Trianon: A different view

Objection, your honour!

Milan Jaroň

 

This piece was written on the occasion of a debate with Ignác Romsics, author of The Treaty Peace Treaty(Trianonská mierová zmluva – Kalligram 2001), held in Bratislava on February 15th of 2007, about the possibilities of convergence of contradictory views on the same historical events.

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The Trianon trauma is a deeply rooted feeling of injustice, passed on from generation to generation, as it has become a sort of constitutive element of the collective psyche of modern Hungarians. Although Hungary was created, in the true sense of the word, exactly as Czechoslovakia: as a result of the will of the victorious powers on the rubble and craters of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, from the Hungarian point of view, the Trianon Peace Treaty represents an unjust dictate and not a guarantee of the new state‘s borders.

And this is precisely the point traditionally emphasized for example by Slovak publicists and historians: in the Hungarians‘ national conscience (and language) there is no difference between „Hungary“ (Maďarsko) and „Greater Hungary“ (Uhorsko). Hungarian historians feel that „Hungarians are fully entitled to consider the Trianon Peace Treaty, or rather the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947, which replaced it, as unjust.“ (Ignác Romsics in The Trianon Peace Treaty

Indeed, Austria-Hungary has been carved up in the name of the right to national self-determination. But in practice, it was essentialy the result of the assertion of specific strategic power interests. Therefore, Hungarian historiography is attempting to demonstrate that the Trianon Peace Treaty not only was contradictory of the right of self-determination of nations (the borders have been drawn wrong, both in their layout – unjust demarcation lines, and method – without plebiscites), but that it also failed to fulfill the strategic goals of victorious powers (the weakening of the German power in order to avoid a new conflict).  

The opposite party argues looking at the same events from an entirely different point of view. According to them, the Hungarian reasoning is flawed. The censuses used as reference aren’t trustworthy, and above all they already reflect the results of the magyarization policy practiced for at least a century. In other words, if the borders drawn in 1920 were unjust, which demarcation would have been considered just in 1848? In 1867? Why not going back as far as to the year 1000? Which borders would be fair today? Which borders would be fair in 20, 40, 100 years from now?

As a matter of fact, justice has little to do with drawing of borders. Territories used to be only won in war, and secured through power, which made them stable – sustainable in the long term (that’s why the idea that the plebiscite would be a reliable method for determining borders is to a large extent an illusion). It means that in 1920 Hungarian politicians must have known that nothing unusual, let alone outrageous, was happening. Austria-Hungary lost the war. It was destroyed. Period. A new chapter of history began.

Today, we are at last attempting to think about ways of getting our nations closer as far as the interpretation of common history is concerned. It might be worth to dust off and read carefully some of Milan Hodža’s works. 

As long as the two sides won’t stop reducing the end of World War I to the issue of realisation of the aspirations of the till then oppressed, on the one hand, or the fabrication of a sort of national tragedy as a result of the redrawing of borders, on the other, we all will continue missing the deeper meaning of those historical events. In fact, the end of World War I, even if typified by the redrawing of the map of Europe, meant as much as a revolution for Central Europe. The statement: „monarchy fell“ has greater implications than „new States were born“.

Rather than emphasizing the mutilation of Hungary, the events of 1918-1920 also meant the fall of the monarchy including the disappearance or weakening the nobility, which in the name of „magyarship“ claimed Greater Hungary for itself. They lost their properties as well as their priviledged status, as a consequence of gradual democratization and agrarian reform.  

The fall of the monarchy can for example mean a substantial acceleration of industrial modernization, and the deep social changes it implies.  

The fall of the monarchy might have given Central Europe the opportunity to start recovering wasted time, at least in comparison with Western Europe.

And today, especially for us, new members of the European Union (after what we call 40 years of forced separation from Europe), it might be instructive to ask history how our nations took their chances in a similar situation, almost a century ago.

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The original appeared in http://jaron.blog.sme.sk/c/82121/Namietka-Vasa-ctihodnost.html

Milan is a diligent reader of this blog who often contributes to discussions especially on Slovak-Hungarian relations.

 

 

 

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Mark
Guest

“As long as the two sides won’t stop reducing the end of World War I to the issue of realisation of the aspirations of the till then oppressed, on the one hand, or the fabrication of a sort of national tragedy as a result of the redrawing of borders, on the other, we all will continue missing the deeper meaning of those historical events.”
I absolutely agree with Milan. This period represented a highly problematic attempt to replace a multi-national monarchy with an order based on sovereign nation states across Danubian Europe. I think it is time for a history of this process that was just a little bit more sceptical of these national claims (and indeed among a younger generation of scholars both within and without Central Europe we have these works), and looks more closely about this problematic state (re)construction process as one that was both shared and divisive. If we could move political debate beyond claims of national “victory” or “tragedy”, a proper basis for recognition and co-operation. After all it is not as if the old nationalist politics on either side are really getting anyone anywhere, is it?

