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The Hungarian Revolution of 1848 was one of many revolutions that year and closely linked to other revolutions of 1848 in the Habsburg areas. The revolution in Hungarymarker grew into a war for independence from Habsburg rulemarker.

Many of its leaders and participants, including Lajos Kossuth, István Széchenyi, Sándor Petőfi, József Bem, are among the most respected national figures in Hungarian history, and the anniversary of the revolution's outbreak, on March 15, is one of Hungary's three national holidays.

The events leading to the revolution

The Hungarian Diet (parliament) was reconvened in 1825 to handle financial needs. A liberal party emerged in the Diet. The party focused on providing for the peasantry in mostly symbolic ways because of their inability to understand the needs of the laborers. Lajos Kossuth emerged as leader of the lower gentry in the Diet.

The Revolution

See: April laws

The Revolution started on March 15, 1848, with bloodless events in Pestmarker and Buda (mass demonstrations forcing the imperial governor to accept all demands), followed by various insurrections throughout the kingdom, which enabled Hungarian reformists to declare Hungary's new government and the first Prime minister Lajos Batthyány of Hungary. The new government approved a sweeping reform package, referred to as the "April laws" (also referred to as the "March Laws"), which essentially created a democratical political system in Hungary. They also demanded that the Hungarian government receive and expend all taxes raised in Hungary, and have authority over Hungarian regiments in the Habsburg army.

In the summer of 1848, aware that they were on the path to civil war, the Hungarian government ministers attempted to gain Habsburg support against Conservative Josip Jelačić by offering to send troops to northern Italy. By the end of August, the imperial government in Vienna officially ordered the Hungarian government in Pest to end plans for a Hungarian army. Jelačić then took military action against the Hungarian government without any official order.

With war raging on three fronts (against the Jelačić's Croatian troops, in the Banat, and in Transylvania), Hungarian radicals in Pest saw this as an opportunity. Parliament made concessions to the radicals in September rather than let the events erupt into violent confrontations. Faced with revolution at home in Vienna too, Austria at first accepted Hungary's government. However, after the Austrian revolution was beaten down, and Franz Joseph I replaced his mentally retarded uncle Ferdinand I as Emperor, Austria again refused to accept Hungarian government. The final break between Vienna and Pest occurred when Field Marshall Count Lamberg was given control of all armies in Hungary (including Jelačić's). In response to Lamberg being attacked on arrival in Hungary a few days later, the imperial court ordered the Hungarian parliament and government dissolved. Jelačić was appointed to take Lamberg's place. War between Austria and Hungary had officially begun.

War of Independence

The Hungarian ruler and his advisors skillfully manipulated the Croatian, Serbian and Romanian peasantry, led by priests and officers firmly loyal to the Habsburgs, and induced them to rebel against the Hungarian government. The Hungarians were supported by the vast majority of the Slovak, German and Rusyn nationalities, as well as by the Jews of the kingdom, and by a large number of Polish, Austrian and Italian volunteers.

Initially, the Hungarian forces (Honvédség) achieved several victories fighting with Austrian armies (at Pákozd in September 1848 and at Isaszeg in April 1849), during which they even declared Hungary's total independence from the Habsburg Empire, in April 1849. Because of the success of revolutional resistance, Franz Joseph had to ask for help from "The Gendarme of Europe", Czar Nicholas I, and Russian armies invaded Hungary, causing antagonism between the Hungarians and the Russians.

The war led to the October Crisis in Vienna, when insurgents attacked a garrison on its way to Hungary to support Jelačić's forces. After Vienna was recaptured by imperial forces, General Windischgrätz and 70,000 troops were sent to Hungary to crush the last challenge to the Austrian Empire. By the end of December, the Hungarian government evacuated Pest. However this army had to retreat after heavy defeats from March to May 1849 and General Windischgrätz was removed as well. Without destroying the Austrian army, the Hungarians stopped, besieged Buda and prepared defenses. In June 1849 Russian and Austrian troops entered Hungary heavily outnumbering the Hungarian army. After all appeals to other European states failed, Kossuth abdicated on August 11, 1849 in favor of Artúr Görgey, whom he thought was the only general who was capable of saving the nation. On August 13, Görgey capitulated at Şiriamarker (then called Világos) to the Russians, who handed the army over to the Austrians.

Julius Freiherr von Haynau, the leader of the Austrian army who then became governor of Hungary for a few months of retribution, ordered the execution of 13 leaders of the Hungarian army in Aradmarker and the Prime minister Batthyány in Pestmarker.

The revolution's suppression

Following the war of 1848–49, the whole country was in "passive resistance". Archduke Albrecht von Habsburg was appointed governor of the Kingdom of Hungary, and this time was remembered for Germanization.

Lajos Kossuth went into exile. In the US he was most warmly received by the genral public as well as the Secretary of State Daniel Webster, leading to tensions in US-Austrian relations, and a county in Iowamarker was named after him. He then whet through Istanbul, Turkeymarker and Turin, Italymarker.

Deciding his biggest political error of the Revolution was the confrontation with the minorities of Hungary, he popularized the idea of a multi-ethnic confederation of republics along the Danube, which might have prevented the escalation of hostile feelings between the ethnic groups in these areas. Many of Kossuth's revolutionary comrades in exile, including the sons of one of his sisters, as well as other supporters of the 1848 revolution, (usually referred as "Forty-Eighters") stayed in the USA, and fought on the Union side in the US Civil War.

Major battles of the Hungarian Revolution

Notable people of the Hungarian Revolution

Fate of the Hungarian revolutionary banners

After the surrender of the Hungarian Army at at Világosmarker in 1849, the Hungarian revolutionary banners were taken to Russiamarker by the victorious Tsarist troops. There they remined for nearly an entire century, under both the Tasrist and the Communist regimes. In 1940 the Soviet Union proposed to the Horthy regime to exchange the banners for the release of the imprisoned Hungarian Communist leader Mátyás Rákosi – which was duly carried out.


  2. Géza Jeszenszky: From "Eastern Switzerland" to Ethnic Cleansing ,Address at Duquesne History Forum, November 17, 2000, The author is former Ambassador of Hungary to the United States and was Foreign Minister in 1990–94.
  5. Hungary's War of Independence, János B. Szabó.
  6. The Battle at Comorn in Hungary on 11th July 1849
  7. Mátyás Rákosi

See also

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