A footnote to Milan Jaroň’s writing on Trianon

Indeed, when we place the nationality question at the center of the discussion about the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy we are led astray. In many ways the situation that presented itself after World War I could have offered an opportunity for these nations, but no country with the possible exception of Czechoslovakia took advantage of it. Hungary in particular viewed it, in the words of the old saw, as a stumbling block not a stepping stone.

The Czechs were in an enviable position, in large part because they had a long bourgeois tradition. After the Battle of White Mountain (1620) where the Emperor-King's army won over the troops of the Bohemian nobility, Ferdinand II retaliated. A few executions later approximately 40,000 German and Czech Protestants and noblemen fled the country. As a result the Bohemian nobility lost its power. By the nineteenth century it was the middle classes that were deeply involved in the modernization and industrialization of the Czech lands. Perhaps not surprisingly this region was the most developed in the Dual Monarchy. More developed than the Austrian Crown Lands.

The Hungarian nobility seemed to be stronger and more resilient than the Czech. In Hungary there were also rebellions and uprisings led by the Hungarian nobility in defense of their privileges, but time and again these clashes between Crown and Estates ended in compromise. As a result Hungary's noble class not only survived but when at the beginning of the nineteenth century time came for modernization, the leaders of the Age of Reform with very few exceptions belonged to either the aristocracy or the lower nobility. In fact, in Hungary before Trianon there was only one non-aristocratic prime minister, Sándor Wekerle, and even after World War I, with the exception of the chaotic period between the fall of 1919 and July 1920, aristocrats ran the country until 1931.

Both the Czechs and the Hungarians remember the victims of Habsburg centralization attempts with equal nationalistic fervor, but in the final analysis the Czechs could be grateful to Ferdinand II for saving them from their own nobility. This way, the Czech political leaders of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were middle-class, professional people. In 1918 Czechoslovakia could start without the semi-feudal heritage that Hungary was stranded with until 1945.

The Slovaks once upon a time also had a noble class, but because the court was the center of politics in Hungary the Slovak nobles eventually became Magyarized. Just as the high aristocracy of Hungary through politics and marriage became part and parcel of the Viennese aristocracy. A good example in this respect is István Széchenyi, the "greatest Hungarian," who learned Hungarian as an adult and kept his diary in German. But although the Slovaks were not burdened with a local noble class, they didn't have as "nurturing" a history as the Czechs. The Czechs had far greater cultural and economic opportunities in the Austrian half of the Monarchy than the Slovaks did in Hungary.

Thus, although it wasn't perfect, in Eastern Europe it was Czechoslovakia that had a full-fledged democratic political system. The Hungarians who found themselves in Czechoslovakia were unhappy of course for nationalistic reasons and were most enthusiastic when the Hungarian troops arrived to occupy the territories Hungary received as a result of the First Vienna Award. However, their enthusiasm was short-lived when they suddenly found themselves in the less than democratic circumstances of Miklós Horthy's Hungary: the all-powerful local potentates who arrived to run the newly acquired territories or the less than democratically minded gendarmerie. The Jewish population was faced with vicious anti-Semitism and the "Jewish laws."

And let's move on to the present-day opportunities that, I'm afraid, will be missed again. Those Hungarians for whom the fate of their co-nationalists living in Slovakia and Romania is not immaterial should find solace in the European Union. Borders are nonexistent, regional cooperation across borders is developing. Hungarians work in Romania, Slovaks in Hungary. Roads that were overgrown with grass are opening up, more bridges across the Danube and lesser rivers are contemplated. One would think that for Hungarian nationalists this would be an ideal situation. All nationality groups are united in the European Union. In fact, the stronger the union the better it is from the point of view of Hungarian national interests. Yet the Hungarian right for nationalistic reasons is against a closer union and insists on a political entity where the individual nation states have the upper hand over the central power of Brussels. It is a rather peculiar view. After all, Hungarians greatly object to the fact that the Romanian and Slovak constitutions consider these countries nation states. But if that is a problem then why do they keep insisting on viewing the European Union as a conglomeration of nation states? The "solution" to Trianon lies in a United Europe, but the Hungarian right refuses to support such a development. Instead it wants to create a "nation state of fifteen million Hungarians" across borders. I will never understand their logic.

