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DOCUMENTS - Part Two: Frontiers of Hungary - Chapter II. Proposals and Remarks to the Subcommittee on Territorial Problems

Document 1

T Document 21

July 16, 1942


Summary and Recommendations

1. The boundary as drawn in 1919 was over-favorable to the Czechoslovak ethnic claims. At Paris it was assumed that the needs of Czechoslovakia as a Danubian power could only be served by giving her, not only an outlet at Bratislava, but also the north bank of the Danube from the Morava River to the Ipola River, together with the almost purely Magyar island of the Grosse Schuett. East of the Ipola it was assumed that the need for east-west communications in Czechoslovakia should have precedence over ethnic considerations. An argument which seems fallacious but which carried considerable weight in drawing the new boundary was that Czechoslovakia should receive Magyar popula- tion in "compensation" for the preceding Magyarization of considerable numbers of Slovaks.

2. The boundary drawn on November 2, 1938 erred in favor of Hungary, mainly because the Axis powers insisted on taking the Hungarian census of 1910 as a basis.

3. It would be consistent with the principle of minimum boundary change to provide for the return to Hungary of the Grosse Schuett and of a narrow strip of almost purely Magyar rural population along the southern frontier of 1937.

4. A by-product of this slight shift would be to prevent Czecho-Slova- kia from again becoming self-sufficient in foodstuffs, while Hungary's export problem would in turn be increased. If properly manipulated, this factor might operate to promote closer economic cooperation among the Danubian countries after the war.



Temporary Frontiers, 1918-1919

Upon the proclamation of the independent Czechoslovak state and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire it became necessary to draw at least a provisional line of demarcation between the Slovakian part of the new state and the remainder of Hungary. Unlike the situation in Bohemia-Moravia-Silesia, there was no "historic" boundary to refer to, as Slovakia had been governed for centuries as an integral part of the lands of the Crown of St. Stephen. Prior to the definitive fixing of the new frontier by decision of the Big Four at Paris, on June 13, 1919, three different and temporary lines were drawn to separate the areas of Czechoslovak and Hungarian administration.

1. The Bene-Pichon Armistice Line of November 27, 1918. This line followed the historic boundary between Hungary and Galicia the length of the Carpathians, and the historic boundary between Hungary and Moravia to the Morava River and down the Morava River to the Danube; thence, it followed the Danube River to its junction with the Ipola (Eipel, Ipoly) River;then the Ipola to Rimavská Sobota (Rimaszom- bat); thence, as the crow flies, to the junction of the U and the Bereg, and the line of the U up to the watershed of the Carpathians[1]

This line left the island of Grosse Schuett (Csallóköz, Zitny Ostrava) to Hungary.

2. The Hoda-Bartha Line of December 6, 1918. This line, negotiat- ed directly between the Slovak leader. Hoda, and the Foreign Minister of Hungary, Bartha, left Bratislava (Pressburg, Pozsony), the Grosse Schuett, and Koice (Kassa) to Hungary. It was disavowed by the Czechoslovak Goverment[2]

3. The Vix Note Line of December 23, 1918. This line of demarca- tion was imposed on Hungary by the Allies in a note delivered by the head of the Inter-Allied Mission in Budapest on December 23, 1918. It included in Czechoslovakia the city and district of Bratislava; the railway through Galanta and Nové Zamky (Érsekújvár); Komárno (Komárom); the line of the Danube to the Ipola; Ipolské ahy (Ipolyság); Balaské D'armoty (Balassagyarmat); Luenec (Losonc); Salgotarján (Salgótarján); Rimavská Sobota; Roava (Rozsnyó); Koice;op (Csap); Uhorod (Ungvár)[3]

It did not include the Grosse Schuett in Slovakia, but it included in Slovakia a few sectors, such as Salgótarján, which were later awarded to Hungary.


The Drawing of the Definitive Boundary

The definitive boundary between Slovakia and Hungary was announced to the Government of Béla Kun on June 13, 1919, as a result of negotiations between the Allied and Associated Governments, on the one hand, and the Czechoslovak Government, on the other. It was not changed during the subsequent negotiations which led up to the signing of the Treaty of Trianon on June 4, 1920.

