pdfVolume 3 Issue 3 CONTENTS

Gábor Demeter and Krisztián Csaplár-Degovics

Social Conflicts, Changing Identities and Everyday Strategies of Survival in Macedonia on the Eve of the Collapse of Ottoman Central Power (1903–12)

The present study aims to identify certain social dividing lines, fractures and motivations that accelerated the rise in political murders and everyday violence after the Ilinden Uprising. The contribution of foreign intervention (including both the attempts of the great powers to settle the question and the propagandistic activity of neighboring small states) and local traditions (customs) to the nature and extent of violence are also investigated. The authors will also consider the shift in the support policy of neighboring small states from construction to destruction—including the issues of economic benefit and local acceptance at a time when selection of an identity no longer entailed only advantages, but imposed threats as well. During this period the boundaries between the various types of violent action triggered either by religious and school conflict or customs gradually faded, while Chetas became highly organized and self-subsistent through cultivation and smuggling of opium and tobacco and expropriation of state and private property. In order to trace the territorial and cultural patterns of violence as well as specific and general motives, the authors conducted a statistical analysis of quantitative data regarding victims and perpetrators.

The study is based on the comparison of Austro–Hungarian and Bulgarian archival sources in order to check the reliability of data. The study area—the Sanjak of Skopje in Kosovo Vilayet—is suitable for examining problems related to the birth of modern nations: the ethnic and religious diversity of this sanjak makes it possible to investigate both the tensions that existed within and between the Eastern Orthodox and Muslim religious communities as well as the impact of small states with territorial pretensions on this region.

Keywords: everyday violence, Macedonia, IMRO, victims, perpetrators

Introduction

In the aftermath of the 1878 Great Eastern Crisis, the remainder of the Balkan Peninsula had irreversibly become a frontier zone1 of the Ottoman Empire, a territory in which the collapsing central government was in direct contact with the rival great powers and the dynamically modernizing nation states nurturing expansive ambitions. This new situation sparked violence on the Ottoman side of the border, aggression that authorities either failed or did not even attempt to stop. By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, Ottoman central power almost totally collapsed in the Kosovo Vilayet, leaving a vacuum for the propagandistic activity of small states. This manifested itself in the competition for souls, schools and religious posts between Serbians and Bulgarians proclaiming nationalistic views and aspirations abroad (a revival of ethnic mapping) and in the establishment of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) in 1893. This initial phase of the Macedonian question culminated in an attempt to relieve the oppressed peasantry in the course of the Ilinden Uprising in 1903 with the active contribution of 15,000 guerillas and the local population.2 The subsequent plundering of 100 villages committed mainly by irregular Ottoman forces finally elicited the intervention of great powers to secure peace in the European Ottoman provinces. The suppression of the Ilinden Uprising and the cooperation of Macedonian nations provided a warning to Greece as well, prompting the vigorous awakening Greek propaganda.

The present study3 focuses on the period after the Ilinden Uprising until the outbreak of the Balkan Wars, and aims to identify certain social dividing lines, fractures and motivations that accelerated the escalation of everyday violence. The authors will also investigate territorial and cultural patterns of violence, specific and general motives as well as the contribution of foreign intervention (including both the attempts of the great powers to settle the question and the propagandistic activity of neighboring small states) and local tradition (customs) to the nature and extent of violence. The authors have also examined changes in the support policy of neighboring small states, including the issues of economic benefit and local acceptance at a time when the selection of an identity no longer entailed only advantages, but imposed threats as well.

The location to be investigated is the ethnically mixed Sanjak of Skopje in Kosovo Vilayet (organized in 1875–78) between the years 1903 and 1912 with a view toward the neighboring territories in order to assess the specific or general character of the evaluated events. The study area is suitable for analyzing problems related to the birth of modern nations: due to the ethnic and religious heterogeneity in the Sanjak of Skopje, tensions within and between its Eastern Orthodox and Muslim religious communities can be easily identified and demonstrated (Map 1, Table 1). Moreover, the sanjak was located close to the borders of small states with territorial pretensions toward this administrative unit of the Ottoman Empire, thereby adding an extra ingredient to the boiling pot.

In using the expression “everyday violence,” the authors refer to those acts of violence which took place among the civil population on a daily basis and were not connected to the law-enforcement activity of the authorities (military reprisals, border clashes, etc.).4 The theory of Georg Elwert provided an important methodological basis for the present work. He stresses that the weakening of the state creates a market and demand for violence in society (Gewaltmärkte), which is operated by communities organized for trading in violence and coercive measures as commodities (Gewaltgemeinschaften). These Gewaltgemeinschaften [vendors] are formed primarily for economic reasons, though economic factors are also abundant on the demand side as well (economic rivalry between groups over scarce resources usually appears under the guise of ideological conflict and in the form of prejudice against “the other”). These groups, which gradually take control over the monopoly over the use of force from the state, have their own dynamics, including operating conditions and laws.5

This phenomenon was examined primarily by sociologists and historians through case studies, concentrating on the reasons for violence and the formation of communities trading in violence. However, the internal cohesion and integrative power of these structures, as well as their regulative functions and social spheres of action are considered to be under-investigated. The uniqueness of this study is that it approaches the problem from economic aspects as well, stressing that special economic conditions triggered and accelerated the escalation, ethnicization and nationalization of violence in Macedonia. The authors would also like to draw attention to the practice (Gewaltpraxis) and yearly cycle of violence. Beyond the social life and background of Gewaltgemeinschaften, the victims of violence can also be examined at different levels.6

This investigation utilizes a special type of source—the observations of Austro–Hungarian consuls regarding everyday violence in comparison with contemporary Bulgarian consular reports. From a methodological point of view, a combination of Austro–Hungarian and Bulgarian archival sources (a comparison of data obtained from independent observers and participants in events) can be used in order to avoid partiality, since even the different terminology in Austrian and Bulgarian documents reflects differences in interpretation of the events.7 The re-interpretation of some sources using a comparative approach would also be worthwhile.

The limits of this study do not allow us to examine the origin of all fault lines and interactions: the authors therefore focus on the tensions between Muslims and Christians and the antagonism between Patriarchists and Exarchists.8 This chapter applies a statistical analysis of quantitative data regarding victims and perpetrators, tracing patterns, differences and general features. Analysis of selected individual case studies and the role of economic background will be published elsewhere.

 

Nationality

Kaza

Total

Skopje

Kumanovo

Kriva Palanka

Kratovo

Kočani

Maleš (Osmanie)

Radovište

Štip

(Ištib)

Veles

(Köprülü)

Albanian

Muslim

21,387

5,595

7,800

1,500

36,282 (10%)

Slav

Exarchist (Bulgarian)

25,921

23,710

22,141

17,391

16,524

16,536

7,622

19,472

29,394

178,711 (50%)

Patriarchist

4,406

8,358

108

954

1,090

288

4,130

19,334 (5.5%)

Muslim (Pomak)

5,600

9,234

5,242

20,076 (5.5%)

Aromun

360

120

102

1,680

 

900

3,162 (1%)

Ottoman (Muslim)

9,949

6,765

1,929

3,815

11,600

425

10,464

25,764

12,512

83,223 (23%)

Gypsies

2,404

1,008

336

336

712

485

390

378

664

6,713 (2%)

Total

72,789

45,784

24,514

22,604

39,406

26,968

18,476

46,094

54 357

350,992

 

Table 1. Ethnic composition in the kazas of the Sanjak of Skopje in 1903 based on Austro–Hungarian consular reports.9 Minorities such as Greeks and Jews that composed under one percent of the population are omitted.

 

However, prior to the discussion of the social conflicts, it is necessary to make some general remarks in order to place the subject of our investigation in its historical (and historiographical) context. In this article, the authors aimed to investigate whether analysis in earlier scholarly works regarding the main fault lines or the nature and forms of violence can be considered realistic and if this analysis can be validated using a larger database and numerous concrete examples or whether it should be revised.

First general remark. As a consequence of the Tanzimat reforms, the differences between Muslims and Christians had been gradually diminishing, which deeply frustrated the Muslim community that was in the process of losing its privileges. However, economic inequality did not decrease as the landlords were mainly Muslims, which frustrated the Christians, who remained economically subjugated to the landlords (half of Macedonian land was in large estates called chiflik, while one-third was in waqf [Islamic land endowment] and only the remaining one-sixth was in the hand of freeholders in 1910).10 And since not all Muslims were rich, the abolition of their privileged position eliminated the last factor that differentiated them from the Christian rayah. These Muslim inhabitants of the central Balkans formed one of the most conservative religious groups in the empire, refusing to live within the framework of a modern state and harboring no desire to be treated equally to Christians. Therefore the reforms satisfied neither Muslims nor Christians, nor did they reinforce trust towards the viability of the state. The reforms had brought about confrontation between the Muslims and the central government, but the true victim of their anger and frustration was the local Christians, whom the state failed to protect. After 1878 the situation deteriorated further when 40,000 Muslim refugees from Bosnia and the Sanjak of Niš arrived to Kosovo Vilayet (constituting one-third of the population in Priština, a quarter of the population in both Vučitrn and Gilan and ten percent of the population of Skopje).11 At the same time, vengeful neighboring small states were established. These muhajir families had lost everything they had during the war and the Ottoman government declined to provide them with support. Fleeing from the Austro–Hungarian occupation or from the Serbian army, the absence of state support and the pressing need to provide for their families prompted these refugees to take desperate measures. They expelled thousands of the local Slavic peasant families, mainly from eastern Kosovo, which then fled to Serbia (Mala Seoba). The Muslim refugees, however, assimilated with the local society over the long term, and thus formed a social stratum in the province that could be best characterized by its constant restlessness.12

Second general remark. By the final third of the nineteenth century, the social changes that had reached the Balkans had transformed or abolished the majority of the formerly existing identity patterns. This world was in transition in a religious, social and economic sense as well. The identity of the local, South Slavic-speaking Eastern Orthodox peasantry was also in crisis, though it was not the recognition of Christians as equal citizens that challenged this identity. This occurrence took place too late, as it almost coincided with the birth of modern nationalistic ideas in the neighboring small states—and as mentioned earlier, equal citizenship did not represent a real alternative, since neither Muslims nor Christians were satisfied with the reforms.13 The arrival of nationalism created new fault lines within the population, such as religion had earlier, but without erasing the old differences. The several types and layers of identities were overlapping one another, creating chaos in minds, rivalry between the political ideologies (loyal-liberal and nationalistic-revolutionary) and an upsurge in social change, which was exploited by national movements. The latter current was more popular, partly because it offered a solution to social inequalities as demonstrated in IMRO’s response to the land hunger of peasants. Furthermore, in the present case,14 not only religious and nationalistic divisions tended to face one another at the same time,15 but in addition to the collision of competing internal ideologies, an external threat also manifested itself as a transmitter of the nationalistic idea, which offered a real alternative (a smallholder society with private property) for the oppressed.

While in the Ottoman Empire opportunity for an essentially sectarian identity to develop and transform into something new (the “Ottoman nation”) arose at a rather slow pace, the numerous and elaborated national ideologies suddenly seemed to “flood” the local population. And soon enough, a violent rivalry broke out among the representatives of the different South Slav national creeds.16 These ideologies were no longer (or not only) promoted or propagated by the national church subjected to/or allies of the Ottoman state, but by patriot foreigners from the nation states built on a secular society or by the local intelligentsia, resulting as well in a multiplication of agents and ideologies, which presented average people with a difficult choice.17

 

Map 1. Kaza-level religious and ethnic map of the Sanjak of Skopje by Zsolt Bottlik

The Background of Tensions and the Social and Spatial Patterns of Violence

Nationality and denominational-sectarian conflicts claimed the most victims in Skopje Sanjak in the period from 1903 to 1908. The conflict can be classified into three major groups, two of which are under investigation in this study. The first type of religious conflict is represented by the rivalry between Patriarchists and Exarchists beginning in the 1870s.18 Since the Skopje Sanjak was a collision zone of interests (spornata zona, contested zone) located between Serbia and Bulgaria, this phenomenon is not unique, although the proportion of Patriarchists did not exceed 10 percent compared to the 50 percent of Exarchists. However, these tensions were not limited to this region—the same phenomena occured in the Vilayet of Bitola (Monastir), Shkodra (Iškodra) and Saloniki (Selanik). This is demonstrated by the case of the Eastern Orthodox secondary grammar school in Prizren at the turn of the century; the Bogoslovie conflict that led to the cancellation of several school years as the result of constant fighting between pro-Bulgarian and pro-Serbian factions and during which the reciprocal murder of Serboman and Bulgarian Orthodox priests continued until the arrival of a “neutral” clergyman sympathizing with Austria–Hungary; as well as some cases in the series of Karadag incidents from 1907 (see below).19 Atrocities over debated symbolic places usually dominated in the first phases of these conflicts, followed by struggles against symbolic personalities and culminating in the fight against the local population.

From a sectarian aspect, the Muslim–Christian conflicts (second type) proved to be the most serious among the peasantry in Kosovo Vilayet. A typical source of conflict was the Muslim raids on Christian churches, the perpetrators of which were hardly ever captured by Ottoman law-enforcement forces. The latter often encouraged such attacks in order to punish Cheta (četa) groups, but it had greater impact on the civilian population than on paramilitary groups. A good example of this type of attack is a February 12, 1907 Muslim Albanian raid in which Eastern Orthodox churches in the villages of Zubovce, Požaranje and Galata near Gostivar were ransacked and burned down. These villages were maintained jointly by the Serbian and Bulgarian religious communities of Gostivar, where the denominational identity was still stronger, than national identity. However, the delinquents were known to be Muslim Albanians originating from surrounding villages, the authorities did nothing in spite of the fact that even foreign consuls were voicing protest to the Grand Vizier.20 We must also stress that this sectarian dividing line was not identical to dividing lines between nationalities: for example, in Shkodra Vilayet (today west Kosovo), the Muslim Albanians launched attacks on the shrines of the local Christian Albanians as well.21

The third type of religious conflict took place between Muslim communities (Bektaşi–Sunni; rural–urban; citizen–official). Our statistical analysis will stress that conflict of this type was not negligible in the Skopje Sanjak. The three types of conflict often appeared together in the same area: sometimes their motives can be traced back to sectarian differences, sometimes to customs law, though they can also be attributed to economic, social or personal antagonism and were often encouraged by foreign pressure.

The Skopska Crna Gora (Karadag) Mountains, located north of Skopje, represented one of the major hotspots of nationalistic tension beginning in 1907 (the same was true for the kazas of Kriva Palanka, Kočani and Radovište), as this was the zone in which Albanian, Serbian and Bulgarian interests collided and overlapped. (Serbian refugees from Stara Srbija had settled here in numerous villages between 1689 and 1739, and these refugees were not obedient to the Bulgarian Exarchate). Conflict broke out following a number of unrelated murders. One of the killing sprees was provoked by Serbians when they attacked an Albanian village led by Voivode Petko Ilić. Another incident took place in the village of Brodec: during a raid Bulgarian attackers killed two Serbian men and kidnapped seven more whom were never found. The motives remained unknown in both cases. In addition to the constant Bulgarian and Serbian propaganda and the activity of infiltrating irregular foreign troops, the situation was exacerbated further by the fact that the peasants of Skopska Crna Gora lived in traditional communities in which unwritten customs of the family blood feud entailed obligations on family members. The two series of events infuriated the local communities, which wished to avenge the dead. A few months later everybody was fighting with one another. In this case, the local conflicts stemmed from the consequences of local customs over which state law had seemingly no authority whatsoever,22 while the presence of foreign influence complicated the situation even further. Authorities did nothing, although the local people had asked not only them, but the consulates of the great powers to intervene as well. The subsequent peace negotiations were led by an Archimandrite from a local monastery named Sava, who unsuccessfully tried to make peace based on unwritten customs instead of official law. Although his efforts were thwarted by the local Albanians, who did not wish to give besa for the peace, his activity clearly illustrates that local people did not trust the official Ottoman administrators and that local customs were much more authoritative than imperial law.23

Problems occurred not only at the Ottoman–Serbian border, but by 1907 along the Bulgarian frontier zone as well. Here the local traditions were exacerbated by the propaganda and paramilitary activity of small states. The equality of citizens meant nothing in these periphery areas where local communities and identities were still stronger than the imperial identity that attempted to secure/impose civil rights. These traditional communities became more susceptible to nationalism if it occurred together with the defense of local interests and traditions. The Bulgarian consul in Skopje enumerated in a notebook more than 750 cases of violence committed by Serbs and Greek bands in 1906–07. The list starts with the activity of Georgi Kapitan, who crossed the border with his Serbian Cheta and captured six hostages in two raids, then returned to Skopska Crna Gora, which served as his hinterland.24 It was a perfect base of operations: while promoting Serbian objectives, at the same time Kapitan could also avenge the previously cited atrocities committed against his host community. Local aspirations and state priorities intertwined, and those taken captive could never be sure whether they were being held for ransom to promote the Serbian cause or would be victims of blood feud.

Even more interesting, two more Serbian Chetas were reported from the region of Kratovo and Štip in January 1907 in spite of the bad weather conditions and the fact that the location was far away from the Skopska Gora borderland. (The bands often operated far away from their hideouts in distant kazas to hinder the activity of authorities). These attacks were of different character: in February, Ivan Stajkov kidnapped the starešinas (chiefs, elders) of Stariprad village and forced the village to declare its loyalty to Serbia by taking up Serbian identity.25 These acts were definitely not connected to any vengeful act.

These changes in national consciousness were not permanent or irreversible: in many cases villages changed their identity quickly, if another Cheta appeared. Even religious and national categories were often mixed within a village. The intruders usually inquired about the nationality of residents (Serb, Bulgarian, Greek), though priests answered according to religious category (Exarchist, Patriachist), which did not satisfy the intruders.26 The timing of the above-mentioned raids has more significance than the acts themselves: these events took place in winter, and cannot be explained by simple banditry, the goal of which was to collect food and other means of subsistence. Since the villagers stayed in their dwellings during winter, an attack on them was riskier during this period than during the summer, when potential victims were working in the fields. Therefore the previously mentioned Cheta groups can be regarded as well-trained, organized and determined units in comparison to a simple band of robbers without deep-rooted nationalistic commitments.27

Thus at least three different motives of Cheta activities can be discerned: their aims could be social (local revenge), economic (self-sustainment or weakening the economic basis of the enemy) or political (promoting national propaganda). Political results could also be achieved through the former two motives. Very often the frequency of the raids showed yearly fluctuation. During spring, the exhausted raw core of Chetas gained strength and supplies in the villages of target areas, and by wandering from village to village (partly for security reasons, partly in order to gather men for their cause), increased their number to between 20 and 40 men. Todor Alexandrov commanded a band of this type in Kratovo kaza in 1910.28 The peak of their activity was the late summer, when villagers collected the harvest far from their relatively secure dwellings. Winter attacks were quite rare: local people referred to snow as the “white police,” which was more efficient than the Ottoman authorities or the international gendarmerie operated by the great powers between 1903–08.29 Increased winter activity can be regarded as a peculiarity of Chetas supported by small states, while their other feature is the relatively great number of Cheta-band members. For example, the Cheta of Ivan Stajkov consisted of 30 men in February,30 which means that it was more than the “bare core.”

Based on the above mentioned, two general tendencies began to gain ground concerning the organizational basis of Chetas following the turn of the century. The first was that denominational (sectarian) and national categories were mixed and combined in all conceivable ways (similarly to the goals and motifs explained earlier). The second was that at the same time a new social stratum emerged in the vilayet: being a Cheta member became a lifestyle. Its members were destitute and therefore radical men (regardless of their religion or nationality) who simply tried to profit from the chaos.31 Besides the irregular troops arriving from abroad, which were fighting to realize national ambitions, and local revolutionary forces (like IMRO), these mercenary bands32 also created their own armed corps and under the banner of national goals they essentially lived off the terrorized population, as they could be hired to intimidate and assassinate local leaders. These groups were often balancing between banditry, freedom fighting, terrorism, and sometimes even functioned as auxiliary forces of Ottoman authorities (when maintaining public order or leading punitive actions). At any rate, this had a long tradition in Balkan countries.33 Several photographs of these frequently multi-ethnic or religiously mixed bands can be found in the military archives of the great powers (Photo 1). These Cheta leaders could easily be convinced to change their allegiances. The same happened to Ivan/Jovan Babunski, former Bulgarian Cheta leader from village Martulica, considered to be a Serbian agent from 1907 on, who tried to intimidate the dwellers of Kriva-Kruša (Veles) as described in a letter captured by the Bulgarian Lieutenant Colonel Nedkov in Skopje.34

The social acceptance of the phenomenon (band activity) was not unequivocal. Balogh mentioned that by the end of the eighteenth century, ten percent of Christians (and one-third of young men) had been involved in such a movement at least once in their lifetime.35 This proportion was even higher in Macedonia at the beginning of the twentieth century. IMRO had 35,000 supporters in 1906 in the Skopje Sanjak, constituting more than ten percent of the Ottoman administrative unit’s population. Considering that IMRO was an organization that relied mostly on Exarchists (promoting Macedo-Bulgarian or Bulgarian interests),36 one cannot avoid the assumption that all Exarchist households were conscripted as sympathizers of the IMRO (Table 2): this is the only reason that could explain the high ratio of supporters of IMRO compared to Exarchist families37 (25 percent on average, each head of family). However, supporting the IMRO was still a better choice than to fall victim to a hired band (without genuine political commitment).

Nevertheless, this does not mean that these men were activists, able and willing to fight at any time, but rather that they were used as messengers or that their infrastructure (animals, storage places) was exploited by activists. Furthermore, those who were conscripted (even if they remained passive toward the cause) had to pay the “revolutionary tax.” This—in addition to the official tithe that at that time was around 12–15 percent—represented a further additional burden, paid willingly or under coercion.38 This financial resource, though important, was not the sole source of income for the IMRO. Beyond this, foreign support and regular economic activities (see later) were regarded a major sources of revenue as well.

One must conclude that these people were considered primarily to be a taxable population rather than real fighters (and their willingness to fight may be also questioned), because according to a report from 1906, the 6,000 IMRO supporters in the Skopje kaza possessed only 250 rifles (including 190 old Berdans) with 17,000 cartridges and 85 revolvers with 1,550 bullets (Table 2).39 Generally only one-tenth of the supporters had rifles, and the highest ratio was measured in Kočani and Štip (11–13 percent). Here the ammunition-to-weapon ratio was over 100 (explaining the escalation of violence in 1911–12) and the ratio of older weapons was extremely high. We may assume that older weapons from the Crimean War were stored at home by peasants due to the deterioration in public security,40 while Mannlichers and revolvers had been distributed among active members through smuggling.

 

Photo 1. An example of hiring people of different ethnic background for the national cause: the ethnically and religiously mixed Chetas of the Serbian First Lieutenant Gutriković in Kaza Kumanovo 1908. Source and copyright: Kriegsarchiv (Vienna) AOK-Evidenzbureau, Kt. 3483.41

 

Kidnapping, ransom, mass theft of animals, blackmail, threatening letters, the disinterest of Ottoman authorities and bribery, as Ikonomov enumerated the methods in 1911, forced many villages to convert (often temporarily) to a new identity.42 The village of Kanarevo (Kumanovo kaza) decided to become Serboman after the starešina was threatened and bribed.43 Bulgarian priests were arrested in Krastev Dol and in Radibuš by Ottoman authorities, and soon Serbian priests arrived to replace them.44 Ruginci, Orah and Podarži Kon became Serboman due to violence committed by Bulgarian Chetas.45 In some cases the conversion of a village was not a sudden act—it took years and the two parties often continued to live together: this kind of coexistence happened in the case of Stačna, Teovo, Oreše, etc. (Very often social or economic tensions within the community were the explanation for the situation). Nevertheless this phenomenon could also serve as a source of recurrent violence. In other cases, settlements changed sides many times: this happened with particular frequency after 1908, the reestablishment of the constitution and the disarmament of Chetas: see the case of Oreše, Izvor, Rankovski, etc., which became Bulgarian settlements after Serbia temporarily lost Ottoman support, then changed sides again by 1910, when Serbian propaganda became revitalized again (Table 3a).46

The instruments cited above served not only to promote forced Serbianzation or Bulgarization of the villages, but provided food and income for the Cheta as well to sustain their activity as these units were often operating far away from their hinterland. The identification of Serboman villages in kazas distant from the Serbian border may indicate areas of local support for Serbian Chetas (Table 3b).

Beyond taxation, pillaging and “requisition,” another source of income came from state subsidies: the Bulgarian consulate in Skopje warned the government that Serbian agents received 300,000 dinars for the Serbianization of the vicinity of Kratovo (this amount is equal to the annual salary of 350 teachers or 150 military lieutenants). These agents had bought weapons (one witness, a major of the international gendarmerie, mentions 200 rapid-fire guns) instead of creating schools, buying land or bribing local leaders, and only a small sum was spent on securing the loyalty of local people.47 The small states with claims to this territory recognized quite quickly that the destruction of existing (infra)structures was more cost-effective and its effect was more permanent than establishing churches, schools and buying land; therefore beginning in 1908 (following the withdrawal of the great powers and their failure to stabilize the situation and after the radicalization of Young Turks) there was a radical shift from soft methods to hard methods.48 This transformation clearly indicates the beginning of the third phase of the Macedonian question, which was characterized by nearly unlimited violence and coercion.

The violent activity of infiltrating irregular foreign troops increased the high mortality rate (caused by local tradition) even further. Due to the escalation of violence, both the IMRO and former Vrhovists49 organized meetings where they—at least verbally—pointed out that peasants should be kept away from the violence and should not be considered as target groups. These agreements were not only driven by social sensitivity, but by economic rationale as well. Since land revenue constituted a significant proportion of the income of IMRO, it was in the fundamental interest of the organization to secure the safety of peasants living in areas under its control to promote the cultivation of lands. Through the use of its armed forces, IMRO compelled peasants to work the land and often prescribed what to grow on the fields. Surprisingly, this coercive agriculture was economically rational in a certain sense as the IMRO favored crops with greater added value than that of the wheat traditionally grown in the region. One hectare of land sown with poppy seed resulted between 10 and 15 kilograms of opium (if the plantation was not set on fire by rivals) with an average price of 25 to 30 francs per kilogram, thus producing total revenue of between 300 and 450 francs per hectare. This significantly exceeded the revenue derived from other crops (one ton of wheat was about 130-150 francs and the average yield did not exceed one ton per hectare, while the ratio of harvested wheat was only 5 to 1).50 By monopolizing trade in opium and tobacco, IMRO was able to create self-sustaining Chetas that were wedged between peasant and trader expropriating the profits. Since this was a risky enterprise as both adversaries and the government tried to hinder this activity, the mobility of Chetas decreased when they had to defend the harvest. Economic oppression and permanent migration generated by political tension led to desertion of arable lands. By 1912 only 400,000 hectares of land was under cultivation in Kosovo Vilayet out of the total 3.2 million acres as a result of the growing violence.51

Although an armistice between the two organizations (IMRO and Vrhovists) was desirable, efforts to conclude such a truce were more or less futile,52 partly as a result of the growing activity of Muslim bands prior to 1908. The latter attacked not only local peasantry, but also launched attacks against the gendarmerie led by international officers. This special form of violence was carried out not against the officers themselves, but against local Christians serving as privates in the gendarmerie in order to discourage them from participation in police forces.53 Nevertheless, this category is not included in the term “everyday violence” used by the authors.

Not only the armed corps, but the propaganda and ideologies promoted by the neighboring states also battled with one another in the region even during the relatively peaceful period prior to the Ilinden Uprising.54 The target groups (and propagators) of these ideologies were primarily Eastern Orthodox priests and village teachers,55 who—based on their functions within the community—were able to disseminate this message most efficiently. The peasantry was targeted directly to a lesser extent owing to its illiteracy. The greatest influence shaping the identity of villagers was undoubtedly exercised by the priest and the teacher: the village usually followed the national identity pattern(s) that they represented or were forced to represent.56

The fight for supremacy evidently required organizational infrastructure beyond human capital: apart from schools and churches that were considered outposts of the state, which were immobile, though able to control the “Raum und Boden” and were thus most exposed to physical attacks, a network of background institutions responsible for securing optimal conditions was also created.57 The Bulgarian state refrained from directly imposing its own agents on Macedonian Bulgars: the influence of the Bulgarian state over school affairs prior to the Ilinden Uprising was realized through Macedonian-born Slavic teachers educated in Bulgaria (who were influenced by Bulgarian propaganda). This strategy could enhance confidence of local society towards the Bulgarian state, while the Bulgarophile Macedonians were able to (re)create their own intelligentsia. Out of a total of 1,239 professors and teachers in the Bulgarian schools of Macedonia in 1902, 1,220 were native Macedonians and, in addition to the 15 Bulgarian-born Bulgars teaching in Macedonia, there were 450 Macedonian Bulgars teaching in the schools of liberated Bulgaria.58 The numbers also reflect the great role of the Macedonian-born population in Bulgarian political life.59

The dynamic increase of Serbian schools between 1896 and 1901 is the product of the following factors: despite the existence of the supporting organizational background, the Serbian presence was relatively insignificant in Macedonia prior to 1903; however, Serbian propaganda was increasing (with support from Ottoman authorities) compared to Bulgarian propaganda. This phenomenon provided a warning to the Bulgarians, and between 1901 and 1910 the number of teachers in Bulgarian schools almost doubled, which also reflects changes in the support policy in comparison to that previously mentioned.

 

 

Schools

Teachers

Students

Bulgarian

843 / 785 / 1359

1,306 / 1,220 / 2,203

43,432 / 40,000 / 78,519

Serbian

77 / 178 /

118 / 321/

2,873 / 7,200 /

Greek

/ 924/

/ 1,400 /

/ 57,500 /

 

Table 4. The result of “peaceful” propaganda: schools in Macedonia in 1896 /1901/1910. Jacob Gould Schurman, The Balkan Wars: 1912–1913 (London: Humphrey Milford, 1914), accessed September 16, 2014, http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/11676/pg11676.html and D. Misheff, The truth about Macedonia (Berne: Pochon-Jent, 1917).

 

Even after the involvement of the Great Powers, the provinces were still crying for relief.60 Between May 1904 and May 1905, 111 violent cases committed by Chetas were reported within the boundaries of Macedonia by a Bulgarian source, including those targeting authorities (these should not be included in the term “everyday violence,” but can be compared to them). This means that these atrocities claimed an average of seven victims. This high number reveals that these incidents and conflicts were not accidental or of personal character, but were planned in advance as a part of a campaign of intimidation and revenge symbolizing a special type of warfare. This source does not reveal whether the proximity to borders or distance from central administration had an effect on the escalation of violence (while in the case of Austro–Hungarian consular reports, such an investigation could be carried out), nor does it provide an account of the interethnic character of conflict, contrary to the Austro–Hungarian consular reports.

Based on the above mentioned report of Shopov, most of those arrested in Macedonia were Bulgarians (80 percent, a result of either the activity of Bulgarians or the prejudice of authorities, because their ratio within the population did not exceed 60%), though almost two-thirds of them were found not guilty. Among those who were convicted, Bulgarians were not overrepresented: 20 percent of arrested Bulgarians were sentenced to several years in prison: this represents 79 percent of all imprisoned, while Bulgarians constituted 80 percent of those arrested. The ratio of imprisoned Serbs was also around 20 percent in comparison to the number of Serbs arrested. Among the acquitted, Serbs were overrepresented (80 percent of arrested Serbs were freed), while the investigation process was the longest in case of Greeks due to the fact that they were often not Ottoman but Greek citizens,61 contrary to Bulgar(ian)s, who were mainly recruited from the territory of Macedonia and not from Bulgaria.

According to the data collected by Shopov, Greek Chetas preferred to capture people alive and hold them for ransom, which means that the Greek struggle for Macedonia was in its initial phase: 70 percent of captured were held by Greeks, while the proportion of atrocities committed by Greek forces was only 27 percent. This practice was quite rare in case of Serb and Bulgar offenders: 66 percent of those who died were killed by Bulgarian Chetas, although the latter were involved “only” in 50 percent of encounters. The ratio of murders committed by Serbs/Bulgars was 80 percent among the victims of Serbian/Bulgarian violence. Compared to this, murders constituted only 33 percent of Greek violence. The proportion of the victims of Ottoman authorities constituted “only” 17 to 20 percent of all victims and those who died among them were underrepresented (Table 5).

But the most convincing evidence of the failure of the Ottoman authorities and the international intervention to maintain public order and of the increasing anarchy that ensued after the turn of the century are the detailed statistics compiled by Austro–Hungarian consuls listing the victims of the social conflicts. These are conflicts (contrary to those discussed above) that cannot be tied unambiguously to the activity of Chetas or authorities, thus falling under the category of “everyday violence.” A typical example of consular reports is the document written in Skopje in 1905 enumerating all acts of everyday violence that occurred in the sanjak between May 11 and September 13 of that year.62

 

11. Mai

Fatima und Tochter Zarifa aus Treskavec

Getötet, Täter unbekannt

27. Mai

Koce aus Podoreš

Vermißt

16. Juni

Demendezi aus Jargerica

getötet, Täter angeblich Comité-Rache

17. Juni

Stojan aus Jargerica

getötet, Täter angeblich Comité-Rache

19. Juni

Avram Jane dessen Frau und Tochter aus Rozbunar

verwundet, Täter 3 unbekannte Mohammedaner

20. Juni

Risto Konstantin aus Radovište

verwundet, dtto

20. Juni

Traman Dimitrija aus Delina

schwer verwundet, Täter angeblich Türken

28. Juni

Kristo Ile aus Vratica

der Tatverdächtig der Mohammedaner Damjan [sic!]

12. Juli

Jovan Velko aus Šipkovica

Vermißt

16. Juli

Angelko Trajan, Jordan Postol, Mike Lazar, Mike, Petre Stojan, Tase Gjorgje: Hirten aus Radoviste

von einer mohammedanischen Bande gefesselt und durch Messerstiche getötet

17. Juli

Stojan Niko u. Gam: dtto

dtto.

19. Juli

Trajce Zafir aus Kance

getötet, Täter Rara Ahmed

12. August

Dane Jane und Sohn David, Koce Ilia aus Vrahovica

getötet, Täter mohammed. Comités

18. August

Tašo Georgiev aus Radovište

getötet, Täter unbekannte Comités

21. August

Ilija und Arif aus Vrahovica

getötet, Täter 3 Mohammedaner

25. August

1 unbekanntes Comité-Mitglied bei Gmerdeš

Getötet

3. September

File Risto aus Jargaica

getötet, Täter unbekannt

3. September

Todor Spasov aus Kanče

getötet, Täter Türken aus Promet

3. September

Panče Ilo aus Skoruša

getötet, Täter Türken aus Promet

 

Table 6. List of violent activities in Radovište kaza (cited in the original language): officially five
political murders were recorded among the 20 cases, but only one victim was a committee member.63

In Kaza Radovište: Getötet 23, Verwundet 4, vermißt 2.

 

Dated from 1905 this list enumerating 285 victims in a period of four months from a smaller area looks to be more detailed compared to the report of Shopov containing 772 victims in a period of one year throughout Macedonia. Cases were reported for each kaza giving the name and religion of perpetrators and victims (see Table 6), which makes the list more valuable and informative than Shopov’s report. Note that the cases enumerated here took place after the intervention of the great powers (Mürzsteg, 1903), therefore it also demonstrates the powerlessness of the recently organized international gendarmerie. This list provides the possibility of tracing certain phenomena and to observe certain tendencies (the spatial pattern of violence, the role of border areas, the correlation between the ethnicity and religion of perpetrators and victims, etc.), though the cause of conflicts still remain obscure. Although the names of the victims and the perpetrators do not provide unquestionable evidence of their nationality, the sectarian composition may be more or less precisely reconstructed, thus permitting an investigation of religious or ethnic tensions.64

But this did not represent the peak of violence by any means. After the failure of international intervention, the number of people killed increased quickly: in 1908 a total of 1,080 “political murders” were committed throughout Macedonia (while in 1905, the number of all victims of Chetas—including all types: dead, injured and missing—was only 772), claiming among its victims 649 Bulgarians, 185 Greeks, 130 Muslims, 39 Serbs, 36 Vlachs and 40 soldiers according to the report of the Englishman Harry Lamb.65 Compared to their proportion of the entire population, Muslim victims seem to be underrepresented and Bulgarian victims a bit overrepresented. The reinstatement of the constitution in 1908 proved to be more effective than any other earlier measures: over the last five months of that very year, only 71 political murders took place, constituting seven percent of all murders, while during the first four months of the year it almost reached 50 percent.66 One cannot avoid the assumption that the armistice among bands in 1908–1909 as a consequence of the rise to power of the Young Turks contributed to the stabilization of the situation to a greater degree than the constitution and the parliamentary elections, events that rarely entail immediate results.

Comparing the Bulgarian and the Austro–Hungarian sources one may arrive to the following conclusions: first, that violent acts committed by Chetas became more frequent between 1905 and 1908 in Macedonia (772 killed and injured compared to 1,080 killed); second, that Austro–Hungarian documents are more detailed and therefore more suitable for conducting further analysis; and three, that everyday violence (or acts not reported as political murders) was apparently as frequent as political violence. (Just to compare the two types of violence: during the first four months of 1908, 450 people were killed by Chetas throughout Macedonia, while in the first four months of 1905, 197 people were killed in everyday violence within the much smaller area of the examined sanjak).

In some places of the Sanjak of Skopje in 1905, the average number of victims per attack exceeded four or five (like in the Bulgarian statistics with Cheta involvement, where seven victims per attack were counted), which makes it evident that in these cases not simply personal antagonism or economic conflict, but rather ideological or intergroup tensions represented the source of violence. The names and occupations in Table 6 reveal that many of the victims (especially the four women) can hardly be identified as members of paramilitary units (their activity may have been confined to providing information or supplying troops) and that in many cases they were victims of blood feuds motivated by rivalry between communities or were victims of punitive actions or intimation on the part of Chetas. Based on the high average number of victims per attack, the Bulgarian source focuses much more on the activity of Chetas, emphasizing the paramilitary-revolutionary character of the violent acts, while the Austro–Hungarian report enumerates single cases as well, when perpetrators were not Cheta members, though their actions fit into the category of everyday violence.67

The fearless early usage of coercion and violence against civilians and activists as well is clearly confirmed by a document called “Reglement für die Bulgarisch-Adrianopeler Revolutionären Comités”68 dating from the year 1900. These revolutionary committees had their internal secret police as well, which was divided into two branches. The duty of the first branch, the investigative police, was not only to observe foreigners, non-Cheta members and government officials, but to examine the deeds and actions of Cheta members as well. The second branch was called the executive secret service, the task of which was not only to support the leaders in case of internal crisis, but also to punish activities reported by the observers. The revolvers mentioned in the document summarizing the resources of the IMRO from 1906 were used by this branch of secret police. In addition to the spies and Ottoman bureaucrats who impeded the activity of revolutionaries, not only activists, but even members of the civil population were allowed to kill regardless of their ethnicity if they threatened the goals of the committees and disregarded the first warnings and fines. This punishment was extended to Bulgarians living either in Bulgaria or abroad if they engaged in activity serving to exacerbate discontent among revolutionaries. Even those were sanctioned who had acted under pressure, were forced to commit violence or were tortured by enemies of the committee. Mentioning the name of a committee member to the authorities or in public for the second time also entailed a death sentence.69 These punitive measures could also have been in the background of the escalation of everyday violence, as very often the community did not know of killings or did not dare inform authorities of them. (It is also not surprising that communist activists and ideologists visiting the Balkans and well acquainted with the Macedonian cause, like Trotsky, implemented these methods effectively in organizing secret police in their homeland. Even the terms used, such as “Arbeit”, reappear in these documents).

Neither the high concentration of IMRO weapons nor the ethnic heterogeneity of districts always resulted in the escalation of violent activities. The activity of IMRO cannot alone explain all forms of “everyday violence:” in Kočani, which was well-supplied with ammunition, everyday violence was rare, although here Albanians and Muslims also lived together with Bulgarians. The extent of violence was also relatively low in Veles, although IMRO had plenty of bullets and weapons and half of the district was Turkish. In Kriva Palanka and in Kratovo, the high ratio of victims measured to the total population (Table 7) at first glance seems to be due to the fact that an extremely high 22 percent of the population supported the IMRO (Table 2). However, the percentage of sympathizers supplied with weapons was quite low here (five percent). Furthermore, both territories were mainly Exarchist in character, therefore neither interethnic tensions nor the clashes with the Turkish authorities can explain the spread of violence here (these conflict types are excluded from the term “everyday violence.”)70

 

Kaza

Attacks

Killed

Injured

Missing

Christian victims

Muslim victims

Unknown

Total

Victims per 1,000 Inhabitants

Skopje

8 (average of 5 killed)

41

8

2

30 (2 f)

19 (4 f, 1 c)

3 (1 f)

52 (7 f, 1 c)

0.71

Kumanovo

9

36

9

4

21 (1 f)

12

16

49 (1 f)

1.07

Kriva Palanka

24

24

9

5

15 (4 f)

24

38

1.55

Kratovo

13

13

5

4

9

3

10

22

0.97

Kočani

3

3

1

1

4

1

5

0.13

Maleš

3

3

5

2

3

2

5

10

0.37

Radovište

23

23

4

2

25 (2 f)

3 (2 f)

1

29

1.57

Štip

11 (average of 4 killed)

42

11

10

44

13 (1 f)

6

63

1.37

Veles

12

12

1

5

8

5

5

18

0.33

Total

106

197

53

35

159 (9 f)

58 (7 f, 1 c)

70 (1 f)

287 (17 f 1 c)

0.82

 

Table 7. Types of violent activity and the territorial and religious distribution of victims in Skopje Sanjak between May 11 and September 13, 190571 f = females; c = children

Kaza

Christians

Christians Altogether

Muslims

Muslims Altogether

Unknown Cases

Total

Against Christians

Against Muslims

Against Christians

Against Muslims

Skopje

5

3

8

8

3

11

26

45

Kumanovo

3

2

5

10

3

13

12

30

Kriva Palanka

2

2

1

1

7

10

Kratovo

4

4

1

9 + 1*

14

Radovište

2

1

3

9

1

10

6

19

Štip

6

1

7

13

1

14

29

50

Veles

2

1

3

2

3

5

3

11

Total

27
(14%)

7
(4%)

34

43
(22%)

11
(6%)

55

101
53%)

189

 

Table 8. The religious and territorial distribution of perpetrators committing crime between May 11 and September 13, 1905 (only known perpetrators included) 72

* Muslim attackers and one unknown victim.

 

As the authors pointed out earlier, the Austrian source offers possibilities for deeper investigation (cases committed by soldiers or police are not included!). Most of the victims (including deaths, injuries and missing) were Christian (55 percent) (Tables 7–8). The proportion of Muslims was 20 percent, while 25 percent remained unknown. Compared to their proportion of the entire population of the sanjak (40 percent), Muslim victims were somewhat underrepresented (Table 1). With regard to the perpetrators, these ratios are not more than estimates, as more than 50 percent of cases remained unresolved. This demonstrates the low effectiveness of imperial and international authorities. Based on known cases, Muslims mainly attacked Christians (22 percent of the total, four times more frequent than Muslim attacks on Muslims), while the proportion of Christian perpetrators committing violent crime against Muslims was only four percent of the total (Table 8). Attacks within the Muslim community ranged up to six percent of the total, while violence between Christians constituted more than 14 percent of the total in Skopje Sanjak (this was a greater percentage value than that of Christian crimes against Muslims!). One may arrive to the conclusion that the Exarchist-Patriarchist rivalry was more important here (compared to the relatively small ratio of Patriarchists in the territory) than the hostility of Christians towards Muslims and that violence within the Muslim community was more frequent than violence toward other communities.

The spatial pattern of violence can be investigated too: in Štip kaza Christians primarily attacked Christians, while Muslims in Štip, Kumanovo and in Radovište mainly attacked Christians. These phenomena were not connected to ethnic predominance: in Kumanovo, Muslims composed only 30 percent of the population, while in Štip they constituted the majority. In the vicinity of Kriva Palanka and Kratovo,73 all known Christian attacks were targeted against other Christian communities. This may be explained by the fact that though these kazas were ethnically homogenous, the national conflict between Bulgars and Serboman troops was fierce (one should not forget that 50 percent of cases were unresolved, therefore the numbers have limited statistical relevance). The spatial distribution of victims and perpetrators (Table 9–10) shows that the largest absolute numbers of victims were located in Skopje, Štip and Kumanovo kazas. Nevertheless, these absolute numbers are not representative, as these kazas had larger populations. The proportion of victims measured against the total population is more representative. With this in mind, victims of violent activities were overrepresented in Kumanovo, Kriva Palanka, Kratovo, and especially in Radovište and Štip kazas. These territorial units were located in the mountainous periphery far away from the administrative center and from the Vardar-axis (which was serving as the main connection route to adjacent areas).

 

Percent

Skopje

Kumanovo

Kriva Palanka

Kratovo

Radovište

Štip

Veles

(Ištib)

(Köprülü)

Population

21

13

7

6

5

13

15

Victims

18

17

13

8

10

22

6

Perpetrators

24

16

5

7

10

26

6

 

Table 9. The proportion of perpetrators and victims compared to the population in the sanjak (considered as 100 percent) in 1905 (in order to examine underrepresentation and overrepresentation). 74 Kočani and Maleš were omitted due to small case number.

 

Kaza

Christian Victims/

Christian Population

Muslim Victims/

Muslim Population

Christian Perpetrators/

Christian Population

Muslim Perpetrators/

Muslim Population

Distance from Center*

Distance from State Border

Skopje

1.35

0.69

0.41

0.46

1

2

Kumanovo

0.61

0.89

0.24

1.58

2

2

Radovište

2.09

0.18

0.38

0.93

4

3

Štip

1.65

0.37

0.33

0.50

3

4

Veles

0.70

0.78

0.43

1.28

2

5

 

Table 10. Spatial and religious differences of violence in 1905 based on the comparison of victims and perpetrators. Values over 1 indicate overrepresentation.

Kriva Palanka and Kratovo was omitted due to the large proportion of unknown delinquents, Kočani and Maleš was omitted due to small case numbers

* Distance from the center or from the border was measured using graph theory based on the number of nodes (local centers) that had to be passed in order to reach the territory in question.

 

The same conclusions can be made with regard to the data on perpetrators. Measured against the entire population, perpetrators were overrepresented in Skopje, Radovište and Štip, nearly the same kazas in which the ratio of victims compared to population was the largest. In the latter two kazas, the proportion of perpetrators and victims was twice as high as the proportion of the population of the kaza compared to the total population of Skopje Sanjak (Table 9). This is not surprising, since based on the conscription of 1903 the proportion of Muslims was quite high in these places (see the map of Kančov or the map published in Carnegie Report).75 Based on the absolute numbers of perpetrators and victims, these attacks were the bloodiest, reaching an average of between four and five deaths per attack. Christian victims measured against Christian population were overrepresented in Skopje, Radovište and Štip kazas, but it did not mean that Christian victims76 were killed solely by Muslims (see Tables 8 and 10), while Muslim perpetrators compared to Muslim population were overrepresented in Kumanovo, Radovište and Veles. Muslim victims and Christian perpetrators were not overrepresented anywhere.

 

Proportion of Christians vs. Proportion of Christian Victims*

–0.75

Proportion of Muslim Perpetrators vs. Distance from Administrative Center

–0.47

Proportion of Christians vs. Proportion of Christian Perpetrators*

0.41

Percentage of Unknown Cases vs. Distance from Administrative Center

0.36

Proportion of Christians vs. Proportion of Muslim Victims*

–0.42

Percentage of Unknown Cases vs. Distance from Border

–0.55

Proportion of Christians vs. Proportion of Muslim Criminals*

–0.31

Proportion of Muslim Criminals vs. Distance from Borders

0.55

Percentage of Christian Victims vs. Percentage of Christian Perpetrators

–0.78

Proportion of Muslim Victims vs. Distance from Borders

0.40

Proportion of Muslim Victims vs. Proportion of Muslim Perpetrators

0.33

Percentage of Muslim Victims vs. Distance from Center

–0.76

Percentage of Christian Victims vs Proportion of Muslim Perpetrators

0.29

Percentage of Muslim Perpetrators vs. Percentage of Christian Perpetrators

0.19

 

Table 11. Correlation table between variables related to violence in 1905 (only those who are known to have committed crimes are included)

* Substituting Christians with Muslims, the strength of correlation does not change.

Contrary to some well–distinguished territorial patterns, violence in the sanjak (as a total) was characterized mainly by weak correlations, thus general features are overshadowed by local patterns. Although significant, but reversed correlation was measured between the proportion of Christian victims and the proportion of Christian perpetrators (k=–0,78),77 other relations did not show such strong correlation due to the previously mentioned ethnic heterogeneity and due to the diversity of conflict types enumerated earlier (Table 11).78

Since perpetrators were mainly Muslims both in kazas with a Muslim majority (Štip) and with a Muslim minority (Veles), while victims were Christians, the pattern of violence at the kaza level was not determined solely by the religious character of the population, but by other factors (distance from borders, violence among those of the same religion). Violence in central territories was relatively rare (even despite the higher population density), while it was more frequent in peripheral kazas along the Bulgarian and Serbian borders. We may assume that Christian perpetrators were overrepresented along the Bulgarian border and in Slavic-speaking territories, while Muslim perpetrators were more frequent in the Kumanovo, Veles and Radovište kazas along the Muslim-dominated Vardar-axis. As the distance measured from the centers grew, the proportion of Muslim perpetrators decreased (r=–0.8). The clearance rate also draws attention: a general tendency is that police were the most inefficient along the easily penetrable Bulgarian border. Unresolved cases ranged from 60 percent (Maleš) up to 100 percent (Kočani!) in the peripheries.79 Spatial differences regarding violence and driving factors were collected to summarize our analysis in Table 12.

