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THE battle of Mohács was the prelude to the most miserable period of Hungarian history. The well-nigh two centuries of partition, when the Turks lorded it over the heart of the country and reduced it to a near-desert; the Habsburgs held the western fringe of it in a grip which at times was not much less brutal than the Turks'; while the flickering lamp of the national independence survived only in remote Transylvania, and there precariously. To this day, Hungary bears on her body the scars of these dreadful decades. Yet the partition did not come about immediately, and but for the disastrous accident of the young king's death, it might never have come about at all. Suleiman had not come prepared to conquer Hungary, and after advancing as far as Buda withdrew his army again to the Balkans, only leaving garrisons in a couple of fortresses near the southern frontier, Pétervárad and Ujlak. But the king's death was the signal for another contest for the throne. Many of the magnates, and nearly all the lesser nobles, wanted a national king, in the sense of the 1505 resolution, and were prepared to accept Zápolyai; but Ferdinand of Habsburg had announced himself as Louis' lawful successor, and a certain party, while not conceding any legal validity to the Habsburg-Jagiello family compact, yet held that Ferdinand, with the resources of the Empire behind him, would afford Hungary the better protection against the Turk. It took time for them to persuade Ferdinand to submit to the forms of election, and meanwhile his supporters had crowned Zápolyai in all due form. Ferdinand's partisans nevertheless proclaimed him king, and then a complex military and diplomatic struggle broke out, which lasted for several years. Getting the worse of the earlier exchanges, Zápolyai appealed to the Sultan, who installed him in Buda, and with whose help Ferdinand's effective rule was confined to the western third of the country, but neither claimant was able to drive the other right out of the field, and the barren conflict went on until the whole country was heartily sick of it. At last, in 1538, Zápolyai's ablest adviser, a Croat Franciscan known as Friar George, or Martinuzzi, mediated the secret agreement of Várad, under which each claimant recognised the other's title and the territorial status quo, while Zápolyai, who was much the older man, and then unmarried, agreed that on his death Ferdinand (or his son) should succeed to the entire kingdom. If John Zápolyai had a son (he was then wooing the Polish princess, Isabella) this boy should be compensated with a duchy in north Hungary. On 22 July 1540, John died, but a fortnight later Isabella, whom he had married in the interval, gave birth to a son, John Sigismund, whom the anti-Habsburg party promptly recognised as king. Ferdinand sent an army against Buda, but now the Sultan decided to play for his own hand. In August 1541 he occupied Buda himself. He recognised John Sigismund as king, but as his own vassal, and, moreover, carved a great wedge out of the centre of the country and incorporated it in his own dominions. In 1547 Ferdinand was obliged to conclude a truce under which the Sultan recognised him as de facto ruler, subject to an annual tribute, of those parts of Hungary (the north and west, and the 'remnants of the remnants', as its own Estates called them, of Croatia) then actually held by him, while he continued to recognise John Sigismund's rule in the east. Ferdinand still hoped to recover Transylvania, and in 1551 Martinuzzi persuaded Isabella to renounce her son's claims in return for a duchy in Silesia for him, and monetary compensation for herself. Imperial troops then entered Transylvania, where they committed the grievous miscalculation of assassinating Martinuzzi. The Sultan was, however, determined not to let Transylvania fall to his dangerous enemy, the Habsburg, and in 1564, soon after Maximilian II had succeeded Ferdinand, attacked again. More prolonged fighting followed, in the course of which Suleiman died while besieging the west Hungarian fortress of Szigetvár, the defence of which, by the heroic Miklós Zrinyi, is one of the famous episodes of Hungarian history. The Imperial armies meanwhile stood idly by at Gy r, and failed to follow up the confusion in which the Sultan's death had thrown the Turks. Isabella and her son were reinstated in Transylvania, which in 1566 the Sultan formally declared an autonomous principality under his own suzerainty; if John Sigismund died without heirs the Transylvanians were to elect his successor, subject to confirmation of their choice by the Porte. In 1568 Maximilian recognised this arrangement, and also accepted a new frontier far less favourable than the old: starting from near Nagykanizsa this now ran to the western tip of Lake Balaton, then from the lake's eastern extremity to cross the Danube between Komárom and Esztergom, skirted the foothills above the Great Plain in the north, as far as Eger, and thence ran south-south-east, approximately bisecting the Tiszántúl. The trisection of Hungary was complete.