1. Czechoslovak claims. In addition to the territory which the Czechoslovak state finally received its representatives asked for certain territories south of the main branch of the Danube, considerable territory east of the Ipola River, and a much more southerly line from the easternmost bend of the Danube to the boundary of Ruthenia[4]

These claims were sharply curtailed by the Allied negotiators, especially to the east of the Ipola. In the opinion of Seton-Watson, a severe critic of the Magyar regime, it would have been unjust to deprive Hungary of the coal-mines of Salgótarján, the vineyards of Tokaj, the genuinely Magyar towns of Vác, Miskolc and Sárospatak. The town of Sátoralja- újhely was also left to Hungary; its railway station, one mile distant, together with the junction of op and the line connecting op with Koice, went to Czechoslovakia[5]

2. Disagreements within the Committee on Czechoslovak Frontiers:

a.) Bratislava. There was no disagreement over the necessity for assigning Bratislava to Slovakia, although the largest single linguistic group, according to the Hungarian census of 1910, was made up of German-speaking persons (32,790 as against 31,705 Magyar speaking, and 11,673 Slovak-speaking). However, a majority of the Magyar-speak- ing people also spoke Slovak, and could be considered as bilingual Slovaks who, for various reasons, had declared Magyar as their preferred tongue.

b.) The area north of the Little Danube from Bratislava to the junction of the Ipola River. While it was recognized that there were very many Magyars in the southern parts of the counties of Nitra (Nyitra) and Tekov (Bars), it was felt that Czechoslovakia needed an extended outlet to the Danube River; that the economic unity of the 1eft bank of the Danube should not be disrupted; that the railway system should not be disrupted unnecessarily; and that a very large part of the Magyar-speaking population was made up of Magyarized Slovaks[6]

c.) Grosse Schuett.This large island, extending from a few miles east of Bratislava to Komárno (about 100 km. long; average width 25 km.; 1910 population: 101,839 Magyars, 2884 Germans, 453 Slovaks) provided grounds for sharp contention in the Committee. The reasons for assigning it to Czechoslovakia were: (1) the southern or main branch of the Danube was "the only possible frontier"; (2) its economic ties were with Bratislava and the north bank; (3) without it, Czech access to the Danube might have been seriously curtailed[7]

The French representa- tives wished to give the Grosse Schuett to the Czechs; the Americans, to the Magyars. The British Empire members were divided. Harold Nicolson thought, on balance, that it should be left to Hungary; Sir Eyre Crowe and Sir Joseph Young insisted on giving it to the Czechs. The Grosse Schuett was assigned to the Czechs[8]

d.) The line from the Ipola to the U (Ung). The Czech claims reached far south both of the ethnic or linguistic line and of the line finally drawn. The American proposal was to take a more northerly line, following the ethnic cleavage at the cost of cutting the railways. The British representatives proposed leaving the Komárno-Koice railway to Czechoslovakia. Eventually, the Americans agreed to include Ipola in Czechoslovakia; the British, to leave Miskolc to Hungary. While the question of railways was of decisive importance in drawing this eastern half of the frontier, Nicolson later learned from General Mance, a British expert on the railway systems of Europe, that "with very little expense, an alternative railway could be constructed in Slovakia whereby many thousand Magyars would be saved from incorporation /Into Czechoslovakia/.[9]

3. The Smuts Mission. In April 1919 General Smuts visited Prague on his way back from Budapest. According to Nicolson's account, Smuts urged President Masaryk to give up the claim to the Grosse Schuett, and Masaryk agreed that he would do so, provided Czechoslovakia, in compensation, were given a bridgehead at Bratislava. At the Council of Five meetings on May 3 and May 5, 1919, however, Bene, backed by Pichon, denied that Masaryk had made any formal offer, and the southern frontier of Slovakia was confirmed by the Five as drawn in the Committee[10]

Lloyd George defines very differently the territory under discussion between Smuts and Masaryk. "According to his (Smuts') report to us, President Masaryk agreed and said that he would prefer to waive all claims to the Magyar territory and withdraw the Czech frontier to the North, so as to leave all this ethnologically Magyar territory to Hungary; but he made one condition that, in exchange, Czechoslovakia should get a small strip of Hungarian territory south of the Danube at Pressburg[11]

Nicolson's version, according to which only the Grosse Schuett was discussed with Masaryk, has greater probability.

