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Hungarian Revival: Political Reflections on Central Europe

Hungarian Revival
Political Reflections on Central Europe

Dr . László Marácz

The Hague, Holland


One day my mother said:

"You could write a book about us you know."
"What do you mean?"
I replied, my eyes opening wide,
and then, to add a comic twist I asked, like a shopkeeper:
"What kind of a book would you like: happy or sad?"
"It must be a book that tells the truth,"
she answered.'

From the autobiographical diary notes of Anyám Könny álmot igér 'Mother promises me a peaceful night's sleep' (1970) by András Süt , Hungarian writer living in Transylvania who was badly wounded during the anti-Hungarian pogrom in Marosvásárhely (Tîrgu Mures) 19th March 1990 (see photo).

mlhunrev02The writer András Süt wounded and in hospital after having been
attacked by Rumanian extremists.



Publisher’s preface III
Western images of the Hungarians 11
Introduction 11
Historical Western images and stereotypes of the Hungarians 12
Negative images and stereotypes 12
Positive images and stereotypes 13
Positive and negative images and stereotypes 14
Hungarian images and stereotypes before, during and after the First World War 15
The Hungarian self-image 21
How many Hungarians live in the Carpathian Basin? 24
The Hungarian language and myths of ethno-genesis 25
Hungarian history 30
Trianon research 31
Research into the élite 32
Conclusions 32
The emergence of a new Hungarian self-image 34
The open Hungarian culture 34
Integrational power and tolerance 35
Mental-moral imperatives 37
Willingness to compromise 38
The drive for freedom 39
The Hungarian language 40
Mental and material cultural heritage 43
Hungary before the First World War 49
The background to the First World War 50
The road to Trianon 53
The Trianon secrets 56
The losses of Trianon 61
Hungary during the interbellum 63
New Central European states 63
Ethnic engineering 66
The freeing of the Hungarians 72
Ethnic cleansing 73
Returning to hell 75
Anti-Hungarian ethnocide 77
Croatia: the annihiliation of a Hungarian community 80
Lesser Yugoslavia: Hungarians as cannon fodder for Serbian generals 84
Slovakia: ethnic cleansing with the aid of administrative means 89
Subcarpathia: the obstruction of Hungarian autonomy 93
Transylvania: the anatomy of a pogrom 95
The Trianon apologia 107
Asymmetries 108
Neutralization 113
The status quo 117
Hungarian revival 121
Hungarian heroes 121
The Hungarian diaspora 122
Hungary awakes to reality 123
The Hungarian struggle for self-determination 125
The Balladur Pact and the ensuing opposition 129
Europe's hinge: Hungary 135
Lesser Hungarian particularism 135
Global Hungarian potential 137
Greater Hungarian strategy 139
The international perspective 144
About the author 166


In the few months since its publication Hungarian Revival has provoked much lively discussion in the Netherlands. Apart from the controversy in the press that started in January 1996 when a review appeared in the NRC Handelsblad written by Peter Michielsen, the paper's East Europe editor, there was also a debate on 21st February 1996 at Amsterdam University's Institute for Russian and East European Studies entitled: 'Hungarian Revival: science or politics?'. I was one of the debate participants. The main objection raised by colleagues of Dr. L. Marácz, author of the book, and voiced by the assistant professor was that the point of view defended in the book is nationalistic. In the discussion that followed it emerged that there was neither clarity nor consensus on the meaning of this concept. If one understands by nationalism, striving to unite all members of a nation within the borders of one state then this book could rightly be called anti-nationalistic. It warns of the dangers that would arise if certain Central European states such as Slovakia, Serbia and Rumania, inhabited by a diversity of nationalities, tried to impose the essentially Western European concept of creating a homogeneous nation state. Apart from that the book also rejects the not really topical issue of Hungarian nationalism. The author believes that the solution to the problem of the Hungarian national communities must lie in respecting human rights and autonomy. Several variants of autonomy are discussed in the book. The solutions found to this question will, to a large degree, determine the European internal structure and character of the future. How we treat our national communities in Europe is in fact a structural matter. Hungarian Revival is a merciless chronicle and analysis of the persistent policy of compulsory assimilation imposed on Hungarian communities living in Hungary's neighbouring countries. It is a plea for the preservation of the Hungarian nation as a spiritual and cultural entity. Peacefully objecting to what amounts to cultural genocide may not be called, under any pretext, nationalism.

