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Greater Hungary ( ) was an official political goal of the Hungarian state between the two World Wars and is still a political goal of small marginalized groups of Hungarianmarker revisionists today, although after the Second World War, the Hungarian state officially abandoned this policy. The political goal of Greater Hungary emerged after the Treaty of Trianon which defined the new borders of the Hungarian state (usually referred to as Hungary of Trianon ) that lost about 72% of its territory and about two-thirds of its inhabitants under the treaty . In its foreign policy the country was seeking the revision of the peace treaty: this policy insulated it politically in the 1920s and pushed it towards Hitler's Germany in the 1930s As a justification for this political goal, Hungarian revisionists provided arguments like the presence of Hungarian minorities in neighbouring countries, historical traditions of the approx. 1000-year-old Hungarian Kingdom, or the geographical unity and economic symbiosis of the regions within the Carpathian Basin. Hungary, supported by the Axis Powers, was partly successful in peacefully gaining some (mostly ethnic Hungarian) regions of the old Kingdom in the Vienna Awards of 1938 and 1940, and also with military force gained regions of Carpathian Rutheniamarker in 1939 and (ethnically mixed) Bačkamarker and Baranja, Međimurjemarker, and Prekmurje in 1941. Following the end of World War II, the borders of Hungary as defined by the Treaty of Trianon were restored except 3 Hungarian villages were given to Czechoslovakia. These villages are part of Pozsony (today Bratislava). Historical revisionism was often used by both proponents and opponents of Greater Hungary. Today, almost a century after the Treaty of Trianon, some Hungarians still feel nostalgic for the old Hungarian Kingdom, but outright territorial revisionism remains a marginalized political position.

Historical survey

An independent Hungarian kingdom was established in approximately 1000 AD, and remained a power in central Europe until Ottoman Turks conquered it in 1526 at the Battle of Mohácsmarker. After the battle, the territory of former Hungarian Kingdom was divided into three portions: in the West, Royal Hungary retained its existence as a Habsburg province; the Ottomans controlled south-central parts of former Hungary (including Pécsmarker and Buda); while in the East, the Principality of Transylvania was formed as a semi-independent principality under Ottoman suzeranity. Between 1699 and 1718, the Habsburg Monarchy conquered the Ottoman territories, which were part of the Hungarian kingdom before 1526, and incorporated some of these areas into the Kingdom of Hungary, which was still under Habsburg rule.

For centuries, Hungarian rulers such as Matthias Corvinus had maintained a relatively cosmopolitan kingdom. Because this cosmopolitan identity existed for centuries, modern Hungarian culture includes significant elements from places which belonged to Hungary in various parts of its history. Also, a considerable number of the figures who are today considered important in Hungarian culture were born in what are now parts of Romaniamarker, Slovakiamarker, Ukrainemarker, Serbiamarker and Austriamarker (see List of famous Hungarians who were born outside of present-day Hungary). Names of Hungarian dishes, common surnames, proverbs, sayings, folk songs etc. also refer back to these rich cultural ties. After 1867, the cosmopolitan character of the Kingdom started to change into the national state of Hungarians, in which other ethnic groups were subject to assimilation and Magyarization.

After a suppressed uprising in 1848-1849, the Kingdom of Hungary and its diet were dissolved, and Hungary was divided into 5 districts, which were Pestmarker& Buda, Sopronmarker, Pozsony, Kassa and Nagyvaradmarker, directly controlled from Viennamarker and Croatia, Slavonia, and the Serbian Voivodship and Tamiš Banat were separated from the Kingdom of Hungary between 1849-1860. This new centralized rule, however, failed to provide stability, and in the wake of military defeats the Austrian Empiremarker was transformed into Austria-Hungary in 1867, with Hungary becoming one of two autonomous parts of the new state with self-rule in its internal affairs. Before forming of Austria-Hungary; partitioning of Hungary into 5 territories was ended in April 19, 1860, Voivodship of Serbia and Banatus Temesiensis was dissolved in December 27, 1860, Muraközmarker regained from Croatia in January 27, 1861. After the forming dual monarchy, Croatia and Slavonia were merged into Croatia-Slavonia, who compromised with Hungary in November 17, 1868; Transylvania reunited with Hungary in December 6, in 1860. Fiume passed to Hungary in July 28, 1870. Finally, the Military borderlands is reunited to Croatia-Slavonia within Hungary in 1872.

