The New Europe/Volume 5/Austria, Hungary and the Slavs

The New Europe, vol. V, no. 62 (1917)
Austria, Hungary and the Slavs
4041094The New Europe, vol. V, no. 62 — Austria, Hungary and the Slavs1917

Austria, Hungary and the Slavs

[In No. 59 of The New Europe we published a detailed report of the important Polish debate of 9 November in the Austrian Parliament, in the course of which a number of prominent Slav deputies attacked Hungary for its share in provoking the war and its gross oppression of the non-Magyar nationalities. This gave rise to a whole series of interpellations and protests in the Hungarian Parliament, the following summary of which throws considerable light upon the Magyar political outlook.]

Baron Perényi fiercely denounced the “disgraceful, impertinent and criminal” attacks of the Czechs upon Hungary’s integrity.

“Worse than the highwayman who by armed force tries to rob me of my property, is the burglar who uses my momentary embarrassment in order to stretch out a greedy hand towards my jealously guarded treasures.” The treasonable activity of the Czechs will be greeted by the Entente and will provide Mr. Lloyd George with material for one of his great speeches. “I would gladly assume that only a few individuals had degraded themselves to be agents of the Entente and pupils of Masaryk, Koníček or Kopecki; of Masaryk who till now only wanted to make a republic of Bohemia, but now, according to his statement in the Daily Chronicle, would like to divide up the whole monarchy between Czechs, Italians, Serbs, and Roumanians; of Koniček-Gorski, who aimed at an autonomous Czech kingdom under a Russian Grand Duke, or of Kopecki, who has selected an English prince as king. Unhappily it is not a mere matter of individuals, but, as the Premier has admitted, of great and powerful parties.

“Worst of all, these impertinent statements were made in the Austrian Parliament without being refuted by the President or the Premier or anyone else. Qui tacet, consentire videtur. Roman law adds that silence may be regarded as consent, if in the event of a contrary opinion existing a protest would have been fitting or necessary. And if ever a protest were fitting or necessary, as the most elementary claim of alliance and comradeship, then this was such an occasion, and those who neglected this duty became, voluntarily or involuntarily, accomplices of this criminal onslaught on Hungary.”

In Austria there was a systematic agitation going on against Hungary, which was, he went on to argue, blamed for all the faults of food distribution in Austria itself. In conclusion, Baron Perényi declined to enter into polemics with the Czechs (sic!), but would merely say to them: “Neither 13 nor 3 counties, not one foot of Hungarian soil will we allow to be stolen from us. What they want, let them conquer by force of arms! Let them send the notorious Czech brigades against us![1] But we also have a serious word to address to those Austrians who were till now our comrades, who have a heart for the Monarchy’s interests, and are trustworthy supporters of the dynasty. Where do they think it will lead if they allow the peoples of Austria to be incited still further against us, and put no break upon this hatred and passion? Are they not afraid lest in Hungary also great and powerful parties might arise, whose only watchword was: ‘Down with the false friends! Away from Austria!'? Halt, before it is too late, and remember that those who work at the break-down of Hungary are digging Austria’s grave!”

Count Andrássy on Magyar loyalty.

After a speech from Mr. Polónyi (the notorious Minister of Justice in the second Wekerle Cabinet, 1906–7), who argued that the formation of an independent Hungarian army was the only way of stopping such intrigues, the House was addressed by Count Julius Andrássy. He professed not to feel any alarm as to the national and federalist aspirations of the Czechs, Southern Slavs and Ukrainians: for the events of this war have shown that Hungary is the surest support of the Monarchy, while the tendencies of the Czechs are a grave danger for the dynasty and the Monarchy. We (Magyars) devoted all our powers to the cause of the Monarchy and the dynasty, and we did this from duty, loyalty and also egoism. Count Széchenyi in 1848 summoned the nation to support the dynasty and assure to the Magyars a dominant rôle. At that time it was impossible, because there were vital differences between the outlook of the dynasty and of the Magyar nation, and because the dynasty stood for interests in foreign policy with which the nation had nothing in common. What was then impossible has now happened without a Széchenyi, without any great men: the nation has itself felt the interests of the dynasty and of the nation to be identical and placed all its forces at the service of the throne.”

The Czechs, on the other hand, Count Andrássy continued, have proved disloyal, and part of their troops have joined the enemy. As there is no Czech army to enforce their claims by conquering Hungary they could only attain their aims in one way, by revolution; “and to admit openly such a policy is only calculated to weaken them and strengthen us. They think that with the Amnesty a political course was ushered in, such as justifies them in putting forward such claims. I believe them to be radically mistaken!” Meanwhile, from the standpoint of the Monarchy as a whole, “it is undoubtedly most harmful that the Slavs follow so revolutionary a policy. That can only lead to the collapse of Austria! It is to our interest that side by side with a strong Hungary there should be a strong Austria.” Hence every possible step must be taken to suppress such tendencies. “It is quite certain that we can reckon in every way upon the support of His Majesty, both on account of his whole outlook (Denkart), of his interests of self-preservation and of the oath which he has taken to oppose every effort to violate Hungary’s integrity. At first I, too, was hurt that the President of the Austrian Parliament did not find one word to repel the attacks against us, and that the Austrian Premier was also silent. If this meant that all the elements in the Austrian Parliament approve these attacks, then the Monarchy would really be faced by a grave crisis. In that case a further common life between these two States of the Monarchy would be impossible. Happily this is not yet proved. In the same sitting other invectives were uttered, which neither President nor Premier can have approved, but which were not reproved. An Ukrainian deputy declared that Austria and the dynasty were hostile to the Ukrainians, and that the Poles were hangman’s assistants; but he was not called to order. . . . Another deputy asked whether the Foreign Minister was a gentleman; but was not called to order. Another speaker spoke of the self-determination of nations as the sole foundation of peace. Even this remark could be made without its authors being called to order.” This sequence of crime throws a highly significant light upon the Magyar attitude towards national questions.