The second point of criticism was that the book might be termed one-sided and thus, by implication, unscholarly and untrue. Indeed, matters are often viewed from the Hungarian perspective. The book complements other views already well represented in academic studies in the field (see bibliographical notes). It may be seen as helping to balance the spectrum. Furthermore access is given to much extremely valuable source material and scientific notions that were completely repressed during the communist era are once again given their rightful place. In that respect the book might be seen as compensating for lost time and as providing a programme for further research.

I found it necessary to voice the above-mentioned points which formed the essence of my argument during the debate in which I opposed former lecturers of mine. The theoretical argument employed during the debate that had proved its validity before the wall fell in Berlin is, to my way of thinking, no longer enlightening and constructive today nor is it a useful instrument for describing and understanding the facts. The only scientific criterium for testing the essence of Hungarian Revival which underlies the author's justified and undisguised indignation is, to determine whether the facts and arguments put forward by the author are correct or not. I thus invite the reader to apply this criterium within his own framework of interpretation.

Drs. M. Klinkhamer,
Amsterdam, Spring 1996


The fall of the Berlin wall brought Central Europe back to life politically, economically and culturally. The collapse of communism contributed to the disintegration of the Cold War geopolitical power constellation established after the Yalta Peace Treaty (1945). However, the toppling Berlin wall also dragged with it in its fall the Trianon system. The Treaty of Trianon (1920) - the Versailles Treaty of the East - that has determined the structure of the power constellations in Eastern Europe for the last 75 years is now on the verge of falling apart. It is not only the Soviet-Russian imperium that has collapsed but also the artificial national dictatorships of former states such as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia that have now disintegrated. The state, national, cultural and geographical patterns that characterized Central Europe before the First World War are re-emerging as the force and dynamism of the Wilsonian right to self-determination and autonomy for national communities asserts itself.

The consequences of the Treaty of Trianon imposed on Central Europe by Western powers, notably France and Great Britain, were first felt in Hungary, the country on the continent of Europe with the oldest constitutional monarchy. In 1920 Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory and millions of its people suddenly became second class citizens in successor states such as Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Rumania and Austria.

Today members of the Hungarian communities in these states are still confronted by a ruthless kind of uncompromising psychological and physical terror which in past decades has taken on the form of genocide in the sense of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide dated 9 December 1948. According to Article II of this Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such:

a. Killing members of the group;

b. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

c. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

d. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

e. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Although the situation of the Hungarian communities in Central Europe conforms with this definition of genocide which is predominantly qualitative and not quantitative I will avoid using this term throughout the text because it raises too much emotions. Instead I will employ ethnocide or cultural genocide. Such political treatment of Hungarians was and still is accepted by the West, probably because in terms of Western power politics Hungary has a marginal role. Trianon successfully disrupted the relatively good relations that had up until then existed between the various nations and ethnical groups of people living in the Carpathian Basin, the formerly Hungarian part of Central Europe. For Hungarians Trianon was traumatic because it led to humiliation and to the 'fragmentation' of their country. For other peoples Trianon constitutes a psychosis because they very well know that it is because of Trianon and the later 'peace' conventions that they have been so richly rewarded at Hungary's expense. People in Hungary's neighbouring countries are plagued by the fear that one day the Hungarians will band together and claim the right to self-determination that has been withheld from them for so long because of Trianon.

In this book it will be argued that on the basis of internationally recognized moral, cultural and political standards it is now high time to innovate change in this intolerable situation. Not only is it necessary to find a satisfactory solution to the Hungary question for all the parties involved but also for Europe as a whole. As long as hotbeds of national and ethnic unrest exist in the heart of Europe peace and safety for people living on the continent of Europe will be under threat.