This was followed by a period of backlash against the long-standing Austro-German cultural influence in the Kingdom of Hungary, which included policies of Magyarization of non-Hungarian nationalities. Among the most notable policies was the promotion of the Hungarian language as the country's official language (replacing Latin and German); however, this was often at the expense of Slavic languages and Romanian language. The franchise was greatly restricted so as to keep power in the hands of the Magyars. The new government of autonomous Hungary took the stance that Hungary should be a Magyar nation state, and that all other peoples living in Hungary—Germans, Jews, Romanians, Slovaks, Ruthenes, Serbs, and other ethnic minorities—should be assimilated (The Croats were to some extent an exception to this, as they had a fair degree of self-government within the Croatia-Slavonia, a dependent territory within Hungary). Census results show that this policy of Magyarization was partially effective: according to the Austrian census of 1850, Hungarians were 36.5% of the population of the Kingdom of Hungary, but by the 1910 census, this percentage had risen to 48% . Most of the increase came at the expense of the Germans and Jews , who were scattered in small communities throughout the country and proved most willing to assimilate and become Magyars . The Romanians and Slavic peoples of Hungary, on the other hand, who were largely peasant peoples living in large areas where they were a majority, proved much more resistant to the government's efforts.

Treaty of Trianon

The ceded territories on the Treaty of Trianon and their population
The peace treaties signed after the First World War redefined the national borders of Europe. The dissolution of Austria-Hungary, after its defeat in the First World War, gave an opportunity for the subject nationalities of the old Monarchy to all form their own nation states (However, many of the resulting states nevertheless became multiethnic kingdoms/republics comprising several nationalities). Hungary itself became an independent state in 1918. The Treaty of Trianon of 1920 defined borders for new Hungarian state: in the north, the Slovak and Ruthene areas become part of the new state of Czechoslovakiamarker. Transylvania and most of the Banat became part of Romaniamarker, while Croatia-Slavonia and the other southern areas became part of the new state of Yugoslavia. Post-Trianon Hungary had about half of the population of the former Kingdom. The population of the territories of the Kingdom of Hungary that were not assigned to the post-Trianon Hungary was mainly non-Hungarian, although they included a sizable proportion of ethnic Magyars. For example, in 1910, the population of Transylvania included 54.0% Romanians, 31.7% Hungarians, and 10.5% Germans; [127110] the population of Vojvodina included 33.8% Serbs, 28.1% Hungarians, and 21.4% Germans; [127111] the population of Transcarpathia included 54.5% Ukrainians/Ruthenians, 30.6% Hungarians, and 10.6% Germans; [127112] the population of Slovakia included 57.9% Slovaks, 30.2% Hungarians, and 6.8% Germans; [127113] the population of Burgenland included 74.4% Germans, 15.0% Croats, and 9.0% Hungarians, etc. [127114] Total number of ethnic Hungarians that were located outside of Hungarian state borders after the treaty was 3.3 million.

Trianon thus defined Hungary's new borders in a way that made ethnic Hungarians the absolute majority in the country. The winning powers created from one multiethnic kingdom (48% Hungarians in the Kingdom of Hungary and 54% in Hungary proper, excluding Croatia-Slavonia) three multiethnic states (Czechoslovakia with 45+12% "Czechoslovaks", Greater Romania with 71,3% Romanians, and Yugoslavia with 74% Serbs, Croats and Slovenes). About 3.3 million ethnic Hungarians remained outside the borders of post-Trianon Hungary, which has led to disputes and hostilities between Hungary and its neighbours. A considerable number of non-Hungarian nationalities remained within the new borders of Hungary: Slovaks numbered 141,877 according to Hungarian sources and 450,000–550,000 according to Czechoslovak sources, 550,062 (6.9%) Germans as of 1920 and some 82,000 Serbs and Croats as of 1930. However the percentage of minorities decreased throughout the 20th century. (For example, there are only 17,000 Slovaks in Hungary today. )

After Trianon

After the Treaty of Trianon, a political concept known as Hungarian revisionism became popular in Hungary. Hungarian revisionists claim that the Treaty of Trianon was an injury for the Hungarian people, and they have created a nationalistic ideology based on that perceived injustice of the Treaty with the political goal of the restoration of borders of historical pre-Trianon Kingdom of Hungary.

