[Table of Contents] [Previous] [Next] [Notes] [HMK Home] Peter Pastor: Hungary Between Wilson and Lenin...

It is evident thus that General Alby's call for Rumanian expansion into Hungarian-held territory was a price the French military planners were willing to pay for Rumanian support of the Foch plan. That Hungarian territory was the price the Rumanians demanded was indicated by the Rumanian Prime Minister, Ion Bratianu's speech to the Council of Ten:

Rumania, exhausted by war, needs the moral support of the Allies if it is to remain what it has been hitherto--a rallying point for Europe against Bolshevism....Rumania asks to be so placed that it can resist. It asks this not only in its own interest, but in the interest of the whole of Europe and without exaggeration, of the whole civilized world .[45.]

The question of the neutral zone in Hungary was put on the agenda of the Council of Ten on February 21, 1919. In the absence of the leaders of the Big Four, the Allied representatives accepted the arguments of the military specialists in Versailles and requested them to work out the final details of the military plan [46.] Foch's invasion plans were put before the council four days later. The two plans complemented each other, since the demarcation line put into Allied hands essential Hungarian railway lines which would contribute to the logistic needs of an invasion army in Russia. The new temporary Hungarian frontier was also strongly reminiscent of the one in the Secret Treaty of Bucharest.

Although upon introduction, the Council of Ten shelved Foch's plan that would have engulfed Europe in a new war, for some reason it failed to see the connection between the Russian invasion plan and the proposed harsh demarcation line in Hungary. On the next day, February 26, the Council of Ten, still in the absence of the four Allied leaders, accepted the outlines of the neutral zone. It is very likely that the Allied representatives, preoccupied with other burning issues of the day, wanted to put an end to Rumanian-Hungarian clashes at any price. Since it was known that the Rumanian army did not recognize the Belgrade Convention, [47.] giving in to Rumanian demands seemed the only way to bring peace to Transylvania.

According to the Supreme Council in Versailles, the neutral zone was to be policed by troops of two-battalion strength with some cavalry regiments to maintain order. The limits of the Hungarian withdrawal were a line "leaving the Tisza five kilometers northwest of Vasarosnameny, passing five kilometers to the west of Debrecen to three kilometers west of Devavanya and continuing west of Gyoma, five kilometers west of Hodmezovasarhely and Szeged, rejoining the old frontier south of Szeged." In this area the cities of Szeged and Arad were to be under French occupation. The Rumanians were to have an eastern demarcation line that followed the main road from Arad to Nagyszalonta (Salonta) and the Nagyvarad (Oradea)--Nagykaroly (Carei)--Szatmamemeti (Satu-Mare) railway line. The three rail centers were excluded from Rumanian occupation but "were available for the use of Rumanian troops and Rumanians living in areas controlled by the Allies, for economic purposes.,, The northern limits of the demarcation line followed the river Szamos (Some,sul).[48.]

Since the establishment of the neutral zone was a military matter, the decision' of the Peace Conference was transmitted by Clemenceau to Franchet d,Esperey on March I for execution. [49.] On March 5, the Allied Commander in the Orient informed General Berthelot of the Paris decision. Berthelot was to pass on the military details to the Rumanians but was ordered not to inform the Hungarians. Franchet d'Esperey also requested Berthelot to ask the Rumanians not to act prematurely and to wait for Franchet d,Esperey to give them the date to move forward. Berthelot was asked to supply Franchet d'Esperey with information on the disposition of the Rumanian troops which would move into Transylvania so that he (Franchet d,Esperey) could plan a date for the Hungarian withdrawals to begin. Franchet d,Esperey also saw the need to inform Paris of the date of the execution of the Allied project.

Franchet d,Esperey, weary of Berthelot's tendency to disregard his orders, told him that immediate responsibility for the French troops was with General de Lobit in Belgrade as he was the commander of the French Army of Hungary. It was he who was empowered to handle the final details of executing the plan, which was to be supervised by an officer appointed by Franchet d,Esperey. With this in mind, Franchet d'Esperey warned Berthelot not to send any missions to Hungary which would duplicate the task of General de Lobit. [50.]

