|Portraits and Self-Portraits|
Monarchy was the second largest state
in Europe. With an area of 676,615 square km in 1914 it was second only
to Russia. Its population was the third largest after Russia's and Germany's.
According to the last census in 1910, the empire embraced 51,390,223 people.
The state was
officially formed by the Compromise of 1867. It has been commonly referred
to as the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy since 1868, when Francis Joseph,
emperor of Austria and apostolic king of Hungary, ordered that his lands
be so called in a royal manuscript.
Although this expressed precisely the constitutional structure of the Dualist Monarchy, it disregarded one of its most important attributes: that it was a multi-national state. In 1910, when people were classified by the language they used in everyday discourse, 25% of all citizens were of German, 17% of Hungarian, 13% of Czech, 3% of Slovene, 2% of Italian nationa-lity, and the rest belonged to various other national minorities. The Monarchy was a genuine product of Central Europe; a place where cultures, nations and nationalities coexisted.
Hungary was the
bigger part of Francis Joseph's empire in regard to its area, and the smallest
according to the number of its inhabitants. If we are to be precise, then
we must include the Countries of the Hungarian Holy Crown, an area of 325,411
square km, with a population of 20.8 million (1910). Compared to Austria,
there were almost 8 million less people here occupying a territory that
was larger by 25,000 square km. The Countries of the Holy Crown covered
the Hungarian Kingdom, the Croatian-Slavonian Kingdom, Fiume and the so-called
an area of 51,000 square km and almost 2 million people, was occupied by
the Monarchy in 1878, and officially incorporated or annexed in 1908, under
the pretext that it belonged to the Holy Crown. It was, however, put under
the control of the Joint Ministry of Finance and not under Budapest's jurisdiction.
Therefore, although it belonged to the Holy Crown, it became the only territory
under joint control.
There was a special
relationship between the countries of the Holy Crown. The Hungarian Kingdom
and Croatia had their own Compromise in 1868, similar to that of Austria
and Hungary. In 1867, Croatia became auto- nomous in regard to its internal
affairs and had its own capital, Zagreb. The area of 42,500 square km which
it covered and the population of 2.6 million was registered separately.
Fiume and the adjoining area with its 21.5 square km and less than 50,000
inhabitants had its own government, and was directly responsible to the
government residing in Budapest. This was justified by its juidical status
as a corpus separatum or separate body of the Holy Crown. Yet,
at the time, Hungary was understood as the territory excluding Croatia.
Here too, it was the Compromise that consolidated the definition of Hungary:
in 1867, the Union with Transylvania, which had been originally declared
in 1848, was restored. This land again became part of Hungary, just as
it had in the Middle Ages. Constitutionally Hungary now also included the
so-called Military Frontier in the southern counties that had been established
in the 18th century and governed from Vienna. By 1871, the whole frontier
was put back under Hungarian rule. In 1910 the state composed of these
lands concentrated 18,264,533 inhabitants in an area of 282,870 square
km divided into 63 counties and 27 municipal boroughs. In the following
pages Hungary is defined by this territory and population.
With regard to
its nationalities, the country was just as heterogeneous as the Monarchy.
But, whereas in Austria the German-speaking segment was only 36% of the
total population, in Hungary by 1910, 54.5% (9,944,627 people) were Hungarian-speaking.
Although this proportion had only been 45.5% at the time of the first modern
census (1869), the Magyars constituted the majority from the turn of the
century due to German and, more especially, Jewish assimilation, as well
as a higher proportion of nationalities among emigrants. While on the other
side of the Leitha, the Czechs, the second largest group, constituted only
a third when compared to the German population, in Hungary, the nearly
3 million Romanians composed only 16% of the total population. They were
followed by the Slovaks and Czechs with similar proportions (10.7% and
10.4%, respectively) and by the Ruthenes and Serbs (2.5% each). The Croats,
with 1.1% composed exactly half of the 2.2% registered under the category
of other nationalities, including Czechs, Slovenes, Bulgarians,
Catholic Serbians, Bunyevci, Italians, Poles, and Gypsies.
majority, however, was not maintained throughout the region. In Transylvania
the Romanians, and in the northern counties, in the area called Felvidék,
the Slovaks constituted the majority. The Germans lived mainly in blocks.
