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Hungarian and Bulgarian Interwar Revisionism: Part 12

Updated on May 18, 2012
Gyula Gömbös
Gyula Gömbös | Source

Shift Towards Germany in the 1930s

Hungary started leaning more and more towards Germany under the premierships of Gyula Gömbös and Béla Imrédy during the 1930s. Gömbös was fond of playing up his peasant credentials, which was an important aspect of fascism. Being one with the people - the peasants, who were the embodiment of nationalist ideals in the fascist mind – was seen as necessary. However, during the 1930s the conservatives in Hungary tried to neutralize the radical right in an attempt to prevent social upheaval. A very interesting and quite strange aspect of the Hungarian right wing was the racial notion of Turanism. This may have been a reaction to the fact that during the interwar years, the ‘barbaric’ and ‘Asiatic’ character of Hungarians were highlighted many times in the West. If Hungarians were deemed un-European by so many in the West, which was responsible in Hungarian eyes for Trianon, why not play it up and reject that same West and turn back to the Asia of Hungary’s roots? This may well have been the mode of thinking behind Turanism.

This new focus on racial politics seems to have been a bit forced in Hungary, with the state attempting to develop as sort of myth of Magyar racial superiority much as the Germans had done with Aryanism. This focus and attempt to heighten the pride of Hungarians concerning their Asiatic roots was hard to legitimize indeed.

The aforementioned Gyula Gömbös did come round to having his moment in the spotlight later on. After the fall of Bethlen’s government in 1931, mostly due to the poor economic performance, low agricultural output, and accusations of having pro-Jewish/democratic weaknesses, the government leadership was given to Count Gyula Károlyi (not to be confused with the post-war leader Count Mihály Károlyi). Gyula Károlyi only lasted in office until October 1932, when Horthy handed the government over to Gömbös, which was hoped to be a concession to the radical right parties, as Gömbös was not from a noble family, and instead focused on the middle class. He was also the founder of the Race Conservation Party (Fajvédelmi Párt). In many ways Gömbös was an entertaining character who was not afraid to stand up to Hitler, but admitedly not in very effective ways, as the following example shows: Gömbös’ pride and bombast could reach extreme levels, as when he let Berlin know that if Germany regarded Hungary as part of its Ostraum then Hungary would look upon Germany as part of its Nordwestraum. Gömbös visited Hitler in 1933, but was displeased by the cool manner in which he was received. In fact, Hungarian-German relations were never ideal, and already started going sour in 1934. It should have been obvious to Horthy and others at this time that Germany could not be counted on for full support in revising Trianon. Hungary was merely a pawn (as were the other countries of the region) which Germany manipulated in ways that would allow it to gain the most power in Central Europe.

Gömbös died in October 1936 in Münich after a seven month illness, and was succeeded by Kálmán Darányi. Darányi carried on the alignment with Germany, and even agreed to improve relations with Romania and Yugoslavia, as Germany had done. Darányi also initiated a huge rearmament programme in direct defiance of Trianon, adding to the already defiant 85,000 man army instead of the 35,000 man army stipulated by the treaty. However, by 11 May 1938 Darányi resigned after criticism from Horthy at the pressure of conservative aristocrats who disliked the premier’s pro-fascist leaning.He was in turn then replaced by Béla Imrédy. Hungary was increasingly intertwined with with the course of Germany, especially after the two countries came to share a common border. With the pressure on Horthy mounting, he had little choice but to hope for the best territorially from an alliance with Germany, or face the prospect of invasion. The Imrédy government started making more and more concessions to the Germans concerning Hungarian foreign policy as well. However, after the partitioning of Czechoslovakia between Germany, Hungary, and to a small extent Poland, Horthy was displeased with Imrédy because he failed to get all of Ruthenia back for Hungary, which would have given Hungary a border with historic ally Poland. Because of this Horthy forced Imrédy to resign on 23 November 1938. However, since Count Teleki and the Chief of the General Staff Lajos Keresztes-Fischer refused the premiership, Horthy told Imrédy to set up a new government.

Imrédy again fell hugely out of favour with Horthy just a few months after the setting up of his second government. This time Horthy blamed him again for not gaining all of Ruthenia back, as well as an unsavoury turn to the extreme right. Horthy dismissed him for the second time on 13 February 1939 upon the “discovery” of a Jewish Great Grandmother in his family. Count Pál Teleki was appointed Premier three days later.

Although the march of Hungarian politics was obviously towards more radical revision of the Treaty of Trianon, not all circles adhered to this view. Many Liberal politicians and intellectuals wished to tone down the image of Hungarian irrationality concerning Trianon.

Unfortunately for these groups of enlightened intellectuals, 1930s Hungary was not the time or place for enlightened thinking, especially with the rise to power of Nazi Germany and the hopes for revenge against Trianon this raised amongst many Hungarians. But again, we must take into account that virtually all strata of Hungarian society, and the whole political spectrum were vehemently opposed to Trianon. In this way too democracy, liberal thinking, and socialist tendencies were thoroughly ostracised in 1930s Hungary. Nothing short of the full revision of Trianon would do as proper state ideology at the time

Hungarian alliance with Hitler and Mussolini seemed to pay off, especially with the two Vienna Awards of the late 1930s. However, the revisions to Trianon which were gained by the Vienna Awards still fell far short of the full revision to pre-World War I borders as was expected by the Horthy régime. The gains of revision under German auspices were, however, short-lived. Hungary again committed herself to a war she was bound to lose.

Now we will turn to a short look at Bulgarian interwar revisionism, its causes and aims, and how it is comparable and incomparable to Hungarian revisionism at the same time.


Béla Imrédy
Béla Imrédy | Source

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