Trianon: Hungary Dismembered
Trianon: Hungary Dismembered
Until 1920, the Magyars had considered the Mongol invasion (tatárjárás) that almost annihilated Hungary in 1241-42 and the Battle of Mohács in 1526 which exposed the nation to 150 years of devastating Turkish occupation, as the two darkest events in Hungarian history.
In 1920, however, the Treaty of Trianon became the third, and worst, catastrophe to hit thousand year-old Hungary. This treaty took its name from a small palace in Versailles, the scene of the Peace Conference following World War I.
The number of books written about the treaties of Versailles is immense. An outstanding example is the 22-volume, 10,000 page work titled My Diary at the Peace Conference of Paris with Documents by the American diplomat David Hunter Miller. In his book and in others, hundreds of passages sound a common theme in denouncing the tragic errors committed at that Conference. Here we will take a few, but telling glimpses into that diplomatic cauldron whence the baleful spirit of Trianon emanated, with Hungary as its principal victim.
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I regarded and still regard that Turanian tribe (the Magyars) with acute distaste. Like their cousins, the Turks, they had destroyed much and created nothing. Budapest was a false city devoid of any autochtonuous reality. For centuries the Magyars had oppressed their subject nationalities. The hour of liberation and retribution was at hand.
So opined the British Harold Nicholson, one of the "judges" who decided Hungary's fate, in his memoirs, Peace Making. However, Nicholson's words - as vilifying as they were - were only a small indication of the hate that engulfed the peacemakers, or more correctly, the propagandists who had indoctrinated them with such hatred. One of these, the Czech Kuffner, went so far during the war as to advocate that, after "liberating" Hungary's nationalities, "the Magyars should be deported to Asia for resettlement" (Curiously, Stalin is said to have remarked later: "The Magyar problem is but a question of enough railroad cars...")
The First Victims: Two Slovak Leaders
Paradoxically, the first victims of the spirit prevailing in Trianon were not the Magyars, but General Milan Stefánik and Father Andrew Hlinka, the two best known Slovak leaders and allies of Benes and Masaryk. As recently as in May, 1918, Hlinka had demanded union with the Czechs, because "our thousand year-old marriage with the Magyars has not been successful."
Stefánik, who had come to resent the way the Czechs manipulated and treated the Slovaks, and to oppose the notion of "one Czechoslovak nation," died when the airplane taking him home from Italy was "accidentally" shot down by Czech soldiers near Bratislava (formerly Pozsony) on May 4, 1919. Many Slovaks believed his death was no accident, but Masaryk declined to sanction the full-scale investigation demanded by Slovak leaders.
Father Hlinka also suffered "martyrdom" when he began to resist what he called "Czech imperialism" after Slovakia was occupied by Czech troops. Arriving in Paris in September, 1919, to present a Slovak memorandum of protest to the Peace Conference, Hlinka got nowhere. As Prof. Oddo points out in his work, This is Slovakia / Robert Speller and Sons, Nyk 1960, a book already mentioned on page 227:
There were three reasons for Hlinka's failure at Versailles. In Allied eyes, and this is especially true of Woodrow Wilson, T.G. Masaryk had become a George Washington, William the Conqueror and Jean d'Arc rolled into one. Masaryk, the "father of his country," the "outstanding democrat and patriot," could do no wrong. His word was accepted as gospel. So completely had Masaryk's headman, Edward Benes, mesmerized the men at Versailles that Hlinka and his plea for Slovak autonomy were dismissed as some sort of crack-pot nonsense. The "big four" gave Hlinka short shrift. Only the Poles supported him.
Hlinka was soon thereafter deported by the French police to Mirov, Moravia, and kept in jail for six months at the urging of Benes, who accused him of being a "Habsburg agent."
