The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 2/Slovakia Rises
The May assembly at Liptov, St. Nicholas, was a mile stone in the development of the Slovak rebellion against the Magyars and their co-operation with the Czechs. There for the first time the Slovaks took courage to throw a challenge to their Magyar rulers; they issued a declaration that Slovakia was to form a free and independent republic together with the Czech lands.
Since then news from the Slovak counties of Hungary has been very scarce. This is easily understood. The Magyars received a real scare, when the Slovaks ratified the plan of the Czechs for a united state, plans that have caused so much disquietude in Budapest since May 1917. So now the Magyar rulers closed the boundaries of Hungary against Moravia and Galicia, doubled and tripled the number of frontier guards and took all possible means that no Czech from Bohemia or Moravia should cross the Hungarian boundary into the Slovak counties. In addition to that the Hungarian postoffice prohibited the admission of Czech newspapers into the Hungarian mails, and by all these various means the government of Dr. Weckerle hoped to separate their Slovak subjects from the Czech rebels.
In spite of all the means taken by the government the Slovak leaders were kept informed of what went on beyond the Chinese wall separating them from their brothers to the west. Above all they knew of the exploits of the Czechoslovak army and were proud that the Slovaks, just as much as the Czechs, fought against the Central Powers and their Bolshevik allies. Communication was kept up secretly with the leaders in Prague, and news of the Czech progress trickled in through reports in German newspapers which the Magyars were not able to prevent from entering Hungary.
After a while, when violent methods did not bring results, the Magyar oligarchs decided to use persuasion and offered to compromise. They sent to Slovakia political agents whose task it was to convince the Slovaks that they would be better off by adhering to the Magyars, than by joining the Czechs. As an inducement these agents promised the Slovaks wide autonomy and national self-government within the boundaries of the Hungarian state. But the Slovaks could place no confidence in the socalled democratic promises of Count Karolyi who took particular pains to convince them that he was an enemy of the exist ing arrangement and would be a friend of the Slovaks, if only they would let him. Unfortunately Karolyi is the son-in-law of Count Julius Andrassy, who is known as one of the biggest reactionaries and Magyar chauvinists, who at the outbreak of the war fanned into flame among the Magyar war sentiment, and who never would hear of any rights for the Slovaks. Now Andrassy openly backs the plan of his son-in-law.
Among the Magyars the only element whom the Slovaks would trust were the organized workingmen. For under the rule of Magyar counts the workingmen of Budapest and other Magyar cities were treated as serfs, just like the Slovaks and the other oppressed nationalities of Hungary. Neither the workingmen nor the Slav races had any real representation in the Hungarian parliament. And so the organized labor at their congress held in Budapest on October 12th made common cause with what is known in Hungary as the “nationalities”. In a resolution adopted at this convention it is declared that “the question of nationalities must be solved by mutual agreement and the application of a square deal.” Magyar workingmen hoped that by their efforts Hungary would be come democratic and in every way just, and they appealed to the nationalities to help them in this matter. This declaration did not go far enough, but Josef Diner-Denes, leader of Magyar socialists, wrote on behalf of his party in the Vienna “Arbeiter Zeitung”: “We, the Magyar socialdemocrats, declare plainly and openly that we shall never consent to use armed force against the Slovaks, in case they should decide to join the Czech state.”
All these facts—the government’s offer to the Slovaks, Karolyi’s negotiations with them and the statement of the Magyar workingmen—make it evident that in spite of the absence of all news the Slovaks must have made their Magyar rulers very uneasy. Everybody in Hungary realized that the sentiments and public acts of the Czechs found a ready response among the Slovaks, who had less opportunity and less liberty to say what they wanted.
