|The Treaty of Trianon: A Hungarian Tragedy - June 4, 1920|
June 4, 2020 The 100th Anniversary of the Treaty of Trianon
"Ancient poets and theologians could not imagine such suffering, which Trianon bought to the innocent. In their eyes, that was for the damned in Hell." - Sir Winston Churchill
On June 4, 1920, one hundred years ago, the Hungarian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference was forced to sign the punishing Treaty of Trianon, arguably the most severe of all the post-World War I settlements concluded at the conference. Led by the Big Four - the United States, Great Britain, France and Italy- those treaties were collectively designed to conclude the First World War and make the "world safe for democracy," according to President Woodrow Wilson.
The "peacemakers" instead concocted a hazardous brew. The ostensible "peace" turned out to be only an armistice as World War II erupted merely 20 years later. Tens of millions of civilians and members of the military died in that war; the Holocaust devasted the European Jewish community; a murderous Stalin occupied Central and Eastern Europe; and the world was thrust into a costly and dangerous Cold War. Supposedly in the name of national self-determination, Trianon dismembered the thousand-year-old Kingdom of Hungary, a self-contained, geographically and economically coherent and durable formation in the Carpathian Basin, boasting the longest lasting historical borders in Europe.
The resulting non-negotiable treaty cost Hungary over 70 percent of her territory and one-third or three million of her indigenous ethnic-Hungarian population. Add to this the loss of all her seaports and 90 percent of her vast natural resources, industry, railways, and other infrastructure.
Millions of Hungarians woke up one morning and saw borders arbitrarily redrawn around them without plebiscites, ignoring Wilson's lofty goal of national self-determination. The "absurd" treaty, as Wilson later referred to it, was never ratified by the United States; ignored a millennia of nation building and age-old cultural affiliations; created new and enlarged countries; and produced millions of new minorities who today struggle for survival of their ethnic identity. To this very day, Hungarian minorities have been subjected to discrimination, intolerance and violence. Schools in the successor states limit students from studying in their native Hungarian language; Hungarian church properties have been confiscated; and cemeteries and cultural monuments have been vandalized.
The "peacemakers" did insist that the new successor states, Romania, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, sign various international instruments that included provisions for the protection of minorities. But those promises are largely unkept.
Despite these promises and the fact that Romania obtained Transylvania from Hungary under Trianon - more territory than remained as Hungary -- Romania continues to ignore its obligations. Just recently in April, Romania's president incited animosity against its ethnic Hungarians by making inflammatory statements resulting in tensions between Hungary and Romania, two NATO allies. The Hungarian historical communities in Romania, particularly the Szeklers, are denied a range of rights that threatens their very cultural existence. Hungarians in Serbia, Slovakia, Romania, and Ukraine have all requested semi- autonomy by peaceful and democratic means. Such local governance would ensure democracy to beleaguered Hungarians, fulfill promises made to them one hundred years ago, and strengthen the democratic process by serving as a model of how majorities and minorities can work together to redress past wrongs.
Considering the far-reaching implications of discrimination, intolerance, and animosity directed at the Hungarian minorities, the response from the European Union and the United States to date has been tepid. Stronger measures must be taken to remedy the ongoing abuses of minority rights that contravene numerous European Commission standards. Together, the European Union and United States must ensure that democratic principles and international norms and practices relating to national minorities will finally prevail in Central and Eastern Europe and bring regional tension to a just and lasting end, all of which is in the strategic interests of the United States and the American people. Only then will the Tragedy of Trianon be addressed.
AHF's Statement on the 100th Anniversary of the Treaty of Trianon appeared in the Congressional Record on June 4, 2020, submitted by U.S. Representative Andy Harris, Co-chair of the Congressional Hungarian-American Caucus. It also appeared in the Washington Times
The American Hungarian Federation, founded in Cleveland, Ohio in 1906, is the oldest American-Hungarian organization in the United States and is based in Washington, D.C. One of the American Hungarian Federation's first purposes was to coordinate efforts for the revision of the Treaty of Trianon and bring to the attention of politicians and lawmakers the importance of such a revision. AHF has since been the leader in advocating for the protection of the rights of the ethnic Hungarian minorities living in neighboring countries as a result of Trianon.