Conclusions

Summarizing that mentioned above we can draw the following conclusions:

the borders between the different types of violent actions triggered either by sectarian and school conflicts or by customs law gradually faded;

the supporting policy of small states shifted irreversibly from construction to destruction;

the activity of the irregular troops was limited only by the change of seasons (neither Ottoman authorities nor the withdrawal of support could stop them any longer);

Chetas became highly organized and self-subsistent groups through involvement in agriculture (opium, tobacco, smuggling) or expropriation of state and private properties;

loyalty to the state also faded: in addition to troops pursuing nationalist ideas, ethnically and religiously mixed mercenary bands also existed and were hired;

the representatives of the state did not even attempt to address the economic and political problems. Their violent and intolerant interference, despite the temporary successes, hastened the escalation of conflict into anarchy;

the “usual” social conflicts (between public officers and citizens, security forces and inhabitants, etc.) also became uncontrollable,80 and became overshadowed by the new types of conflict; the practices of Chetas were adopted by other violent (state and guerilla) organizations;

the nationalistic movements declared total warfare in which, compared to the years prior to 1903, not only were the Ottoman administration or military forces and the active members of the movements (ideologists, like teachers and priests) regarded as targets, but the passive masses as well, as they could provide shelter, information, ammunition and an economic base for rivals;

the economy had collapsed by 1912, fields remained uncultivated due to the wave of violence, which triggered emigration.

On the eve of the First Balkan War there was no functioning state administration and economy in the Sanjak of Skopje, which had turned into a frontier zone.

Archival Sources

Österreichisches Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv (ÖHHStA, Vienna), Politisches Archiv, VII. 434; XXXVIII. 399, 430; 19 Nachlaß August Kral.

Централен Държавен Архив, (ЦДА, Sofia), ф. 331k. oп. 1; 332k oп. 1; 335k. oп. 1.

Kriegsarchiv (Vienna) AOK-Evidenzbureau, Kt. 3483.

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Lory, Bernard. “Schools for the Destruction of Society: School Propaganda in Bitola, 18601912.” In Conflicting Loyalties in the Balkans: The Great Powers, the Ottoman Empire and Nation-Building, edited by Hannes Grandits, Nathalie Clayer, and Robert Pichler, 45–63. London: Tauris, 2011.

Misheff, D. The truth about Macedonia. Berne: Pochon–Jent, 1917.

Schmitt, Oliver Jens. Kosovo. Kurze Geschichte einer zentralbalkanischen Landschaft [Kosovo. A Short History of a Landscape in the Central Balkans]. Vienna–Cologne–Weimar: Böhlau, 2008.

Schurman, Jacob Gould. The Balkan Wars: 19121913. London: Humphrey Milford, 1914.

Shaw, Stanford J. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey: Volume 2, Reform, Revolution, and Republic: The Rise of Modern Turkey 1808–1975. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

Speitkamp, Winfried. “Einführung” [Introduction]. In Gewaltgemeinschaften. Von der Spätantike bis ins 20. Jahrhundert [Societies of Violence. From the Late Antiquity to the 20th century], edited by Winfried Speitkamp, 812. Göttingen: V&R Unipress, 2013.

Stavropoulo, Livanios, D. “Conquering the souls: nationalism and Greek guerilla warfare in Ottoman Macedonia 19041908.” Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 23 (1999): 195221.

Strauss, Adolf. Grossbulgarien [Greater Bulgaria]. Posen–Leipzig–Warsaw–Budapest: Mitteleuropäischer Buch- und Lehrmittelverlag, 1917.

Толева,Тeодора. Виянието на Австро-Унгария за създаването на албанска нация, 18961906 [The Contribution of Austria–Hungary to the Creation of the Albanian Nation]. Sofia: Ciela, 2012.

Tsanoff, Radoslav Andrea. “Bulgaria’s case.” Reprinted from The Journal of Race Development 8, no. 3 (1918): 296317.

1 The term is used here in the Turnerian sense.

2 The second phase is the intervention of the great powers in 1903–1908, the third is the revival of violence after the failure of these Powers to settle the questions.

3 Research in the Austrian State Archives was conducted within the framework of the project “Politics and Society in Late Ottoman Kosovo. An Edition of Austro–Hungarian Consular Reports from Kosovo, 1870–1913” funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF (Projekt Nr. P 21477-G18); project leader: Prof. Oliver Jens Schmitt; main researcher: Eva Anne Frantz; part time co-worker in 2010–11 (one month each): Krisztián Csaplár-Degovics; part time co-worker (2013-): Daniela Javorić. We would like to express our gratitude to Eva Anne Frantz for sharing the results of her research and her unpublished Ph.D. dissertation with us. The elaboration of this paper has been funded by the János Bolyai Research Scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

4 The methodological approach and idea of this study to focus on everyday violence in the Sanjak of Skopje stems from Eva Anne Frantz, “Gewalt als Faktor der Desintegration im Osmanischen Reich – Formen von Alltagsgewalt im südwestlichen Kosovo in den Jahren 1870–1880 im Spiegel österreichisch–ungarischer Konsulatsberichte,” Südost-Forschungen 68 (2009): 184–204, esp. 184–87. Different forms of coexistence including violence in the Vilayet of Kosovo is also the topic of Eva Anne Frantz, “Muslime und Christen im spätosmanischen Kosovo: Lebenswelten und soziale Kommunikation in den Anfängen eines ethnopolitischen Konflikts, 1870–1913” (PhD diss., University of Vienna, 2014). With regard to this question see also Eva Anne Frantz, “Religiös geprägte Lebenswelten im spätosmanischen Kosovo – Zur Bedeutung von religiösen Zugehörigkeiten, Eigen- und Fremdwahrnehmungen und Formen des Zusammenlebens bei albanischsprachigen Muslimen und Katholiken,” in Religion und Kultur im albanischsprachigen Südosteuropa, ed. Oliver Jens Schmitt (Vienna: Lang, 2010), 127–50; and Eva Anne Frantz, “Violence and its Impact on Loyalty and Identity Formation in Late Ottoman Kosovo: Muslims and Christians in a Period of Reform and Transformation,” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 29, no. 4 (2009): 455–68. A German research group investigating the comparative historical and sociological interpretations of the role of communities based on trading in violence also served as an inspiration to the authors. The logic and terminology of the present study are based on the questions, aspects investigated and frameworks defined by Forschergruppe “Gewaltgemeinschaften”: Finanzierungsantrag und Forschungsprogramm 1. Juli 2009 bis 30. Juni 2012. November, 2008, Justus-Liebig-Universität-Giessen, 15–39.

5 Georg Elwert, “Gewaltmärkte, Beobachtungen zur Zweckrationalität der Gewalt,” in Soziologie der Gewalt. Sonderheft der Cologneer Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, ed. Trutz von Trotha (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1997), 86–101.

6 Winfried Speitkamp, “Einführung,” in Gewaltgemeinschaften. Von der Spätantike bis ins 20. Jahrhundert, ed. Winfried Speitkamp (Göttingen: V&R Unipress, 2013), 8–12 and Hannes Grandits, Nathalie Clayer, and Robert Pichler, “Introduction,” in Conflicting Loyalties in the Balkans: The Great Powers, the Ottoman Empire and Nation-Building, ed. Hannes Grandits et al. (London: Tauris, 2011), 3–5.

7 It is important to note that the word “Bulgarian” is not equivalent to “Exarchist” in Austro–Hungarian documents. Österreichisches Haus-, Hof-, und Staatsarchiv, Politisches Archiv (hereinafter ÖHHStA PA), VII/Fasz. 434, Rappaport to Pallavicini, March 21, 1907, No. 330, Beilage No. 26, 5. See also the Kral consul’s map from 1903 in Nachlass Szapáry, ÖHHStA. Cited also by Толева,Тeодора. Виянието на Австро-Унгария за създаването на албанска нация, 1896–1906 (Sofia: Ciela, 2012), 540–44 (maps). By contrast, in the reports of the Bulgarian consul in Skopje, the term “Bulgarian” is synonymous with Exarchist. The word “Bulgarian” instead of “Exarchist” often occurs even in Exarchist ecclesiastical documents. See: Централен Държавен Архив (Sofia, hereafter ЦДА), ф. 331k. oп. 1. a.e. 309. л. 31. In Bitola, for example, “Bulgarian school,” “Bulgarian church” are used. There were even Patriarchist Bulgarian villages according to Bulgarian sources (some of them were converted as a result of Serbian propaganda, though some were not affected).

8 The debate between Muslim communities of different origin and identity is not investigated here.

9 ÖHHStA 19. Nachlässe, Nachlaß August Kral, Kt.2, “Statistische Tabelle der Nationalitäts- und Religions-Verhältnisse im Vilajet Kossovo (1903).”

10 Adolf Strauss, Großbulgarien (Posen–Leipzig–Warsaw–Budapest: Mitteleuropäischer Buch- und Lehrmittelverlag, 1917), 52–60. There were 15,000 chiflik owners and only 10,000 freeholders in the region.

11 Osmanli Arşiv Belgelerinde. Kosova vilayeti (Istanbul: T.C. Başbakanlik. Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü, 2007), BOA, Y. PRK. UM, 1/99. 332–34.

12 Konrad Clewing, “Mythen und Fakten zur Ethnostruktur in Kosovo – ein geschichtlicher Überblick,” in Der Kosovo-Konflikt. Ursachen-Akteure-Verlauf, ed. Konrad Clewing and Edvin Pezo (Munich: Bayerische Landeszentrale für Politische Bildungsarbeit, 2000), 46–47; Karl Kaser, “Raum und Besiedlung” in Südosteuropa. Ein Handbuch, ed. Margaditsch Hatschikjan and Stefan Troebst (Munich: Beck, 1999), 53–72; and Oliver Jens Schmitt, Kosovo. Kurze Geschichte einer zentralbalkanischen Landschaft (Vienna–Cologne–Weimar: Böhlau, 2008), 79–84, 153–56.

13 In contrast to Bulgaria, where economic prosperity grew together with the replacement of Spahis (as layers that were not cost effective) and resulted in the economic emergence of the Bulgarian smallholder in the 1850s, in Macedonia the peasants remained economically deprived under Muslim landlords with no hope for prosperity after 1873–78, when U.S. and Russian crops invaded western markets, thereby decreasing prices. It was the crop boom of the 1840s (thus an external source) that prolonged the existence of the Ottoman Empire, not the reforms themselves. These reforms did not create economically favorable conditions (it was only a successful response to existing opportunities), but to the contrary: the tax reforms of Midhat Pasha providing a surplus for the central government could be carried out due to the favorable economic situation. This was absent in the 1870s, when the Empire continued its reforms and deeply contributed to the failure of social modernization. Gábor Demeter, A Balkán és az Oszmán Birodalom I (Budapest: MTA BTK TTI, 2014), 176–334.

14 The same thing had also taken place in France (1789–1815) and Central Europe (1848–49), leading to violence there as well.

15 In Europe the religious opposition preceded the occurrence of the latter by centuries and religious wars fought then were violent as well.

16 Schmitt, Kosovo, 160–67.

17 We use the model of Oliver Jens Schmitt, who drew a distinction between traditional and ethnicized identity patterns. The Macedonian case (the ethnicization of South Slavs) is similar to the Kosovo case. During the first phase the Orthodox millet undergoes a nationalization process, therefore a new “Slavic” identity is created to oppose the Greek Church. Within the Millet so-called “Konfessionsnationen”—confessional nations—were evolving. (After the abolition of the Patriarchate in Ipek [Peć], the goal of the Greek Patriarchate to uniformize the population failed with the exception of Vlachs mainly because this kind of assimilation could rely only on the urban Greek population, which simply did not exist in either Macedonia or Kosovo after the numerous Albanian raids in southern Macedonia in the 1820s that broke up the “Greek” Orthodox merchant communities.) The problem is that the fragmentation of the Christian Millet did not stop, because not only one center was created: the ethnicization/nationalization of religious identity took place not in contrast to the Muslim community, but within the Christian community. Based on its territorial autonomy, the Serbian identity was rather nationalized-secularized, while the Bulgarian identity (established in the Church) was national-religious. In the second stage, a civilian élite was formed that questioned the leadership of the priests, finally overthrowing the latter. Third stage: the neighboring Eastern Orthodox small states interfere in this process by sending teachers and priests to influence the target groups.

Although the religious identity was completely dissolved by the new, evolving ethnic identity, ethnicized identity patterns remained quite fluid among Eastern Orthodox South Slavs. Even in 1903 in the Sanjak of Prizren 17,000 Eastern Orthodox Exarchists (Bulgarians?) and 22,000 Patriarchists lived together: half of the Slavs in Kosovo were still not Serbian or Serbianized. Had Bulgaria started its nation-Church building 30 years earlier, the present Slavic population in Kosovo would be Bulgarian. According to Schmitt, this type of ethnicization reached only five percent of the population. In 1865, only 150 students studied Serbian in Peć: thus a narrow, but resolute and devoted national élite was formed. While the nationalization of this élite seems to be obvious, Schmitt did not find any evidence that the same process took place among the peasantry by the year 1900. Prior to the establishment of schools for the illiterate masses, the Church was the only institution that could transmit national(istic) ideologies. Therefore the role of the school system and the verbal transmission of ideologies through the Church is evident, like the mobilizing effect of promising land to the landless. Schmitt, Kosovo, 159–72.

18 This conflict was not only religious in nature as the Exarchate served the nation-building aspirations of Bulgaria. The Exarchate was quite popular among the South Slav peasantry, partly due to the cheaper education system and partly due to the language of liturgy (which could serve nationalistic goals, i.e., mentioning the name of Bulgarian rulers during the liturgy instead of Serbians or Muslims, as was the case with regard to the Varnava affair late in 1913, when Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria was mentioned in a village under Serbian occupation). Compared to this, the Greek Patriarchate was more popular in urbanized areas and among literate communities, which tended to pay a higher price to acquire knowledge, thus promoting the emergence of their social class.

19 ÖHHStA PA, XXXVIII/ Kt. 399. Prizren (1899–1900). Accounts on similar conflicts can be read in the dissertation of Frantz, “Zwischen Gewalt,” 161–78. and Bernard Lory, “Schools for the Destruction of Society: School Propaganda in Bitola, 1860–1912,” in Conflicting Loyalties in the Balkans, 45–63. For the role of Church see Katrin Bozeva-Abazi, The Shaping of Bulgarian and Serbian National Identities 1800–1900 (Skopje: Institute for National History, 2007), 143–92.

20 ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Rappaport to Pallavicini, February 12, 1907, no. 14/pol. (Beilage no. 131. res Rappaport to Oppenheimer, 8).

21 Ibid. For similar conflicts see: Natalie Clayer, “The Dimension of Confessionalization in the Ottoman Balkans at the time of Nationalisms,” in Conflicting Loyalties in the Balkans, 89–109.

22 ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Rappaport to Pallavicini, July 27, 1907, No. 55/pol, 17 and October 29, 1907, no. 71/pol, 14.

23 For information about the Lebenswelt of mountains and plains, including social norms corresponding to geographical attributes and constraints, see Frantz, “Zwischen Gewalt,” 63–79. and Eva Anne Frantz, “Soziale Lebenswelten im spätosmanischen Kosovo, 1870–1913. Zur Bedeutung von Berg und Ebene, Ökologie und Klima,” in Studime për nder të Rexhep Ismajlit me rastin e 65-vjetorit të lindjes, ed. Bardh Rugova (Prishtinë: KOHA, 2012), 261–73, esp. 262.

24 ЦДА, ф. 335k. oп. 1. a.e. 396.

25 Ibid. The Bulgarian consul was not alone in his collecting of data. The lack of public security due to the significant decrease in Ottoman power by 1903 prompted Austro–Hungarian consuls to start keeping statistics on violent activities in their own districts as well.

26 See D. Stavropoulo Livanios, “Conquering the Souls: Nationalism and Greek Guerilla Warfare in Ottoman Macedonia 1904–1908,” Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 23 (1999): 204 and 210–11. See also Balogh Ádám, A nacionalizmus szerepe a görög politikai gondolkodásban [The Role of Nationalism in the Greek Political Thinking] (Szeged: SZTE, 2006).

27 In winter the food supply was scarce, which may have encouraged bands to undertake risky operations, though finding shelter and covering up tracks was also harder. Simple banditry was more abundant during the summer.

28 ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Heimroth to Eduard Otto, July 30, 1910, no. 56/pol., 8.

29 Ibid., Heimroth to Pallavicini, February 5, 1911, no. 6/pol., 12.

30 ЦДА, ф. 335k. oп. 1. a.e. 396.

31 The Greeks indeed organized their paramilitary units this way from 1904, hiring men (mercenaries in fact), often regardless of their nationality who were not devoted to the Greek national movement, but had knowledge of local conditions and therefore offered a higher rate of success or effectiveness.

32 Irregular troops were organized for a number of reasons. Troops fighting against Ottoman rule were the first to appear (up to the 1860s). They were followed by irregular armies organized on a sectarian basis: the Patriarchists and the Exarchists (1870s). After 1878, a third group emerged: they fought against the Ottoman Empire and for modern national goals, and in the Skopje Sanjak they were originally Serbs and Bulgarians. The latter split further after the 1890s, when war broke out between IMRO activists and Vrhovists in Macedonia. After 1878 “nationalist” Albanian paramilitary units also appeared in Kosovo Vilayet in addition to mercenary troops and bashibazouks.

33 The Hajdut and Klepht movement which has been active in the Balkans for centuries also had impact on the survival and persistence of these “traditional” forms of violent behavior. See Balogh, A nacionalizmus, 16.

34 ЦДА, ф. 335k. oп. 1. a.e. 259. л. 109–10.

35 See: Balogh, A nacionalizmus, 16.

36 The IMRO officially considered Macedonia to be an indivisible territory and claimed all of its inhabitants to be Macedonian regardless of their religion or ethnicity. In practice, most of their followers were Bulgarians. Basically it opposed foreign propaganda according to its statute of 1902 prior to Ilinden as well as after it in 1906. Cindy C. Combs and Martin W. Slann, Encyclopedia of terrorism (New York: Infobase Publishing, 2009), 135.

37 Stanford J. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, vol. 2, Reform, Revolution, and Republic: The Rise of Modern Turkey 1808–1975 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 209.

38 ÖHHStA, PA, XXXVIII. Konsulate (1848–1918), Kt. 430. Üsküb (1900), Nr. 212. Pára an Goluchowski, handgeschrieben, Üsküb, September 17, 1900, Statut und Reglement der bulgaro-macedonischen Comités (ins Deutsche übersetzt) (3+14. Beilage, getippt): Cap. XI: Materielle Mittel der Comités “Auferlegte Hilfsbeiträge werden zur Einschüchterung oder mit Gewalt von Personen abverlangt, die wohl helfen können aber nicht wollen.”

“Art. 47. Zur Deckung der nöthigen Comité-Auslagen, jedoch hauptsächlich zur Bewaffnung der Arbeiter erhalten die Comités die Mittel 1/ aus den monatlichen Beitragleistungen der Mitglieder, die ihnen im Verhältnisse zu ihrer materiellen Lage bemessen werden; 2/ aus Opfern, die entweder freiwillig oder auferlegt sind. Anmerkung: Freiwillig sind diejenigen Unterstützungen, die sowohl von den Mitgliedern als auch von Personen gegeben werden, die sich nicht entschlossen haben, Arbeiter zu werden, jedoch mit der ’Arbeit’ sympathisieren, dieselbe zu fördern wünschen und zu diesem Zwecke gewisse Summe geben…”

39 Биярски, Цочо and Ива Бурилкова, eds., Вътрешната македоно-одринска революционна организация. (1893–1919). Документи на централните ръководни органи, vol. 1, Архивите говорят, 45. (Sofia: Universitetsko Izdatelstvo Sv. Kliment Ohridski, 2007), 608–09, Nr. 209.

40 Although the number of weapons stored at home was large, this does not indicate a greater probability of everyday violence. The number of violent acts committed by non-Cheta members was very low in Kočani, though high in Štip.

41 Published by the permission of Kriegsarchiv of Vienna.

42 ЦДА, ф. 335k. oп. 1. a.e. 205. л. 112–25.

43 Ibid., a.e. 396. л. 5–7.

44 Ibid., a.e. 205. л. 112–25.

45 Ibid.

46 Ibid.

47 Ibid., a.e. 396. л. 5–7.

48 By the end of 1908, the Greek Cheta organizer, Colonel Danglis, acquired 10,000 guns with one million rounds of ammunition, and more than 50 Greek military officers worked legally in Macedonia after relinquishing their ranks, while the Bulgarians had already distributed more than 30,000 weapons. See, Balogh, A nacionalizmus, 88.

49 The left wing of IMRO officially supported autonomy, while the right wing (Vrhovists) fought for the unification of Macedonia with Bulgaria.

50 The total opium harvest in Skopje Sanjak reached 100,000 kgs, generating revenue of up to 2.5-3.0 million francs, which of course stemmed not entirely from fields controlled by bands. Strauss, Großbulgarien, 52–60.

51 Strauss, Großbulgarien, 52–60.

52 ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Rappaport to Calice, August 12, 1906, no.75/pol., 4. (Komitadschis Congress in Küstendil) and Rappaport to Pallavicini, November 28, 1906, no. 94/pol., 8.

53 ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Pára to Calice, August 15, 1902, no. 92/res, 3.

54 One of the methods included ethnic mapping by Belić, Gopčević and Cvijić on the Serbian side. By this time ethnic mapping had definitely become a political instrument that was often very distant from reality.

55 When conquering Macedonia in 1913, Serbs imprisoned nine out of ten teachers. История на македонскиот народ, vol. 4 (Skopje: INI, 2000), 73.

56 Bozeva-Abazi, The Shaping of Bulgarian and Serbian National Identities, 41–88 and 120–23.

57 The involvement of the state in these affairs progressed through several stages as Schmitt demonstrated using the example of Serbian activity in Kosovo Vilayet. Two basic conditions had to be fulfilled to reach success: a strong middle class, craftsmen and merchants serving as donators for the new ideology, and the institutionalization of ideology through the contribution of the state. Apart from schools—the first Serbian school was established in Prizren in 1836 to challenge Greek cultural domination—this included: the establishment of the Serb cultural commission in Belgrade in 1868 in order to hinder the Islamization of Eastern Orthodox people; availability of state stipends in Serbia; the foundation of Družstvo Svetog Save in 1886 to coordinate cultural activities that could not be undertaken by the Church; the foundation of seminary for priests in Prizren in 1871, thus the state took over tasks from the Church. The Serbian state opened the consulate in Prishtina by 1889. The main goal of this consulate was to spread national propaganda; another aim was to disseminate unfavorable stereotypes about Albanians in order to inhibit rapprochement between local Slav and Albanian communities. Although Serbian scholars had already written their idealistic-ideological works and disseminated them both locally and in the West by the time Bulgaria became independent, these works focused mainly on Bosnia-Herzegovina, thus the redirection of aims and instruments toward Macedonia required time. Schmitt, Kosovo, 160–65.

58 Radoslav Andrea Tsanoff, “Bulgaria’s case,” Reprinted from The Journal of Race Development 8, no. 3 (1918): 296–317.

59 A Macedonian, General Bojadzhiev, was Bulgarian Minister of War during the campaign of 1915, while Nikola Genadiev, who was a minister in the Radoslavov cabinet in 1913, was also of Macedonian origin and Andrey Lyapchev, who served as minister several times prior to 1914 and a prime minister after 1918, was also born in Macedonia.

60 Frantz, “Zwischen Gewalt,” 134–60.

61 87 out of the 255 known Greek Chetniks were Greek subjects, while another 21 arrived from Crete in 1905. ЦДА, ф. 332k. oп. 1. a.e. 17. л. 544–55.

62 ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Pára to Calice, September 16, 1905., no. 86/pol., 12. Sicherheits-verhältnisse im Amtsbezirke in der Zeit von 11. Mai bis 13. September (mit Beilag). All other statistics presented below are based on this material.

63 Ibid.

64 Ibid.

65 Balogh, A nacionalizmus, 87. This work cites British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898–1914, vol. 5, The near East: The Macedonian problem and the annexation of Bosnia 1903–9, ed. George Peabody Gooch and Harold Temperley (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1926), 246, 289 and 293.

66 Balogh, A nacionalizmus, 87.

67 Austro–Hungarian documents clearly indicated if the victim was a Cheta member, though of course could not accurately detail the background of all victims. Furthermore, Cheta activities can be revenged on peaceful population as well by Cheta perpetrators, thus the classification of these acts as “everyday violence” is not unequivocal. In many cases the low clearance rate hindered the objective judgment of the situation. Outsiders may describe an event as “everyday violence” that had at least indirect relations with revolutionary activity.

68 ÖHHStA, PA, XXXVIII. Konsulate (1848–1918). Kt. 430. Üsküb (1900), Nr. 212. Pára an Goluchowski, handgeschrieben, Üsküb, September 17, 1900, Statut und Reglement der bulgaro-macedonischen Comités.

69 Ibid.

70 The high number of weapons can be explained by the infiltration of Serbian irregulars into these borderland districts from neighboring Serbia. Since the clearance rate was quite low in borderland areas, perpetrators could be foreigners serving in irregular units. Clearance rate was the lowest in peripheral areas, where the violence seemed to be the worst (Kriva Palanka, Kratovo).

7171 ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Pára to Calice, September 16, 1905, no. 86/pol., 12.

72 Ibid.

73 The majority of the populations in Kriva Palanka and Kratovo were Christian (81.6–90.7 percent), although these kazas were small in terms of their total populations.

74 Based on ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Pára to Calice, September 16, 1905., no. 86/pol., 12.

75 Among the interior kazas Skopje, Radovište and Štip had Muslim majorities (52.8–56.6 percent), while in Kumanovo and Veles Christians constituted the majority (63.4–70.3 percent).

76 Most of the victims here were also Christians.

77 Meaning that if the proportion of Christian perpertators is great, the proportion of Christian victims is low, and where the proportion of Christian victims is great, the proportion of Christian perpetrators is low.

78 The correlation coefficient between the Christian population (percentage) and Christian perpetrators is also high, though remained under 0.5. Clashes between Christians elevated this number, while Christian–Muslim clashes tended to decrease it. The value of the coefficient demonstrates that conflict of both types was abundant in the area. There is no close relation between the proportion of Muslim victims and Christian perpetrators or between Muslim victims and Muslim perpetrators on sanjak-level as a result of the same factors, since conflicts may occur in the Muslim–Muslim relation as well as the Muslim–Christian relation.

79 While in the case of Kumanovo, Radovište and Veles this was only between 27.2–40.1 percent.

80 ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Rappaport to Pallavicini, 28.01.1908, no. 5/pol, 14.

Skopje-vallas-nemzetiseg(Macedonia%20DG_CSDK_HHR_3_2014a).jpg
macedoniaDGk%c3%a9p.jpg

 

Skopje

Kumanovo

Egri Palanka

Kratovo

Kočani

Štip

Veles

Total

All members

6,000

3,448

5,280

5,536

4,640

5,028

5,200

35, 132

In Towns

2,500

0

210

156

320

2,381

0

5,567

IMRO Supporters as Percentage of Total Population

8.3%

7.6%

22%

25%

12%

11%

10%

12%

IMRO Supporters among Exarchists

25%

15%

25%

32%

25%

25%

18%

24%

Rifles (Mannlicher and Berdan, Gras)

250

140

311

208

300

345

440

1,994

Old Rifles from the Crimean War

9

28

0

107

200

293

20

657

Pistols

85

40

37

26

42

44

35

309

Bullets

17,300

4,570

22,660

45,000

56,000

55, 000

48,650

249,180

Bullets

1,550

313

1,710

800

1,700

1,760

1,050

8,883

Bullet / Weapon

67

27

73

143

112

86

106

94

Weapons to Supporters in Percentage

4.32

4.87

5.89

5.69

10.78

12.69

8.85

7.55

Bombs, Dynamite

122

15

60

125

58

36

0

416

Bulgarian Villages

no data

1

no data

63

56

50

50

over 220

Serbian Villages

11

23

8

1

0

0

8

51

Turkish Villages

20

54

0

2

16

70

40

202

Mixed

S-4, T-9

0

S-3

T-5

 

T-7

S-2

S-9, T-21

Ethnic Character

Bulgarian-Muslim

Turkish-Serbian

Bulgarian

Bulgarian

Bulgarian-Turkish

Turkish-Bulgarian

Bulgarian-Muslim

 

Dominant Character of Violence in 1905

Muslim against Christian

Muslim against Christian

Low Case Number

Christian against Christian

Unknown

Muslim–Christian

Muslim against Muslim;

Muslim against Christian

 

Income

500

436

250

574

500

770

1,500

4,530

 

Table 2. The forces of IMRO and the ethnic distribution of the population in 1906. Data calculated from: Биярски, Цочо and Ива Бурилкова, eds., Вътрешната македоно-одринска революционна организация. (1893–1919). Документи на централните ръководни органи, vol. 1, Архивите говорят, 45 (Sofia: Universitetsko Izdatelstvo Sv. Kliment Ohridski, 2007), 608–09. Nr. 209.

 

 

Never Exarchist

Became Serboman between 1889–1903

Became Serboman between 1903–1908

Became Bulgarian again after 1908

Skopska Kaza

Banjani,* Gornjani,* Čučer,* Brovec,* Kučevišta,* Kučkovo*

Raženičino, Pakoshevo, Novo Selo, Gorno Orizari, Vizbegovo, Vučedol, Dolno Slivari

Tavor (12), Pobože (15+60)

 

Veleška Kaza

 

Rudnik (45+10**), Bašino selo (34+150), Bogomila, Orahovdol (32+58), Kapinovo (14), Mokreni (64), Nežilovo (30+38), Teovo (50+60), Gabrovnik (12+19), Omorani (96+17), Lisiče (19+58)

Vladilovci (75+2), Smilovci (36), Oreše (73+29), Pomenovo (45), Starigrad (43), Novoselo (28+15), Izvor (44+16), Martinci (39), Stepanci (60), Nikoladin (46+83),

Oreše, Izvor, Nežilovo, Novoselo, Smilovci, Pomenovo, Vladilovci, Orahovdol

Kratovska Kaza

 

Šalkovica (13), Šopsko Rudari (20+75), Kratovo town (340+550 Muslim)

?

 

Kumanovska Kaza

Staro Nagorično* (130 was never exarchist of the 145),

Dumanovci (34+6), Četirci (62)

Karlovci (15), Koinci (25), Vragoturci (42), Maložino (60), Ramno (67), Arbanaško (42), Dlbočina (40), Dejlovci (62), Žegnjane (50), Stepanci (45), Kokino (50), Bajlovci (114), Osiče (15), Ženovino (33), Alinci (48), Breško (12), Svilanci (24), Kanarevo (46), Drenak (82), Orah (85), Ruginci (65), Bukovljani (24), Čelopek (62+15), Dobrača (12+6), Strezovci (40+13), Janinci*, Pelinci*, Beljakovci (52+21), Kučkarevo (10)

 

Palanečka Kaza

 

Stačna (20+12)

Carcorija (75), Dobrovnica (55), Lukje (140), Ogut (125), Podarži kon (116), Metirevo (55), Osiče (50), Baštevo (33), Gaber (102), Dlbočnica (69), Petrilica (305), Ljubinci (24), Radibuš (127), Stečna (32), Gulinci (45), Opošnica (90), Krivi kamen (27), Rankovci (135), Vražogranci (15), Ginovci (75), Milutinci (72)

Ginovci, Radibuš, Milutinci, Osiče, Krastov dol, Lukje (100+40), Ogut, Baštevo***, Carcarija***, Dobrovnica***, Dlbočnica***,

Gaber (14+88), Rankovci

Tetovska Kaza

 

Brezno, Rogačevo, Staro Selo, Vratnica

?

Dolna Lešnica

Gostivarsko Kaza

 

Zubovci (50+50),

Balil dol (30+50 Muslim), Dobreše (40+110 Muslim), Vrutok (24+45), Pečkovo (17+15), Leunovo (79+38+16 Muslim), Mavrovo (121+31), Nikiforovo (77), Železni Rečani

 

Kočanska Kaza

 

 

Nivičane (60+8), Gradče (32), Leški (21), Pašadžik (12), Pantalej (14+28)

Nivičina, Gradče, Leški, Pašadžik

 

Table 3a. Settlements accepting the authority of Patriarchate between 1889–1908

* Never Exarchist, mostly refugees from Stara Srbija between 1689–1739 in the so-called Skopska Crnagora.

** The first number in brackets represents Patriarchist households, the second Exarchist. Muslims are usually indicated.

*** Patriarchist Bulgarian villages. ЦДА, ф. 335k. oп. 1. a.e. 205. л. 112–25.

 

Skopska Černogoria

Nikola Janković, Angelko Slavković +10 men

Veles

Ivan Martulčanec (Azot) + 10 men, Dušan (Orahovdol) + 10 men

Egri Palanka

Georgi Skopjanče(to) (Kozjak Mts.) + 10 men, Spas Garda (Petralica)

Kumanovo

Jovo Kapitan, Denko Genin, Pop Dičo vojvoda

Kočana

Turkish-Serbian mixed Cheta led by the Serbian teacher from Kočani with the approval of the kaymakam

Skopje

Petko Kapitan (Staro Nagoričano)

Porečie, Kičevo, Azot

Grigor from Nebregovo with 30 men, Stefan with 10 men, Ivan Dolgač(ot) with 15 men, Pavle from Bač (Albania) with 7-8 men around Dibra

Prilep

Ivan/Jovan Babunski and 15 men, Boško vojvoda from Vir with 10 men

 

Table 3b. Location of Serbian Cheta leaders in 1907 (approximately 170 men). Стайко Трифонов, Величко Георгиев, eds., История на българите в документи,
vol. 1 of 2. 1878–1912 (Sofia: Просвета, 1996), 290–91.

Arrested

Convicted

Acquitted

Still under Investigation

Ethnic Group

1,607 (80%)

313 (20%)

993 (62%)

301 (18%)

Bulgarian

349 (17%)

79 (22%)

99 (28%)

171 (50%)

Greek

52 (3%)

4 (8%)

41 (80%)

7 (13%)

Serb

2,008 (100%)

396 (20%)

1,133 (55%)

479 (25%)

Total

Confrontations

Wounded

Killed

Captured Alive

Adversary

68 (61%)

6

320 (81%)

65 (16%)

Bulgarian Chetas

(total cases: 391)

30 (27%)

12

93 (33%)

165 (61%)

Greek Chetas
(total cases: 270)

13 (12%)

2

96 (86%)

13 (11%)

Serbian Chetas
(total cases: 111)

111 (average of seven people per confrontation)

20

509 (66%)

243 (31%)

Total: 772

?

122

86

Related to Turkish Authorities

 

Table 5. Distribution of violent acts between ethnic groups in 1905 thoughout Macedonia according to Shopov. ЦДА, ф. 332k. oп. 1. a.e. 17. л. 544–55.

 

Skopje

Kumanovo

Kriva Palanka

Kratovo

Kočani

Maleš (Osmanie)

Radovište

Štip

Veles

Distant from Center (x),

Near Borders (y)

 

y

xy

xy

xy

xy

x

x

 

Proportion of Unresolved Cases is Significant

x

 

x

x

x

x

 

x

 

Proportion of Muslim Population is Significant

xx

 

 

 

xx

x

xx

xx

x

Proportion of Victims Compared to Population is Significant

 

x

x

 

 

 

x

x

 

Proportion of Perpetrators Compared to Population is Significant

x

 

 

 

 

 

x

x

 

Muslim–Christian Conflict

x

x

 

 

 

 

x

x

 

Christian–Christian Conflict

x

x

 

x

 

 

 

x

 

Muslim–Muslim Conflict

x

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

x

Majority of Known Perpetrators is Muslim

 

x

 

 

 

 

x

x

x

Majority of Known Perpetrators is Christian

 

 

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Victims Are Overrepresented

x

 

 

 

 

 

x

x

 

Muslim Victims Are Overrepresented

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 12. Summary table: characteristics of wave of violence in 1905, Sanjak of Skopje (May 11–September 13, 1905)

Skopje_aldozat-tettes(Macedonia%20DG_CSDK_HHR_3_2014a).jpg

Map 2. Kaza level map of the religious distribution of victims and perpetrators in the Sanjak of Skopje by Zsolt Bottlik

pdfVolume 3 Issue 3 CONTENTS

Gábor Egry

Phantom Menaces? Ethnic Categorization, Loyalty and State Security in Interwar Romania

In this article, I analyze practices of defining and applying concepts of ethnicity, loyalty and state security in Greater Romania. While state policies were based on a basic assumption of the equation of ethnic belonging and loyalty (Romanians being loyal, non-Romanians disloyal), the complexity of the very administrative apparatus and the problems of unification opened up a space in which the concepts of loyalty and ethnicity were contested. The case studies of the use of the term irredentist and the language exams of minority officials in the mid-1930s shed light on a related but different question. The basic equation of loyalty and ethnicity resulted in the use of an otherwise empty concept of irredentism as a term to denote little more than ethnic “otherness,” a vagueness that enabled local authorities to apply it deliberately, either to restrict or to permit members of minorities to engage in activities that had some bearing on questions of identity. The ways in which the language exams were administered indicate the existence of a large group of non-Romanian public officials who were treated by their colleagues and immediate superiors as equal members of a public body serving the nation state, people who in exchange redefined their loyalty and identity as one based primarily on this professional group membership while still preserving their ethnic belonging. These deviations from the basic equation also reveal how the layered and geographically diverse nature of the state administration influenced the contested nature of the ethnic categories.

Keywords: ethnicity, loyalty, security, Greater Romania, minorities, Transylvania

Ethnicity, loyalty and state security, concepts central to this study, were and are intricately interwoven. Their relationship, far from straight and simple in a given period and in the specific context of a newly enlarged nation-state after World War I, will be the main concern of my work. This approach presumes that what I try to outline is a story of construction and negotiation, addressing how these concepts were understood, defined, redefined and instrumentalized by different actors, and always relating these concepts to one another. Not only were these concepts used in descriptions of society, they also underpinned certain policies and administrative practices and legitimized different forms of control over the population. They therefore inevitably became topics of contestation in their content and their practical consequences for the lives of individuals. Success in defining what loyalty consisted of, how loyalty was related to ethnic belonging, and what constituted a threat to the security of the state meant power, because definitions of loyalty and threat were used to legitimate restrictions on or extensions of liberties, and these liberties were never simply abstractions, but rather always involved smaller or larger spheres of personal activity.

The construction of ideals and abstractions is usually accompanied by contestation, and contestation always means more than one actor, but historical actors are rarely equal in terms of resources, power, or efficiency, and their asymmetric relationships often mean that one of them can limit the others. Concerning loyalty and state security, it is usually the state that has the strongest power to establish definitions, both as a matter of law and a matter of public opinion, as was the case, for instance, in interwar Romania. Obviously, the state had the necessary means to define (what it perceived as) threats to the existing order (including the very existence of the state) and what constituted the proper behavior of a citizen with a single word: loyalty. In some cases, this power to define loyalty was unilateral, for instance in the case of ethnic categorization, which was usually legally or structurally defined, leaving the individual little room to negotiate his or her membership, except when a census was taken.1 Thus the logic of the state and how it approached ethnicity, loyalty and state security had a considerable impact on the behavior of other actors.

However, states are rarely homogeneous entities. Indeed one of their chief characteristics is their complexity. As a consequence, even when a given state has a clearly defined goal accompanied by a well-articulated concept of state security and loyalty, many actors are responsible for the implementation of policies and the administration of society at different levels and under different circumstances.2 This plural nature of the (single) state and the resulting potential for varying interpretations and understandings of security, and ethnicity opens up spaces for redefinitions of the concept of loyalty, either entirely or at least with regards to part(s) of its content. Add to this the personal flexibility of individual administrative officials and the fact that even totalitarian regimes were never fully able to control individual responses to and attitudes towards their expectations and the result is often a surprisingly large semantic space in which contestation of these concepts (security, ethnicity, and loyalty) took place with very different outcomes, depending on various factors. Thus even in the case of state security (which is usually associated with strict control and enforcement) and its relationship to ethnicity and loyalty one can expect dynamic stories with varying trajectories, the usual narrative of political and/or national oppression notwithstanding.

In this study I attempt to trace the dynamics of the concepts under investigation in interwar Romania, firstly as an exemplary case of a wider phenomenon (nowadays a popular topic of historical research), namely the notion of ethnicity as a social construct3 and then as an alternative to the usual narratives of the specific history of the Hungarian minority in interwar Romania. Concerning the latter aim, I do not intend to rewrite this story.4 I would rather provide a complementary narrative and demonstrate why it is necessary to go beyond the generalized view of historical actors in order to understand even broader social processes within the ethnic minority communities.

I also intend to offer a tacit challenge to the existing secondary literature, Hungarian and Romanian alike. There is, however, an important difference between Hungarian and Romanian works dealing with minorities and minority policy. The bulk of Hungarian historiography since the 1960s employs more constructive methodologies in the creation of this macro perspective, and works that were written after the late 1980s implement important theoretical insights from nationalism studies and social sciences. With a few notable exceptions,5 Romanian historiography lags behind. Most of the scholarship in question is descriptive or consists of individual source publications, and articles complied from transcripts of documents without contextualization.6 Some of the most prominent works are uncritical of their sources, repetitively reproducing their perspectives, opinions and assessments, and this is also true of the source publications.7 This does not mean that these works do not contain a huge amount of information and data, but the way they narrate the history of minorities is centered on politics and framed by a perspective from above.

In contrast, I intend to dissociate my story from what we usually understand as politics, the activity of political actors at national level or that of members of political parties in a given context, or the even narrower perspectives of legal texts produced by politicians. First, my aim is to show how lower levels of the administration dealt with their immediate subjects, so I offer insights into the practical meaning of certain concepts and policies and not political intentions in the aforementioned sense. Second, my point of departure is state security, not minority policy, which is usually based on the very existence of the state, irrespective of its nature (be it democratic , authoritarian, or dictatorial) or dominant ideology (be it liberal, nationalist, communist or fascist etc.). Every state has an understanding of state security and every state uses similar practices to further this aim.

Nevertheless, the context of minority politics in interwar Romania is significant in order to highlight the potential differences between situations that resulted from the varying acts of different actors. Most works on this issue draw a distinction between the first and the second decade of the interwar era and they also point out the different stances of National Liberal and National Peasant Governments. The 1920s, dominated by the liberals, are usually characterized as an era of legal unification based on the notion of the equality of all citizens and rejection of the necessity of specific minority rights (with all the consequences this entailed for minorities that were accustomed to particular legal systems). In other words, the dismissal of minority rights as a legitimate state concern notwithstanding, the period is regarded as one in which liberal policies prevailed concerning the citizens’ status, peaking in the decentralizing accommodation attempts of the National Peasant governments between 1928 and 1933. In contrast, the 1930s is usually seen as an era of growing nationalist sentiment, during which mainstream parties tacked to the right, adopting increasingly extreme positions under pressure from the extreme right movements.8 The distance between politics and implementation, minority policy and state security allows one to test this general opinion as a hypothesis at the lower levels of the administration and from the perspective of state security organs, which I intend to do in the following sections.9

A Triangle of Concepts

The point of departure for this essay is the concept of loyalty, a notion that was potentially directly connected both to ethnicity and state security. According to Peter Haslinger and Joachim von Puttkamer,10 loyalty as a social phenomenon (a set of norms, expectations and practices) has three important aspects. The first one is an emotional-ethical one, which entails individual and collective activity, while mutuality of the relationship between individuals and groups or states remains central. The second one is a relational aspect, concerning the acceptance or rejection of a state, which enables the actors to perform, demand, control and sanction loyalty. The third one is a discursive one, (re)interpreting loyalty in relation to the usually stable discursive identity that makes it possible to gain room for maneuver despite the fixed assumptions of behavior and practices usually associated with identity. The three aspects not only situate loyalty as a discourse but also make it distinguishable in most social contexts, beyond a mere speech-act and also as an often embedded practice.

A close relationship between loyalty and ethnicity was characteristic to the new nation states of interwar Europe. It was exemplified by rhetoric that often confounded ethnic belonging with a presupposed attitude towards the existence and goals of the nation states.11 It did not, however, necessarily mean a complete identification of these concepts. They were seen rather as existing in a causal relationship between one’s ethnicity and one’s loyalty. According to the principle of national self-determination, a cornerstone of the new European order after World War I, ethnicity implied a tendency towards the establishment of new entities and the striving for sovereignty. Additionally, since the states that had lost the war sought at least partial revision of the peace treaties, revisionism based on claims on behalf of ethnic kin in other states represented another form of politics that made loyalty questionable on the basis of ethnicity. Irredentism and revisionism, the two frequently mentioned threats to the territorial integrity of the successor states, were sometimes complemented with a third problem that also put ethnic minorities in the limelight as sources of danger: the minority treaties signed by the new nation states of Eastern Europe. Successive Romanian governments saw these documents as a result of unjust Great Power pressure and an infringement on their own sovereignty. They were therefore reluctant to give them precedence over national legislation, first and foremost the Constitution of 1923, which declared the equality of every citizen irrespective of ethnicity and failed to incorporate the few specific rights listed in the Minority Treaty.12 It is not surprising that minority organizations were vulnerable to allegations that they were undermining the state, especially when they based their claims on the Minority Treaty.13

Under these circumstances, ethnic categorization became crucial in determining one’s loyalty, and in accordance with the essentialist logic of ethnicity, suspicions concerning loyalty were easily extended to the whole ethnic group. If ethnicity implied an attachment to or longing for a different form of statehood, then ethnic minorities were inevitably suspected of subversion. State security demanded observation and control of ethnic groups and their activity. Cultural practices that were regarded as peculiar to (and possibly essential to) a particular ethnic group were easily seen as expressions or rejections of the state precisely because of they were interpreted as representations of one ethnicity in a state that was perceived as the embodiment of another. Thus the three concepts were connected to one another in a complex triangle of relationships in which ethnicity had a bearing on one’s presumable behavior and this presumption easily made a person seem disloyal in the eyes of the authorities, thus automatically making him or her a threat to the state. Those responsible for the security of the state could all too easily equate ethnicity with loyalty (or disloyalty in the case of a minority) and define minorities as dangers. As a consequence, ethnic categorization was often about determining or at least alleging varying degrees of loyalty.14

Beyond this gaze from above, the complexity of the state and society and the limitations of the state’s executive capacity allowed for contestation of these concepts and also their relationship to one another, which was regarded as straightforward by most security organs. Perceptions and expectations were not necessarily accepted and fulfilled, while the approach of the state security organs and their practice of categorization inevitably impacted on the activity of those affected. However, the impact itself depended on many factors and sometimes resulted in unexpected outcomes, as other actors made other contributions to the process of defining ethnicity and loyalty and how ethnicity and loyalty affected state security. The contingent, fluid nature of ethnicity in particular posed a challenge to the simplistic causality implied in the action of state organs, as it often disrupted the connection between ethnicity and loyalty.

Security and Ethnicity

If one examines the concept of security in interwar Romania from the perspective of the state, i.e. the higher levels of administration, it is easy to discern signs of the blurring of the concept of ethnicity and loyalty. The loyalty of ethnic others was a permanent concern for the administration and in particular for the organs of security, such as the police, the gendarmerie and the State Security Police (Siguranţa, a branch of the police). But as the local outlets of these organs were politically subordinated to the county prefects, (politicians who had administrative duties, were invested with extensive powers, and represented the central government), the problem was an important issue in the political sphere as well. As a consequence, in addition to the regular reports of the police and gendarmerie, the political reports of the prefects also gave extensive descriptions of alleged subversive activities among members of the ethnic minority population.

The readiness with which the implicit assumption that the minority population as such posed a danger to the state was adopted and accepted is illustrated by how this concern figured in tens of thousands of political reports (of which I could only gain access to more than one-thousand from all over Romania) over the course of the two decades in question. Not only did these reports consistently contain separate sections on the activities of these minorities in the respective counties, the headings of these sections often explicitly labeled the groups as problems (problemă minoritară, maghiară, etc.), questions (chestiunea minoritară, germană, etc.) or movements (mişcarea minoritară, maghiară, etc.), terms suggesting something that should be overseen and kept under control.15 It is also noteworthy how much these fears and the resulting perception of minorities as threats was characteristic for Romanian political thinking and discourse in their entirety, creating a situation in which views dominant in the public sphere and state practices reinforced one another, even on the level of semantics.16

Two important things stand out concerning this labeling. First, they did not draw any distinction between the various minorities. Even minorities without an external homeland or territorial claims, such as Jews, appeared regularly in these reports. Thus there was a clear distinction between the majority and the minorities in terms of potential threat, and minority status alone sufficed as a substantiation of the subversive potential of these ethnic groups. The generalization that underlies this practice is important for the conceptualization of loyalty too, because it makes plausible and palpable how non-Romanians were essentially seen as more or less incompatible with the existing order, much like other subversive groups, and this is the second point concerning the categorization of minorities in the reports. That they posed a potential threat went without saying, as was the case with communists, fascists, and workers, but it was also regarded as self-evident that the workers’ problem or student problem was equally important, not least because of the violence associated with these movements.17 The fact that minorities figured alongside them in the reports certainly meant that they were also seen as suspicious and even potentially capable of violence.

But however simple and effective this categorization seems (minorities are disloyal and the majority is loyal simply because of their ethnicity, thus ethnicity is a reliable marker of loyalty), it did not remain unproblematic. Especially in the new provinces of Greater Romania (Transylvania, the Banat, Bukovina, Bessarabia) and more markedly at the fringes, often along the borders, the loyalty of the Romanian population was also called into question.18 On the basis of observations made by the authorities and complaints lodged by individuals, they were increasingly seen as unreliable, dangerous, and a challenge to the authority of the state. However, with a strange twist the bond between ethnicity and loyalty was maintained intact with the claim that these Romanians were not actually Romanians. They were either “denationalized” (Magyarized, Russianized, Polonized, Ukrainianized etc.) Romanians or they were not Romanians at all, but rather a mixed population, and this was reflected in their everyday practices: language use, attitude towards official celebrations, and consumption of cultural material goods.

Thus the strong link between ethnicity and loyalty was restored with the categorization of people on the basis of their behavior and the identification of certain practices with a specific ethnicity. But when the notion of behavior and cultural practices as the litmus test of ethnicity was applied on a day-to-day basis, it did not prove sufficient to determine one’s loyalty or disloyalty in a viable manner. At least this is what an exchange of letters between the central apparatus of the Siguranţa and the local police units located in the smaller cities around Cluj (Kolozsvár) suggests. In a letter, the central administration not only complained that the local police failed to report the threats posed by the regular activities of minorities in the respective cities, but also instructed the police as to what it meant to be irredentist and, as such, disloyal. The letter practically claimed that every single activity of a minority organization was part of irredentist propaganda and conspiracy, so the police had to report on them in detail and hinder them, whether they regarded these activities as potentially dangerous or not.19 While this approach concurred entirely with the simple equation of ethnicity and loyalty that prevailed in police and political reports, it was clear to the local police that it would have created an unmanageable situation on the ground. The reaction of the police, who de facto neglected the order (as I discuss below), reveals that the discrepancy between local and central actors concerning the definition of loyalty and the relationship between loyalty and ethnicity could not be eliminated by simple order. It also sheds light on the practices through which concepts were redefined, which I address in more detail later.

