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The review of events presented in the foregoing chapters has revealed certain dominant characteristics of the Czechoslovak-Hungarian dispute and of its settlement. These characteristics have a determining influence on our formulation of the answers to the questions posed at the beginning of this essay.

What were these characteristics?
The first was the absence of any attempt to settle the dispute within the League of Nations.
One should bear in mind here the legal obligations of the parties at the time of the dispute.
The parties were bound by the rules of customary international law. These rules prohibited intervention except in defense, in reprisal, in the support of international law, and in accord with treaty obligations.

Unlike Germany, Hungary never had a Treaty of Arbitration with Czechoslovakia. The disputants were bound, however, by the Pact of Paris of 1928 to seek the settlement of disputes by pacific means. Furthermore, the disputants as well as all other parties interested were, with the exception of Germany, bound by the League Covenant which provided a procedure of collective action for peaceful change. Article XIX of the Covenant said:

The League procedure was not invoked by any of the parties directly or indirectly involved.

Nevertheless, neglecting to invoke this procedure could not be considered as a breach of obligations, for the articles of the Covenant did not exclude the possibility of peaceful settlement outside the League framework.


Indeed, the consistent neglect of invoking the League procedure over a period of years, as well as the serious nature of the dispute, justified recourse to direct negotiations and finally to arbitration. This method made possible a speedy solution, and it was not prohibited by international law. The procedure selected by the parties was viewed in this light at the time of the dispute. Speaking of the Czechoslovak-Hungarian negotiations, Viscount Halifax told the House of Commons on October 24:

"I hope indeed that the rectification of frontiers according to the racial distribution of population which is now taking place in Central and South Eastern Europe may contribute to stability and peace. What we are now witnessing is the revision of the Treaty of Versailles, for which provision was made in the Covenant of the League, but which has never till now been made effective."1

Was, then, the Vienna Arbitration an instance of peaceful change, and in accord with international law?

Legal Considerations

During the course of the dispute, as it was seen, pressures were exercised upon the parties both by each other and by States whose interests were affected by the issue.

First of all, anxious to avoid another settlement "without her and against her," Czechoslovakia considered herself pressed by Point 3 of the Annex to the Munich Agreement, stipulating a Four Power meeting in the absence of settlement within three months by agreement between the respective Governments.

Secondly, it appeared that the security of Czechoslovakia depended, at the time, on German participation in the proposed international guarantee, which was conditional upon the settlement of the Polish and Hungarian problems. This fact, too, acted as a pressure upon the Prague Government.

Furthermore, the Governments of Germany, Italy, and Britain had frequently intervened both in Prague and in Budapest with diplomatic representations directed toward influencing the decisions of the disputants.

Finally, Hungary had irregular forces operating on Czechoslovak territory and, in addition, carried out a partial mobilization at home.

As we have seen however, the Hungarian Government was able to disavow itself of the activities of irregulars while maintaining that the partial mobilization was merely a response to Czechoslovakia's failure to demobilize after the Munich Conference.


If this act of Hungary could be considered as pressure, it was certainly offset by the movement of Czechoslovak troops on or toward the Hungarian border, and by the actions of Rumania and Yugoslavia.

Examining now the use of pressures in international law, it is remarkable that those encountered in the Czechoslovak-Hungarian dispute, as well as the interventions exercised on the diplomatic level, are permissible even today. As Professor Corbettnoted in connection with the Annexation of Austria and that of the Sudetenland, "unlike national law, the general 'law of nations' did not invalidate transfers or promises obtained by intimidation."2

It is an accepted view in international law, that since there was no personal coercion being exercised against those diplomats who participated in the acts of negotiation and of settlement, the types of pressures exercised upon Czechoslovakia did not affect the peaceful nature and validity of the settlement by arbitral award. Neither can the absence of Great Britain and France be construed as "further evidence of . . . illegal procedure."3

The charge that Czechoslovakia accepted the offer of German-Italian arbitration "under irresistible pressure," and in the face of the "indifference" of the Western Powers, is unwarranted. Prompted by the Slovak leaders, the move to resort to German-Italian arbitration with the issue as a whole came from the Prague Government itself.

