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The government failed to protect the refugees adequately; consequently, in some categories, they were the only group to suffer this fate. Numerically the hardest hit groups were refugee teachers and railroad employees, but from the ministries of interior, defense, and foreign affairs, no refugees were let go. Counties, municipalities, and villages seized this opportunity to relieve themselves of a financial burden by releasing those refugees whom they were forced to hire under government pressure. Those government bodies dismissed only the refugees.

This action was followed by additional dismissals in 1923 and in 1924. In 1923, the government ordered a 20 percent personnel cut, that is, the dismissal of about 40,000 employees; in the following year, a reduction of an additional 15,000. These orders notwithstanding, the total number of state employees was hardly reduced, especially in the administrative categories. Table 5 clearly reflects this fact.

Table 5
Number of State Employees in 1913,
1923, and in 1924[27]


1913 Jan. 1

1923 July 1

1924 July 1

Civil Administration




State Enterprises




Of this





Postal Service




Permanent Workmen








Thus, while the number of employees in the state enterprises was cut in half, and the number of workers by more than half, the size of the civil administration was barely below the 1913 level when the population of the country had been well over twice as large. In some categories of the civil administration, the numbers employed actually increased. In 1913 the civil administration had 28,543 so-called classified or graded personnel; in 1924, in spite of repeated dismissal orders, it had 33,883 in this group. [8]

[]For the treasury, the expected savings from personnel cuts never materialized. In 1924, out of a total annual budget of 351.6-million gold crowns, 210.8 million crowns, or approximately 60 percent of the budget, were absorbed by the salaries and pensions of state employees. Staff reductions were often achieved by merely pensioning off some employees; this meant only a shift of state obligations from one category to another. Thus, while the number of employees declined, the number of pensioners drastically increased. In 1913, the state had 63.000 pensioners; according to the 1920 census, within the reduced territory of Hungary, their numbers dipped only slightly to 60.617, but increased if the disabled war veterans are added to 64.634. By 1924, it increased even further to 98.644; by 1926. to over 102,000. According to the League of Nations report:

The chief reason for this is that the Successor States have made it impossible for large numbers of employees and pensioners to remain in their territories (their number is about 44,000), so that Hungary is today compelled to provide for all these persons. Reckoning the average annual pension at 1,500 gold crowns, the Hungarian State has to bear a pensions burden of about 66,000,000 gold crowns annually instead of the Succession States, and that amount is more than 50 per cent of the 129.5 million gold crowns allowed for pensions in the budget for the year 1926-1927.[29]


Generally, the refugees enjoyed a privileged position both in pensioning and in dismissals. True, they were the most affected group in the 1922 series of employee reductions; the 1923 and 1924 laws ordering cuts specifically prohibited discharging refugees by fixing overall reduction ratios. Right-wing refugees were able to marshal all their government and parliamentary allies, as well as the support of the rightist organizations and secret societies, to exempt them from dismissal. If they were, nevertheless, unsuccessful, they were often able to find new positions in another government department. In 1923, for example, the EKSz specifically called upon its members to inform the leadership immediately upon dismissal so that the decision might be reversed.

The consequences of this were twofold. First, the government was never able to achieve its projected goals for reductions. Employees discharged in one area using their connections drifted back into state employment in another. In 1923, for example, instead of the planned 40,000 reduction the actual number of permanently eliminated positions was only 14,813.[30] Second, the proportion of the refugees employed by the state steadily increased at the expense of employees born in inner Hungary. According to the Hungarian government reports submitted to the League of Nations, in 1924, the state maintained approximately 35.000 refugees, out of which there were 12,700 pensioners, and 22,700 employees on active duty.[31] By 1926, the total number of refugee state employees rose to 27,815; those of the pensioners to 15,971. According to the country of origin, these figures divide as indicated by Table 6. Refugee gains were made in spite of additional reductions between 1924 and 1926. According to the 1926-27 budget. the total number of state employees was 160,548.[32] Thus, the nearly 28,000 refugees represented approximately 17.2 percent of the total number. Szabolcs offers the following data [33]