Not surprisingly the simple equation of ethnicity and loyalty pervaded other fields of ethnic categorization, seemingly farther from the immediate concerns of state security. But in a paradoxical way, to a certain extent these practices showed that according to the specific situation and the immediate aims of the state there was a chance of loosening the strong bond connecting ethnicity and loyalty. Census taking is one of the obvious examples, especially as it was the moment when one’s ethnicity was formally registered in a legally binding form. But while police and political reports suggest no differences among minorities as far as their potentially dangerous nature was concerned, the census contradicted to this strict rule and revealed a certain pecking order of dangerousness. In this case, the aim of the state was to weaken the (allegedly) most dangerous ethnic groups by strengthening others by revealing the “true” ethnicity of people who (purportedly) had been Magyarized or Russianized before World War I. In Transylvania, the most important groups subject to this practice were Germans and urban Jews. They were often compelled to register as Jews and Germans and were threatened with fines if they failed to comply.20

However, once again the case was less straightforward than it seems. Individual census commissioners often did not entirely share the official view and treated every minority as equally dangerous. One of them even saw the census as an opportunity to search the home of every Hungarian and to reveal hidden depots of arms and ammunition, their supposed armed conspiracy against Romania,21 once again highlighting the practical importance of what the executors of state policies actually thought of these issues. On the other hand, the police reports imply that the differences in the danger these groups posed could only have been a difference of degree, for example in the practice of Bessarabian police organs the Jews as an ethnicity were equated with ethnic danger and communism simultaneously, making them probably the most subversive group in the eyes of the authorities.22

While recent secondary literature suggests that actual policy towards minorities in interwar South Eastern Europe was mainly influenced by the relationship between the kin-state, the home state, and Great Power influence if its support was important for the homeland,23 such considerations do not seem to have had an impact on the perception of ethnicity as a threat to the state. At least in the case of Germans neither Romanian attempts to gain German support at the end of the 1930s nor the Antonescu regime’s alliance with the Third Reich diminished concerns or reduced the amount of paperwork dealing with the supervision and control of the German minority as a permanent danger, despite significant political concessions to their demands.24 The reports still related every detail of the German problem, and the police continued to devote considerable attention to German activity in the country.

Irredentists and Minority Officials

In the previous section, I mentioned how the perspective of central organs was characteristic of the state apparatus and how the equation of loyalty and ethnicity was embedded in the workings of its organs. But even at this macro level and in spite of the simplicity of the premise, it was not always easy to apply, although the equation remained the basis on which many of the acts and policies of the organs of state security were based. However, it is not always possible to discern on the basis of these sources alone how the concepts of loyalty, ethnicity and state security were contested, reshaped, and reconstructed through the interactions of different actors.

In the following section, I use two exemplary cases to highlight this process in more detail. The cases I have chosen represent two different situations for the participants. The first one, which concerns how the concept of irredentism was used by organs responsible for state security, shows the effects of unilateral, often secret categorization, while the second one, which involves the language exams taken by minority public officials in 1934–1935, shows how a supposedly fixed identification was often successfully negotiated in its content throughout this process. The unilateral nature of categorization and the secrecy, which was only broken by often politically motivated trials that were not intended to reveal the “truth” about the accused but rather to reinforce state legitimacy through the discovery of enemies, made it almost impossible to negotiate the content or label of irredentism. Individuals registered as irredentists remained passive in the face of this charge, except in the case of a trial, but the concepts were still not used uniformly. The differences in the ways in which the notion was defined and applied are very instructive concerning the working of categorization within a complex structure. Thus they shed some light on the differences in definitions within the state and also on the basic definition of nation/ethnicity.

The second example, which involves language exams, offers a look at a more dynamic and complex context in which every actor gained a certain level of agency in determining and defining ethnicity. Although the basic equation of ethnicity and loyalty remained seemingly uncontested, the many variations of what really constituted ethnicity in the case of minority officials, whose minority position and identity was a fixed element of the process, often led to a de facto redefinition of their ethnic belonging. In this case, many actors exerted influence one way or another on the result, the central state organs, local politicians, representatives of the public officials as a profession, and the examinees themselves, resulting in a very intriguing set of tactics and strategies.

Irredentism and Irredentists

The basic equation of ethnicity and (dis)loyalty made it seemingly quite simple for the authorities to identify dangerous people and groups whose often permanent supervision was necessary for the security of the state. Earlier research has already demonstrated that police practice applied the uniform view of ethnic groups as dangerous per se. Kathrine Sorrels analyzes how Jews were seen in Bessarabia and concludes that the police practically bound their ethnicity with subversive activity, be it bolshevism or ethnic secession.25 However, she concentrated on the group as a whole, implicitly accepting the contemporaneous official perspective, and did not attempt to look for differences within the state or interrogate the practical content and meaning of concepts like irredentist and Bolshevik. She used only police reports, while different types of sources, combined with the paper trail of individual cases, offer a glimpse at both the meaning of the concept of irredentism as it was used by state authorities and the process of construction/application of this concept in a complex administrative system. Lists of people to intern in case of military mobilization as of 1933,26 a period of internal politics that was still relatively peaceful,27 provides a basis for an analysis of the social backgrounds of irredentists in comparison with other allegedly subversive groups and also data that can shed some light on the meanings of the concept.

Reports on the activity of lower level police organs reveal that the lists were not exhaustive. In other words, there were more people suspected of irredentist activity than actually on the lists. Thus we can take the lists as a register of a “core” group, the presence of which was seen as the most acute potential danger to military efforts due to its social activity and influence on the minority population. In this sense, the lists were not really inventories of potential irredentists not even of people who had fallen under the suspicion of the authorities. Rather, they were records of people believed by the authorities to constitute a group the removal of which would forestall any potential irredentist political activities among the members of minority groups.

The lists consist of 1,262 people suspected or accused of having engaged in all kinds of subversive activity. While data from some Transylvanian counties are missing, a summary of the number of people to intern as of 1936 and scattered lists from individual counties from other years suggest that the overall number for Transylvania was not much higher than the number found in these partial lists, making the sample a legitimate basis of analysis.28 There was no consistent use of the label irredentist among state organs, so it is not possible to determine precisely who was treated as a dangerous irredentist. Nevertheless, the use of two different filters could certainly include everyone whom the authorities classified as an irredentist. One should therefore draw a distinction between “hard” or “core” irredentists, who were registered explicitly as irredentists, and “soft” irredentists, who figured on the list as chauvinists who held some anti-Romanian sentiment or were labeled with some similar accusation. 440 people belonged to the core and an additional 178 people to the soft irredentist group, comprising almost 49 percent of all registered people. Even if one adds the 23 spies, the number is hardly half of the dangerous elements in the register, suggesting that irredentism was less of a concern for the authorities than is usually presumed.29

In the eyes of the authorities, the phenomenon of irredentism was not solely an urban one, but was also found in a concentrated form in a few larger localities. 383 people, 62 percent of the combined, soft and hard irredentist group, lived in only 13 cities across Transylvania. However, there was no straight correlation between the size of a city or the proportion of Hungarians living there and the number of irredentists registered. The authorities needed a certain number of Hungarians to “find” a larger group of irredentists among them, but a larger group of Hungarians did not automatically mean a larger group of irredentists. This finding suggests that the authorities were not obliged or under pressure to produce a certain number or percentage of irredentists. Also, there is no visible tendency indicating that the presence of non-Hungarian minority groups proportionally raised the number of irredentists in the particular locality. This suggests that Hungarians were somewhat more likely to fall under such suspicion than members of other nationalities, a hypothesis further corroborated by the internal division of the irredentist groups according to ethnicity. In this regard Hungarians, made up around 80 percent of both “core” irredentists and the combined “core” and “soft” irredentist groups, while their share of the minority population in these counties was only 65.6 percent.30

The social composition of Hungarian irredentists shown in tables 1 and 231 reveals the extent to which the concept, when applied, was limited to a small and very specific group of Hungarians.

 

Hungarian

German

Jew

Romanian

Other

Total

Worker

10

1

11

Peasant, agricultural laborer

6

6

Artisan, skilled worker, trader, smallholder

32

5

37

Public services

29

4

1

34

Education, religion

60

4

2

66

Liberal professions

82

4

17

1

104

Proprietor

26

2

28

Private official

19

2

1

22

Commerce, restoration, pharmacist

23

8

9

40

Politics

4

4

Housewife, pensioner

16

5

2

1

24

n. a.

1

1

Total

307

35

33

1

1

377

 

Table 1: Occupational division of registered “core” irredentists according to ethnicity

 

 

Hungarian

German

Jew

Romanian

Other

Total

Worker

32

2

4

4

42

Peasant, agricultural laborer

7

6

2

15

Artisan, skilled worker, trader, smallholder

56

15

4

1

76

Public services

36

6

1

43

Education, religion

75

10

3

88

Liberal professions

98

6

21

1

126

Proprietor

32

2

34

Private official

25

5

4

34

Commerce, restoration, pharmacist

34

10

10

1

55

Politics

4

4

Housewife, pensioner

26

8

2

1

37

n. a.

 

1

 

 

1

Total

425

70

42

11

7

555

 

Table 2: Occupational division of registered “core” and “soft” irredentists, according to ethnicity

 

The most important characteristic of these groups was the reduced presence of workers and peasants, although together they represented the largest occupational group among Hungarians.32 The absence of these categories from the group of irredentists is even more striking considering that 44 percent of all Hungarians assigned to internment were registered as communists, showing that ethnicity alone did not determine one’s categorization. But a tendency to become communist according to official categorizations was even more prevalent in the case of lower middle class or petty bourgeois groups.33 In this case, 63 percent of all registered individuals were classified as communists.

On the other hand, representatives of the liberal professions and the intelligentsia were significantly overrepresented among irredentists, irrespective of their nationality. Among Hungarians 40 percent of irredentists, whether core or soft, belonged to this occupational category, compared to 13 percent among the Hungarian population. If one adopts a broad definition of middle class, adding private officials, some proprietors, and independent entrepreneurs in commerce, restoration, pharmacist or public servants it is safe to conclude that at least 60 percent of those categorized as irredentists belonged to the middle class. If we bundle together middle class defined in this manner, the elite and the better situated part of the lower middle class, their ratio together could reach as much as 80% of registered irredentists of Hungarian nationality. Therefore, it seems that irredentism was not really equal with ethnicity alone, but with ethnicity and profession or social status. Belonging to the middle-class meant that one either was not seen as suspicious or, if you were, you were still only perceived as an irredentist by the authorities.

A look at the gender aspect and some paradoxical cases corroborates this finding. Regarding gender, not only did a mere sixth of women registered belong to the “core” irredentist category, almost without exception their social roles were classic middle class housewife, while many working women figured among communists. It is also telling that a few individuals who otherwise either were leaders of the legal Social Democratic Party (associated with the workers’ problem in police reports) or already known to the authorities as communists still figured among irredentists. In all likelihood, this was due to their occupation, namely journalism.34

Obviously, stereotypes played an important role in the practice of categorization. While ethnicity was not unrelated to the decisions of authorities, it was only one factor. It was necessary but not adequate to qualify someone as irredentist. As in the case of Jews, who were associated with bolshevism due to their nationality and the respective stereotypes (for this reason mainly people from lower and lower-middle class groups are found on the lists as alleged communists), irredentist Hungarians were predominantly middle class, often well educated people, in harmony with the stereotypical image of Hungarians.35

Looking behind the often simplistic labels on the list, which were intended to describe the threats these people posed to state security, irredentism, as is clear from the two-tier analysis of the social composition of this group, reveals a wide range of meanings beyond the non-Romanian ethnic middle class status. Irredentist was not the only term used by the state authorities to designate people who were suspected of irredentism. The authorities applied a number of synonymous words, often arbitrarily or just to avoid the negative stylistic effect of the accumulation or repetition of a word. Sometimes the modification was only a phrase attached to or involving a derived form of “irredentism,” like “Hungarian irredentist, feverishly zealous, great propagandist.”36 In other cases it was a substitution or a synonym, often used in analogous phrases, like “great chauvinist, hates everything Romanian,” “irredentist and Hungarian propagandist.”37 There was a third type, namely the seemingly accurate description of a particular case, but these descriptions often rested on stereotypes, and there was also a very pliant label, subversive, which could refer to irredentism or other potentially dangerous activities as well.

The concept of irredentism was to a certain extent treated as a matter of common knowledge. The term was used with minimal or no explanation, implying the self-evidence of its meaning.38 When the term was used in a context in which it went beyond this simplistic formulation and suggested something concrete, this implied meaning could have been a general attitude, a permanent activity or a single case. The most intriguing of its implied meanings was simply the notion of a general attitude that was usually summarized as hostility to Romania and discontent with the situation in the country, and this attitude always involved a critical stance with regards to the prevailing circumstances. Sometimes even oblique, general criticism (for example in the form of a theater play in which state officials were depicted in a negative light, even if the setting of the play was not specified) was enough to raise the suspicion of the authorities.39 These kinds of manifestations of alleged disloyalty were usually seen through the lens of ethnicity. If criticism came from a non-Romanian, it was easy to assume that the reason was the alien soul of the critic who imagined a solution outside the framework of the Romanian nation state. Social roles or positions were often confounded with pursuits in attempts to define irredentism. Although in many cases the authorities substantiated their categorizations with mention of the specific acts of the accused, as these actions usually were closely related to the profession of the person concerned the decision to designate him or her as “irredentist” was a condemnation of his or her pursuits in their entirety. These activities were usually carried out in civic societies and associations, and logically the activity of these institutions was also categorized as irredentist.40 As a consequence, everyone involved automatically became an irredentist.41

Concerning specific acts that were regarded by the organs of the state as irredentist, apart from cases of violence against the authorities, open rebellion or participation in the Hungarian-Romanian armed conflict during and after World War I (i.e. in the past), these acts consisted primarily of banal expressions of nationalist sentiment and everyday gestures of ethnic belonging.42 Singing the wrong songs, wearing the wrong clothes, using the wrong paints, or buying or selling the wrong bouquet figured on the long list of potential transgressions of the law. These cases are interesting from an analytical perspective in part because of the possibility that Romanians could commit mistakes that qualified them as Hungarian irredentists.43 However, this did not loosen the tie between ethnicity and loyalty, since the gestures or acts that could make a Romanian seem “Hungarian” in the eyes of the authorities were gestures and acts specifically associated with Hungarian identity and culture.

One of the main consequences of this diversity of applications was the fuzzy character of the definition itself. Due to the multiple uses of the term and the lack of clear-cut guidelines, the police apparatus created a vague concept that could apply to anyone if necessary. As the pervading view of the minorities and especially the Hungarian minority was characterized by growing paranoia and hysteria throughout the interwar period, the emerging discourse (or at least part of it) posited every act of a member of a minority as a sign of irredentism. However, even in the late 1930s one still found expressions in this discourse of the hope that workers and peasants could be separated from the Hungarian “oligarchs,” highlighting the extent to which the police practice of categorization reflected political perceptions of the minorities.44

Paranoia was prevalent in police documents as well, not least because of the unfamiliarity of the police and gendarmerie with Hungarian (and sometimes Transylvanian Romanian) milieus.45 There was a language barrier too. Often police officers from the Old Kingdom even confused German with Hungarian, and they were rarely able to detect negative references in translated texts.46 But this reinforced the determination of the authorities, who often treated irredentism as a one way street. Once something led to the registration of a person as an irredentist, it was impossible for him or her ever to be granted absolution for this qualification. One small deed remained a permanent stigma.47

However, the vague definition of the concept, the inability of the center to apply it in a consistent manner, and the discrepancies between certain local contexts led to an unexpected result, namely the emergence of a space in which the definition of irredentism depended entirely on the local representatives of the state. Although nominally a serious problem and a reason for strict observation and control of anyone suspected of disloyalty, irredentism became an arbitrary category often used without any consequences, even if on other occasions it was the justification for severe punishments. There was no automatic classification of people with the same profession or occupation. For example, while in Cluj or Odorhei Secuiesc (Székelyudvarhely) the most important Hungarian politicians were labeled irredentists, in Târgu Mureş (Marosvásárhely) only one man, György Bernády, was regarded as meriting this designation. At the time, Bernády had been in opposition to the Hungarian party, although he was also an opponent of the governing National Peasant Party.48 Similar discrepancies were frequent concerning secondary school teachers or priests, and in individual cases there is evidence indicating that the authorities (the gendarmerie and the Prosecutor’s Office, for example in Zălău) tried to bury denunciations.49

The importance of local contexts highlights the problems and contingency of categorization even in a seemingly simple case and shows how individuals who had access to the police personnel via networks or because of their social position were able to negotiate the content of an operative term, in this case irredentism. Local police representatives still had to take official expectations into account, but at times they also found ways of feigning compliance without actually carrying out orders. As soon as they realized that compliance with orders to exercise permanent control over every minority activity would disrupt everyday life, they started to pay lip service to central demands, often imitating the exact wording of their superiors.50 The most illustrative example of this tactic was the manner in which the Dej (Dés) police handled an order issued by the regional police inspectorate in 1937. The police units in the cities around Cluj were warned to abandon their usual habit of filing lapidary reports in which they described the activity of Hungarians only vaguely and with reference to stereotypes, usually saying little more than something like, “Hungarians behave like they used to.” They were instructed in harsh terms that every organization and every event that was in some way attached to Hungarian identity or Hungarian culture served the goal of collecting money for territorial revision and propaganda. It is not clear how the other police chiefs reacted, but the Dej reports remained largely unchanged, with verbatim repetition of the phrases used in earlier reports with the addition of a half-sentence that affirmed the revisionist nature of these (perfectly ordinary) events.51 Thus while the concept of irredentism remained seemingly unaltered, in reality it became extremely fragmented and retained only one element: a correlation with ethnicity and social status.

Examining Minority Officials

Loyalty was crucial in the process of language exams for minority officials too. While nominally they were obliged as of the early 1920s to pass an exam (the first nationwide, compulsory exam was organized in 1924) in order to be employed in the public sector, examinees were often treated leniently52 and retained even when they did not possess adequate language skills. A decade later, amidst growing political pressure from stronger nationalist currents, the government decided to oblige minority public officials to take another language exam, without exception. The situation was seemingly unambiguous. Only minority officials were obliged to pass the exam. That is, ethnicity was the sole criterion and ethnicity, regarded as an unchangeable, fixed characteristic of individuals, itself was a mark of potential disloyalty.

Without describing the process in detail or analyzing the composition of the group of minority officials (a group that was much larger than it was portrayed in the contemporaneous discourse and much larger than is usually presumed in the secondary literature),53 I will focus on two aspects: the identification of minority officials as it can be examined on the basis of the exams and the ways in which prefects reacted to the explicit demand for mass layoffs from Bucharest. The first aspect involves the question of loyalty and ethnicity because the exams were potentially an expression of different forms of loyalty to the state. The second shows how different actors in different positions interpreted state security and loyalty.

The potential to test and express one’s loyalty arose from the structure of the exams. Examinees were subject to an oral and a written examination. Officials with higher levels of education had to speak about a topic selected by the committee and compose an essay. Those with lower levels of education only had to write down a text. The topics varied greatly across Transylvania, but they basically revolved around three larger issues: a rather general one with certain national content, a professional one, and a question that involved some aspect of the applicant’s personal life. The first dealt with history, geography, or culture, inviting the candidates to talk about national issues. They were free to decide whether to tell a boiler-plate version or deviate from it, and in case of the latter they could also choose the extent of the deviation. This usually was not surprising, especially for those who entered public service after 1919, because they were requested to take a competency exam that usually contained similar questions.54 A language exam, however, was slightly different. Manner of expression was the main issue in principle, not content.55

The second type, the professional question, was either strictly professional (a description of one’s working day or an outline of the rights and duties of the communal administration) or obliged the applicant to discuss the social roles of public servants, especially in rural areas, where the state was perceived as the main driver of modernization and progress. It certainly reflected the self-perception of the state and created a situation in which the candidates could prove their loyalty to the state project through the imaginary enactment of these duties. Essay topics in this category ranged from the role of village notaries in the fight against alcoholism to their role in the peaceful coexistence of minorities and Romanians.56

The third type of language exam question, which involved some aspect of the applicant’s personal life, was often posed in a general manner to rural officials and usually more specifically to urban officials, implicitly differentiating the role of the state in the two social spaces. While rural officials were seen as missionaries of modernization, urban ones were expected to set an example of urban middle-class life. Thus, examinees in urban areas were sometimes asked to describe how they had spent their most recent holidays or to summarize the content of a novel they had recently read, while village employees were asked to give general description of their personal lives or recount a few significant events from them.57

How could these different types of questions trigger broader questions of identification? The topics themselves were certainly indicators of the expectations of the examiners. The candidates could decide how to frame their answers and themselves, i.e. whether to portray themselves as mere professionals or whether to relate to national issues in their discussions of the foundations of the nation-state in history and culture, indicating loyalty and identification beyond the obvious sense of duty. While in principle the exams were not about the content of the text but rather only the mastery of the language, the applicants could hardly have failed to consider the perceived expectations of those assessing the essays.

In the light of this general pattern, it is not surprising that most candidates tried to portray themselves as professionals and members of a specialized professional body. Within this general framework, however, there was significant room to express how exceptionally attached and loyal some applicants were. It was customary to emphasize one’s long and dutiful public service58 or for an applicant to boast of his or her credentials as a competent administrator, indispensable to the future of the country. One finds a very interesting variety of this professional identification with the state in the essay by applicant David Eugen.59 Eugen expressed his extraordinary devotion to Romania by portraying himself as an orphan who had found his new family and home in the community of Romanian public servants.

Although a detailed analysis of essays written by a large enough number of examinees from different backgrounds on the same topic60 reveals intriguing, small deviations from a general pattern of identification, the exams offered primarily a relatively easy and comfortable strategy of identification as a professional public servant whose loyalty was strong without necessarily containing any unambiguous acceptance of Romanian nationalist discourse. The whole process was designed to steer the candidates towards this kind of professional identification, and even in situations in which other possibilities were available most of them opted for this one. There was also a clear difference between the urban and rural personnel. In the case of the former, they had to act as role models of middle-class life, while in the case of the latter they were supposed to serve as pioneers of the state in improving conditions in the villages. In this world, the city as characterized in the essays was a world of progress driven by the state where the nationalities coexisted peacefully, enjoying the equality of civic rights (again a reproduction of the state’s perception of itself).

The government was not content with the number of examinees who failed the exams, and Secretary of State Dumitru Iuca raised the threshold for passing after the examinations were finished and the results had already been announced.61 He wanted to see a more sweeping purge of the minority officials. His subordinates, the county prefects, reacted with surprising consternation and almost unanimously tried to parry the order, adopting a wide variety of tactics. Some of them openly stated that without the minority officials county administration would stall.62 Others challenged the order with legal arguments and engaged their superior in negotiations, in the end gaining significant concessions.63 Often prefects tried to sabotage or at least circumvent the order by various means, among them tricky reevaluations of past exams,64 pretending not to know the relevant sentences of the Supreme Court of Cassation65 or blaming the previous administration for having created a legal trap that made the layoffs impossible.66

Another frequently used tactic was transferring responsibility to other organs that were either reluctant to carry out the order or sometimes neglected it entirely. Prefects subjected their failed subordinates to disciplinary procedures in which Disciplinary Committees reexamined and reinstated them,67 and Local and National Commissions of Revision overturned the ministerial order en masse.68 Sometimes prefects replied to the inquiries of their superiors with the contention that other officials (city mayors, ministerial directors, etc.) were responsible for the failures to comply with the order, and they claimed to have no influence on them at all.69 Even if they failed to save some people’s careers, they did manage to offer escape routes (for example pensioning) that the ministry also tried to block.70

The last method of subverting the order was reexamination itself. It was unusually lenient. Most of the examinees who initially had passed the exam passed it again, but Iuca’s order obliged them to take it yet again. Committees tried to give them topics tailored to their fields of activity.71 Often examinees with poor written essays were given exceptionally high grades on their oral exams.72 In general officials who did the exams again got much higher average grades than their initial results. Furthermore, many of those who failed were still retained in their positions with or without the consent of Bucharest.73 It seems that in the end only between 15 and 20 percent of the minority officials were laid off, a significantly lower ratio than Bucharest would have wanted.

Taken together, the process, the essays, and the aftermath of the exams proved the existence of a professional identity among minority public officials and the strength of professional solidarity among public servants, irrespective of nationality. The exam topics and written exams point to the primacy of professional identification too. It made the minority officials, who were suspicious simply as members of a minority, an asset worth fighting for. The successful tactics of the prefects highlights how misleading it is to treat the Romanian state as monolithic entity that only pursued nationalizing goals. It is impossible to understand how and why nationalizing policies were executed, hindered, and sometimes even sabotaged if one fails to account for the local contexts and the different logics that prevailed at different levels of the administration.

Below the Surface, on the Fringes

In the public discourse and the workings of the organs of state security the relationship of the three aspects of loyalty was based on the simple equation of ethnicity with loyalty. Ethnicity was seen as conducive to loyalty or disloyalty. Despite initial attempts by the minorities to establish a relationship with the Romanians based on mutual recognition of civic rights and duties74 and a shared hope to arrive at a common, regionalist concept of statehood and belonging (both of which would have led to a new understanding of loyalty),75 the understanding of ethnicity as (dis)loyalty remained dominant and unchanged, despite differences in minority policies under the alternating governments. There are also signs that this undiscriminating stance with regards to loyalty was universal on the whole territory of Greater Romania. 76

At the lower levels of administration, in everyday practice neither the more relaxed nor the hardliner versions of policy led to much systematic difference. The divergent approaches to implementation depended on other factors. On the other hand, the organs of state security did not abandon their often paranoid view of minorities. Thus “practicing” one’s ethnicity became a sign of disloyalty, and this left little space for a citizen to be a non-Romanian who was loyal to the Romanian state. Furthermore, if one sought to express or demonstrate loyalty, practically this meant the acceptance of Romanian ethnicity at least in praxis. But this expectation was not applied uniformly to every social group. The concept of irredentism, as it was used by the authorities, defined Hungarian ethnicity as the sum of the middle-class and its activities, while workers and peasants were seen as inclined to become communists.

A closer look also reveals that at local/micro level the relationship of the three aspects was easily reconfigured and replaced with a more balanced one. Obviously this depended on the local context and on the personal attitudes of those who were responsible for the implementation of state policies.77 But in the end it was possible to establish an informal setting in which mutual recognition played a larger role than the public discourse would have suggested. The strong link between ethnicity and loyalty was loosened on the basis of common norms, values and the social practices of the middle-class, and these were often determined by Hungarians or Germans, as they held dominant positions in Transylvanian urban societies.

The language exams exemplify another means of redefining loyalty and ethnicity and generating a sphere in which mutual recognition determined the understanding of loyalty, while here alternative discourses also emerged. In exchange for accepting a specific identification which paired professional self-perception and a modified version of Hungarian ethnicity, minority officials were regarded as equal members of a professional body. Their loyalty was not questionable in the eyes of their immediate superiors and colleagues. Their contributions were indispensable for the good conduct of administration and they shared the modernizing goals of the state. Even if their ethnicity was regarded as fixed and unalterable (because it was the foundation on which their group was constructed as the cohort of minority officials), they were not treated with the same suspicion that was felt towards ethnic minorities in general.

Such informal reconfigurations certainly relieved individuals of pressure and sometimes even made it possible to develop alternative discourses of identity and loyalty. But these discourses always remained within a closed sphere or the boundaries of a locality, and they rarely challenged the dominant public discourse. In order to resolve the resulting tensions, such settlements were rarely spoken of and were excluded from larger public discourses. As a result, sometimes the respective groups, for instance minority public officials, remained hidden, figuring in the public discourse only when they were the target of nationalizing policies. It was possible to be a loyal Hungarian in Romania, but only below the surface and on the fringes.

Archival Sources

Arhivele Naţionale Istorice Centrale, Bucureşti [National Central Historical Archives in Romania].

Directia Generală a Politiei

Fond Sabin Manuilă

Ministerul Justitiei, Direcţia Judiciară, inventar 1116

Ministerul Justitiei, Direcţia Judiciară, inventar 1117

Ministerul de Interne, inventar 754

Arhivele Naţionale Secţia Judeţeană Cluj. [National Archives, Section County Cluj]

Inspectoratul de Poliţie Cluj

Arhivele Naţionale Secţia Judeţeană Mureş

Direcţia Regională Ministeriul Afacerilor Interne Mureş-Autonomă Maghiară inventar 1235

Arhivele Naţionale Secţia Judeţeană Braşov

Legiunea de Jandarmi Braşov, Biroul Poliţiei, inventar 24

Prefectură Judetului Brasov, Serviciul Administrativ, inventar 374

Arhivele Naţionale Secţia Judeţeană Timiş

Prefectură Judeţului Severin

Legiune Jandarmilor Severin, inventar 828

Prefectură Judeţului Timiş-Torontal, fond 69

Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Országos Levéltára [National State Archives of Hungary]

Nemzetiségi és kisebbségi ügyosztály K28

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Egry, Gábor. “Sérelmek, félelmek és kisállami szuverenitásdogma. A román külpolitikai gondolkodás magyarságképe a két világháború között” [Fears, Grievances and Small State Sovereignty: Hungarians in the Romanian Political Thinking between the Two World Wars]. Limes 21, no. 2 (2008): 81–92.

Egry, Gábor. “Tükörpolitika. Magyarok, románok és nemzetiségpolitika Észak-Erdélyben, 1940–1944” [Hungarians, Romanians and Minority Policy in Northern Transylvania, 1940–1944]. Limes 23, no. 2 (2010): 97–111.

Eiler, Ferenc. Kisebbségvédelem és revízió. Magyar törekvések az Európai Nemzetiségi Kongresszuson (1925–1939) [Minority Protection and Revision: Hungarian Pretensions at the European Minority Congress, 1925–1939]. Budapest: Gondolat–MTA ENKI, 2007.

Feischmidt, Margit. “Megismerés és elismerés: elméletek, módszerek, politikák az etnicitás kutatásában” [Recognition and Acknowledgement: Theories, Methods and Politics in Ethnicity Research]. In Etnicitás. Különbségteremtő társadalom [Ethnicity: Societies that Produce Difference], edited by Margit Feischmidt, 7–29. Budapest: Gondolat–MTA ENKI, 2010.

Fodor, János. “Egy helyi társadalomszervezési kísérlet. Bernády György és a Magyar Polgári Demokratikus Blokk kísérlete” [A Local Attempt to Organize Society: György Bernády and the Hungarian Democratic Bloc]. Transindex.ro. Accessed May 30, 2014. http://itthon.transindex.ro/?cikk=21305.

Fox, Jon E., and Cynthia Miller-Idriss. “Everyday Nationhood.” Ethnicities 8, no. 4 (2008): 536–63.

Haslinger, Peter, and Joachim von Puttkamer. “Staatsmacht, Minderheit, Loyalität – konzeptionelle Grundlagen am Beispiel Ostmittel- und Südosteuropa in der Zwischenkriegszeit.” In Staat, Loyalität und Minderheiten in Ostmittel- und Südosteuropa 1918–1941 [State, Loyalty and Minorities in East Central and Southeast Europe, 1918–1941], edited by Peter Haslinger and Joachim von Puttkamer, 1–16. Munich: Oldenbourg Verlag, 2007.

Haynes, Rebecca. “Reluctant Allies? Iuliu Maniu and Corneliu Zelea Codreanu against King Carol II of Romania.” Slavonic and East European Review 85, no. 1 (2007): 105–34.

Hegedűs, Nicoleta. Imaginea maghiarilor în cultura Românească din Transilvania (1867–1918) [The Image of Hungarians in the Culture of Transylvanian Romanians, 1867–1918]. Teza de doctorat [Unpublished PhD dissertation]. Cluj-Napoca: Universitatea Babeş–Bolyai, 2010.

Judson, Pieter M. Guardians of the Nation: Activists on the Language Frontiers of Imperial Austria. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006.

Kertzer, David I., and Dominique Arel, “Census, Identity Formation and Political Power.” In Census and Identity: The Politics of Race, Ethnicity and Language in National Censuses, edited by David I. Kertzer and Dominique Arel, 1–42. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Kós, Károly, “Kiáltó szó!” [Exclamative Word]. In Trianon. Nemzet és emlékezet [Trianon: Nation and Remembrance], edited by Miklós Zeidler, 498–502. Budapest: Osiris, 2003.

Kulcsár, Beáta. “Közelharc a Park szállóban és a ‘hős zászlótartó’ legendája” [Skirmish in the Park Hotel and the Legend of the Valiant Ensign]. Pro Minoritate 20, no. 2 (2012): 31–53.

Leuştean, Lucian. România, Ungaria şi tratatul de Trianon, 1919–1920 [Romanians, Hungarians and the Treaty of Trianon, 1919–1920]. Iaşi: Polirom, 2002.

Leuştean, Lucian. România şi Ungaria în cadrul “Noii Europe” (1920–1923) [Romania and Hungary in the “New Europe,” 1920–1923]. Iaşi: Polirom, 2003.

Livezeanu, Irina. Cultural Politics in Greater Romania: Regionalism, Nation Building and Ethnic Struggle, 1918–1930. Ithaca–London: Cornell University Press, 1995.

Mitu, Sorin. “Local Identities from Transylvania in the Modern Epoch.” In Western Civilization, Politics, Ideologies, Dystopias, edited by Marius Jucan, Sorin Mitu, and Cosmin Braga, Transilvanian Review 23, Supplementum (2013): 237–48.

Möckel, Andreas. Umkämpfte Volkskirche: Leben und Wirken des evangelisch-sächsischen Pfarrers Konrad Möckel (1892–1965) [Hotly Contested People’s Church: the Life and Deeds of the Transylvanian Saxon Lutheran Priest Konrad Möckel (1892–1965)]. Cologne–Weimar–Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 2011.

Mylonas, Harris. The Politics of Nation Building: Making Co-Nationals, Refugees and Minorities. Cambridge–New York: Cambridge Univerity Press, 2012.

Opra, Pál. “Erdély lakosságának foglalkozások szerinti megoszlása az 1930-as népszámlálás alapján” [The Distribution of the Population of Transylvania based on their Occupation in the 1930 Census]. Pro Minoritate 18, no. 2 (2010): 29–40.

Păna, Virgil. Minorităţile etnice din Transilvania între anii 1918–1940, Drepturi şi privilegii [Ethnic Minorities in Transylvania between 1918 and 1940. Rights and Privileges]. Târgu Mureş: Editura Tipomur, 1995.

Popa, Klaus: ed., Akten um die “Deutsche Volksgruppe in Rumänien”. Eine Auswahl. 1937–1945 [Documents on the German Volksgruppe in Romania: A Selection. 1937–1945]. Frankfurt a. M.–Berlin–Bern–Bruxelles–New York–Oxford–Vienna: Peter Lang Verlag, 2005.

Rigó, Máté. “A felejthető pogrom. Az 1927-es nagyváradi zavargások fogadtatása” [A Forgettable Pogrom: Responses to the 1927 Riots of Oradea]. BUKSZ 24, no. 2 (2012): 126–41.

Scurtu, Ioan, and Liviu Boar, eds. Minorităţile naţionale în România 1918–1925 [The National Minorities of Romania in 1918–1925]. Bucharest: Arhivele Statului România, 1995.

Sheehan, James J. “The Problem of Sovereignty in European History.” American Historical Review 111, no. 1 (2006): 1–15.

Sora, Florin Andrei. “Étre fonctionnaire ‘minoritaire’ en Roumanie. Ideologie de la nation et pratiques d’état (1918–1940)” [State Functionaries from Minorities in Romania: Ideology of the Nation and State Practice]. In New Europe College Ştefan Odobljea Program Yearbook 2009–2010, edited by Irina Vainovski-Mihai. Bucharest: New Europe College, 2011.

Sorrels, Kathrine. “Ethnicity as Evidence of Subversion: National Stereotypes and the Secret Police Investigation of Jews in Interwar Bessarabia.” Transversaal 3, no. 2 (2003): 3–18.

Spânu, Alin. “Huţanii (huţuli) în studiul Serviciului de Informaţii al Jandarmeriei (1943)” [The Huculs in the Documents of Secret Services and Gendarmerie]. In Partide politice şi minoritări naţionale în România în secolul XX [Political Parties and National Minorities in Romania in the Twentieth Century], vol. 3, edited by Vasile Ciobanu and Sorin Radu, 197–211. Sibiu: Editura Techno-Media, 2009.

Spânu, Alin. “Lipovenii în studiul lui Mihail Moruzov, şeful Serviciului Special de Siguranţă din Dobrogea (1919)” [Lipovans in the Observations of Mihail Moruzov, Chief of Secret Service in Dobruja, 1919]. In Partide politice şi minoritări naţionale în România în secolul XX [Political Parties and National Minorities in Romania in the Twentieth Century], vol. 3, edited by Vasile Ciobanu and Sorin Radu, 50–59. Sibiu: Editura Techno-Media, 2008.

Varga, E. Árpád. “Az erdélyi magyarság főbb statisztikai adatai az 1910 utáni népszámlálások tükrében” [The Main Characteristics of the Transylvanian Hungarian Population according to the Censuses After 1910]. In Magyarságkutatás. Magyarságkutató Intézet Évkönyve 1988, edited by Gyula Juhász, 37–65. Budapest, Magyarságkutató Intézet: 1988.

 

Note on Nomenclature: City and Place Names

I have used place names in this article either in their English form—if one exists—or

in the form officially adopted by the states in control (Romania) during the time period

in question. For the first reference to each place, I give alternative versions of the place

name for that location. Here are the most frequently mentioned city and other place

names in their various forms, for quick reference.

Cluj (Hungarian: Kolozsvár)

Odorheiu Secuiesc (Hungarian: Székelyudvarhely)

Târgu Mureş (Hungarian: Marosvásárhely)

Zălău (Hungarian: Zilah)

Dej (Hungarian: Dés)

Făget (Hungarian: Facsád)

1 For the contestation of census categories in general see David I. Kertzer and Dominique Arel, “Census, Identity Formation and Political Power,” in Census and Identity: The Politics of Race, Ethnicity and Language in National Censuses, ed. David I. Kertzer and Dominique Arel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 1–4.

2 Gábor Egry, “Tükörpolitika. Magyarok, románok és nemzetiségpolitika Észak-Erdélyben, 1940–1944,” Limes 23, no. 2 (2010): 97–111. See also James J. Sheehan, “The Problem of Sovereignity in European History,” American Historical Review 111, no. 1 (2006): 1–15, esp. 3.

3 Of the vast literature on the theoretical aspects, see in particular Margit Feischmidt, “Megismerés és elismerés: elméletek, módszerek, politikák az etnicitás kutatásában,” in Etnicitás. Különbségteremtő társadalom, ed. Margit Feischmidt (Budapest: Gondolat–MTA ENKI, 2010), 7–29; Rogers Brubaker, “Ethnicity without groups,” European Journal of Sociology 43, no. 2 (2002): 163–89; Rogers Brubaker and Frederic Cooper, “Beyond Identity,” Theory and Society 29 (2000): 1–47. Of the historical works, I was particularly inspired by Pieter M. Judson, “Guardians of the Nation: Activists on the Language Frontiers of Imperial Austria” (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006) and the 2012 special issue of the Austrian History Yearbook dedicated to national indifference.

4 See for example Nándor Bárdi, Csilla Fedinec, and László Szarka, eds., Hungarian Minority Communities in the Twentieth Century (Boulder, Co.–Highland Lakes, New Jersey: Social Science Monographs–Atlantic Research Publications, 2011)

5 For example Viorel Achim, The Roma in Romanian History (Budapest–New York: Central European University Press, 2004); Ovidiu Buruiana, “Partidul Naţional Liberal şi minoritarii etnici în România interbelică. Problema naţionalismului liberal,” in Partide politice şi minoritări naţionale în România în secolul XX, vol. 3, ed. Vasile Ciobanu and Sorin Radu (Sibiu: Editura Techno-Media, 2008), 103–16.

6 Vasile Ciobanu, Contribuţii la cunoaşterea istoriei saşilor transilvăneni (Sibiu: Hora, 2001). See for example Alin Spânu, “Huţanii (huţuli) în studiul Serviciului de Informaţii al Jandarmeriei (1943),” in Partide politice şi minoritări naţionale în România în secolul XX, vol. 4, ed. Vasile Ciobanu and Sorin Radu (Sibiu: Editura Techno-Media, 2009), 197–211.; Ibid., “Lipovenii în studiul lui Mihail Moruzov, şeful Serviciului Special de Siguranţă din Dobrogea (1919)”, in Partide politice şi minoritări naţionale în România în secolul XX, vol. 3, ed. Vasile Ciobanu and Sorin Radu (Editura Techno-Media: Sibiu, 2008), 50–59.

7 Lucian Leuştean, România şi Ungaria în cadrul “Noii Europe” (1920–1923) (Iaşi: Polirom, 2003), 91–92. As an example see Virgil Păna, Minorităţile etnice din Transilvania între anii 1918–1940. Drepturi şi privilegii (Târgu Mureş: Editura Tipomur, 1995).

8 There are, however, some dissenting voices, for example Ovidiu Buruiana pointed out how the self-perception of the National Liberal Party as the administrative party of the nation state (partidul administrativ al statului naţional) made it hard to make concessions to minorities and integrate them into the party, while the wholly politicized working of the state run by the liberals disadvantaged other political organizations and their members. See Ovidiu Buruiana, “Partidul Naţional Liberal şi minoritarii etnici.”

9 In order to achieve these goals I used a set of sources produced by security organs (police, gendarmerie, State Security Service – Serviciul de Siguranţa Statului) combined with documents of political and administrative organs. The ones I collected and studied cover most of the territory of Transylvania. In case of certain types, however, mainly among situation reports, there was no specific difference among them, so I only used a few examples that I found characteristic of the general tone of these sources.

10 Peter Haslinger and Joachim von Puttkamer, “Staatsmacht, Minderheit, Loyalität – konzeptionelle Grundlagen am Beispiel Ostmittel- und Südosteuropa in der Zwischenkriegszeit,” in Staat, Loyalität und Minderheiten in Ostmittel- und Südosteuropa 1918–1941, ed. Peter Haslinger and Joachim von Puttkamer (Münich: Oldenbourg Verlag, 2007), 1–16, esp. 2–3.

11 Harris Mylonas, The Politics of Nation Building: Making Co-Nationals, Refugees and Minorities (Cambridge–New York: Cambridge UP, 2012).

12 See Lucian Leuştean, România, Ungaria şi tratatul de Trianon, 1919–1920 (Iaşi: Polirom, 2002).

13 For a broader European perspective see Ferenc Eiler, Kisebbségvédelem és revízió. Magyar törekvések az Európai Nemzetiségi Kongresszuson (1925–1939) (Budapest: Gondolat–MTA ENKI, 2007).

14 Mylonas, The Politics of Nation Building.

15 See for example Arhivele Naţionale Istorice Centrale, Bucureşti (ANIC) Direcţia Generală (DGP) a Poliţiei dosar 6/1927, f. 295, Ibid., 49/1921 vol. I. f. 236.; Arhivele Naţionale Secţia Judeţeană Cluj (ANSJ CJ) Inspectoratul de Poliţie Cluj, inventar 399, dosar 16. f. 1. Raport informativ lunar, 25. mărţie 1935.

16 For a more detailed argument see Gábor Egry, “Sérelmek, félelmek és kisállami szuverenitásdogma. A román külpolitikai gondolkodás magyarságképe a két világháború között,” Limes 21, no. 2 (2008): 81–92; Irina Livezeanu, Cultural Politics in Greater Romania: Regionalism, Nation Building and Ethnic Struggle, 1918–1930 (Ithaca–London: Cornell University Press, 1995).

17 On the student violence mainly against Jews and other ethnic minorities see Beáta Kulcsár, “Közelharc a Park szállóban és a ‘hős zászlótartó’ legendája,” Pro Minoritate 20, no. 2 (2012): 31–53 and Máté Rigó, “A felejthető pogrom. Az 1927-es nagyváradi zavargások fogadtatása,” BUKSZ 24, no. 2 (2012): 126–41.

18 See Livezeanu, Cultural Politics; Gábor Egry, “A Crossroad of Parallels: Regionalism and Nation Building in Transylvania in the First Half of the Twentieth Century,” in Hungary and Romania Beyond National Narratives: Comparisons and Entanglements, ed. Anders E. B. Blomqvist et al. (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2013), 239–76.

19 ANSJ CJ Inspectoratul de Poliţie Cluj, inventar 399, dosar 680, f. 209. No. 25505/937, Cluj, 7 August, 1937.

20 Attila Seres and Gábor Egry, Magyar levéltári források az 1930. évi romániai népszámlálás nemzetiségi adatsorainak értékeléséhez (Kolozsvár: Nemzeti Kisebbségkutató Intézet–Kriterion, 2011).

21 ANIC Fond Manuilă dosar X. 48. 1. f. Toma Mahara’s letter from December 3, 1930.

22 Kathrine Sorrels, “Ethnicity as Evidence of Subversion: National Stereotypes and the Secret Police Investigation of Jews in Interwar Bessarabia,” Transversaal 3, no. 2 (2003): 3–18.

23 Mylonas, The Politics of Nation Building.

24 See the extensive documentation published by Klaus Popa, Akten um die “Deutsche Volksgruppe in Rumänien.” Eine Auswahl. 1937–1945 (Frankfurt a. M.–Berlin–Bern–Bruxelles–New York–Oxford–Vienna: Peter Lang Verlag, 2005).

25 Sorrels, “Ethnicity as Evidence.”

26 ANIC DGP dosar 5/1933.

27 On how Romanian politics in general shifted to the right in the 1930s see Rebecca Haynes, “Reluctant allies? Iuliu Maniu and Corneliu Zelea Codreanu against King Carol II of Romania,” Slavonic and East European Review 85, no. 1 (2007): 105–34.

28 The summary from 1936 gave 1,130 people for the same set of counties and 1,392 for the historic region of Transylvania, excluding the three counties of the Banat. ANIC DGP dosar 5/1933 f. 160.

29 Memoires or diaries of active politicians of this era tend to corroborate this assumption. Neither Armand Călinescu, in 1933 secretary of state at the ministry of interior, nor Constantin Argetioanu, who served many times as minister in interwar governments, dwells much on the minority problem in their respective diaries. Béla Borsi-Kálmán, “‘Regátiak,’ ‘erdélyiek’ és ‘magyarok’ Ion Gheorghe Duca, Constanin Argetoianu, Armand Călinescu, Grigore Gafencu, valamint Alexandru Vaida Voevod emlékirataiban,” in Emlékirat és történelem, ed. Pál Pritz and Jenő Horváth (Budapest: Magyar Történelmi Társulat–Nemzetközi Magyarságtudományi Társaság, 2012), 36–60.

30 See Varga E. Árpád, “Az erdélyi magyarság főbb statisztikai adatai az 1910 utáni népszámlálások tükrében,” in Magyarságkutatás. Magyarságkutató Intézet Évkönyve 1988, ed. Juhász Gyula (Budapest: Magyarságkutató Intézet, 1988), 37–65.

31 All data are based on my own calculations from the registers.

32 Pál Opra, “Erdély lakosságának foglalkozások szerinti megoszlása az 1930-as népszámlálás alapján,” Pro Minoritate 18, no. 2 (2010): 29–40.

33 Artisans, smallholders, skilled workers.

34 Ferenc Bruder, János Demeter and Gábor Gaál. For Demeter’s known communist sympathies see Arhivele Naţionale Secţia Judeţeană Mureş (ANSJ MS) Direcţia Regioanlă MAI MAM inventar 1235, dosar 2910. f. 27.

35 Sorrels, “Ethnicity as Evidence,” 9–11; Nicoleta Hegedűs, “Imaginea maghiarilor în cultura Româneascã din Transilvania (1867–1918)” Teza de doctorat (Cluj-Napoca: Universitatea Babes Bolyai, 2010); Gábor Egry, ‘Sérelmek, félelmek és kisállami szuverenitásdogma’; Sorin Mitu, “Local Identities from Transylvania in the Modern Epoch,” in Western Civilization, Politics, Ideologies, Dystopias, ed. Marius Jucan, Sorin Mitu, and Cosmin Braga, Transilvanian Review 23, Supplementum (2013): 237–48.

36 ANIC DGP 5/1933 f. 83–86.

37 Ibid., 22–30, 50–58. f.

38 A police report from Oradea from 1920, which argued that only 25 percent of the city’s population (middle-class Hungarians) were irredentists, i.e. the “real” Hungarians and not the workers or Jews, illustrates this effect and how it was bound to the social determinants of irredentism. ANIC DGP 5/1920, f. 41–42.

39 Arhivele Naţionale Secţia Judeţeană Braşov (ANSJ BV) Legiunea de Jandarmi Braşov, Biroul Poliţiei, inventar 24. 10/1936 f. 48. Nota informativă Nr. 10, February 26, 1936.

40 ANSJ CJ Inspectoratul de Poliţie Cluj, inventar 399 dosar 432, f. 23.

41 Ibid, dosar 680, f. 209, No. 25505/937, Cluj, August, 7, 1937.

42 Tim Edensor, National Identity, Popular Culture and Everyday Life (Oxford: Berg, 2002); Michael Billig, Banal Nationalism (London: Sage, 1995); Jon E. Fox and Cynthia Miller-Idriss, “Everyday Nationhood,” Ethnicities 8, no. 4 (2008): 536–63.

43 Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Országos Levéltára (MNL OL) K28 4. cs. 10. t. 1923-T-85, A romániai magyar kisebbség sérelmei December 24–25, 1922; ANSJ Timiş (ANSJ TM) Prefectură Judeţului Severin, dosar 24/1924, f. 172–73, 176–90.

44 Police reports were full of nonsensical claims of imaginary danger, like the contention that Budapest had given an order to the Hungarian Party according to which every Hungarian should hide a gun. (ANIC DGP 122/1936, f. 83.) Meanwhile Romanian newspapers reported almost everything as part of an alleged irredentist network and conspiracy. “Amire a magyarok készülnek. Román lapok rémlátása,” Brassói Lapok, 27, no. 29, February 9, 1921.

