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12: From Sarajevo to Trianon

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But first from Mayerling to Sarajevo... Incidentally, the writer of these lines is not surprised if someone summarizes Hungary's history in a way that, reaching the middle of the nineteenth century or even beyond that, it still holds in reserve half of its fixed length. Is this due to the pressure of accelerated time? To the glut of events? That history, moving on foot or horseback until this point, has now boarded a steam locomotive or an airplane? That the number of sources is increasing? That the charm of propinquity enthralls -the participation of our grandfathers, who died only yesterday or are still living here and there, in the events, and the direct impact of bygone events on our individual destinies? Still, let us try to hold to our own condensed endeavor and its differently proportioned course.

Before the turn of the century, the economy of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, which for decades had lived within its given borders, was comparatively stable and dynamic -its money, for example, was sound; however, its political structure was shaky and its society full of tensions. Even bourgeois developments had not reached fruition; a whole range of rights to liberty and rules of democratic procedures was lacking. The labor movement was already rumbling about establishing its own much more far-reaching objectives. The ideal of internationalism, proletarian internationalism, loomed seductively like a utopia, behind the whirl of fulfilled national and minority aspirations.

The relations between the Hungarians and the nationalities in the Carpathian Basin within the Monarchy were simultaneously characterized by the belief that those relations were regulated by a sound law of nationalities, that ample opportunities for emancipation were available to Slavs and other ethnic groups, including Jews (many of the most radical representatives of the struggle for the nationalities studied in Budapest, they lived or found self-awareness there; their movements took root there, they published their newspapers there), and that the tectonic force that always rent the Monarchy asunder ever more catastrophically could be sought in these very relations.

That characteristic feature of the economic development that, despite the tremendous dynamism, the Monarchy, the Carpathian Basin, and particularly its border regions were incapable of providing employment for their growing surplus of workers has to be probed separately. Though one of the keys to that dynamism was precisely the availability of a large, cheap, and placid labor supply, the sea of the unemployed was such a burden alongside the rapid acquisition of property, ostentatious wealth, and wasteful consumption accompanying prosperity that it was difficult to tolerate. Thus came to pass the phenomenon about which Attila József later wrote: "a million and a half of our countrymen tottered out to America". For a long time, official agencies tolerated this emigration as accomplices or encouraged it illegally. Even today we still do not know the exact number of emigrants. And the results would vary widely if we were to consider only the Hungarians, then include the nationalities, or the émigrés from the pre-Trianon (before 1920), or post-Trianon state, or if we were to deduct those who returned later. In any case, the loss of population was enormous. (But let us provide some figures: according to present calculations, the number of individuals leaving what were then Hungarian territories -some possibly making the journey more than once- with the intention of emigrating to America by all accounts reached 1.2 to 1.3 million between the 1870s and World War I. About one-fourth or one-third of them were Hungarians, and the rest other nationalities; however, at least one-third of the emigrants eventually resettled in Hungary.)

The assessment of this massive emigration, as a result of which separate Hungarian settlements and big-city colonies -sometimes ghettos- came into existence in the United States, Canada, and several South American countries (some emigrants did not master the official language of their new country for generations) -this assessment is almost entirely negative to this very day. This is the case even though there was no European country at the level of economic, technical, and demographic development at which we ourselves arrived at the turn of the century that did not also undergo the same experience. Today, one of the causes of the economic dead end in numerous Third World countries is precisely the fact that the Wild West, the great open spaces, the pampas where the temporary "human surplus" could emigrate are no longer to be found anywhere. For Hungary, however, it is a great benefit, both economically and morally, that no matter where we may find ourselves in the world, we encounter Hungarians, kinfolk who are to some degree, preserving their Hungarian character and their consciousness of their origin. And they also visit the old homeland frequently.