Table 6
Refugee State Employees and Pensioners in 1926

Refugee from

Pensioners and Widows
Active State Employees

Refugee strength among the state employees is even more impressive if their proportions in the various categories of employment are taken into consideration. To illustrate this fact, let us use the 1930 census figures.[34] Generally, the highest concentration of the refugees may be found in the most prestigious positions. Thus, proportionally their numbers were the greatest in the judiciary, among the government officials, especially in the various ministries, and in the field of education. Fully 43 percent of the judges and public prosecutors were born in the lost territories, and 34 percent of the state officials. These figures are truly impressive in themselves, but especially if we consider that those who were born in the lost territories comprised only 5.8 percent of the total population in 1930. The refugees were not as successful in penetrating the less prestigious county, city, and village bureaucracies. In these areas the old officials were more entrenched and less susceptible to government pressures to absorb the refugees. In the urban areas political pressure to limit the number of extreme right wing elements in the city administration was also successful, thus the number of refugees was lowest in the city bureaucracies. Even there the proportion of those born in the lost territories was three times as high as warranted by their numerical strength in the country. Among refugee judges and officials, Transylvanians were, by far, the most numerous. (See Table 8.)

Refugee strength in the various categories of education is almost as impressive. For example, from the same 5.8 percent came about a quarter of the primary school teachers and about a third of secondaryschool and university faculties. This strong representation of the refugees among educators was achieved in spite of the numerous though unsuccessful attempts at personnel cuts by the government. Each order

Table 7
Refugee Strength in the State Administration[35]

Administrative Position

Total 1910
Total 1920
Total 1930
Born in Lost Areas
Percentage of Total
State officials and clerks
County officials and clerks
City officials and clerks
Village officials and clerks
Judges and public prosecutors
Court and prison officials and clerks

for cuts ultimately aided the refugees, since these orders were used to dismiss the politically undesirable teachers and, gradually, to replace them with trustworthy refugee educators.

Table 8
State Officials Born Outside of
Trianon Hungary in 1930[36]

Administrative Position

Total Born in Lost Area
Born in Slovakia
Percentage of Total
Born in Romania
Percentage of Total
State officials and clerks
County officials and clerks
City officials and clerks
Village officials and clerks
Judges and prosecutors
Court and prison officials and clerks

Table 9
Refugee Strength in the Field of Education[37]

Total in 1920

Total in 1930
Of these from Lost Areas
Percentage of Total
Burgher Schools

Of these the breakdown according to country of origin is as follows:

Table 10
Educators Born Outside of Trianon Hungary[38]

Total from Lost Areas

Born in Slovakia
Percentage of Total
Born in Romania
Percentage of Total
Burgher Schools

The magnitude of the refugee impact on Hungarian society can be also gauged by some of the long-range cultural changes and social dislocations that were brought about by their assimilation. From the viewpoint of the governing classes, the purge of the undesirable elements from state employment and their replacement by refugees was desirable, since it brought both the civil administration and the educational system more thoroughly in line with counterrevolutionary and revisionist causes.

The most important qualitative change can be detected in the field of education. For, an entire generation was raised in a shrill, jingoistic atmosphere that suddenly became the hallmark of all Hungarian institutions of education. The ultranationalistic tone in the universities, the wholesale dismissal of some of the most progressive and brilliant professors, and the general air of intimidation inevitably led to a decline of the intellectual level in these institutions, especially in the social sciences and the humanities. Free inquiry in these fields was constantly stifled, enmeshed in politics. For example, the once thriving fields of cultural anthropology, ethnic studies, psychoanalysis, and sociology suffered major setbacks; some passed into oblivion. But the decline of quality was not limited to these fields. Practically every area of study was hindered by the demands of the state for political orthodoxy. The result was a wholesale exodus to the West, especially during the 1930s, of some of the best and most creative minds of Hungary. The emigration of the intellectuals was, however, only partly due to the intellectual climate in the country. Another cause was the extreme high rate of unemployment among college graduates in virtually every occupation.