Of the three parts of Hungary, that which was directly ruled by the Turks had the most to endure. Its sufferings were substantially greater than those of the Balkan countries through which the Turks had advanced earlier, for there the mountains held secluded corners into which the conquerors did not easily penetrate, and in which survivors from the open lands could take refuge. Moreover, the Orthodox church came to terms with the Crescent with a relatively good grace, and even the numbers of its former members who saved their lives, sometimes even their status and their properties, by adopting Islam, was not inconsiderable. The open plains of central Hungary afforded a few secure hiding-places, and the faith of its catholic population proved admirably strong: the number of converts to Islam was minimal.

Further, their conquest had cost the Turks much fighting before it was completed, and the accepted fate of a prisoner taken in war by the Turks, if it was not death, was transportation into slavery. The process began with Suleiman's campaign of 1526; the advance of his army to Buda was marked by a swathe of burning villages, and its retreat was followed by a seemingly endless line of miserable captives, doomed to the slave-markets of Anatolia unless, as often happened, they were slaughtered on the way, as being too much trouble to transport. The scene was re- enacted after every campaign, and even the Sultan's recognised subjects, in time of peace, were not safe. There were, in fact, few years of real peace: at least on the frontiers, guerilla warfare was endemic, and during it, the Turkish irregulars, and still more, their Tatar auxiliary bands, were not particular on which side of the frontier they collected their victims. It was an especial misfortune for the country that Hungarian slaves were highly esteemed in Anatolia and fetched big prices. Sometimes victims were carried off from the heart of the country, or sold by resident masters, in times of what was nominally complete peace.

The fate of those who escaped slavery was a yoke which was often almost as heavy. In the territory ruled by the Turk, which was organised in four (later five) Pashaliks, the whole under the control of the Beglerbeg, Pasha of Buda, the government was entirely Turkish. All former titledeeds became null and void, and if a Hungarian noble remained behind (most of them fled), he lost his rank and all that went with it, and became a peasant among the peasants. The entire land passed into the absolute ownership of the state, which kept one-fifth of it 'for Allah', i.e., under its own direct management, while bestowing the rest in fiefs, usually small, among its own officials and soldiers. These thus formed a landlord class ruling over their peasants much as the native landlords had done. There was, however, this difference, that the fief was not hereditable, nor even granted for the beneficiary's lifetime. He could be transferred at any moment to another part of the Sultan's dominions, and the higher dignitaries were in fact seldom left long in one station. Even the legal dues and taxes, of which one part was paid to the state and the other to the landlord, were heavy, but the short-term fief-holder had also every interest in squeezing the last farthing out of his land and his peasants, and when illegal extortion was added to the legalised burden, it became crushing.

Conditions on the state lands, or khases, were, indeed, perceptibly better. There was little arbitrary exaction, and there are recorded cases of complaints going up to Constantinople and being remedied. The larger localities even enjoyed a measure of self-government, for the Turkish officials found it easier to deal with their inhabitants in bulk, through their own representatives, than man by man. They were thus able to pay their taxes collectively, which was much less burdensome, as preventing illegal exactions against individuals. Some of them, which lay well behind any frontier, came to enjoy a measure of prosperity, practised industry and especially trade (including a large trade in cattle with the west) on a substantial scale, and evolved a solid and self-respecting middle class.

The chief khas country was in the central plain, on the two banks of the Tisza, an area which lay some way behind the frontier, and was used by the Turks as a supply base for their frontier fortresses. The populations of this area forsook their villages and congregated in the relative shelter of the towns, and thus were born the curious 'village-towns' of the Alföld - Szeged, Nagyk rös, Kecskemét, Cegléd, Debrecen and the rest, each of which incorporated in its boundaries the territory of the deserted villages round it. Thus the municipal area of Kecskemét at one time covered over 475,000 acres, which had formerly housed thirty-two villages.