Let us now approach the internal strains of the Monarchy from an entirely different perspective. The only son of Queen Elizabeth's four children, the "ill-fated" heir Rudolf, was born back in 1858. He was his mother's child. His nervous system was rather vulnerable; he had an intellectual bent, he was eager to become emancipated, he was on friendly terms with scholars (among them, the great zoologist, Alfred Brehm, the author of The World of Animals); he was repelled by the court and also by his father's coldness, dogmatism, and rigid sense of duty. Naturally, a bad marriage was arranged for him. He knew about his father's petty love-affairs: about his almost cohabiting relationship with the actress Katherine Schratt, whom Elizabeth the wife herself recommended as a "substitute", about the back street of a back street that posterity learned about only recently: his fifteen-year relationship with the beautiful Anna Nahowski, who bore several children during this period, during her husband's complete absence. And Katherine and Anna: they were easygoing silly-minded, domesticated petty bourgeois, the direct opposites of the refined, indeed decadent Elizabeth. And what kind of companion did Rudolf require? Several kinds also? After all, in addition to his flirtations at the court, he kept returning faithfully to a notorious Viennese prostitute, a popular but not exactly intellectual coquette. Then, half blind, he fell into little Marie Vetsera's net. At the time of their short and stormy relationship, Rudolf was a developed personality, to the extent, one can say, knowing his unsettled frame of mind. There was not the faintest hope that his father, aging but enjoying remarkable health, ever intended to hand over to his only son any real part of his power. Even if measured by the standards of an heir to the throne, Rudolf performed his third-rate duties indifferently enough; he preferred to spend his time hunting, and following and promoting research in the natural and social sciences. And he conducted publicistic activities. He wrote articles. Under a pseudonym. In the liberal, in the opposition press. Was it some kind of Oedipal rebellion against his father? His Majesty's Opposition within the family? A youthful caper? Something more serious, perhaps. Rudolf truly viewed the future of the Monarchy differently.

It is true that after several years of disinclination his father too was forced to acquiesce to Christian Socialist Karl Lueger becoming the mayor of Vienna. The times mandated it. And besides, Lueger was a confounded left-winger but a bigoted Catholic and a rabid anti-Semite. At best, Francis Joseph I made involuntary concessions. Rudolf would have liked to go forward. Toward a republic.

Mayerling, January 1889. Do Baroness Marie Vetsera and Rudolf die a shared death of their own will? To this day, efforts are being made to explain and unravel the secret of this tragedy in various ways. There are a thousand versions, ranging from the most simple romantic love death to the emperor himself ordering the murder of his son, whom he had cast out of his heart, together with his lover, because he was a political rival. Let us mention the version maintaining that the political assassin was a German, an agent of Berlin; after all, Rudolf's anti-Prussianism was widely known. The truth is not exactly simple but, in the end, quite prosaic. His father, in a peremptory manner, ordered Rudolf, who had long been nursing thoughts of suicide, to break with his love. There was no outlet or popular support for Rudolf's political ambitions. His mood grew ever gloomier. The syphilis that did not spare even him tortured him increasingly. And in the hunting lodge near Vienna, an incompetent midwife botched an illegal abortion on Marie Vetsera, who had become pregnant after only a few intimate liaisons. Rudolf -this is what we think- to ease the demise of the gradually hemorrhaging Marie, shot her in the evening and then himself in the head at dawn. The Hungarians knew him as a friend and mourned him as a martyr; romantic legends sprang up about him, about a "good prince" who had been murdered.

September 1898. Luigi Lucheni, an Italian anarchist born in Paris and a guest worker in Switzerland -he was that, although the expression itself was not yet known then- was indecisively rummaging about among crowned heads and similar parasites because he was convinced they all had to be slaughtered. While running amok, he, almost by chance, thrust his sharp-pointed and dagger-like file -he did not have the money for a dagger- directly into Queen Elizabeth's heart in Geneva. He struck down the most blameless of the crowned "spongers" in Europe, the one who, if she had been asked, would, in all probability, have agreed with most of the anarchistic principles espoused by her assailant. Her life, which she lost so senselessly, had indeed been a complete burden to her for a long time. Death was a deliverance.

Archduke Francis Ferdinand, a cousin from a collateral line, took Rudolf's place. The new heir to the throne was arrogant; he had ravenous appetite for politics and was not exactly an indecisive character. Although he also offended the emperor with his morganatic marriage, and the emperor him by barring his children from succession to the throne, their views contained many kindred features. But Francis Joseph I did not share power with him either. He increased Francis Ferdinand's sphere of influence in minute portions only.