Before Hlinka was deported from France, however,
he managed to tell his story - a horror story, in fact - in a secret meeting with Colonel Stephen Bonsal, the right hand man of Colonel House, President Wilson's chief aid at Versailles. Colonel Bonsal described his meeting with Father Hlinka in his book, Suitors and Suppliants:
..."I have come to protest," said Father Hlinka, "against the falsehoods of Benes and Kramar, and they have, not without reason, hampered me on my journey in every way. Even so, they would not have triumphed had they not silenced the voice of General Stefánik... Well, they silenced him - in a most dastardly manner."
"You have been told - the whole world has been told - that General Stefánik came to his tragic end in an airplane accident. There is not a word of truth in that story. The plane that brought him from Italy made a successful landing, but as he stepped out he was shot down by Czech soldiers placed there for this diabolical purpose by Benes"...
Upon hearing Hlinka's denunciation of the Czechs, Colonel Bonsal reminded him that both he and Stefánik were on record as asking for union with Prague for many cogent reasons.
"I know, I know," groaned poor Hlinka, "We did that very thing. May God forgive us. The Czechs spoke us fair... It should be regarded as a trial marriage, and then should the union prove irksome, we could each go to our separate ways without let or hindrance."
But in three months, indeed, after only three weeks, the veil was lifted. In this short time we have suffered more from the high-handed Czechs than we did from the Magyars in a thousand years! Now we know Extra Hungariam non est vita. (Outside of Hungary there is no life for us)... Benes is an ambitious knave. He even wants to absorb Polish Teschen. "As a matter of fact, rightly or wrongly, he did."
"But your union with the Magyars sins against the principle of ethnic solidarity which is in such high favor now." I suggested.
"I know, I know." interrupted Hlinka. "It runs counter to the popular current. We cannot mix with the Magyars and we do not want to. But economically, and above all religiously, we can get along with them better, much better than we can with the irreligious free thinking Czechs, who, as we know now, have no respect for God and man. We have lived alongside the Magyars for thousand years and the traditional tie is strengthened by the lay of our respective lands. All the Slovak rivers flow toward the Hungarian plain, and all our roads lead toward Budapest, their great city, while from Prague we are separated by the barrier of the Carpathians...''
Upon reading Bonsal's account one may ask: If the victors treated their own allies so badly, what did they do to their enemy, "the guilty Magyars"?
The "Guilty Magyars"
The answer is that at Trianon Hungary was torn to pieces.
A noted American-Hungarian scholar. Prof. Stephen Borsody of Pittsburgh University, lamented the notion of the "guilty Magyars" thus:
The international propaganda conducted during the Great War branded us an Asiatic scum that foisted itself upon Europe. And when we lost the war the only place left for us in Europe was the dunce's seat at the peace conference. The Allies were made to believe the accusations spread by our enemies; that we had upset the unity of the peaceful Slavs in Central Europe; during our history we did little else but suppress others; and that our capital sin was that, since we had left Asia, we have always been hand in glove with the other nemesis of Europe, the Germans.
The list of our sins was effectively presented by Eduard Benes in his pamphlet Destroy Austria-Hungary!...
A further crime of the Magyars was that they had cut off the Czechoslovaks from the Southern Slavs. To redress this situation. the anti-Magyar propaganda suggested, Czechoslovakia should gain a corridor across Western Hungary to Yugoslavia. This way Hungary could be cut off from her German accomplices.
Following this, Hungary should be dismembered. because this would be not only in Slav and European interests, but in the interest of humanity as well.
Everything happened at Trianon that Hungary's enemies wanted to happen. The terms of the Treaty were dictated to Hungary, rather than negotiated with her representatives. In fact, the Treaty only made official what the successor states had made a fait accompli. In 1919, they had already taken military possession of all the territories they coveted from Dévény (the Hungarian Gate) in the West to the Iron Gate (Vaskapu) in the South and the line of the Carpathians in the North and East. By the time the Peace Conference opened in Paris in 1920, most of the magnificent memorials the Hungarian nation had erected in various regions of the country for the millennium had been laid to ruin by the new occupants, as were about a hundred statues and monuments of great kings, leaders and poets of the thousand year-old Hungarian kingdom that was no more.
