Hungarian and Bulgarian Interwar Revisionism: Part 1
The Asiatic and non Indo-European origins of the Hungarian people was a major cause of the Treaty of Trianon in which the lands of historic Hungary were officially partitioned after 1000 years of unity. Though this unity was not continuous because of the Turkish invasion and occupation, the idea of a Hungary within the borders of St Stephen’s realm always held fast. Also, though the Treaty of Trianon officially sanctioned the dismemberment of the lands of St Stephen’s crown, the process of territorial disintegration was already under way for a few decades, and it is more than likely that Hungary would have ceased to stay within its historical borders within a few more years due to the increased national consciousness of her various ethnic minorities. Thus, blaming the loss of World War I and the subsequent Treaty for Hungary’s dismemberment is not quite fair, as it merely speeded up the process under way.
The ethnic origins of the Magyar people always lead to their being considered “barbarian” outsiders by most other European states and nations, with no right to control such a vast area with so many Indo-European minorities. Germany, Austria, and Bulgaria got off much more lightly in their territorial and land losses at the Paris Treaties. Was it because they were Indo-European states?
The policy of interwar border revisionism of the 1920 Treaty of Trianon - focusing on Hungary and comparing it to Bulgaria’s – is a controversial subject. It is always difficult to revise borders back to a previously long standing status quo position, mostly due to the vehement resistence of those states that have gained territory at another’s expense. Once states fall apart territorially, they are very difficult to reassemble out of the rubble (ie. Roman Empire, Soviet Union, British Empire etc etc).
It was this heavy price that Hungary paid which turned many people bitter, and thus to more and more extreme forms of revisionism in order to right the perceived wrongs imposed by Trianon. During the 1920s and 1930s even Hungarian popular culture was obsessed with the Trianon issue, with many popular songs dealing with the theme, such as Igazságot Magyarországnak! (Justice for Hungary!). Many Hungarians also saw their defeat as questionable, if not an outright blasphemy, as the Hungarian army was not defeated outright at all by any foreign troops. In the eyes of many western states, this one track thinking of interwar Hungarian governments seemed worryingly obsessive. To the successor states, this obsessive policy of Hungary directly lead to the establishment of the Little Entente. Admiral Horthy’s ultra-conservative regime, backed by the aristocracy and land-owning gentry, eventually proved too static for more extremist right wing Hungarian parties, who threw in their lot with Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
The effect on the psychology of Hungarian society of the Treaty of Trianon effected the mentality of the people as a whole not only during the interwar years, but also up to the present day. It is Trianon which became a symbol of injustice for Hungarians, thus giving rise to the all encompassing obsession with re-establishing St Stephen’s Kingdom within its 1000 year old borders. Trianon, however, became a symbol for ‘liberation’ from centuries of perceived Hungarian oppression for Romanians, Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Slovaks, Czechs and Ruthenians. These two diametrically opposed viewpoints caused the deep hatred between these Central European peoples which eventually led to the instability of the region as a fractured area weakened by ethnic faultlines. Hungary’s aggressive stance towards her neighbours didn’t help the situation, as both Hungary and the Little Entente felt threatened by each others designs on the others’ destruction as viable entities. France was the champion of the new states, from whence they got their biggest support.
Simply put, ethnic nationalism was what caused the breakup of historic Hungary. The heterogeneous Kingdom of Hungary refused to allow much rights to their minorities for fear of being swept away due to their increasing birthrates against the dwindling one of Magyars. This fear eventually turned into a kind of national paranoia, and lead to an uncomfortable feeling and reaction against the “enemy within.” The main reason for the destruction of historic Hungary was its supposed incompatibility with the rest of Europe due to its strange Asiatic origins, and the supposed “oppression” of it’s minority groups.
The view in much of Europe that Hungary was an aberration and alien element in Europe, again due to ethnic origins and especially it’s non-Indo-European language, suggests that the destruction of this historic entity was a main priority for much of Europe, and World War I acted as a perfect excuse to further demonise Hungary as an aggressive and alien state with no business being so powerful in Central Europe. This apparent rejection of the Hungarians as a whole by Europe naturally pushed it’s leaders to more and more extreme forms of reaction. Much like a spurned lover turns bitter at the rejection of the one he/she loves and looks to so much. Hungarians have historically fully felt themselves part of western Europe, with her Catholic religion, and acting as a barrier to the invasions of Mongols and Turks. Thus, when spurned by the West as being non-European and barbaric, many Hungarians turned back to the east they had long ago left, which is apparent with the development of Turanism, which shall be discussed later. Ethnicity and language was the downfall of Hungary in a Europe where their language is comprehensible to no one, only adding to the feeling of the “other.” Thus we turn to the ethnic situation in the Kingdom of Hungary before the First World War.
- Hungarian and Bulgarian Interwar Revisionism: Part 2
Part 2 of a series that compares and contrasts Hungarian and Bulgarian Revisionism of the interwar years which aimed to regain territories lost by each country at treaties in Paris following World War I.