4. Magyar Counter-Proposals:

a.) Demand for plebiscites in all areas to be ceded. The Hungarian peace delegation demanded that, in accordance with the principle of national self-determination, the population of all areas to be ceded should be allowed to vote freely, under international guarantees of impartiality, to determine its future status[12]

This demand was rejected.

b.) Maximum compromise offer of April 23, 1920. Encouraged by the more friendly attitude of Paléologue, the Hungarian Peace Delega- tion hoped that some of the territory assigned to Czechoslovakia by the draft treaty of peace might be returned to Hungary. By instructions of April 23, 1920, Apponyi was authorized to ask for the return of a broad belt of territory including Pozsony, Moder, Nyitra, Bélabánya, Korpona, Nagyröcze, Dorsina, Kassa, Ungvár and Munkács, most of eastern Slovakia and all of Ruthenia.

c.) Minimum compromise offer of April 23, 1920. By the same instruction the Hungarian delegation was empowered to abandon, without referring back to Budapest, Pozsony and surroundings, together with eastern Slovakia. The minimum retrocessions which Hungary regarded as indispensable for any successful negotiations were: the i>Grosse Schuett, parts of the Little Hungarian plain (norths of the Danube) parts of the counties of Hont and Nógrád, and Ruthenia[13]

5. The Millerand Note. In a note accompanying the transmission of the final terms of the Treaty of Trianon, Millerand suggested that slight local changes of frontiers could still be made under the Treaty by the Boundary Commission. The Hungarians later claimed that this Commission should have proceeded to effect extensive transfers of territory. However, neither the Commission was empowered to make other than local changes with a view to minimizing local inconvenienc- es.


Proposals for Partial Revision

Between 1920 and 1938 numerous proposals for a partial revision of the frontier were put forward. Hungarian public opinion, at bottom, would not have been reconciled to anything short of "total" revision. Most of the arguments put forward in favor of revision applied only to total revision: e.g., historical traditions, mystical unity of the lands of the Crown of St. Stephen, "enlightened" minority policy of old Hungary, economic unity of the Danubian area, defense of the Carpathians against the "Tartars" and against Russia, and so forth. Nevertheless, for tactical reasons, Hungarian leaders kept the idea of a "partial" revision, to be based on ethnic justice, to the fore. They probably assumed that even a partial revision would greatly weaken the Succession States internally and would split up the Little Entente, thus preparing the way for a later total revision. Similarly, it became a part of the Hungarian tactic to minimize their claims against Yugoslavia and to center their hostility on Czechoslovakia and Rumania; Hungary even signed a Treaty of Perpetual Friendship with Yugoslavia.* Four of the many proposals for a partial revision are summarized below.

1) Rothermere Line. In June 1927 Lord Rothermere became an advocate of partial revision. The so-called "Rothermere Line" wou1d have returned to Hungary a broad strip of southern Slovakia, including the cities of Bratislava, Nitra, Luenec, Koice, Uhorod, Mukaevo, and Hust. This line differs from the present boundary, established in April 1939, in that it would have given to Hungary Bratislava and a slightly


* December 12, 1940. wider strip north of Nitra and Luenec, while it would have left to Czechoslovakia eastern Slovakia and the mountain area of Ruthenia[14]

2) The Bethlen Solution. The point of view presented to the western powers by the former Prime Minister, Count Stephen Bethlen, called for a new distribution of territory under which "about as many Rumanians, Serbs and Czechs (sic) should be put under Hungarian rule as there would be left Magyars under the dominion of Rumania, Serbia, or the Czechs.''[15] This solution would have left the frontier considerably to the south of the present Axis-imposed boundary.

3) The Temperley Proposal. In retrospect, Harold Temperley, a member of the British delegation at Paris, came to the conclusion that several small areas could be returned to Hungary without endangering the viability of the Czechoslovak state. "The chief evil of the whole Hungarian settlement was the cession of the Grosse Schuett to Czecho- slovakia, and it would certainly be an advantage if this island were handed back to Hungary..A careful reexamination...would reveal cases where small Magyar areas could be safely handed back to Hunga- ry...Counties are mixed...But parishes are not mixed...The frontier could be differently drawn so as to restore a number of Magyar parishes to Hungary without much deranging the Czechoslovak state.''[16] Tem- perley's article gave no consideration to the question of whether such a relatively trifling correction of the frontier would have been a sufficient inducement to persuade Hungary to cooperate with the states of the Little Entente.

4) The Macartney Proposal. One of the most thorough students of the problem of Hungary and her neighbors came to a conclusion similar to Temperley's, except that, for economic reasons, he believed that Ruthenia should also go to Hungary. Macartney would return Ruthenia to Hungary under a rigidly controlled statute of autonomy, preferably supervised by a resident commissioner of the League or of the great powers, and would add the left bank of the Tisza (Rumanian Maramu- re) to Ruthenia, for economic reasons. The southern frontier of Slovakia should also be corrected so as to return to Hungary the purely Magyar districts, without, however, cutting the east-west communica- tions between the valleys. IV.