When the Hungarian delegation to the Peace Conference arrived in Neuilly (a suburb of Paris) on January 7, 1920, its members were promptly interned in a building called the Chateau de Madrid and guarded by police. They were forbidden to communicate with others attending the Conference, except in writing. Deprived of personal contact, the delegates wrote memorandum after memorandum, submitting enormous volumes of maps and figures. However all their work was in vain because everything had been arranged in advance and the Hungarian input was not taken into account at all.
While the Hungarians were practically imprisoned, their antagonists had free access to the delegates of the Peace Conference, and did their best to lobby for their own particular interests, usually successfully. Even the Rumanians, who were accused by the Allies of unwarranted surrender and breach of faith, were able to wrangle for themselves all the prices of Hungarian territory they wanted.
Criticized at Versailles for Rumania's quick surrender to the Central Powers in 1916 after only three months of fighting, the Rumanian Premier Ion Bratianu - a man whose aggressive manners rendered him obnoxious to President Wilson as well as others - blamed the Allies' impassivity in coming to their defense. As reported in Stephen Bonsal's Suitors and Suppliants, Bratianu said to President Wilson's chief aid, Colonel House:
This impassivity helped Mackensen to overwhelm our gallant defenses. But mark you, we have learned our lesson; it has cost us the complete devastation of our country, so for its restoration we are naturally demanding something more substantial than verbal pledges.
After blaming the American Jews for the delay in economic aid requested by Rumania from the United States, Bratianu exploded:
Once and for all I have come to say that these people may go to Palestine, or to Hell for all I care, but I shall not let them settle down in my country. devouring locusts that they are!
As for Bucharest's quick surrender in 1916, the Allies felt that the Rumanians had been in fine fighting trim and could have tied down many German divisions by prolonged resistance. Even worse, Rumania had signed a separate peace treaty with the Central Powers in spite of their promise to the Allies not to do so.
Yet in the end, bowing to the efforts of André Tardieu, who has been called the "Father of Trianon," the Allies gave the Rumanians the "something more substantial" that Bratianu had demanded of Colonel House. When Tardieu took over as chairman of the peace committee called upon to settle the fate of Austria-Hungary, he declared bluntly: "No pity must be shown to Hungary." Reflecting on Tardieu's influence at the Conference, the French journalist Henry Pozzi wrote in his book. Les Coupables (The Guilty):
The peoples' right to self-determination proclaimed by the Allies during the war turned out to be merely a deceitful formula used as a rallying call during times of acute danger. The peace, such as had been promised, was never made, and the ideals for which so many men had laid down their lives, were betrayed by the negotiators of the treaties.
The reason why Hungary's demand for a plebiscite had been refused was revealed by a single sentence in André Tardieu's book, La Paix (Peace), written in 1933: "We had to choose between organizing plebiscites - or creating Czechoslovakia."
Alluding to this, Aldo Dami, a noted Swiss historian, retorted: "A plebiscite refused is a plebiscite taken in fact." A plebiscite was actually taken only in the area of Sopron whose people voted 65 to 35 percent to remain with Hungary.
The terms sanctioned by the Peace Treaty of Trianon, signed on June 4, 1920, cut Hungary to pieces.
Before the war, Hungary had a territory of 125,600 square miles. Under the terms of the Treaty she lost 89,700 square miles, or 71.4% of her former territory. Of her population of almost 21 million 63.6%, including more than 3.5 million Magyars, was detached.
The Hungarian Kingdom, a perfect geographical and economic unit, was dismembered on the basis of the "liberation of the nationalities." As a result of this "liberation":
1,702,000 Slovaks together with 1,874,000 persons of other nationalities,. including one million Magyars, were "liberated" by being subjected to Czech rule.
2,800,000 Rumanians were "liberated" at the cost of subjecting 2,465,000 persons of other nationalities, including about two million Magyars, to Rumanian rule.
1,029,000 Serbians were "liberated" at the cost of subjecting to Serbian rule 1,727,000 Croatians and 1,366,000 persons of other nationalities, including about 600,000 Magyars.
