-Axis policy. Rumania's deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Mihai Antonescu, followed a strong pro-Italian policy. He had hoped that Italy would be able to establish contacts and conclude an armistice with the Western Powers. He established close personal relations with Bova Scoppa, the Italian minister to Rumania since
July, 1941. M. Antonescu had hoped that under Italy's leadership Rumania and possibly Hungary, Finland, and other small states could cooperate and conclude an armistice and change sides during the war. Bova Scoppa described in his memoirs M. Antonescu's ideas and endeavors in this respect. While visiting Rome in early June, 1943, Scoppa submitted a "Promemoria" to Giuseppe Bastianini, Ciano's successor as foreign minister since February, 1943. This memorandum reflected the Rumanian evaluation of the military and political situation and M. Antonescu's ideas as to the steps to be taken. Scoppa also met Ciano, who told him frankly: "Con Mussolini non c'e niente da fare. E'un muro chiuso."
Finally Bastianini informed Scoppa on June 15 that the Duce agreed with Mihai Antonescu on many points but would like to wait two more months with the suggested diplomatic initiative when the military situation would be good. In any case, he invited Antonescu for an exchange of views. This visit took place at the end of June. Antonescu was warmly received and Mussolini emphasized again that negotiations should start in two months. Then the belligerent and neutral states would be convoked by Hitler or without Hitler to a conference to decide Europe's future. Antonescu finally realized that Mussolini had replaced policy by pipe dreams. Events in Italy soon took a different turn. The English and Americans landed in Sicily in July, 1943, Mussolini was forced to resign, and Marshal Badoglio's government signed an armistice treaty on September 3, which was made public five days later.
Another common error was the belief in Budapest and Bucharest that British and American troops would occupy the Danubian countries. Hungarian and Rumanian politicians assumed that the United States at the peak of its power would not tolerate the establishment of Soviet hegemony in Danubian Europe. Hungary established some contacts in 1942 with British and United States representatives, and both Hungarian and Rumanian diplomats and special emissaries in neutral countries put forth a series of peace feelers in 1943 and 1944. Appraisal of these manifold and complicated diplomatic moves are outside the scope of this paper. One should note, however, that the British and Americans faithfully informed the Soviet government of the Hungarian and Rumanian approaches.
ARMISTICE IN RUSSIA'S EUROPE
The parallelism between Hungarian and Rumanian politics changed drastically in 1944. Hungary was occupied by German troops on
March 19, 1944, according to a carefully prepared plan, Marghareta I. The looming shadow of the Nazi dictator became a cruel reality. Hitler's promise to Horthy concerning the exclusively military character of the occupation proved worthless. The Gestapo started its usual work. Prominent Hungarian patriots were jailed, deported, or forced underground. Persecution and mass deportation of Jews began. Prime Minister Kállay never resigned formally and he found asylum in the Turkish legation. The new head of the government, Döme Sztójay, a former general and Hungarian minister to Germany, had always advocated a policy of submission to Nazi Germany. His government dissolved the trade unions and the opposition parties, such as the Smallholders, the Democrats, and the Social Democrats, and, in close collaboration with the Germans, carried out the Nazification of Hungary. Horthy assumed an ostensibly passive attitude in the first months, later resisting more or less openly the occupying Nazi forces and their Hungarian accomplices. The fact that the Germans did not directly take over the major government agencies left open some possibilities for the future.
Although events in subjugated Hungary strengthened Marshal Antonescu's position in Hitler's camp, Rumanian politics took suddenly an unexpected turn. On August 23, King Michael dismissed and arrested Marshal Antonescu and Mihai Antonescu, proclaimed surrender, and appointed a new government of national unity with the nonpolitical General Constantin Sanatescu as premier. Rumania declared war on Germany and the Rumanian army changed sides with lightening speed and fought against the Germans. The quick and effective action of the Rumanian army was an immense benefit to the Russians. Marghareta II, the German plan for the occupation of Rumania, could not be carried out and the German army, in disorderly retreat, did not even defend the passes in the Carpathian Mountains. The Soviet army and the regular Rumanian divisions were followed by the "Voluntary Guards," of Maniu, and they introduced a regime of terror in the regions inhabited by Hungarians. In view of the large-scale atrocities and robberies, the Soviet High Command intervened in some instances to protect the defenseless Hungarian population, and the Allied Control Commission in Bucharest ordered on November 14 that the returned Rumanian functionaries and the "Maniu Guards" evacuate Northern Transylvania. From this time on, the autochthon population, Hungarians and Rumanians together, organized an autonomous administration, and Northern Transylvania enjoyed for months an exemplary public order with constructive cooperation of the native population.