Count Andrássy ended by declaring that Hungary should not follow an anti-Slav policy. “But, on the other hand, we must act with the greatest energy against these excesses, and use all our influence to prevent Dualism being replaced by Federalism, which would make these small nations independent of Austria and render it possible for them, as equals, to place us in a minority over important common questions. . . . To give these forces the right to interfere in our common affairs as special autonomous States would be equivalent to consciously destroying the power of the Monarchy.”

Dr. Wekerle denounces federalism.

The Premier, Dr. Wekerle, in his reply, dealt at some length with “the grave and shameless attacks” levelled against Hungary, and paraded the stock phrase re-echoed by three whole generations of Magyar Jingoes, that “nowhere in the world is there so much individual liberty as in Hungary.” He assured the House that every possible step was being taken to prevent Czech agitation among the Slovaks of Hungary. He announced that he had presented both to the Austrian Premier and to His Majesty a detailed memorandum denouncing the Slav claims as both unjust and incompatible with Hungarian interests, and demanding that steps be taken to punish such attacks in the future, and to employ the censorship against them. “They cannot be tolerated, and in my memorandum I pointed out that these things make our co-operation difficult.” Without going so far as to suggest that they endangered the Compromise of 1867 [on which the Dual System rests], he had reminded His Majesty that they were dangerous from the standpoint of Austria. “And as it concerns us, too, whether our neighbour Austria is organised on a federalist or dualist basis, I went so far as to declare that unless the ground were energetically cut away from under these intrigues, the process of dissolution must begin.

The crown favours dualism.

“These Slav aspirations must be revised and that on the present Dualist basis and a determined policy must be adopted against them. . . . The best guarantee against them is unity, and that is our strong and impregnable fortress, if the golden band which unites us is strengthened by the support of the Crown. And to prove its impregnable character I venture, with His Majesty’s permission, to announce his declaration, that there is not even the bare possibility of His Majesty’s not employing all his authority to nullify efforts directed against the lawful independence or territorial integrity of the Hungarian State. . . .

Roused by these Magyar declarations, the Slav deputies in the Reichsrat (Messrs. Stanek, Kovošec, Klofač, Hruban, Tusar, etc.) interpellated the Austrian Premier as to his attitude in this matter, reaffirming their national demands and warningthe Governments not to drag the Crown into political disputes, if only for the reason that, in these times, such a step could have no her practical result save to bring home with added force to the peoples whose interests and aspirations are thereby affected, the painful difference between a people which enjoys State independence and sovereignity and a people which has been deprived of its independence.

The Austrian Premier condemns federalism.

This drew a long statement from Dr. von Seidler, who referred to certain assurances given by him to the Hungarian Government in the constitutional question. “I was all the more bound to do so, because certain Austrian parties take up an attitude which really conflicts with the integrity of Hungary’s constitutional structure, and especially with the Dual System. What I had to say to the Hungarian Premier in this connection cannot have been new to him and in the same way I really do not think I am telling the House anything new if I try to sum up what I had already several times expressly stated.” With these extremely vague phrases Dr, von Seidler turned to the problem of constitutional reform in Austria itself, and laid down as the two fundamental points: (1) “the assertion of the unity of the Austrian State”; and (2) “the maintenance of the existing frontiers of each province (Kronland).”

“We all know of those efforts which aim at placing the individual units of the Austrian State in a looser relation to it and to each other; and in so far as those who hold this view honestly wish to contribute by such reconstruction to the welfare to the Austrian State as a whole under the Habsburg Crown, they certainly deserve all respect. But I must emphasize that such views do not coincide with the programme of the Government, which holds that any loosening of the State structure would not be of advantage to the State or to its component parts. It would in any case be quite impossible to try to solve such problems during the war. If, however, the aim of such tendencies is to get our enemies to enforce by means of peace conditions what could only come into being from within and by the will of the State as a whole, then such tendencies must be most strongly condemned and rejected.

“In maintaining the existing provincial frontiers, the decisive idea is that the Crown lands, as they are to-day, are organisms of historic growth, and are alive in the popular consciousness, and consequently that no organic change in our constitutional development could ignore these fundamental elements in the State.” (Protests.) He concluded by assuring Hungarian public opinion that the Austrian Government is planning nothing which could in any way impair the inviolability of Hungarian territory, or that foundation of the State, the Dual System, and that it must repudiate any tendencies towards such an upheaval.”

Nothing could be more explicit than these pronouncements, and we hope that they will be taken to heart by the sentimentalists in Entente countries, who would have us believe that the Emperor Charles and his ministers are planning some far-reaching scheme of liberty and federalism.

  1. A reference to the Czech volunteers in the Russian Army who distinguished themselves under Brusilov.

This work was published in 1917 and is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 106 years or less since publication.

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