Hungarian Revival is constructed like a triptych, the three individual parts of which closely interrelate. The first part will introduce the Hungarians, the second part will deal with Trianon and its consequences for Hungarians and in the third part the way to the formation of a new Central Europe will be outlined. The three separate but closely related themes together constitute the Hungarian-complex. A thorough analysis of the complex of historical, political, cultural, geographical, social and linguistic variables, certain specific factors and manipulation and distortion of the Hungarians will give a deeper insight into the role that has been played by Hungarians in Central Europe in the past and into the part that they might well play in the future. Thoroughly analyzing the Hungarian-complex is like creating a window to a new era that since the fall of an inhuman, anti-liberal power political system - that of communism - is coming towards us with great dynamism and at great speed. In the future it will no longer be possible to base international politics on purely power political considerations people will also have to take into account humane, moral-cultural, economic and communicational values as the fall of the wall in Berlin so clearly demonstrated. For Hungarians everywhere mental-moral imperatives and values, cultural and historic ties, tolerance, the drive for freedom, willingness to compromise; the struggle for emancipation, human rights, autonomy and self-determination; opposition to national egoism; mental power, communication and information technology and the global dispersion of Hungarians will be the main aspects and determining factors in the next century. These qualities and values will merge and cristalize in Hungarians enabling them to take on a global 'guiding role'.

In part one the reader will get to know the Hungarians by becoming acquainted with their history, national and cultural identity, their Western perception and their newly emerging self-image. The analysis will highlight the fact that the West hardly knows and understands Hungary and the Hungarians. Western image of Hungary derives from a collection of stereotypes and prejudices that are either too positive or too negative. The Western view of Hungarians is a constantly fluctuating one. In that respect it is a view that falls most readily into the so-called barbarian category, the way in which, since olden times, all cultures which fell outside of the Western sphere of influence were collectively viewed. Because of Trianon the Western image of Hungary has been predominantly negative throughout this century. This demonstrates how close the tie is between image-forming and political power. Hungarians are still branded as 'nationalist', 'irredentist', 'revisionist' and 'anti-Semitic' 75 years after Trianon and 50 years after the end of the Second World War. The labels have stuck despite the brave Hungarian uprising of 1956 when, unarmed, the Hungarians fought to liberate themselves from the powerful Soviet Union and its communist ethics, despite the fact that in 1989 the Hungarians took the lead during the political upheavals in East Europe and despite the fact that in neighbouring countries Hungarians helped instigate the fall of national-communist mini-dictators such as Ceauşescu, the 'Rumanian genius'. The fall of communism in Central Europe has given Hungarians renewed access to their own national identity, history and culture. The suppression of Hungarian national identity of the last century and a half has led to deliberate falsifying, distorting, twisting and manipulating of views of Hungarian history, society, culture and language. The identities of Hungary's neighbouring peoples have also been subjected to distortion and manipulation which means that they too have mythologized self-images. It is this collection of self-images that has legitimized Trianon and also a dangerous kind of anti-Hungarian expansionism in the Carpathian Basin.

Now, for the first time in a long while, the Hungarians have the opportunity to examine the characteristics of their own national identity and to contribute to breaking down the mythologized self-images of people in their neighbouring countries. These will be the terms for establishing peaceful and lasting relations between the peoples of the Carpathian Basin. The transparency of the Hungarian culture and history provides the basis for a new Hungarian self-image founded on elements which are integral to the Hungarian culture, language and history itself. Here the central keynotes are mental-moral imperatives, constitutionalism, tolerance, integration, the drive for freedom and willingness to compromise. What being Hungarian actually involves will spontaneously emerge when this mental-cultural state is recognized.

The second part of the book will examine Trianon and its consequences for the Hungarians. The background to the First World War will be analyzed. It will be argued that the Allied camp, the Entente, France and Great Britain (and Russia) also contributed considerably to the outbreak of the 'Great' War and to the repercussions this had for Central Europe. Since they were part of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy the Hungarians stood firmly in the camp of the Central Powers led by Germany. The French view of Europe, which very much mapped out the power balance in Central Europe after the First World War, aimed at completely eliminating Germany's power over Europe. This standpoint automatically entailed minimalizing the importance of Hungary, Germany's 'natural' ally. The confederates of the Little Entente: Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Rumania planned to surround Hungary and, by annexing Hungarian areas, trap the Hungarians in a deadly stranglehold grip. In Central Europe a cluster of nationalistic states was established. They poured all their energy into 'internal' imperialism the main objective being, to rid themselves of their Hungarian 'minorities'. The Second World War brought slight relief for the Hungarians but did nothing to help restore a kind of independence in Central Europe that might benefit the peoples of that area. Likewise, Soviet-Russian occupation did nothing to improve the lot of people in Central Europe. Since Trianon the successor states of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Rumania and since 1989 the post-communism successor states of Slovakia, Rump Yugoslavia (Serbia), the Ukraine, Rumania and, to a lesser degree, Austria, have tried in all sorts of ways to get rid of their Hungarian 'minorities'. The Hungarians have been exposed to the whole possible repertoire of genocide practices: anti-Hungarian administrative restrictions, actual 'apartheid' legislation, language bills aimed at curbing the use of Hungarian, restrictions on Hungarian education. Furthermore, there have been restrictions for Hungarians employed in public service, agriculture and property restrictions, bans on Hungarian co-operatives, societies and institutions, restrictions for Hungarians wanting to own property. Through deportation Hungarian areas have been territorially restructured, non-Hungarian settlements have been established and there have been centrally stimulated and co-ordinated anti-Hungarian hate campaigns and psychological warfare. Times of war, like recently in ex-Yugoslavia, and the anti-Hungarian pogrom in Marosvásárhely (Tîrgu Mures) in March 1990 have seen the attempted mass murder of Hungarian people. Even though Hungarian national communities have been at the receiving end of a tremendous amount of anti-Hungarian ethnic engineering 75 years on from Trianon none of the Hungarian communities in any of the various states have been effectively broken down.