But even this security was very limited and the well-being modest indeed; the cattle-trade itself developed only because the population found arable farming too unrewarding or too dangerous, and the herds which reached the west consisted of wild, skinny beasts which had to be fattened for months in Germany or Austria before they were slaughtered. Such traders as prospered were usually Greeks, Armenians or Serbs, rather than Hungarians.

Generally speaking, the feature of Turkish rule at its best was barren unconstructiveness, and at its more frequent worse, savage destructiveness. Beyond a few baths, the Turks brought nothing whatever to Hungary, except fortresses, and what they found there, they destroyed, or allowed to fall into ruin. The most serious of all the effects, from the national point of view, was the depopulation brought about by the wars, the slave-raiding and the endemic pestilence, aggravated locally by the emigration of refugees. In this respect Hungarian historians have distinguished three zones. The first and worst covered the south of the country, up to the Maros in the east and a line extending westward from its junction with the Tisza to that of the Sárviz with the Danube, thence south-westward past Pécs to the frontier. This area, once among the most flourishing in Hungary, had borne the brunt of the first fighting, and its original population had been practically wiped out before the middle of the century. Later it was partially replaced by immigration from the Balkans, but the new population was far less numerous than the old and less rooted to the soil; they were semi-nomadic herdsmen, rather than farmers. North of this came the main khas country. Here more population had survived, and there had even been some immigration from the south. Yet even here, as late as 1720, a generation after the Turks had gone, the population of Debrecen, the largest of the local towns, was still only 8,000, and that of Szeged, under 5,000, and for perhaps 25 miles all round each of them, there was hardly a habitation to be seen.

The strip of land behind the semicircle of the frontier was rather more densely inhabited, for here were the garrisons, and the state saw to it that the Spahi lands should be occupied. When the population fled, or was massacred, new colonists were brought in. Buda, as the seat of the Beglerbeg, as well as a large garrison station, remained a considerable place. But even here a traveller found in Vác, in 1605, only a handful of peasants who knew only from hearsay that a rich town had once stretched round the sides of their poor huts. The frontiersmen were, incidentally, largely Serbs and Vlachs who followed the Turks when the latter evacuated the country.

With the men, the works of their hands vanished. The walls of the villages crumbled into the soil from which they had been fashioned. More durable buildings stood deserted and ruinous. Smiling fields reverted to swamp and jungle. The rude Balkan herdsmen lived in primitive cabins half sunk in the ground, which they left empty when danger threatened or even when pastures were exhausted.

The devastation wrought by the Turks was, of course, not confined to Turkish Hungary. When the Porte and the Empire were at war, which was frequently enough, the Sultan's armies spread ruin where they passed, but even the periods of 'peace' meant only that no large armies were set on foot; not that all hostilities were suspended. It was nearly thirty years before anything like a continuous defensive line for Royal Hungary was established, and then only along part of the frontier. The rest was protected only by a line of fortresses, often inadequately garrisoned. Turkish and Tatar marauders often slipped through the gaps, laying whole regions waste and massacring their inhabitants or carrying them off into slavery. Hardly any part of Royal Hungary

was spared these visitations, and in the turbulent years preceding the liberation, no place could call itself safe. A considerable zone, in places forty miles deep, behind the whole length of the frontier actually paid a regular Danegeld to the commanders of the local Turkish fortresses to escape these vexations.[15]

The damage directly inflicted by armies or raiders was not the only burden which the neighbourhood of the Turks laid on Royal Hungary. The frontier fortresses and their hinterland covered a considerable part of the country and occupied the energies of much of its population. Young men took service under noted commanders and led adventurous lives of derring-do, paying the Turks back in their own coin. There was much that was romantic in this frontier life, in which the classes sank their differences before the common danger. Even duels between Christian and Turkish paladins were not infrequent. It also provided an excellent military training. But it was not a life in which wealth could accumulate, or the arts of peace flourish.

The loss of so much of Hungary to the Turks, and the difficulty and expense of defending the remainder, were the two main causes in the gradual deterioration of relations between Royal Hungary and its new dynasty which took place in the sixteenth century, and of the progressive real, although not nominal, diminution of its political status.