45 Ioan Scurtu and Liviu Boar, eds., Minorităţile naţionale în România 1918–1925 (Bucureşti: Arhivele Statului România, 1995), document 47, 225–26.

46 Gábor Egry, “A megértés határán. Nemzetiségek és mindennapok Háromszéken a két világháború között,” Limes 25, no. 2 (2012): 40–41; ANIC Ministerul Justitiei, Direcţia Judiciară, inventar 1116, 98/1922. f. 15.

47 ANSJ TM Legiune Jandarmilor Severin, inventar 828, 42/1943, f. 426. The authorities in 1943 still kept a register of János Perjési, from Făget (Facsád), as a suspicious person, although the offence he committed was having refused to take the oath of allegiance in 1919.

48 János Fodor, “Egy helyi társadalomszervezési kísérlet. Bernády György és a Magyar Polgári Demokratikus Blokk kísérlete,” Transindex.ro, accessed May 30, 2014, http://itthon.transindex.ro/?cikk=21305.

49 ANIC Ministerul Justiţiei, Direcţia Judiciară, inventar 1117. 85/1934. f. 201–06.

50 ANSJ CJ Inspectoratul de Poliţie Cluj, inventar 399 dosar 680, 25505/937, Cluj, August 7, 1937, and ibid. dosar 255. f. 168; ANSJ CJ Inspectoratul de Poliţie, Cluj, dosar 680, f. 462; ANSJ MS Direcţia Regională MAI MAM, inventar 1235, Comisariatul de Poliţie Târnaveni, dosar 1, f. 1–2.

51 “[T]he minorities behave like they used to, especially the Hungarians, who organize festivities and cultural venues with a well-known purpose, in order to gather the minority and collect financial means for propaganda.” ANSJ CJ Inspectortaul de Poliţie, Cluj, dosar 680, f. 462.

52 Andreas Möckel, Umkämpfte Volkskirche: Leben und Wirken des evangelisch-sächsischen Pfarrers Konrad Möckel (1892–1965) (Cologne–Weimar–Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 2011), 36–38; Florin Andrei Sora, “Étre fonctionnaire ’minoritaire’ en Roumanie. Ideologie de la nation et pratiqus d’état (1918–1940),” in New Europe College Ştefan Odobljea Program Yearbook 2009–2010, ed. Irina Vainovski-Mihai (Bucharest: New Europe College, 2011), 210.

53 Sora, “Étre fonctionnaire ’minoritaire’” relates figures of contemporaneous Romanian statistics that seem to be supported by the material on the language exams, but contradicts the bulk of secondary literature; see also the statistics of runaway Hungarians from Southern Transylvania after the Second Vienna Award, in which almost 1,600 public officials, and almost twice as much public employees figured. “A romániai menekültek főbb adatai az 1944. februári összeírás alapján,” Statisztikai Szemle 25, no. 9–12 (1944): 394–411, Table 6: 406, Table 7: 408.

54 ANSJ BV fond 2, Prefectura Judetului Brasov, Serviciul Administrativ, inventar 374, dosar 1/1934.

55 ANIC Ministerul de Interne, inventar 754, dosar 175/1935.

56 Ibid., Trei Scaune, Tighina, ANIC Ministerul de Interne, inventar 754, dosar 176/1935, f. 71.

57 ANSJ TM fond 69, Prefectura Judetului Timiş-Torontal, dosar 34/1935, ANIC Ministerul de Interne, inventar 754, dosar 175/1935, f. 126. For a few titles see Sora, “Étre fonctionnaire ’minoritaire’,” 216.

58 ANIC Ministerul de Interne, inventar 754, dosar 175/1935, f. 100.

59 Ibid., f. 129.

60 ANIC Ministerul de Interne, inventar 754. dosar 175/1935, f. 190–260.

61 Ibid., f. 3.

62 Ibid., dosar 176/1935, f. 33.

63 Ibid., dosar 175/1935, f. 137–38.

64 Ibid., f. 37, 84–87.

65 Ibid., dosar 176/1935, f. 75.

66 Ibid., f. 111–21.

67 Ibid., dosar 175/1935, f. 134.

68 Ibid., f. 82, 110.

69 Ibid., dosar 176/1935, f. 47.

70 ANSJ TM fond 69. Prefectură Judeţului Timiş-Torontal inventar 171, dosar 32/1935, f. 140–59.

71 ANIC Ministerul de Interne, inventar 754, dosar 175/1935, f. 142.

72 For example 56 out of 256 in Timişoara. ANSJ TM fond 69, Prefectura Timiş-Torontal, inventar 171, dosar 35/1935, f. 16–26.

73 In Bihor (Bihar) county 45 out of 81 rural officials. ANIC Ministerul de Interne Inv. 754, dosar 27/1937, f. 10–18.; In Timiş oara 24 out of 46 failed German officials. ANSJ TM fond 69, Prefectura Timiş-Torontal, inventar 171, dosar 35/1935, f. 46.

74 Károly Kós, “Kiáltó szó!,” in Trianon. Nemzet és emlékezet, ed. Miklós Zeidler (Budapest: Osiris, 2003), 498–502.

75 Gábor Egry, “An Obscure Object of Desire: the Myth of Alba Iulia and Its Social Functions in Past and Present,” in Proceedings of the Conference Myth-Making and Myth Breaking in History and the Humanities, ed. Claudia-Florentina Dobre, Ionuţ Epurescu-Pascovici, and Cristian Emilian Ghiţă. Accessed August 29, 2013, http://www.unibuc.ro/n/resurse/myth-maki-and-myth-breain-hist-and-the-huma/docs/2012/iul/02_12_54_31Proceedings_Myth_Making_and_Myth_Breaking_in_History.pdf.

76 Sorrels, “Ethnicity as Evidence,” Livezeanu, Cultural Politics, 140–41.

77 Two telling examples were the classification of Hungarian associations in Turda (Torda) and Mureş (Maros) counties by the police in 1938 regarding whether they were subversive or not. While in the former administrative unit the responsible police officer made a decision on a case-by-case basis, in the latter every association categorized as Hungarian automatically was regarded as subversive. ANIC CJ Inspectoratul de Poliţie Cluj, inventar 399, dosar 432.

 

 

pdfVolume 3 Issue 3 CONTENTS

Penka Peykovska

Literacy and Illiteracy in Austria–Hungary. The Case of Bulgarian Migrant Communities

The present study aims to contribute to the clarification of the question of the spread of literacy in East Central Europe and the Balkans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by offering an examination of Bulgarian migrant diasporas in Austria–Hungary and, in particular, in Hungary, i.e. the Eastern part of the Empire. The study of literacy among migrants is important because immigrants represent a possible resource for the larger societies in which they live, so comparisons of the levels of education among migrants (for instance with the levels of education among the majority community, but also with the levels of education among the communities of their homelands) may shed light on how the different groups benefited from interaction with each other. In this essay I analyze data on literacy, illiteracy and semi-literacy rates among migrants on the basis of the Hungarian censuses of 1890, 1900 and 1910. I present trends and tendencies in levels of literacy or illiteracy in the context of the social aspects of literacy and its relationship to birthplace, gender, age, confession, migration, selected destinations and ethnicity. I also compare literacy rates among Bulgarians in Austria–Hungary with the literacy rates among other communities in the Dual Monarchy and Bulgaria and investigate the role of literacy in the preservation of identity. My comparisons and analyses are based primarily (but not exclusively) on data regarding the population that had reached the age at which school attendance was compulsory, as this data more accurately reflect levels of literacy than the data regarding the population as a whole.

Keywords: Bulgarian migrants, literacy, religion, age, destination, Austria-Hungary, identity

Literacy is a dynamic concept the meaning of which has changed over time. The ability to read written texts has gradually become commonplace in the Western world and the public significance of the written text has increased dramatically. In the Middle Ages, the main literate stratum was the clergy, since literacy was considered a path to a more perfect knowledge of God, which was a blessing bestowed on only a few.1 The transition to widespread literacy took place in the period between the beginning of the seventeenth and the end of the nineteenth centuries, and it was intertwined with the rise of the bourgeoisie and the development of services and technology that generated economic demand for literate workers. This transition was a slow and gradual process and took place at different paces in different geographical regions, but from a global point of view it was marked by unprecedented social transformation: while in the mid-nineteenth century only 10 percent of the adult population of the world could read and write, by the twenty-first century, despite the five-fold increase in population, 80 percent is regarded as possessing basic literacy.2 In recent decades this transformation prompted considerable interest in research on the history of literacy and the processes of overcoming illiteracy, but attempts to study literacy in Eastern Europe (including the Balkans) have yielded only modest results, although there is a wealth of information in various statistical sources (such as household inventories, censuses) and personal records (letters, diaries, travel notes, memories, etc.) in the former territories and successor states of the Russian and Austro–Hungarian empires.3

On the Subject of My Inquiry

One of the diasporas I examine in this inquiry is the Bulgarians of the Banat (a region the majority of which lies in Romania today, though the southern part extends into Serbia and also Hungary). The Banat Bulgarians, who were Western-rite Catholics, numbered 14,801 in 1890 and 12,583 in 1910. By the late nineteenth century, they had already been settled in the Habsburg Empire for a century and a half. They were refugees from Chiprovtsi (a town and municipality in northwestern Bulgaria) who had left Bulgarian lands after the unsuccessful anti-Ottoman uprising of 1688. Together with the Bulgarian Paulicians,4 they traveled through Wallachia and southwest Transylvania (the latter of which was under Austrian rule) in the 1730s and settled in the Banat, which had been devastated and depopulated during the period of Ottoman rule and then fallen under Austrian rule. There they were given new places to settle permanently. In 1738, the Paulicians founded the village of Star Beshenov (today Dudeşti Vechi, Romania) and in 1741 the migrants from Chiprovtsi (along with some of the Paulicians) founded the privileged town of Vinga (today in Romania).

In the second half of the nineteenth century (after the bourgeois-democratic revolution of 1848/49 and the abolition of serfdom), Banat Bulgarians developed as a rural community. Only Vinga had the status of a town, which representatives of the town wanted to disclaim in 1882 because the community was unable to pay the necessary taxes for the relevant rights. Nonetheless, according to the 1886 Law of Hungary’s administrative-territorial division Vinga became a settled council town, if only for a short time (until the early 1890s). From the perspective of levels of education among migrant communities this is important because in general rural populations have lower levels of literacy than urban populations. The question is whether or not this was true of the Bulgarian settlements.

When studying literacy, one should keep in mind that earlier levels of literacy exert a significant effect on subsequent levels of literacy, as literate parents seek to educate their children. In this sense, the tradition of education is relevant to levels of literacy. Banat Bulgarians brought from their homeland in Bulgaria centuries of the Franciscan educational tradition, which originally developed in connection with the active spread of Catholicism and Catholic teachings and followed the principle of mandatory primary education.

The Banat-Bulgarian literary revival began in the mid-nineteenth century, a few years before the Austrian–Hungarian Compromise of 1867. Until then, Bulgarian was taught in Banat Bulgarian schools on the basis of either German or “Illyrian” (Croatian) textbooks. In Bulgarian churches, priests held sermons in the “Illyrian” language.5 Banat Bulgarians were exposed to strong Orthodox propaganda by the neighboring Serbs because of their linguistic closeness. After Banat again became part of Hungary in 1860 and fell under the jurisdiction of the Hungarian government, the Hungarian Catholic clergy decided to support initiatives to allow the use of Bulgarian in schools and churches and efforts to establish Bulgarian literature in order to neutralize the growing Croatian and Serbian influence over Bulgarians, to hinder the spread of the Pan-Slavic (i.e. “Illyrian”) movement, and to foster among the Bulgarians a sense of distinctive national identity and an attachment to the multi-national Hungarian state.6 The newly created Banat Bulgarian literary language was written not with Cyrillic but with the Latin alphabet.

Labor migrants from Bulgaria constitute the other significant group on which I focus in this inquiry. They were primarily seasonal migrants, Orthodox market-gardeners (vegetable growers and vegetable traders). In 1910, they constituted 88 percent of the Bulgarian community in Budapest. The other 12 percent was comprised of artisans and traders who were already settled and who belonged to different confessions. The growth in this community can be traced on the basis of the census data on citizenship (though the numbers should be understood as approximations, their apparent precision notwithstanding):7 817 people in 1890, 1,674 people in 1900, and 3,139 people in 1910.

The source of this seasonal migration was the county of Veliko Tarnovo (in North-Central Bulgaria) and in particular the districts of Gorna Oryahovitsa, Elena, Tarnovo, Kesarevo, Dryanovo, Svishtov, and Sevlievo. The social group of agricultural workers, which came into being in the region during the period of Ottoman rule and specialized in vegetable farming, could not earn an adequate living in their homeland. The lack of sufficient fertile land and markets prompted the farmers from Lyaskovec, Draganovo, Polikraishte and other villages around Veliko Tarnovo and Gorna Oryahovitsa to migrate first to neighboring countries (Romania, Serbia) and then to more distant destinations (Austria–Hungary, Germany, and Russia). At first, Bulgarian market-gardeners were drawn to the Habsburg Empire in the mid-nineteenth century by the growing markets in Hungarian towns. Following the Austrian–Hungarian Compromise, the increasingly rapid industrialization and modernization of the capitalist economy led to a tremendous increase in the urban population, which needed to be fed.

A characteristic feature of this seasonal labor migration was that it consisted almost exclusively of young men. In 1900, they constituted 80 percent of the group that spoke Bulgarian as its mother tongue and 90 percent of the group with Bulgarian citizenship. The primary reason for this was the way in which the work was organized. The workers formed associations called “taifas.” A taifa was organized by a gazda, who was the leader of the group. The members of a taifa participated in a joint venture, investing both their capital and labor. They worked together, ate together, and lived together, and at the end of the working season they distributed the profits according to their participation and their investment of labor. Bulgarian market-gardeners usually resided in Austria–Hungary while working in the gardens, which they did from early spring to late autumn. They then left the country and returned the following spring. So they worked abroad seasonally for several years until they they were able to set aside capital. Compared to a Bulgarian small-holder, whose yearly revenue from the sale of crops did not exceed 800 francs, gardeners in Hungary earned more than 2,000 francs in a season. However, even in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries very few of these migrant workers chose to settle in Hungary or stay for longer periods of time. In this regard, the number and proportion of families was small and birth rates were low.

At first glance, the timing of the sources seems to set the chronological limits of this inquiry, specifically the two decades between 1890 and 1910. In a broader sense, however, the lower chronological limit is determined by the proportion of literate among the oldest group recorded in the first census (i.e. those over 60 years of age), who began learning to read and write in the 1830s. In fact, literacy, which was one of the categories in the three censuses in question, referred to the ability of the population to read and write, an ability that could have been acquired in previous decades. In other words, the results of the censuses actually yield insights into this process among members of the Bulgarian migrant population (as well as the rest of the population) for almost the whole nineteenth century and the first decade of twentieth century. In the case of the Banat Bulgarians, the process of learning to read and write continued (to the extent possible) during their exodus from Transylvania to Banat. It then continued after they had settled in Banat. There already existed a network of schools in Banat. The Jesuits had been the first to create an organized educational system in the region following the liberation of the area from Ottoman rule. But while the Jesuits had only provided educational opportunities for boys from wealthy families, the Franciscan monks attempted to educate the poor.8 The Franciscan tradition was preserved primarily in the educational initiatives of Vinga citizens, who had had their own school since the late 1740s and early 1750s.9 In Beshenov, a school for the “children of the people” was also created in 1804, and there was another one, a private one (for children of the wealthy), led by a Hungarian teacher (where instruction was in Hungarian). In 1845, a school was opened in Bolgártelep (today Colonia Bulgară, Romania). These were all primary schools. Vinga was the only settlement to have a higher, two-year Latin School, and it only had it for a short period of time. In the second half of the nineteenth century there were ten Bulgarian schools at different times in Temes and Torontál counties, specifically in the settlements of Bolgártelep, Brestye (today Romania), Vinga, Denta (today Romania), Kanak (today Konak, Serbia), Lukácsfalva (today Lukino Selo, Serbia), Módos (today Jaša Tomić, Serbia), Óbesenyő (today Dudeştii Vechi, Cтар Бешенов, Star Beshenov, Romania), Székelykeve (today Skorenovac, Serbia), and Szőlősudvarnok (today Banatski Dušanovac, Serbia). In these schools children learned to read and write in Bulgarian and, as of the last decade of the nineteenth century, in Hungarian as well. Where there was no Bulgarian school, Banat Bulgarians attended Hungarian schools or schools of other ethnic communities. Similarly, for example, the Bulgarian school in Bolgártelep was attended by the children of settlers from other national communities, including Germans, Croats, Hungarians, and Romanians.

On the Features of Censuses and Data

Bearing in mind the specifics of the censuses as historical sources, in this essay I regard mother tongue as a marker of ethnicity (as has become commonplace in the historiography, even if this assumption merits some interrogation). I present the diaspora of seasonal labor migrants from Bulgaria on the basis of statistical information on the Bulgarian (i.e. speaking Bulgarian as its mother tongue) population of Budapest, municipal towns (so-called “törvényhatósági jogú városok,” of which there were 30), and settled council towns (“rendezett tanácsú városok,” of which there were 110 in 1910), which for the sake of brevity I will refer to simply as “towns.” In this case, the selection of these sources is justified by the fact that the seasonal migrant workers (market-gardeners) settled primarily in the capital and in Hungarian towns, where they rented land and created their gardens and were better able to sell their vegetables. For 1900, I also consider the data for larger municipalities (“nagyközségek”) that were subsequently elevated to the status of settled council towns and were listed as such in the 1910 census.

In Hungarian censuses the Banat Bulgarians (who lived in Temes and Torontál Counties) can be identified on the basis of the data on those who declared Bulgarian to be their mother tongue and the data on those who practiced Western-rite Catholicism. Krashovans, who were also Catholics and who resided predominantly in Krassó-Szörény (the third county in Banat), were added to the Bulgarians in the Hungarian statistics. They figured together in a column headed “mother tongue Bulgarian, Krashovan.” The reason for this lay in the fact that at the time scholars in Austria–Hungary were of the opinion that the Krashovans were of Bulgarian ethnic origin. Krashovans were strongly influenced by Croatian culture, but in the eighteenth century they still identified themselves as Krashovans (after the Karash River, on the banks of which their settlements lay). Therefore I have deducted their numbers from the total number of Bulgarians in Austria–Hungary, using the data from the primary tables for literacy where they were specifically noted.

In censuses (both Hungarian and Bulgarian), the question of language was not an issue in the assessment of literacy. In other words, someone who could read and write in any language was considered literate regardless of the language. Language as a category was included as early as the first modern Hungarian censuses of 1870 and 1880, but literacy was not correlated to mother tongue. For the Eastern part of the Austrian–Hungarian Empire, we have literacy data correlated to Bulgarian mother tongue from 1890, 1900 and 1910. Literacy data from 1890 referred to Temes and Torontál counties and were correlated with mother tongue and age. Data from 1900 and 1910 referred not only to the Banat, but also to towns throughout Hungary and separately to Budapest, i.e. they reflected literacy within both groups, Banat Bulgarians and (seasonal) labor immigrants. In 1900, census data on literacy included confession as well, and the data of the 1910 census correlated literacy and level of education.10

In the Hungarian censuses of 1890, 1900 and 1910, literacy was measured according to three categories. One could be classified as literate (i.e. able to read and write, regardless of education), semi-literate (able to read, but not write), or illiterate (able neither to read nor write). The semi-literate were presented in a separate group in accordance with the realities of the epoch. Semi-literateness was typical among women. In the particular case of the Hungarian censuses, the reason for the creation of the category of semi-literate lay in the perception of writing as a man’s job, which was widespread among the Hungarian peasantry. It was regarded as adequate for a woman to be able to read the Bible and prayer books, which is why girls were given less opportunity to attend school. They were taught to read, but not to write well, and often, since they were given few if any opportunities to practice writing, they forgot what little writing they might have learned.11

In practice (with rare exceptions), anyone with at least one year of elementary school was regarded as literate in the Hungarian censuses, even if he or she did not use or had already forgotten how to read and write because of illness or due to aging. In Hungary, illiteracy was examined for the population over the age of 6. The population under the age of 6 was a priori considered illiterate. The literacy of children in their first year of school was recorded in accordance with their declarations in questionnaires.12

Regarding indicators of literacy and illiteracy within the community of Bulgarian seasonal migrants, one should keep in mind that, given their horizontal mobility and the very small number of newborns, children, and adolescents, the numbers reflected mostly the achievements of the Bulgarian education system, which were then “reported” according to the “model” of the Hungarian one, since only a smaller number of children of wealthy and permanently settled Bulgarian migrants actually studied in the schools in Hungary (which, since the first Bulgarian school was not established until 1917, were either Hungarian schools or schools in which the languages of other national minorities were used as the language of instruction).

In Hungary, compulsory elementary education was introduced for boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 12 by the 1868 Educational Act, while in Bulgaria this occurred only later, in 1879, with the formation of the new Bulgarian state and the ratification of the Tarnovo Constitution. Thus one should bear in mind that the Bulgarian educational system during the period in question was in a state of flux. It began to assume a modern form later than in other European countries. The architects of the Bulgarian educational system did have the advantage of being able to learn from the mistakes that were made elsewhere, however, and thus were able to create an institutional framework that was quite modern for its time. Drawing on the experiences of other countries, the Bulgarian educational system bore affinities with the Hungarian one. Basic compulsory education, for instance, was extended from 4 years of schooling to 6 in 1891, after which pupils could pursue two further degrees, the first of which took 4 years to complete (this was introduced in 1906), while the second took an additional 3 years (this was introduced in 1909). In both cases schooling was tuition-free. There were some differences, however. For instance, from the outset education in Bulgaria was independent of the church and primary education was free. In Hungary, elementary school was tuition-free only as of 1908. Unlike in Hungary, in Bulgaria the laws on public education treated the number of obligatory years of schooling and the age of compulsory school attendance differently. Obligatory elementary school lasted for 3, 4 or 6 years (usually 4 years), and the mandatory age at which a child had to attend school ranged from 7 to 13, 6 to 12, and 7 to 14. The new and completely different cultural and educational environment of the host country (Austria-Hungary) influenced the seasonal migrants from Bulgaria. This influence was indirect at first, simply a consequence of the perceptions among migrants of the well-established, time-honored traditions in Hungarian society for children to learn, and then quite direct, when the migrant families began sending their children to Hungarian schools. This practice was followed not only by wealthy and prosperous immigrants, but also by the poor. Since they were constantly moving between Austria–Hungary and Bulgaria, they took home their positive foreign influences from the host country. It is no coincidence that in Bulgarian literacy statistics by districts in the years leading up to the outbreak of World War I Tarnovo county stood out among the counties in Bulgaria. In 1905, the average literacy rate in the county for the population at the age of compulsory school attendance and over was 47.4 percent (64 percent among men and 31 percent among women), while the average for the country as a whole did not exceed 34.8 percent (50.6 percent and 18.2 percent respectively).13

Literacy, Gender, and Age

Gender is a crucial factor in the question of literacy. Women were predominant among the illiterate, which was one of the important factors in their disadvantageous position in society, reflecting gender inequalities in education (for instance) in the nineteenth century. Gender imbalance is a common phenomenon in the history of illiteracy. Due to migrations and regional effects, the level of this imbalance varied.14

 

Literacy

(%)

Men

Women

Literate

Semi-literate

Illiterate

Literate

Semi-literate

Illiterate

County

1890

Temes

66.3

0.9

32.8

52.7

3.1

44.2

Torontál

62.4

0.3

37.3

44.6

3.4

51.9

1910

Temes

80.5

0.7

18.8

72.0

4.0

24.0

Torontál

76.0

0.6

23.4

62.4

5.1

32.5

 

Table 1. Illiteracy rates among the Bulgarian15 population over the age of 6 in Temes and Torontál counties by gender in, 1890 and 191016

As a comparison of the data on the two genders reveals, literacy rates among the Banat Bulgarians did not differ from the typical trends. Literacy rates were higher among men and there were more semi-literate women as a percentage than men. Both trends emerge clearly on both the county (Table 1) and the village level (Table 3). The trend for the entire period was towards an increase in literacy and a corresponding drop in illiteracy in both counties and for both genders, while differences between the genders were gradually diminishing.

In 1890, in the Bulgarian population at or over the age of compulsory school attendance in Temes and Torontál counties (taken together) the ratio of the literate to the illiterate (including the semi-literate) was 57 to 100 for men. This number dropped to 29 by 1910. In 1890, there were 112 illiterate women for every 100 literate women, a figure which decreased to 51 by 1910. Analyzing the dynamics of elementary literacy education in both counties (together and separately), for the period between 1890 and 1910 in Table 2 one finds an approximately equal drop in illiteracy among women and men, though this drop was a bit more rapid in the case of women.

 

Gender

Men

Women

County

Temes

Torontál

Temes

Torontál

1890

52

60

90

127

1910

24

32

40

60

Total for 1890

57

112

Total for 1910

29

51

 

Table 2. Number of people regarded as illiterate (or semi-literate) for every 100 literate people in the Bulgarian population over the age of 6 in Temes and Torontál counties, by gender, 1890, 191017

In addition to gender, another prominent factor in the question of literacy and trends in literacy is age. Although the importance of gender to illiteracy is much more striking than age, the two are in fact closely interrelated. Literacy data correlated to age for Banat Bulgarians is available only for the male population of Vinga. In the Bulgarian male population of Vinga, the literacy rate in the age group of 11–15-year-olds and 16–20-year-olds, i.e. among those who had been born after the Hungarian educational reform of 1868 (which introduced compulsory primary education), was the highest (88 percent and 85 percent respectively). According to Table 3, literacy rates declined as the age of the cohort group rose, especially in the groups over the age of 50, i.e. among those who had been born in the 1830s and 1840s. Among the group of people 60 years of age and older, the literacy rate did not exceed 50 percent. Groups among which illiteracy was high were comprised largely of people who had grown up in periods of significantly less educational opportunity.

 

Mother tongue

Bulgarian

German

Hungarian

Romanian

Age (born in ...)

literacy as a percent of the total population

Under 6 (after 1885)

0

0

3

0

6–10 (1880–1884)

73

61

89

27

11–15 (1875–1879)

88

98

92

31

16–20 (1870–1874)

85

91

90

50

21–30 (1860–1869)

79

95

83

32

31–40 (1850–1859)

80

91

97

28

41–50 (1840–1849)

76

85

95

16

51–60 (1830–1839)

59

76.5

100

18

Over 60 (before 1830)

51

87.5

94

0

Total

75.3

87

92.6

27.2

 

Table 3. Literacy among the male population of Vinga by mother tongue and age, 189018

Literacy and Confession

Research on literacy has long demonstrated a close interrelationship between denominational belonging and literacy, since religion has played a key role in its spread.19 I examine these relationships in the Bulgarian communities in Austria–Hungary on the basis of the data for municipal towns and settled council towns, where the population (migrants from Bulgaria or Banat) belonged to different denominations. In 1900, Uniates20 (Eastern-rite Catholics) and members of the Eastern Orthodox Church prevailed (43 percent and 41 percent respectively). Western-rite Catholics comprised only 15 percent of the total population.

These percentages were slightly different among women. Western-rite Catholics (63 percent) dominated, while only 26 percent of the female population was Orthodox and only 10.5 percent was Eastern-rite Catholic. Bulgarian diasporas in Austria–Hungary were clearly defined by religious affiliation. The members of the Orthodox Church were (seasonal) labor migrants, primarily market-gardeners and a small number of craftsmen. The Catholics of the Eastern rite were former seasonal migrants who had settled and changed their faith as a sign of their loyalty to the host country (and in the interests of ensuring their well-being and welfare). The fact that their children attended Hungarian schools was unquestionably a significant factor in this shift. In the towns, Western-rite Catholics were migrants.

In 1900, literacy rates were highest among Western-rite Catholics in urban Bulgarian diasporas (regardless of gender). Western-rite Catholics represented 54.7 percent of literate Bulgarian men and 58.5 percent of literate Bulgarian women. The second-highest rates were found among Eastern-rite Catholics, with 28.5 percent of men and 24.4 percent of women being able to read and write. Literacy rates were lowest among the Orthodox (16.5 percent and 17 percent respectively; Figure 1).

On the basis of data regarding illiteracy within different age groups, I examine the pace at which literacy rates changed among the different confessions (Table 4). For Western-rite Catholic men, who were Banat Bulgarians migrating from villages to towns, illiteracy gradually decreased in the younger age groups. Table 4 shows that among children between 6 and 10 years of age who were enrolled in school after the implementation of 1892/93 educational reform illiteracy completely disappeared. It decreased by 18 percent among the group of people who had been born between 1860 and 1869, i.e. among students who were enrolled in school after compulsory education was introduced in 1868.

Indicators of illiteracy among Orthodox men vary widely and no clear trends emerged. Illiteracy is conspicuous in the group of youths between the

Figure 1. Literacy rates in urban Bulgarian populations over the age of 6 in Hungary (including Croatia-Slavonia, without Budapest), by confession and gender, 190021

 

ages of 11 and 15. They were adolescents from poor families who sought work abroad instead of studying to earn a living or support their families. The smaller proportion of the illiterate is noteworthy among adolescents between the ages of 16 and 20 who went to school in Bulgaria in the late 1880s and early 1890s, when the modern Bulgarian educational system had finally taken clear form.

 

 

Men

Women

Confession

 

Age (born in ...)

Orthodox

Eastern-rite Catholics

Western-rite Catholics

Orthodox

Eastern-rite Catholics

Western-rite Catholics

Under 6 (after 1895)

100

100

100

100

100

6–10 (1894–1890)

50

0

0

62.5

11–15 (1889–1885)

77

20

12.5

0

20

16–20 (1884–1880)

44

29

0

20

0

50

21–30 (1879–1870)

69

6

20

75

50

67

31–40 (1869–1860)

41

33

21

100

73

50

41–50 (1859–1850)

71

75

39

0

80

51–60 (1849–1840)

50

37

100

75

Over 60 (before 1839)

67

69

67

71

Total (for the population ages 6 and over)

53

24.5

18

56

54.5

62

(–) No people in the group.

 

Table 4. Illiteracy rates (%) in urban Bulgarian populations in Hungary (including Croatia-Slavonia) by confession and within different age groups, by gender, 190022

Illiteracy rates among Eastern-rite Catholic men were average and were declining. This drop in illiteracy can be observed in the group of men between the ages of 21 and 30 who studied reading and writing immediately after the introduction of compulsory education in Hungary.

Orthodox women born before Bulgaria’s liberation (1878/79) were illiterate. An acute change is noticeable in the group of women between the ages of 16 and 20 who started schooling just after the creation of the independent modern Bulgarian state, when literate women predominated among the women who chose to migrate. There was no illiteracy at all among the Orthodox women who were at or above the age of compulsory school attendance (they were settled young women). Among Western-rite Catholic women illiteracy rates were similar to rates among Orthodox women.

The available data for the Bulgarian diaspora in Budapest regarding the correlation of literacy, confession, and age were reported separately in the 1900 census for people born in Bulgaria and people born in Hungary (Table 5). Comparing these data with the data for towns in Table 4, one notices similar overall trends: illiteracy was highest among Orthodox men (all of whom were born in Bulgaria). Illiteracy rates were second highest among Eastern-rite Catholics, while they were lowest among Western-rite Catholics (especially those born in Hungary).

There are some striking and significant differences in the data depending on whether the members of the cohort group were born in Bulgaria or Hungary, and these differences suggest conclusions that might otherwise not have been evident. Specifically, in the Orthodox community there were no illiterate men over the age of 50, which could be an indication that only men with the ability to read and write dared undertake long, international journeys in search of work as migrant laborers. The same was true of women. The few Orthodox women who had been born in Bulgaria were all literate.

Illiteracy was significantly lower among Eastern-rite Catholic men born in Bulgaria than it was among members of the Orthodox Church between the ages of 16 and 40, which implies a positive impact of the local educational environment in Austria-Hungary on the Bulgarian migrants. This effect was most pronounced among children between the ages of 6 and 10, among whom the literacy rate was zero. The fact that among Western-rite Catholic men who had been born in Hungary the illiteracy rate was also zero offers further support for this conclusion.

 

 

Men

Women

Confession

Age (born in ...)

Orthodox

Eastern-rite Catholics

Western-rite Catholics

Orthodox

Eastern-rite Catholics

Western-rite Catholics

 

Born in Bulgaria

Under 6 (after 1885)

6–10 (1880–1884)

0

0

11–15 (1875–1879)

0

15

100

16–20 (1870–1874)

31

18.5

21–30 (1860–1869)

33

26

50

0

31–40 (1850–1859)

75

33

0

41–50 (1840–1849)

33

40

100

100

51–60 (1830–1839)

0

50

Over 60 (before 1840)

0

Total (for the population at compulsory age and over)

35.4

22.1

40

0

100

0

 

Born in Hungary

Under 6 (after 1885)

100

6–10 (1880–1884)

11–15 (1875–1879)

0

16–20 (1870–1874)

12.5

0

21–30 (1860–1869)

0

25

31–40 (1850–1859)

0

25

100

41–50 (1840–1849)

0

51–60 (1830–1839)

Over 60 (before 1840)

100

Total (for the population at compulsory age and over)

40

14.3

75

 

(–) No people in the group.

Table 5. Illiteracy rates (%) among Bulgarian populations in Budapest by confession, birthplace, gender, and age, 190023

Illiteracy among Orthodox men was higher in provincial towns than it was in Budapest, regardless of age. It was 53 percent among Orthodox men in towns and only 35.4 percent in Budapest. The same was true of Eastern-rite Catholic men, among whom the illiteracy rate was 24.5 percent in the towns and 22.1 percent in Budapest (among people who had been born in Bulgaria). The opposite trend prevailed among Western-rite Catholics: illiteracy rates among people who had been born in Bulgaria were lower in the towns (18 percent) than in the capital (40 percent) and evidently higher than for Hungarian-born Catholics, among whom the illiteracy rate was 14.3 percent (Tables 4, 5).

Literacy and Migration

In this discussion of the social nature of literacy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the ways in which literacy varied according to gender, age and confession, questions regarding the relationships between literacy and processes of migration have arisen repeatedly. I offer an additional example indicating a clear relationship between literacy and migration, specifically the literacy levels among the Bulgarians of Budapest in 1900 correlated with place of birth, i.e. whether one was born in Bulgaria or Hungary (Table 6). In this case, the effect of the foreign cultural milieu on the wider spread of literacy among Bulgarian men born in Hungary in comparison with Bulgarian-born migrants is not negligible.

 

 

Men

Women

Birthplace

Literate

Semi-literate

Illiterate

Literate

Semi-literate

Illiterate

Hungary

74.1

3.7

22.2

40

60

Bulgaria

75.3

0.3

24.4

40

60

 

Table 6. Literacy rates among Bulgarian populations in Budapest ages 6 and over by birthplace and gender, 190024

 

The conclusions I have drawn here regarding the relationship between literacy and migration confirm the findings of earlier scholarly inquiries. Migrants are unusual, “select” individuals, and literacy is a common feature among them. Usually literacy rates are higher among migrants than they are among people who remain in their homelands, regardless of background, age or gender.25 Literacy influences not only the willingness of an individual to choose to emigrate, but also the distance he or she may be willing to travel.26 Literacy rates are only slightly higher among migrants who travel only short distances than in the communities they leave behind, but literacy rates are significantly higher among migrants who travel long distances.

What are the peculiarities of the relationships between literacy and other factors among the Bulgarian migrant communities in Austria–Hungary? The case of Banat Bulgarians in the town of Nagybecskerek (today Zrenjanin, Serbia), who were migrants from neighboring villages with compact Bulgarian communities, offers insights into the relationship between literacy and distance traveled in the case of migrants from communities that were relatively nearby. In the Bulgarian diaspora of Nagybecskerek, the Banat Bulgarians predominated. In 1890 they constituted 94 percent of the Bulgarian community, 95 percent in 1900, and 90 percent in 1910. How did literacy rates of a small Banat Bulgarian migrant community change over time in an urban environment? The literacy rate among Bulgarian men was 67 percent in 1890, 76 percent in 1900 and 72 percent in 1910, while the literacy rate among women was 21 percent (1890), 38 percent (1900) and 79 percent (1910). The decline in literacy among men between 1900 and 1910 was due to an influx of Orthodox Bulgarians. According to the available data, literacy rates among Bulgarian men in Nagybecskerek were as high as they were among men in traditional Banat Bulgarian villages. Unlike Bulgarian men in Nagybecskerek, according to the three censuses all Bulgarian women were Western-rite Catholics. The data regarding literacy among Bulgarian men in Nagybecskerek in 1890 was also broken down by age (Table 7). The pattern differed from the pattern observed in the compact Bulgarian community in Vinga. In Nagybecskerek, the illiteracy rate among people between the ages of 6 and 40 was zero. The literacy rate among men was as high as it was among men in traditional Banat Bulgarian villages. Among women in Nagybecskerek, however, in earlier censuses literacy rates were low, but they peaked in 1910, just as they did among women in the compact Bulgarian village diaspora in Banat. Thus while among women the urban milieu had a positive influence with regards to the spread of literacy, among men the impact was negative.

 

In Figures

Percent

Age (born in ...)

Literate

Illiterate

Literate

Illiterate

Under 6 (after 1885)

0

2

0

100

6–10 (1880–1884)

3

0

100

0

11–15 (1875–1879)

1

0

100

0

16–20 (1870–1874)

2

0

100

0

21–30 (1860–1869)

2

0

100

0

31–40 (1850–1859)

4

0

100

0

41–50 (1840–1849)

4

3

57

43

51–60 (1830–1839)

0

1

0

100

Over 60 (before 1840)

0

5

0

100

Total

16

11

 

 

 

Table 7. Literacy among male Bulgarian Western-rite Catholic populations in Nagybecskerek by age, as absolute figures and percentages, 189027 (compare with Vinga, Table 3).

 

Bulgarian census data from 1900 and 1910 on Banat Bulgarians who returned to Bulgaria shed light on the relationship between literacy and distance traveled in the case of migrants from communities that were relatively far away. The return of a significant number of Banat Bulgarians to Bulgaria in the 1880s and 1890s was caused in part by high birth rates for a period of decades, as a result of which the land they had been given by the Hungarian state was no longer sufficient to ensure their livelihood. It was also prompted in part by a few consecutive years of agricultural hardship (1880–81), when due to high taxes the members of the Bulgarian diaspora were forced to travel across the country in search of work to make a living as laborers. Problems related to the ability of the Banat Bulgarians to earn a livelihood motivated many among them to return to the recently liberatedhomeland” in the hopes of finding a reliable livelihood and a better life. I focus in this inquiry on five compact villages founded by returning emigrants: Asenovo (Nikopol district, Pleven county), Dragimirovo (Svishtov district, Veliko Tarnovo county), Gostilya (Dolna Mitiropolia district, Pleven county), Bardarski Geran (Byala Slatina district, Vratsa county) and Bregare (Dolna Mitiropolia district, Pleven county), which was already inhabited by Orthodox Bulgarians and where their ethnic presence was most notable. Literacy data was broken up according to nationality in the censuses, with the use of the category “nationality Bulgarians (without Pomaks28).” However, literacy rates were not broken up according to confession, which would have helped us distinguish the level of literacy among Banat Bulgarians (as Catholics) from that of the other (local Orthodox) Bulgarians. (Data on confession refer to the entire population of the settlement.) The data on literacy was also not broken up according to age.

In 1900, of the five villages Asenovo had the highest literacy rate (54 percent) among Bulgarian men, followed by Gostilya with 52.2 percent and Bardarski Geran with 47.4 percent (Table 8). These figures were much lower than the average for the Banat villages ten years earlier. In 1900, Asenovo was almost entirely a village of Banat Bulgarians. 98 percent of the men and 95 percent of the women were Banat Bulgarians, so the rest of the Bulgarian population (Orthodox and Protestants) had only a minor impact on the overall literacy rates.29 The majority of Banat Bulgarians in Asenovo came from Vinga, and they returned to Bulgaria after 1889. Literacy rates among them in 1900 were far below the literacy rates in Vinga even in 1890, which had been 67.3 percent (Table 8). Banat Bulgarians in Gostilya came originally from Star Beshenov and Ivanovo (today in Serbia), and those in Bardarski Geran came from Star Beshenov. Literacy rates among men there were lower than literacy rates among men in Star Beshenov in 1890 (55.6 percent) (Table 8). Literacy rates among female Banat Bulgarians who had returned to their homeland were highest in Asenovo, where the literacy rate was 38.2 percent in comparison with 57.9 percent among female Banat Bulgarians in Vinga in 1890 (Tables 8, 9). Gostilya was second with 24.2 percent and Bardarski Geran was third with 20.1 percent in comparison with 39.3 percent among female Banat Bulgarians in Star Beshenov in 1890 (Tables 8, 9). The Bulgarian migrants who returned to Bulgaria in the 1880s from the region of Banat were mostly poor, landless,30 and, as evidenced by the statistical information presented here, less able to read and write than their compatriots in Banat. Thus those who were illiterate also comprised a kind of “select” group of migrants. They usually came from regions in which literacy rates were above average and where they consequently found themselves at a disadvantage and therefore were more inclined to consider returning.31 As the statistics indicate, many people who were unable to read or write also traveled significant distances. In this sense, with respect to migration literacy constituted an important factor in at least two distinct ways. On the one hand, the ability to read and write seems to have made someone more likely to consider emigration (a significant decision involving risk and investment), while at the same time illiteracy may have been a contributing factor in the decision to return to the country of origin, an equally significant decision requiring similar investment. Whatever the case, in their “old-new” country these immigrants represented a significant human resource with special skills, whether in their new countries or upon return to their homelands.32 For instance, Banat Bulgarians brought farming technology from Banat, where agriculture was at a higher level than in the post-liberation Bulgaria. They introduced the so-calledAustrian iron plow,” which was pulled by horses, and other new agricultural tools. And as I demonstrate below, even the illiterate among them quickly embraced the innovations and “absorbed” the culture of the host country.

 

 

1900

1910

Increase

Men

Women

Men

Women

Men

Women

Asenovo

54.0

38.2

68.8

64.1

+14.8

+25.9

Bardarski Geran

47.4

20.1

60.5

49.9

+13.1

+29.8

Bregare

37.5

6.2

54.6

21.7

+17.1

+27.9

Dragomirovo

35.7

15.8

46.4

21.8

+10.7

+6.0

Gostilya

52.2

24.2

54.0

32.3

+1.8

+8.1

 

 

Table 8. Literacy rates (%) in the whole population of Bulgarian nationality (excluding the Pomaks) in the villages of Asenovo, Bregare, Bardarski Geran, Gostilya and Dragomirovo, by gender, 1900, 191033

 

In the early twentieth century, literacy rates among the Bulgarians of Banat were higher than the average literacy rates in the Bulgarian villages (with the exceptions of Dragomirovo and Bregare for men and Bregare for women) (Table 7). According to the first Bulgarian official statistics, in 1890 the average literacy rate was not more than 5 percent among men and 1.5 percent among women. Within two decades, these rates rose to 41.8 percent and 14.9 percent respectively (without excluding the population under the age of 6).34 But during the post-liberation period, Bulgaria made an educational jump and school attendance became a central part of its educational system. The immigrant community also benefited from this process. In 1910, literacy rates among the denizens of the five aforementioned villages were still growing. Asenovo led in literacy among men (68.8 percent), followed by Bardarski Geran (60.5 percent), Bregare (54.6 percent) and Gostilya (54 percent) (Table 7), each of which had literacy rates higher than the Bulgarian average. Literacy rates among women grew by twice as much as they did among men (in Gostilya the difference was four and a half times as much) (Table 7).

 

 

1890

1910

Men

Mother tongue

County, village

Bulgarian

Hungarian

German

Other

Bulgarian

Hungarian

German

Other

Temes

 

Vinga

67.3

72.7

72.3

Romanian

22.7

54.6

76.8

35

 

Torontál

 

Bolgártelep

52

64.3

35.7

 

64.3

45.5

66.1

 

Star Beshenov

55.6

69.4

57.3

 

65.1

54.1

82.5

 

Ivanovo

50.8

28.6

55

 

61

55.8

64.3

 

 

Women

Temes

 

Vinga

57.9

×

×

×

72.3

54.6

76.8

Romanian

35

Torontál

 

Bolgártelep

35.4

43.5

36.7

 

52.6

40

64.7

 

Star Beshenov

39.3

59.3

45.6

 

54.4

57.9

65.2

Romanian

0

Ivanovo

29.8

14

37.9

 

54.2

41.6

55.8

 

 

× No data.

Table 9. Literacy rates (excluding people who had completed secondary or high school) in the total population by gender in some villages in Temes and Torontál (with a Bulgarian population of over 100 people), 1890 and 191035

Levels of Education in 1910

In the 1910 Hungarian census the question of literacy was broken down according to additional factors. In addition to the question of the ability to read and write (to which one responded by indicating one of the three aforementioned categories, literate, semi-literate, or illiterate), two further questions were asked about the level of education and separate columns were included for those who had completed elementary school (“általános/elemi iskola”) and those who had completed secondary school (“középiskola”). In Hungary, one received one’s first degree after having completed elementary school, which consisted of six classes and two upper classes called “repeating school” (“ismétlőiskola”), which were not visited by masses. The focus of education in elementary school was on acquiring the ability to read and write. One received one’s second degree after having completed “secondary school,” which included eight classes and was offered in institutions of two types, gymnasia (in which pupils were given classical and humanitarian education) and “real” secondary schools (which prepared students for careers in engineering). A level of “general education” was achieved through training in the first four years of secondary school.

Records in the original census tables show that Bulgarians in Austria–Hungary (primarily Banat Bulgarians) attended elementary school only up to the fourth grade, after which few were enrolled in secondary school. I analyze the levels of literacy among Bulgarians in Austria–Hungary, drawing a distinction between the capital city and provincial towns in the case of seasonal migrants. I also examine town-village relations in the case of Banat Bulgarians (Table 10). In the Banat region, I take the data into consideration separately for each of the three counties, omitting towns, since the Catholic Bulgarians were a rural population. I present the towns separately in the three counties, because the Bulgarian population in these counties was of mixed confession. As I have already mentioned, Banat Bulgarians were Western-rite Catholics, seasonal migrants were Orthodox, and Eastern-rite Catholics were converts from the Orthodox church who had settled down permanently.

In Temes county, I take into account the towns of Fehértemplom (today Bela Crkva, Serbia) (a settled council town), Temesvár (Timişoara, Romania), and Versec (Vršac, Serbia), both of which were municipal council towns. Temesvár had the largest Bulgarian population. Of the 64 men, one had completed each of the three levels, while none of the women had. In Versec, one of the six Bulgarian men had completed the fourth grade. In Torontál county there was

 

Males who completed the

Females who completed the

8th grade

6th grade

4th grade

8th grade

6th grade

4th grade

of the high school

of the high school

Temes county

(without the towns)

0.46

0.06

0.13

0.0

0.0

0.26

Temes county –

towns

1.37

1.37

3.2

0.0

0.0

0.0

Torontál county

(without the towns)

0.07

0.04

0.23

0.0

0.0

0.02

Torontál county -

towns

0.0

0,0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Krassó-Szörény county

(without the towns)

2.94

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Banat region (total)

0.24

0.05

0.19

0.0

0.0

0.26

Budapest

0.6

0.6

0.8

0.0

5

5

Towns in Hungary

(without those in Banat)

0.4

0.2

0.6

0.0

3

0.0

Individual towns

 

 

 

 

 

 

Temesvár

1.56

1.56

1.56

0.0

0.0

100

 

Table 10. Bulgarian high school graduates as a percentage of the literate Bulgarian communities in Banat, the capital city of Budapest, and towns throughout Hungary (including Croatia-Slavonia), also broken down by gender, 191036

 

one municipal council town, Pancsova (Pančevo, Serbia), and two settled council towns, Nagybecskerek and Nagykikinda (Kikinda, Serbia), in which there were small communities of Bulgarians of different confessions. Not one of them completed high school. In Krassó-Szörény county there were two settled council towns, Lugos (Lugoj, Romania) and Karansebes (Caranşebeş, Romania). None of the members of the Bulgarian communities of these two settelments completed secondary school either. According to the Hungarian censuses (summarized in Table 10), Banat Bulgarians from the villages in Temes county had higher levels of education than those from villages in Torontál county. They had a comparatively sizeable number of eighth-grade graduates, which largely exceeded the number of sixth-grade and fourth-grade graduates. In the early twentieth century, girls in the communities of Banat Bulgarians did not attend high school (with the exception of a few girls from Temes county, who completed the fourth grade), although in the Eastern part of the Monarchy girls were granted access to high schools as early as 1895.

Among the men of the Bulgarian community of Budapest (568 of the total 608 people who were Bulgarian by mother tongue), who were of various confessions (though the Orthodox Church dominated), the proportion of students who studied at high schools was greater than among the men of the Banat Bulgarian communities. Bulgarian women in Budapest (the other 40 people), who were mostly migrants, had lower levels of elementary literacy than the Bulgarian women of Banat, but those who pursued studies were seeking to acquire a better education.

Conclusion: Parallels of Literacy

As a kind of conclusion, I compare literacy rates among the Bulgarian migrant communities in Austria-Hungary with the levels of education prevailing among the populations of the Dual Monarchy and Bulgaria in general. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the general trend among the Bulgarians in Austria–Hungary was towards higher literacy rates. Among women, this was lower than for men in both groups (the Banat Bulgarians and Bulgarian seasonal workers). In this respect, the Bulgarian immigrant women were not an exception, neither in comparison with women in Hungary nor in comparison with women in other European countries.

In 1910, literacy among men was the highest in Budapest, and it was higher among Banat Bulgarians than among Bulgarian market-gardeners in provincial towns (Table 12). The highest literacy rates were found among the men of the Budapest Bulgarian community, among whom there was a big jump in the first decade of the twentieth century (from 75.2 percent in 1900 to 87.8 percent in 1910). Literacy rates were higher among the women of the Banat Bulgarian community than among female seasonal migrants.