The justification for this revisionist aim usually followed the fact that two-thirds of the country's area was taken by the neighbouring countries, recognised later by a forced peace treaty, despite the fact that separation from the Kingdom of Hungary was in many cases initiated by the local people. Historians generally concede that one of the goals of Trianon was to punish Imperial Germanymarker and Austria-Hungary for starting World War I and fighting against the Entente during the war. Also, several municipalities that had purely ethnic Hungarian population were excluded from post-Trianon Hungary. Indeed, about one-third of the 3.3 million Hungarians in the new neighbouring states lived directly on the borders.

Revisionists often dismiss or ignore the fact that most of these territories had ethnic majorities of non-Hungarians and minimize the role that forced Magyarization played in stirring nationalist feelings among non-Hungarian groups. Thus, the majority of the local inhabitants of these areas (Croats, Romanians, Serbs, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Slovenes, etc.) regarded separation from the Kingdom of Hungary as liberation.

Near realization of Greater Hungary

Hungary's government allied itself with Nazi Germany during the Second World War in exchange for assurances that Greater Hungary's borders would be restored. This goal was partially achieved when Hungary expanded its borders into Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia at the outset of the war. These annexations were affirmed under the Munich Agreement (1938), two Vienna Awards (1938 and 1940), and aggression against Yugoslavia (1941), the latter achieved, for formal reasons, one day after the German army had already invaded Yugoslavia.

Ethnic Hungarians inhabited parts of the occupied areas, but other areas were mainly inhabited by non-Hungarians. For example, according to Romanian estimations, the population of Northern Transylvania was composed of 50.2% Romanians and 37.1% Hungarians. The Hungarian census from 1941 counted 53.5% Hungarians (with approximately 150,000 Hungarian Jews included) and 39.1% Romanians.

The Yugoslav territory occupied by Hungary had approximately one million inhabitants, including 543,000 Yugoslavs (Serbs, Croats and Slovenes), 301,000 Hungarians, 197,000 Germans, 40,000 Slovaks, 15,000 Rusyns, and 15,000 Jews. The 1931 census put the percentage of the speakers of Hungarian in Bačka at 34.2%, while later Hungarian data from 1941 show 45.4%. This means that from the beginning of the occupation, the number of Hungarian speakers in Bačka increased by 48,550, while the number of Serbian speakers decreased by 75,166.

The percentage of Hungarian speakers was 84% in southern Slovakia and 15% in the Sub-Carpathian Rus.

The establishment of Hungarian rule was followed by brutal war crimes against the local non-Hungarian population in some areas, such as Bačkamarker, where Hungarian military between 1941 and 1944 killed 19,573 civilians, mainly Serbs and Jews, but also Hungarians who did not collaborate with the new authorities (For example, Ernő Kis, ethnic Hungarian with Jewish roots and one of the leaders of the communist resistance movement in Vojvodina, was sentenced to death by a court in Szeged and executed). About 56,000 people were also expelled from Bačka.

The bloodshed was repaid in turn to Hungarian civilians, both in Yugoslavia by Yugoslav partisans (the exact number of ethnic Hungarians killed by Yugoslav partisans is not clearly established and estimates range from 4,000 to 40,000; 20,000 is often regarded as most probable), and in Transylvania by Maniu guards, killed several thousands of Hungarians towards the end of WWII. The Jewish population of Hungary and the areas it occupied were partly diminished as part of the Holocaust against the wishes of the Hungarian community. Tens of thousands of Romanians fled from Hungarian-ruled Northern Transylvania, and vice versa. After the war the occupied areas were returned to neighbouring countries and Hungary's territory was slightly further reduced by ceding three villages South of Bratislava to Slovakia.

Modern era

Revisionist Greater Hungary transfer picture

Most people in present-day Hungary reject annexation of lands in which people of other nations view the Treaty of Trianon as their liberation, though the general public opinion in Hungary is that the Treaty of Trianon was not the right solution for the nationalities living in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy— especially for Hungarians. Territorial revisionist organizations want to change borders and to create Greater Hungary, some by any means necessary. However, even among these groups there are differences: some want to include only areas with Hungarian ethnic majority, others propose the independence of Transylvania as a multi-ethnic/linguistic state similar to Switzerlandmarker , while the more extreme want to restore what they see as "Hungary's maximum historic borders" regardless of ethnic compositions or the sovereignty of neighboring countries.

