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Oct 1918 - Mar 1919 - Aster Revolution

Military insurrections occurred in Vienna and Budapest 30 October 1918. The victory in Budapest of the liberal-democratic revolution - which became known as the 'Aster Revolution,' after the flowers sported by dissident soldiers. Chrysanthemum-waving crowds poured into the streets shouting their approval. The people and troops proclaimed a republic and a Soldiers and Officers' Council was set up at Vienna. The National Assembly adopted a Constitution in which there was no place left for the crown. The Austro-Hungarian Navy was handed over to the South Slav National Council and the Danube flotilla to the Hungarian Government. The Rumanian Deputies in the Austrian Parliament constituted a separate Rumanian National Assembly Oct. 19.

The Hungarian Cabinet, headed by Dr. Wekerle, and the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister, Baron Burlan, resigned Oct. 20. Count Albert Apponyl was appointed Hungarian Premier. Count Andrassy was appointed Austrian Foreign Minister. He resigned Nov. 2, and on that day a new Hungarian Ministry was formed, headed by Count Karolyi.

A resolution for the complete disunion of Hungary from Austria was introduced by Count Karolyi Oct. 20. A pacific revolution was accomplished at Budapest beginning Oct. 23. A Hungarian National Council and Hungarian Assembly were formed. Riots occurred later, and troops fired on the adherents of Karolyl, who asked Archduke Joseph to appoint him Premier. On Oct. 29 word was received of the formation of an Independent and anti-dynastic State, under the leadership of Count Karolyi, in agreement with the Czechs and South Slavs.

On Oct. 30 the Hungarian Diet adopted a motion declaring that the constitutional relations between Hungary and Dalmatia, Slovenia, and Fiume had ceased to exist and that the relations between Croatia and Austria had been severed. On the night from October 30, to October 31, 1918, after much agitation lasting several months, a revolution broke out in Budapest, the capital of Hungary.

Roving soldiers assassinated Istvan Tisza. Pressured by the popular uprising and the refusal of Hungarian troops to quell disturbances, King Karl was compelled to appoint the "Red Count," Mihaly Karolyi, a pro-Entente liberal and leader of the Party of Independence, to the post of prime minister. Karolyi formed a new cabinet, whose members were drawn from the new National Council, composed of representatives of the Party of Independence, the Social Democratic Party, and a group of bourgeoisie radicals.

Count Michael Karolyi demanded the immediate cessation of hostilities, and the opening of negotiations for the conclusion of a just and lasting peace. After suing for a separate peace, the new government dissolved the parliament, pronounced Hungary an independent republic with Karolyi as provisional president, and proclaimed universal suffrage and freedom of the press and assembly. Universal suffrage might destroy not only the hegemony of the Magyar nobility and gentry in whose hands political power was concentrated, but might, by admitting the non-Magyars to political equality with the Magyars, undermine the supremacy of the Magyars, for the Magyars were in a minority in Hungary, their ascendancy was based on a narrow and artificial franchise.

On Nov. 3 Count Karolyl proclaimed a republic in Hungary. Shortly afterwards a republican form of government was adopted by the Hungarian National Council bused on universal male and female suffrage, and Karolyi was elected temporary president. It was quite logical to have Kadrolyi head this movement, for he had been the leader of the party in the Hungarian Parliament opposed to the alliance with Germany, he had openly, and with considerable risk to his person, avowed his friendship for the Allies, and had been a radical democrat and pacifist. The government launched preparations for land reform and promised elections, but neither goal was carried out. On November 13, 1918, Karl IV surrendered his powers as king of Hungary; however, he did not abdicate, a technicality that made a return to the throne possible.

Had the Allies not unnecessarily opposed, humiliated, deceived and driven into despair the decent and orderly Karolyl Government, not to speak of having given it some well-deserved encouragement, most of the chaos, bloodshed, and suffering later prevailing in eastern Europe could have been avoided and Bolshevism would never have come to power in Hungary.