232,000 Germans were "liberated" at the cost of subjecting to Austrian rule 126,000 persons of other nationalities. including 50,000 Magyars.
Of the 3.5 million Magyars cut off from their motherland, more than 1.5 million were living along the new frontiers in a contiguous ethnic block with their brethren in mutilated Hungary. The crassest violation of the ethnic principle occurred on the Hungarian-Czechoslovak frontier along the Danube. The 415,000 Magyars in this territory of about 7000 square kilometers made up about 95% of its population. This territory was annexed to Czechoslovakia simply because the Czechs wanted to have the Danube as their frontier and they wished to be close enough to Budapest so as to be able to bombard it with long-range artillery fire in case of war.
Economically, Hungary was hit just as hard. She lost 61.4% of her arable land, 88% of her timber, 62.2% of her railroads, 64.5% of her hard surface roads, 83.1% of her pig-iron output, 55.7% of her industrial plants, 67% of her credit and banking institutions and her entire gold, silver, copper and salt deposits.
Looking back on what was done to Hungary at Trianon, the Czech Lt. Colonel, F.O. Miksche, stated in his work, the Danubian Federation:
The following examples illustrate the confusion which arises when peacemakers accept statements without first having them checked by unbiased authorities.
During the Peace Conference in Paris, Prime Minister Lloyd George asked Benes how many Hungarians would fall under Czech rule if his territorial demands were granted, and the reply - according to David Hunter Miller (My Diary at the Conference in Paris) - was that the number would be about 350,000. But in fact the Czech census of 1926 counted nearly 800,000 Hungarians. In pleading for a natural frontier, Benes described a small brook as a navigable river.
Bratianu, the Rumanian delegate, claimed the whole of Transylvania with about "one million Hungarians," although the real number was nearly two million, which drew a vigorous objection from Lansing, Wilson's Secretary of State. who was silenced by André Tardieu, the French delegate, who said that the subcommittee had considered this award with great care...
In 1919-20, the defeated were not even allowed to prove that some of the new statesmen from Central and Eastern Europe had produced false maps and forged statistics in order to filch more territory from Austria and Hungary...
The inhabitants of what was left of Hungary numbered only 7.6 million in a territory of 35,900 square miles. Rumania alone was granted 39,800 square miles, including Transylvania, or more than what was left to Hungary. Czechoslovakia was given 23,800 square miles and Yugoslavia got a similar slice, including Croatia which had stood in partnership with Hungary for 800 years. Even Austria was allotted 1,500 square miles of Western Hungary as a ploy to poison relations between the two countries.
The only scheme Benes and Masaryk failed to push through was their plan for a Slav corridor through Hungary, connecting Czechoslovakia with Yugoslavia. Such a corridor would have meant the complete encirclement of Hungary by her enemies. This scheme was frustrated by the Italians who felt that a Slavic corridor would be uncomfortably close to their country.
Altogether the "successor states found themselves with 16 million persons belonging to national minorities out of a total population of 42 million, while Hungary's new borders were far more restricted than the reach of her nationality. In other words, out of the one mosaic-state that Austria-Hungary had been, Trianon created three mosaic states. According to Charles Seymour, an American delegate to the Peace Conference, the boundaries of the successor
states did not even "roughly correspond with ethnic or linguistic lines." In short, "national self-determination" was granted to all, without plebiscite, but denied to the Hungarians.
The Congress of the United States, disgusted with the spirit that prevailed in Versailles and produced the Treaty of Trianon, refused to sign the Treaty. America concluded a separate peace with Hungary on August 29, 1920.
The statistics reproduced on these pages illustrate what the French writer, Henri Pozzi, wrote in his hook, La Guerre Revient in 1933:
Of all the vanquished of World War I, Hungary had been the most cruelly hit. In the name of justice she was literally quartered. The punishment inflicted upon her was an execution... Never before had a peace imposed by violence been more brutal in its bias, madder in destructiveness, more forgetful of the lessons of history and better calculated to stir up old hatreds to new flames of loathing, than the "peace of redress and reason" born in 920...