One trend among Bulgarian women is noticeable: in Budapest and in the provincial urban diaspora women who had the opportunity to pursue studies strove to acquire a better education. This is revealed by the 1910 census, which includes not only data regarding literacy but also data concerning people who had completed secondary school. 9 percent of the women among the literate Bulgarian migrants in Budapest had completed secondary school in comparison with only 2 percent of the literate men, and in provincial towns (except in Banat) 3 percent of literate women had completed secondary school in comparison with 1.2 percent of literate men.

In 1910, elementary literacy rates were higher among Banat Bulgarians than the average for Hungary (including Croatia-Slavonia), which was 66.7 percent. 37 This was also the case in earlier censuses. In 1890, the average level of elementary literacy among Banat Bulgarians was 58 percent (taking both women and men into account), compared with 50.6 percent for the lands of the Hungarian crown (i.e. including Croatia-Slavonia). Within the diaspora of labor migrants, in 1900 it was 65 percent (again taking both women and men into account) among Bulgarians in Budapest and the towns, whereas the national average was 59.3 percent.38

It is worth noting that the elementary literacy level of seasonal Bulgarian migrants, most of whom were market-gardeners, was much higher than the average of 30 percent for Bulgaria at the time39 and the average of 22 percent for the rural population in Bulgaria. This again confirms the relevance of literacy and education as factors in the processes of emigration.40 But illiteracy data on Bulgarian seasonal migrant market-gardeners in Budapest are not so favorable compared to the host country. The illiteracy rate was above the municipal average, while among Banat Bulgarians in Temes County illiteracy was lower (23% in 1910), than the county average (30 %) (but still higher than illiteracy among Bulgarians in the capital city).41

 

Nationality by mother tongue

1890

Men

Women

Total

Banat Bulgarians

56

44

50

Croats

50

34

42

Hungarians

59

48

54

Germans

68

58

63

Romanians

11

8

14

Ruthens

13

7

10

Serbs

39

22

31

Slovaks

51

37

43

 

Table 11. Literacy rates in Hungary (including Croatia-Slavonia and the population under the age of compulsory school attendance) by nationality and gender, 189042

In the lands of historic Hungary Bulgarians lived in multinational communities. According to quantifiable data regarding literacy (in this case including the population below the age of compulsory school attendance), Banat Bulgarians were in the forefront. In 1890, they were third after the Germans and Hungarians, taking men and women into account separately (56 percent and 44 percent, respectively) and as a whole (50 percent) (Table 11). For Banat Bulgarians, higher education was a natural pursuit, since in the second half of the nineteenth century they experienced their literary revival.

 

 

Men

Women

Educational level

County,

Budapest,

towns

Literate

Semi-literate

Illiterate

Total

Literate

Semi-literate

Illiterate

Total

1890

Temes and Torontál counties

63.8

0.5

35.7

100

47.5

3.3

49.2

100

1900

Budapest

75.2

0.6

24.2

100

40.0

0.0

60.0

100

Towns

65.6

0.6

33.8

100

77.8

0.0

22.2

100

1910*

Budapest

87.8

1.2

11.0

0

59.5

5.4

35.1

100

Towns

not including towns in Temes and Torontál counties

68.8

0.6

30.6

100

48.9

0.0

51.1

100

Temes and Torontál counties

76.7

0.7

22.6

100

65.5

4.5

30.0

100

 

* “Literate” also includes people who continued their education.

Table 12. Literacy rates among Bulgarians at or over the age of compulsory school attendace in Temes and Torontál counties, Budapest, and other Hungarian towns by gender, 1890–191043

 

During the period under examination, from the perspective of literacy Hungary lagged behind the countries of Western Europe (England, France, Germany). For example, by 1911 England had already overcome illiteracy (which had been reduced to 1 percent, both among women and men). In 1900, the rate of illiteracy in France was 5 percent among men and 6 percent among women. In 1870, the rate of illiteracy in Prussia for the population over 10 years of age was 10 percent among men and 15 percent among women. In the Western part of the Austro–Hungarian Empire (Cisleithania), the average rate of illiteracy for the population over the age of 10 was 21 percent among men and 25 percent among women. However, Hungary was far ahead compared to the Balkan countries, including Bulgaria, and this undoubtedly contributed to the higher rates of literacy and higher levels of education among the Bulgarian immigrant population. In 1899, the illiteracy rate among the population at or above the age of compulsory school attendance in Romania was 78 percent. It was 61 percent in Greece in 1907 and 80 percent in Serbia in 1900.44 In Bulgaria, the rate of illiteracy for the population over the age of 7 was 70 percent in 1900 and 58 percent in 1910.45

Archival Sources

Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Országos Levéltára (Hungarian National Archives, further MNL OL), KSH-XXXII-23-h

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Tóth, István György. Mivelhogy magad írást nem tudsz... Az írás térhódítása a művelődésben a kora újkori Magyarországon [As You Do Not Know How to Write… The Spread of Literacy in Early Modern Hungarian Culture]. Budapest: MTA TTI, 1996.

 

Translated by Thomas Cooper

1 Васил Гюзелев, Училища, скриптории, библиотеки и знания в България, ХІІІ–ХІV в. (Sofia: Narodna prosveta, 1985), 35.

2 Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006, Chapter 8, The Making of Literate Societies, accessed september 5, 2014, www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt8_eng.pdf, 189.

3 Stephen D. Corrsin, “Literacy Rates and Questions of Language, Faith and Ethnic Identity in Population Censuses in the Partitioned Polish Lands and Interwar Poland (1880–1930s),” The Polish Review 43, no. 2 (1998): 131–32.

4 Paulicians were also Catholics from the Danube villages of Oresh, Belene, Tranchovitsa and Petokladentsi.

5 Любомир Милетич, “Книжнината и езикът на банатските българи,” in Изследвания за българите в Седмиградско и Банат, ed. Мария Рунтова and Любомир Милетич (Sofia: Nauka i Izkustvo, 1987), 488.

6 Ibid., 493.

7 These figures should be regarded as approximations only, since censuses were carried out at the end of the year and recorded only a small number of market-gardeners who remained abroad in order to care for the gardens in winter and do the early preparatory work for the upcoming season. In the working season, the number of Bulgarian market-gardeners was sometimes higher than the censuses would suggest.

8 Lénárt Böhm, Dél-Magyarország vagy az u.n. Bánság külön történelme, vol. 1, (Budapest: n.p., 1867), 29–30.

9 Карол Телбизов, Мария Векова, and Марин Люлюшев. Българското образование в Банат и Трансилвания. (В.Търново: Унив. изд. Св. св. Кирил и Методий, 1996), 88–89.

10 Lajos Thirring, Az 1869–1890. évi népszámlálások története és jellemzői, I. rész (Budapest: KSH, 1983), 54, 84, 123.

11 István György Tóth, Mivelhogy magad írást nem tudsz... Az írás térhódítása a művelődésben a kora újkori Magyarországon (Budapest: MTA TTI, 1996), 235.

12 Tamás T. Kiss, “Az analfabetizmus. A dualizmuskori Magyarország kulturális/politikai problémája,” in Kultúrkapuk. Tanulmányok a kultúr[politik]áról, az értékközvetítésről és a kulturális valóságról, ed. Tamás T. Kiss and Tímea Tibori (Szeged: Belvedere Meridionale, 2013), 13.

13 Румен Даскалов, Българското общество, 1878–1939, vol. 2, Население, общество, култура (Sofia: IK Gutenberg, 2005), 367–68.

14 Kenneth A. Lockridge, Literacy in Colonial New England (New York: W.W. Norton & Company Incorporated, 1974); Lawrence Stone, “Literacy and Education in England, 1640–1900,” Past and Present 42 (1969): 69–139.

15 The term Bulgarian refers to someone whose mother tongue was Bulgarian clarified in the text earlier.

16 Source: Hungarian State Archives (further MNL OL), KSH-XXXII-23-h.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid.

19 Lockridge, Literacy; Stone, “Literacy and Education”, 69–139.

20 The term Uniat or Uniate is used to refer to Eastern Catholic churches that were previously Eastern Orthodox churches.

21 MNL OL, KSH-XXXII-23-h.

22 Ibid.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid.

25 Harvey J. Graff, The Literacy Myth: Cultural Integration and Social Structure in the Nineteenth Century (Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1991), 65; Larry H. Long, “Migration Differentials of Education and Occupation: Trends and Variations,” Demography 10 (1973): 243–58.

26 Ibid.

27 MNL OL KSH-XXXII-23-h.

28 Pomaks is a term used for Bulgarian-speaking Muslims who are indigenous to Southern Bulgaria.

29 Резултати от преброяването на населението в Княжество България на 31 дек. 1900 г. по общини и населени места, vol. 7 (Sofia: n.p., 1903), 60.

30 Петър Миятев, “Едно движение на банатски българи за заселване в България от края на ХІХ в” Известия на Научния архив, (1968), vol. 4, 46.

31 Ibid.

32 Graff, The Literacy Myth; Long, “Migration Differentials.”

33 Резултати от преброяване … vol. 4 (окр. Враца), 53, 56; vol. 7 (окр. Плевен), 82; vol. 11 (окр. Търново), 175; Резултати от преброяване на населението в Царство България на 31 дек. 1910 г. по общини и населени места, vol. 4 (окр. Враца) (Sofia: n.p., 1915), 28–29, 34–35; vol. 7 (окр. Плевен) (Sofia: n.p., 1922), 40–41; vol. 11 (окр. Търново) (Sofia: n.p., 1923), 102–03.

34 Даскалов, Българското общество, 367.

35 MNL OL, KSH-XXXII-23-h.

36 MNL OL, KSH-XXXII-23-h.

37 József Kovacsics, ed., Magyarország történeti demográfiája. Magyarország népessége a honfoglalástól 1949-ig (Budapest: KSH, 1963), 309.

38 Ibid.

39 Даскалов, Българското общество, 301–64.

40 Атанас Тотев ed. Демография на България (Sofia: BAN, 1974), 366.

41 Tóth, Mivelhogy magad írást nem tudsz, 230–31.

42 Ibid., 232; MNL OL, KSH-XXXII-23-h.

43 MNL OL, KSH-XXXII-23-h.

44 Ibid., 238–46.

45 Атанас Тотев, ed. Демография на България, 366.

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pdfVolume 2 Issue 4 CONTENTS

Ágnes R. Várkonyi

Gábor Bethlen and His European Presence

 

This paper studies the European presence of the most important ruler of the Principality of Transylvania, Gábor Bethlen (1580–1629) in the light of predominant developments of the Early Modern Age such as the general crisis of the seventeenth century, the Thirty Years’ War, the international networks of alliances, the absolutist governments, the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires, the nation states, the modern expectations towards governments, the new science of political cultures, the explosion of information networks and the law of concluding peace.

The study gives an overview on the extreme views on Gábor Bethlen in the early modern era as well as in posterity. This ruler of the Transylvanian state—a tributary of the Ottoman Empire, but also belonging to the power sphere of the Habsburgs—was on the one hand regarded as a creature of the Turks, on the other as a monarch who had profound influence upon the fate of Europe. The paper shows how Bethlen created tranquility, security and economic stability in the country which had been ruined, destroyed by Ottoman and imperial military interventions and on the verge of civil war. Having a wide range of political experience and a good knowledge of contemporary political theories, the prince managed to accommodate absolutist government and mercantilist economic policies to Transylvanian circumstances. He was nevertheless unable to compete with the propaganda campaign against him.

Keywords: general crisis of the seventeenth century, the Thirty Years’ War, the international networks of alliances, the absolutist governments, the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires

 

Prelude

He is like a star, and “no astrologer can iudge of him till he bee worne out.”1 The report on Prince Gábor Bethlen of Transylvania by Sir Thomas Roe, English ambassador to Constantinople, has lost none of its validity four hundred years after his election.

The 1630 London edition of Giovanni Botero’s world chronicle devotes a whole chapter, “The State of Bethlen Gábor in Transilvania,” to this brave and exceptionally talented prince and his deeds in defending his country against the Ottomans and the House of Habsburg.2 The opinions of his detractors were put succinctly by the “Tacitus of Europe,” Virgilio Malvezzi, who wrote that Bethlen was inscrutable and untrustworthy.3 Samuel Richardson’s opinion was glowing: “in warfare and diplomacy, he was one of the most greatest rulers of his age.”4 Leopold Ranke wrote, “one of the most powerful figures of the world upheaval that was the Thirty Years’ War.”5 Others took up the words of the propaganda his enemies put forth against him: a creature of the Turks, circumcised, Mohammedan.6 In the enormous literature on the Thirty Years’ War, the prince of Transylvania has appeared in various lights up to the present day.7 Through all of it, he has remained, in the words of Botero’s world chronicle, “a man much talkt of, but little knowne.” After the storms of four hundred years, Hungarian historians say much the same. He has been called a “man of the Turks,” but also praised for his statesmanship, “after St Stephen and King Matthias (r. 1458–90), perhaps our finest ruler.”8 To date, however, Hungarian historians have not paid enough attention to his European presence.

I will discuss here the concept of “presence” in the period of European change, the qualifications required for statesmanship, and Bethlen’s part in the Bohemian–Hungarian Confederation and the Hague Alliance.

Options for Presence

Upon his election as prince by the Diet of Kolozsvár on October 23, 1613, Gábor Bethlen announced the essence of his program: only peace could save a nation so reduced and ruined by wars from utter destruction.9 Circumstances, however, were not favorable to the intentions of this Calvinist prince. Ottoman forces had escorted him into Transylvania, the Diet had been called by Iskender Pasha, Beylerbey of Kanizsa, who made camp beside Torda near Kolozsvár (now Turda and Cluj-Napoca, Romania). Tartar armies plundered the villages along the River Szamos, and on the western border of the country, castles were being captured by Matthias II, Holy Roman emperor and king of Hungary. In Vienna, the election was seen as both a Protestant and an Ottoman onslaught. Bethlen was proclaiming a vision of peace while his country faced the threat of civil war and an eruption of the Habsburg–Ottoman conflict.

Bethlen managed to persuade the Ottomans to leave the country after his accession to the throne, but immediately found himself in an impossible position. Kadizade Ali, Pasha of Buda, seizing control of the region in 1614, suddenly imprisoned Bethlen’s protector, Iskender Pasha and started to promote a claimant to the princely throne, György Homonnai Drugeth.10 A Catholic, Homonnai also secured the support of the dominant statesman of the Habsburg Empire, Bishop of Vienna and President of the Geheimrat Melchior Khlesl.11 At the very moment of Bethlen’s election, Khlesl launched a well-organized propaganda campaign against the new prince. Accusations made in terms like “Türkischer Bethlehem” and “Mohamedanischer Gábor” fed the flames of public opinion which had been ignited by tales of Tartar soldiers’ brutality and Ottoman plans to conquer the world.12 The accusations were not yet widely disseminated in German-speaking areas, but the tone was set for future developments.13

It was following the cataclysms which befell the kingdom in the sixteenth century—the Battle of Mohács in 1526 and Sultan Süleyman’s occupation of its capital, Buda, in 1541—that the eastern part of medieval Hungary was involuntarily and violently shaped into the Principality of Transylvania (Principatus Transylvaniae).14 Transylvania’s geopolitical position constrained the ambitions of its princes, although neither the Ottoman nor the Habsburg Empires succeeded in annexing its territory. In all of their many attempts, the military forces of both countries found their strength exhausted after breaching Transylvania’s borders.15 The new Hungarian state established itself by virtue of medieval traditions, European power relations and the adaptability of its society; its international recognition was presaged by the Peace of Adrianople (1568) and legalized by the Treaty of Speyer between Maximilian I of Hungary and Holy Roman emperor and John Sigismund (king-elect of Hungary 1541–1571, prince of Transylvania 1571) in 1570.16 From that time on, Transylvania appeared on a separate page in Ortelius’ atlas. In pursuing its “national interest”, however, it was constantly subject to the varying pressures of a dual dependence.17

The history of Gábor Bethlen’s family was intertwined with the formation of the Principality. He fully experienced the fragility of the Transylvanian state in his youth. His grandfather fought in the Battle of Mohács (1526), where the forces of Sultan Süleyman shattered the unity of the Kingdom of Hungary. The estates the family had held since the fourteenth century, together with the family seat of Iktár, lay in the two-thirds of the kingdom occupied by the Ottomans. His father Farkas Bethlen, after defending the castle of Gyula on behalf of the king against an Ottoman siege, resettled in Transylvania.

Gábor Bethlen was born in the family’s castle of Marosillye in Hunyad county on November 15, 1580, in one of Transylvania’s last years of tranquility following its establishment as a state, and spent his childhood there. His father was captain-general of the Principality and the military honors he earned in the service of Stephen Báthory, prince of Transylvania and king of Poland, earned him estates with many villages (1576), but after his early death, Prince Sigismund Báthory took his castle—which was in the border country—under control of the treasury. His mother, Fruzsina Lázár, came from a senior family of Székely land, an area of Transylvania with considerable autonomy and border defense duties. She followed her husband shortly after his death.

After being orphaned, Gábor and his younger brother spent some time, perhaps a few years, in the fortified house of András Lázár, a Székely king’s judge (iudex regius), in Gyergyószárhegy. He was employed as page in the political center of Transylvania, the court of Prince Zsigmond Báthory. It was to be a formative experience for him, where as an adolescent he had his first glimpse of the new political culture, a subject we will return to. It was while he was there that the Principality’s relative balance within the grip of two great powers was violently upset by war. When the conflict broke out between the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires in 1592, Prince Zsigmond Báthory entered the fray in alliance with Emperor Rudolf.18 Bethlen was among the victors at the Battle of Giurgiu in 1595, but soon experienced the agonies of the Habsburg–Ottoman war: for a decade, Transylvania was the theater of a protracted, static war, prey to a pointless struggle between a succession of princes and generals.19 Bethlen lived through the anarchic consequences of Zsigmond Báthory’s abdication and return, experiencing the despotism of the pro-Habsburg Voivode Michael and the imperial mercenary leader Giorgio Basta and the violent persecution of the nobility and the Protestants. He fought beside András Báthory and, bleeding from many wounds, fled to Ottoman lands. With Ottoman assistance, he took part in the military ventures of Prince Mózes Székely, who attacked Basta twice (1602–1603), and he was an eyewitness when the princely palace in Gyulafehérvár burned and the cathedral tower with its clock fell to the ground. That was when Bethlen started to seek out for himself political options that could free the Principality from the stifling grip of the Habsburg and Ottoman powers. His soldiers elected him prince, and the Porte supported him even then. But Bethlen considered István Bocskai, former counselor to the prince and Captain of Várad (now Oradea, Romania), as better suited to defend the constitution of Transylvania and Hungary and to lead the way out of a horrific war which had pitched the land into anarchy.

When the throne again became vacant after Bocskai’s death (1606) and old Prince Zsigmond Rákóczi’s abdication (1608), Bethlen assisted in the election of the eighteen-year-old Gábor Báthory (r. 1608–1613). This talented and ambitious scion of the Báthory family might have upheld the broad political vision of his ancestors, but his attempts to balance the conflicts of Transylvania’s complex society caused him to assume unlimited powers. He abolished the privileges of the Saxons, led a campaign against the Romanian voivodates of Moldavia and Wallachia, and lived the life of a gilded youth. He was not mature for princely power.20

By this time, Bethlen had become one of the foremost landowners in Transylvania, regaining his family legacy and extending it by several thousand acres, and his wife, Zsuzsa Károlyi, who bore him two children, brought a substantial dowry. He was a pivotal figure in Transylvanian politics, the captain-in-chief of the household cavalry, főispán of Hunyad county, and captain-in-chief of Csíkszék, Gyergyószék and Kászonszék. In 1612, fallen from grace, he had to seek refuge in Ottoman lands. We can only speculate as to what soured his relations with the young prince. He clearly did not approve of Báthory’s foreign policy, his aspirations to the Polish throne, or his campaigns against Moldavia and Wallachia.21

Bethlen made thorough preparations for his own election as prince. He visited all of the pashas of the Ottoman castles, travelled to Belgrade and Buda, won over the Catholic aristocrats of Transylvania, had an audience with the sultan in Adrianople, and got the Saxons behind him.22 His election got a mixed reception among contemporaries. An account of the circumstances “resting on the documents” was written by his court historian, Gáspár Bojti Veres. The Diet held in St Michael’s Church was initially divided. Some wanted an interregnum. Others proposed that Transylvania be governed by a triumvirate rather than a prince. In the end, the desire to be free of the Ottoman troops drove the estates to unanimously lay down their votes for one of the two candidates, Gábor Bethlen. In his welcoming address, János Mikola, president of the Transylvanian high court (tabula principalis) said emphatically that the election had “followed the customs of Christian countries.”23 In the eyes of some Transylvanians, however, it was the Ottomans who had made Gábor Bethlen prince.

The traditions of the little country’s presence in Europe eased Bethlen’s position as he took the throne, but there were also new demands to be faced. Government and politics were in transformation throughout the continent, with new shared values emerging in the economy, in culture, and in forms of governance. Discoveries were making the world bigger. The inclusion of both Transylvania and China in Botero’s world chronicle, for example, was no longer a novelty.

The potency of a country’s presence in Europe depended on how much it could adopt new order and value systems, and what it contributed to these. The methods by which it could assert its presence, however, lay in a new and invisible “great power” which was redefining what European presence meant: the information explosion. The centers of this new power were the cities with the largest printing presses: Venice, Vienna, Nuremberg, Augsburg, Frankfurt, London and Amsterdam. The printed media rapidly and efficiently disseminated the news to serve political interests, but on a commercial basis. News-hungry Europe enjoyed an information honeymoon during the Thirty Years’ War, finding out about everything and its opposite quickly, served up to different sections of society in the way they demanded.24 How often did Gábor Bethlen’s name appear in print? It is impossible to tell with any precision, but he was certainly the first Hungarian statesman to become what we would now call a media star.

Bethlen appreciated how the Turks, and the frightening image of them, could be put to use as a propaganda weapon. He also knew, however, that there were new interests exerting influence on Europe’s rulers. He wrote in a letter to Melchior Khlesl that Transylvania, “lying in the throat of the Turks,” could do no more than maintain “peace and covenant.” Even larger Christian countries, further from the Ottomans, were doing the same thing. “Emperor Rudolf has accepted the present Turkish emperor as a son … and this has been confirmed by oaths and charters. Why, if this is no dishonor for such fine kings, emperors and realms and does not lead to their ejection from the company of Christian countries, is Transylvania alone so accused, and scourged and condemned without mercy?”25 Set down in private correspondence, hidden from public view, these arguments were ineffective. As far as we know, the prince did not make the circumstances of his election public. It was a serious mistake, but unavoidable. Transylvania had neither the means nor the capability to connect into the information network.

The Statesman

Following Bethlen’s election, the estates, by custom, presented the new prince with the conditions which delineated his duties and powers. More modern procedures for the exercise of power, however, were being demanded by the changes in Europe. Bethlen took up the princely scepter fully prepared, with a definite program, and built up his power as a true sovereign.

His appointments to the governing body, the Princely Council, were designed to serve his interests, but he made realistic deference to the political, religious, ethnic and economic composition of feudal society and included men with special expertise.26 He started rebuilding castles and towns and attempted to pass on some of the costs to the tax-exempt nobility. He repossessed previously alienated treasury estates and sources of income. He restored the Saxons’ privileges and moved to settle the internal affairs of the Székelys.27 Regarding Transylvania’s constitution, he proclaimed the unity and equality of the three feudal nations. Despite many compromises, he introduced strict central governmental control and, over the years, suppressed the political influence of the Diet.28

To implement the reason and interests of state, the new system of government which was emerging in response to far-reaching economic, executive, military and scientific changes demanded qualified counselors and a properly-organized administrative staff. Above all, it demanded a sovereign—or a statesman advising the sovereign—who was capable of employing the new techniques of politics and diplomacy. Politics had become a science, with a language differentiated for specific aims and requirements.

Bethlen was lacking in traditional schooling, and had not attended a foreign university. As a result, it was thought for a long time that his grasp of political science was instinctive in origin.29 Recent research, however, has discovered that he gained much from the Báthory court traditions and that his familiarity with the new ideas which he adopted so adroitly was the result of systematic study. In the court of Zsigmond Báthory, he was exposed to the open culture of the Báthorys’ court and a milieu rich in Italian influences.30 He learned taste, customs, communication and the rules of contact. He became familiarized with the requirements of a Catholic court and princely image-building. He gained insight into foreign relations, the forms of expression of power and culture, simulation, and the new methods of politics.31 It was here he acquired his love of the arts, and was so deeply affected by music that the aspiration to improve musical life at court remained with him throughout his reign.32

In his youth, he became familiar with the centralized methods of Habsburg rule. He went to Prague, Emperor Rudolf’s Central European cultural and scientific capital.33 In 1608, he led a fifty-strong embassy to Constantinople. He was present at the 1609 Diet of Pozsony (now Bratislava, Slovakia), the city beside the Danube which had become capital of the Kingdom of Hungary after the fall of Buda. A military campaign took him to the Romanian voivodates, and he acted as a peace intermediary between the Poles and the Ottomans. He learned Turkish, and the mode of political communication in the Sublime Porte. As part of Bocskai’s staff, he learned about the Habsburg war machine and peace negotiations, and became familiar with the Netherlands’ Europe-oriented policies and propaganda network.34

He lived with books from an early age. On his campaigns, he always had a wagonful of books with him, and he read on the road. Brief references in his will tell us that he knew the wisdom of the Greek and Latin classical authors.35 The breadth of his reading is apparent from his several hundred letters and the marginal notes he made in the manuscript of the Latin History of Transylvania by the greatest historian of the age, István Szamosközy.36 His court library and private library in Gyulafehérvár were destroyed in a fire, but two of the books which survived rank among the essential manuals of modern government. One is an atlas, Abraham Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, on whose title page the twenty-eight-year-old Bethlen, setting out on a diplomatic mission to the Porte, wrote “Lord of the armies, bless my journey, that it may be fortunate …”37

The other book to escape the flames was Antonio de Guevara’s Horologium principum. In the early seventeenth century, books on political science were manuals for practical rule. The original source was Machiavelli, read even by those who banned him. Il Principe was at hand in Richelieu’s study, the central offices of the Burg in Vienna, and the libraries of the aristocrats behind the Bohemian Revolt. De Guevara’s book quotes both the over-criticized Il Principe and the Discorsi. The president of the Prague Chamber remarked of Khlesl: “He is closer to Machiavelli than to the breviary.”38 The theories of state that proliferated at the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries refined the requirements of the modern state. The directives of Justus Lipsius, highly popular in Hungary, also found their way to Transylvania. Basilikon Doron, the instructions which James I of England (whose grandson became Bethlen’s godson) wrote to his son, was published in Hungarian in 1612 under the title Királyi ajándék [Royal Gift], translated by Bocskai’s preacher György Szepsi Korotz.39

Bethlen’s intensive interest in the subject is also evident from two Hungarian books on political science. A Reformed Church minister who had attended university in Heidelberg, János Pataki Fésüs, dedicated his book Királyok tüköre [Mirror of Kings] to the prince. It highlights the relationships between counselors and prince and establishing internal peace in the country. István Milotai Nyilas also dedicated his directives for successful governance of countries, formulated in a commentary to the Twentieth Psalm of King David, to “the God-Fearing Christian Prince of Hungary and Transylvania,” Gábor Bethlen. These works effectively extended the thoughts of Justus Lipsius. A cultured sovereign was the key to the internal peace of the realm, and also essential were law, understanding and “intelligence.” Even war is not decided by individual valor, but by diplomacy, negotiations, conference tables and money. The key words were necessitas, fortuna and fama. For effective government, the ruler must be in sovereign control, but with the help of his counselors.

Bethlen has left us thorough analyses of the rapidly-changing political situations in several-page letters and ambassadorial instructions, written in angular script. His intentions and decisions, however, are difficult to discern.40 His rapid changes, multifarious contradictory plans, which nearly drove his enemies mad, are clear and understandable in terms of the prevailing principles of statecraft. Simulation was occasionally a justified recourse for a ruler, an essential means of obtaining and holding on to power.

Justus Lipsius dwelt at length on the requirements of good, successful rule. His Politics was translated into Hungarian by the loyal disciple of the Bethlen family, János Laskai. Lipsius copies Machiavelli almost word for word in this book, and advises the prince to be a lion in action and a fox in his plans. “Where the lion skin does not serve, he must put on the fox skin.” Lipsius invests misleading politics with moral content. The whole world is treacherous, he declared, and only he who overcomes the treachery will prevail. Consequently, the good ruler must blend some deception into his intelligent ideas. The fox must be treated foxily. “The prince must be Lion and Fox.” There were critical predicaments and circumstances when cunning was essential: every statesman of the time kept his plans secret, played with several cards, and it was everyday practice to capture the enemy’s correspondence and deceive the public with forged letters. The statesmen of the Habsburg government made extensive use of deception politics, as did Sultan Osman II, who disguised his plans for the war against Persia as a pilgrimage to Mecca.41 Lipsius backed up his view with classical authors: “Like Pindarus, I always praise a statesman who executes his affairs like a roaring lion and negotiates like a fox.”42

The techniques of deception were essential to Transylvanian politics, and were deployed with masterful skill to keep the two threatening powers at bay.43 The governmental procedures implemented by Bethlen correspond closely to the model of the prince set out in the books on political theory. His priorities in building up his power bear this out. Soldiers enlisted into the army were to receive regular pay, as provided by a patent he issued in the days before his election.44 He appreciated the crucial importance to a modern state of a regularly paid standing army. Some countries took nearly a century to establish one; Bethlen only had a few years, and limited means. He built up his army from Székelys and Hajdús, soldiers who had pledged their military service to Bocskai in return for being settled in the Partium with their families.45 Regular pay, which Bethlen saw as crucial, was a serious challenge for every country. He was often obliged to make grants of land in compensation for failure to pay his officers and men. He demanded hard discipline, and his army regulations punished the most serious and intractable delinquency of contemporary warfare—pillaging, arbitrariness and robbery—with execution.46

He employed a centralized and mercantilist economic policy.47 He promoted schooling and provided scholarships with a view to developing a highly qualified administrative staff for his modern princely court.48 Right from the start of his reign, he built up his princely seat in Gyulafehérvár (now Alba Iulia, Romania). His broad vision shows up in the development of the city and the two-phase construction of his princely palace.49

He organized the Transylvanian state, and his court, to follow the norms of European royal display, carrying on the customs of the Báthorys. Bethlen knew that the prince’s court was the country itself. It was a diplomatic, political, academic and artistic center, and the seat of government. It had a library, archives, and collections of coins and portraits.50 He took a personal interest in stocking his library, the “fine Bibliotheca,” although we do not know who his buyers were. He had his books “splendidly bound and adorned with crested supra-libros.” He was aware of the library’s practical and academic significance and its status as a collection, expressing the image of the realm. He intended to recover the highly valuable books of the library of King Matthias, the great renaissance king of Hungary. These were manuscripts, known throughout the world as Corvinas, richly illustrated codices which had fallen into the hands of the Ottomans upon the fall of Buda. He set up the country’s archives and gathered foreign documents on government. He required of his diplomats that they keep two diaries, one general and one with confidential information. The confidential diaries were to be deposited in the archives upon their return. He had the printing press moved from Nagyszombat (now Trnava, Slovakia) to Gyulafehérvár, and he founded the Collegium Academicum, for which he recruited Martin Opitz, the “German Virgil,” Johann Heinrich Alstedt of Herborn, Johann Heinrich Bisterfeld, and Ludovicus Philippus Piscator, with an eye on more than education: he intended his court to become a center of scholarship.51

He recognized the power of obtaining and disseminating information. His instruction to his ambassador to Constantinople, Tamás Borsos, presages the instruction of a modern press chief: “From whatever corner of the world, news good or evil, what changes on land or see, you may hear or reach something, write it down, make a note, and write what you hear to us, with full explanation.”52 Delay was always a danger, exacerbated in Transylvania’s case by a particular circumstance. Bethlen could only maintain a permanent diplomatic agent in one place. Constantinople, the world capital of European embassies, was the obvious choice, but like the rest of the Ottoman Empire it had the great disadvantage of lacking a printing press. Information could be obtained only by the slow traditional routes, and could not be disseminated in the efficient form of printed text.

He summed up his politics, with due heed to the realities of power, in terms of balance between the two empires: “we can serve Christendom with good intentions and sincerity, and the Turks too, I can look for their favors as such a great enemy, so that they are not irritated because of us.”53 Between 1613 and 1619, he won recognition for his principality from both Vienna and Constantinople, and secured a time of tranquility and abundance for Transylvania.54

Recent research, informed by the findings of modern Turkish studies and source criticism, has shown that Bethlen’s Ottoman policy was much more complex than “Turkish vassalage,” the oversimplified term common in the old literature, applied in accusatory or embarrassed tones. His relationship with the Porte was extremely varied,55 responding to the rapid turnover in high positions in the Porte and elsewhere, European political affairs, and the highly intensive Habsburg–Ottoman relations which went on over the heads of the Hungarians. It was influenced by the Bohemian Revolt, Polish–Ottoman relations and not least the Constantinople policies of the Netherlands, England and France. Then there was another “great power,” propaganda. Captured and forged letters and false information were put into print and disseminated, setting traps for the objective but unwary modern researcher. For Bethlen, however, everyday realism demanded the maintenance of good relations. The Porte’s demand that he fulfill the promise of the Habsburg emperors and Transylvanian princes to hand over the castles of Lippa (now Lipova, Romania) and Jenő (now Ineu, Romania) weighed down heavily on him. He delayed the handover as long as he could, but on June 14, 1616, the gates of Lippa, captured by a siege of his own soldiers, were opened to Deak Mehmed, Pasha of Temesvár (now Timişoara, Romania).56

The new sultan ordered Bethlen to hand over Jenő castle, pay the annual tribute without delay and join the Moldavian campaign, and prepared to attack Poland. Bethlen managed to forge an alliance with the new Voivode of Moldavia, Radu Mihnea. He was unable, however, to establish a workable cooperation with Sigismund III of Poland after warning him of the impending Ottoman campaign and mentioning the possibility of joint action.57

The half-century following his election, however, indisputably proved that the princely scepter was in the hand of a statesman who was educated and successful in practical politics.

The Central European Confederation

The Bohemian nobles’ declaration of their secession from the Habsburg Empire by the symbolic rite of defenestration in Prague Castle on May 23, 1618 opened a new chapter in Bethlen’s politics. By entering the struggle on the Bohemian side, Bethlen was pursuing his vision that he could best safeguard the statehood of the Principality and defend the constitution of the Kingdom of Hungary by joining forces with his Protestant neighbors and more distant Protestant countries and thus link into the system of European states.58

In requesting assistance, the Bohemian nobles raised the prospect that if Bethlen was elected king of Hungary, they would make him a candidate for the Bohemian throne. After long preparation, Bethlen’s army, under the command of Count Jindřich Matyáš Thurn and together with rebel forces, marched in August 1619.59 Recently discovered Ottoman sources refute the old hypotheses that the Porte gave him its backing. It did not even give clear permission, because the sultan was sticking by his peace treaty with the Habsburg emperor.60

He justified his campaign on several grounds: defense of religious freedom, freedom of the Kingdom of Hungary, and fulfilment of the Bohemian rebels’ request.61 The pamphlet Querela Hungariae, published in Latin and Hungarian in Kassa (now Košice, Slovakia), informed Hungary and foreign countries that the nobles and cities of the Kingdom had summoned the prince of Transylvania because of the emperor’s failure to keep the terms of the Treaty of Vienna, signed with the Hungarian estates in 1606. He was oppressing Protestants, was incapable of defending the kingdom, and the Turks had annexed dozens of villages to the Ottoman Empire under cover of peace.62 The author of the pamphlet, the Reformed Church minister Péter Alvinczi, who had studied at the universities of Wittenberg and Heidelberg, was arguing from fact, arranging the details in the political language of the age to appeal to readers. A particularly powerful argument was Bethlen’s reference to the Peace of Vienna, whose terms the Habsburg government had not kept. Bethlen’s course of action, however, principally followed his general, broad-based, long term political ambition.

Historians who aim at objectivity have long acknowledged his exceptional political sharp-sightedness, as many of his enemies did. The decision was consistent with his appreciation of the European situation. He recognized that Europe was preparing for a war which would put all of its countries under arms. Although not even he could foresee the course of the war, the conflicts of interests among European powers were clear to him. He had a notion of the political superiority of the Habsburgs of Spain and Austria and the rising tensions between France, the Netherlands, England and other countries. He counted on England, Holland, Denmark, Brandenburg, Switzerland and the Protestant countries in general to stand beside the Bohemians, and expected James I of England to send assistance to his son-in-law.63 His mistake was in believing that the Protestant powers would immediately hasten to defend the Bohemians. Although pained by the disappointment, he did not abandon his vision, and declared that the highest aim of his reign was to secure peace for his country.64 He saw the only guarantee for the future of the Principality of Transylvania as a state, squeezed between two great empires and sitting in the jaws of the Ottomans, as being accepted into the great family of European countries. Until then, Bethlen would take every chance to break out on to the international arena.65 If he failed to take this opportunity, Transylvania would be isolated from Christendom. The fundamental necessitas deriving from the division of the Kingdom of Hungary itself forced him to accept the substantial costs and risks of war, and grasp the bona occasio.66

Sources variously estimate the strength of his army at between 15,000 and 40,000.67 He quickly occupied the northeastern area of the Kingdom, known at the time as Upper Hungary. In mid-October, in fierce fighting, he took Pozsony (now Bratislava, Slovakia) whose four-towered castle was the repository of the Hungarian royal crown, which thus fell into Bethlen’s hands. Two Diets subsequently elected him king of Hungary, the first called by Palatine Zsigmond Forgách at Pozsony (November 1709–February 1620) and the second at Besztercebánya (now Banská Bistrica, Slovakia; August 25, 1620). From that time on, he issued his charters as elected king of Hungary and prince of Transylvania, had coins struck with his royal title, and exercised his sovereign rights with grants of land, but he never had himself crowned.68

Why not? Various answers have been put forward by Hungarian historians. To the friends who urged him to accept coronation, he answered that the ancient right of crowning the king lay with the archbishop of Esztergom, and his chances were nil as long as Péter Pázmány held this title.69 Bethlen was aware that being Catholic was a definite requirement, but in addition to the deep faith and conviction which tied him to the Reformed Church, he made the realistic calculation that a Protestant prince converting in order to become a Catholic king could no longer count on the support of Calvinist and Lutheran countries.

Research is made difficult by Bethlen’s statement in a letter to Iskender Pasha dated November 4, 1619: “The crown is in my hands, thanks be to God … after the tenth day I will be elected king of the Hungarians.” The lines of this letter, which was printed in many copies, are interpreted to mean that Bethlen was, with Ottoman help, preparing to be elected and crowned king. The only trouble is that the original of this letter has never been found; the closest is a copy held in Vienna.70

The fortunes of the Bohemian–Moravian–Hungarian–Transylvanian confederation seems to have had a profound effect on Bethlen’s delaying position with regard to ascent to the Hungarian throne and to the act of coronation.71 On January 2, 1620, the Pozsony Diet notified the royal commissioners that they were entering an alliance with the Bohemians and other provinces of the Habsburg Empire.

In its eighteen points, the treaty establishing the Confederation declared that the alliance was eternal and indissoluble. Joint defense was to be organized at a joint diet, and the Bohemian and Moravian nobles would contribute a prescribed sum for maintenance of the border defense castles. Offensive and defensive wars and peace talks could only be entered into by common consent. The countries of the confederation would permit mutual free trade and would mint a common currency. Disputes would be settled at a joint diet. Kings and princes of every country would take an oath to the Confederation upon their election. Peace would be made by common consent.72

This—probably still preliminary—confederation agreement was signed by Bethlen “in view of the interests of Christendom,” on January 15, 1620 and by King Frederick of Bohemia on January 25. It was also initialed by representatives of the Bohemian and Hungarian estates.73 Bethlen was aware of the realities: the circumstances were grave, and the Bohemians would also have to make peace with the Habsburg emperor. A Bohemian and Hungarian embassy set out for Istanbul to solicit the indispensable approval of the Sublime Porte.74 Ferdinand II’s counselors considered the Bohemian–Hungarian confederation a threat to both the empire and the interests of the Catholic Union, and the Hofburg mobilized various diplomatic channels to counter it.

The Ottoman Empire also maintained its claim to be the undisputedly dominant factor in the region. It did not interfere in the Bohemian Revolt, and offered the prospect of help for Bethlen only if he was crowned king and his campaign was a definite success.75 Bethlen informed the Porte of the Bohemian–Hungarian Confederation in a Memoriale largely written in his own hand.76 This extensive proposal remarkably finds a precedent for the Bohemian–Hungarian Confederation in the time of “Old King Matthias” (Corvinus). With many exaggerations and arguments designed to win over the Porte, he explains how much the Ottoman Empire would profit from the Confederation. The Confederation would provide defense in case the Habsburg regime prepared to attack and would secure peace in the region; the Porte would also gain tribute and gifts from Bohemia. We do not know what the Porte’s views were, but Sultan Osman II’s dispatch of a mere letter of support to the Besztercebánya Diet instead of the requested ahdname must have been significant.77

The Diet aroused great international interest, and the Transylvanian estates sent representatives to “negotiate the Confederation.”78 In his princely proposition, Bethlen stated that members of the Confederation had the chief collective duty of making peace; only thus could tranquility be achieved in the region. The imperial delegates, however, objected that Bethlen was usurping royal rights, and as prince could not make a proposition to the Diet which was the reserve of the king.

The sultan’s letter was read out at the Diet. It implied a very cautious, general guarantee in two major questions. “We will not be negligent towards … the honorable Hungarian nation” for the sake of Emperor Ferdinand, and “our sublime gate … is open” to the Bohemians. In the matter of Bethlen’s kingship, the letter was reserved but not hostile: if the Diet wished to elect a king, it should elect one who would be well-intentioned towards the Porte and keep the kingdom in peace. A Bohemian–Hungarian–Transylvanian delegation from the Diet set out for Constantinople to seek a charter declaring defense of the Bohemian–Hungarian Confederation. Despite all this, Bethlen again failed to win the sultan’s patronage of the Bohemian–Hungarian Confederation.79

It was of fundamental importance for Bethlen to gain the recognition and support of the Protestant countries. Writing in April 1620 to Imre Thurzó, who was negotiating in Prague, he explained in detail how much he counted on the assistance of England, Denmark, the Netherlands and the German princes, and how much it saddened him that they had not even sent envoys to the Diet and had not provided the support he hoped for.80

There are therefore several arguments why Bethlen tied his decision on coronation to the fortunes of the Bohemian–Hungarian Confederation. Only the Confederation had the chance of representing an effective force in the region, but in order to consolidate its position and win the support it needed for recognition, it would have to manifest its strength.

The Confederation did not have a battle-ready army or a joint system of operation. There is no evidence that military plans were coordinated, and there was no central command. At the Battle of White Mountain on November 8, 1620, the forces of the allied estates suffered a devastating defeat. This put the seal on the Bohemian–Hungarian Confederation. It came to an end without becoming a substantial factor in Central Europe, because it proved unequal to the task of bringing the war to an end and stabilizing the region’s affairs.

Despite the defeat, Bethlen signed a satisfactory treaty with Ferdinand II in January 1622. Under the Peace of Nikolsburg, he returned the crown and renounced his royal title and gained substantial territory in the form of seven counties of Upper Hungary, giving him control of the trade routes to Poland. He also acquired the Duchies of Oppeln and Ratibor in Silesia.

In the Hague Alliance

The prince’s emissaries arrived in Constantinople on September 1, 1622. András Kapy, together with Count Thurn, the general of the defeated Bohemian Revolt who was in service in Transylvania, had been sent to find out about affairs in the Porte and the matter of support from the European powers. The reputation of Transylvanian diplomacy was at its lowest point. The Porte was dissatisfied by the Peace of Nikolsburg and the king of Poland was demanding that Bethlen be deposed or crushed. The English Ambassador, Sir Thomas Roe, who had taken up his station in Constantinople in late 1621, had instructions to keep his distance from the prince of Transylvania and not to establish contact with his emissaries.81

A series of European propaganda documents designed to undermine Bethlen’s standing appeared between 1619 and 1622. They alleged that the prince of Transylvania was a creature of the Turks, was circumcised, and was by nature a Mohammedan, untrustworthy and barbarian. A letter allegedly by Bethlen to the Tatar khan dated April 1, 1621, printed in Latin, German and French and finding its way even to England, aroused particular outrage. In the letter, Bethlen congratulates the Tatar khan on his victory over the Poles, is insulting about the Poles and makes the offer that if the khan comes with 20,000 Tatars, he will lead them into the wealthy neighboring countries where they may pillage and take prisoners at will.82

A historical-political pamphlet published anonymously in Hungarian and Latin, entitled On the Current State of Hungary, Advice of a True Hungarian Who Loves His Homeland published this and another eight letters. Among its untruths were that the sultan wanted to make Gábor Bethlen—a tyrant “who bathes in Christian blood”—king of Hungary and that the Confederation served the Ottoman Empire’s plans for conquest and for destruction of Christendom. Research has not yet discovered the originals of the published letters, especially the highly influential letter to the Tatar khan, casting serious doubt on the truth of this pamphlet’s contents.83

Bethlen’s followers, and the Protestants in general, put up a defense against the charges. János Keserűi Dajka, Reformed Church bishop of Transylvania, wrote his views in a letter which was printed and disseminated by David Pareus, a professor in Heidelberg. “We are far from the German emperor, truly in the lion’s throat, and the lion could easily tear us to pieces and maul us while his Holy Highness the emperor takes counsel on our cause. If countries, lands, kings and princes so far from the Turk strive to obtain peace from the Turks at great expense, what is so astonishing if we, broken by the wars of so many years and utterly drained of strength, are forced to do the same? But we are still not Turks, for whom we desire that they might perish and disappear, whatever lies people tell about us; the gracious and dignified manner of his rule is witness that our glorious prince is a true Christian.”84 And despite the unprecedented condemnatory propaganda, Bethlen’s significance in Europe grew.

The Protestant countries initially showed some degree of sympathy with Bethlen’s policy. Written expressions of public opinion in the Netherlands unreservedly applauded the Principality of Transylvania. As the Netherlands were split in two, a fight for survival started with the Spanish branch of the House of Habsburg. A broad section of Dutch society expressed interest and sympathy towards the Principality of Transylvania and its joint struggle alongside the Bohemians. They looked on the Hungarians as a brave sister nation. Amsterdam was the media center of the information world, gathering, classifying, expanding and forwarding the news. Pictures, writing and newsletters concerning Gábor Bethlen told of how he and his followers were struggling against the tyranny of the Habsburg emperor, and had entered the fight for freedom of conscience and the wider freedom of their countries.85

Cornelius Haga, ambassador to the Porte of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, immediately welcomed the Bohemian Revolt. In spring 1620, his government, the Staten Generaal, authorized him to support the Confederation. From that time onward Cornelius Haga consistently interceded at the Porte in Bethlen’s interests and persuaded the sultan to write a letter to the Staten Generaal recommending it to assist Bethlen in his efforts.86 Cornelius Haga was the only Western diplomat who immediately expressed his intent to cooperate with Gábor Bethlen’s emissaries, András Kapy and Count Thurn, when they arrived in Constantinople in 1622.

The plan for Bethlen to marry Catherine, younger sister of the elector of Brandenburg, probably first arose in the thoughts of Sir Thomas Roe and of Elizabeth, daughter of James I and Queen of Bohemia, whose tutor he had once been and with whom he had remained in intensive correspondence. It was perhaps also related to the diplomatic intrigues of Frederick, Elector Palatine, who was in contact with Bethlen. The marriage, conducted in full splendor in Kassa in March, 1626, was not a fortunate one with regards to Catherine’s personality, but it raised the international authority of the prince of Transylvania, making Bethlen brother-in-law to King Gustav Adolf of Sweden. Nonetheless, several years of diplomacy were needed to gain entrance among the countries collaborating against the Austrian and Spanish Habsburg empires in the Hague Alliance. Only through a complex combination of circumstances did Bethlen overcome the enormous distance between Transylvania and the Hague.

England had long-standing trade relations with the Ottoman world. The English ambassador had accompanied the sultan in his Hungarian campaign during the Long War in 1596, and English ambassadorial reports show that City men with interests in Baltic marine trade paid increasing attention to Ottoman–Transylvanian–Polish political relations. For them, the Ottomans were trading partners rather than ruthless conquerors.87 The English ambassador to Constantinople, Sir Thomas Roe, had broad diplomatic experience and an overview of politics throughout Europe. His detailed reports to the Secretary of State, Sir George Calvert, show how keenly he appreciated the significance of the Ottoman Empire and its influence in conflicts between Christian countries. In September 1622, he reported on his negotiations with the grand vizier, where he learned that King Sigismund III of Poland had approached the Porte to demand that Bethlen be deposed, or indeed crushed.88 He stated the view that Bethlen was in contact with the king’s opponents and could himself gain the Polish crown.

Roe became increasingly admiring of Bethlen’s policies, particularly as regards his Ottoman contacts. Bethlen knew how the pashas thought; he could handle complicated Ottoman politics; and he commanded authority at the Porte. He could have been very useful to the Protestant League and to England in tying down the Habsburgs’ strength in the east and in mobilizing the Ottomans.

Bethlen explained to Adam von Schwarzenberg, the elector of Brandenburg’s representative in Catherine’s retinue, that if the candidate powers for the alliance currently in formation, England, the Netherlands, France, Denmark, Sweden and Venice, did not put their relations in order, all of their efforts would be built on sand.89 If they could not bring the Porte to their side, then the enemy would do so, and they would be unable to open the “eastern front.” Bethlen realistically calculated the danger of having an enemy at his back.

Bethlen’s ambassador, Matthias Quadt,90 was present at the talks between England, the Netherlands and Denmark which led to the Hague Alliance. Since he did not have the prince’s authorization, however, Transylvania was not included in the treaty, which was signed on December 9, 1625. Bethlen signed his authorization on April 18, 1626, but it was slow to arrive.91 The objectives of the Hague Coalition included a coordinated international attack against the armies of the Spanish and Austrian Habsburg powers. Bethlen’s task was to tie down the Habsburgs in the east, secure the support of the Ottomans, and thus prevent Vienna from obtaining open or indirect Ottoman assistance.