As it was seen from the attitude of Great Britain, the Western Powers were willing to take part in an arbitration if so desired by the disputants. As a result, there was no objection raised against the procedure that was selected. As Chamberlain said in the British Parliament on November 14:

The French seem to have accepted the German explanation, offered by Hitlerto the French Ambassador, Francos-Poncet. Hitlersaid that by sidetracking Hungary's appeal for a Four Power decision Germany had prevented a possible conflict between the Four Powers and had avoided a "definite danger."5

Consequently, the French did not voice disapproval of the arbitration. Although Government documents on the subject are not available, Le Temps wrote on November 4 the following:


There were two additional charges, besides those now considered, brought up against the validity of the settlement by its critics: the legal connection between the Award and the Munich Agreement, and the lack of consent by the Czechoslovak Parliament to the transfer of territory.

In view of the declaration of the Czechoslovak Government to accept in advance the Award as binding, it is hard to see how the lack of parliamentary consent could be held against the validity of the Award.

Finally, as it was pointed out earlier, the Award can not be regarded as a "direct legal consequence of the Munich Agreement." The legal basis of the Award, as it was seen, consisted of the agreement negotiated between Czechoslovakia and Hungary to resort to the arbitral procedure.

One may rightly say, of course, that the settlement of the problem of the Hungarian minority was a "direct political consequence" of the Munich Agreement.

This approach leads to the second important characteristic of the dispute and of its settlement, that is, the supremacy of the political over the legal sphere.

Political Considerations

Throughout the entire dispute there was a conspicuous absence of legal claims and considerations. The dispute was markedly political in its character.

Generally speaking, whenever the arguments of the parties are intended to demonstrate, respectively, that they have title to a territory, the dispute is classified as "legal."7

In contrast to the former there are disputes where, instead of trying to prove that they do own, the parties argue that they should be allowed to own the disputed territory. They appeal to considerations outside and above the law. Their claims are economic, strategic, ethnic or historical claims, so-called "non-legal claims to territory."

In the case of the Czechoslovak-Hungarian controversy the issues of the dispute and the scope of the arbitration were, as we had seen, defined through political processes.

Hungary insisted at first not only on ethnographic revision, but also on self-determination for Slovakia and Ruthenia. She derived considerable support from Poland. The main purpose of


Hungary in pursuing this course seems to have been the desire to displace the French-sponsored Little Entente by the weakening of Czechoslovakia.

Poland thought that the annexation of Ruthenia by Hungary would create a common barrier against Germany, remove an important centre for Ukrainian nationalism, and permit the formation of a front against communism.8

The weakening of the Little Entente was likewise a purpose of both Germany and of Italy. Germany's chief concern was of course, Czechoslovakia. Willing to see there an ethnic revision, Germany had denied Hungary's larger claims for political and military reasons. Hitlertold the Slovak Ministers on March 13, 1939:

Italy on her part pursued a policy of alienating Yugoslavia from the Little Entente, and increasing her own influence in Yugoslavia, as well as in Rumania. This policy had a strong anti-French overtone.

Britain and France, once they consented to the inclusion of the Sudeten Germans into Germany, could not refuse ethnic revision in favor of Hungary.

Finally, the revision on ethnic lines in Czechoslovakia was acceptable to Yugoslavia and Rumania for two reasons. First, neither of them possessed a territory that contained an overwhelmingly Magyar population and at the same time was contiguous with Hungary. Second, with the balance of power having turned in favor of the Axis, both States were eager to show a cooperating attitude.

Thus, while a revision on ethnic lines was thought to result in a more equitable frontier for Hungary, the selection of the ethnic principle was based primarily on political considerations.

Political considerations played a part in the selection of the arbitrators as well. The confidence of the Slovak leaders in a decision by Germany in their favor was instrumental in bringing about German-Italian arbitration.10

As soon as the larger claims of Hungary had been eliminated and the ethnic principle was accepted, Hungary adjusted herself to the new situation.

After all, her attachment to the Hungarian-inhabited territories of Czechoslovakia was greater than to any other. It was certainly great enough to offer the renunciation of territorial claims


to Yugoslavia in exchange of the latter's neutral attitude in the Czechoslovak dispute."