In the first years after his accession, when he was still fighting to unite all Hungary under his rule (when it would have been by far his most important possession), Ferdinand gave the nation little reason to complain. Having once sworn to respect its constitution, he began by keeping his oath scrupulously enough. At first he left it to be governed for him by the existing Council, under the presidency of his sister, the queen-widow. In 1528 he deferred to the Hungarians' wishes by replacing Maria by a Palatine, Count István Báthory. Membership of the old Council now degenerated, indeed, into a titular honour, but the new Council which Ferdinand appointed to help the Palatine was composed of Hungarians, and Ferdinand did not interfere with their conduct of their business. He reserved two places for Hungarians in the Hofrat which he was organising as his central advisory council for his dominions as a whole - it was they themselves who failed to take up the offer; and while he had begun by providing only secretariats for Hungarian affairs in his top-level central ministries, the Hofkanzlei and Hofkammer, when the Hungarians complained, he allowed them a court chancellery and a camera of their own, nominally subject to no orders except those issued by himself. He convoked the Diet regularly (as he did throughout his reign), levied no taxes without its consent, and deferred to its opinion when it resisted various innovations proposed by him.

But the hope of reuniting Hungary faded, and, especially after Ferdinand had succeeded his brother as Emperor in 1558, Royal Hungary had become no more than a small, outlying and exposed annexe to a mighty organism in which its special problems and interests inevitably counted for little. The Hungarians absence from the Hofrat, while emphasising their country's distinctive status, lost them their opportunity of pressing their case when issues of foreign policy were discussed. The orders to the Hungarian court chancellery, while still issued in the king's name, m fact came from central Hofkanzlei, while in 1537 the Hungarian camera was formally subordinated to the Hofkammer. Above all, Hungary lost her independence in the vital field of the national defence.

It had been obvious from the first that her own resources were insufficient even for the defence of her own frontiers, let alone the recovery of the rest of Hungary, and she herself had insisted that she must be helped to discharge the tasks. The first defensive arrangements were made by agreement between the Estates of Hungary and the neighbouring Lands. Austria proper and Bohemia undertook to help with the defence of the northern and eastern sectors, and, under the first arrangements, did no more than supply garrisons to reinforce those provided by the Hungarians themselves, on whom the brunt of the work fell. The supreme command over all these forces was then still in Hungarian hands, for the Palatine's rights included the command of all armed forces in the country, in the king's absence.

When, however, Báthory died, in 1534, Ferdinand did not appoint a new Palatine, but only a 'locum tenens'. This official, again, was a high Hungarian dignitary, and the change did not impair the nation's autonomy in those fields (which included the judiciary) which were still regarded as interna; but the national defence was no longer among those fields, for the locum tenens did not exercise the Palatine's vital prerogative. In 1556 the responsibility for the defence of all the Habsburgs' dominions was assigned to a central body, the Hofkriegsrat, and on this body the Hungarians, in spite of repeated protests, were never given representation.

The process was carried further still on the southern, or Croat, sector, where Inner Austria had agreed to help. Here it soon became clear that something more than reinforcement of the local Hungarian fortresses would be needed, and a whole new system was organised. The core of it was the chain of fortresses, the garrisons of which were generally German; while the population of the areas round and between the fortresses, this consisting largely of Serb and Croat refugees from the Balkans, was organised as a sort of militia, being given free land in return for a perpetual obligation of military service. In 1578 this strip of land, now divided into two Districts (the Croat and the Wend) was formally withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the Croat Estates and made into a 'Perpetual Generalcy', under the command of the Archduke Charles, then the ruler of Inner Austria. Later again, when the Habsburg dominions were again reunited under one monarch, this, too, came under the administration of the Hofkriegsrat. This was the genesis of the 'Military Frontier' which thereafter, until its dissolution under the 1867 Compromise, proved so effective a thorn in Hungary's flesh.

