Hungarian and Bulgarian Interwar Revisionism: Part 6
It is interesting to note that even though Károlyi was part of the nobility, he was a socialist. Indeed, for the past hundred years before Trianon the Hungarian nobility can be credited with introducing progressive reforms in the country. The un-readiness with which Hungary faced the invasions by Serbs, Czechs and Romanians came down to the deliberate dissolution of the Hungarian army by its own General Staff officer: Béla Linder, Imperial and Royal General Staff officer, Minister of War, who declared: he didn’t want to see any more soldiers.
It has often been reported that Linder was drunk at the time of his announcement, and later felt quite embarrassed about it. The Hungarian army was disbanded, and soldiers were free to go home, leaving all the border areas open to the penetration of Serb, Romanian and Czech forces. Károlyi and Linder trusted that French or British military occupation of historic Hungary would protect its territorial integrity. Despite this and all the criticism Károlyi has received since his time in office, he did attempt to get France to guarentee the borders of historic Hungary. It seems that Károlyi naïvely put all his faith in the victorious Allies to secure Hungarian territory.
However, we must remember that this treaty became invalid after the Romanians signed a peace treaty following the successful Austro-Hungarian and German offensive against Romania. The famous Fourteen Points became but a farce in the Hungarian view.
Some French occupation troops actively aided the invading armies to gain Hungarian territory by pushing demarcation lines further and further into purely ethnic Hungarian areas.
The last straw for the Károlyi government came with yet further French demands for further Hungarian military withdrawals from her own terrirory. With a very weak Hungarian army, there was no real chance to fight back effectively, the only option for the government was resignation to avoid further responsibility for the destruction of the country.
This resignation opened up the door for the infamous rule of Béla Kun and his soviets. This government would not only turn Hungarian society upside down, but would raise fears in the rest of Europe of a spreading Bolshevik revolution. In this way the Social Democrats and the Communist Party merged, and on 21 March declared a Hungarian Soviet Republic. The incursion of the Czechs and Romanians further and further into Hungarian territory was resisted bravely by Kun’s Red Army. They were the only military grouping organized enough to try to keep the borders of St Stephen’s Crown intact, which is somewhat ironic as they wished to politically and socially change everything about the legacy of St Stephen’s Hungary.
The organization of the Hungarian Red Army caused not a little consternation amongst the Entente, as the spectre of a strong Bolshevik state establishing itself so near to western Europe caused genuine fear.
The fear that Germany would fall to Bolshevism was quite real, as this was a well known aim of Bolshevik Russia.
The Red Army of Hungary met with considerable initial successes in their campaign to regain parts of Slovakia. This was short-lived however, due to problems of supplies, ammunition, manpower, and the vehement opposition of the Entente.
The fact that Kun managed to hold power for those few months can be put down to the fact that many Hungarians were ready for a change of system, especially workers and peasants, who had very few rights before the war. Also, with the disappointment caused by Károlyi’s pacifism against the invasions into Hungarian territory by Serbs, Czechs, and Romanians and his blind faith in France and the Entente whilst they obviously were pushing for the disintegration of Hungary pushed many people to want a strong government, no matter what leaning it might have been.
Despite the optimism with which the Kun revolution took place, they soon lost favour amongst the population in general. Drastic decrees, proclamations and subsequent violent arrests and executions soon turned the régime into one relying on terror to achieve it’s goals. This is usually always bound to fail, as the population responds with a backlash against the government in turn.
- Hungarian and Bulgarian Interwar Revisionism: Part 7
Part 7 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.