In the third part of the book we shall consider the possibilities for restructuring and creating a new Central Europe. The territorial and political restructuring of Central Europe began immediately after the collapse of communism. This in turn led to the disintegration of various states, the creation of certain new states and claims lodged by national communities for autonomy and the right to self-determination. Up until now Hungarian national communities have been excluded from such developments. Western politics and public opinion sticks rigidly to the Trianon constellation arrangement which compels Hungary to go along with degrading 'compromises' that do not safeguard the rights of Hungarian national communities in surrounding countries. Apart from all the negative Western stereotype notions and ideas used to hide what the situation is really like in the Carpathian Basin there is also a rich assortment of Trianon apologias which effectively mask from view the Hungarian lot. Retaining 'logical' structures is something that plays a signficant part in all this. Asymmetries stating that 'non-Hungarians have rights that are withheld from Hungarians' or misconceptions such as the one that Hungarians form 'minorities' while in the Carpathian Basin they are in the majority. Alternatively Hungarians are neutralized by being classified as 'extremist' when all they are doing is standing up for their rights in absolute conformity with the norms and regulations of internationally recognized organizations such as the United Nations or the Council of Europe. A cursory glance at any of a number of articles in international papers and journals or statements, declarations and reports drawn up by international negotiators will suffice to convince the reader how deeply rooted the anti-Hungarian apologia is in Western political culture.

So it is that the West, or at least a number of Western states, inadvertently support a dangerous sort of state nationalism in Slovakia, Serbia, Rumania and the Ukraine that is gravitating from the periphery towards the central part of the Carpathian Basin; encroaching at the expense of the Hungarians who live there on their own native soil. Despite all the national disunity and the fact that Hungarians are now being threatened by expansionary state nationalism they have remained the only loyal discussion partner of the international community of free and democratic states in the Central European region. If autonomy is achieved among Hungarian national communities this will contribute to stability and cohesion in Central Europe and will be a factor stimulating possible political, economic and cultural prosperity in the region. In my opinion the West can therefore no longer afford to remain insensitive to Hungary - a country that in 1996 will be 1100 years old - and to Hungarians and should therefore start to support Hungary in accordance with its own Western norms. In this way the West could contribute to the regeneration of the Carpathian Basin and the region would once again be able to function as 'a European hinge': a link between West and East thus perpetuating a 1000 year old tradition. A strong and clearly defined Central Europe would also be conducive to stimulating reconciliation between the Western and Eastern Christian spheres of influences. Without political and cultural stability in Central Europe the continent will be weakened by internal strife and the cultural-moral allure of the European continent will fade. Subsequently, in the next century Europe will not be able to compete on an even footing with other continents in the global race. A radical revising of Western policies on Central Europe may therefore be delayed no longer. For their part Hungary and the Hungarian people themselves will have to fight for emancipation and decisively turn forty years of communism into something mentally and morally cathartic. In this area change is already clearly evident. The fight for political emancipation, equal human rights and autonomy for Hungarian national communities and the evident mental-moral catharsis among Hungarians is taking on ever more self-conscious forms. It is now only a question of time before the Hungarian question, like other emancipation struggles on the international political agenda, will be rightfully dealt with.