The Staten Generaal accepted Quadt’s proposal in a decision of August 25, 1626. The prince of Transylvania reasoned that the enormous strength of the enemy required the Protestant forces to join together. The Ottoman Porte also had to be considered; it was prepared to weigh in with a strong army, but laid conditions: a monthly subvention of 40,000 imperial thalers and the inclusion of the Principality of Transylvania into the peace talks.92 Roe considered this a relatively trifling sum,93 but the Hague Coalition had severe financial problems. Ultimately, it was decided that the king of England would provide half of the 40,000 thalers a month payable to Bethlen, the king of Denmark a further 10,000 thalers, and the remaining 10,000 thalers would be put up jointly by France, Venice and Savoy.94 Bethlen launched his campaign on August 25, 1626 with 15-20,000-strong army. Scriptural quotations and a sword crossed with an olive branch on his red standard expressed that peace could only be achieved through battle, with God’s help. After being joined by Murteza, pasha of Buda and Mansfeld’s army, the Transylvanian military strength was estimated at 40,000.95

Epilogue

His death was mourned in verse written in Hungarian, German, Greek, Latin and Hebrew.96 He modestly summed up the greatest achievements of his reign in his Testamentum: “the feet of our enemy’s horses did not trample the soil of our homeland.” A later, otherwise critical historian recognized his European significance: “To Hungary and the seventeenth-century system of European states was given a gifted and very successful prince, who alone in the centuries of the Habsburg era proved that a son of the Hungarians, connected to the great European currents, in favorable circumstances, as sovereign and statesman, could perform as well as or better than the best of his European contemporaries.”97

In 1631, all of Europe learned of the great personages of the age in a splendid portrait album with Latin verses, the work of the diplomat and humanist Johann Joachim Rusdorf. In the contemporary Hungarian translation, the anthology Sebes agynak késő sisak [Helmet Late for Wounded Head], Bethlen, in the company of Gustav Adolf, Wallenstein and Richelieu, speaks the words For all the Hungarians / And so for the Christians / I am the great Gedeon / There are princes great / And men of noble estate / Who owe the light of their eyes to me / They raise up their hats / And turn a respectful ear / On hearing my godly name. 98

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Translated by Alan Campbell

1 Samuel Richardson, The Negotiations of Sir Thomas Roe in his Embassy in the Ottoman Porte, from the Year 1621 to 1628 inclusive (London: Society for the Encouragement of Learning, 1740), 178. App. H. 4 2454. See also György Kurucz, “Sir Thomas Roe és az erdélyi–lengyel viszony Bethlen Gábor fejedelemsége idején,” in Magyarhontól az Újvilágig. Emlékkönyv Urbán Aladár ötvenéves tanári jubileumára, ed. Róbert Hermann and Gábor Erdődy (Budapest: Argumentum, 2002), 55–63.

2 Giovanni Botero, Relations of the most famous kingdomes and commonwealths through the world enlarged with an addition of the estates of Saxony, Germany, Geneva, Hungary and the East Indies, trans. Robert Johnson (London: n.p., 1630); see also István Gál, “Maksai Péter angol nyelvű Bethlen életrajza 1629-ből,” Irodalomtörténeti Közlemények 80, no. 2 (1976): 223–37.

3 Virgilio Malvezzi, Introduttione al racconto De’ principali successi accaduti sotto il comando del potentissimo Ré Filippo quarto (Rome: per gl’Heredi del Corbelletti, 1651), 59, 63.

4 Richardson, The Negotiations of Sir Thomas Roe.

5 Leopold Ranke, Sämtliche Werke, vol. 23 (Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1982), 40.

6 Golo Mann, Wallenstein. Sein Leben erzählt von ~ (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1971), 225.

7 Kurucz, Sir Thomas Roe és az erdélyilengyel viszony, 55–57.

8 Gyula Szekfű, Bethlen Gábor. Történelmi tanulmány (Budapest: Magyar Szemle, [1929], 2nd edn 1983), 17; Csaba Csörge and László Töll, Bethlen Gábor. Erdély aranya. Észak oroszlánja (Budapest: MTA, 2004).

9 Bethlen to Ferenc Batthyány, Captain of Transdanubia. Kolozsvár, November 19, 1613. Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Országos Levéltára [National Archives of Hungary], P 1314 Batthyány family archives, Miss. 6610.

10 Balázs Sudár, “Iskender and Gábor Bethlen: The Pasha and the Prince,” in Europe and the Ottoman World: Exchanges and Conflicts (Sixteenth-Seventeenth Centuries), ed. Gábor Kármán and Radu G. Păun (Istanbul: Isis, 2013), 143–52.

11 See Oborni’s paper in this issue; Zsuzsanna Cziráki, “Erdély szerepe Melchior Khlesl fennmaradt írásos véleményeiben 1611–1616 között,” in Bethlen Gábor és Európa, ed. Gábor Kármán and Kees Teszelszky (Budapest: ELTE BTK Középkori és Kora Újkori Magyar Történeti Tanszék–Transylvania Emlékeiért Tudományos Egyesület, 2013), 77–102; Péter Tusor, Egy „epizód” Magyarország és a Szentszék történeti kapcsolataiból. Pázmány Péter esztergomi érseki kinevezése (Mikropolitikai tanulmány). (Diss. for doctorate of the Academy, Budapest, 2012), 148–49.

12 Országos Széchényi Könyvtár [National Széchényi Library], Apponyi Collection, M 347; Nóra G. Etényi, “Der Frieden von Zsitvatorok in der zeitgenössischen Propaganda,” in ‘Einigkeit und Frieden sollen auf Seiten jeder Partei sein’: Die Friedensschlüsse von Wien (23. 06. 1606) und Zsitvatorok (15. 11. 1606) (Zum 400. Jahrestag des Bocskai-Freiheitskampfes IX), ed. János Barta, Manfred Jatzlauk, and Klára Papp (Debrecen: Institut für Geschichte der Univ. Debrecen–Selbstverwaldung des Komitats Hajdú-Bihar, 2007), 267–79.

13 Krisztina Varsányi, Bethlen Gábor fejedelem a Német-római Birodalom korabeli nyilvánossága előtt német nyelvű nyomtatványok tükrében (PhD diss., ELTE, Budapest 2012); Gábor Almási, “Bethlen és a törökösség kérdése a korabeli propagandában és a politikában,” in Bethlen Gábor és Európa, ed. Kármán and Teszelszky, 311–66; David Jayne Hill, A History of Diplomacy in the International Development of Europe, vol. 2 (New York: Longmans Green and Co., 1906), 560–61; “Als europafremder Barbar wurde er geschildert, als Beschnittener und heillicher Mohammedaner, als Tatar oder was noch,” Mann, Wallenstein, 225. For a detailed criticism of Golo Mann’s account of Bethlen, see Andreas Oplatka, “Magyarország mozgástere Kelet és Nyugat között – Bethlen Gábor és Kádár János,” Valóság 32, no. 8 (1989): 115; Hans Sturmberger, Aufstand in Böhmen. Der Beginn des Dreißigjährigen Krieges (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1951), 61–62; Hugo Hantsch, Die Geschichte Österreichs, vol. 1. (Graz–Vienna–Cologne: Styria, 1959), 339; Harald Roth, Kis Erdély-történet, trans. Zoltán Hajdú Farkas (Csíkszereda: Pallas-Akadémia, 1999), 41. Criticism of Turkish affinity: László Makkai, “Bethlen Gábor és az európai művelődés,” Századok 115 (1981): 673–97.

14 Gábor Barta et al., eds., History of Transylvania, vol. 2 (1606–1830) (Budapest: Akadémiai, 1999).

15 Tamás Kruppa, “Miksa főherceg erdélyi kormányzóságának terve. (Az erdélyi Habsburg-kormányzat felállításának kérdéséhez (1597–1602),” Századok 145 (2011): 817–45.

16 Teréz Oborni, “Erdély közjogi helyzete a speyeri szerződés után (1571–1575),” in Tanulmányok Szakály Ferenc emlékére, ed. Pál Fodor, István György Tóth, and Géza Pálffy (Budapest: MTA TKI Gazdaság- és Társadalomtörténeti Kutatócsoport, 2002), 291–304.

17 Gábor Barta, Az Erdélyi Fejedelemség születése (Budapest: Gondolat, 1984); Teréz Oborni, “Die Pläne des Wiener Hofes zur Rückeroberung Siebenbürgens 1557–1563,” in Kaiser Ferdinand I. Ein mitteleuropäischer Herrscher, ed. Martina Fuchs et al. (Münster: Aschendorff, 2005), 277–96; Teréz Oborni, Udvar, állam, kormányzat a koraújkori Erdélyben (Budapest: ELTE, 2011); Barna Mezey, “Az erdélyi fejedelemség kormányzata Bethlen Gábor korában,” in Bethlen Gábor állama és kora, ed. Kálmán Kovács (Budapest: ELTE, 1980), 19–28; Klára Papp, “Nemesi társadalom az Erdélyi Fejedelemségben,” Korunk 34, no. 3 (2013): 34–42; Gusztáv Mihály Hermann, “Pillantás Erdély fejedelemségkori társadalmára,” ibid., 43–49.

18 Mária Ivanics, A Krími Kánság a tizenöt éves háborúban (Budapest: Akadémiai, 1994); Gábor Várkonyi, “Erdély bekapcsolódása a tizenöt éves háborúba. Báthory Zsigmond és a konstantinápolyi politika,” in Léptékváltó társadalomtörténet Benda Gyula tiszteletére, ed. Zsolt K. Horváth, András Lugosi, and Ferenc Sohajda (Budapest: Hermész Kör–Osiris, 2003), 310–26.

19 Teréz Oborni, Erdély fejedelmei (Budapest: Pannonica, 2002); Ildikó Horn, Báthori András (Budapest: Új Mandátum, 2002).

20 István Bársony, “Báthory Gábor alakja a történetírásban,” in Báthory Gábor és kora, ed. Klára Papp et al. (Debrecen: Debreceni Egyetem Történeti Intézete, 2009); István Bitskey, “‘Erdély Hectora’ avagy ‘tirannusa’?,” in ibid; Tamás Kruppa, “Báthory Gábor a forrásokban: propaganda és ellenpropaganda,” in ibid.

21 Katalin Péter, “Bethlen Gábor emlékezete. A fejedelem pályakezdése,” Századok 114 (1980): 744–49; Klára Jakó, “Báthory Gábor és a román vajdaságok,” in Báthory Gábor és kora, 123–33; Teréz Oborni, “Báthory Gábor megállapodása a Magyar Királysággal,” in ibid., 111–22.

22 Ildikó Horn, “A fejedelmi tanács Bethlen Gábor korában,” Századok 145 (2011): 997–1027; Zsuzsanna Cziráki, “Brassó és az erdélyi szászok szerepe Bethlen Gábor fejedelem trónfoglalásában (1611–1613),” Századok 145 (2011): 847–76.

23 Gáspár Bojti Veres, “A nagy Bethlen Gábor viselt dolgairól,” in Bethlen Gábor emlékezete, comp., ed. László Makkai (Budapest: Magyar Helikon, 1980), 36, 95–103. His biography by Emma Bartoniek in Fejezetek a XVI–XVII. századi magyarországi történetírás történetéből, ed. Ritoók Zsigmondné (Budapest: Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Irodalomtudományi Intézete–Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Könyvtára, 1975), 327–38.

24 Nóra G. Etényi, Hadszíntér és nyilvánosság. A magyarországi török háború hírei a 17. századi német újságokban (Budapest: Balassi, 2003).

25 Bethlen’s letter to Melchior Khlesl, Fogaras, 19 February 1614. Sándor Szilágyi, ed., “Bethlen Gábor politikai levelei,” Történelmi Tár 3 (1880): 461. Published more recently by Teréz Oborni, “Bethlen Gábor és a nagyszombati szerződés (1615),” Századok 145 (2011): 877−914, quotation: 901–2.

26 Zsolt Trócsányi, “Bethlen Gábor hivatalszervezete,” Századok 115 (1981): 698–702; Ildikó Horn, “A fejedelmi tanács Bethlen Gábor korában,” Századok 145 (2011): 997–1028.

27 Rezső Lovas, “A szász kérdés Bethlen Gábor korában,” Századok 78 (1944): 419–62; Judit Balogh, “A székely nemesség helyzete Bethlen Gábor fejedelemsége alatt a Liber Regius oklevelei alapján,” Publicationes Universitatis Miskolcinensis. Sectio Philosophica 13, no. 3 (2008): 335–61.

28 Szekfű, Bethlen Gábor; Zsolt Trócsányi, “Bethlen Gábor erdélyi állama,” Jogtudományi Közlöny 35 (1980): 617–22; Zsolt Trócsányi, Erdély központi kormányzata 1540–1690 (Budapest: Akadémiai, 1980); Teréz Oborni, “Az Erdélyi Fejedelemség állama és politikai berendezkedése,” Korunk 34, no. 3 (2013): 8–16.

29 Szekfű, Bethlen Gábor, 56; Kálmán Benda, “Diplomáciai szervezet és diplomaták Erdélyben Bethlen Gábor korában,” Századok 145 (1981): 725–30.

30 Péter Erdősi, Hatalom és reprezentáció Báthory Zsigmond erdélyi fejedelem udvarában (1581–1598) (PhD diss., ELTE, 1999); Péter Erdősi: “Báthory Zsigmond ünnepi arcmása. A fejedelem és a ceremóniák,” Aetas 10 (1995): 24–67; Horn, Báthory András.

31 Péter Erdősi, “A politikai színlelés funkciói és megítélése Báthory Zsigmond erdélyi fejedelem udvarában,” in Színlelés és rejtőzködés. A kora újkori magyar politika szerepjátékai, ed. Nóra G. Etényi and Ildikó Horn (Budapest: L’Harmattan–Transylvania Emlékeiért Tudományos Egyesület, 2010), 77–108.

32 Emil Haraszti, “Étienne Bathory et la musique en Transylvanie,” in Étienne Báthory, roi de Pologne, prince de Transylvanie (Kraków: Imprimerie de l’Université des Jagellons, 1935), 71–80; Péter Király, “Somlyai (ifj.) Báthory István és a zene,” in idem, Magyarország és Európa. Zenetörténeti írások (Budapest: Balassi, 2003), 45–52.

33 Robert J.W. Evans, Rudolf II and his World (Oxford: Clarendon, 1973); Eliška Fučíková, “Prague Castle under Rudolf II, His Predecessors and Successors 1530–1648,” in Rudolf and Prague. The Imperial Court and residential city as the Cultural and spiritual heart of Central Europe, ed. Eliska Fučikova et al. (London: Thames and Hudson, 1997), 2–71.

34 Endre Veress, “Bethlen Gábor fejedelem ifjúsága. (Bethlen ifjúkori leveleivel),” Erdélyi Múzeum 9, no. 6 (1914): 285–338; Kees Teszelszky, “Bocskai István követének iratai az európai politika tükrében,” in Színlelés és rejtőzködés. A kora újkori magyar politika szerepjátékai, ed. Nóra G. Etényi and Ildikó Horn (Budapest: L’Harmattan–Transylvania Emlékeiért Tudományos Egyesület, 2010), 143–64.

35 “Bethlen Gábor végrendelete,” in Magyar gondolkodók. 17. század, sel., ed. and ann. Márton Tarnóc (Budapest: Szépirodalmi, 1979), 107, 112–13.

36 Zsigmond Jakó, “A nagyenyedi kollégium Bethlen-könyvtárának kezdetei és első korszaka (1622–1658),” in idem, Írás, könyv, értelmiség (Bucharest: Kriterion, 1676), 199–200; Sándor Iván Kovács et al., “Bethlen Gábor könyvtárának újabban előkerült darabja” Magyar Könyvszemle 85 (1969): 376–77; István Sinkovics, “Szamosközy István,” in István Szamosközy, Erdély története (Budapest: Magyar Helikon, 1977), 31; Teréz Oborni, “‘…quem historiae Transylvaniae patrem merito dixeris…’ Az erdélyi történetírás atyja: Szamosközy István,” Korunk 22, no. 5 (2011): 16–22; Antal Pirnát, “Die Heliodor-Übersetzung von Enyedi,” in György Enyedi and Central European Unitarism in the 16–17th Centuries, ed. Mihály Balázs and Gizella Keserű, vol. 11 of Studia Humanitatis (Budapest: Balassi, 2000), 285; István Milotai Nyilas, Speculum tributaris (Debrecen: n.p., 1622), Régi Magyarországi Nyomtatványok (hereafter RMNy) 1262; István Monok, A művelt arisztokrata (Budapest: Kossuth, 2012), 50–55.

37 Károly Szabó, “Bethlen Gábor sajátkezű feljegyzése,” Történelmi Tár 5 (1882): 267.

38 Péter Ötvös, “Együttműködő ellenfelek. A bécsi béke és a bécsi püspök,” in ‘Idővel paloták…’ Magyar udvari kultúra a 16–17. században, ed. Nóra G. Etényi and Ildikó Horn (Budapest: Balassi, 2005), 118.

39 István Milotai Nyilas, Sz. Dávidnak huszadik Soltaranak rövid praedicatiok szerint való magyarazattya, Irattatott és kibocsáttatott az Felséges Bethlen Gábornak Istenfélő keresztény Fejedelemnek fő prédicatora ~ által (Cassa: Festus János, 1620); Letter of dedication to Gábor Bethlen, in János Fűsűs Pataki, “Királyoknak tüköre Bártfa 1626,” in Magyar gondolkodók. 17. század, ed. Márton Tarnóc (Budapest: Szépirodalmi, 1979), 69–86; Basilikon Doron. Az angliai, scotiai franciai és hibernai Első Jakob Királynak, az igaz hitnek oltalmazójának és fia tanitasaért írt Királyi ajándéka, trans. György Szepsi Korotz (Oppenheimium: Galler Hieronimus, 1612).

40 Bethlen “is one of the most interesting representatives of the art of the political letter.” Kuno Klebelsberg, “Bethlen Gábor emlékezete. 1929,” in idem, Jöjjetek harmincas évek (Budapest: Athenaeum, n.d.), 204. (Thanks to Gábor Újváry for this reference.)

41 “Cum vulpe junctum, pariter vulpinariter…” “Ubi Leonina pellis non pertingit, oportet Vulpianam assuere.” “Princeps ex leone et vulpe.” Justus Lipsius, “Politicorum sive civilis doctrinae libri sex (1598),” in idem, Politica. Six books of politics or political instruction, ed., trans. and intro. Jan Waszink, liber IV, caput XIII (Assen: Bibliotheca Latinitatis Novae–Royal van Gorcum, 2004), 506–10. Contemporary Hungarian translation: Justus Lipsiusnak a polgári társaságnak tudományáról írt hat könyvei. Mellyek kivált képpen a Fejedelemségre tartoznak Melyeket újonnan Deákból magyarra fordított Laskai János. Bártfán nyomtatta Klösz Jakab 1641 esztendőben, Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Könyvtára, Kézirattár Rm I 8r. 203. See also: Laskai János válogatott művei. Magyar Justus Lipsius, ed., intro. and notes, Márton Tarnóc (Budapest: Akadémiai, 1970), 299–311.

42 “Mihi, cum Pindaro, semper laudatus ille vir; qui ‘…Animum graviter frementium leonum / In discrimine: consilio vero vulpes.’” Ibid.

43 Péter Erdősi, “A politikai színlelés funkciói és megítélése Báthory Zsigmond erdélyi fejedelem udvarában,” in Színlelés és rejtőzködés. A kora újkori magyar politika szerepjátékai, ed. Nóra G. Etényi and Ildikó Horn (Budapest: L’Harmattan–Transylvania Emlékeiért Tudományos Egyesület, 2010), 33–66; Gábor Almási, “Politikai színlelés, vallási színlelés és a császári udvar Nicodémusai a konfesszionalizáció korában,” in ibid., 77–105; Nóra G. Etényi: “A politika arcai és álarcai a 17. századi pamfletekben és röplapokon,” in ibid., 203–34.

44 Ifj. Kemény Lajos, publ., “Kassa város levéltárából,” Történelmi Tár, New series, 1 (1900): 478.

45 László Nagy, Bethlen Gábor a független Magyarországért (Budapest: Akadémiai, 1969); István Rácz, A hajdúk a XVII. században (Debrecen: KLTE, 1969).

46 Domokos Makkai, publ. “Bethlen Gábor biztosító és adománylevele a lippai vitézeknek,” Történelmi Tár 11 (1888): 598–603; Károly Ráth, “Bethlen Gábor 1619–21 évi táborszállásai,” Győri Történeti és Régészeti Füzetek 2 (1863): 255.

47 Szekfű, Bethlen; Vera Mráz, “Bethlen Gábor gazdaságpolitikája,” Századok 87 (1953): 512–64; Ágnes R. Várkonyi, “Handelswesen und Politik in Ungarn des XVII–XVIII. Jahrhunderts (Theorien, Monopole, Schmugglerbewegungen 1600–1711),” Acta Historica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 17 (1971): 207–24; Kálmán Benda, “Habsburg Absolutism and the Resistance of the Hungarian Estates in the 16–17th centuries,” in Crown, Church and Estates. Central European Politics in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, ed. R.J.W. Evans and T.V. Thomas (London: Macmillan, 1991), 123–28.

48 Gábor Sipos, “‘Tanulságoknak okáért...’ Bethlen Gábor világi elitképző programjáról,” Korunk 34, no. 3 (2013): 21–33.

49 András Kovács, “Gyulafehérvár. Site of Transylvanian Princely Court in the 16th Century,” in Studies in the History of Early Modern Transylvania, ed. Gyöngy Kovács Kiss, vol. 140 of Atlantic Studies on Society in Change (Boulder, Colo.: Social Science Monographs, 2011), 319–58; András Kovács, “Az építkező Bethlen Gábor és székvárosa,” in Emlékkönyv Jakó Zsigmond nyolcvanadik születésnapjára, ed. András Kovács, Gábor Sipos, and Sándor Tonk (Kolozsvár: Erdélyi Múzeum-Egyesület, 1996), 276–94.

50 ‘Idővel paloták…’ Magyar udvari kultúra a 16–17. században, ed. Nóra G. Etényi and Ildikó Horn (Budapest: Balassi 2005); Annamária Jeney-Tóth, “A fejedelmi udvar az Erdélyi Fejedelemségben,” Korunk 34, no. 3 (2013): 27–33.

51 Márton Tarnóc, Erdély művelődése Bethlen Gábor és a két Rákóczi György korában (Budapest: Gondolat, 1978); Makkai, Bethlen Gábor és az európai művelődés; András Lajos Róth, “Európaiságunk megsejtése,” Korunk 34, no. 3 (2013): 67.

52 “Akármely szegletiről ez világnak, jó vagy gonosz hírek, mi változások mind földön, tengeren, valamelyeket hallhat, érhet fel írván, jegyezvén minekünk is bő beszéddel az mint ott hallja, írja meg.” 18 April 1618, in Török–magyarkori állam-okmánytár, vols. 1–7 (hereinafter TMÁO), ed. Áron Szilády and Sándor Szilágyi (Pest: Eggenberger, 1868–1872), vol. 1, 200.

53 “…a kereszténységnek igaz jó akarattal Synceritással szolgálhassunk, a töröknek is, mint olyan hatalmas ellenségnek kedvét kereshessem, ne iritáltassék miattunk.” Sándor Szilágyi, pub., Bethlen Gábor fejedelem kiadatlan politikai levelei (Budapest: MTA, 1879), 89.

54 Teréz Oborni, “Bethlen Gábor és a nagyszombati szerződés,” Századok 145 (2011): 677–914; text of the secret agreement: 905–6.

55 Sándor Papp, “Bethlen Gábor, a Magyar Királyság és a Porta (1619–1629),” Századok 145 (2011): 915–74; Sudár, “Iskender and Gábor Bethlen;” Almási, “Bethlen és a törökösség.”

56 Papp, Bethlen, 931; Sudár, “Iskender and Gábor Bethlen;” Almási, “Bethlen és a törökösség.”

57 Antal Gindely and Ignácz Acsády, Bethlen Gábor és udvara (Budapest: Magyar Történelmi Társulat, 1890), 17; Lajos Demény, Bethlen Gábor és kora (Bucharest: Politikai, 1982); Sándor Gebei, Az erdélyi fejedelmek és a lengyel királyválasztások (Budapest: Belvedere, 2007).

58 Szekfű, Bethlen Gábor, 84; Elek Csetri, Bethlen Gábor életútja (Bucharest: Kriterion, 1992), 91.

59 Letter from Bethlen to Ferenc Rhédey, July 1618, in Szilágyi, Bethlen Gábor kiadatlan politikai levelei, 100–1; Gabriel Schreiben, …an die Herren Directoren des Böhmen, 1619. aug. 18. Régi Magyar Könyvtár III (Budapest: Országos Széchényi Könyvtár, 1983), 1269; on preparations for his campaign: Szilágyi, Bethlen Gábor kiadatlan politikai levelei, 133; Sándor Szilágyi, pub., “Oklevelek Bethlen Gábor 1619–1621. hadjáratai történetéhez,” Magyar Történelmi Tár 4 (1857): 213–15.

60 Papp, Bethlen Gábor, 932.

61 Péter, Bethlen Gábor emlékezete, 175, 191–92; László Nagy, “Bethlen Gábor a magyar históriában,” in Bethlen Gábor állama és kora, ed. Kálmán Kovács (Budapest: ELTE, 1980), 3–18; Géza Herczegh, “Bethlen Gábor külpolitikai törekvései,” in ibid., 37–48; Carl Göllner, ed., Geschichte der Deutschen auf dem Gebiete Rumäniens, vol. 1. (Bucharest: Kriterion, 1979), 203.

62 Sándor Szilágyi, ed., Erdélyi országgyűlési emlékek (hereinafter EOE), vol. 7 (Budapest: MTA, 18751898), 116; József Pokoly, Az erdélyi református egyház története, vol. 2/5 (Budapest: Erdélyi Református Egyházkerület Állandó Igazgatótanácsa, 19041905), 76; Mihály Imre, “Magyarország panasza” – A Querela Hungariae toposz a XVI–XVII. század irodalmában, vol. 2 of Bibliotheca Studiorum Litterarium (Debrecen: Kossuth Egyetemi Kiadó, 1995); Éva Vámos, Lássák, ismerjék a világnak minden népei… Magyarországi és magyar vonatkozású röpiratok, újságlapok (1458–1849) (Budapest: Magyar Helikon, 1981), 33–34.

63 Áron Zarnóczki, “Angol követjelentések Bethlen Gábor első hadjáratáról és a nikolsburgi békekötésről (1619–1622),” in Bethlen és Európa, ed. Gábor Kármán and Kees Teszelszky (Budapest: ELTE BTK Középkori és Kora Újkori Magyar Történeti Tanszék–Transylvania Emlékeiért Tudományos Egyesület, 2013), 130–43.

64 R. Várkonyi Ágnes, “Bethlen és az európai béketárgyalások,” Valóság 24, no. 2 (1981): 1–10.

65 EOE, vol. 7, 74–82. See also Csetri, Bethlen életútja, 77–78.

66 Jozef Polišenský, War and Society in Europe 1618–1648 (Cambridge: CUP, 1978); Gottfried Schramm, “Armed conflicts in east Central Europe,” in Crown, Church and Estates, ed. Evans and Thomas, 176–95; W. Schmidt-Biggermann, “The Apocalypse and millenarianism in the Thirty Years War,” in 1648. War and Peace in Europe I, ed. Klaus Bußmann (n.p.: Veranst.-Ges. 350 Jahre Westfäl. Friede, 1998), 259–63; Peter H. Wilson, Europe’s Tragedy: A New History of the Thirty Years War (London: Harvard University Press, 2010).

67 László Nagy, Magyar hadsereg és hadművészet a harmincéves háborúban (Budapest: Akadémiai, 1972), 77–80.

68 Joannes Bocatius, Historica parasceve seu praeparatio ad rervm in Hvngaria Transylvaniaque trivm imperatorvm ac regum, Rudolph. II Matthiae II et Ferdinandi II nec non elect. novi reg. Gabrielis tempore gestarum opus historiale … (Cassoviae: Mollerus, 1621). RMNy, 1245.

69 Ferenc Károly Palma, Notitia rerum Hungaricarum, 3rd edn (Pestini, Budae et Cassoviae, 1785), 215. See also Elréd Borian, Bethlen Gábor fejedelem tetteinek bemutatása, manuscript.

70 Österreichische Staatsarchiv, Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv, Ungarische Akten AA, Kart. 169, Konc. C, fol. 193. Kindly sent to me by István Fazekas; Katalin Péter, “Bethlen Gábor magyar királysága, az országegyesítés és a Porta,” Századok 117, no 5 (1983): 1028–60; Papp, Bethlen Gábor, 936–37; Sudár, “Iskender and Gábor Bethlen,” n. 83.

71 Kálmán Demkó, “A magyar–cseh confoederatio és a besztercebányai országgyűlés 1620-ban,” Századok 20 (1886): 105–21, 209–28, 291–308; Gindely, Bethlen Gábor udvara, 29–30; Szekfű, Bethlen Gábor, 69–109.

72 Demkó, “A magyar–cseh konföderáció,” 106–7.

73 Copy issued by the King of Bohemia: Friedrich Firnhaber, Geschichte Ungarns, 98–104; A copy amended by Bethlen: Béla Pettkó, “Az 1620. jan.15-iki szövetséglevél variánsai,” Történelmi Tár 12 (1889): 105–14; See also Demkó, A magyar–cseh confoederatio, 214–16.

74 Demkó, A magyar–cseh confoederatio, 108.

75 Letter from Mehmed, Pasha of Buda, to Gábor Bethlen: Buda, Nov. 11, 1619 in Erdélyi Történelmi Adatok, vol. 4/8, ed. and pub. Imre Mikó (Kolozsvár: Stein János, 1855–1862), 334.

76 Bethlen Gábor: “Memoriale ad Portam O/tt/homanicam, s. d. [1620 közepe]” in TMÁO, vol. 1/7, 226–38.

77 The letter issued from the archives of the Erdélyi Múzeum-Egyesület: TMÁO, vol. 1, 224–25; Other manuscript and printed copies, and copies of prints, are mentioned in Papp, Bethlen Gábor.

78 EOE, vol. 7, 540.

79 TMÁO, vol. 1, 224–25; Sudár, “Iskender and Gábor Bethlen;” Andrea Schmidt–Rösler, “Princeps Transilvaniae – Rex Hungariae? Gabriel Bethlens Außenpolitik zwischen Krieg und Frieden,” in Kalkül – Transfer – Symbol. Europäische Friedensverträge der Vormoderne, ed. Heinz Duchhardt and Martin Peters (Mainz: Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für Europäische Geschichte Mainz, Beiheft online 1, 2006), Abschnitt 80–98, accessed November 22, 2013, http://www.ieg-mainz.de/vieg-online-beihefte/01-2006.html

80 Szilágyi, Bethlen Gábor kiadatlan politikai levelei, 196–97.

81 April 11, 1622: The Negotiations of Sir Thomas Roe, 28–30; See also Kurucz, “Sir Thomas Roe,” 60; Áron Zarnóczki, Anglia és Bethlen Gábor kapcsolata angliai jelentések tükrében (1624–1625), manuscript.

82 Krisztina Varsányi, Bethlen a német nyelvű nyomtatványok tükrében, 49; Almási, Bethlen törökössége.

83 Magyarország mostani állapotjáról. 1621. MTA Kézirattár [Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Department of Manuscripts], Mr ir. 4, Q 216.; Almási, Bethlen és a törökösség; Hungarian and international historiography still accepts these published letters as credible sources, and has built hypotheses on them, without researching their origins or subjecting them to satisfactory text criticism.

84 David Czwittinger, Specimen Hungariae Literatae (Francofurti et Lipsiae: Kohlesius, 1711), 67–77.

85 Kees Teszelszky, “Magyarország és Erdély képe Németalföldön a Bocskai-felkelés és Bethlen Gábor hadjárata idején,” in Bethlen és Európa, ed. Kármán and Teszelszky, 203–44; Zoltán Piri, “Bethlen Gábor fejedelem útja a hágai szövetségbe,” Történelmi Szemle 41 (1999): 157–76.

86 Piri, “Bethlen Gábor fejedelem útja.”

87 Kurucz, “Sir Thomas Roe;” Zarnóczki, Anglia és Bethlen Gábor kapcsolata.

88 Public Record Office London, SP 97/8, fol 259. Quoted in Kurucz, “Sir Thomas Roe,” 60.

89 Gyula Szabó, “Brandenburgi Katalin esküvője,” Történelmi Tár 11 (1888): 445–46.

90 His biography: Gábor Kármán, “Külföldi diplomaták Bethlen Gábor szolgálatában,” in Bethlen Gábor és Európa, ed. Kármán and Teszelszky, 154–58.

91 Ágnes Hankó, Nemzetközi hitelnyújtás a harmincéves háború idején. A hágai koalíció pénzsegélye Bethlen Gábornak 1626-ban (PhD diss., ELTE, 1993), 21.

92 Richardson, The Negotiations of Sir Thomas Roe, 516; Lipót Óváry, Oklevéltár Bethlen Gábor diplomacziai összeköttetései történetéhez (Budapest: M. Tud. Akadémia, 1886), 558; Hankó, Nemzetközi hitelnyújtás, 23.

93 István Czigány, “Hadsereg és ellátás Bethlen Gábor korában,” Hadtörténelmi Közlemények 28 (1981): 526–41.

94 Hankó, Nemzetközi hitelnyújtás, 21, n. 10.

95 Lajos Szádeczky Kardoss, Bethlen Gábor levelei Illésházy Gáspárhoz, 1619–1629, vol. 27 of Magyar Történelmi Tár (Budapest: MTA, 1915), 9; Nagy, Magyar hadsereg és hadművészet, 79.

96 György Kristóf, “Zsidó, görög és latin gyászversek Bethlen Gábor temetésére,” Erdélyi Múzeum 36, New series, no. 2 (1931): 90–97.

97 Szekfű, Bethlen Gábor, 249.

98 “Az magyar nemzetnek / S az köröszténységnek / Én vagyok Gedeonja / Sok fejedelmeknek/ És minden rendeknek / Függ rám szeme világa, / Süvegemeléssel, / Tisztességes füllel / Jámbor nevemet hallja.” Johann Joachim Rusdorf, “Elegidia et poematia epidictica,” in A harmincéves háború verses arcképcsarnoka. A ‘Sebes agynak késő sisak’ és latin forrása, publ. Gizella Keserű, Sándor Fazekas, and Levente Juhász (Szeged: SZTE, 2010).

pdfVolume 2 Issue 4 CONTENTS

Géza Pálffy

Crisis in the Habsburg Monarchy and Hungary, 1619–1622: The Hungarian Estates and Gábor Bethlen*

The essay examines the network of relations between the estates of the Kingdom of Hungary and Gábor Bethlen, Prince of Transylvania (1613–1629) and elected King of Hungary (1620–1621), between 1619 and 1622. Because these years in the midst of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) represented a genuine crisis period for the Central European Habsburg Monarchy, the topic demands particular attention from an international perspective as well. Despite this, hitherto neither Hungarian nor international scholarship have examined this question. The study attempts to fill this gap on the basis of research conducted in archives in Austria, Hungary and Slovakia. First, it will demonstrate how many of the political elite in the Kingdom of Hungary supported the Transylvanian prince in 1619–1621 and in what way. Second, it will draw attention to an almost completely forgotten compromise between Emperor Ferdinand II (1619–1637) and the Hungarian estates reached at the Hungarian diet at Sopron (Ödenburg) in the summer of 1622. Finally, it will present the winners and losers of this new compromise, as well as how Emperor Ferdinand and the monarchy’s political leadership were able to cooperate with the Hungarian estates.

Keywords: Emperor Ferdinand II, Hungarian estates; Diet of Sopron (1622), Protestant religious freedom, coronation of Eleonora Anna Gonzaga (Queen of Hungary)

Introduction

Gábor Bethlen, Prince of Transylvania (1613–1629) and elected King of Hungary (1620–1621), has attracted considerable attention, especially in Hungarian historical literature.1 His name appears in virtually every summary about the Central European Habsburg Monarchy and the Holy Roman Empire, as well as of the great European war, as an active military participant in the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) or as the ally of the rebellious Bohemian estates and the supporter of Protestantism.2 At the same time, research in major languages has subjected only certain aspects of his foreign policy, his relations with the Confoederatio Bohemica and the Ottoman Porte, as well as his military campaigns in Hungary, to a more thorough examination.3 Even his first biography in a major language has had to wait until the present day to appear.4 At the same time, what is characteristic of works that have appeared in foreign languages—apart from analyses of military history—is that they mainly examine the subject primarily from the viewpoint of the Principality of Transylvania and Bethlen himself.

However, Gábor Bethlen’s activity and his military campaigns in Hungary merit special attention beyond this, both from the point of view of the history of the Habsburg Monarchy, as well as naturally from that of the Kingdom of Hungary, which had formed a crucial part of the Monarchy since 1526.5 As is widely known, the Transylvanian prince attacked the composite monarchy of the Austrian branch of the Habsburgs at one of the most critical moments in its history, late August 1619, in Hungary. While Ferdinand of Habsburg was working in Frankfurt towards acquiring the imperial throne during these weeks, the rebellious Bohemian estates in opposition to him elected the Elector Palatine, Frederick V of Pfalz, as their king (August 26, 1619 in Prague). It was one year after this that Bethlen was elected by the Hungarian estates joining him as their ruler (August 25, 1620 in Besztercebánya, today Banská Bystrica, Slovakia). At this time the Transylvanian prince’s armies controlled a significant part of the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary, including its capital (Pozsony, today Bratislava, Slovakia) since October 14, 1619. Although Ferdinand II at last obtained the imperial crown in September 1619, up until the Battle of White Mountain (November 8, 1620) the Habsburg Monarchy experienced a grave crisis.

The jeopardization of the Bohemian and Hungarian crowns put the survival of the monarchy at stake. In addition, Hungary was the Monarchy’s bulwark and larder against the Ottomans,6 and with the loss of Pozsony Vienna itself, the city of imperial capital and residence, also came under direct threat. Thus, relations between the Hungarian estates and Gábor Bethlen between 1619 and 1622 decisively influenced the fate of the Habsburg Monarchy and in part even how the Thirty Years’ War evolved. In light of all this, it is almost incomprehensible that up till now neither international nor Hungarian scholarship has dealt with this question substantively.7

The present study seeks to fill this gap by raising a few questions of critical importance, though as yet unexamined. How many of the political elite of the Kingdom of Hungary supported the Transylvanian prince in the years 1619–1622, and in what manner?—a question which in the midst of the Bohemian rebellion was of fundamental importance from the viewpoint of the Viennese court and the monarchy as well. Furthermore, how was the compromise between the Hungarian estates and Ferdinand II reached at the Hungarian diet in Sopron (Ödenburg in German) in 1622? In other words, on what conditions and amidst what concessions after 1608 was a new compromise between the estates and the Hofburg reached?8 Especially intriguing is the question of who were the winners and losers of the new compromise and the concomitant new division of power. The complexity of this question itself is clearly reflected in the case of Szaniszló Thurzó, one of the Transylvanian prince’s captains general attacking the Habsburg Monarchy (1619–1622), who was elected by the Hungarian estates as palatine of Hungary, that is, the country’s most important secular dignitary, in June 1622 at the diet in Sopron. Finally, it is worth contemplating what significance the compromise of the summer of 1622 had from the viewpoint of the history of the Central European Habsburg state.

The Hungarian Estates Split into Two Camps (1619–1621)

Well over a decade following István Bocskai’s uprising (1604–1606) and later the compromise between the Hungarian estates and King Matthias II (1608–1619) in late 1608,9 the estates of the Kingdom of Hungary were once more split into two camps. Following Prince Gábor Bethlen’s successful campaign in Hungary in the fall of 1619, more and more members of the Hungarian political elite went over to his side. Although armed pressure also fundamentally determined the choice to join the Transylvanian ruler, it was also fostered in large part by the fact that the goals of the estates’ various factions, formulated and in fact confirmed by law in 1608, were only partly realized. Protestant religious freedom became a reality only in part. In the spring of 1618, for example, the country once again had a Catholic palatine (Zsigmond Forgách), which in and of itself clearly symbolized the success of Counter-Reformation ambitions supported by the court and the Hungarian Catholic elite. In addition, the secular and Protestant estates were only partially able to drive back the prelates in the leadership of the country, while the kingdom’s highly centralized military and financial administration was not fundamentally altered either. Because of this, discontent grew increasingly, particularly among the ranks of the nobility of Upper Hungary, overwhelmingly Protestant and situated close to Transylvania.10 All of this explicitly favored the Transylvanian prince, who at the time of his military campaign in Hungary in the fall of 1619 showed extraordinary tactics by including support for the religious freedom and privileges of the Hungarian estates among the basic themes of his war propaganda.

Growing military success encouraged the majority of the Hungarian estates to back the Transylvanian prince by 1621. This is proven, in addition to the contemporary estimate by Miklós Esterházy, the later palatine of Hungary (1625–1645) who adhered to Ferdinand’s side,11 by our latest broad-ranging archival research.12 This shows that among the supreme leaders of the Hungarian estates, i.e., members of the Upper Chamber of the Diet, only a small albeit influential group remained loyal to the legal Hungarian sovereign. Included among them were: first, the entire ecclesiastical estate (status ecclesiasticus), which after 1608 preserved and indeed strengthened its position gradually; second, with similar unanimity, the estates of Croatia and Slavonia (which had a common ruler with Hungary after 1102); and lastly, a few all-powerful aristocrats from Western Hungary. It was first and foremost Miklós Esterházy, lord steward of Hungary, György Zrínyi, district captain general of Transdanubia (1620–1622), Kristóf Bánffy, Pál and Miklós Pálffy who made up this last group.

In the midst of the war there was for the most part a high price to be paid for remaining loyal to the Habsburg ruler. Although scholarship records mainly the Protestant refugees in connection with the early modern Habsburg Monarchy,13 it is worth noting that in 1619–1621 in the Carpathian Basin many of the Catholics also met such a fate. During Bethlen’s campaigns the better part of the high clergy was forced to emigrate abroad for a number of years. The archbishop of Esztergom, Péter Pázmány (1616–1637), and a number of his fellow bishops found refuge in Vienna, several in Croatia, while the members of the Provostry of Jászó in eastern Hungary (today Jasov, Slovakia) and the Cathedral Chapter of Eger found shelter in Poland. In addition, the well-known patron of the Jesuits, György Drugeth of Homonna, the Hungarian chief justice and lord-lieutenant of Ung County, was also forced to seek refuge abroad with almost his entire court. From here—understandably—he moved to push back Bethlen’s armies with newly recruited troops.14 As for the two abovementioned members of the Pálffy family, it was their good fortune that, after the occupation of Pozsony in mid-October 1619, they were still able to withdraw to their nearby estates in Lower Austria (Marchegg) in time. They, in fact, thanks to their father, Miklós Pálffy, possessed, in addition to Hungarian, Lower Austrian nobility as well.15

Flight to the Croatian–Slavonian territories was promoted by the fact that the estates here steadfastly remained on the side of Ferdinand II—as they themselves declared to their sovereign in early July 1620.16 A number of factors played a role in their conduct. First, in defending the border against the Ottomans the Habsburg provinces, above all the lands of Inner Austria (Styria, Carinthia and Carniola), were in need of financial support.17 Second, there was a geopolitical fact, i.e., that the Transylvanian armies did not reach south of the Drava. And finally there was the religious factor: Croatia and Slavonia after all had remained overwhelmingly Catholic even after 1608. The members of the Drašković, Erdődy, Frankopan/Frangepan, Keglević, Konsky and Ráttkay families thus remained the dynasty’s main pillars. Their ranks were reinforced by the two prominent high dignitaries of the joint Hungarian–Croatian state, Nikola Frankopan, ban of Croatia and Slavonia, and Tamás Erdődy II, royal treasurer of Hungary (magister tavernicorum regalium) as well.

The second faction of the Hungarian estates, roughly similar in size to the previous one, was formed by mostly those whom Bethlen’s armies had compelled to join the prince by force of arms. Included among them were the leading dignitary of the kingdom, Palatine Zsigmond Forgách, who died in mid-1621, and Gáspár Horváth, the president of the Hungarian Chamber, who with the taking of Pozsony were forced onto the side of the prince. In Upper Hungary a similar fate befell Menyhért Alaghy, master of the doorkeepers of Hungary, and András Dóczy, master of the chamber and general of Upper Hungary, who died in Transylvania in 1621 while in the prince’s captivity. Apart from them, numerous other magnates (from the Balassa, Czobor, Esterházy, Forgách, Károlyi, Liszthy, Melith, Osztrosics and Rákóczi families), mostly Catholicized, were no longer able to flee from Bethlen’s troops, who were rapidly advancing in the fall of 1619. The pro-Habsburg border fortress captains (e.g., István Pálffy, Péter Koháry and Tamás Bosnyák), on the other hand, were generally thrown into actual captivity by the princely armies.

Lastly, belonging to the third group of the Hungarian estates were those who either encouraged Bethlen’s attack on Hungary or, favorably disposed to it, joined in voluntarily. Considering the example of the Bohemian rebels worthy of emulation, they tried to remedy their grievances vis-à-vis the Viennese court and the Hungarian prelates with the prince’s help as well. In this most populous camp numbered, in addition to influential aristocrats, a large number of lesser nobles and border fortress officers as well. In the list of names all three districts of Hungary extending from the Drava to the Transylvanian border (Transdanubia, Lower and Upper Hungary)18 were represented in great numbers.

Among them, from Transdanubia, Ferenc Batthyány, master of the horse of Hungary and the prince’s captain general here, as well as Miklós Zrínyi and Pál Nádasdy, the lord-lieutenant of Vas County, stand out. In Lower Hungary, the noted guardian of the Hungarian Crown and chief seneschal, Péter Révay, along with the son (Imre) and close relative (Szaniszló) of György Thurzó, the one-time Lutheran palatine (1609–1616) and Bethlen’s general here, as well as their extensive kin (from the Erdődy, Jakusics, Illésházy, Thököly and Vízkelethy families) formed the prince’s power base. Their defection may be considered quite telling, since in 1604–1606 the majority of them had not supported István Bocskai. The power ambitions and counter-reformatory aspirations of the Viennese court and the Hungarian Catholic elite significantly violated the 1608 compromise and therefore had grave consequences. Finally, that György Rákóczi (later prince of Transylvania, 1630–1648), István Nyáry, György Széchy and others in Upper Hungary joined Bethlen is no surprise. Several members of their families had previously been adherents of Bocskai as well; Catholics were rare among them, while they cultivated traditionally close relations with the Transylvanian prince, thanks equally to the close proximity of their estates and their kindred ties. They thus soon attained prominent positions (captain general, lord steward, etc.) in Bethlen’s military organization in Hungary as well as in his court.

Summarizing all this the following conclusion can be drawn: in February 1621 Gábor Bethlen was not exaggerating when he declared to his envoys in Istanbul that about half of the estates of the Kingdom of Hungary were on his side.19 In fact, a significant group of high dignitaries and aristocrats playing decisive roles in the control of Hungary’s military and financial affairs, as well as its domestic politics and estates institutions—unlike Bocskai, whom almost no high dignitary had joined20—supported Bethlen voluntarily. As for another of their factions, thanks to his rapid military advance, the prince succeeded in “disconnecting” them so to speak from the political life of the kingdom. His election as king of Hungary in late August 1620 was a logical outcome of this process.

All this threatened to have catastrophic consequences for Ferdinand II. By the fall of 1620 his rule in Hungary, ever so important to the Habsburg dynasty, was tottering, the number of his adherents there had dwindled at an alarming rate, and the prince’s troops on several occasions threatened the imperial city. Bethlen moreover came very close to actually acquiring the Hungarian throne, since at this time the Holy Crown of Hungary was also in his possession. For, with the taking of the town of Pozsony, the Hungarian coronation insignia had fallen into his hands, which he then held onto until March 1622 (carrying them all the way to the castle of Ecsed in eastern Hungary).21 In principle, therefore, Bethlen might have opened up a completely new chapter in the history of the realm of St. Stephen, if he had crowned himself king of Hungary. In this case, two Hungarian states would have existed under the leadership of two completely legitimate Hungarian kings, as had happened back during the reigns of Ferdinand I of Habsburg (1526–1564) and John I Szapolyai (1526–1540) after the Battle of Mohács in 1526.22 It must be noted that the Viennese military leadership, the Hungarian prelates, the Croatian lords and the Hungarian aristocrats led by Miklós Esterházy likewise held out resolutely, and thus Bethlen would have had a real chance to completely occupy Hungary and Croatia only in the event of the Habsburg Monarchy’s collapse.

Gábor Bethlen ultimately became a ruler of great consequence by being capable, as a true Realpolitiker, of setting limits to his otherwise unparalleled ambitions. However, he did so not for the sake of unifying the country or pan-Hungarian interests, as Hungarian historians frequently opine,23 but rather just the opposite. In fact, still months before the defeat of the Bohemian rebels at White Mountain, very strongly supported by the Hungarian estates, and in possession of the Holy Crown, he had abandoned any plans of being crowned as fully legitimate king of Hungary. For Bethlen was aware of how seriously limited his opportunities in Hungary were. Despite his noteworthy successes achieved within the European Protestant alliance system—and this is to be highly emphasized—he continued to be the sultan’s vassal after all, and thus he was able to conduct an independent foreign policy only up to a certain point. Istanbul took a tactical approach throughout, waiting to see what Bethlen and his Central European allies would be capable of against Emperor Ferdinand II.24 However, the Porte would no longer have supported a new major Ottoman–Habsburg war, since it was at war at this time on the Polish front (1620–1621).

Thus, a number of factors combined to save Ferdinand II’s rule in Hungary. First, the interests of the Ottoman Porte, which did not wish for an additional major war in the Danubian Basin. Second, the grasp of Realpolitik demonstrated by Bethlen, who even in the midst of his significant military and political successes recognized the limits of his westward expansion. Third, the military defeat of the prince’s Bohemian allies at White Mountain. Fourth, the successful advance of the imperial and royal troops into Hungary in the spring of 1621. Lastly, but by no means least, something that scholarship up to the present has almost entirely forgotten about: the allegiance, not to mention the considerable military involvement against Bethlen, of the Hungarian–Croatian estates; although in the minority, they remained steadfastly on Ferdinand’s his side.