Most of their regions can be traced back to the 18th century, when they
came to Hungary in large numbers. The Romanian population concentrated
in the north- and southeastern regions, while the Serbs and Croats could
be found in the southern and southwestern counties. The regional separation
was, however, not at all hermetic. There were several examples of different
nationalities living together in Felvidék and in Transylvania. And
the towns, especially the capital, were natural melting pots,
as it were, where large numbers of people of differ-ent origins, gravitated
Despite the fact
that rural Hungary was still proportionally more significant population-wise,
urbanization became a major trend of this era. Whereas 85% of the inhabitants
had lived in rural areas in 1869, by 1910 this proportion fell to under
80%. The most dynamic population growth took place in the capital. Budapest,
established in 1873 with the union of Pest, Buda and Óbuda, concentrated
more than 880,000 inhabitants, with a growth rate of more than 300% since
its foundation. (If we look at Budapest's administrative map of today,
the process would seem even more conspicuous, for the population in 1910
would then have been 1 million.) In contemporary Europe the growth rate
of Budapest was only surpassed by that of Berlin. Actually, if we follow
the process from the beginning of the 18th century, Budapest could even
be placed first. In 1892 it was given the status of capital town
with a royal residence and due to its dynamic development it became
one of the real capitals of the double- centred empire. (The joint ministries,
however, remained in Vienna and the ruler spent most of his time there.)
Other places lagged
far behind Budapest in the process of urbanization. The second largest
town in 1910 was Szeged with 118,000 inhabitants, the third Szabadka (today
Subotica in Rump Yugoslavia) with 94,000 inhabitants, and the fourth Pozsony
(today Bratislava, capital of Slovakia) with 78,000 inhabitants.
The Hungary of the Monarchy was filled with an air of stability and consolidation. The idea that life is predictable, things have a certain order and can be arranged in certain well-defined ways was conveyed to the citizens in several aspects of everyday as well as public life.
This feeling of
continuity, constancy, uniformity and immutableness was reinforced by the
ruler. Francis Joseph spent 68 of his 86 years on the throne. He obtained
actual rule over Hungary only in 1849 after the suppression of the 1848-1849
revolution and the subsequent defensive war, though he was crowned emperor
on 2 December, 1848. Constitutionally, however, this was not the beginning
of his reign, since he was crowned king of Hungary only a short time after
the Compromise, in June 1867. This reduces his years spent as the legitimate
king of Hungary until his death in 1916 to only 49, certainly long enough
for the emperor to have become a symbol of stability. His portrait was
popularized on stamps, money and matchbox labels, providing the world of
changing politicians with a lasting face.
could be sure to get to higher and higher pay classification during their
careers. Pay structures were very important indeed, providing the basis
for the titles of tekintetes (authority), nagysagos
(greatness) and meltosagos (dignity),
which were also expressions of social ranks. Only a very few could obtain
the title excellencias (excellency). Ranking also meant
money, one of the most important factors in reinforcing the feeling of
stability. Money at that time was quite stable. The currency was the forint
and, from 1892, the korona (crown). (One forint was worth two
crowns.) Between 1890 and 1910, (in twenty years) the price index grew
by only 50%. Prices rose a little faster than wages and salaries. This
gave people ample grounds for complaining about inflation and prices, the
changes before having been even smaller. The complaint, however, did not
refer to the unbearableness of the situation, but to its slight novelty.
This feeling of
comfort was strengthened by the fact that the same currency could be used
from the westernmost Voralberg borders to the easternmost village in Bukovina
(the distance between them being 1,274 km) and from the northernmost Czech
settlement to the southernmost Dalmatian fishing village 1,000 km away.
Moreover, the same quality goods from the same companies could be bought
all over, and the name of the firms could even be adapted by the Hungarian
citizens for their own use: Julius Meinl, the owner of a grocery shop network
in Austria was called Meinl Gyula in Hungary.
What was far away geographically, socially or intellectually was brought nearer and made acceptable by a tendency to fictional Hungarianization. The most popular foreign writer, Jules Verne was renamed Verne Gyula from Jules Verne and the emperor and king's Bavarian wife, Elisabeth Wittelsbach was simply called our Queen Erzsebet, whose real home was the castle of Godollo, donated as a coronation present, and who was, according to popular belief (which was as powerful as local folk tales), a real patroness of the nation within the Habsburg dynasty.
was a great need for a patron, in spite of the fact that public life was
based on constitutional grounds. And no matter how stable the consolidated
framework of constitutionalism was, there was still an unspoken distrust,
a skepticism and all the ambivalence thrown up by historical coexistence
with the Habsburgs.
of power was twofold: it was based on liberal principles and, at the same
time, on the feudal concept of investing power by God' s grace. The latter
was represented by the existence of the monarch, who maintained a real
role and not merely a simple formality. This was partly insured by laws,
such as the one decreeing the joint army, and partly by custom and the
cult of loyalty, and most importantly by the existence of common public
affairs which resulted from the structure of the Mo-narchy. The ruler was
the one stable point in a liberal whirl of politics. He remained while
governments and deputies came and went, the essence of liberal legitimacy
being the elections which were held periodically. In Hungary, MPs were
re-elected every third year until 1887 and every fifth year after that.