Injustices, abuses and illogicalities - worse than anything of the kind experienced in the past - were thus sanctioned for the benefit of three countries whose leaders, in order to better divide among themselves the prospective spoils of Austria-Hungary, had in 1917, formed a conspiracy proper of intrigues and appetites. They set to work in ministerial as well as editorial offices, the latter including influential newspapers of Paris, Rome, London and New York, with their propaganda articles and chequebooks, forging maps and statistics, mutilating documents and using all kinds of horse-trading methods in general. When Clemenceau at last saw them, it was too late, for what they really were at work, he called them "the jackals of our victory..."
...For that peace has unfortunately created more injustice, disorder and arbitrariness, than it pretended to eliminate, the most exalted and noble formulae were used to camouflage the vilest appetites,. and the most contemptible schemes combining conquest with business... And ethnic minorities were being crushed by new oppressive practices, a hundred times more cruel than had been those they replaced...
Hungarian Reaction to Trianon
And how did the Hungarians react? At first with deep shock and mourning. And then, as the nation's mourning submerged and took a deep, permanent place in its spirit, cries for justice began to surface. The drafters of the Treaty of Trianon were charged with having made "the worst, most absurd and most ruthless peace known to history." Not only did they feel the full impact of having lost three fourths of their territory and two thirds of their country's population, but they also felt aggrieved that the ideal geographical and economic unit that was Hungary had been torn to pieces, leaving them in the midst of an economic chaos in the valley of the Middle Danube.
They resented the fact that so many of their brethren were now subject to peoples possessing a lower standard of culture and a Balkan morality.
And they recognized with growing alarm that the conditions of the Treaty had created a fresh hotbed of unrest, far more dangerous than any that had previously existed in this part of Europe. Instead of laying the foundations for a lasting peace, the Treaty only sowed the seeds of fresh catastrophes.
In 1932 a pamphlet entitled Justice for Hungary! warned that:
"We must not forget that the territories in question are in the vicinity of Russia, the most critical part of Europe today, and so lie in the path of that advance of Bolshevism which must sooner or later ensue...
This prediction came fearfully true.
Trianon - 75 years later...
The year 1995 marked the 75th anniversary of the Treaty of Trianon, and Hungarians the world over solemnly commemorated the "peace settlement" that they consider the worst tragedy ever to hit their nation.
For Hungarians, Trianon triggered a still ongoing, slow motion political holocaust that dismembered historic Hungary and left it like a torso without limbs. The "limbs" that were torn away are the
8.5 million Magyars who have become Europe's largest minority group, dispersed in the successor states. As such, they have been treated as unwanted "foreigners" in their native land with an ever-weakening status due to forced assimilation.
The Magyars find little solace in the fact that three of the states that had profited from the dismemberment of Hungary have already disappeared: Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and - unthinkably - the Soviet Union, but not for the Hungarians' immediate benefit. These states' demise took various forms:
In 1995 the world was still witnessing the cataclysmic self-destruction of Yugoslavia as the Serbs tried to create a Great Serbia upon the ruins of their crazy-quilt domain. Among all the new countries created by Trianon, Yugoslavia was the epitome of Balkanization. (See pages 204-220.)
Much more civilized Czechoslovakia split in two through the "velvet" divorce of the Czechs from the Slovaks in 1992. Their "marriage" had lasted but seven decades, a negligible period compared to the thousand-year Magyar-Slovak partnership Trianon broke apart.
More dramatic than Czechoslovakia's quiet death was the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, which in 1945 had taken over Carpatho-Ruthenia as a virtual gift from Prague. That gift was in return for Stalin's "blessing" on the Czechs' expulsion of millions of Sudeten-Germans from Bohemia and of Hungarians from Slovakia. The Ukraine, when it separated from the Soviet Union in 1991, took Carpatho-Ruthenia by way of "inheritance."