A New Compromise in Hungary in the Summer of 1622

The settlement of the balance of power in the Hungarian state ultimately had to wait until the summer of 1622, since the signing of a peace treaty between the emperor and the prince, that is, the conclusion to the war in Hungary, was still a precondition to an agreement between King Ferdinand II and the Hungarian estates, as well as between the two parties of the divided estates. This took place at the very end of December 1621 in Nikolsburg in Moravia (today Mikulov, Czech Republic). At the time of the latter’s ratification on January 12, 1622, the Hungarian ruler proclaimed a general amnesty for the Hungarian estates who had forsaken him.25 From the point of view of our topic, the peace treaty merits attention also because at the negotiations Bethlen was represented not by one of his foreign diplomats, but at first by Imre Thurzó, then after his death (Oct. 19, 1621) by Szaniszló Thurzó, while Ferdinand II was represented, from among the Hungarian estates, by Péter Pázmány, the archbishop of Esztergom, and Miklós Esterházy. The Transylvanian prince relinquished his Hungarian royal title at this time and promised to return the Holy Crown, which finally occurred in March 1622.26 In return for all this he received seven counties in Upper Hungary for life (Borsod, Abaúj, Zemplén, Szabolcs, Szatmár, Bereg and Ugocsa), as well as the Silesian duchies of Oppeln and Ratibor. Thus, it was only in return for a significant loss of territory that the Habsburg Monarchy was able to retain the remainder of Hungary, which, however, it still greatly needed for its defense and provisioning against the Ottomans.

Following this, in the summer of 1622 at the Hungarian Diet in Sopron the estate structure and administration of the Kingdom of Hungary was virtually reborn. To put it another way, after the years 1606–1608 once again a compromise of decisive importance came about between the Viennese court and the Hungarian estates, as well as between the individual factions within the estates. The peculiarity of this is indicated by the fact that this had to be established in such a way as to both pacify the country, racked by the turmoil of the civil war during the previous two years, as well as compensate those who had maintained their loyalty to the ruler and had as a result suffered serious damages at the hands of the prince’s armies, or had been arrested by him. Yet all this was to be done in such a way that in the meantime the Hungarians who had gone over to the prince not suffer major losses either, since this might have had serious consequences regarding the future. Settling the situation in Hungary and the Hungarian theater of war was also a vital interest for Ferdinand II and his Hungarian followers. A further internal and civil war in Hungary, or perhaps a potential Ottoman war, had to be avoided at all costs, since in the meantime the great European conflict was also unfolding.

All these things demanded a willingness to compromise even greater than that witnessed in 1606–1608, indeed a forced compromise, on the part of both the court in Vienna and the various factions within the Hungarian estates, and thus entailed substantial concessions. This brought about a realignment and redistribution of power in several areas. After 1608 the Habsburg court and Ferdinand himself was forced once again to make very serious concessions to the Hungarian estates in general, but even to those returning from Bethlen’s side, in Sopron in 1622.27 This overall was demonstrated symbolically by the fact that for the first time in the history of the Hungarian state (moreover, at the beginning of the decrees, in Article 2) the 1618 coronation diploma of Ferdinand II (diploma inaugurale) was enacted into law. This guaranteed the privileges of the estates and the successes gained in 1608 (among them religious freedom) in 17 points.28 This was of crucial importance in the long term as well, since it remained an established custom right up until the nineteenth century!

The court and the ecclesiastical members of the Upper Chamber in the summer of 1622 attempted to block one of the main demands of the majority of the estates, the election of a palatine, for only a brief time. And yet in the sixteenth century they had achieved this successfully on a number of occasions.29 In fact, among the two Protestant candidates the ruler also included—alongside Ferenc Batthyány, who really had no chance and in fact did not attend the diet in person due to his allegiance to Bethlen—the often-mentioned Szaniszló Thurzó. Meanwhile the two Catholic delegates were Tamás Erdődy, who because of his advanced age could likewise be viewed as a nominal candidate, and one of the protagonists loyal to the king in recent years, Miklós Esterházy. However, in my opinion it was not Thurzó’s hitherto unproven intention to convert (as Anton Gindely believed)30 that played a role in his nomination but rather more relevant factors. It was due in part to his constructive activity in the peace negotiations at Nikolsburg, with which he contributed substantially to the pacification of the country, and in part to his considerable influence in Lower Hungary on account of his larger estates. And lastly, the main reason was that he appeared the most acceptable member of Bethlen’s Protestant camp, and in addition his prestige there was also significant, while as the lord-lieutenant of Szepes County he could also form a “base” for the ruler in Upper Hungary. The trust in him, though not unconditional, is indicated also by the fact that in February 1622, when Bethlen gave back the key stronghold of Érsekújvár (Germ. Neuhäusel, today Nové Zámky, Slovakia), Ferdinand II also accepted him temporarily as its captain general. As was written, cryptically but revealingly, in the Aulic War Council, this had happened thus for serious reasons.31

Although the outcome of the election for palatine could not be predicted because of the actual vote, Ferdinand II and his main advisors—evidently chiefly on the recommendation of Pázmány and Esterházy—reckoned with the least evil, so to speak, from which, moreover, they might temporarily forge even an advantage. In reality they chose a scenario in which even in the worst case the victor could be a Lutheran lord who showed a willingness to cooperate with the Habsburg court as well. Their calculations proved correct: while Erdődy and Batthyány received only a few votes, the palatine election was won by Thurzó on June 3 in a close contest with Esterházy (by a tally of 80 to 65).32 It was thus that one of the captains general of the Transylvanian prince who had attacked the Habsburg Monarchy could become in half a year the palatine (incidentally, the last Lutheran) of the Kingdom of Hungary.

In the meantime Thurzó also benefitted greatly. Without Bethlen’s attack he hardly would have reached the top of the kingdom’s secular elite, and despite his sizeable estates the palatine’s annual salary of 22,000 forints came in handy to him.33 In addition, his jurisdiction as palatine with regard to the armed levies of the nobility (Lat. insurrectio) was confirmed (Art. 21),34 while in his position, like György Thurzó, he could also act as the protector of the Lutheran estates. His election clearly showed both the unique compromise of the court and the estates, and the more significant strengthening, even compared to 1608, of the Hungarian estates, which were using Bethlen’s campaign to further their own interests.

This latter had numerous other signs, too. Ferdinand II and his advisors were forced to yield to the estates in other areas as well. The latter saw to it that the important and at the same time symbolic administrative office of chief postmaster of Hungary, previously occupied by members of the foreign Paar family,35 from this time on would be overseen by Hungarian nobles (first by István Bornemissza) for decades.36 They even succeeded in several stages in pushing through the demand that the Viennese military leadership—under Article 11 prior to the coronation of 160837—once again fill the post of deputy captain general of the border fortress in Győr with a Hungarian.38 In return, in the interests of peace, the captains general of Győr and Komárom (today Komárno, Slovakia) could continue to be foreigners (Art. 23). In addition to this, confirming the resolutions of the 1608 and 1618 diets the estates tried to increase the jurisdiction of the Hungarian Council (Consilium Hungaricum) and the Hungarian Court Chancellery (Cancellaria Hungarica Aulica) (Art. 17). Indeed, they once again declared the Hungarian and Aulic Chambers to be on an equal footing (Art. 18).39 Nevertheless, as in 1608 the latter must have been only a political aspiration and a propagandistic demand at this time as well, since in practice its realization was almost an impossibility.

In the end, the new political and military government of the Kingdom of Hungary was set up in Sopron in merely a few days, between August 4 and 7, 1622. At this time more than half of the Hungarian high dignities, and all of the estates-controlled district captain generalcies (Kreisgeneralat), were assumed by new persons.40 Even in the context of the entire sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this counted as an almost extraordinary turnabout. Yet in this case, too, all this happened in accordance with the guiding principle that Hungary’s hard-won peace and its potential defense against Bethlen in the future should be guaranteed as much as possible.

The “Catholic comet,” Miklós Esterházy, who to the Protestants’ good fortune came up short in the election for palatine, became all at once one of the chief secular and military leaders of the Hungarian estates: the ruler appointed him chief justice (Aug. 4), that is, the second man of the secular elite, replacing the deceased György Drugeth of Homonna. Then, within days he obtained the post of Captain General of the Mining Towns (Bergstädtische Grenze) and District Captain General of Lower Hungary (Aug. 7).41 Additionally, in his latter posts he could organize not only his own estates but also, in the foreground of Vienna and Pozsony, the defense of the kingdom against Bethlen. Meanwhile, for the loss of his estate in Munkács (today Mukačeve, Ukraine) in Eastern Hungary he was granted significant mortgage estates in Western Hungary (Fraknó and Kismarton, today Forchtenstein and Eisenstadt, Burgenland in Austria). For his unparalleled loyalty and material losses after 1619, therefore, his compensation was substantial and satisfactory. At this same time, the third high dignitary, the post of ban of Croatia–Slavonia, vacant due to the resignation of Nikola Frankopan, was obtained likewise by an aristocrat unconditionally loyal to the king, György Zrínyi, district captain general of Transdanubia, father of the noted poet and military leader Miklós Zrínyi (Aug. 7). Succeeding him in his post of district captain general, despite his loyalty to Bethlen, was Pál Nádasdy, since the prince’s general in Transdanubia, Ferenc Batthyány, could not have been considered for this.

It was the situation in the most critical Upper Hungary that saw the most interesting developments, since more than half of the territory of this region (7 out of 13 counties) came under Bethlen’s authority. As a compromise solution, here the post of captain general was given to the lord-lieutenant of Gömör County, György Széchy (Aug. 7), the former captain general of Bocskai and Bethlen who had reverted to loyalty to Ferdinand II in April 1621. His seat, however, could not be the previous residence of the captains general, the town of Kassa (Košice), for Bethlen held that.42 Thus, while a permanent seat was not designated for him, his newly appointed deputy, Miklós Forgách, was assigned to Eperjes (Sáros County, today Prešov, Slovakia),43 it was at this time that the latter’s career began to soar. Here to administer the revenues of the six counties left under Habsburg authority the Szepes Chamber was also in part reorganized, albeit under the supervision of the Hungarian Chamber in Pozsony.44 In addition, Széchy—like Miklós Esterházy, Szaniszló Thurzó, Pál Pálffy and Miklós Forgách—as further compensation was even made an imperial chamberlain (kaiserlicher Kämmerer) in Sopron,45 indeed, Hungarian master of the chamber, that is, a high dignitary of the land.

At this same time, the office of lord steward, formerly held by Miklós Esterházy, now promoted to chief justice, was assumed by Imre Czobor, who had drifted to the prince only under duress; in addition to this, he was compensated for his wartime losses with lands as well. Péter Révay, the chief seneschal who died in early June 1622, was succeeded by one of Bethlen’s former captives, Tamás Bosnyák, though he would have to wait another half a year for this (March 14, 1623). Finally, the newly elected palatine Szaniszló Thurzó’s former office of master cup-bearer was granted to a Transdanubian lord who similarly had been pro-Habsburg throughout, Kristóf Bánffy. In the meantime, through the ruler’s good graces the Catholic Gáspár Horváth was allowed to remain in his post of chamber president and even assume the Transdanubian Calvinist lord Ferenc Batthyány’s post as master of the horse. As Révay’s successor as guardian of the Hungarian Crown, the Hungarian estates elected one of the signers of the 1606 Peace of Vienna, Pál Apponyi, who likewise had become Bethlen’s follower under duress.

The new distribution of offices and power of early August 1622 therefore made it possible all at once to compensate the pro-Habsburg members of the Upper Chamber, conciliate the former Bethlen supporters and ensure the peace, functioning and defense of the Kingdom of Hungary. All this at the same time attests to a greater ability and willingness to compromise on the part of Ferdinand II, unlike the old cliché portraying him as a Catholic bigot. He could work at the Diet of Sopron with the Protestant Hungarian estates, if necessary, in order to stabilize his rule in the Danubian Basin. This represented an important series of steps from the viewpoint of the subsequent history of the Thirty Years’ War as well.

Major Winners and Minor Losers at the Diet of Sopron

In addition to concessions, the Viennese court devoted particular attention to compensating the nobles, church figures and border fortress officers who had suffered serious damages at the time of Bethlen’s campaigns, as well as officials assuming a role in the country’s administration.46 This could be done in a number of ways. The more prominent were granted the title of count (Germ. Graf, Lat. comes) or baron (Germ. Freiherr, Lat. baro or magnas), the former assuring ascension into the highest elite of the aristocracy, and the latter entry into the aristocracy. At the same time, for the majority the bestowal of various offices, estates, pensions (Gnadengeld), benefices and increased pay, the return of estates seized by Bethlen’s armies, the remittance of unpaid wages, as well as various exemptions and privileges represented compensation and a guarantee of continued loyalty.47

It is sufficient to demonstrate these rewards with a few typical examples. For his loyalty Kristóf Bánffy became not only a dignitary in Hungary (master cup-bearer), but a count as well. It was with this same title that Ferdinand II also rewarded the son of the deceased György Drugeth of Homonna (János), combining it, furthermore, with the perpetual lord-lieutenancy of Ung County (supremus et perpetuus comes comitatus Ung).48 Thus, following György Thurzó (1606) they became the second and third possessors of the title of count (Graf), based on German roots, in Hungary. Thus they preceded even Miklós Esterházy, who earned this preeminent rank only in 1626.49 For their part István Orlé and Márton Móricz, captains of Putnok and Szendrő respectively, who had resisted the prince’s armies in Upper Hungary, became barons.50 Their loyalty and military resilience therefore propelled them into the Hungarian aristocracy, while Móricz reacquired his lost estates, received his unpaid pay, and even the cannons hauled away from the fortress of Szendrő by Bethlen’s soldiers.51 Yet it is less known that it was thanks to their anti-Bethlen service demonstrated in the years 1619–1621 that the advancement of a number of well-known noble families began: among the later countly families the Zichy, the Koháry and the Cziráky; and among the lesser nobles momentarily striving upward, such as the border fortress captains Ferenc Káldy or Pál Sibrik. In 1622 their loyalty was confirmed with various offices, pensions and estates.52

In the meantime, virtually every border fortress captain who had experienced the Transylvanian prince’s captivity not only returned to his post, but was also granted a substantial pension and estates. In this regard, a February 1622 memorandum of the Aulic War Council may be considered symbolic as well. This stated that wherever an occasion for promotion presented itself, Ferdinand II had to consider it according to the merits of the petitioner who had suffered damages.53 Yet it also goes without saying that the officials working alongside the Hungarian high dignitaries at the peace negotiations in Nikolsburg, namely the councilors of the Hungarian Chamber, Fridericus Hermann and Jakab Szentkereszti, did not go uncompensated either, both receiving gold chains valued at 300 thalers—and precisely on one of the crucial days of the compromise, August 4.54 Thus, in 1622 efforts were made to reward those who had created the peace in Hungary, so important to the monarchy, even despite the difficult financial situation.

The members of the large court of György Drugeth of Homonna, forced into exile in Poland, at this same time were aided with pensions from the revenues of the Silesian Chamber.55 In turn, with the ruler and his court visibly compelled to compromise, the most varied groups within the Hungarian estates attempted to exploit the situation. Even the royal free towns, the various monastic orders (Jesuits, Franciscans and Paulines) or, for instance, the cathedral chapter of Győr used the Diet of Sopron to have the ruler confirm their privileges, or actually expand them, and have their grievances remedied. The venue for the diet itself, the town of Sopron, may be considered the most symbolic example: right in the middle of the compromise negotiations, on August 4, it received a new coat of arms, with the imperial eagle on its crest, as well as the monogram of Ferdinand II and his new wife, Queen Eleonora.56

While the majority of magnates were not ruined even despite their former allegiance to Bethlen, many of the minor border fortress officers, nobles and officials who had joined the prince were faced with permanent exclusion.57 Because they could be replaced in the kingdom’s leadership from the sizeable nobility and soldiering stratum, they multiplied the camp of the losers. However, the greatest damages were suffered by, on the one hand, the ecclesiastical estates, forced into exile and losing a multitude of estates, and on the other hand, the population of Hungary, that is, commoners. However, while the court in Vienna for the most part compensated the damages incurred by the former, both Ferdinand II and Bethlen only rarely did so for the latter.

The situation of Hungarian society increasingly deteriorated when, beginning in the fall of 1619, it was forced to bear the waves of devastation caused by the princely and imperial armies. As it happened, the imperial military leadership regularly reacted to Bethlen’s military campaigns, which the prince also strove always to reciprocate.58 This created, mostly from Pozsony to the area of the Garam River, conditions of war and civil war for several months each year, which is well indicated by the fact that the Hungarian capital was besieged four times within a brief period of time (Bethlen, Oct. 1619; Henri Duval de Dampierre, Oct. 1619; imperial armies, April–May 1620; Bethlen, Aug.–Sept. 1621).59 Taken together, all this represented the beginning of a tragic process—one lasting right up until the Rákóczi War of Independence (1703–1711)—because civil war conditions arrived in Hungary in 1619–1621, later becoming chronic time after time almost every decade, before Hungary’s society had recovered from the enormous destruction of the largest conflict in its history up until then, the Long Turkish War (1591/93–1606).60

The Symbolic Significance of the Queen’s Coronation

One further event in Sopron marked the significance and uniqueness of the compromise of the summer of 1622 symbolically as well: the coronation of Ferdinand II’s new wife, Eleonora Anna Gonzaga, as queen consort of Hungary on July 26. The event itself, the date, the persons attending the ceremony and their duties all spoke volumes.61

The event itself clearly indicated that, compared to July 1618 and August 1620, the world had taken a great turn in Hungary. After the coronation of Ferdinand II in Pozsony, and then Gábor Bethlen’s election as king in Besztercebánya the wife of the emperor and Hungarian king was accepted by the Hungarian estates as their queen. This in itself clearly symbolized that in spite of the substantial loss of territory, the balance between the Viennese court and the Hungarian estates had nevertheless been restored; the overwhelming majority of the estates that had elected Bethlen as their ruler was also present at the event. For the political and military leadership of the Habsburg Monarchy this was of decisive significance, since the loyalty of the estates of the Kingdom of Hungary had been successfully recovered and the peace of the Hungarian bulwark and larder ensured. With this the crisis that had threatened the very existence of the monarchy came to an end in Hungary in the summer of 1622. This naturally was true even despite the fact that the date of the coronation preceded by a few days the new distribution of power that occurred in the first week of August, outlined above. To put it another way: the court and the estates prepared the actual system of compromises through the coronation of the queen consort as a symbolic political act. Following the ceremony all this was celebrated moreover with one of the monarchy’s earliest opera performances.62

The Hungarians granted a more important role in the ceremony likewise clearly reflected the birth of the compromise. At the lavish ceremony, held in the Franciscan church, the Holy Crown was carried by the newly elected palatine (and Bethlen’s often-mentioned former captain general), Szaniszló Thurzó; he then handed it over during the ceremony to the archbishop of Esztergom, Péter Pázmány, so that he might touch the shoulder of the queen consort with it, as the ruler’s support, according to ancient Hungarian customs. And the queen herself was crowned with her “house crown” (Germ. Hauskrone) by the bishop of Veszprém, likewise according to the medieval traditions.63

Out of the Hungarian political elite, representing the secular and ecclesiastical elite, it was the archbishop and the palatine who were permitted to sit to the royal table at the coronation banquet. Moreover, also in keeping with ancient traditions, the archbishop was seated in a more prestigious place, i.e., closer to the ruler. Although Palatine Thurzó strongly resented this, Pázmány did not yield. With this the latter vividly indicated that despite the strengthening of the secular elite and the Lutheran estates, in the future they would have to seriously reckon with the prelates as political opponents as well. In fact, the archbishop continued the symbolic political struggle with the secular elite even at coronation banquets. At the coronation of Ferdinand III in December 1625, likewise in Sopron, he even managed to secure a place at the table for the archbishop of Kalocsa. Thanks to this, the ecclesiastical elite occupied twice as many places at the table as the secular. This subsequently remained the practice right up until the coronation of the last Hungarian sovereign in late 1916 in Budapest.64

Several others from Bethlen’s former camp were allotted roles at the coronation of Queen Eleonora in July 1622. The frequently mentioned György Széchy was rewarded for his loyalty not just with offices: among the coronation insignia he was allowed to carry the orb, and later allowed to hold the post of master seneschal at the banquet. And he was allowed to do all this in the company of none other than Miklós Esterházy, Kristóf Bánffy, György Zrínyi and István Pálffy, who had been pro-Habsburg throughout. Taken together, all these things clearly show the compromise both between the Viennese court and the Hungarian estates, as well as between the estates split into two camps in 1619–1620. At the same time, it likewise shows the ongoing domestic political struggles.

Overall, both Emperor Ferdinand II and the Hungarian estates could depart from Sopron satisfied in August 1622. After Gábor Bethlen’s military campaigns the political leadership of the Habsburg Monarchy succeeded in stabilizing the military and political situation in Hungary, even if the price for this had been territorial losses on the eastern border as well as serious concessions to the estates. It is for this reason that the formerly pro-Bethlen Transdanubian lord, Pál Nádasdy, could write with such satisfaction about the second compromise reached by the Viennese court and the Hungarian estates in the seventeenth century (one almost forgotten by international and Hungarian historiography to the present) on August 7, 1622, i.e., the day the new distribution of power was concluded, the following lines: “Thanks be to God, the Lord granted the assembly a good ending beyond our hopes, according to the wishes of the Hungarians and perhaps even more than that which we desired.” 65 Similarly, a few days later the deputies of the free royal town of Lőcse (today Levoča, Slovakia), meeting in the Lower Chamber, also declared with great satisfaction that the ruler ultimately had yielded in almost everything and pledged to respect the liberties and privileges of the Hungarian estates.66

The compromise reached in Sopron in the summer of 1622 would prove quite solid. Perhaps the most telling testimony of this is that following the arrangement the Hungarian estates both in 1623 and 1626 apart with few exceptions did not support the prince of Transylvania, Gábor Bethlen, who once more attacked Ferdinand II, this time together with Turkish and Tatar auxiliaries. Amidst the Thirty Years’ War this was of outstanding importance to the Habsburg Monarchy.

Conclusion

This study has analyzed a major historical question of the Central European Habsburg Monarchy and the Kingdom of Hungary that up till now had been hardly researched. First, it has examined who among the Hungarian estates between 1619 and 1621 supported the Transylvanian prince Gábor Bethlen (1613–1629), entering the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) on the side of the Bohemian rebels, and why. The latter’s election as King of Hungary in August 1620 jeopardized the rule of Emperor Ferdinand II in Hungary, which, together with the Bohemian uprising, put the very survival of the monarchy at risk. Second, based on new research the author has analyzed how the emperor succeeded in resolving the crisis with the help of a new compromise reached with the Hungarian estates at the Diet of Sopron in the summer of 1622, and thereby preserve Hungary as the monarchy’s bulwark and larder against the Ottomans. Regarding these two issues, the following major conclusions can be drawn.

Compared to István Bocskai’s uprising (1604–1606), many more within the Hungarian estates, about half, supported the prince of Transylvania, Gábor Bethlen, in the years 1619–1621. Moreover, a significant group of the high dignitaries and aristocrats playing decisive roles in the direction of the Hungarian kingdom’s military and financial affairs as well as its domestic politics and institutions supported Bethlen voluntarily and even elected him king as well. This was a serious consequence primarily of the failure of the court in Vienna and the Hungarian Catholic elite allied with it to respect several elements of the system of compromises reached at the Diet of Pozsony in late 1608 between King Matthias II and the Hungarian estates. However, because the imperial military leadership, the Hungarian prelates, the Croat lords and the Hungarian aristocrats loyal to the court, led by Miklós Esterházy, continued to back Ferdinand II, Bethlen’s military campaigns split the estates into two camps, and plunged Hungary into civil war.

After the peace of Nikolsburg between the emperor and the prince in late 1621 the internal and civil war in Hungary was concluded by the compromise at Sopron. After 1608 the leadership of the Habsburg Monarchy and Ferdinand II himself once more made additional significant concessions to the Hungarian estates at the Diet of Sopron in the summer of 1622. These confirmed first and foremost Protestant religious freedom and the positions of the estates in the leadership of the country. In the meantime, the estate structure and administration of the Kingdom of Hungary was also reorganized. Moreover, this occurred in such a way that those who had maintained their loyalty to the ruler and had thus suffered damages at the hands of the prince’s armies were compensated with ranks, offices, lands and other goods. Yet the most influential aristocrats who had gone over to the prince did not endure great losses either. The main sign of this was that the estates elected Szaniszló Thurzó, captain general of the Transylvanian prince attacking the Habsburg Monarchy, as the leading secular high dignitary of the kingdom, the palatine. This demonstrates that Emperor Ferdinand II took a legalistic rather than simply confessional line on constitutional disputes in Hungary in order to secure the dynasty’s rule there.

As a result of several months of negotiations, peace in the Hungarian theater of war and Hungary’s administration was thus secured in Sopron. Symbolically, even the coronation of Emperor Ferdinand’s second wife, Eleonora Anna Gonzaga, as queen of Hungary on July 26 attested to the reconciliation between the court and the estates. The true significance of the compromise reached in the summer of 1622 was shown by the fact that the Hungarian estates neither in 1623 nor 1626 longer supported the Transylvanian prince, who was once again on the attack. Thus, in August 1622 the crisis of the Habsburg Monarchy came to an end over the long term in Hungary. And the new compromise satisfactorily secured the peace and administration of the Kingdom of Hungary as well as its defense against the Ottomans.

 

Archival Sources

Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Országos Levéltára [National Archives of Hungary], Budapest

Országos Széchényi Könyvtár [Hungarian National Széchényi Library], Budapest

Österreichisches Staatsarchiv, Vienna

Finanz- und Hofkammerarchiv, Hofkammerarchiv

Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv

Kriegsarchiv

Slovenský národný archív [Slovak National Archives], Bratislava

Štátny archív v Levoči, pobočka Levoča [State Archives Levoča, Filiale Levoča], Slovakia

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Translated by Matthew Caples

1* The study was prepared with the support of the “Lendület” Holy Crown of Hungary Research Project (2012–2017) of the Institute of History, Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

The bibliography of works up to 1980 is available on the internet as well, accessed June 25, 2013, http://mek.oszk.hu/03900/03971/html/. For the results of the latest research, see Századok 145, no. 4 (2011): 848–1027.

2 A few examples from the past decade or so: Charles W. Ingrao, The Habsburg Monarchy 1618–1815, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 31–32; Thomas Winkelbauer, Ständefreiheit und Fürstenmacht. Länder und Untertanen des Hauses Habsburg im konfessionellen Zeitalter, vol. 1 (Vienna: Ueberreuter, 2003), 148–50; Paula Sutter Fichtner, The Habsburg Monarchy 1490–1848: Attributes of Empire (Houndmills–Basingstoke–Hampshire–New York: Palgrave–Macmillan, 2003), 34, 47; Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger, Das Heilige Römische Reich Deutscher Nation. Vom Ende des Mittelalters 1806, 4th rev. ed. (Munich: C. H. Beck, 2009), 76–77; Peter H. Wilson, Europe’s Tragedy: A New History of the Thirty Years War (London: Penguin, 2010), 78–79; Thomas Brockmann, Dynastie, Kaiseramt und Konfession. Politik und Ordnungsvorstellungen Ferdinands II. im Dreißigjährigen Krieg (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2011), 138–44; cf. Jörg-Peter Findeisen, Der Dreißigjährige Krieg. Eine Epoche in Lebensbildern (Graz–Vienna–Cologne: Styria, 1998), 101–4.

3 Alexander Szilágyi, Gabriel Bethlen und die schwedische Diplomatie (Budapest: Kilián, 1882); Maja Depner [Philippi], Das Fürstentum Siebenbürgen im Kampf gegen Habsburg. Untersuchungen über die Politik Siebenbürgens während des Dreißigjährigen Krieges (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1938); Helfried Valentinitsch, Die steirischen Wehrmaßnahmen während des ersten Krieges mit Bethlen Gabor von Siebenbürgen 1619–1622 (auf Grund der steirischen Quellen) (PhD diss., manuscript, Universität Graz, 1967); Reinhard Rudolf Heinisch, “Habsburg, die Pforte und der Böhmische Aufstand (1618–1620),” Südost-Forschungen 33 (1974): 125–65 and 34 (1975): 79–124; László Makkai, “Gábor Bethlen’s European Policy,” The New Hungarian Quarterly 22, no. 82 (1981): 63–71; Peter Broucek, Kampf um Landeshoheit und Herrschaft im Osten Österreichs 1618 bis 1621 (Vienna: Österreichisches Bundesverlag, 1992); Katalin Péter, “The Golden Age of the Principality,” in The History of Transylvania, vol. 2, From 1606 to 1830, ed. László Makkai et al. (Boulder, Colo.: East European Monographs, 2002), 1–228.

4 Dénes Harai, Gabriel Bethlen. Prince de Transylvanie et roi élu de Hongrie (1580–1629) (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2013).

5 Géza Pálffy, The Kingdom of Hungary and the Habsburg Monarchy in the Sixteenth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009).

6 Géza Pálffy, “The Bulwark and Larder of Central Europe (1526–1711),” in On the Stage of Europe: The Millennial Contribution of Hungary to the Idea of European Community, ed. Ernő Marosi (Budapest: Research Institute for Art History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences–Balassi, 2009), 100–24.

7 Kálmán Demkó was the last to write about the question, in the 1880s. Kálmán Demkó, “A magyar–cseh confoederáció és a beszterczebányai országgyűlés 1620-ban,” Századok 20 (1886): 105–21, 209–28, 291–308.

8 This compromise has been almost completely forgotten by the summary works published in Hungary and abroad in recent decades. Clearly indicative of this is that whereas in the history of Hungary published in the late nineteenth century over five pages were written about it, in the new synthesis appearing in the mid-1980s it received only a few lines. Dávid Angyal, Magyarország története II. Mátyástól III. Ferdinánd haláláig (Budapest: Athenaeum Irodalmi és Nyomdai Részvénytársulat, 1898), 340–46; Zsigmond Pál Pach, ed. Magyarország története tíz kötetben, vols. 1–2/3 of Magyarország története 1526–1686, ed. Zsigmond Pál Pach and Ágnes R. Várkonyi, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Budapest: Akadémiai, 1987), 836–37.

9 Kálmán Benda, “Der Haiduckenaufstand in Ungarn und das Erstarken der Stände in der Habsburgermonarchie 1607–1608,” in Nouvelles études historiques publiées à l’occasion du XIIe Congrès International des Sciences Historiques par la Commission Nationale des Historiens Hongrois, ed. D. Csatári et al., vol. 1 (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1965), 299–313; David P. Daniel, “The Fifteen Years War and the Protestant Response to Habsburg Absolutism in Hungary,” East Central Europe, no. 1–2 (1981): 38–51; Pálffy, The Kingdom of Hungary, 208–33.

10 Kálmán Benda, “Absolutismus und ständischer Widerstand in Ungarn am Anfang des 17. Jahrhunderts,” Südost-Forschungen 33 (1974): 85–124; Idem, “Hungary in Turmoil. 1580–1620,” European Studies Review 8 (1978): 281–304; Joachim Bahlcke, “Calvinism and Estate Liberation Movements in Bohemia and Hungary (1570–1620),” in The Reformation in Eastern and Central Europe, ed. Karin Maag (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1997), 72–91.

11 László Szalay, Galantai Gróf Eszterházy Miklós Magyarország nádora, vol. 1 (Pest: Lauffer és Stolp, 1863), 66–69; cf. Béla Pettkó, “Kik tették le a hűségesküt Bethlen Gábornak,” Történelmi Tár 10 (1887): 243–52.

12 The materials were collected primarily in the following archives: 1) Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Országos Levéltára, Budapest [Hungarian National Archives, hereinafter MNL OL]; 2) Österreichisches Staatsarchiv, Vienna [ÖStA], Finanz- und Hofkammerarchiv, Hofkammerarchiv [FHKA HKA]; 3) ÖStA Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv [HHStA]; 4) ÖStA Kriegsarchiv [KA]; 5) Slovenský národný archív, Bratislava [Slovak National Archives, hereinafter SNA].

13 Cf. Joachim Bahlcke, ed. Glaubensflüchtlinge. Ursachen, Formen und Auswirkungen frühneuzeitlicher Konfessionsmigration in Europa (Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2008).

14 Ferenc Hanuy, ed. Pázmány Péter összegyűjtött levelei, vol. 1 (Budapest: M. Kir. Tud.-Egyetemi Nyomda, 1910), 208–90, and ÖStA KA Protokolle des Wiener Hofkriegsrates [hereinafter HKR Prot.] Bd. 248, Reg. fol. 170r, fol. 175v (Pázmány); ÖStA FHKA HKA Hoffinanz Ungarn rote Nr. 123, Konv. 1622 Juli fols. 430–33 and Konv. 1622 Aug. fols. 98–102 (Jászó), fols. 291–92 and fols. 514–23 (Drugeth of Homonna) etc.

15 Pálffy, The Kingdom of Hungary, 82–83.

16 “in fidelitate sua laudabiliter constantes permanserunt.” ÖStA HHStA Staatenabteilungen, Ungarische Akten (Hungarica), Allgemeine Akten Fasc. 170, Konv. B, fol. 20.

17 Karl Kaser, Freier Bauer und Soldat: Die Militarisierung der agrarischen Gesellschaft an der kroatisch–slawonischen Militärgrenze (1535–1881) (Vienna–Cologne–Weimar: Böhlau, 1997), 102–18; Sergij Vilfan, “Crown, Estates and the Financing of Defence in Inner Austria, 1500–1630,” in Crown, Church and Estates: Central European Politics in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, ed. R. J. W. Evans et al. (London: Macmillan, 1991), 70–79.

18 Cf. Pálffy, The Kingdom of Hungary, 56–57, Table 6.

19 Imre Mikó, ed., Erdélyi Történelmi Adatok, vol. 1 (Kolozsvár: Ev. Ref. Főtanoda, 1855), 347.

20 Géza Pálffy, “Bündnispartner und Konkurrenten der Krone: die ungarischen Stände, Stefan Bocskai und Erzherzog Matthias 1604–1608,” in Ein Bruderzwist im Hause Habsburg (1608–1611), ed. Václav Bůžek (České Budějovice: Jihočeská univerzita v Českých Budějovicích, Historický ústav, 2010), 379–82.

21 Kálmán Benda and Erik Fügedi, Tausend Jahre Stephanskrone (Budapest: Corvina Kiadó, 1988), 149–52.

22 Pálffy, The Kingdom of Hungary, 37–48.

23 László Nagy, Bethlen Gábor a független Magyarországért (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1969); Katalin Péter, “Bethlen Gábor magyar királysága, az országegyesítés és a Porta,” Századok 117 (1983): 1028–60; Zsigmond Pál Pach, ed. Magyarország története tíz kötetben, vol. 1/3, Magyarország története 1526–1686, 812–36; Béla Köpeczi, “The Hungarian Wars of Independence of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries in Their European Context,” in From Hunyadi to Rákóczi: War and Society in Late Medieval and Early Modern Hungary, ed. János M. Bak et al. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 445–55.

24 Sándor Papp, “Bethlen Gábor, a Magyar Királyság és a Porta (1619–1621),” Századok 145 (2011): 915–73.

25 Roderich Gooss, ed., Österreichische Staatsverträge. Fürstentum Siebenbürgen (1526–1690) (Vienna: Adolf Holzhausan–Wilhelm Engelman, 1911), 515–62, no. 61/A–F.

26 Szilágyi Sándor, ed., Erdélyi Országgyűlési Emlékek, vol. 8/21 (Budapest: Magyar Tudományos Akadémia, 1875–1898), 6–7.

27 Cf. Brockmann, Dynastie, Kaiseramt und Konfession, 138–44.

28 CJH 1608–1657, 174–83.

29 Pálffy, The Kingdom of Hungary, 172–77.

30 Antal Gindely and Ignácz Acsády, Bethlen Gábor és udvara 1580–1629 (Budapest: Magyar Történelmi Társulat, 1890), 55.

31 “auß erheblichen ursachen der Stanüßlaus Turzo zum obristen alda [i.e. in Érsekújvár/Neuhäusel], Koharij Peter alda zum obristen leuttenandt bestelt.” ÖStA KA HKR Prot. Bd. 247, Exp. fol. 283v.

32 Series candidatorum pro officio palatini regni Hungariae.” Országos Széchényi Könyvtár, Budapest [Hungarian National Széchényi Library]; Kézirattár [Manuscripts] Fol. Lat. 3809/II, fol. 233r; Štátny archív v Levoči, pobočka Levoča [State Archives Levoča, Filiale Levoča, Slovakia; hereinafter ŠA Levoča], Magistrát mesta Levoča [Magistrate of the Town of Levoča, hereinafter MML] III/46/5 (June 4, 1622).

33 ÖStA FHKA HKA Protokolle der Hofkammer (Hoffinanzprotokolle) [hereinafter Hoffinanz Protokoll] Bd. 701, Reg. fol. 144r (August 8, 1622).

34 CJH 1608–1657, 194–97.

35 Rüdiger Wurth, “Die Pressburger Postmeisteramt und die Familie Paar im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert,” in Forscher – Gestalter – Vermittler: Festschrift Gerald Schlag, ed. Wolfgang Gürtler et al. (Eisenstadt: Amt der Burgenländischen Landesregierung, 2001), 473–99; István Kenyeres, “A magyar királyi posta a XVI. században Paar Péter pozsonyi postamester számadáskönyvei alapján,” in Információáramlás a magyar és török végvári rendszerben, ed. Tivadar Petercsák et al. (Eger: Dobó István Vármúzeum, 1999), 107–15.

36 ÖStA FHKA HKA Hoffinanz Protokoll Bd. 701, Reg. fol. 209v (July 9, 1622); Vilmos Hennyey, A magyar posta története (Budapest: Wodianer és Fiai, 1926), 89–90.

37 CJH 1608–1657, 16–7.

38 Géza Pálffy, “Die Türkenabwehr in Ungarn im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert – ein Forschungsdesiderat,” Anzeiger der philosophisch-historischen Klasse der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 137, no. 1 (2002): 125.

39 CJH 1608–1657, 196–97, 192–95.

40 The data concerning the country’s high dignitaries and captains general below are derived from the following works: Zoltán Fallenbüchl, ed., Magyarország főméltóságai 1526–1848 (Budapest: Maecenas Kiadó, 1988), and Pálffy, “Die Türkenabwehr,” 118–31.

41 On Esterházy’s career more recently, see Géza Pálffy, “Der Aufstieg der Familie Esterházy in die ungarische Aristokratie,” in Die Familie Esterházy im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert. Tagungsband der 28. Schlaininger Gespräche 29. September – 2. Oktober 2008, ed. Wolfgang Gürtler et al. (Eisenstadt: Amt der Burgenländischen Landesregierung, Abteilung 7–Landesmuseum, 2009), 38–45.

42 György Kerekes, Bethlen Gábor fejedelem Kassán 1619–1629 (Kassa: “Wiko” Kő- és Könyvnyomdai Műintézet, 1943).

43 MNL OL, E 200, Magyar Kamara Archívuma [Archives of Hungarian Chamber], Archivum diversarum familiarum, 59. tétel, fols. 35–36, fols. 43–44 (June 23 and 25, 1623), cf. ÖStA KA HKR Prot. Bd. 247, Exp. fols. 518v–519r, and ibid. Bd. 248, Reg. fol. 20v, fol. 342r.

44 For the financial administration of the seven counties Bethlen also retained the Szepes Chamber, thus at this time two institutions of financial administration were operating in partitioned Upper Hungary. Jenő Szűcs, A Szepesi Kamarai Levéltár 1567–1813 (Budapest: Magyar Országos Levéltár, 1990), 61–63.

45 ÖStA HHStA Hofarchive, Oberstkämmereramt Reihe F, C 1, fols. 11–12.

46 One telling example: “Paul Esterhazy bitt ime seinen außstandt zubeczallen. B[escheid:] Ad Cameram Aulicam: diser supplicant ist umb seiner erwisenen treu willen alles des seinigen in der Hungarischen rebellion privirt worden. Destwegen dann Ire Kayserliche Majestät gnädigst resolvirt, ine albeg seines invermelten ausstandts zu die herrn mittel verschaffen und ime supplicanten verholffen sein woltten.” ÖStA KA HKR Prot. Bd. 247, Exp. fol. 477r (September 23, 1622).

47 Cf. “Stephanus Ostrozyth petit, ut in recompensam damnorum perceptorum et fidelitatis sibi conferatur arx LiptoVyvar cum pertinentiis.” ÖStA FHKA HKA Hoffinanz Protokoll Bd. 699, Exp. fol. 6r (January 7, 1622), fol. 204v, fol. 471v, fol. 536r.

48 Bánffy, June 22: MNL OL, A 57, Magyar kancelláriai levéltár [Archives of Hungarian Chancellery], Libri regii, vol. 7, 268–70; Drugeth of Homonna, 1622: ibid., A 35, Conceptus expeditionum 1622, No. 292.

49 Pálffy, “Der Aufstieg,” 41.

50 István and János Orlé, June 3, 1622: SNA Archív rodiny Serényi-Záblatie [Family Archives Serényi de Záblát], Krab. 3, No. 56; Márton Móricz, April 29, 1622: MNL OL, A 57, vol. 7, 144–46 and A 35, Conceptus expeditionum 1622, No. 86.

51 ÖStA FHKA HKA Hoffinanz Protokoll Bd. 701, Reg. fol. 203r, fol. 220v.

52 Numerous examples: ÖStA KA HKR Prot. Bd. 247, Exp. and Bd. 248, Reg.; ÖStA FHKA HKA Hoffinanz Protokoll Bd. 699, Exp. and Bd. 701, Reg. fol. passim. The example of Pál Sibrik may be highlighted as a model: “diser albeg woll und treu verhaltten, darunder in grossen schaden gerathen, vonn Graven vonn Collälto [i.e., Rambald von Collalto], Esterhazy und andern hoch commendirt, ungelobt, bey dem kayserlichen exercitu vil gethan zuhaben…” ÖStA KA HKR Prot. Bd. 247, Exp. fol. 21r.

53 “Johannes Orle de Karua bitt umb mehrere recommendation. B[escheid:] Ubi occasio aliqua promotionis fuerit, Sua Maiestas habitura considerationem meritorum supplicantis. ÖStA KA HKR Prot. Bd. 247, Exp. fol. 460v (February 1, 1622); cf. “An die Hungarische Camer umb bericht über Mathia Somogi gebettenen järlichen 500 f. pension von dem dreissigist Hungarisch Alttenburg oder wie ime sonsten mit güettern oder promovierung eines ambts zuhelffen.” ÖStA FHKA HKA Hoffinanz Protokoll Bd. 701, Reg. fol. 138v (May 17, 1622).

54 ÖStA FHKA HKA Hoffinanz Protokoll Bd. 701, Reg. fol. 252r (August 4, 1622).

55 Ibid., fol. 271v (August 30, 1622).

56 Zoltán Horváth, Sopron város címerei a történelmi események hátterében (Budapest: Ikva, 1991), 44–46.

57 For the example of a border fortress captain from Transdanubia more recently, see Géza Pálffy, Egy különleges nemesi karrier a 16–17. században. Hatos Bálint pápai vicekapitány és családja története (Pápa: Jókai Mór Városi Könyvtár, 2005), 71–76.

58 Broucek, Kampf um Landeshoheit.

59 Imre Lukinich, “Bethlen Gábor és Pozsony városa. 1619–1621,” Századok 55–56 (1921–1922): 1–31, 172–211.

60 Ferenc Szakály, “Die Bilanz der Türkenherrschaft in Ungarn,” Acta Historica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 34, no. 1 (1988): 63–77; Géza Pálffy, “The Impact of the Ottoman Rule on Hungary,” Hungarian Studies Review [Toronto] 28, no. 1–2 (2001): 109–32; Géza Pálffy, “Türkenabwehr, Grenzsoldatentum und die Militarisierung der Gesellschaft in Ungarn in der Frühen Neuzeit,” Historisches Jahrbuch 123 (2003): 111–48.

61 For the coronation ordinance, recently come to light: ÖStA HHStA Familienarchiv Auersperg (Depositum), Zimmer A, Kasten 2, Faszikul 32, Konv. 3: Krönung der Kaiserin Eleonore zur Königin von Ungarn 1622; cf. ÖStA HHStA Obersthofmeisteramt, Ältere Zeremonialakten Kart. 2, Nr. 3; Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna *28.Q.134 and 44.290.B. Alt. Mag.; Nóra G. Etényi, “A 17. századi soproni országgyűlések a korabeli német sajtóban,” Soproni Szemle 54, no. 1 (2000): 36–37.

62 Otto G. Schindler, “Von Mantua nach Ödenburg. Die ungarische Krönung Eleonoras I. Gonzaga (1622) und die erste Oper am Kaiserhof. Ein unbekannter Bericht aus der Széchényi Nationalbibliothek,” Biblos 46, no. 2 (1997): 259–93.

63 Ferencz Kollányi, A veszprémi püspök királyné-koronázási jogának törénete (Veszprém: Egyházmegyei könyvnyomda, 1901), 107.

64 Géza Pálffy, “Krönungsmähler in Ungarn im Spätmittelalter und in der Frühen Neuzeit. Weiterleben des Tafelzeremoniells des selbständigen ungarischen Königshofes und Machtrepräsentation der ungarischen politischen Elite. Teil 2,” Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung 116, no. 1. (2008): 65–66, 88.

65 SNA Spoločný archív rodu Révay [Family Archives Révay], Korešpondencia [Correspondence], Krab. 92, fol. 287–88, (August 7, 1622, Pál Nádasdy to Mária Forgách, widow of Péter Révay).

66 “Leczlichen hatt doch Gott, der Allmechtige, des kaysers hercz regiert, ihme seine augen und ohren geöffnet, einen ansehenlichen außschuß von den landtsendten zum sich begehrt, haben sich also ihr Konigliche Majestät gegen dem landt allergenedigist resolviert, ehr selbst woll sicht, das jczo nicht nottwendig, das man Teutsche ins landt einnehmen soll, will sie auch nit beschweren, vill mehr das landt bey seinen schönen freyheitten und privilegium helffen, schüczen und erhaltten.” ŠA Levoča, MML III/46/16 (August 10, 1622).

pdfVolume 2 Issue 4 CONTENTS

Teréz Oborni

Gábor Bethlen and the Treaty of Nagyszombat (1615)

 

Gábor Bethlen made efforts at establishing a diplomatic relationship with the king of Hungary immediately after his accession, for he was as aware as his predecessors that, alongside the support of the Sultan, he should also gain recognition from the ruler of the other empire, the head of the Habsburg Monarchy. It was at the end of a difficult and conflict-ridden series of negotiations that the treaty of Nagyszombat was signed on May 6, 1615. This put an end to the military and political hostilities which had thus far torn the regions along the frontier and thereby averted the outbreak of a major armed conflict. On the other hand, it determined the legal relationship between Transylvania and the Kingdom of Hungary until the anti-Habsburg campaign of Bethlen in 1619. In the secret agreement attached to the treaty Bethlen accepted the legal arrangement, first set out in the Treaty of Speyer in 1570 and subsequently confirmed several times by Bethlen’s princely predecessors, according to which Transylvania was a member (membrum) of the Hungarian Crown, and her prince exerted his authority there with the approval of the Hungarian king.

 

Keywords: Principality of Transylvania, legal status, Treaty of Nagyszombat, Gábor Bethlen

 

The Principality of Transylvania started along the path towards becoming a separate state in 1542, following the breakup of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary and the fall of Buda. This evolutionary process took approximately three decades, until the Treaty of Speyer (1570/71) proclaimed the existence of a distinct state formation, albeit one still linked with the Hungarian kingdom and the Hungarian Holy Crown.1 While the Transylvanian state existed in a state of dependency as a vassal of the Ottoman Empire, it was bound by close ties to the Kingdom of Hungary.

The Treaty of Nagyszombat was one of a series of treaties that beginning in 1570 the Habsburg kings of Hungary and the princes of Transylvania concluded for the purpose of defining the constitutional relationship between the two parts of the country and the two rulers.2 Although these treaties are known, and historical summaries list them one by one, their contents have yet to be analyzed in detail. Yet the treaties not only resolved a given political or military conflict between the two parts of the country but also bore an even greater constitutional significance.

A consensus prevails in both the Hungarian and international special literature that the Principality of Transylvania existed in a state of dependency and was a tribute-paying vassal state of the Ottoman Empire. Yet at the same time, the principality’s connection with the Kingdom of Hungary, from the eastern half of which the new state itself came into existence, never ceased to exist. While Bethlen’s Transylvania was also indisputably a country subject to the Ottoman sultan, in the Treaty of Nagyszombat in 1615 the prince acknowledged the king of Hungary as standing above him and Transylvania as a member of the Hungarian Holy Crown. It is my contention that the Principality of Transylvania existed in a dual dependency, and the sovereignty of the principality was restricted not only by the sultans but also (to varying degrees, depending on the era) the Hungarian monarchs. My aim, therefore, is twofold: first I will present, through an analysis of the Treaty of Nagyszombat and the negotiations leading up to it, the political and diplomatic maneuvers implemented by the king of Hungary to remove Bethlen, and those implemented by the prince in the interests of maintaining his own position; secondly, I will describe one side of that dual dependency, the constitutional relationship between the Transylvanian state and the kingdom during the initial phase of the prince’s reign.

Bethlen’s accession to the throne (1613), achieved with strong military and political backing of the Ottomans, provoked enormous resistance in the Habsburg court. A series of laborious negotiations lasting nearly two years was needed to bring about the Treaty of Nagyszombat in 1615, which settled the constitutional relationship between Transylvania and the Kingdom of Hungary and created a transitional modus vivendi of sorts between Bethlen and the Habsburg sovereign of Hungary, Matthias II, which, however, lasted only until 1619, when Bethlen launched an attack against the Hungarian king, overturning the earlier agreement.