When Baron Hussarek brought forward his plan to federalize the Austrian half of the empire and met with refusals from all of the Austrian nations with the exception of the Germans, the Magyar aristocracy felt that time was here, when they must break away from Austria, if Magyar rule over Hungary is to be preserved. Preparations were made therefore in Budapest to declare Hungarian independence in the hope that the Allies would look upon it as rebellion against the Germans and forgive the Magyars for their misdeeds of the last four years. For the Slovaks this moment signified the time, when finally they could come out in the open. On November 19 Baron Weckerle was ready to come out in the Budapest parliament with a declaration of independence. The Slovaks, who according to all rules of justice should have had at least 50 deputies in the Hungarian parliament, had managed to elect only two, of whom one, Dr. Blaho, is sick; the other, Ferdinand Juriga, ascended the speaker’s tribune and amid great noise and many insults declared that the Budapest parliament was no longer authorized to bind the Slovaks and that the only authority recognized by the Slovaks was their own national council. He said in part:
“We are near the end of the war, and two great ideals have come victoriously from the war, namely democracy and the self-determination of nations. They will bring again into the world order and peace. Democratization of states can no longer be averted, and this made it necessary that kindred nations should be joined together. The Magyar politicians have realized this, they want to pour new wines into old, rotten wine vessels, but the new wine will burst the old vessels. The Germans and their allies represent the old world, in which force was held up as the greatest thing. Under the new conditions it is no longer possible that at the command of one man, who claims the grace of God for his authority, millions of people should fall on their knees . . . I speak as a member of the Slovak National Council (noise and interruptions). If you could not terrorize me before, when you sent me to jail for two years, now we are living in times when your terror no longer scares any one,—neither me nor the other Slovak leaders. I will say to you what I like.”
He read a declaration of the Slovak National Council:
“The rock which since 1907 pressed down on the Slovak people has been rolled away. It has been shown that a nation desiring to live can not be obliterated. We demand, and demand emphatically, the right of self-determination for our people, so that they may erect their own independent institutions on their own territory. The Slovak nation looks into the future with open eyes; it knows that it will enter into the new world with all its rights. The Slovak nation does not recognize the right of the Budapest parliament to speak in the name of the Slovak people. All decisions taken there concerning the Slovaks are declared by the National Council in the name of the Slovak people to be null and void. We demand the right of self-determination for all the Slav nations of Hungary, for the Rusins, for the Serbians who have no representatives in this parliament, as well as for the Magyars and Germans of Hungary.”
“The Slovak nation expressed its undying and deep gratitude to President Wilson, because he first came out with the idea of liberating the world . . . Count Karolyi and his party need not imagine that they are still fooling the people. The Magyar aristocracy does not care a bit for the Mag yar people, to say nothing about the Slo vaks. If they cared anything for their Mag yar countrymen. Hungary would not be the last country in the world, with the greatest misery, the greatest mortality and the smallest number of schools . . .”
Juriga’s speech was the signal for the outbreak. Shortly after came the news that rebellion broke out in Bohemia and won everything without a shot. In Slovakia the chairman of the national party. Matuš Dula, immediately called a conference of the party at Turčan St. Martin. The conference unanimously adopted a resolution declaring Slovakia to be a part of the new Czechoslovak republic. It elected a national committee of 20 members and de cided to send a delegation to Prague to reach an understanding with the Czech leaders about the manner of uniting Slovakia with the Czech lands. This delegation consisted of Dr. Ivan Derer, Josef Hanzalik and Feodor Houdek. They reached Prague on October 31st and were received by their Czech brothers with immense enthusiasm.
The new Czechoslovak government contains among its members two Slovaks: General Štefanik, minister of war, and Dr. Vavro, Šrobar, minister of public health. Dr. Šrobar was one of the most zealous workers in Slovakia for the Czechoslovak republic and spent most of the current year in jail in the city of Czegled as a political prisoner of the Magyar government.
Just now Count Karolyi seems to be supreme in Budapest, but all those familiarconditions in Hungary feel sure that the day of the Counts is over. The ruling oligarchy, and Count Karolyi with it, will not give up voluntarily their rule over Slovakia and with it their privileges and extensive landed estates situated in the Slovak part of Hungary. But the Magyar democracy which very soon is sure to gain control of Budapest, will not make difficulties against the liberation of Slovakia. In any case the Czechs have already sent an army across the Hungarian frontier which is occupying the Slovak part of the new Czechoslovak republic. The union of Czechs and Slovaks, which the Magyars had separated a thousand years ago, is now a reality.