Upcoming Event: Trianon Conference. September 29, 2020. The American Hungarian Federation conference on Trianon was originally scheduled to be held in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Capitol, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic it will be held as a virtual webinar event. Invited panelists include noted experts on Trianon, including Géza Jeszenszky, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador to the United States; Dr. Deborah Cornelius, historian and former Professor at Rutgers University on Central European History; Professor David A. Andelman, author of A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today; Miklós Szanthó, Director of the Center for Fundamental Rights in Hungary. Ari Fleisher, former Press Secretary to President George W. Bush and whose mother is a Hungarian immigrant, will moderate the panel. If you would like to register for the event, please do so through this Eventbrite link. If you have questions please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A 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 over 1100 years and her borders were virtually unchanged.... Until 1920.
"The greatest catastrophe to have befallen Hungary since the battle of Mohacs in 1526," the Treaty of Trianon in 1920, was extremely harsh on Hungary and unjustifiably one-sided. The resulting "treaty" cost Hungary an unprecedented 2/3 of her territory, and 1/2 of her total population or 1/3 of her ethnic-Hungarian population. Add to this the loss of all her seaports, up to 90% of her vast natural resources, industry, railways, and other infrastructure. Millions of Hungarians saw borders arbitrarily redrawn around them, without plebiscites, ignoring President Wilson's lofty goal of national self-determination. The absurd treaty ignored a millenia of nation building and age-old cultural affiliations, created arbitrary borders and new countries, and created millions of new minorities who today struggle for survival of the ethnic identity. Western powers, primarily Britain and France, refused to re-visit the disaster they created at Versailles and led us into another great war. Two of the three newly created countries carved out of Hungarian territory no longer exist. The "Slovakia" (formerly Upper Hungary) part of Czechoslovakia split with the Czech Republic while "Yugoslavia" suffered from tragic civil war and the ravages of ethnic cleansing.
"Just get over it"
The United States 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 brought to the innocent.” Others warned that a weakened, dismembered Hungary would lead to a weak, fragmented Central Europe unable to resist Soviet expansionism. We are sad to report that they were all right.
12/15/2015 - AHF responds to James Traub article, “Hungary’s 500-Year-Old Victim Complex,” that appeared in Foreign Policy: "Hungarians share a collective pathology known as the 'Trianon syndrome,' asserts the article. Ever since Trianon, according to the article, Hungarians allegedly have resented the fact that they no longer matter. But what is the real issue?" The overarching argument of the article is that Hungarians falsify the past to use it as an instrument of the present. The article itself, however, is punctuated with sweeping generalities and omits important historical facts, resulting in a distorted picture of Hungary and the character of its people. A couple of examples will suffice. [read more]
6/4/2014 - 94th Anniversary of the Treaty of Trianon: AHF issues statement highlighting how shortsighted "peacemakers'" mistakes led to millions of people being cut off from their motherland, caused untold suffering, assured the rise of Hitler, the expansion of Bolshevism, and set the stage for unneccesary conflict still with us today:
Yes, it gets worse! [read more]
6/4/2011 - On the 91st Anniversary of the Treaty of Trianon, AHF remembers the ill-advised treaty and publishes essay by Sir Bryan Cartledge who calls the treaty "the greatest catastrophe to have befallen Hungary since the battle of Mohacs in 1526." Over the course of its more than 100-year history, the American Hungarian Federation has commemorated the Treaty of Trianon, highlighting the gross injustices wrought by that treaty (better described as a diktat) and the entire Versailles so-called peacemaking. The grossly unfair treaty continues to plaque the region. [read more]
6/3/2010 - The 90th Anniversary of Hungary's Dismemberment: Hungary declares "National Day of Unity," AHF issues statement: "Trianon is not only tragic history, it is a lingering tragedy which continues to affect the Hungarian minorities and historical communities living in the states neighboring Hungary even today." Includes links to article by Amb. Geza Jeszenszky (Gyásznapok után - az elkeseredés ellen) and Letter to the Editor by Geza Cseri. [read more]
6/4/2009 - The 89th Anniversary of Hungary's Dismemberment... AHF Remembers Trianon. The statement reads, "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."
