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Hungarian and Bulgarian Interwar Revisionism: Part 7

Updated on May 8, 2012
Romanian Cavalry in Budapest
Romanian Cavalry in Budapest | Source

The situation with the invasion of Slovakia was also working against the Kun government. The French were especially irate over this Bolshevik military adventure. On 7 June 1919, Clemenceau sent a note to Kun telling him to end all military offensives immediately. Then, again, without consulting or negotiating with the Hungarians, he dispatched a second note, on June 13, in which he informed the Hungarians that their future borders with Czechoslovakia and Romania had been settled and requested that the Red Army draw back to these frontiers within five days. This order again shows how the Entente powers, especially France, believed that they had a right to direct developments in Central Europe following the war. The Kun government was not the one in charge during the ending of the war, thus not responsible for the “blame” dumped on Hungary for being a main aggressor in starting the conflict. Yet, no matter what régime was in power, France acted as a father acts towards a rebellious son, scolding and threating and ordering. However, as opposed to the rights a father has over his son, France had no moral or legal right over Hungarian internal affairs. The Kun government was at a loss as to what to do concerning the French demands, but in the end relented.

The reason that nationalists and officers were now detached from the revolution is that they fought to secure the historic Kingdom’s borders from the foreign incursions. When Kun ordered the withdrawal from Slovakia, they saw it as treasonous and as an example of the

régimes disloyalty to the actual territorial integrity of historic Hungary. The increased offensives of the Romanian army soon overwhelmed the Hungarian Red Army, and this put the Kun government under such pressure that it had to make a decision as to whether to carry on or not.

When it was obvious that the game was up for Kun and the communists, the government decided to give up their hold on power. The Romanian army’s taking and occupation of Budapest was quite an exhilarating event for the Romanians, and virtually unbelievable for Hungarians.

Aftermath of Romanian occupation of Hungary, 1919

The famous interwar Hungarian writer, Dezső Kosztolányi, writes in his novel Anna Édes, that “Budapest was occupied – not by the Allies... – but by the Romanians, who had crossed the River Tisza and, against the wishes of the Great Powers, taken control of the city. They swaggered about the ragged and hungry streets in their brand new uniforms like guests of honour at a historical occasion”. The Romanian government, headed by Brătianu, pushed for huge concessions from Hungary. After helping to overthrow the Kun régime, the Romanian army systematically looted much of Hungary’s national assets without any approval from the Supreme Allied Council.

Peidl’s government resigned after getting the Romanian ultimatum, which was to be answered in 4 hours (!). The next government, under Friedrich, also refused to sign any armistice with Romania. The Supreme Council sent the Romanian government a sharp rebuke on 6 August 1919 about their carrying out policies without the approval of the Council.

The relentless persecution of those involved with Kun’s Republic of Councils began straight after its overthrow by the Romanians. The backlash against the communists - who were equated with Jews by most Hungarians, due to the majority of the commissar’s having been Jewish, including Kun – was so strong as to totally discredit any support it may have had amongst the wider Hungarian population.

‘Turning coat,’ also, became quite common as always when the direction of political winds change. Personal vendettas, as always, took on political overtones. “Those who once refused to recognize their friends as ‘good communists’ now hastened to offer them this long-denied recognition and readily handed them over to the authorities” (Kosztolányi).

It is interesting to note how the resistance against the Kun regime brought some elements of the Hungarian aristocracy together with the Romanian nobility in order to topple the communists.

The rounding up of communists begun by the Romanian troops after their occupation of Budapest was continued after they left. This was carried on in much more brutal fashion during the ‘White Terror’ of Horthy’s National Army which began with his entry into Budapest after the withdrawal of the Romanians at the behest of the Entente.

"To Arms! To Arms!" Bolshevik Hungarian propaganda poster from 1919
"To Arms! To Arms!" Bolshevik Hungarian propaganda poster from 1919 | Source

Thus began the ‘cleaning up’ of the country under the conservative and gentrified hand of Horthy, who showed no mercy to the Left, who he saw as the cause of Hungary’s downfall. Again, Hungary was in the spotlight due to it’s régimes oppressive nature. More specifically, even before Horthy’s entry into Budapest, in other areas of Hungary which the National Army administered. The months between Horthy’s entry into Budapest and his election as Regent saw the arrest and executions of unknown thousands of ‘traitors’.

it must be noted that Horthy’s regime slowly tightened the screws on Jewish civil liberties throughout the 1930s, whilst at the same time relying on the support of Jewish big business, which had influence in a huge slice of Budapest’s and Hungary’s economy. Jewish rights were reigned in by various governmental acts during the interwar years.

Some views of the Hungarian upper-classes after the war of their ethnic minorities reveals stereotyping and generalizations. This is evident in the following quote from Kosztolányi’s novel concerning the views of a bourgeois family searching for a servant girl in 1919, “The Germans were clean but untrustworthy. The Slovaks were hard working but had loose morals”. With the Regency of Horthy also came the officially sanctioned disintegration of historic Hungary at the Treaty of Trianon, which was considered the death of St Stephen’s Kingdom and the greatest injustice in Hungarian history. However, the election of Horthy as Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary was done to give the new Hungary symbolic claim to all of St Stephen’s Crown lands of historic Hungary.

The Hungarian government under Horthy was now faced with the decisions being taken at the Palace of Trianon in Versailles concerning the future shape of Hungary, in which the country had no say.


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