Besides, a revision of this type was still in conformity, if to a lesser extent, with the interests and aims of Hungarian policy. By drawing the frontier on strictly ethnic lines the Hungarian Government hoped to create a situation whereby geographic and economic considerations would, in due course, induce the Ruthenes, and perhaps the Slovaks, to seek re-entry into Hungary.12

Once the desirability of the ethnic frontier was established, the main effort of the Hungarian Government was concentrated on excluding all economic considerations from the settlement.

This course of action enjoyed the full support of the Italian and, in the final stage, of the German Governments.

The strict application of the ethnic principle in the Vienna Award was in conspicuous contrast to the application of the principle of self-determination at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.

On the latter occasion, the principle was, in the delineation of Czechoslovak-Hungarian frontiers, at times severely ignored in favor of economic and strategic considerations, and in general to the disadvantage of Hungary.

The drawing of the frontier well to the south of the ethnic line in Western Slovakia was explained by the necessity of granting Czechoslovakia access to the sea by extending her territory to the Danube River. The line in the central sector was dictated, according to Dr. Benes, by railway communications.13

The latter consideration, supported by the French and the British, took priority over the vital consideration of including the smallest possible number of Magyars within Czechoslovakia, a view advanced by the American and Italian delegates.14

Finally, Ruthenia, which was to become an autonomous State within "Czecho-Slovakia," was included in order to provide a common frontier and railway communications with Rumania.15

In the end the boundaries of Czechoslovakia, to use the expression of Charles Seymour, American delegate to the conference, did not even "roughly" correspond with the ethnic or linguistic line.16

The strict application of the ethnic principle in the Vienna Award produced, however, a frontier, which although more equitable from the ethnic view than that drawn in 1919, was largely unreasonable. The principle of national self-determination was again used as a principle of disintegration.17


R.W. Seton-Watson noted the following:

The province Ruthenia was deprived of its two principal towns, Ungvar and Munkacs, and of the whole of its fertile territory, without which she was practically unable to exist. Ruthenia retained in fact only the mountainous region in the north, while its system of communications with Slovakia had been completely dislocated.19

Without doubt, the ethnic principle had been interpreted "generously in Hungary's favor."20

The noted expert on East-Central Europe, Hugh Seton-Watson remarked that "the frontier between Hungary and Slovakia could be drawn on lines more generous to Hungary than 1920 while less unfair to the Slovaks than 1938."21

True, those who criticized the Vienna Award on substance rather than on procedure were on safe ground. Legal criticisms are not only invalid but also largely irrelevant, for it is clear that the settlement of the dispute was a political rather than a legal act. The fact that the political process was mitigated in the end by recourse to arbitral procedure did not alter the outstanding political nature of the settlement.22

It is only because international law recognizes, besides judicial settlements, the acts of negotiation, conciliation, and mediation as falling under pacific settlement that we may consider the Vienna Award as falling within the sphere of international law. Viewed in this broader sense, it was an instance of peaceful change, valid at its time under international law. For, imperfect as it may have been, the settlement had its advantages. In international society there are at present, two modes existing for change: by grace of the States affected and by war. Of the two methods the first is by far the more desirable, even though it takes the aspects of a sort of "international collective bargaining," as was the case in the settlement of the Czechoslovak-Hungarian dispute.


The Status of the Award

For some time after its rendering, the Award was sustained by all parties directly or indirectly involved.

Speaking on the subject in the House of Commons on December 19, 1938, Chamberlain said that since agreement had been reached between Czechoslovakia and Hungary on the problem of the new frontier, "the question of the conclusion of a further international instrument regarding these frontiers does not appear to arise."23

The Hungarian Minister, Barcza inquired in the British Foreign Office whether this, as well as the previous declaration of the Prime Minister could be taken as de jure recognition of the Vienna Award. He received a verbal answer in the affirmative.24 Later the British Government gave what amounted to de facto recognition by extending the powers of its Consul in Budapest to the recovered area.

The Hungarian Government, however, failed to take the precaution of getting written confirmation of the recognition. Macartney noted in this connection:

The French position at the time of the arbitration was, as we had seen, similar to that of the British.