Partial Revision of 1938 and l939

1. Vienna Award. November 2, 1938. As a corollary of the Munich "settlement" of 1938, it was insisted upon by Germany and Italy, and agreed to by England and France, that the principle of demarcation applied in separating the Sudeten German areas from Czechos1ovakia should also be applied to the areas inhabited by Poles and Magyars. Promptly thereafter, on October 2, 1938, Hungary presented far- reaching claims:

(1) all areas which showed a Magyar-speaking majority according to the Hungarian census of 1910 were to be returned at once to Hungary;

(2) plebiscites were to be held in the rest of Slovakia and Ruthenia to determine their political allegiance;

(3) a settlement was to be negotiated without delay and along these lines.

In the negotiations of October 9 to 13, the Slovaks, to whom the Prague Government now transferred direct responsibility for the settlement, made a number of counter-propositions. First, they offered autonomy for the Magyars within Czechoslovakia; second, they went on to offer Ipola, together with a railroad station adjoining; third, they added the Grosse Schuett; and fourth, they offered an additional area along the southern frontier amounting to about 5,400 sq. km. with a 1910 population of about 350,000. The final Slovak offer was for the cession of about 11,300 sq. km. of territory. On October 24, 1938 the Hungarian Government accepted this offer as a basis of negotiation, and proposed the holding of plebiscites areas outside the area already offered.

By the Axis award of Vienna, of November 2, 1938, Hungary received about 12,000 sq. km., with a population of 1,027,000, stretched along the entire southern frontier of Slovakia and Ruthenia. According to the Czechoslovak census of 1930 the area thus ceded contained 587,558 Magyars, 288,611 Czechs and Slovaks, 51,578 Jews, 35,250 Ruthenes, and 13,481 Germans.*

2. Hungarian-Slovak Protocol of April 3, 1939. As a consequence of the German seizure of Bohemia-Moravia, Premier Paul Teleki an- nounced, on March 16, the incorporation of Ruthenia into Hungary; the Hungarian army then proceeded to overcome the brief but bitter resistance of the small Ruthenian army, supported by the semi-military Sich and by Czech officers. On March 24 the Hungarian troops also invaded eastern Slovakia and occupied strong defensive positions west of the U (Ung) Valley. In addition, along the central part of the Slovak border the Hungarian advanced their previous line of occupation to the north, thus straightening out the somewhat saw-tooth border of the preceding November. On April 3, 1939, Hungary and Slovakia, which had in the meantime proclaimed its "independence" under a German protectorate, signed a protocol confirming Hungarian possession of an area of about 386 sq. miles[18]

3. Criteria for drawing the new frontiers. The cession of November 2, 1938 was justified by Hungary on the grounds of ethnic justice. However, taking the Hungarian census of 1910 as a basis for partition was unjust to the Slovaks. Even of "mother tongue" could, under Hungarian census practices, be accepted as a reliable index of nationali- ty, reliance on this census gave Hungary the full benefit of several preceding generations of Magyarizing Slovaks, Germans and Jews. Scores of thousands of Slovaks, who had been registered as Magyar-speaking in 1910 would have claimed Slovak nationality in 1938. The numerous Jewish element would also have been reluctant, on the whole, to rejoin the new Hungarian state with its copies of the Nürnberg laws. In addition, the much higher birth-rate of the Slovaks was ignored in returning to the 1910 figures (in 1936 the vital excess for Czechoslovaks in Slovakia was 59,937 births - 34,667 deaths or 25,270; that for Magyars in Slovakia was 13,006 births - 8,928 deaths or 4,078). No plebiscites were held, contrary to a long-standing Magyar demand. Finally, the strategic and communications necessities of Slovakia were everywhere sacrificed to Hungarian advantage, except that Bratislava was left to Slovakia.


* According to the Hungarian census of 1941, the region had a total of 1,062,000 inhabitants, with declared native languages in the following distribution -- Hungarian: 892,000; Slovak: 116,000; Ruthenian: 23,000; Yiddish: 10,000; and German: 9,000. The cession of April 3, 1939 was justified by Hungary solely on strategic and communications grounds. By taking a strip of eastern Slovakia, in addition to the remainder of Ruthenia, Hungary secured a fairly extensive common frontier with Poland, together with three railroad lines traversing the Carpathians.


Possible Bases of Post-War Settlement

1. Restoration of the 1937 boundary. This solution is claimed by the Czecho-SlovakGovernment-in-Exile on the grounds that the Munich and related settlements have lost whatever legal validity they may have had for a time in the eyes of some of the democratic powers. Unofficial Czechoslovak spokesmen have expressed a willingness then to see the Grosse Schuett and a strip of the southern frontier returned to Hungary, provided the latter accepts the new settlement loyally and cooperates for regional and European security and prosperity. It is understood that the great powers among the United Nations are pledged to restore the independence of Czecho-Slovakia, but not to restore any definite frontiers.