Franchet d'Esperey seemed to have been disappointed by the generous temporary demarcation line accorded to the Rumanians. It appears that he expected the approval of his proposed neutral zone, pushing the Rumanians back to their old line between Nagybanya (Baia-Mare) and Kolozsvar (Cluj). After all, he did not believe in the Rumanian bogey of Bolshevism in Transylvania and had been opposed to French intervention in Russia from the start. [51.]

Having seen Rumania's unauthorized advances legitimized in Paris, Franchet d,Esperey began to assume that the memorandum of February 26 would lead to the permanent award of Transylvania to the Rumanian ally. He also believed that such a development would lead to a war between Rumania and Hungary. Therefore, Rumania had to mobilize for war. He felt that Rumania should organize eight divisions to face the six divisions that were allowed to Hungary under the armistice arrangements. [52.]

Franchet d'Esperey's concern with possible war-like response to the Paris decision was not without foundations. Although the Budapest government was not officially advised of what happened in Paris, rumors of the decision appeared in the press immediately. [53.] It seems that, in response to these rumors of further dismemberment, the Hungarian government began to think seriously about the reorganization of the army to make it battleworthy. The army was to become a volunteer force of seventy thousand, a size that conformed to the limits set in the Belgrade Convention. [54.]

The Hungarian government reacted to the rumors in other ways. It decided that it would call an election to a national assembly in the nonoccupied areas. [55.] The election was to show the Allies that the non-Magyar nationalities approved the People's Republic and so supported its territorial integrity. The hope that the non-Magyar nationalities would participate in the elections and by their vote support a government ruling from Budapest was not based solely on the vague theoretical justification that Hungary now had a democratic system.

Karolyi and the other leaders took the example of Ruthenia as an indication of the feeling of all the non-Magyar nationalities in Hungary. The Ruthenian National Council, as early as November 9, 1918, had chosen Hungary. It had welcomed the establishment of the new Hungarian People's Republic enthusiastically while it had repudiated all separatist tendencies. It demanded for the Ruthenes "the same right as the republic would grant to the other non-Magyar nationalities," and it asked for social and political reforms. The Hungarian ministry of nationalities met these demands and on December 25, 1918 issued the Autonomy Statute for Ruthenia. The Ruthenian autonomous region was to be known as Ruszka-Krajna; it would enjoy self-government in religious, educational and cultural affairs, and administer its own justice. The common affairs that were to be regulated in conjunction with the Hungarian republic were: foreign affairs, war, finance, private and criminal law, the economy, communications and social problems. A Ruthenian National Assembly would legislate local affairs, while representatives sent to the Hungarian Parliament would join in discussion of common affairs. On January 8, 1919, the minister of Ruszka-Krajna issued a proclamation in which he reassured the Magyars of northeast Hungary that no districts with Magyar majorities would be included in Ruszka-Krajna and that in the autonomous area the rights of all minorities would be respected. [56.]

Karolyi, the government, and most Magyars looked forward to a similar solution for the whole nationalities problem. They overlooked, however, the fact that, unlike the other nationalities living in Hungary, the Ruthene intelligentsia had been almost completely "Magyarized." As a result of the liberal Jewish laws of 1867, which, unlike the nationalities laws of 1868, had been respected, a great influx of Jews from neighboring Polish and Russian pales had made them a majority in certain parts of Ruthenia. Most of these Jews were ardent supporters of Hungary, into which they were becoming assimilated. [57.] They were unsure about Slovak intentions, while the possibility of Rumanian sovereignty over their communities filled them with fear, for Rumania had always treated its Jewish population as second-class citizenry. Thus the Magyarized Ruthenian intelligentsia, the economically influential Ruthenian Jewry and the Ruthenian Magyars made the situation in Ruthenia unique, though in German-speaking areas of Hungary the nationalities also preferred Magyar to "Slav" rule. [58.] That the other nationalities would follow suit was, therefore, wishful thinking on the part of the Hungarians.