The Italian and Rumanian examples were warnings to Hitler. He
decided to prevent similar events in Hungary and concentrated German armored divisions in the outskirts of Budapest. When Regent Horthy's armistice proclamation was read on Budapest radio on October 15, the German armored divisions moved into the capital, pro-Horthy military commanders were arrested, the Lakatos government was deposed, and the Germans installed an Arrow Cross government under Ferenc Szálasi. Horthy was taken prisoner and deported with his family to Germany. A chapter of Hungarian history came to an end.
A new life began in Russia's Europe with the armistice period. The rules of international and domestic politics have fundamentally changed in countries occupied by the Soviet army. The armistice agreement was signed with Rumania on September 12, 1944, and its article 18 explicitly stated:
An Allied Control Commission will be established which will undertake until the conclusion of peace the regulation of and control over the execution of the present terms under the general direction and orders of the Allied/Soviet/High Command, acting on behalf of the Allied Powers.
The Hungarian Armistice Agreement was concluded on January 20, 1945; its article 18 is identical with Article 18 of the Bulgarian Armistice of October 28, 1944, which set forth:
For the whole period of the armistice there will be established in Bulgaria an Allied Control Commission which will regulate and supervise the execution of the armistice terms under the chairmanship of the representative of the Allied/Soviet/High Command, and with the participation of representatives of the U.S. and U.K.
During the period between coming into force of the armistice and the conclusion of hostilities against Germany, the ACC will be under the general direction of the Allied/Soviet/High Command.
There are two major differences between the two texts. The Rumanian armistice simply stated that the ACC would be under the direction and control of the Soviet Command, acting on behalf of the Allied Powers during the whole armistice period. The Bulgarian and Hungarian texts provided that the ACC would regulate and supervise the execution of the armistice terms under the chairmanship of the representative of the Soviet High Command, and with the participation of representatives of the U.S. and U.K. A second paragraph of Article 18 in these two armistice agreements restricted the general direction of the Soviet High Command to the period between coming into force of the armistice and the conclusion of hostilities against Germany. The United States proposed that in the post-hostilities period tripartite control should replace Soviet dominance, but this proposal was not
accepted by the European Advisory Commission in London because of Soviet opposition.
These changes were supposed to secure greater British and United States influence in the Bulgarian and Hungarian ACC. This formula was worked out by Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and Molotov on October 11, 1944, when the definitive percentage figures for influence in the Balkan countries were established as follows:
Britain (in accord with United States)
The percentage figures, which in a mystical way symbolized the influence of the outside powers, differed in the case of Hungary and Bulgaria from those published in Churchill's memoirs where the influence in Hungary was given as a fifty-fifty balance and in Bulgaria seventy-five percent for Russia and twenty-five percent for the others.
The Churchill-Stalin meeting on October 9 was followed by long argumentative sessions between Eden and Molotov, who advocated higher percentages for Russia in Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Hungary. Concessions were combined with power in the ACC. Eden yielded in the case of Hungary and Bulgaria, and the results were the above mentioned percentage figures and the seemingly more flexible text of Article 18 of the Bulgarian Armistice.
Since plans for an Anglo-American landing in the Balkans were abandoned, Churchill wanted to secure British predominance in Greece in exchange for Soviet predominance in Rumania. In the subsequent Eden-Molotov negotiations, Soviet supremacy was recognized in Hungary and Bulgaria as well.
When these negotiations were concluded, Eden noted in his diary
"We obtained what we wanted on almost all points. I should say 90 per cent overall. In particular, they will summon Bulgars out of Greece and Yugoslavia tonight."
In the weeks preceding these negotiations, the British were afraid that Soviet troops invading Bulgaria might occupy western Thrace and possibly march in the direction of Athens. Another possibility could have been Soviet recognition of Bulgarian claims to Thrace. Either action could have led to far-reaching political developments detrimental to British interests in the Mediterranean.