Among the chief beneficiaries of Hungary's dismemberment, Romania alone still possesses its Trianon-given borders. Her existence, however, has been plagued by perennial political and economic disarray, despite its rich natural resources. The most backward country in the region, it has been somehow unable to fully swallow Transylvania, a region dominated by the Carpathian Mountains, and larger than present-day Hungary. Its population includes 2.5 million Hungarians who still cling to their Magyarness despite suppression and attempts at forced assimilation.
It is a grotesque grimace of history that the Treaty of Trianon has become a shambles due to actions of its beneficiaries without bringing any benefit to its sole victims, the Hungarians.
And yet, some quarters still accuse Hungary of harboring revisionist aspirations. In fact, Hungarian revisionism has been banished from the country's political agenda since the end of World War II. It is a taboo theme in public life, and survives mostly in the hearts of an older generation. Forty years of communist rule have conditioned the Hungarian people to accept the status quo of Trianon along with the warning that the Magyars should speak only well of their neighbors or nothing at all. This has become practically a tenet for Hungarian foreign policy. Such docile political behavior is not, however, reciprocated by Serbs, Rumanians and Slovaks, proving Tacitus dictum: "We hate those whom we have hurt."
Dreams of returning to pre-Trianon borders were more active in the Horthy era, and viewed with a certain understanding at the time. As the U.S. ambassador to Hungary, J. F. Montgomery, wrote:
If Japan had defeated us and made Canada and Mexico her satellites, and given Texas to the latter and most of New England to the former, and had annexed California and Oregon, something similar to the Hungarian 'Nem, nem, soha!' (No, no, never!) would probably have appeared in our flower beds, on our mountain slopes and would have burned in our hearts.
(Hungary, the Unwilling Satellite, p. 198, Vista Books, 1998.
Some may say that it is easy to pass harsh judgement on the Trianon Treaty of 1920 in hindsight, but many recognized the catastrophe early on. Although French foreign policy more than any other was responsible for the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, French writers and public figures did not hesitate to condemn Trianon.
In 1923 De La Reveličre in his book on Central Europe wrote:
The Magyars occupy a citadel in the center of the Danubian Basin... At Trianon an act of injustice has been perpetrated deliberately. An old oak tree has been replaced by striplings of mixed foliage, left without props to sustain them...
In 1931 George Roux in a work titled Let the Treaties be Revised wrote:
To declare the inviolability of frontiers is fine for those who are satisfied with them. But what about those who are dissatisfied with the frontiers imposed upon them? - Man-made treaties do not constitute everlasting, divine law. Albert Sorel, the historian said: treaties are the reflection of relations as they exist when those treaties are being concluded. The law which they lay down never survives the conditions under they were established. There are no eternal treaties any more than there exist immutable political laws.
(Yves de Daruvar, The Tragic Fate of Hungary, p.171, 193.)
These pronouncements all condemned an act already done. More far-sighted prophecies were the advanced warnings of prominent Americans who tried to prevent the acceptance of the Trianon Treaty. Among them, one of this century's foremost American columnists, Walter Lippmann, in a study called War Aims and Peace Terms, and submitted to President Wilson's staff, warned in 1919:
The Balkanization of Central Europe cannot be permitted. We must not allow to happen that it become a heap of weal, national states. The nationalities should be supported, but mutilations should not be allowed.
This warning, followed by others, was not heeded. Later, Lippmann wrote in a letter to his friend Bernard Berenson:
"They are not only Balkanizing Central Europe, but fomenting the spirit of revenge... I see nothing but endless problems for Europe."
In another letter, sent on June 9, 1919 to Secretary of Defense N. D. Baker, Lippmann lamented:
This is a dark moment in history. The prospects are shattering: war and revolution in Europe. Immeasurable is the responsibility of those who have imposed such a role on the American people in this terrible tragedy.
Much of this information about Lippmann is taken from an article by Andor C. Klay, a former American diplomat, which appeared in a Budapest daily, Magyar Nemzet in March, 1995. Klay ended his reminiscences with the following quotation from 17th century British poet John Dreyden:
Subtle covenants shall be made
Till peace itself is war in masquerade.
Which proves that history repeats itself, but leaders of nations are unwilling to learn from it.