6/4/2008 - The 88th Anniversary of Trianon. AHF issues Statement entitled, "Overdue Autonomy for Minority Hungarians! Time to Bury Trianon and Resurrect Democracy." The European order imposed after World War I and then re-imposed following the Second World War collapsed almost within months at the end of the Cold War. One ethnic group after another throughout the region seized the opportunity to realize their own objectives to exercise external self-determination, even as some of them denied internal self-determination to their Hungarian co-nationals. For example, after Slovakia broke away from Prague’s perceived dominance in the peaceful divorce of 1992, it wasted little time to gerrymander the country’s historic administrative division in 1996 so as to eliminate most of the districts which had a Hungarian majority population. [read more]
6/4/2007 - "Trianon: Tragedy, Dissolution, and Remedy." Frank Koszorus, Jr. and the AHF International Relations Committee release essay on treaty's 87th anniversary. "...Ostensibly in the name of national self-determination, the Treaty dismembered the thousand-year-old Kingdom of Hungary, a self-contained, geographically and economically coherent and durable formation in the Carpathian Basin and boasting the longest lasting historical borders in Europe. It was imposed on Hungary without any negotiation by vengeful leaders who were ignorant or ignored the region’s history, and mercilessly tore that country apart. By drawing artificial borders in gross violation of the ethnic principle, it also transferred overthree million indigenous ethnic Hungarians and over 70% of the country's territory to foreign rule. Following the war to make the "world safe for democracy," the Treaty even denied the affected populations the right to choose under whose sovereignty they would live. Only the city of Sopron in western Hungary was allowed a plebiscite to decide its future, and it opted by a large margin to remain in Hungary. Although the peacemakers included provisions for the protection of minorities in various international instruments they insisted the successor states sign, the latter generally ignored their promises and the individual and minority rights of ethnic Hungarians were violated.
The essay includes selected statements relating to some of these issues that shed light on the context, attitudes and practices that affected Hungarians eighty-seven years ago and which still impact and to some extent poison the region, as evidenced by the Successor States’ refusal to grant their Hungarian historical communities the right to autonomy. The last excerpt is another solution for a tragedy that affected the entire region." [read full text] or [download]
6/7/2006 - "Trianon Binds No One Except Hungarians," AHF Issues Statement on the 86th Anniversary of the Trianon Tragedy. Hungarian American communities join in protest. AHF's Assoc. President Frank Koszorus, Jr., writes, "Two of the new states cobbled together by the victorious Entente “peacemakers” at Versailles ceased to exist years ago, and even part (Moldova) of the third successor state succeeded to gain its independence it never had before. Ironically, the winds of change that swept through the region and rearranged the old Cordon Stalinaire after 1989, 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 86 years ago...Even as Montenegro declares its independence and Kosovo’s status remains on the front burner, Budapest appears content to sit on the sidelines and conspicuously refrains from espousing the democratically expressed aspirations of autochthonous Hungarian minorities for autonomy in Vojvodina, Transylvania, Slovakia and Karpatalja (Ruthenia)." [read full text] or [download]
6/7/2005 - Trianon turns 85! Demonstrations in NY, Toronto and elsewhere... Hungarian organizations from New York and Toronto demonstrated to call attention to the unjust Treaty of Trianon in which Hungary lost 2/3 of her territory, half her Hungarian-speaking population and vast natural resources and infrastructure. The New York Polgari Kor demonstrated in front of the U.N. building on June 5, 2005. [read more] The demonstrators drew the world’s attention to the "increasing injustices, atrocities, and physical abuse from which our fellow Hungarians, who were forced to remain outside of the new Hungarian borders, have been suffering as a result of the Treaty." See more pictures on Gimagine.com and read about the NY Polgari Kor.
For the past 85 years AHF was instrumental in organizing the American Hungarian Community in efforts to influence US policy in order to illuminate the unjust dismemberment of Hungary at Trianon and seek re-unification. Today, AHF is closely monitoring the violence and injustices in Rumania, Vojvodina (Serbia), Slovakia, Transcarpathian Ukraine, and elsewhere.
- 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
and encourages all to review the film - unfortunately this site offers
the film in Hungarian only. [Go
Quicklinks to AHF Statements
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."
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.” Others warned that a weakened, dismembered Hungary would lead to a weak, fragmented Central Europe unable to resist Soviet expansionism. We are sad to report they were right.
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 over 90% of her 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 Pope called 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, Britain and Russia. Each needed a way to stave off Austrian-German-Hungarian economic competition. With the advent of WWI, France and Britain had their 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 with huge swaths of territory. But they also inherited millions of ethnic Hungarians. Depsite promises otherwise, ethnic cleansing would soon commence.