With the military occupation of South Slavic Bosnia and Herzegovina (1878), which took place to impose a burden on Turkey, the sick man of Europe, but worked against Serbia, the sharp turn toward expansion in the Balkans put the Hungarians in a delicate position. Our agriculture benefitted. But the growing number of Slavs in the Monarchy caused anxiety, and military action led to the shedding of blood -mainly that of the fanatics- and the ranks of the Hungarian forces took station even less willingly in the garrisons of the hostile and wild southern provinces than in the north, in Polish Galicia. This is the way we saw it. At the same time, in the Balkans -and not just there- the greedy expansion of the Monarchy and the recent annexation of the Slavic population produced ever sharper rebuffs -and so did the Hungarians' active role and expanded participation in these events which brought them the benefits of usufruct.

At home, the Kossuth ethos of oppositional sentiment faded; the flames of the spectacular fireworks of the Millenary celebrations blazed up and then died out. Kossuth's two sons returned from exile, but one of them soon fled to Italy again, to become an engineer there; the other son, Ferenc Kossuth, could have become a major political personality, but did not have a personality. A whole series of significant laws were passed; apparently, the couple of decades following the Compromise were truly a new age of reform. High-speed mechanical presses poured out newspapers, the country became a secular state, and public education was made more mundane and practical. Bourgeois equality before the law evolved; a bourgeoisie has also existed, but only a small fraction of the population could achieve the status of a citizen. The framework of parliamentarianism was similar to Western Europe's. But it could have been filled out with real meaning only on the basis of more modern suffrage. With regard to this issue -and such things have happened before- Vienna would yield, indeed would have liked to allow more than the dominant social classes in Hungary were willing to accept, or bear. Sometimes Vienna made the effort to rule by military governance but then the spirit of the Bach period haunted the scene on both sides: in the organization of opposition, of passive resistance -sometimes constitutionalism was again brought forth from the repository of instruments.

The lack of land and the fact that the larger part of the areas newly reclaimed and protected from floods and made cultivatable wound up in the hands of the old landowners, and the bulk of the benefits from the periodic agrarian booms were also theirs, produced agrarian socialist organizations. The greedy new industries also nurtured the labor movement, whose noted organizer, Leo Frankel, was one of the directors of the Paris Commune in 1871, returning to Hungary after its collapse.

At the turn of the century, a political personality of a greater stature finally appeared on the scene: Count István Tisza. However, he emerged from the conservative wing. His aggressive activities filled with intrigues are explained, in part, by the fact that after the turn of the century a purblind political jungle war replaced the reconciliation of ideas, principles, and programs in the Hungarian Parliament. The members of parliament discovered obstructive tactics and developed them to a superb degree: the parliamentary "slow-down strike", which crippled the almost unformed bourgeois state mechanism to the point of paralysis with an endless prayer wheel of speeches, frequent roll call votes, etc.

And all this occurred at the time when Francis Joseph I, forgetting the humiliations of the not-so-distant Prussian-Austrian War and ungrateful to the court of the Russian czar who saved his throne in 1849, entered into a most binding alliance with the voracious German Empire. The Austrian-Hungarian relationship, which reached its latest nadir in 1905, was of vital importance to the development of the military forces. Amid the violent internal turns and struggles of the next, brief decade, Vienna and Budapest reached many compromises in the interest of the survival and functioning of Dualism, but the question of the army was the area in which Vienna made the fewest concessions.

Nevertheless, at the beginning of the 1910s, a wing of the Austrian high command did see clearly that the Monarchy was too weak to face the major clash that threatened. Perhaps it was this that supplied the background for the notorious Redl affair; possibly, this head of the Austrian spy agency who was "unmasked" in 1913 and forced to commit suicide was not a traitor to his country but a clear-headed skeptic. Among the leading Hungarian politicians, the one who, perhaps, best sensed the dangers of an early entry into the war was the one who, it must be added, had done so much to reforge the Monarchy: István Tisza, who was then serving as Prime Minister of Hungary for the second time and whom the greatest Hungarian poet at the turn of the century, Endre Ady, hated so much because he saw him as a true adversary among the numerous contemporary politicians of small caliber who, precisely because of the range of his visions and determination, bore an extraordinary responsibility for the destiny of the nation. But Tisza's resistance was able to delay the entry into the war for only two weeks.