Thus Hungary received help indeed, but at the cost of submission to foreign control over an essential field of her national life, and she was allowed no say whatever in the great question of the recovery of her integrity. Complaints that she was being ruled by foreigners soon became loud: the unruly conduct of the foreign garrisons, who were often left unpaid and sought their own remedy by plundering the countryside round, became a standing grievance; and feeling became bitter indeed when Maximilian let Zrinyi and his men perish, and on top of that, recognised the Sultan's suzerainty over Transylvania at a moment when most Hungarians believed that it would have been possible to drive the Turks out of all Hungary.

Relations between the nation and its new rulers were already worse under Maximilian than under Ferdinand, for Maximilian, who had claimed to be succeeding his father jure hereditario, had signed no electoral diploma, had no personal memories of Hungary's former greatness and importance, and was accustomed to rule as absolute monarch in his other dominions. He was therefore less punctilious than his father had been about consulting the Diet, and refused to remedy any of the nation's constitutional grievances. He even promised the Imperial Diet that he would incorporate Hungary in the Empire. He was, however, personally an easy-going man, and did not interfere gratuitously in the nation's internal affairs. Matters took a sharper turn for the worse when in 1576 Maximilian was succeeded by the unbalanced Rudolph, and especially when Rudolph transferred his court to Prague. Hungarian affairs were now dealt with only at second hand; from the chancellery at Vienna they were sent on to Prague, where -Rudolph shutting himself away with his circle of astrologers - all decisions were taken by a little clique of military advisers, who saw in the Hungarians only truculent rebels, to be weakened by all possible means. The commanders of the military garrisons claimed complete authority in their districts, and tried to usurp in them even the judicial power.

Now, too, a religious conflict supervened on the constitutional and military disputes. In the preceding half-century the Reformation had swept over Hungary, beginning with its German inhabitants, the burghers of the towns and the Transylvanian Saxons, who had, by great majority, adopted the doctrines of Luther. These, written as they were in German, had not penetrated widely among the Magyars, but after Mohács Calvin's latin writings had converted to themselves the greater part of the people, spreading with particular rapidity because a very large number of the highest roman catholic dignitaries had perished on the field of Mohács. The Reformation was in itself an event of the first importance for Hungary. It breathed new vitality into a spiritual life which had become in many respects worldly, torpid and degenerate, lending it a fresh inspiration, and one which proved peculiarly well adapted to the national genius. Hungarian protestantism came to constitute a vigorous creative element in European life, and in particular, the especial embodiment of the spirit of national independence.

But the religious question was destined also to become a source of national weakness by dividing Magyar from Magyar, and as prelude to this, while the nation was still almost entirely protestant, a cause of conflict between the people and its rulers. Neither Ferdinand I nor Maximilian, who himself inclined strongly towards protestantism, had tried to impede the spread of it in Hungary, but by the time Rudolph succeeded his father, his uncles and cousins had almost completed the enforcement of the Counter-Reformation in Inner Austria and the Tirol, and Rudolph was soon at loggerheads with the protestants in his own dominions. Relations between him and his Hungarian subjects soon approximated to a condition of cold war, which was complicated and aggravated in 1591 by the outbreak of another official war, known as the 'Fifteen Years War', with the Turks. Both the course and the outcome of this were, however, altered, not only by a change in the nature of the Turkish power, but also by the emergence of Transylvania as a distinct political factor.

As we have seen, the separation of Transylvania from Royal Hungary had been the Sultan's work. After Mohács there had been little positive separatist feeling in either half of the country; Zápolyai had his partisans in all parts of Hungary, and Ferdinand had his (notably the Saxons) in Transylvania. Both anti-kings had claimed sovereignty over all Hungary, and the aim of all Martinuzzi's diplomatic manoeuvres had been to reach an accommodation between the rivals which should make possible the ultimate restoration of the national unity. Indeed, John Sigismund himself, even after the reaffirmation of his position in 1568, had secretly recognised Maximilian as his suzerain and the national prince whom the Transylvanians had elected in 1570, after John Sigismund's childless death, a local magnate named Stephen Báthori, had also sworn secret fealty to the Habsburg.