Domestic reaction to the news of the election on April 13 was mixed. The socialists were confident that they would receive an absolute majority of the vote thanks to their unrivaled party organization. Their election platform embodied the aspirations of the majority of Hungarians. It called for the speedy implementation of land reform as well as nationalization of heavy industry, mines and public utilities. To speed nationalization, the socialists promised to set up a ministry of socialization. Their foreign policy was based on a peace settlement that called for national self-determination. [59.]

The Workers' Council of Budapest, however, opposed the election because it feared that the socialists would not receive an absolute majority. On March 5, the council reluctantly reversed itself but warned that, if the socialists did not receive an absolute majority, it would break up the elected assembly. The deliberations of the Workers' Council were clearly influenced by rumors from Paris, because it called for a reorientation of Hungarian foreign policy on the basis of a HungarianRussian alliance. With such a Russian alliance in mind, the members asked for the readmission of the communists to its membership. [60.]

Growing dissatisfaction with Allied policy toward Hungary and the reorientation of Hungarian foreign policy toward a Russian alliance were furthered by reports in the Hungarian press of the approach of the Russian Red Army. The March 13 issue of Voros Ujsag had even reported that the Red forces were in Galicia, which was formerly part of the Dual Monarchy. The aim of the Red Army, the newspaper declared was to reach the borders of Hungary and Rumania. [61.] In the meantime, many Magyars identified increasingly the struggle of the Russian communists against foreign intervention with Hungary's struggle against the successor states. This feeling was shared by some senior officers in the Hungarian army. Lieutenant Colonel Tombor, in a memorandum written for publicity, applauded the patriotism of the Russian Bolsheviks fighting against the "predatory imperialism of the Entente." [62.] The establishment of closer relations between Hungary and Russia was also indicated by Budapest's request to the International Postal Bureau in Berne. Early in March the Hungarians called on the Postal Bureau to invite the Soviet government to establish radiogram communications with Budapest. Though the request amelioration of Hungarian-Soviet relations.

While Entente policies came under fire in Hungary, it is significant to note that Karolyi was not condemned and his popularity among the Hungarians did not wane. When the Workers, Council debated the possibility of a socialist government, for instance, there was no question of Karolyi's position as president. When one council member asked if the socialists would demand his resignation, Jozsef Pogany, the socialist president of the Soldiers' Council, dramatically declared that he personally would execute any socialist who did not vote for Karolyi as president. [64.]

Karolyi himself felt, however, that the Allies were confronting him with insurmountable problems. On February 26, he confided to his wife that he would not sign any agreement detrimental to Hungary's interest. By April 15 he hoped that Hungary would be able to field a new army and with new allies clear the occupied areas. Karolyi also hoped that with such a victory his plan for a United States of Eastern Europe would be realized. [65.] Though Karolyi did not elaborate on what he meant by new allies, it is not unlikely that he meant Russia, Germany and possibly Austria.

Hungary's intention to oppose any dictated peace was made quite clear to visiting military missions as well as to Colonel Vix. On February 28 Cuninghame was in Budapest again to investigate Czechoslovak complaints that the Hungarians were massing armies against the Czechs. Accompanying Cuninghame was Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, a British news reporter, whom the British colonel considered an ideal agent to spy out the military situation in Hungary.

Ashmead-Bartlett had little sympathy for Karolyi or his government, for he considered that "his ministers and supporters were composed of the lowest elements in the land, mostly little Jews." [66.] In spite of such negative attitudes the British journalist was unable to confirm the charges, and reported that they were "entirely invented by the Czechs." [67.]

As a news reporter Ashmead-Bartlett was able to accompany Karolyi on an inspection tour of the Sekler Division at Szatmarnemeti (Satu Mare), a town which was claimed by the Rumanians. During the tour Karolyi had occasion to address the troops. He told them:

lf Wilson's principles do not materialize, and instead of a peace based on mutual agreement a dictated peace demanding territorial dismemberment is offered: l promise you, soldiers, I will never sign such peace terms! [68.]

Ka'rolyi also gave a speech to the worried citizens of the town, reassuring them that the area would remain Hungarian:

I will never accept the dismemberment of Hungary! The world must understand that if the Paris Peace Conference decides against the right of popular self-determination based on mutual agreements, then as an extreme necessity we will liberate our country with arms in our hands. [69.]