The military maneuvers in the southern region, which Crown Prince Francis Ferdinand viewed in June 1914, were extremely provocative. It was purely fortuitous, on the other hand, that the half-amateurish assassination attempt made against him succeeded on the second try; even his unfortunate wife died with him. At most, the Serbian student, Gavrilo Princip, accelerated events with his pistol shots at Sarajevo. The assassination was not the cause.

It is not our task to trace the events of the next four years in detail. World War I was what it was. Almost every part of Europe, as well as other regions, participated in it; consequently, our picture of it is as various as the participants. Despite all preceding events suggesting something else, the war atmosphere, indeed its hysteria, seized the majority of Hungarian public opinion; Hungarians believed that they would be able to hail their victorious forces by the time leaves fell; hundreds of thousands sang, "Halt, halt there, beastly Serbia!"

Serious blunders by the army command, particularly in the beginning, accompanied the Monarchy's participation in the destructive war with its prolonged seesawing but frequently stationary fronts. Francis Joseph I, who, he said, "weighed everything, considered everything" (his portrait prepared at this time was distributed throughout the Monarchy, showing him lost in deep thought, his royal face buried in his hands), often chose key commanders on the basis of order of prestige and subjective attachment; this colorless emperor-bureaucrat had extremely little feeling for talent -and casualties remained tremendously heavy to the end. It was a lamentable act of honor how the Hungarians, as well as soldiers from recently annexed Bosnia, distinguished themselves in bloody battles with their military skill and personal bravery.

For Hungarians, the most painful memories were the circumstances and defeats in battles fought on the Russian front, in Galicia, for the fortifications at Przemysl, then in Brusilov's steam-roller offensive, and finally in the Italian and Slovene Karst region, on the plains of the River Isonzo. In the memory of entire generations were indelibly imprinted the scenes and events of brutal and bloody battles, the bayonet charges at Gorlice in southern Poland, the blockade of Przemysl, and the horrible trench warfare at Doberdo in the Karst region, then in Italy, now in Yugoslavia, where every incoming round was made even more dangerous by stone fragments.

From among the manifold consequences of World War I, we shall emphasize four without heed to order of importance:

1. The Monarchy collapsed. Not only did Hungary, as well as the newly created Poland, secede, but three "successor states" also came into existence in a semicircle: Czechoslovakia, Rumania, and Yugoslavia, which, in their given form, had no historical antecedents, or had such only in part.

2. Lenin's revolution in Russia began, after so many utopian plans, to form a living socialism.

3. The United States' acceptance of responsibilities in Europe made it into a decisive factor of power in world politics.

4. The inconsistencies and abuses of the series of peace agreements sowed the seeds of World War II.

Prophecies boding ill were futile. Hungarians realized too late how strong and deep-seated the activities of the nationalities were. When in 1920 at Versailles, outside Paris, the new borders of Hungary were laid down after long but one-sided negotiations in the Trianon Palace, the territory of the Hungarian nation was mutilated into a third its size, and its inhabitants shrank to two-fifths their former number. Though the Entente Powers dictating the peace terms did not agree to every one of the most extreme recommendations and requests, the Rumanians, who gained all of Transylvania, would have gladly advanced farther west, all the way to the River Tisza; among the Czech and Slovak politicians there were those who wanted to establish a dividing corridor between Austria and Hungary cutting through west Transdanubia and Slovenia right down to the Adriatic, and also a Czechoslovakian port on the Adriatic coast; Yugoslavia, made up of Southern Slav peoples, would have definitely liked to possess, if not Szeged perhaps, then Pécs and its environs, and to this end it founded the short-lived Baranya Republic.

What was happening to us? And how could what did happen, happen the way it did?

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