Germany and Italy on their part were quite anxious to have the validity of the Award observed by Czechoslovakia and by Hungary. When the latter had, in November 1938, begun to plan military action for the recovery of the rest of Ruthenia under the pretext of protecting persecuted Hungarians, both Berlin and Rome protested in most emphatic terms, enjoining the Hungarian Government to respect the Vienna decision.26

As in the case of the Munich Agreement, the Soviet Government maintained silence on the question. Yet, after the conclusion of the German-Soviet Pact in August, 1939, Moscow formally recognized the then independent Slovakia. This act implied the recognition of the latter's frontiers as set by the Vienna Award.

The first violation of the terms of the Award was committed, according to the Czechoslovak view, by Hungary when she occupied Ruthenia on March 15, 1939. On the preceding day, as it is known, Slovakia declared herself independent, and Germany occupied Bohemia and Moravia to establish a "protectorate."


The Hungarian view was, of course, that Czechoslovakia having ceased to exist, Hungary was not bound any longer by the Vienna Award. At the same time Chamberlain regarded the declaration of Slovak independence as "an end by internal disruption" of Czechoslovakia.27

The ensuing application for, and granting of, consular exequatur between Slovakia, Germany, Great Britain, France, the United States, and others, indicate that there was, indeed, a de facto recognition of the new status of the former Czechoslovak territories.

On the request of the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile during the war the British had, on August 5, 1942, declared that "at the final settlement of the Czechoslovak frontiers to be reached at the end of the war they will not be influenced by any changes effected in and since 1938."

Whether the above fact constituted a recognition of Czechoslovakia's pre-Munich frontier is debatable.

The French National Committee of Liberation went farther. In a letter to the Czechoslovak Government General De Gaulleexpressly repudiated on September 29, 1942, the Munich Agreement by considering it, as well as all acts accomplished in the application thereof, as "nuls et nonavenues." 28

As for the Soviet Union, her agreement with the Czechoslovak Provisional Government concluded on July 18, 1941, constituted, in Taborsky's view, a recognition of the pre-Munich legal situation of Czechoslovakia.29

Factually the terms of the Vienna Award were annulled in the winter of 1944 by the Red Army and by subsequent handing over of the administration of those territories to Czechoslovak authorities. De jure the Award was repudiated by the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947. Thereby the pre-Munich frontier between Slovakia and Hungary was restored. Ruthenia, however, was ceded by Czechoslovakia to the Soviet Union.

At present, silence reigns over the question of the Czechoslovak-Hungarian territorial controversy. Influenced by Moscow, the Communist Governments of the two countries seem to have accepted the status quo. This much, at least, is known in the case of Hungary where Joseph Revai, the well known party-ideologist, denounced the ethnic principle as early as April 28, 1946.

A more recent position was voiced by Bela Beller, an expert on the question of nationalities. According to him the "socialist solution," conforming equally to the interest of the minority and


the majority, will "minimize" and "gradually eliminate" the question of nationality and territory.30

The temporary success of the Hungarian revolution in October 1956 raised in some minds the question, what would be the attitude of a non-Communist Government in Hungary toward the neighboring States still possessing a considerable number of Hungarians?

From the official pronouncements of Government spokesmen it appeared that the new Hungarian Government interpreted its declared policy of neutrality without discriminating against neighbor States.

On November 1, 1956, Prime Minister Imre Nagy reaffirmed in the Budapest radio Hungary's desire to live in "true friendship" with her neighbors.31

On the same day "Radio Miskolc," sponsored by the Workers' Council of Borsod County, broadcasted in the Slovak language a commentary on events in Hungary. Besides pointing out that the fight of the previous days was by no means a counter-revolution, the program reaffirmed: "We do not proclaim revisionist slogans, we do not want a frontier revision."32

On November 3, Cardinal Mindszentywarned his listeners over the Budapest radio of the necessity of a revaluation of the old-type nationalism so as to prevent its becoming a source of friction among nations.33

Nevertheless, barely two weeks after the suppression of the revolt by Soviet troops the new Communist leader of Hungary, Janos Kadar, made a statement to the Pravda of Moscow, voicing an entirely different view.