Steve
Guest
“The censuses used as reference aren’t trustworthy, and above all they already reflect the results of the magyarization policy practiced for at least a century.” So he is basically saying what Slota is always saying, that “Hungarians are just Hungaricised Slovaks”. There was no base for plebiscite, since the population was so dumb, it doesn’t even knew its own ethnicity… “As a matter of fact, justice has little to do with drawing of borders. Territories used to be only won in war, and secured through power, which made them stable” There is no need to justify something as morally right, the winner should just take it all. This rings similar to what the Slovakian foreign-minister recently said, “if Hungary has sovereign right to give citizenship to anyone it pleases, so has Slovakia right to prevent it”. So does that mean, that the whole issue is back to 1920 principles, and let the stronger side win? “The fall of the monarchy can for example mean a substantial acceleration of industrial modernization, and the deep social changes it implies. ” I won’t go into detail, how the severed rail lines and lost coal-mines affected the Hungarian industrialization, since the disagreements are not… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Steve: “I won’t go into detail, how the severed rail lines and lost coal-mines affected the Hungarian industrialization”
On the other hand, the Slovaks’s situation greatly improved by severing connection with Hungary. (1) They found themselves in a far more democratic country than Hungary and (2) The Slovak-speaking population had a much greater opportunity for educational and cultural opportunities. I would like to call your attention tpo the fact that in the whole Kingdom of Hungary there was not even one Slovak gymnasium. Compare that to the situation today.

Steve
Guest

@Eva S. Balogh
I’m not questioning that Slovaks got a better situation than before, i’m not even telling that they didn’t deserve a better situation. I’m just telling that their betterment was at the price of disproportionate worsening for others.
The borders were drawn as they were, just because the Slovak army occupied them, no matter if the population was Hungarian. It was a land-grab, it is not possible to justify it, nor need to do it. It is the past, but it seems it haunts the Slovaks even more than Hungarians.

m
Guest

Hungary raised the question of Trianon and possible territory claims after 1989 and the Americans answered, forget about it, if you would like to become a NATO member. To be read in the book of Baranyi Maria, “Egy elöszoba titkai”.

Richard
Guest

Two minor comments. Creation of small nation states in CEE can be alternatively explained by the intention to prevent cspread of communist revolutions accross the region. Slovakia actually suffred a lot by joining with economically stronger czech lands. As described by Slovak historician Liptak, whole Slovak economy was centered to Budapest (including railwaus) cutting off from the Hungarian market and inability to compete on the occupied Czech led to collapse of many industries in 1930. This later led to tentions with Czechs and Slovak State during the WWII.

Bujdosó János
Guest
The Trianon “peace” treaty of 1920 has caused more problems than it was set out to resolve. The Trianon treaty is an illegal treaty because it was made based on false data and statistics presented by Romanians, Serbians and Slovakians in order to receive more land from the Kingdom of Hungary. Due to the Treaty, more than 3 million ethnic Hungarians are forced to live under foreign oppression and are discriminated against and beaten almost weekly by Romanians, Slovaks and Serbs. The Kingdom of Hungary has for the past 1000 years protected Europe from Mongol, Tatar and Ottoman attacks. Many have been quoted saying, if it wasn’t for Hungary, Europe would have fallen under the Turks, and that Hungary as a single nation did more to fight back the Turks than all the other European nations put together. As the reader, I have one question for you.: Is Trianon Hungary’s reward for defending and saving Europe for the past 1000 years? Is it Hungary’s rewards that her children suffer under the oppression of Serbians, Romanians and Slovaks? I will let you decide, and remember if it wouldn’t be for Hungary, the world would be a very different place. Thank you,… Read more »
Rudolf Hess
Guest

Just blame yourself or move to another planet.

LwiiH
Guest
Bujdosó János : The Trianon “peace” treaty of 1920 has caused more problems than it was set out to resolve. The Trianon treaty is an illegal treaty because it was made based on false data and statistics presented by Romanians, Serbians and Slovakians in order to receive more land from the Kingdom of Hungary. Due to the Treaty, more than 3 million ethnic Hungarians are forced to live under foreign oppression and are discriminated against and beaten almost weekly by Romanians, Slovaks and Serbs. The Kingdom of Hungary has for the past 1000 years protected Europe from Mongol, Tatar and Ottoman attacks. Many have been quoted saying, if it wasn’t for Hungary, Europe would have fallen under the Turks, and that Hungary as a single nation did more to fight back the Turks than all the other European nations put together. As the reader, I have one question for you.: Is Trianon Hungary’s reward for defending and saving Europe for the past 1000 years? Is it Hungary’s rewards that her children suffer under the oppression of Serbians, Romanians and Slovaks? I will let you decide, and remember if it wouldn’t be for Hungary, the world would be a very different… Read more »
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