The Treaty of Trianon: A Hungarian Tragedy - June 4, 1920
6/4/2009 - The 89th Anniversary of Trianon. A CONTINUING TRAGEDY... The punitive treaty of Trianon, which tore Hungary asunder in violation of the vaunted principle of self-determination, is often thought of as a tragic historical event that has little or no relevance today. For some, Trianon is an emotionally laden event, while for others it is at best, an uncomfortable reminder of a past injustice that needs to be “gotten over.” Since the consequences of Trianon are still with us, however, it cannot be ignored.
Admittedly, the history leading up to Trianon is a complex one that in reality extends back well before 1920. Some, especially decision makers, would forget this history for the sake of expedience. This is aptly reflected in the context of the bilateral treaties Hungary was negotiating with Slovakia and Rumania, treaties highly favored by the United States:
Trianon was indeed a tragic historical event and a grave injustice for the Hungarians. It made a mockery of President Wilson’s vision for the post-war Europe and the lofty words he spoke to the world on February 1, 1918:
But Trianon is not a relic of the past to be ignored. As several recent publications astutely suggest, Trianon, as part of a blunder of a massive scale, had far-reaching consequences that are still with us today and continue to affect both the lives of the Hungarian historical communities found in states neighboring Hungary and the region. It cannot, therefore, be relegated to the dustbin of history as some would prefer or ignored by “running and screaming out of the door.”
In his book A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today, (2008), at 191, David A. Andelman paints a vivid picture of the unconscionable treatment meted out to Hungary by the peace makers:
Andelman quotes from Harold Nicolson’s diary as to the cavalier manner the ill-conceived boundaries were drawn with little regard for the interests of the peace makers themselves, not to mention the millions of lives that would be adversely affected:
And as for the terrible consequences of the flawed “peace making” at Versailles, including Trianon – consequences that should be the focus of our concern rather than an emotional outcry – Patrick Buchanan in his book, Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, (2008), concludes on page 111 that the “men of Versailles had brought home the peace of vengeance the people wanted. Their children would pay the price for their having failed to bring home a peace of justice. That price would be 50 million dead in the war that would come out of the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles.”
Andelman goes even farther:
The winds of change swept through the region and rearranged the old Cordon Stalinaire after 1989. Ironically, that change left untouched the very people who have suffered the most under a punitive treaty – the thousand plus year old indigenous Hungarian communities living under the rule of states that are mostly different from those stipulated at Trianon 89 years ago. The Hungarian historical communities continue to live as minorities in the newly divided successor states.
The issue is not their status but that they are still living with the stifling status quo that threatens their culture, as they are denied a host of rights, such that would enable them to exercise a degree of local self-rule and preserve their unique culture and identity within existing borders. All the while, the number of Hungarians living as minorities throughout the region dwindles due to the inhospitable environment in their own home.
For example, the Hungarian minority is still subjected both to discriminatory policies and to an intolerance that is neither addressed nor condemned by Slovak officials who incomprehensibly deny Hungarians the right to effectively participate in public affairs, particularly in matters affecting them. In other words, Hungarians are denied the right to autonomy. Restrictions on the right of that minority to be educated in the mother tongue are indefensible. Slovak National Party chairman Jan Slota’s xenophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-Hungarian outbursts, e.g., “Hungarians are the cancer of the Slovak nation, without delay we need to remove them from the body of the nation,” are tolerated by the government. This hate mongering, especially by a government coalition party, has had a pernicious influence on Slovak society, as evidenced by incidents, such as the “Death to Hungarians” graffiti that appeared in Nyitracsehi (Cechynce) in 2008. Inexplicably, the rehabilitation of Janos Esterhazy is denied. Esterhazy was the leader of the Hungarian Party in Tiso’s Fascist Slovakia and was the only Member of Parliament to vote against the deportation of Jews in 1942. He died in a Slovak prison.
The situation in Rumania is hardly better. The Resolution of the (Rumanian) Assembly at Gyulafehervar/Alba Iulia, December 1, 1918 has been and is ignored until this day. That resolution promised the Hungarian minority autonomy: “Complete national freedom for the peoples jointly inhabiting. All peoples have the right to their own education and government in their own language, with their own administration, and by individuals chosen from among themselves.” Despite this promise, Rumania today virtually treats the legitimate request for autonomy of the Szekelyland as an act of treason.
Rumania violates its Constitution guaranteeing minority rights, including the right to be educated in one’s mother tongue at all levels. Two decades after the collapse of Communism, Rumania has failed to restore the independent Hungarian state university in Cluj-Napoca/Kolozsvar that had been merged into the Rumanian university under the Communists.
An egregious violation of human rights occurred when two Hungarian professors – Peter Hantz and Lehel Kovacs – were expelled from Babes-Bolyai University for placing parallel Hungarian inscriptions below Rumanian language signs at the so-called multicultural institution. It should be noted that although university officials had decided to allow the placement of bilingual signs by January 10, 2006, they stonewalled until Professor Hantz sought to implement the university’s decision.
These and other similar continuing consequences justify, indeed mandate, that Trianon be remembered—democracy, rule of law and minority rights must at long last be respected in a region that has suffered enough due to the ignorance and ill-will that governed a vengeful and short-sighted Paris, 1919.