Karolyi's adherence to self-determination reflected his unshaken belief that the nationalities would choose to remain in Hungary. This belief was reinforced by the fact that on March 2, the same day Karolyi addressed the citizens of Szatmamemeti, Budapest recognized autonomous Eastern Slovakia as part of Hungary. The law claimed that its borders were to be determined by the Peace Conference. Sovereignty over this territory was in the hands of the Slovak Council (Rada) of Eperjes (Presov) under the Presidency of Gyozo Dvorcsak. [70.] This assembly of pro-Hungarian Slovaks was even less representative than the pro-Czech Slovak National Council of Turoczszentmarton (Turciansky Svaty Martin) but it seemed to bear out the hopeful contention that there was no universal desire among the Slovaks to unite with the Czechs.

Karolyi's militant speech given to the Seklers was also significant as, according to Vix, the division had military and moral superiority over the Rumanian troops in Transylvania. [71.] Thus it indicated Hungarian willingness to challenge Allied decisions by force. Hungarian exasperation over Allied attitudes was aggravated by exactions made by Vix at the end of the month of February in the aftermath of an incident involving some undisciplined Hungarian soldiers who, acting without superior orders, stopped a munitions train in the northern city of Miskolc. The train was destined for Poland under French supervision, and carried arms that the Hungarian government wanted to exchange for coal. The soldiers fired at the locomotive, disarmed the French guards and refused to let the train pass.

In reprisal for the incident, Vix demanded an immediate indemnity of two million rounds of ammunition. [72.] Such an act was indeed contrary to the spirit of the Peace Conference which allowed for reparations but not indemnities. The exasperated minister of defense, Bohm, decided to refuse the demand by handing his resignation to the government.

Colonel Cuninghame, who was in Budapest, was much opposed to Bohm's resignation because he considered him an anti-communist. In an attempt to have Bohm retained in government, Cuninghame went to see Bohm's socialist colleague Garami and asked him to try to talk Bohm out of his decision. Garami agreed but warned that Vix's performance could lead to catastrophe. He told Cuninghame that the Hungarian government, with the support of its constituent parties, might take steps that would be tragic not only for Hungary but for the whole of Europe. [73.] Cuninghame promised to intervene on behalf of the beleaguered Hungarians--a promise he reiterated in a letter written to Bohm on March 3. He asked Bohm to stay on as minister and promised to ask Vix to rescind his demand. He assured Bohm that England looked to a just and moderate government in Hungary. Cuninghame asked Bohm to reconsider for this reason, since his departure would be deemed to be a further shift to the left by Hungary. [74.] In spite of such promises, Vix did not repeal his order, issued without the consultation of his superiors. Rather, his order was strengthened when, on March l2, a telegram from General de Lobit in Belgrade carried a congratulatory message from Franchet d,Esperey commending Vix for the firmness he had exhibited toward the Hungarians. [75.] The train episode therefore underlined a further conflict of opinion by the different Allied representatives in Hungary. Moreover, the congratulatory message not only enhanced Vix's dictatorial posture but encouraged the French colonel to act independently, without waiting for superior command.

Hungarian resistance to Allied demands was dependent on eliminating the rift between the two Marxist parties, the socialists and the communists. An understanding between the two parties was slowly being realized. On March 11, lgnac Bogar, of the Metal Workers' Union was dispatched to conduct talks with the imprisoned Bela Kun. The outcome of the conversations was a memorandum drawn up by Kun outlining the communists, conditions for rapprochement. Kun still demanded that all power should be transferred to the councils of workers and soldiers. He also insisted on thoroughgoing socialization. On foreign policy he called for the abandonment of "the bourgeois concept of territorial sovereignty," Hungary's support for the Third International and a Russian orientation:

lt is my belief that the salvation of the Hungarian proletariat will not be achieved by American food blackmail or by coal bought for munitions supplied to the Polish and Ukrainian lackeys of the Entente, as these acts can only put the Hungarians in bondage. First of all we must look for alliances with the revolutionary Russian, German, Latvian and Ukrainian proletariat. [76.]