In spite of strenuous efforts by the government to save the middle class, from the early 1970s, Hungary was constantly plagued by the problem of the unemployed intelligentsia. The causes of this condition can be traced partly to the refugee influx between 1918 and 1924. The state successfully absorbed the majority of the refugee degree holders, but this was achieved, in part, only at the expense of the moderate elements in the state bureaucracy and in the educational institutions. Many who were replaced became permanently unemployed. But the surplus created by the refugee degree holders was not entirely responsible for the problem. At least 86,000 refugees--and, as we have seen, perhaps as many as 100,000--were students. A large percentage of these were of college age, who came singly, or with their families, to complete their studies in Hungary. We have also noted that the government specifically exempted from visa restrictions all students who wished to enter the country, even after all other groups were severely limited. A very high number of these students were children of the old social elite, who were expected to continue their education and receive some kind of university degree and gainful employment. Thus, the number of potential university graduates nearly doubled.

Bethlen's government was confronted with a difficult dilemma. On the one hand, it came under strong pressure from refugees to create more positions on university faculties for refugee professors and instructors and to make room in the universities for refugee students. On the other hand, the growing number of unemployed degree holders and the financial plight of the government dictated an opposite policy, a reduction of the number of university students well below existing levels. Previous governments were also aware of the problems a high number of unemployed university graduates could produce. But the political cost of a reduction was always judged to be too high. Just as the earlier government leaders, Bethlen, too, had to yield to political pressure. He and his minister of education, Count Kunó Klebelsberg, merely relocated the refugee universities of Pozsony and Kolozsvár to Pécs and Szeged. The sharp increase in faculty size between 1920 and 1930 can be attributed, at least in parts to the re-establishment and expansion of refugee universities. Bethlen and Klebelsberg justified relocating these universities by pointing to the great demand for their services; but, more important, by arguing that Hungary would be able to maintain its cultural superiority over the Successor States only by educating its young.

For political reasons therefore, Bethlen and his predecessors allowed the substantial expansion of the university system. As a result, throughout the interwar years, Hungary suffered from a gross overproduction of college-educated individuals. A few figures will illustrate this point. In 1910, when the country's population was over 18 million, 15,820 students were enrolled in all of the universities. By 1920 this number declined to l l ,939; but, in the following year, university enrollment began to climb. In 1921, to 16,538 students; in 1922, to 19,717; and, in 1923, to a peak of 20?815. During subsequent years as the refugee students gradually finished their education. the numbers declined slightly but never below the 1910 level.[39]

[]The war was partly responsible for these dramatic increases in enrollments. Many students had to postpone their entrance to university; others were forced to interrupt their studies to serve in the army. The return of these students to the universities created a temporary and unavoidable congestion. The impact of the refugees, however, was more significant. Complete statistics on the size of the refugee student population are not available. But, according to the ministry of religion and education, in the spring of 1921, out of the 12,447 students enrolled in Budapest's institutions of higher learning, representing 75.89 percent of all university students in the country,4679 or 37.59 percent came from the lost territories. Of those 1980 or 42.32 percent came from Romania, 1589 or 33.96 percent from Czechoslovakia, and 1110 or 23.72 percent from Yugoslavia.[40] Since some of the provincial institutions of higher learning were also transplants from the lost territories, it is not likely that the ratio of refugee students in universities outside of Budapest was lower. It is, therefore, safe to assume that out of the 16,538 students in 1921 over 6,000 were refugees.

The presence of the refugee students radically altered the social composition of the student body. In 1913-14, about 16 percent of the students came from families of officials or officers. By 1921-22 their numbers represented about 27.4 percent; a few years later, 30 percent. Conversely, the numbers and proportion of students whose parents were independent professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, greatly declined. In other words, the gentry and gentroid element in the universities had dramatically increased and the bourgeois middle-class and lower-class representation decreased. This sociological change explains, in part, student right-wing radicalism during the early 1920s and the persistent middle-class support of the right during the next two decades.