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2/5/2005 - Banned Trianon Documentary makes it's way to the Internet for download and viewing! Those interested in viewing Gabor Koltay's controversial film that was banned by the Rumanian AND the Hungarian governments, can now view the film on the Web. Directed by the renowned Gábor Koltay and with internationally respected historians such as Nemeskürti and Raffai, the film has and will continue to spark critical debate. AHF encourages open debate on Trianon and encourages all to review the film - unfortunately this site offers the film in Hungarian only. [Go to film]
Count Apponyi pleading to the Supreme Council of the Paris Peace Conference:
"In the name of the great principle so happily phrased by President Wilson, namely that no group of people, no population, may be transferred from one State to another without being consulted,- as though they were a herd of cattle with no will of their own,- in the name of this great principle, an axiom of good sense and public morals, we request, we demand a plebiscite on those parts of Hungary that are now on the point of being severed from us. I declare we are willing to bow to the decision of a plebiscite whatever it should be. Of course, we demand it should be held in conditions ensuring the freedom of the vote."
At the time President Wilson said: “The proposal to dismember Hungary is absurd” and later Sir Winston Churchill said: “Ancient poets and theologians could not imagine such suffering, which Trianon bought to the innocent.” We are sad to report that they were right.
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Shortcuts to Trianon Resources Below:
One thousand years of nation building successfully delineated groups based on culture, religion, geography, and other attributes to create the countries with which we are so familiar. While some Western European nations would continue power struggles and princely battles and civil wars, Hungary, founded in 896, was a peaceful multi-ethnic state for a 1000 years and her borders were unchanged. Until 1920...
The Treaty of Trianon in 1920... in the aftermath of WWI, was extremely harsh on Hungary and unjustifiably one-sided. The resulting "treaty" lost Hungary an unprecedented 2/3 of her territory, and 1/2 of her total population or 1/3 of her Hungarian-speaking population. Add to this the loss of up to 90% of vast natural resources, industry, railways, and other infrastructure. This was done to a nation whose borders were established over a thousand years earlier (896 A.D.) and one who, as the "Saviors of Christianity," lost millions of lives defending the rest of Europe from numerous invasions from the likes of the Mongolian Tatars and the Ottoman Turks.
Hungary, along with Germany and Austria, experienced rapid economic expansion during the latter part of the 19th century and into the 20th. This challenge alarmed France and Russia. Each needed a way to stave off German-Hungarian economic competition. With the advent of WWI, France had her chance and began fostering anti-Hungarian sentiment among non-Magyar speaking Hungarian nationals. It is important to note that for over a thousand years, Hungary never experienced ethnic civil war. France, eager to weaken Hungary, offered to reward those nations and groups that assisted them in the war with large pieces of territory. The "Little Entente" of Rumania (who switched sides in the last minute), Czechoslovakia, and Serbia took that opportunity and got very lucky.
The United States has never ratified this treaty. At the time President Wilson said: “The proposal to dismember Hungary is absurd” and later Sir Winston Churchill said: “Ancient poets and theologians could not imagine such suffering, which Trianon bought to the innocent.” We are sad to report that he was right.
The French, despite American protests and calls for plebiscites, sent their troops to Northern Hungary in violation of the cease fire, and then pushed through the Treaty of Versailles (Trianon). Although Rumania, herself created only in 1862, switched to the French side almost at the very end of the war, she gained all of Transylvania and majority of the Banat, but claimed the river Tisza. The Czechs were awarded all of Northern Hungary (now Slovakia), despite equal numbers of Hungarians and Slovaks in the region, to create Czechoslovakia. The Serbs received Southern Hungary (Vojvodina), Slavonia, and Croatia (confederated with Hungary for 700 years) to create the unlikely "Yugoslavia," which, like Czechoslovakia, effectively, no longer exists. Perhaps most amazingly, the Austrians who were responsible for getting Hungary into the war in the first place, got Western Hungary (Burgenland).
The dictators in these successor states began to foster nationalism and teach a less-than-accurate history to help bring legitimacy to their regimes. These claims are based on some seriously unfortunate state propaganda-cum-history about an ancient Roman province called Dacia. In Rumania, this revised history, accelerated by Ceaucescu, has become the accepted state historical doctrine even today, making the process of reconciliation much more difficult. In the newly formed Czechslovakia, Eduard Benes and his infamous "Benes Decrees" forcibly expelled tens of thousands of Hungarians and confiscated personal and church properties. See the additional steps the Slovak Government has taken against the Hungarian minority. AHF's efforts to guarantee anew the rights of the Hungarian "minorities" continue.
Though the United States recommended a slightly more liberal approach in regards to Hungary, it did not prevail. The "self-determination of the nationalities" posited by President Woodrow Wilson resulted in only one plebiscite in Sopron, in Western Hungary. The vote was overwhelmingly pro-Hungarian and Sopron remained within the new borders. Oddly enough, although Austria was also a loser in the war, she also received a part of Hungary, and Sopron became a border city.
The maps here not only show graphically the extent to which the Treaty of Trianon dismembered Hungary, it shows how much Hungarian-majority areas were arbitrarily "reassigned." Hungarians today are the one of the largest minorities in Europe and face oppression and violence. Numbering in the millions, Hungarian minorities are second only to the Russians who became "minorities" with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Hungarians live under harsh persecution in the new states created by the treaty. The Helsinki Watch Committee called Romanian efforts to "purify" Transylvania as "Cultural Genocide." Read the Treaty in full text
External Links on Trianon
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