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Łukasz Nowok

Treaty of Trianon

21 August 2015
  • Great War
  • First World War
  • Treaty of Trianon
  • peace agreement

The story which lead to the the Treaty of Trianon started on June 28th, 1914 in Bosnian Sarajevo, which administratively belonged to the Austrian Empire.

On this day the archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, a heir to the imperial and royal throne, was assassinated. The assassination resulted in the outbreak of World War I, in which two powerful blocs clashed: the Entente and Central Powers. Among the latter the units of the Kingdom of Hungary, which was one of two main parts of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, played a significant military role.

The war

Having achieved some success in the first year of the war, the Austro-Hungarian units were stopped at L’viv foregrounds by the outnumbering them Russian army. However, as early as in May 1915 the Hungarian units succeeded in holding back Italians in the battle ofCaporetto. Eventually, using the support of Kaiser Wilhelm`s army, the Hungarians took up all territory of Romania and part of Serbia. A problem of the Imperial and Royal army was the battle on three fronts which led to bleeding out of the army, increasing aggravation of social mood and decrease of soldiers` morale. In addition to all of that,generaltiredness of the Monarchy nations with the war and provision of supplies to the army only worsened the situation of the fighters. Additionally to all the problems of the fighting Empire there also came the independence movements once again awakened in particular parts of the Monarchy.

The disintegration of the Empire

On November 3rd, 1918, after four years of bloody battles, on behalf of all the Monarchy the Imperial Staff signed a cease-fire with representatives of the Entente. At that time Members of Parliament, who represented particular nations belonging to the Monarchy, had already been submitting declarations on disconnection from Vienna and Budapest. The following days brought proclamations of new states built on the ruins of the Imperial–Royal Empire. As early as on October 31st the royal government in Budapest announced its disconnection from Vienna. Two weeks earlier, on October 14th, the government of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Vienna had agreed to conditional capitulation proposed by President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson; the capitulation was to be signed together with capitulations of other Central Powers.

Nonetheless, that did not solve the problems of the Kingdom of Hungary, which yet before signing the cease-fire had announced the disconnection from the Viennese government. Despite the fact that the Kingdom was not to blame for declaring war, in the future peace treaty it would be treated most severely of all the defeated. In Hungary, after disconnection from the Empire, local communists provoked both an outbreak of revolution and appointment of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, which was the following of the model of Russia. The Allies determining a new order in Europe would not have either enemies or, all the more, communists in the Hungarian capital. With reference to the decision made by the victorious states two large operations destined to get rid of the communists from Hungary were simultaneously performed. In the first operation joint forces of the Czech Republic, Serbia, France and Romania carried out an offensive which pushed the communists to Budapest. The second action was a formation of a national army out of the Hungarian soldiers serving under the Imperial-Royal army. The last commander of Austro-Hungarian Navy and, at the same time, aide-de-camp of Emperor Franz Joseph, admiral Miklos Horthy was put in charge of the army. On November 16th, 1919 admiral Horthy entered the capital city of the Kingdom of Hungary on a white horse, at the head of the National Army. This officially put an end to the existence of the Hungarian Soviet Republic.


A government formed by Horthy faced a difficult task. On the one hand it was supposed to ensure safety and continuity of the Kingdom of Hungary, on the other hand however it was to tackle the peace treaty prepared by the winners. As early as on March, 1st 1920 National Assembly of the Kingdom of Hungary, composed mainly of the monarchists, found admiral Miklos Horthy worthy to receive the title of regent and to entrust him with all competences due to king. 131 out of 141 Members of Parliament and Senators assembled in the Parliament supported this decision. At this point a delegation to Paris to conduct peace talks was sent from the kingdom without a king. An ardent nationalist, count Albert Apponyi was in charge of it.

On June 4th 1920, in Grand Trianon Palace in Versailles the peace treaty, which officially put an end to Great War, was presented to the Hungarian delegation. From the Kingdom’s side count Apponyi was to sign it. Nonetheless, as soon as he had read the text of the treaty, he ostentatiously left the palace, thus implying that signing it was a disgracing activity. Eventually, under pressure from the Entete states representatives, at 4.32 pm the treaty was signed by a Hungarian ambassador in Paris and Minister of Health (both were members of the Kingdom’s delegation). Having signed the treaty both politicians withdrew from public life.

Not only did the treaty force the Hungarians to pay for war reparations, but it also unfairly punished them for the outbreak of war. According to the provisions the Kingdom of Hungary was supposed to waive nearly seventy per cent of its territory. Thereby only 93 thousand square kilometres out of previous 325 thousand stayed with Budapest. In addition, the number of people decreased from 21 million inhabitants to 8 million and almost 5 million Hungarians stayed outside the imposed borders. According to the treaty the Kingdom was cut by Transylvania, Slovakia, Croatia, Banat, Bačka, Trans-Carpathian Ruthenia and Burgenland. Only in Burgenland, however, in the face of a danger of people's uprising a plebiscite was carried out, by virtue of which Sopron and its surroundings came back to Hungary. Furthermore, the winners demanded from the Hungarians limitation of the army to 35 thousand soldiers and abolition of common military service. It was also forbidden to have aviation and navy, but the latter would be impossible after depriving the Hungarians of access to the sea. The amount of the existing armament factories was also limited, the Hungarians circumvent this ban, though. They significantly increased the production in the mills left to them, thanks to which as early as in mid-July they were able to send over one hundred million missiles destined for use in war with Bolsheviks to the Republic of Poland. Another provision of the treaty, which was meant to prevent Hungarians from striving for possible military development, was a ban on construction of multiple-trackrailway lines.

On June 4th, 1920 the nation plunged into mourning. Bells rung in churches, funeral services were held, newspapers appeared with black edges resembling obituaries, on that day all offices, schools and shops were closed, at 4.30 pm all public transport stopped for five minutes, flags were lowered at half-mast as a sign of mourning. The flags stayed in this position as late as till 1938, when in cooperation with The Third Reich a revision of the disgraceful treaty was performed for the first time.

The times of Horthy

Both regent Horthy governing the Kingdom, and all nation did not reconcile with the conditions imposed by the Allies. A French Minister, Georges Clemencau, assured a possibility to revise the treaty according to both an ethnographic criterion and a status of the League of Nations. The first revision took place as late as in 1938, though, when after closer connection of the Kingdom with the Third Reich within the frames of Viennese arbitrationHungary obtained the border with the Republic of Poland at the cost ofCzechoslovakia, and two years later after the second arbitration they received the northern Transylvania at the cost of Romania. After World War II within the frames of the Treaty of Paris signed in 1947 Hungary lost its territorial acquisition again.

Until now the Treaty of Trianon has been treated as a symbol of national treason. For couple of years, on June 4th at 4.32 pm bells of all churches in Budapest have rung in token of mourning.

Łukasz Nowok