The children of the gentry or those of the non-noble officials still expected to find a place for themselves in the upper strata of society, but a change is notable in their career objectives. They were less interested in following their parents into the civil service and more inclined to prepare for the free professions. The scarcity of civil service jobs and the fierce struggle that had to be waged to secure these positions brought about a disenchantment with state employment. The younger gentry realized that state employment no longer provided the economic security and comfort of the prewar era. Thus, the younger generations were searching for alternative occupations, which, nevertheless, could be still considered befitting a gentleman. Traditionally, they might have studied law in preparation for state employment. A large number of the students still pursued that field of study, but. increasingly, they showed a greater interest in the sciences, engineering, the arts, and medicine. A shift away from law was already noticeable during the last decade before the war; after the war it became dramatic. In the 1913-14 academic year, for example, 448 students graduated with law degrees, 414 completed their medical studies, and 375 received their diplomas in engineering. A decade later, when the total enrollment was the highest, 425 received degrees in law, 681 in medicine, and 478 in engineering.[4l ]Or another example: at the time when the country had about 4500 practicing physicians, the number of students studying medicine and pharmacy increased from about 2900 in early 1920 to about 5500 by 1922.[42] These numbers, however, do not accurately reflect the degree of shift in the attitudes of the younger middle-class generation. In the free professions the graduates' social background changed with a marked increase in the proportion of students whose parents belonged to the gentry officials. In 1918-19, 23.7 percent of university students came from that stratum: by 1922-23 their proportion had increased to 43.7 percent.[43] According to the calculations of Andor Ladányi, in 1913-14 51.17 percent, that is, more than half of the students belonging to the officials' families studied law. By 1920-21, that figure was only 21.61 percent. On the other hand, on the eve of the war 19.69 percent of this group studied medicine and 13.59 percent the technical disciplines; by 1920-21,28.68 percent and 29.87 percent were enrolled in the schools of medicine and engineering respectively. A similar shift in career objectives can be observed among children of clergymen and educators. Between 1913- 14 and 1920-21, those attending law schools declined from 31.96 to 20.12 percent; those pursuing theological studies, from 23.24 percent to 6.65; for medical and technical studies these percentages increased from 19.21 percent to 30.78 percent and from 10.69 percent to 24.21 percent.[44] Once again, middle-class refugee students, the group most affected by the crisis of the gentry middle class, led the way in the shift from legal to technical and medical education. In 1921, for example, 34.24 percent of the students at the technical university and 39.79 percent of the students enrolled in the medical school of Budapest were refugees.[45] In other words, well over two-thirds of the refugee students opted for the medical and technical professions.

The gentry's growing interest in the free professions made the old differences between noble and non-noble segments of the middle class less and less pronounced. As a consequence, the political gap between the two groups also narrowed; causes championed by the gentry, including those of the refugees, received increasing middle-class support.

We may conclude that the attempted assimilation of the refugees into Hungary's political, social, and economic life was successful. A majority of the refugees, although by no means all, through their commitment to the cause of the right were able to secure, for themselves, a position within Trianon Hungary that was similar to, though not identical with, the posts they had left behind in the Successor States. To be sure, these new positions were not capable of providing the same economic comfort that these men had enjoyed before Hungary's partition, but, at least, in the eyes of the refugees, their new offices or new professions offered a comparable social status.

The domestic cost of their assimilation, however, was high. As we have seen, the refugee problem forced an expansion of the state bureaucracy and the educational system which, in turn, created a major problem in the form of an unemployed intelligentsia. The financial burden this imposed on the state treasury strained the country's economic resources to the utmost limit.

The successful assimilation of the refugees did not remove all causes of their earlier radicalism. They remained committed to the restoration of the lost territories, to a preservation of the preeminent position of their social group in Hungarian society. At the same time, with assimilation, they became willing to accept Bethlen's conservative policies and to support his contention that, under existing conditions, only through peaceful methods was there any hope of treaty revision. The refugees made certain that the issue of revision was never lost from the view of the Hungarian public. They permeated all public institutions, state and, to a lesser degree, local bureaucracies, the greatly expanded law enforcement agencies, and especially the army officers corps. Using their positions, they were able to exercise an exceptionally strong influence on the minds of the population; to exercise a virtual veto over Hungary's foreign policy. The policy of peaceful revision, however, was doomed to failure. Throughout the interwar period, the Successor States viewed any revisionism as a threat to their security. They rigidly held onto their excessive territorial gains, refusing to correct even the most obvious injustices of the Treaty of Trianon. The resulting cool relations between Hungary and its neighbors weakened them all, increased their isolation, and prepared the way for domination of the entire region by a great power.

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