The Anglo-Russian percentage agreement in October, 1944, was a bilateral deal about which Churchill did not inform Roosevelt, although the Department of State received more or less accurate information of the percentages from several United States embassies. Stalin admitted from the outset that Greece was primarily a British concern. When subsequently Molotov haggled over the percentages in the other countries, Eden finally told him that he was not interested in figures. "All I wanted was to be sure that we had more voice in Bulgaria and Hungary than we had accepted in Rumania, and that there should be a joint policy in Yugoslavia." How Eden hoped to obtain fifty percent British influence in Communist Yugoslavia and twenty percent in Soviet-occupied Bulgaria and Hungary never was made clear.
The Anglo-Russian bilateral sphere of influence agreement of October, 1944, was not the continuation of a provisional arrangement between the British and Russians that was approved by President Roosevelt in June, 1944, for a three-months, trial period. That time Churchill argued that someone must "play the hand" in the Balkans. It seemed reasonable to him that the Russians should deal with the Rumanians and Bulgarians, and Britain should deal with the Greeks and Yugoslavs.
These were some of the diplomatic and military developments and agreements that determined Hungary's and Rumania's international situation at the close of hostilities.
In the course of preparations for peace, it soon became clear in the Hungarian Foreign Ministry that Moscow wanted nothing but a recasting of the armistice agreements into peace treaties. The Western powers did not or could not influence the basic Soviet objectives. Hungary was essentially governed by the Soviet-dominated ACC during the armistice period. Despite this almost hopeless situation, we tried in Budapest to break through our isolation with peace preparatory notes, addressed to the three major victorious powers. These "peace aim" notes posed the general problems of Danubian Europe in constructive terms, advocating regional economic solutions, freedom of navigation
on the Danube, deemphasis of nationalism, close cultural cooperation with neighboring states, "spiritualization" of frontiers and, above all, self-determination of peoples and an effective international protection of national minorities.
The Soviet-enforced consolidation of Communist-dominated puppet governments in Rumania and Bulgaria, in violation of the Yalta Declaration on Liberated Europe, as well as various manifestations of the same policy in Hungary, had forecast a gloomy future. The ink had hardly dried on the Yalta Agreement when Soviet Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs Vyshinsky went to Bucharest and pressured King Michael to dismiss General Nicolae Radescu's coalition government and appoint Petru Groza premier. Since Groza presented a solid National Democratic Front (FND) government --- the FND was a Communist-sponsored organization --- the king refused to appoint Groza's candidates. Vyshinsky retorted that this was an unfriendly act to the USSR and that Rumania might cease to exist as a sovereign state. Thus, the king had no choice and the FND came to power. Within three days, the Russians restored Northern Transylvania to Rumanian administration to demonstrate Soviet support of Groza's government. Although Groza tried to introduce a conciliatory policy toward the Hungarian minority, his success was limited, and all benefits of the autonomous position of Northern Transylvania came to an end.
Rumania and Bulgaria had been on the highway of Russian expansion toward Constantinople for centuries, and installation of reliable Communist-dominated governments in Bucharest and Sofia was an urgent matter for the Kremlin. Hungary's situation seemed more favorable. During the London Conference of Foreign Ministers, in September, 1945, both the United States and the Soviet Union recognized the coalition government of Hungary and established diplomatic relations with it. At the same time, Washington refused to recognize the unrepresentative governments of Rumania and Bulgaria. The defeat of the Communists and the victory of the Smallholders party in Budapest municipal elections in October and at the general elections in November, 1945, caused a short-lived optimism in the country and abroad. Western newspapers saw an indication "that even in areas beyond Anglo-American control... the peoples of Europe can be given a chance to choose their own officials honestly and openly," (The Christian Science Monitor, October 9, 1945). Despite, or rather because of such favorable Western reactions, the turn of domestic politics in Hungary strengthened Soviet support for Bucharest. But this was not evident in Budapest. Soviet envoy Georgij M. Pushkin urged the Hungarian government to accept the Czechoslovak proposals concerning
an exchange of population and transfer of Hungarians from Czechoslovakia. He even suggested to Foreign Minister János Gyöngyösi that Hungary should rather raise territorial claims against Rumania, another former German satellite. Marshal Klementy Voroshilov further intimated to Prime Minister Zoltán Tildy that Hungary might obtain some territorial compensation from Rumania if it behaved well and accepted the Czechoslovak proposals concerning the settlement of the Hungarian question in Czechoslovakia, which meant the transfer of Hungarians from Czechoslovakia to Hungary through exchange and expulsion.
|Transylvania - The Roots of Ethnic Conflict|