Hungarians call themselves magyars. Up until 1920 the terms Hungarian and magyar were separate concepts. All the country's citizens were known as Hungarians. That included not only ethnic Hungarians but also Germans, Slovaks, Rumanians, Ruthenians etc. The name magyar was reserved for ethnic Hungarians. Today the magyars are mostly concentrated in the central area of the Carpathian Basin. This area forms a continuum composed of the territories of the Hungarian state and the areas of the border regions with Austria (Burgenland), Slovakia, the Ukraine (Subcarpathia), Rumania (West Transylvania), Rump Yugoslavia (North Vojvodina), Croatia (Baranya) and Slovenia (the Mura region). Some 800,000 other Hungarians, known as székelys 'Szeklers' live compactly in area which is historically known as székelyföld 'Szeklerland' situated in the heart of Transylvania at the foot of the Carpathians. The Szeklers are ethnic Hungarians. In the Hungarian kingdom of the past they defended the country's southern borders and in exchange received special royal privileges. In the past the Rumanians manipulated census figures in order to make it look as if there were fewer Hungarians living in Rumania. One of the ways they did this was by counting Szeklers as non-Hungarians which is why the term Szekler-Hungarian is still used today. The only real Hungarian minority is that of the csángós Csango-(Hungarians). They number approximately 200,000 and live on the other side of the Carpathians, in the Rumanian region of Moldavia near to the city of Bákó (Bacau).

In this book Carpathian Basin is used to denote the whole south-east region of Central Europe that is surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains and the Adriatic coastline, roughly speaking the area that was historically Hungarian and which, in 1920, was drastically reduced to its present size. Up until 1920 Slovakia did not exist and the area that is now more or less covered by Slovakia, together with the Ukrainian Subcarpathian region was called Felvidék 'the Upper Lands' in Hungarian. Since the Second World War and the annexation of Kárpátalja 'Subcarpathia', also known in Slavic as Ruthenia or Ukrainian-Carpathia, by the Soviet Union the name Felvidék 'the Upper Lands' is reserved for Slovakia. The area Kárpátalja 'Subcarpathia', denotes the area that was historically Hungarian and that is now part of the Ukraine. After the First World War the northwest region of Hungary which was incorporated into Austria came to be known as Burgenland. In Hungarian the name örvidék 'Watch Area' has recently been coined for Burgenland. Up until the time of Trianon the name Délvidék 'the Southern Lands' denoted the whole historic area (excluding Croatia) that in 1920 was annexed partly by former Yugoslavia and partly by Rumania, namely: Mura-vidék the 'Mura area' in Slovenia, the Baranya in Slavonia, Bácska in Serbia and the Bánát in Serbia/Rumania. Today the name Mura-vidék 'Mura Area' is used to indicate the area of Slovenia that was formerly Hungarian and the Baranya 'Baranja' is the name given to the area of Hungary that now form part of Croatia. Vajdaság 'Vojvodina' in Lesser Yugoslavia (Serbia) incorporates Bácska and the Serbian part of Bánát. The other part of Bánát is in Rumania. Up until Trianon Erdély 'Transylvania' was the name of the historic area of 'Siebenbürgen'. This area is smaller than the area that was given to Rumania in 1920. Today, alongside of the historic area of Transylvania Erdély 'Transylvania' consists of the regions of East Hungary and the so-called Részek 'the Parts or the Partium'. On the whole I have endeavoured to keep as close as possible to the regional names given above though in some places it has been necessary to deviate. As indicated, it would be more correct to call the area annexed by Rumania in 1920, eastern East Hungary and the historic region of Erdély 'Transylvania'. In most cases though I have stuck to current usage by calling the whole area 'Transylvania'. Throughout the book place names in Hungarian areas are first given in Hungarian then the local name is given in brackets, for instance: Kassa (Koąice), Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca). When only one place name is given it is usually the Hungarian variant.

mlhunrev99 Born in 1960 in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Receives his university degree from the University of Groningen. Between 1984 and 1990 he is with the University of Groningen as assisstant professor. Between 1990 and 1992 as a Niels Stensen scholar he is with MTI, MTA and CNRS as a guest researcher. Since 1992 Mr. Marácz is professor of the East-European Institute of the University of Amsterdam. His areas of research cover general syntax, Hungarian grammar, the relationship of Hungarians and the West. Author of numerous scientific publications and books.

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