After World War II, a Hungarian Autonomous Region was created in Transylvania, which encompassed most of the land inhabited by the Székelys. This region lasted until 1964 when the administrative reform divided Romania into the current counties. From 1947 until the 1989 Romanian Revolution and the death of Nicolae Ceauşescu, a systematic Romanianization of Hungarians took place, with several discriminatory provisions, denying them their cultural identity. This tendency started to abate after 1989, and has abated further with the granting of significant minority cultural rights as Romaniamarker prepared to join the European Union.

The majority of Hungarians both within Hungary and in neighboring countries accept the Trianon borders as a geopolitical reality and do not strive to alter the status quo, especially not by violent means. On the basis of this, it can well be argued that Hungarians are more loyal than other large and compact ethnic minorities in Europe. However, the fact that one fourth of the world's ethnic Hungarians lives outside the borders of Hungary is not emotionally accepted by most Hungarians. There is a growing opinion among Hungarians that if the Hungarian minorities were granted a certain level of self-government, like the ones in Tyrolmarker for instance, this would be sufficient to preserve the national character of the Hungarian minorities abroad, and would thus remove the emotional anxiety most Hungarians feel about the Hungarian minorities' future. For the host countries, this solution might bear the advantage of creating additional loyalty towards the state, via a local self-government that these minorities can perceive as their own.

The important difference between emotional attachment of Hungarians to some territories that were not assigned to Hungary after the Treaty of Trianon and the general acceptance of the current situation as a geopolitical reality is often ignored by some members of the surrounding nations, and manifestations of a mainly cultural affection are often depicted as irredentist tendencies, especially by the right wing parties in Hungary's neighbours. Another typical misunderstanding is to identify Hungarian political parties or cultural organizations that fight for cultural or even regional autonomy (both accepted forms of coexistence between ethnicities in Europe) as irredentist groups that support border revision.

Revisionist Kingdom of Hungary mouse pad

During the Communist era, Marxist-Leninist ideology and Stalin's theory on nationalities considered nationalism to be a malady of a bourgeois capitalism. In Hungary, the minorities' question disappeared from the political agenda. Communist hegemony guaranteed a facade of inter-ethnic peace while failing to secure a lasting accommodation of minority interests in unitary states.

The fall of Communism aroused the expectations of Hungarian minorities in neighboring countries and left Hungary unprepared to deal with the issue. Hungarian politicians campaigned to formalize the rights of Hungarian minorities in neighboring countries, thus causing anxiety in the region. They secured agreements on the necessity for guaranteeing collective rights and formed new Hungarian minority organizations to promote cultural rights and political participation. In Romania, Slovakia, and Yugoslavia (now Serbia), former Communists secured popular legitimacy by accommodating nationalist tendencies that were hostile to minority rights.

Under great pressure from the EU and NATO, Hungary signed a bilateral state treaty with Slovakia on Good Neighborly Relations and Friendly Cooperation in March 1995, aimed at resolving disputes concerning borders and minority rights. Its vague language, though, allows rival interpretations. One cause of conflict was the COE's Recommendation 1201 which stipulates the creation of autonomous self-government based on ethnic principles in areas where ethnic minorities represent a majority of the population.

Hungarian Prime Minister insisted that the treaty protected the Hungarian minority as a "community". Slovakia accepted the 1201 Recommendation in the treaty, but denounced the "concept of collective rights of minorities" and "political autonomy" as "unacceptable and destabilizing". Slovakia finally ratified the treaty in March 1996 after the government attached a unilateral declaration that the accord would not provide for "collective" autonomy for Hungarians. The Hungarian government therefore refused to recognize the validity of the declaration.

On 16 September 1996, after five years of negotiations, Hungary and Romania also signed a bilateral treaty, which had been stalled over the nature and extent of minority protection that Bucharest should grant to Hungarian citizens. Hungary dropped its demands for "autonomy" for ethnic minorities; in exchange, Romania accepted a reference to Recommendation 1201 in the treaty, but with a joint interpretive declaration that guarantees individual rights, but excludes collective rights and territorial autonomy based on ethnic criteria. These concessions were made in large measure because both countries recognized the need to improve good neighborly relations as a prerequisite for NATO membership.


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