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 and Transcarpathian Ukraine), despite almost equal numbers of Hungarians and Slovaks in the region, to create Czechoslovakia. The Serbs got parts of Southern Hungary (Vojvodina), Slavonia, and Croatia (confederated with Hungary for 700 years) to create the unlikely "Yugoslavia," which, like Czechoslovakia, 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 honest debate and a 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 such as repressive "Slovak Language Law" and "Citizenship Act" which has no place in a 21st Europe. 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 dismemberment and instability brought economic collapse and governmental crisis. The Rumanians, also in defiance of the armistice agreement with their new-found French allies, took advantage of the turmoil in Hungary and moved troops into the defenseless nation and occupied Budapest and beyond. To this day, the Greater Rumania Party and other in Rumania still claim territory that includes the river Tisza and even Budapest. A mini-communist takeover, a republican government, finally gave way to Royalist Admiral Miklos Horthy who took over as "Regent" of Hungary and brought some stability back to the country. The new government got to work on trying to revise the unjust treaty.
Sadly, the US with its growing isolationist stance, pulled out of the League of Nations and Western Europe wanted no part in re-opening the case. France was focused on making sure Germany was punished. The Hungarians got a sympathetic ear from only Italy and Germany. This tragic alliance initially gained Hungary part of her northern territory from Czechoslovakia and Northern Transylvania from Rumania. But this alliance would only to plunge her into another disaster and occupations by first Nazis and later Soviet communists. Her land was again taken. One part of northern Hungary was then transferred from Czechoslovakia and became part of the Soviet Union and is today part of Ukraine.
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."
Hungarian populations declined significantly after forced removals such as the Benes Decrees and other pograms, the effects of WWI, and Trianon in 1920. With continued pressure and discriminative policies such as the 2009 Slovak Language Law, the Slovak Citizenship Law, discriminatory practices in Rumania and Serbia, this trend has continued over the past 90 years.
6/20/2014 - With the conflict in Ukraine and ethnic tensions once again on the rise, AHF republishes prophetic 1996 essay from the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs: "Group Rights Defuse Tensions." "Moreover, the strong U.S. interest in a stable and peaceful Europe is contingent upon the resolution of minority disputes and the elimination of tensions that arise from such disputes. When European minority issues were ignored or improperly addressed in this century, the United States was called upon to intervene in two world wars." [read more]
6/17/2014 - AHF Book Review: "Transylvania Today: Diversity at Risk," edited by Csaba Zoltani. Written by noted experts, describes the issues faced by minorities in Transylvania in their effort to retain their identity in an adverse environment. Minorities, according to the official census, constitute nearly one-quarter of the population of Romania. Contributors include Amb. Geza Jeszenszky, Prof. Andrew Ludanyi, Tilhamer Czika, Viktor Segesvary, and Andreas Bereznay. [read more]
5/30/2014 - AHF organizes meeting with the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the United States Congress, discusses situation of the Hungarian minority in Romania including the revocation of the Knight's Order of the Star of Romania from Bishop Laszlo Tokes. [read more]
3/27/2014 - Paprika Politik publishes article by AHF President entitled, "Strengthen Ukraine by Strengthening Minority Rights:" As Russia completes the annexation of Crimea, creating a fait accompli probably impossible to reverse, the situation in Ukraine proper remains fraught with uncertainty. For the Hungarian minority in Ukraine the situation is especially precarious, particularly in light of a proposed ban on minority languages currently being pushed by nationalists in the Ukrainian parliament. [read more]
Slovakia stripping citizenship of ethnic Hungarian minorities.
12/14/2011 - UPDATE: The Case of Ilonka Tamas. The latest outrage from Slovakia: a 99-year-old teacher loses her citizenship. Ilonka Tamás was born in 1912 when Rimaszombat was part of Hungary. She brought up generations of children and received the “Komenský” medal and the Gold Medal of the Slovak Republic for her pedagogical achievements. She merely wanted to regain her Hungarian citizenship but is now a "person without a registered address." AHF submits follow up letter to the U.S. Helsinki Commission. [read more]
9/29/2011 - Federation again raises minority rights. In a letter to Knut Vollebaek, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, the Federation again raises anti-Hungarian measures in Slovakia and Serbia and requests the High Commissioner's clarification of reports in the electronic media asserting that he had labeled Hungary's support for Slovakia's Hungarian minority "malicious and foolish." [read more]
External Links on Trianon