Members of the Upper House in the bi-cameral Parliament were chosen exclusively by birth until 1886. Later, however, they could also be nominated by the monarch. There were 19 governments from 1867 to 1918, when the Monarchy broke up, and nobody could have kept track of all the MPs over that period. At every election 413 members were returned to Parliament by the people or, more precisely, by a narrow segment of voters, which totalled about 6% of the total population. (In Europe, at the turn of the century, this proportion was 27% in Austria, 22% in Germany, 28% in France, 16% in England and 8% even in Italy where there was a limited franchise.) It was also true that the political structure could not really be tinkered with, if the opposition came to power (which happened only once, in 1906), it could only govern in the same manner as its predecessors. Therefore, Parliament usually signified a special mixture of un-principled support of government and blustering opposition to the public. The different types were even given popular names: Mameluks and Zoltans, respectively. The franchise, which was reformed in 1874, remained practically unchanged until the end of the Monarchy and, together with the highly disproportionate constituencies after their redistribution in 1877, left little or no illusion about the liberal ethos of popular representation. The open elections, the limited franchise and the disproportionate constituencies often led to corruption and bribery. Instead of representing the interests of others, the parliamentary system had the role of conservation, in effect of confirming the monarch' s authority.
of the framework of everyday life, the varied legitimacy of politics, the
given situation of Hungary as part of the Monarchy, and senseless parliamentary
policy-making all contributed to the formation of a special political awareness
and reactions to this sphere.
Those who remained
outside the circle of voters thought their lot would be better if they
had proper rights. Movements of industrial workers and agricultural labourers
demanded the right to vote, claiming equal, universal and secret suffrage.
Demonstrations, protests and agitation followed one another, within the
limits provided by the freedom of stability. They believed they could acquire
a more secure existence, but at the price of questioning their actual security
and deepening the fis-sures in it. Those in power, the elite of political
and public life, were rather afraid of all this and wanted to preserve
their security by conserving the status quo. They were only prepared to
make concessions at the very last moment. (The law concerning extended
franchise was sanctioned by King Charles IV on 11 September, 1918, six
weeks before the collapse of the Monarchy.)
The panacea they offered was not political reform, but the greatness and glory of the nation. This was manifested in a dual form, which only served to profoundly confuse things. On the one hand, they declared that Hungary had found her greatness and glory in its present form: as part of the Habsburg Monarchy, but still as an autonomous unit. Hungary rules over her nationalities, giving each one exactly the same individual rights as the Magyars, as long as they accept the principle of the Hunga-rian political nation. This concept of nation could also help eliminate social conflicts, for landlords and peasants as well as capitalists and workers equally belonged to the unity of Hungarian life. All this is reinforced and guaranteed by progress and development, and by the special position of Hungary as part of a great power along with internal consolidation.
The message, richly ornamented with historic elements, was also more specifically expressed in 1896, the thousandth anniversary of the Magyar Conquest of Hungary. It gave an impetus to the flourishing cult of Saint Stephen, the first Hungarian king, displaying an uninterrupted continuity over 1000 years which was moving to ever greater heights. One of the main attractions of the millennial exhibition was The Arrival of the Conquering Magyars, Arpad Feszty's panorama, which was unveiled in 1894. The millennial celebrations themselves alternated the achievements of modern civilization with the diszmagyar (the old Hungarian costume worn by the nobility on special occasions). An oversized emphasis of other historic elements were also symbolic of this tendency. There was, however, another trend, which existed alongside, or often intertwined with the one above, which was also under the spell of greatness and glory, but had remarkable anti-Habsburg overtones. This tendency at the turn of the century made a cult out of the leaders, participants and achievements of the historic independence movements. They became sacred points of reference or revered relics of the past, and ceased to be merely a tradition to draw upon. The memory of the 1848-1849 revolution and its leading politician, Lajos Kossuth, who died in Turin in 1894 underwent such a transformation. He had already become a cult object while living as an emigre, yet his actual opinion had not counted for much. The fact that the cult of independence had the power to mobilise hundreds of thousands of people was proved at his funeral. The reburials of leaders of national movements at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries followed the same vein. Imre Thokoly was buried in Kesmark and Ferenc Rakoczi II was buried in Kassa in November 1906. These events provided an opportunity to create a cult of the Kuruc (soldiers of Thokoly and Rakoczi against the Habsburgs). It even encou-raged an MP, who thought of himself as a historian, to backdate his own kuruc poems by 200 years.
The two different
concepts of grandeur and glory did not conflict with each other as much
as it might be assumed. Loyalty to the Habsburg monarch and a sanctioned
anti-Habsburg self-image went very well together, its inconsistencies caused
no real problems. This split personality syndrome was well-hidden under
the cult of a heavily embellished past. The portraits of those two fierce
antagonists, Francis Joseph and Lajos Kossuth, looked well-matched on the
The consolidation, the peace of the Compromise and the fear of change veiled the glaring contra-diction. Therefore, the voice of criticism, which became stronger and shriller at the beginning of our century, sounded more irritating than valid. Yet it was the critics, those alleged traitors, who proved right in the end.
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