But pending the achievement of unity, the east Hungarians had been obliged to conduct their own affairs. Martinuzzi, the political genius and authority of the time and place, had fallen back on the local institution which existed, the old 'Union of the Three Nations', created in 1437 and still functioning. In 1542 representatives of the Three Nations, meeting at Torda, solemnly renewed the Union and thereafter met regularly in Diet; after 1544 this was attended by representatives of the 'Partium', i.e., those counties lying west of Historic Transylvania whose geographical situation forced them into partnership with it (at the time these were Bihar, Zaránd, Arad and the District of Lugos and Karánsebes). Again in 1542, a Council composed of representatives of the Three Nations and of the Chapter of Nagyvárad was established to advise the executive, then personified by Martinuzzi, who was acting as 'lieutenant' for Isabella and her son.

A little later, Transylvania introduced another innovation, a very important one, for which it afterwards became famous. Here, too, the Reformation had made much progress, but the two parties were so evenly balanced that neither dared challenge the other to a duel à outrance, and in 1550 the Diet proclaimed the free exercise of the catholic and protestant religions. The protestants then split into Lutherans and Calvinists, and in 1564 the Diet established 'tolerance' between these two. In 1572 it recognised the catholic, lutheran, calvinist and unitarian creeds as `established religions', the followers of each to enjoy freedom to practise their faith and equal political rights. The Orthodox faith, that of the Roumanians, was 'tolerated', i.e., could be practised freely, but was not admitted to political equality.

Enjoying these local safeguards, the Transylvanian protestants were naturally apprehensive of the growing power of the Counter-Reformation in the west. Stephen Báthori was himself a Catholic, but Maximilian's intrigues against him forced him into retaliation, and the differences between him and the Habsburgs were accentuated when the last Polish king of the Jagiello line died in 1572. Although Maximilian hoped to gain the throne, it was Báthori whom the Poles elected to it, in 1575, and thereafter he and his younger brother, Christopher, who governed Transylvania for him until his death in 1581, and thereafter ruled it as his successor, were the Habsburgs' enemies rather than their partners.

When the Fifteen Years War broke out, the picture seemed at first to be reverting to its old lines. Sigismund (Zsigmond) Báthori, who had succeeded his father in 1586, began by allying himself with Rudolph in return for the hand of Rudolph's cousin, Maria Christina, and recognition of himself and his descendants as hereditary princes. The allies at first won important successes over the Turks, but failed to follow them up, and a period of great confusion followed. Báthori, who was a man of unbalanced mind, subject to fits of insane cruelty, abdicated, returned, abdicated again, and the rule over Transylvania alternated between him, his nominees, Rudolph, a local leader named Moses Székely and the Voivode Michael of Wallachia. When Rudolph's troops were in Transylvania, their commander, Basta, inaugurated there a real reign of terror, executions going hand in hand with confiscations and simple spoliation. The same atrocities were committed in Upper Hungary, and throughout Royal Hungary the court took the opportunity to confiscate the estates of many Hungarians, among them the Palatine, Illésházy, on trumped-up charges of treason. The position grew so intolerable that at last one of Sigismund's generals, István Bocskay, himself previously one of the most loyal supporters of the Habsburg cause, revolted. He raised a new army, the backbone of which was constituted by the wild soldier-herdsmen of the plains, known as 'hayduks', and drove Basta, not only out of Transylvania, but also out of Upper Hungary, which rallied to him. A Diet offered him the crown, which he refused, but on 23 June 1606 he concluded with Rudolph the Peace of Vienna, which left him prince of a Transylvania enlarged, for his lifetime, by the counties of Szatmár, Ugocsa and Bereg, and also guaranteed the rights of the protestants of Royal Hungary. Then, through his mediation, the Peace of Zsitvatorok (11 November 1606) was concluded between the Emperor and the Porte. The territorial status quo was left unchanged, but the Emperor was relieved of his tribute to the Sultan.

These treaties ushered in a new period. For the next half century the Turks were unaggressive, and even their rule over their subjects lost something of its brutality. Some travellers brought reports of peasants faring better under Turkish masters than under Christian, and cases occurred of flight across the frontier eastward. Above all, the Turks were indifferent what form of error their Rayah chose to pursue; if anything, they were less hostile to protestantism than to catholicism, with its international connections. Harried protestants in Royal Hungary sometimes called the zealots of the Counter-Reformation 'worse than the Turks'.

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