Thus by mid-March many political leaders were apparently contemplating a decisive change, turning from a sterile pro-Anglo-Arnerican policy to friendship with Russia. By March 14 a report was circulating among the right-wing opposition leaders that Karolyi had already composed a draft of a declaration calling for Russian orientation of Hungary. According to the account supplied by an inside informer, Karolyi's declaration was to transfer power from the Berinkey government to a government that was made up of members of a socialist-communist coalition. The new government was to oppose further demands of the Allies in military alliance with the Soviet Russians. [77.] Whether such a document existed or not cannot be substantiated, but that Karolyi and other government leaders entertained cooperation with Russia is beyond doubts. Vis also suspected Russo-Hungarian cooperation in response to Allied demands for the evacuation of Transylvania. Vix received the details of the February 26 decision of the Peace Conference on March 12. [78.] The Allied command of the Balkans added the tactical details, whereby Hungarian withdrawal was to start on March 23 and had to be completed in ten days. The document was signed by de Lobit, but was not accompanied by any specific instruction for its delivery. Vix, who was personally experiencing the growing impatience of the Hungarians, believed that transmission of the memorandum was not appropriate at that time because it would bring down the government. He also observed that in northeastern Hungary the Ruthenian corridor between the Czechoslovaks and the Rumanians was left in the hands of Hungary. Vix, who felt that a Russo-Hungarian alliance in defiance of A]lied demands was likely, decided to warn his superiors that, through the strategic Ruthenian town of Csap, the Hungarians could be the recipients of Soviet aid. To avoid such possibility, Vix suggested the establishment of a French control commission at Csap, a scheme that soon carried the approval of Franchet d'Esperey. [79.] ln order to prevent the Hungarians from learning of Rumanian military preparations along the demarcation line, Vix ordered the Hungarians to stop their observation flights along their borders. He claimed that disregard of his request would lead to the blockade of the food supplies being imported. [80.]

Though Vix did his best to prepare grounds for the Allied demarche in secret, Katrolyi was informed of the events to come. The president's informer was the American military attache to Bucharest, Halsey E. Yates. While in transit, Lieutenant Colonel Yates stopped in Budapest on March 15. Karolyi, who made it his business to talk to all Allied visitors, took the opportunity to meet Yates too. The Hungarian leader used this meeting to complain to Yates about the Czechoslovak occupation of Slovakia and about the Rumanian advances in Transylvania. [81.] Karolyi claimed that, according to military intelligence, the Rumanians were gathering forces and supplies along the borders. [82.] Yates told Karolyi in reply that Slovakia was accorded to the Czechoslovaks by the Peace Conference. He also warned Ka'rolyi that Transylvania must also be ceded to Rumania if the Peace Conference so decided. What Yates clearly implied to Karolyi was that rumors of the February 26 decision were true. Apparently Yates was aware of Hungarian willingness to resist such decision and warned Karolyi to accept Allied demands. He claimed that even though the Allies did not have sufficient armies around Hungary to reply in force to Hungarian intransigence, they possessed other means. Yates hinted at Allied intervention in food supplies and in financial settlements. [83.] This conversation thus can be construed as the first official notification to Karolyi about the changes in the Transylvanian demarcation line.

During his brief sojourn in Budapest, Yates also visited Lieutenant Philip Goodwin, the representative of the Coolidge mission, and lastly Colonel Vix. Yates described to Vix the substance of his conversation with Karolyi. Yates also indicated his fears about the situation in the Ukraine and expressed his intention of telegraphing to Paris and requesting the suspension of Rumanian advances into Hungary until the Rumanians were strong enough to defeat the Hungarians in case of a conflict. He also thought that along with the French officers Anglo-American officers should be sent to the neutral zone for supervisory purposes. [84.] Yates, communication clearly indicated that he favored the postponement of the execution of the memorandum in Vix's hands. Vix was greatly taken aback by what Yates had to tell him. Clearly, Yates was meddling in the affairs of Hungary which raised the specter of dual authority again. Moreover, Vix's secret was out.