Among others, Kadar expressed his thanks to the Soviet Union for preventing in Hungary the coming into existence of a "warmongering" attitude. In his opinion, the victory of the "counter-revolutionaries" would have resulted in immediate armed attack upon the neighbor States to recover lost territories.34

It is left to the reader to decide which of the two opposing views appears to represent the true position of the Hungarian people on the question.

The Future

As it was mentioned before, the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947 declared the decisions of the Vienna Award "null and void." By this provision the status of the Award had been definitely settled. Nevertheless, the question of the Czechoslovak-Hungarian_dispute5">Czechoslovak-Hungarian dispute did not go undiscussed during the peace negotiations. As a matter


of fact, the result of the discussions and of the events that took place after the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace indicate that the question may once again come up in the future.

Speaking of the negotiations of 1947 it is necessary to keep in mind that the central issues of the Peace Conference were not the adjustment of frontiers here and there, but the questions of Germany and Russia.

In the treatment of these issues considerations of strategy, power, and prestige were paramount. The chief concern of the Allied Powers turned out to be the location of the dividing line between the West and Russia. East of the dividing line, the Western Powers did not show too much inclination to press for "ethnic lines" and for "fair solutions."35

Even where they did, political opportunism prevailed. This was particularly true when it came to disputes between Allied and enemy States. Here the problem was difficult for political reasons.

Examining the American preparations for the peace negotiations, Campbell noted the following:

The Czechoslovak-Hungarian question was brought up at the Conference by the Czechs themselves in the form of a demand for five Hungarian villages opposite Bratislava to enlarge their bridgehead on that side of the Danube, and by seeking international sanctions for their plan to transfer by force 200,000 of their Magyar minority to Hungary. About 100,000 other Hungarians were expected to be exchanged on a voluntary basis, and the remainder were to be "re-Slovakized."

Hungarian spokesmen seized the opportunity to point out that "the easiest way to dispose of the Hungarian rninority was to dispose also of the land on which it lived."37

In view of the Hungarian opposition to the Czechoslovak proposal of population transfer, the representatives of Australia contended that "it would be wrong to attempt to write into this treaty a clause permitting a forced transfer, against the wishes of the receiving country."38


The American and British delegations did not sympathize with the Czech proposals, but were willing to consider them in connection with a general settlement of Czechoslovak-Hungarian differences. In the American view, an exchange of territory satisfying Czechoslovakia's desire opposite Bratislava and giving Hungary part of the overwhelmingly Hungarian populated territory along the border would have reduced the scope of population transfer.

This solution, however! was impossible without the cooperation of the Soviets. The Czechs on their part resented the idea of treating Hungary as an equal and chose to have their case discussed by the Conference rather than to make a backstage deal desired by Hungary.39

In the final solution Gzechoslovakia was given three villages opposite Bratislava, and the question of population transfer was postponed by obliging Hungary to enter into negotiations with Czechoslovakia to solve the remaining problems. Ultimately the two Governments were unable to reach an agreement. The result was a mass expulsion of Hungarians from Czechoslovakia.

It still remains to be seen whether this action constituted a final settlement of the problem. Yet, it is unlikely that the Czechoslovak-Hungarian dispute was put to rest indefinitely by means of a forced population transfer.

At the same time we may note that the turning over of the minority problem to the parties least likely to find a mutually satisfactory solution was, in effect, "an evasion of responsibility of the Powers charged with negotiating peace treaties."40

Here as a concluding note we may mark the crucial role which the Great Powers have played and will continue to play in the destiny of East-Central Europe.

It is true that the differential treatment of peoples, practiced both during the days of the Hapsburg Monarchy and after the First World War, can be eliminated in this region to some extent through the efforts of the peoples themselves concerned. Yet, the main conditions necessary for establishing the principle of equal treatment are outside conditions: the absence of domination of the area by one Great Power (or Power Bloc), as well as the absence of rivalry of two or more Great Powers (Power Blocs) projecting itself into this area.

Plans and suggestions for "federation" as a solution of the territorial problems are purely theoretical. To speak of "federation" is illusory until its main condition, a more stable order in Europe, has been established. The experience of the League period, just as


that of the United Nations, shows that the rule of law in a given period can not be stronger than the structure of relationships among the Great Powers that underlies it.