2. Restoration of Czechoslovakia as a unitary state. The ambition of the Czechs and of the Slovak centralists to restore the pre-1938 internal structure would be greatly favored if they were able to restore the Slovak frontier pretty much as it was in 1937. In general, Slovaks tend to be either more anti-Magyar or pro-Magyar than do the Czechs, and the decision on the frontier problem might affect greatly the question of whether centralist or autonomist groups would get the upper hand in Slovak politics.

3. Federation of Slovakia with Hungary. If Hungary is able to husband her military resources till the end of the war, and if the present Slovak leaders feel that their lives and political fortunes are endangered by Czech more than by Magyar ascendancy, they might prefer to federate with Hungary rather than with Bohemia-Moravia. In this case Hungary might be willing to return to Slovakia a part for a close political and military association with Slovakia. If the great powers wish to prevent this solution from being at least attempted, it seems evident that they should be ready, in advance of the cessation of fighting to state their policy concerning the future relationship of Slovakia to Czechia and Hungary. 4. Federation of Slovakia with Czechia and with Poland. While the Czechs in exile assume that Czecho-Slovakia will enter as a unit into the proposed Czechoslovak-Polish confederation, some Poles seem to hope that Czechia and Slovakia will enter it as separate units. Poland might then try to use her double position as protector of the Slovaks and as a traditional friend of Hungary to effect a lasting compromise between Slovaks and Magyars by moving the present Slovak frontier somewhat to the south.

5. Incorporation of Slovakia into a Danubian state or confederation. This solution would presumably be accompanied by a boundary adjustment favorable to Slovakia, and/or by the setting up of internal conditions within each member-state which would allow free expression of national-cultural allegiance and equal opportunities for cultural and economic development.

6. Consideration in drawing a purely ethnic frontier between

Slovakia and Hungary:

a.) The Czechoslovak census of 1930 offers, generally speaking, a sounder basis for partition than the Hungarian census of 1910.

b.) Greater weight should be given to the ethnic distribution of the rural population than to that of the urban population. This area has no genuine urban areas of the western type, except Bratislava and Koice; the other small towns serving as commercial and administrative centers, tend, over a period of years, to take on the ethnic color of the surround- ing rural groups.

c.) Problems of communications can be overcome by various types of agreement, such as the Rumanian-Czechoslovak agreement for the upper Tisza railway, provided the will to agree is present.

d.) Strategic considerations can now have little weight in determin- ing frontiers within the area bounded by the Carpathians.

16.VII 42.


1. Macartney, C. A., Hungary and Her Suecessors (London, 1937), p. 105.

2. Ibid, p. 107.

3. Ibid, p. 107.

4. Raschhofer, Hermann, ed., Die Tschechoslowakischen Denkschriften für die Friedenskonferencz von Paris 1919-1920, (Berlin, 1937), p. 178-181.

5. Seton-Watson, R. W., "The Formation of the Czecho-Slovak State", in A History of the Peace Conference of Paris, edited by H.W.V. Temperley (London, 1921), IV, 271-272.

6. The Hungarian Peace Negotiations (Budapest, 1920), I, 508-510.

7. Seton-Watson, op. cit. , IV, 271-272.

8. Nicolson, Harold, Peacemaking, 1919 (New York, 1939) p. 275, 279-280.

9. Ibid, p. 275, 279-280, 130.

10. Ibid, p. 323-325.

11. Lloyd George,David,The Truth about the Peace Treaties (London, 1938), II, 941.

12. The Hungarian Peace Negotiations, I, 494-505.

13. Papers and Documents Relating to the Foreign Relations of Hungary, 1919-1920,published by the Royal Hungarian Ministry for Foreign Affairs,edited by Francis Deák and Dezsõ Újváry (Budapest, 1939),I,250-252;see map opposite p. 250.

14. Rotherrnere, Harold Sidney Harmsworth, first viscount,My Campaign for Hungary (London, 1939) see map on back papers.

15. Bethlen, István,The Treaty of Trianon and European Peace (London, 1934), p. 186.

16. Temperley, Harold W. V., "How the Hungarian Frontiers Were Drawn," Foreign Affairs (April, 1928), VI, 438, 445, 446.

17. Macartney, op.cit., p. 247-248.

18. Taylor, Paul B., "Germany's Expansion in Eastern Europe," Foreign Policy Reports (May 15, 1939), XV, 51-52, 58.

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