The Hungarians, however, failed to protest about the news that Karolyi received. The only sign of Hungarian defiance came from prime minister Berinkey, who challenged Vix's interdiction of spy flights in the vicinity of Csucsa and threatened to resign if Vix cut food supplies to Hungary. [85.]

It was not only Yates who was preoccupied with the situation in the Ukraine. The French also became more concerned with the situation. This was occasioned by a sudden turn in the fortunes of the anti-Bolshevik coalition in southern Russia. On March 1, Franchet d'Esperey had informed C1emenceau and Foch that contingents of the Red Army under Colonel A.l.Yegorov were advancing on a front stretching from Troiskaya to Pekatchevo. According to intelligence reports, they were to be reinforced by the 20,000 men of the First Army supported by artillery. [86.] Thus at a time when Marshal Foch was looking to Rumanian intervention in Russia, the Red Army was threatening to carry the war into Rumania and recapture Bessarabia.

The change of circumstances in Russia also brought a change in Clemenceau's attitude. When on March 1, General Berthelot formally requested his recall from Rumania, Clemenceau lacked the acerbity of his communications of January. He told Berthelot that the situation in the east had become more delicate and, for this reason, he could not terminate his mission. Rather, he suggested that Berthelot should come to Paris at a convenient time for an interview. [87.] Clemenceau's temperate response to Berthelot must have upset Franchet d,Esperey for soon after he went out of his way to discredit Berthelot by blaming the crisis in southern Russia on him. He reported that, at a time when no reinforcements were coming from France and the power of the Allied forces was being reduced by attrition, Berthelot encouraged Rumania's expansion into Transylvania. As a result, there was a shortage of troops in Bessarabia at this critical juncture. [88.]

By the time Franchet d,Esperey filed his new attack on Berthelot, the situation in southern Russia had deteriorated further. In February the Allied troops had occupied Tiraspol, Kherson and Nikolaev. On March 10 the pro-Bolshevik forces of Ataman Grigoriev retook Kherson, and by March 14 Niko1aev had fallen. Soon the Reds were advancing on Odessa. [89.] To stop the tide of Bolshevik victories, Franchet d,Esperey proposed to his superiors in Paris a new line of Bessarabian defense along the Dniester river. He saw the need to put the Rumanian army and the Allied forces under a unified command and proposed General Berthelot for the job so that he himself could undo the errors he had committed. If Berthelot continued to falter, Franchet d'Esperey nominated General Degoutte to head a single general staff that would include the Rumanian army under its command. [90.]

On March 12 Franchet d'Esperey sped another telegram to Clemenceau about the Russian situation. He said that he was aware that Berthelot was directly responsible to Clemenceau for Russia but, according to his orders of January 28, he was in charge of operations in the east and they were being threatened by developments in Russia. The Allied commander stated that it was no longer a question of marauding bands of Bolsheviks but of well-organized and well-disciplined troops under strong command who were imposing order on the chaotic situation in southern Russia. He added that local xenophobia was eroding the morale of the Allied troops. The indigenous population was hostile to them and shot many in the back in Kherson as the Red Army was approaching. He warned that repetition of such incidents in Odessa, a city of 900,000, could have dangerous consequences. [91.]

Clemenceau's reply came the following day. He ordered Berthelot to deploy Rumanian troops in defense of the Tiraspol-Razdelnaya-Odessa railway line, which was considered a vital link in Odessa's defense, and promised to send several battalions of French infantry to reinforce the city. [92.] On March 14, new directives cancelled Berthelot's intended visit to Paris. Apparently Clemenceau also became convinced that Berthelot,s powers should be curtailed. Thus using the pretext of Berthelot,s complaint that communications between Bucharest and Paris were poor, Clemenceau relieved him of his Russian command. Provisionally, the French Premier and Minister of War appointed Franchet d,Esperey to command the Allied forces in southern Russia. [93.] For the first time, all the Allied forces in eastern Europe were truly under the command of one man.

 [Table of Contents] [Previous] [Next] [Notes] [HMK Home] Peter Pastor: Hungary Between Wilson and Lenin...