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leeflang
Guest

Well, if I remember well, that is actually a reason for Orbán to be in favour of the EU,

Steve
Guest

“Yet the Hungarian right for nationalistic reasons is against a closer union and insists on a political entity where the individual nation states have the upper hand over the central power of Brussels”
This isn’t true at all. Fidesz is more in favour of EU than the socialists were. Gyurcsány had consistently made steps in spite of the unified EU policies, while Fidesz was always criticizing those divergent steps, and is working closely with the other EPP members.
Giving MORE rights to citizens of other EU member states is in EU spirit. Reducing rights is against EU spirit.
Fidesz is consistent in this view, so if Slovakia would want to give more rights to Slovaks living in Hungary, that would be welcomed and not frowned upon.
The new citizenship law will have minimal meaning for Slovakian and Romanian citizens of Hungarian ethnicity. They already have all the rights they would get with Hungarian citizenship. The law is meant for Hungarians living in Serbia and Ukraine, since those countries are not members of EU.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Steve: “”Yet the Hungarian right for nationalistic reasons is against a closer union and insists on a political entity where the individual nation states have the upper hand over the central power of Brussels” This isn’t true at all. Fidesz is more in favour of EU than the socialists were.”
You must be dreaming. Not a word of what you say is true.

Sandor
Guest
Eva: “The “solution” to Trianon lies in a United Europe, but the Hungarian right refuses to support such a development. Instead it wants to create a “nation state of fifteen million Hungarians” across borders. I will never understand their logic.” Yes, you can and will appreciate the purpose behind all this, if you consider that the nationalistic fervour is one of the basic tenets and vote getting device of the Right. Having no actual policy solutions to offer, they have to resort to this old and tried device to attract the segment of the electorate that has no demands other than recognition on any ground. Being nationalistically and culturally “superior” will do it for them. This is a cheap and easy way to the hearts, but not to the brains of these simple souls. Hungarians were always suckers for this kind of propaganda. Since the Right has no other goal than the acquisition of power, they mutually fool each other into a short term deal: “we boost you as the greater nation and you boost us as your government.” It works in the short term and in the long term “you will be dead, we on the other hand shall… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Sandor: “Let it be as offensive as it actually is and was and be called in its raw brutality ” Jew Laws.””
Not so simple. “Zsidó” is both a noun and an adjective and in this case it is clear that the word is used as an adjective.

Sandor
Guest
Not so simple says I with relish. If it were used as an adjective, it would mean laws made by Jews, or made for Jews, or at least laws with some Jewish characteristics. In any case it would signify the nature of those laws. As it is, the Jew Laws had no adjective, they were a combined noun to signify laws who’s object were the Jews collectively. Therefore, the two words together represent a distinct noun. You could not use any adjective in the place of “Jews” and have a similar meaning, the “adjective” couldn’t be substituted by an other adjective, therefore it cannot be an adjective. Let me offer an analogy. I chose the morbid analogy of “rough trade.” OK, I admit this is morbid enough. But in any other case “rough” would be an adjective perhaps, however, in the specific meaning that “rough trade” stands for these two words represent, and only together, one specific idea that cannot be expressed in any other way. These two words are, together, a single noun. Although linguistics, particularly English, is a field I approach with the greatest caution and only in case of an emergency am I willing to be lured… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Sorry, Sandor, but you’re wrong. In fact, I was wrong too. I looked it up in the dictionary and the word “zsidó” can be used only as an adjective. There might be constructions in which it looks as if it were a noun but even then it is an adjective except the noun that should follow like “ember/person” or “vallás/religion” is missing. In constructions like “János zsidó” or “Károly nem zsidó.” In English the situation is different because you can say that “János is a Jew” or “János is Jewish.” You can’t do that in Hungarian.

Sandor
Guest
Sorry, Sandor, but you’re wrong. In fact, I was wrong too. I looked it up in the dictionary and the word “zsidó” can be used only as an adjective.” All right, I wonder what dictionary that may have been. Because this is surely just hogwash and poppycock. If “Jew” could only be adjective, you would not be able to say things like “the Jew of Venice” “the Jew” the “rich Jew,” or “dirty Jew” etc. None of these are adjectives. Are they? Look at “Jew baiting!” Are you understanding some kind of baiting from it that under different circumstances could be smooth baiting or wild baiting, low baiting or high baiting? Of course not! Clearly it is one verb accusative in relation to a noun and that noun is the Jew. If you have used a Hungarian dictionary, then again the same apply, however it is a bit more subtle. Just consider for example “Jew beating.” (zsidoveres) You see, just by being forced to join the two into one word, as the rules dictate, the noun is revealed automatically, you don’t even need to go into analysis. It is my respectful contention that the word Jew is hardly ever an… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Sandor: “All right, I wonder what dictionary that may have been. Because this is surely just hogwash and poppycock.”
I see that I cannot change your mind even if that dictionary is the official Hungarian dictionary (Magyar Értelmező Szótár). The “zsidó törvény” simply means “law concerning the Jewish people.”