In the modern view "law is a function of a given political order whose existence alone can make it binding."41

Assuming this to be true - a view shared by the writer of this essay it is evident that the establishment of the required order, on which the rule of law in East-Central Europe can rest, is a political task.

Ultimately then, the final settlement and eventual elimination of the Czechoslovak-Hungarian_dispute6">Czechoslovak-Hungarian dispute will have to be achieved by international politics, and not by international law.


Notes to Chapter V

1. H.H.E. Craster, (ed.), Speeches on Foreign Policy by Viscount Halifax, (London: Oxford University Press, 1940), p. 204.

2. P.E. Corbett Law and Society in the Relations of States, (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1951), p. 120.

3. Cf. Supra, p. 7, n. 15.

4. Parliament, Great Britain, Parliamentary Debates. House of Commons, Fifth Series, (London: His Majesty's Stationary Office, 1938-1939), Vol. 341, p. 477, col. 1.

5. Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres, France, The French Yellow Book, Diplomatic Documents 1938-1939, (London: Hutchinson and Co., Ltd., 1940), p. 25.

6. Quoted by Macartney, p. 303.

7. In international practice the following titles are recognized by States: occupation, accretion, prescription, cession, and conquest. They are called "legal claims" to territory. Cf. Charles Fenwick, International Law (3rd ed.; New York: Appleton, 1954), p. 343.

8. British Documents, III, 181.

9. International Military Tribunal, Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal, Vol. XXXV (Nuremberg: I.M.T., 1949), p. 175.

10. This was confirmed recently. Cf. Jozef Lettrich, History of Modern Slovakia (New York: Praeger, 1955), p. 103.

11. Documents Secrets, II, 22, 33, 37.

12. Survey, III, 70.

13. Francis Deak, Hungary at the Paris Peace Conference (New York: Columbia University Press, 1942), pp. 28, 35, 36.

14. Deak, p. 45.

15. Ibid., pp. 35, ff.


16. E.M. House and C. Seymour, What Really Happened at Paris? (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1921), p. 103.

17. Alfred Cobban, National Self-Determination (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947), p. 42.

18. R.W. Seton-Watson, From Munich to Danzig, (London: Methuen & Co., 1939), pp. 116-117.

19. Ripka, pp. 202, 204.

20.Elisabeth Wiskemann, Prologue to War (London: Oxford University Press, 1945), p. 21.

21. Hugh Seton-Watson, Eastern Europe Between the Wars, 1918-1941 (Cambridge: The University Press, 1945), p. 349.

22. Ross classified it as "political arbitration of binding character." Alf Ross, Textbook of International Law (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1947), p. 274.

23. Parliamentary Debates, H. of C., Vol. 342, p. 2460.

24. Macartney, P. 303.

25. Ibid.

26. British Documents, III, 236.

27. Parliamentary Debates, H. of C., Vol. 345, p. 437.

28. Taborsky, Czechoslovak Cause, p. 26.

29. Ibid, p. 99.

30. "Idezetek, Velemenyek es Nyilatkozatok," Bulletin of the Research Institute for Minority Studies on Hungarians, New York): II (July-September 1957), 23.

31. Laszlo Varga, ed., "A Magyar Forradalom es Szabadsagharc," Magyarorszagi Esemenyek, VIII (1956 Okt6ber 23-November 9), 270.

32. Varga, p. 289. 33Ibid, p. 343.

34. "Idezetek, Velemenyek...," Bulletin of the Research Institute for Minority Studies on Hungarians, II, 25.

35. Campbell, pp. 199-201.

36. Campbell, p. 198.


37. Ibid., p. 213.

38. I.L. Claude, Jr., National Minorities (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1955), p. 132, quoting Hungary and the Conference of Paris (Budapest: Hungarian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 1947), IV, 101.

39. "Who won this war," asked Jan Masaryk in one of his speeches to the Conference, "the United Nations or Hungary?" Campbell, p. 213.

40. Campbell, p. 214.

41. E.H. Carr, The Twenty Years' Crisis, 1919-1939 (2d. ed., London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd.), p. 178.


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