The Karolyi government's measures failed to stem popular discontent, especially when the Entente powers began distributing slices of Hungary's traditional territory to Romania, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia. The new government and its supporters had pinned their hopes for maintaining Hungary's territorial integrity on abandoning Austria and Germany, securing a separate peace, and exploiting Karolyi's close connections in France.

On November 7, 1918, Count Michael Karolyi, with a staff of experts, went to Belgrad to conclude an armistice with the French general, Franchet d'Esperey, commander of the allied forces in the East. The general treated Karolyi, the head of a noble nation, as no gentleman would think (if treating a servant; he told him he held the fate of Hungary in the hollow of his hand and could destroy her by turning her neighbors loose on her (which they subsequently did); and replied to Karolyi's request to facilitate the importation of coal in order to keep the mills running with these historic woids: "What the hell do you want coal for? A hundred years ago you used windmills. Why can not you get along with them now?"

The armistice dictated by Gen. Franchet imposed very heavy obligations of an economic kind on Hungary. A very considerable part of her military supplies, rolling stock, river boats and live stock was to be handed over to the Allies. The Hungarian Army was to be reduced to five divisions of infantry and one division of cavalry. The territory south of the line of demarcation (which ran, roughly speaking, along the river Maros and continued southwestward on an artificial line across the Tisza and the Danube to the river Drave), viz; one-third of Hungary, was to be open to occupation by the allied or associated armies. The occupation was to be temporary, and the territorial questions were to be settled finally by the peace conference.

There was only one provision in the armistice not unfavorable to Hungary, and that was to the effect that the civil administration even of the occupied territories should remain in the hands of the Hungarian Government, thus assuring the continuance of the centralized system for the distribution of food, coal, and other necessaries of life. It is of importance to note that at that time Hungary had enough food to last until the next harvest: in fact, she had a little surplus which she was willing to give to Vienna or Prague in exchange of certain manufactures and coal. Although the Hungarians speedily fulfilled their obligations, this provision of the armistice was violated by the Allies and their associates from the very first, which is the principal cause of the famine, idleness and anarchy in Hungary.

The western part of the territory laid open to occupation was invaded in November 1918 by the Serbian Army, which was followed in the eastern part by the Roumanian Army in December 1918. The Roumanians were somewhat late, because at the moment of the armistice they had hardly any army worth speaking of. Their first soldiers arriving in Hungary were very badly equipped, many of them wearing straw hats in December and low moccasins instead of shoes or boots. But they were not bashful at all about helping themselves to the military stores in Hungary, and soon looked spick and span.

The first tiling the occupying armies did was to annex the occupied territories, remove all the Hungarian officials who refused to take the oath of allegiance to ihe ruler of the invaders, denationalize the Hungarian schools, and discharge the Hungarian professors and teachers who could or would not teach in the language of the invaders. Exactly the same procedure was followed later by the Czechs who, under the pretext of "occupying strategically important points," overran and forn ally annexed northern Hungary. Of course, all this was contrary not only to the law of tutiuns, but also to the specific provisions of the armistice: nevertheless, the Allic* approved of it and paid no attention to Karolyi's frantic notes of protest.

Karolyi was a pacifist who was opposed to armed resistance, taking the ground that tho occupation of Hungary was only temporary and the Allies would in the end right the wrong. The Entente, however, chose to consider Hungary a partner in the defeated Dual Monarchy and dashed the Hungarians' hopes with the delivery of each new diplomatic note demanding surrender of more land. On March 19, 1919, the French head of the Entente mission in Budapest handed Karolyi a note delineating final postwar boundaries, which were unacceptable to all Hungarians. Karolyi resigned and turned power over to a coalition of Social Democrats and Communists, who promised that Soviet Russia would help Hungary restore its original borders. Although the Social Democrats held a majority in the coalition, the communists under Bela Kun immediately seized control and announced the establishment of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. Bela Kun thought differently and organized a "Red" Army with which he tried to regain some of the territory illegally taken away from Hungary during the armistice.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:00:13 ZULU