Clashes on the Border between the Principality and the Kingdom

Bethlen’s coming to power resulted in serious troubles in the relationship between the Principality of Transylvania and the Kingdom of Hungary. The Hungarian king, Matthias II, declared the agreement reached in Pozsony in the spring of 1613,3 essentially a treaty of mutual assistance and cooperation against the Turks, null and void, and he saw the time was right to reoccupy the Partes adnexae or Partium, which were under the control of the Transylvanian state. In fact he was weaving even bolder plans: he believed that Transylvania itself could be reunited with the kingdom. Because the Porte had put Bethlen in his office, he was considered the Ottoman regime’s man and, even worse, a governor designated by them; thus it was unsurprising that he was received with hostility in the Hofburg.4

Following Bethlen’s election, on orders from above the military forces of the royal castles along the border immediately commenced operations against the principality’s borderlands, the territories of the Partium.5 By a decree of Archduke Ferdinand issued in November 1613, the royal officials attempted to separate first of all the Báthory castles (Ecsed, Huszt, Kővár, Nagybánya, Tasnád).6 In yet another letter Ferdinand instructed András Dóczy, captain general of Szatmár (1609–1618), to retake Várad and the counties lying outside of Transylvania proper.7 In the initial period Palatine György Thurzó (1609–1616) also displayed considerable suspicion towards the prince, who was committed to the Ottomans.8 Thurzó himself professed that he would be glad to see the four counties, previously belonging to the kingdom but now under Transylvania’s control, reattached to the kingdom.9 Bethlen immediately recognized that the Habsburg military leadership would try to reoccupy the counties of the Partium for Hungary, but he also saw clearly that if they were not careful, a war with the Turks could easily ensue from this. For his part, he declared that he would cede nothing to the kingdom, would defend Transylvania’s borders, and as for Várad, which his opponents tried by all means possible to deliver into royal hands, he would retain it. 10 Despite this, by the end of 1613 the castles along the border had for the most part been detached from Transylvania.11 However, the crucially important stronghold of Várad was firmly held by Bethlen’s kinsman and adherent, Captain Ferenc Rhédey. 12

Bethlen was aware that in addition to the sultan he must also have his rule recognized by the “other power” as well; in other words, he needed to obtain the consent of the Hungarian king and Holy Roman emperor. In the difficult domestic and international situation of the first years following his accession to the throne a military clash with the Kingdom of Hungary would not have been beneficial to the prince in any way.

News of the military conflict with the kingdom and the occupied castles naturally reached the Porte as well, from where they soon called on Matthias II to return the castles, while the Turkish officials in the area received orders to provide armed support to Bethlen should the need arise.13 For his part, the prince showed a willingness to resolve the situation peacefully, and to this end he commenced a vigorous diplomatic campaign. While the negotiations with the Hungarian king were conducted through his envoys over the course of the year 1614, he established contact with the palatine as well, in the hope that Thurzó could act to end the skirmishes along the border. He therefore sent Zsigmond Sarmasághy, András Kapy and the scribe Dávid Weihrauch, the second judge of Kőhalomszék, on a diplomatic mission to the palatine.14 In a letter to Johann (Anton) Barvitius, a councilor at the imperial court (Reichshofrat), in May 1614, he asked the latter also to intercede with the Habsburg ruler in the interest of returning the occupied border castles.15 In November 1614 Bethlen and the Transylvanian estates in a joint diploma promised that while the negotiations took place they would not attack the castles along the border, take any hostile measures against the Hungarian king and his lands, nor would they encourage the Turks, Tatars and Vlachs to do so either.16

In the meantime, an internal opposition to the new prince also began to organize itself, the prime movers of which were the pro-Habsburg leaders of the Saxon towns.17 A letter written by Johannes Benkner,18 the second judge of Brassó, to Zsigmond Kornis19 in 1614 sheds some light on the political background. Benkner believed that the Hungarian ruler was sending envoys to Bethlen only to gain time, the aim of which was to allow the king to reannex Transylvania to the kingdom, as had been the case in former times. He added that if necessary he could line up all the Saxons, and they could immediately rise up in Transylvania against the prince in support of the Holy Roman emperor.20

Johannes Benkner was a member of several Transylvanian deputations sent to the Hungarian king, and initially Melchior Khlesl (1550–1630; bishop of Vienna, 1598; cardinal, 1615), the most influential figure in Vienna’s governmental policy, also had plans for him.21 One of the imperial envoys, Erich Lassota (to be mentioned below), secretly made contact with the Saxons during his stay in Transylvania in the spring of 1614, even entering into a conspiracy with them to topple Bethlen. However, when the Porte unequivocally backed Bethlen, and the sultan’s ahdname confirming him arrived in the summer of the following year, the prince’s position within Transylvania stabilized. He also succeeded in mitigating the Saxons’ resistance by adopting an explicitly generous attitude to the Saxon community and confirming them in their ancient privileges.22

Transylvanian Envoys at the Court in Vienna

Excerpts from the correspondence between Melchior Khlesl and Palatine Thurzó provide a clear picture of the opinions about the new prince at the Viennese court. In December 1613 Khlesl wrote the palatine that the ruler and his advisors believed the Turks through Bethlen were in fact seeking to acquire Transylvania.23 They feared that in the event of a new war the Ottomans might acquire Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania and then from there lay claim to Upper Hungary as well; in just a few years the Kingdom of Hungary could lose as much as it had in total during the past century. To this Palatine Thurzó replied that in his opinion it was not as much the Turks as rather Matthias II who, following in his predecessors’ footsteps, was striving to reacquire Transylvania, which the palatine for his part considered proper.24

Bethlen’s first envoys after his election reached King Matthias II and Bishop Melchior Khlesl25 in November 1613. The envoys were Councilor Zsigmond Sarmasághy, the fiscalis director (director of legal affairs) István Kassai and the aforementioned first senator of Brassó, Johannes Benkner.26 The Transylvanian estates themselves informed Matthias II of the changes in Transylvania in a separate letter.27 The embassy’s primary purpose was to have the Hungarian king accept Gábor Bethlen as prince. When the envoys did not find the Habsburg ruler in Vienna, they traveled on to Linz but were unable to gain access to the king.

From a letter Matthias II wrote to Archduke Albert we learn the stance taken by the king concerning Bethlen and the question of Transylvania.28 In the letter the king called Bethlen only voivode, thereby signaling his attitude from the very start. He knew that the Transylvanian envoys had come to ask his consent to the election of the new prince and secure his goodwill for themselves.29 That he could not grant the envoys an audience, he justified by Bethlen’s conduct: neither the previous prince [Gábor Báthory, 1608–1613] nor the province (provincia) of Transylvania had adhered to the Pozsony agreement of early 1613. Moreover, by having called in the Ottoman troops, Gábor Bethlen had caused damage to the homeland (Patriae) and the whole of Christendom (reipublicae Christianae). He had also placed him [the emperor] in an emergency situation, thus forcing him to take up arms. According to Matthias, the Pozsony agreement clearly stated that Transylvania, as a defensive bulwark, must be kept with the Kingdom of Hungary (to which it belonged) and, as a consequence, with Christendom; however, the opposite had happened: it had been placed under the rule of the Ottomans.30 The Transylvanians had not informed him of the Ottomans’ incursions and attacks and had thereby also turned the estates of the imperial provinces against granting military assistance. They had invited the Turks into Transylvania, assembled a diet on Iskender Pasha’s orders and held a princely election, while also swearing an oath of loyalty to the Turks.31

As far as Bethlen himself was concerned, the king argued further, it was commonly known that, having repudiated his faith, he had lived for a long time among the Turks, and had devoted himself to perpetual service and allegiance to them. Concerning the circumstances of Bethlen’s accession to the throne, it was his opinion that the Ottomans had extorted his election, and therefore he could no longer believe the Transylvanians unless they gave him and all of Christendom a guarantee of their loyalty in some fashion. Despite this, henceforth he would be willing to devote attention to the Transylvanian envoys.32

Thus, having moved from Vienna to Linz, the Transylvanian embassy did not succeed in its aims. The journey ended with Sarmasághy kept behind at the court, while the others were sent home to Transylvania. Word was sent with them that the king himself would dispatch envoys to discuss the terms under which he was willing to accept Gábor Bethlen as prince and the entire new situation in Transylvania.33

Negotiations in Transylvania

King Matthias II soon sent Ferenc Daróczy of Deregnyő, prefect of the Szepes Chamber (1613–1620),34 and his Silesian-born councilor and diplomat Erich Lassota von Steblau, once the acting captain general of Upper Hungary (1603),35 to Gábor Bethlen and the estates of the Province of Transylvania. Both men had traveled to Transylvania on various assignments at the time of the Fifteen Years’ War (the “Long Turkish War”); in addition, Daróczy was the brother-in-law of the previously mentioned Zsigmond Kornis. Thus, both men were somewhat familiar with local conditions. For their journey they received one general and one secret instruction from Matthias.36

The general instruction in essence contained Matthias’s personal position on Transylvania and his objections to its new prince, as outlined above.37 At the same time, the secret instruction declared that the prince could give proof of his goodwill by placing the castle of Várad under the king’s control, and furthermore by promising to aid the Hungarian ruler in the fight against the Ottomans if necessary.38 Matthias sent a separate letter to the Transylvanian estates in which he pledged his paternal support and expressed his hope that the bond linking them to the country’s Holy Crown would be made whole in all respects, with the sundered ties between Transylvania and the kingdom restored and strengthened.39

After the envoys had spent a few days in Kolozsvár, the negotiations in Transylvania commenced on April 26, 1614, at the partial diet of the Transylvanian estates in Marosvásárhely. In his remarks Daróczy enumerated before Bethlen and the estates the grievances suffered by the kingdom and called on the Transylvanians to place themselves under the rule of the Christian monarch rather than into the hands of the enemy.40 Displaying the utmost formality and reserve, Bethlen thanked the king for his generous solicitude and willingness to continue the negotiations.41

The documents submitted by the envoys to the prince and the estates in writing enumerated in even more detail the grievances that the Habsburg court laid at the feet of the Transylvanians.42 Among these, the most serious charge was that at the diet summoned by Iskender Pasha they had elected a prince on orders of the Turks and together with the new prince had taken (it was rumored) an oath of loyalty to the Turks. Abandoning the king of Hungary, not respecting the authority of the country’s Holy Crown, and deviating from the agreements in force, they should not have concluded new alliances and peace treaties and held elections.43

After the first phase of negotiations and the first exchanges of documents, the subsequent talks continued at the diet of Kolozsvár in the first half of May 1614. Daróczy and Lassota handed the prince and the estates new documents articulating further resentments. The envoys had received news from the Hofburg that the prince had informed the sultan that the king was preparing to take up arms against Transylvania and was therefore requesting auxiliary troops. Even worse, Bethlen had written to the Porte that he had occupied Transylvania for the sultan, therefore now a chiaus was asking and urging the emperor to relinquish forever all rights of the Kingdom of Hungary affecting and applying to Transylvania and cede those rights to the sultan.44 The envoys therefore asked the estates to declare whether they wanted to separate themselves from the king of Hungary, the Holy Crown and Christendom and submit themselves to the Turks forever?45

On this same day, May 6, the royal envoys forwarded yet another memorandum to the estates. In it, they promised in the king’s name to protect the province, but for this they asked that Várad, which was the most suitable defensive bulwark for defending both Hungary and Transylvania and the Partium, be immediately handed over to the king, together with the estates and revenues pertaining thereto.46

To the royal envoys’ proposition, submitted in four memoranda altogether, the Transylvanians prepared a lengthy reply memorandum. They did not consider the surrender of Várad to be acceptable in any form.47 According to Daróczy, the negotiations proceeded in a cold atmosphere similar to the previous ones.48 At the close of the negotiations Bethlen explained in a letter to Matthias that this exchange of envoys would have the desired result when the Hungarian king returned the previously occupied castles along the border.49

At the negotiations in Transylvania, at which the two sides’ positions did not draw any nearer for the time being, ultimately a cease-fire agreement was reached as a stop-gap solution, dated May 15 and valid for three months.50 Bethlen refused to promise military action against the Ottomans, citing the fact that his predecessors’ secret accords with Ferdinand I or Maximilian against the Turks had all been revealed at the Porte, because it was impossible to trust the imperial-royal court to keep secrets. However, he did promise to try to provide the Hungarian ruler with his counsel in his campaigns against the Turks. In fact, he declared that if Christendom were to grow stronger and launch a war against them, he too would join in it.51 In the following days the Transylvanian estates also wrote three different proposals to the king, asking in each that he return the occupied castles along the border to Transylvania for the sake of preserving the peace.52

In early 1614 letters from the Ottomans also arrived at the imperial court, calling on Matthias to give back the occupied castles and territories as soon as possible.53 It was common knowledge that the pashas of Buda, Temesvár and Eger would be ready to come to Bethlen’s aid at any time. Matthias believed that in relinquishing the castles of the Partium all of Transylvania would also have to be relinquished once and for all, and the country might become a Turkish vilayet. The danger threatened that the Ottomans would seek to launch attacks from there against the rest of Hungary. According to the Hungarian councilors, the Transylvanians ought to be asked whether or not they had permanently broken with the Kingdom of Hungary and placed themselves under Ottoman authority. If they nevertheless decided in favor of the Christian king, they should hand over Várad as a token of their loyalty.54

The General Assembly of the Estates at Linz in the Summer of 1614

Meanwhile, Emperor and King Matthias of Habsburg attempted to take the conflict over the question of Transylvania, which had arisen following Bethlen’s succession to the throne and was continuing to expand, to a higher forum. This was the general assembly of the estates of the lands and provinces under the Habsburgs’ rule, which was held between August 11 and 25, 1614.55 Prior to this the Austrian estates had assembled in January in Linz, but their leader, Georg Erasmus Freiherr von Tschernembl,56 had proposed convoking a general assembly to discuss the matters raised there. The same thing happened at the February gathering of the Bohemian estates held at Budweis (České Budějovice in Czech), which adjourned with their leading politician, Karl von Zierotin (Žerotin in Czech),57 likewise pressing for the general assembly.

In the end the Bohemian and Moravian estates sent only observers to the general assembly in Linz, while the representatives of the Austrian hereditary lands, Silesia and Lusatia, as well as the Hungarian estates, the most affected by the issue, attended. Based on the questions raised there, the emerging differences of opinion between the estates and the Habsburg ruler were grouped around two main subjects: first, defense against the Turks, or more precisely, weighing the possibilities of launching a war against them; second, what action to take against Bethlen’s assumption of the princely title, as well as how to reincorporate Transylvania into the Kingdom of Hungary. The most vehement representative of the interests of the court and the emperor, and most vigorous supporter of action against the estates, was Melchior Khlesl. He requested money and military support from the assembled estates for an attack against the Turks and to occupy Transylvania, since (as he claimed) Bethlen unlawfully called himself prince because he had removed from the princely throne by force the same Gábor Báthory who earlier had concluded a favorable agreement with the Hungarian king.

Matthias II, understandably from his own point of view, was unwilling to accept the fact that the “Province” of Transylvania was a territory under Ottoman suzerainty, and because of this the Transylvanians were negotiating on their choice of prince with the Porte and not with him. In a memorandum from the fall of 1613, the president of the Court Chamber, Seifried Christoph Breuner, and his councilor, Karl Freiherr von Harrach, expressed a less hostile opinion on the situation of Transylvania and its prince. In their opinion, negotiations should be conducted with Bethlen, and he should be granted the title of prince in the territory guaranteed by the Peace of Vienna in 1606, while vis-à-vis the Ottomans only neutrality could be expected of them.58

At the same time, Khlesl was a proponent of attacking Transylvania and tried to exert serious pressure on the assembled estates. The correspondence between the bishop and Palatine Thurzó throughout the duration of the assembly in Linz in August 1614 permits a more detailed insight into the prelate-politician’s ideas about Transylvania and Bethlen. Khlesl judged that in the time of the earlier princes never had such great Ottoman pressure descended upon Transylvania. The earlier princes, either secretly or openly, had all proclaimed their loyalty to the Hungarian king and had recognized their subjugation to him; now, however, the Turks were interfering extremely intensively in the principality’s affairs and sought to acquire Transylvania itself.59 Khlesl believed that if they returned the Partes adnexae of Hungary (the Partium) to the Turks’ governor (i.e., Bethlen) at the Ottomans’ request, they would achieve their aim, which was for Transylvania to belong to them in fact as well. He further recommended compromising with the Transylvanians in such a way that they would receive from the emperor what they sought from the Ottomans, and thus accept the emperor’s supremacy over them. If therefore, he continued in his letter to the palatine, both he and Thurzó could agree on this, undoubtedly they would be able to convince Matthias also, and then they could remove Bethlen from the princely throne, reoccupy Transylvania and deftly postpone the war as well.60

At the Assembly of Linz the official imperial and royal proposition, drafted and presented mainly on the basis of Khlesl’s conceptions, proposed taking military action against the Ottomans and “rescuing” Transylvania from the clutches of the Turks, but without negotiating with Bethlen, since his intentions could not be taken for certain.61 The delegation of the Hungarian estates at the assembly was led by Demeter Napragi,62 archbishop of Kalocsa (1608–1619) and former bishop of Transylvania (1594–1601), whom the king did not allow to deliver his address, obviously knowing in advance that the prelate would list arguments counter to the ruler’s propositions in all respects. In their opinion, formulated under Thurzó’s guidance, the Hungarian estates declared that Bethlen must be left alone, and what was mainly needed in fact was the reinforcement of the anti-Turkish line of border defenses. Khlesl thereupon accused Thurzó of opposing the reoccupation of Transylvania, claiming the latter wanted to use the separate status of the principality and the prince against the court.63

The Austrian, Silesian and Lusatian estates attending the assembly forwarded a joint opinion to György Thurzó. The estates asserted that the Hungarians should have the biggest say in deciding the issues that had been raised there, since it was in their country’s territory that the war was raging, and their opinion must be heeded in the matter of Transylvania, too.64 The estates made it clear that they should negotiate with the Transylvanians in any case, and seeing that Transylvania was located on the frontier of Christendom, they considered the Transylvanians as friends rather than enemies or opponents. As a consequence, it was unnecessary to expect them to state categorically that they stood united on the side of His Majesty while publicly declaring the Turks their enemies. Nor did they doubt, moreover, that the Transylvanians were loyal to Christendom and that they were more inclined towards the Christian world than towards heathendom, particularly those who were adherents of the Habsburg ruler. In sum, they suggested that it would be much more acceptable, praiseworthy and useful for the emperor and his lands to leave the Transylvanians in a kind of neutrality rather than completely alienate them.65

The leading figure of the Austrian estates, Georg Erasmus Tschernembl, himself drafted a short written summary of Transylvania’s history since Mohács.66 With this he sought to buttress the argument that Transylvania’s autonomy in fact was not to the detriment of Christendom. In his work he explained that Transylvania was fulfilling a historically necessary mission, and the treaties concluded with the Porte represented no obstacle whatsoever to internal development.

Thus, the estates attending the general assembly of Linz in the summer of 1614 in no way wished to undertake and provoke a war with Transylvania and the Ottomans to satisfy the wishes of the emperor and Melchior Khlesl. The estates of Styria, Carniola and Carinthia offered military aid, but only if the others also voted for this.67 Because the archdukes of the ruling dynasty also agreed with the estates, in the end the emperor had no choice but to bow to the opinion of the estates, dissolving the assembly without passing a resolution and declaring that he would take the advice offered into consideration.68

On August 23, 1614 Matthias received the Transylvanian envoys at a final audience, where he declared that it was his main wish to restore Transylvania and the neighboring provinces to their peaceful state.69 He asked the Transylvanians not to involve the Turks in the negotiations with him in any way. For Emperor Matthias, the main problem was that the Turks regarded Transylvania as their own possession and Bethlen as if he were their governor; indeed, the Ottomans had asked him to relinquish Transylvania and allow them to freely install a pasha there.70

In the end the Habsburg ruler granted an additional three months to continue the negotiations. During this interval he saw to it that Zsigmond Forgách, captain general of Upper Hungary (1609–1618) and András Dóczy, captain of Szatmár, refrained from attacking Transylvania’s borders. He asked Bethlen in turn to ensure that the Turks in Temesvár and Eger did not commit transgressions against the kingdom either.71

Following the conclusion of the Assembly of Linz, the course of the negotiations stalled somewhat. In the fall of 1614 virtually the entire border region was in arms, while Bethlen was gathering his forces at Várad. The negotiations would have continued at the Diet of Gyulafehérvár, opening in September of that year; however, the imperial-royal envoys failed to arrive, even though the Transylvanians had nominated their own delegation.

The Negotiations Continue

In January 1615 the Hungarian councilors of the kingdom urged the ruler to continue negotiations with Bethlen. From their correspondence we are able to learn the details of their discussions.72The proposition written by the ruler to the Hungarian estates on January 15 seethed with anti-Bethlen sentiment.73 According to the king, Bethlen was personally dependent on the Turks and was the “creature” of the latter, and therefore he could not and would not tolerate him in the province or the princely throne.74 He sought the advice of the Hungarian estates regarding Bethlen’s removal and explained that the renewal of the Pozsony agreement also raised difficulties. As far as the princely title was concerned, he believed not even the Turks themselves had named Bethlen prince but rather voivode or governor.75 Matthias II also declared that in the matter of Transylvania and the Partium he would pursue any negotiations with Bethlen and the Transylvanians exclusively, and in no way would he allow the Turks to interject. The Turks had never interfered in the affairs of the Parts of Hungary previously, as the old treaties proved in more detail.76

Because the Turks were treacherously preparing for battle, formally the king had to continue the negotiations; in reality, however, preparations had to be made for armed confrontation. Although it was possible to discuss Transylvania, there was no need to relinquish the occupied castles to Bethlen. In every other way preparations had to be made against Transylvania, by taking up arms and by concluding alliances with István Kendy and György Homonnai Drugeth, both of whom coveted the princely title, as well as with the Moldavian voivode and the Saxons. Finally, he asked the Hungarian councilors whether they should continue the negotiations with Bethlen at all.77

The reply of the Hungarian councilors was also quite exhaustive and thorough. The essence of it was that the negotiations with Bethlen must be continued in any event. They believed, however, that Bethlen had not become prince through free election (libera electio), and therefore the Transylvanian estates should be called on to elect someone else for themselves, in a truly free princely election, and remove Bethlen, who in any event did not call himself prince either but rather voivode or governor.78 They added that Bethlen must be made aware that the Turks must not be allowed into the negotiation process in any way whatsoever, and least of all Iskender Pasha, who insinuated himself into everything through his advice and activity.79 They designated the location for the negotiations and the list of possible envoys.

Bethlen’s political position concerning the entire negotiation process is superbly demonstrated in a letter to Khlesl, written from Fogaras and dated February 1614, in which he wrote about his own situation and that of Transylvania. In the lengthy letter he referred to the former agreements reached with the Ottomans, which had been concluded for the sake of avoiding war, and noted that this was how Transylvania had acted earlier and how other Christian countries had acted, even the Habsburg emperor and king himself in numerous instances. Most recently Emperor Rudolf had gone so far as to adopt the current Turkish sultan as his son. This, Bethlen wrote, had not counted as an act of dishonor on the part of these outstanding kings, emperors and countries, nor had it excluded them from the ranks of Christian countries. Why, therefore, should Transylvania alone be reproached, and scourged and condemned mercilessly for this?80

As for himself, Bethlen acknowledged that he had fled abroad to the territory of the Ottoman Empire when his life in Transylvania had been in jeopardy, but this had still not made him a Turk. He had not denied his Christian conscience, nor was he working to bring about the fall of the Christian countries. He claimed he had become prince through free election, since Transylvania had already obtained the right of free election from both the eastern and the western emperor.81

In mid-March 1615 Bethlen sent his envoys, Chancellor Simon Péchi, Judge Tamás Borsos of the Court of the Prince, Ferenc Balássy, the general of the Szeklers and captain of Udvarhelyszék, and Zsigmond Sarmasághy, all of whom were also members of the princely council, along with János Rehner, mayor of Nagyszeben, and Pál Veres, first senator of Segesvár, to proceed with the negotiations. All of them had participated in the various phases of the bargaining process with Matthias II from the beginning.

At first Galgóc was designated as the new venue for the negotiations, then upon instructions from the king it was transferred to Nagyszombat in April 1615. Negotiating on behalf of Matthias this time were Ferenc Daróczy, Archbishop Ferenc Forgách of Esztergom (1607–1615), and Johann von Mollart. The Habsburg ruler displayed a greater willingness to bargain, since he was compelled to make peace with the Ottomans and knew that to do so he would first have to come to an agreement with Bethlen. On behalf of the prince Chancellor Simon Péchi, the long-time diplomats Ferenc Balássy and Tamás Borsos, and mayors János Régeni and Pál Veres, of Nagyszeben and Segesvár respectively, set out for Nagyszombat, to be joined by Zsigmond Sarmasághy, who until this time had been staying at the court in Vienna.

The Nagyszombat Agreement

The text of the agreement known as the Treaty of Nagyszombat was dated May 6, 1615.82 The major terms of the agreement that were made public declared the following: first of all, that the Transylvanian estates would retain their right to freely elect a prince. The elected prince (electus) and the province were obligated to adhere to the terms of the agreement. Transylvania and the Partium belonging to it, along with the fortifications and border fortresses, could never be alienated from the Hungarian Crown. They could never move against the king of Hungary, Matthias II, and his successors with hostile ambitions, indeed, they could not move against the freedom, peace and tranquility of Hungary, nor could they lay claim to the territories and revenues belonging to it either. Bethlen held the Partes in Hungary as lord (dominus) of those territories, by a right that his predecessors had received from the Hungarian kings. The Habsburg king and his successors committed themselves to aiding the elected prince and Transylvania in the event of an enemy attack and also confirmed the estates of Transylvania in their ancient privileges and rights. Bethlen and his legally elected successors were obligated to lend assistance to the Hungarian king and his successors against all enemies (except the Turks), and allow royal troops into the territory of Transylvania and the Partium if the need arose. It was declared that the terms of the Peace of Vienna must be observed in every respect, and the free practice of religion provided for in this treaty must remain in effect.83

The latter parts of the agreement contained provisions relating to commerce and specific property issues, which, however, were fundamental concerning where the settlements along the border belonged, since these had given rise to numerous differences of opinion in the preceding months. A separate record of these disputed possessory matters was compiled for a later conference to be held in Nagykároly.84

Two phenomena in connection with the wording of the agreement deserve mention: Bethlen was mentioned in the text of the treaty in two ways: as electus and as illustrissimus dominus, who was lord of the Partes adnexae of Hungary belonging to Transylvania. The expression “prince” (princeps) did not appear a single time in the text, and in every instance Transylvania was referred to as a “province” (provincia). In contrast, Bethlen in his diploma ratifying the treaty at the same time called Transylvania his country (Regnum nostrum Transylvaniae) and himself “prince,” and it was in this latter capacity that he committed himself and his successors to abide by the terms of the treaty.85

It was the terms of the secret agreement supplementing the treaty that defined the constitutional position of Transylvania and the Kingdom of Hungary in greater detail. 86 In this document the Habsburg ruler once again confirmed the Transylvanian estates in their right to freely elect the prince until the liberation of Buda and Eger from Ottoman rule, after which the former state of affairs would be restored, i.e., Transylvania would revert to the rule of the king of Hungary. It was further declared that the sides would attempt to adhere to the Peace of Zsitvatorok. In the areas located close to Transylvania Bethlen would be obligated to assist the king against the Ottomans as well, and the king too would reciprocate this, by contrast Transylvania was to give no aid of any kind to the Turks if they marched against the kingdom. If peace were to be concluded between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans, it would happen with the involvement of Transylvania and the Partium. Lastly, the prince recognized the king of Hungary as the head of all Christendom, his principal and superior, and acknowledged Transylvania and the Partes adnexae as subject to him (i.e., the king) and an inseparable member of the Hungarian Crown.87

On May 18, 1615 Bethlen signed the terms of the secret agreement in Gyulafehérvár, and the diploma of the notables of the Transylvanian estates on their adherence to the treaty was drafted at the diet held there on the same day.88

The above two treaties closely complemented one another, since together the two regulated the relationship of Transylvania and its prince to the Kingdom of Hungary and its king. The document intended for the public was designed to resolve the given political and military situation, the main result of which was that it returned the Partium to Transylvania while respecting the principality’s territorial integrity, and the king of Hungary continued to grant the Transylvanian estates the right to freely elect the prince. This point is also noteworthy because, as we know, it was John Sigismund, elected king of Hungary (electus Rex Hungariae 1540–1571, Princeps Transylvaniae 1571), who had first obtained the right to freely elect the prince from the Porte back in 1567. The Transylvanian estates held this right by the authority of the sultan and not the Hungarian king, which at the same time meant also that it was the sultan whom they recognized as having supremacy over Transylvania.89 It was only later on, after the death of John Sigismund and the election of István Báthory (1571), that it also became customary for the Hungarian kings to give their consent to exercise this right.90 In the Treaty of Nagyszombat, therefore, King Matthias II also granted this consent to Transylvania, on the condition, however, that the prince could rule the Partes of Hungary belonging to Transylvania only as dominus. The terms of the treaty intended for the public did not affect Transylvania’s relationship to the Ottoman Porte.

The secret agreement signaled that the position of the court in Vienna was aligned to the centuries-old Hungarian constitutional situation, according to which Transylvania was a member (membrum) of the Hungarian Crown, and consequently the Hungarian king was its lord, and Bethlen held his dominion over the land only with the approval of the king of Hungary. Although the temporary separation of the principality was acknowledged in the Viennese court, it was emphasized that after the retaking of Buda and Eger Transylvania would be reattached to the Crown immediately. The twelfth point of the secret treaty bears pears particular emphasis, since it agrees almost verbatim with the relevant passage in the Treaty of Speyer in 1570. Bethlen, like John Sigismund before him, acknowledged the Hungarian king as an authority above himself, which at the same time meant also that the (other) holder of supremacy over Transylvania was the king of Hungary.

By entering into this treaty under these terms, Bethlen had compromised, but at the given moment, in order to secure his rule both externally and internally, it was in the prince’s own best interest to normalize his relations with the Hungarian king.

The Hungarian king, Matthias II, had also entered into the agreement only under duress. As has already been mentioned, by Bethlen’s time it was an established custom for the new Transylvanian princes to also obtain the approval of the Hungarian kings and attempt, on every such occasion, to settle Transylvania’s constitutional relationship to the kingdom in a new treaty. It must be emphasized, however, that these treaties in some cases and in some of their points did not record the actual state of affairs but rather articulated the legal claims upheld by the Hungarian kings to Transylvania. Also prompting Matthias to conclude the peace was the fact that his anti-Ottoman and anti-Bethlen plans had not gained support at the general assembly of Linz in the summer of 1614. The strong contemporary representation of the estates within the Habsburg Monarchy (and in particular the strikingly powerful position of the estates of the Hungarian kingdom, who were most affected by the Transylvanian question) did not make it possible91 for the ruler to force an armed attack against either Bethlen or the Ottomans. Finally, we must not forget the enormous Ottoman force behind Bethlen, which the Habsburg court likewise had to acknowledge.

At the same time as the series of negotiations leading to the Nagyszombat agreement, parallel negotiations were underway with the Ottomans concerning the renewal of the Peace of Zsitvatorok in 1601. This was justified by the incursions and raids along the borders carried out by both sides, which could be interpreted as a violation of the peace. Following the Treaty of Nagyszombat, the court in Vienna also quickly reached an agreement with the Porte, in May 1615, and on July 15 the document reaffirming the Peace of Zsitvatorok was drafted in Vienna. However, the sixty villages the Ottomans had occupied in the meantime were not restored to the kingdom.92

Consequences: the Renewal of the Treaty in the Spring of 1617

Matthias II ratified the Treaty of Nagyszombat on May 15, 1615 in Vienna, following which the Transylvanian envoys departed for home. Bethlen in the meantime convoked a diet to await the arrival of the peace instruments. As soon as these arrived via courier, they immediately swore an oath on them, on May 18 in Gyulafehérvár. By late June the imperial-royal delegates led by Ferenc Daróczy had also arrived, and the estates solemnly repeated their oath to abide by the terms of the treaty in their presence. The envoys called the prince’s attention particularly to the point guaranteeing the free practice of the Catholic faith. The peace treaty was a realistic compromise on the part of both sides, though the sincerity of the both parties could be called into question.93

The anti-Bethlen actions on the part of the kingdom did not cease, however. After the signing of the treaty it became evident that the castles and estates in the Partium would revert to Transylvania, and so they had been unable to crush Bethlen’s rule in this way. Following this another “tactical device” in the area of anti-Transylvanian conspiracies received greater attention: the recruitment of new candidates for the princely throne. It is true that this had begun as early as January 1615 with the campaign of György Homonnai Drugeth, which the Habsburg court also supported. István Kendy, banished from Transylvania, and other lords of Upper Hungary also backed Homonnai Drugeth.94 Indeed, Kendy himself emerged as a candidate for prince, as did Zsigmond Balassi, who enjoyed the support of the pasha of Buda, Kadızade Ali.95 Bethlen declared that he would move against the self-nominated candidates for the princely throne plotting against him.96

Although Bethlen thwarted Drugeth’s designs in 1615, in the difficult situation that emerged at the Porte the prince had to make a sacrifice. Knowing that the Treaty of Nagyszombat had come to the Porte’s attention, Bethlen could no longer delay in handing over the long-demanded Lippa and the villages and castles belonging to it; this occurred on June 12, 1616.97 All this, however, he succeeded in portraying as a kind of “declaration of loyalty” towards the Porte.

The renewal of the Treaty of Nagyszombat took place in 1617. The princely protonotaries, Simon Péchi and István Fráter, the captain of Marosszék, Mihály Balássy, and the second judge of Kőhalomszék, scribe Dávid Weihrauch, were the prince’s envoys at the new conference, held once more in Nagyszombat in July of that year. Péter Pázmány, archbishop of Esztergom (1616–1637), Johann von Mollart, president of the Court War Council (Hofkriegsrat), László Pethe, prefect of the Hungarian Chamber (1612–1617), and Hungarian royal councilor Pál Apponyi attended on behalf of King Matthias II. The resumption of relations had become necessary because of the atrocities that had occurred in the meantime, as well as Bethlen’s need to obtain the princely title. The negotiations began on June 29 and lasted one month.

The closing document, dated July 31, declared that the earlier treaty must be kept in force, and the mutual attacks must cease. Bethlen continued to be styled dominus, and not a word was mentioned about the princely title.98 Regarding the borders of the area of the country coming under Transylvanian authority, the borders in existence in the time of Zsigmond Báthory were declared valid by both sides. The minor property matters were scheduled for settlement at a conference to be held the following year at Nagykároly.

In Hungary, soon after the death of György Thurzó (1616) Zsigmond Forgách became palatine (1618–1621), while the latter’s post of captain general of Upper Hungary was assumed by András Dóczy, the previous captain general of Szatmár and a fierce enemy of Bethlen. At the same time György Homonnai Drugeth became lord chief justice of the Kingdom of Hungary, and Miklós Esterházy, who likewise numbered among the prince’s foes, also appeared on the political scene.99 It may have appeared that it was Bethlen’s enemies who were multiplying in Upper Hungary. However, there was also a number of lords in this part of the country who turned to Bethlen for assistance, especially after the election of Ferdinand II in Pozsony (May 18, 1618). In August 1619, at the invitation of the Bohemian estates, though with the backing of the Estates of Hungary, Bethlen launched his attack against the Habsburg king of Hungary.

Summary

Gábor Bethlen’s election and installation as prince in the fall of 1613 took place with more vigorous Ottoman support than witnessed any time previously. Bethlen’s accession to the Transylvanian throne was greeted with a mixture of rejection and fear in the Hofburg, where he was viewed as the governor of the Turks and where military action against him with the backing of the Hungarian and imperial estates was considered, in the hope that in this way the Partium, and perhaps even Transylvania, could be successfully freed from Ottoman rule and reunited with the Kingdom of Hungary.

An outstanding practitioner of Realpolitik, Bethlen on the one hand recognized the danger inherent in the situation; on the other, he had learned alongside his predecessors that to rule as prince he had to obtain the approval of both emperors, and so he immediately established contact with King Matthias II. Two years of negotiations resulted in the Treaty of Nagyszombat, which both quelled the military clashes along the border (thereby averting the danger of a larger armed conflict) and defined the constitutional relationship between Transylvania and the Kingdom of Hungary until Gábor Bethlen’s attack on the Habsburgs in 1619. In the secret conditions of the treaty Bethlen accepted the theoretical legal basis that had evolved over centuries in the Kingdom of Hungary, according to which Transylvania was a member of the Hungarian Crown, and its prince exercised his rule over the country with the approval of the Hungarian king. This step clearly reflects the reality that the principality’s existence depended to a significant degree on the political clear-sightedness and aptitude of its leaders, Gábor Bethlen among them, as well as maintaining the balance between the two great powers.

Archival Sources

Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Országos Levéltára [National Archives of Hungary], Budapest

E 196, Magyar Kamara Archívuma, Archivum familiae Thurzó

 

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Translated by Matthew Caples

1 The present study is an abbreviated version of an article in Hungarian that appeared in Századok 145, no. 4 (2011): 877–914; for the background, see Gábor Barta, “The First Period of the Principality of Transylvania (1526–1606),” in History of Transylvania, vol. 1, From the Beginning to 1606, ed. László Makkai and András Mócsy (Boulder: Colo., 2001), 593–770; Cristina Feneşan, Constituirea principatului autonom al Transilvaniei, (Bucureşti: Editura enciclopedică, 1997); Teréz Oborni, “From Province to Principality: Continuity and Change in Transylvania in the First Half of the Sixteenth Century,” in Fight Against the Turk in Central Europe in the First Half of the 16th Century, ed. Istvan Zombori (Budapest: METEM, 2004), 165–80.

2 Teréz Oborni, “Between Vienna and Constantinople: Notes on the Legal Status of the Principality of Transylvania,” in The European Tributary States of the Ottoman Empire in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, ed. Gábor Kármán and Lovro Kunčević (Leiden–Boston: Brill, 2013), 67–89; Gábor Kármán, “Transylvania between the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires,” in Statehood Before and Beyond Ethnicity: Minor States in Northern and Eastern Europe 1600–2000, ed. Linas Eriksonas and Leos Müller (Brussels: PIE–Peter Lang, 2005), 151–8.; Călin Felezeu, “The Legal Status of Transylvania in its Relations with the Ottoman Porte,” in History of Transylvania, vol. 2, From 1541 to 1711, ed. Ioan Aurel Pop, Thomas Nägler, and András Magyari (Cluj-Napoca: Romanian Academy, Center for Transylvanian Studies, Romanian Cultural Institute, 2009), 49–74.

3 Roderich Gooss, ed., Österreichische Staatsverträge. Fürstentum Siebenbürgen (1526–1690), Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für Neuere Geschichte Österreichs 9 (Vienna: Adolf Holzhausen–Wilhelm Engelman, 1911), 416–19; cf. Teréz Oborni, “Báthory Gábor megállapodásai a Magyar Királysággal”, in Báthory Gábor és kora, ed. Klára Papp, Annamária Jeney-Tóth, and Attila Ulrich (Debrecen: Debreceni Egyetem Történelmi Intézete, 2009), 111–22.

4 Numerous biographies are available starting from the second half of the nineteenth century. See most recently Lajos Demény, Bethlen Gábor és kora (Bukarest: Politikai Könyvkiadó, 1982), 19–20; Elek Csetri, Bethlen Gábor életútja (Bukarest: Kriterion, 1992), 52–68.

5 Imre Lukinich, Erdély területi változásai a török hódítás korában 1541–1711 (Budapest: Magyar Tudományos Akadémia, 1918), 232.

6 Archduke Ferdinand’s orders to András Dóczy, November 3, 1613, Történelmi Tár 2 (1879): 219.

7 Archduke Ferdinand’s orders to András Dóczy, November 10, 1613, in Lukinich, Erdély területi változásai, 232.

8 Sándor Szilágy, ed., Erdélyi Országgyűlési Emlékek [hereafter cited as EOE] (1540–1699), vol. 6/21, 1608–1614 (Budapest: Magyar Tudományos Akadémia, 1880), 319; Thurzó’s letter: Történeti Lapok, ed. Miklós Papp K. 1 (1874): 838–40.

9 Palatine Thurzó to András Dóczy, November 12, 1613, in Lukinich, Erdély területi változásai, 232.

10 Gábor Bethlen to András Dóczy, Kolozsvár, November 8, 1613, in Sándor Szilágyi, “Bethlen Gábor levelei. 1–3,” Történelmi Tár 8 (1885): 214–15.

11 Lukinich, Erdély területi változásai, 233.

12 András Komáromy, “Rhédey Ferenc váradi kapitány,” Hadtörténelmi Közlemények 7 (1894): 442–43.

13 Lukinich, Erdély területi változásai, 234–35.

14 Gábor Bethlen to Palatine György Thurzó, Déva, May 28, 1614, in Szilágyi, “Bethlen Gábor levelei,” 222–24.

15 Gábor Bethlen to Barvitius, Kolozsvár, May 17, 1614, in Georgius Pray and Iacobus Ferdinandus Miller, eds., Gabrielis Bethlehenii Principatus Transsilvaniae coaevis documentis illustratus, vol. 1 (Pest, 1816), 7–9; On Barvitius himself, see more recently Stefan Ehrenpreis, Kaiserliche Gerichtsbarkeit und Konfessionskonflikt. Der Reichshofrat unter Rudolf II. 1576–1612, Schriftenreihe der Historischen Kommission bei der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 72 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck&Ruprecht, 2006), 291.

16 Dated Lippa, November 1, 1614: Pray and Miller, Gabrielis Bethlehenii, 20–25 (quoted passage on p. 24).

17 Rezső Lovas, “A szász kérdés Bethlen Gábor korában,” Századok 78 (1944): 419–62.

18 On Benkner’s role, see more recently Zsuzsanna Cziráki, Autonóm közösség és központi hatalom. Udvar, fejedelem és város viszonya a Bethlen-kori Brassóban (Budapest: ELTE, 2010), passim.

19 Zsigmond Kornis (1578–1648) at first belonged to Bethlen’s opposition but later became his adherent, and through his connections in the kingdom one of his supporters there. About his life, see more recently Angelika T. Orgona, “A göncruszkai Kornisok. Két generáció túlélési stratégiái az erdélyi elitben” (PhD diss., Eötvös Loránd University, 2007).

20 Royal Judge Johannes Benkner to Zsigmond Kornis, Brassó, June 10, 1614, in Szilágyi, “Bethlen Gábor levelei,” 224–26.

21 Lovas, “A szász kérdés Bethlen Gábor korában,” 434.

22 Ernő Makkai, “Bethlen Gábor országépítő politikája,” pt. 3, Erdélyi Múzeum, New series, no. 9 (1914): 143–67 (relevant section 156–57).

23 Khlesl to Palatine Thurzó, Linz, Dec. 4, 1613, in Joseph Hammer-Purgstall, Khlesl’s des Cardinals, Directors des geheimen Cabinetes Kaisers Mathias, Leben, vol. 3, Urkunden-sammlung zum dritten Bande (Vienna: Prandel, 1850), 81.

24 György Thurzó to Khlesl, Biccse, December 19, 1613, in Hammer-Purgstall, Khlesl’s des Cardinals, vol. 3, 83.

25 For an analysis of his life, with sources, see Hammer-Purgstall, Khlesl’s des Cardinals, 4 vols.

26 EOE, vol. 6, 374–76.

27 Ibid., 376–79.

28 Matthias II to Archduke Albert, Budweis, February 5, 1614, in Magyar történelmi okmánytár, a brüsseli országos levéltárból és a burgundi könyvtárból, ed. Mihály Hatvani, vol. 4, 1608–1652, Magyar Történelmi Emlékek I: Okmánytárak 4 (Pest: Eggenberger, 1859), 66–72 (hereafter Brüsseli okmánytár).

29 Memorandum of Matthias II to Archduke Albert, Budweis, February 5, 1614, in Brüsseli okmánytár, vol. 4, 66–72 (quote on 67).

30 Brüsseli okmánytár, vol. 4, 68.

31 Balázs Sudár, “Iskender and Gábor Bethlen: The Pasha and the Prince,” in Europe and the Ottoman World: Exchanges and Conflicts (Sixteenth-Seventeenth Centuries), ed. Gábor Kármán and Radu G. Păun (Istanbul: Isis, 2013), 143–52.

32 Brüsseli okmánytár, vol. 4, 69–70.

33 EOE, vol. 4, 324; Matthias II to András Dóczy, Linz, January 20, 1614, in Sándor Szilágyi, “Bethlen Gábor uralkodásának történetéhez,” pt 1, Történelmi Tár 2 (1879): 221–22.

34 On the career of Ferenc Daróczy of Deregnyő (1586–1620), see Zoltán Fallenbüchl, Állami (királyi és császári) tisztségviselők a 17. századi Magyarországon. Adattár (Budapest: Nemzeti téka, 2002), 72.

35 On Erich Lassota von Steblau (c. 1550–1616), see Erich Lassota von Steblau, Habsburgs and Zaporozhian Cossacks: The Diary of Erich Lassota von Steblau, 1594, ed. Lubomyr Roman Wynar (Littleton, Colo., 1975).

36 For the general instructions: EOE, vol. 6, 391–94; for the secret instructions: ibid., 395–99; both were dated Linz, January 20, 1614.

37 EOE, vol. 6, 393–94.

38 Ibid., 397–99.

39 Matthias II to the Transylvanian estates, Linz, March 25, 1614, in ibid., 431.

40 The envoys’ verbal proposition: EOE, vol. 6, 447–49 (quoted passage on 448).

41 EOE, vol. 6, 449–50.

42 The documents submitted to the Transylvanians: ibid., 450–56.

43 Ibid., 456.

44 EOE, vol. 6, 459.

45 Ibid., 460.

46 Ibid., 462–64.

47 Reply of the Transylvanian Diet, Kolozsvár, May 12, 1614, EOE, vol. 6, 469–90.

48 Ferenc Daróczy’s report on the negotiations, Kolozsvár, May 7, 1614, in ibid., 464.

49 Gábor Bethlen to Matthias II, Kolozsvár, May 12, 1614, in ibid., 466.

50 Gooss, Österreichische Staatsverträge, 424–27, and EOE, vol. 6, 493–96.

51 Ferenc Daróczy’s report to Matthias II, in the days prior to May 15, 1614, in EOE, vol. 6, 492.

52 Ibid., 499–502.

53 Lukinich, Erdély területi változásai, 234–35.

54 The opinion of Matthias’s councilors is summarized by Sándor Szilágyi, EOE, vol. 6, 335–36.

55 On the assembly, see Kálmán Benda, “Habsburg-politika és rendi ellenállás a 17. század elején,” Történelmi Szemle 13, no. 3 (1970): 404–27; see also Joachim Bahlcke, “Durch ‘starke Konföderation wohl stabiliert’. Ständische Defension und politisches Denken in der habsburgischen Ländergruppe am Anfang des 17. Jahrhunderts,” in Kontakte und Konflikte. Böhmen, Mähren und Österreich: Aspekte eines Jahrtausends gemeinsamer Geschichte, Schriftenreihe des Waldviertler Heimatbundes 36, ed. Thomas Winkelbauer (Horn–Waidhofen an der Thaya: Waldviertler Heimatbund, 1993): 173–86.

56 On his life see Hans Sturmberger, Georg Erasmus Tschernembl. Religion, Libertät und Widerstand. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Gegenreformation und des Landes ob der Enns, Forschungen zur Geschichte Oberösterreichs 3 (Linz–Graz–Cologne: Böhlau, 1953).

57 On Žerotin, see more recently Tomáš Knoz, Državy Karla staršího ze Žerotína po Bílé hoře. Osoby, příbehy, struktury, Knižnice Matice Moravské 8. Opera Universitatis Masarykianae Brunensis, Facultas Philosophica 337 (Brno: Matice moravská, Masarykova univerzita, 2001).

58 Dávid Angyal, “Adalékok Bethlen Gábor történetéhez,” Századok 63, no. 9–10 (1929): 353–64 (relevant section: 355–56).

59 Khlesl to Palatine Thurzó, Linz, August 16, 1614, in Hammer-Purgstall, Khlesl’s des Cardinals, vol. 3, 110.

60 Khlesl to Palatine Thurzó, Linz, August 16, 1614, in ibid., 110.

61 Bálint Ila, “Az 1614-iki linzi egyetemes gyűlés,” A Gróf Klebelsberg Kuno Magyar Történetkutató Intézet Évkönyve 4 (1934): 249–50.

62 Cf. Ferenc Jenei, “Az utolsó humanista főpap, Náprági Demeter,” Irodalomtörténeti Közlemények 69 (1965): 137–51.

63 Ila, “Az 1614-iki linzi egyetemes gyűlés,” 250.

64 “Opinio Austriacorum et Silesitarum ad questiones Sacratissimae Caesareae ac Regiae Maiestatis in conventu Lincziensi propositas.” Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Országos Levéltára [National Archives of Hungary; hereafter cited as MNL OL], Budapest; E 196, Magyar Kamara Archívuma, Archívum familiae Thurzó [hereafter cited as E 196], fasc. 5, nr. 42, fols. 145–49; ibid., fol. 149.

65 Ibid., fol. 146v.

66 The work, entitled “Verlauf mit Siebenbürgen, fürnemlich seit König Johannis de Zapolya Zeit bis hierer,” is published and analyzed by Imre Lukinich, “Geschichte Siebenbürgens von Baron Erasmus Georg Tschernembl,” Bécsi Magyar Történeti Intézet Évkönyve 1 (1931): 133–60.

67 Ila, “Az 1614-iki linzi egyetemes gyűlés,” 252.

68 MNL OL E 196, fasc. 8, nr. 9.

69 EOE, vol. 7, 154.

70 Ibid., 155.

71 Ibid., 156.

72 EOE, vol. 7, 211–36.

73 MNL OL E 196, fasc. 4, nr. 27, fol. 116–19.

74 Ibid., fol. 116.

75 Ibid., fol. 117.

76 Ibid., fol. 117.

77 EOE, vol. 7, 211–16.

78 Ibid., 216–27 (quote on 217).

79 Ibid., 223.

80 Gábor Bethlen to Khlesl, Fogaras, February 19, 1614, in “Bethlen Gábor politikai levelezése,” Történelmi Tár 3 (1880): 461.

81 “Ad principatum vero quod ex Passis aliquis me promoverit, aemulorum criminatio sola est. Deus unicus et libera Statuum Ordinumque electio authores illius fuere, cum ex foederum ratione iam dudum Transsylvaniae ius liberae electionis ab utroque tam Orientis, quam Occidentis Imperatore obvenerat.” Ibid., 461–62.

82 The documents of the negotiations and the agreement are published in Gooss, Österreichische Staatsverträge, 436–74; cf. Sándor Szilágyi, Bethlen Gábor fejedelem trónfoglalása, Értekezések a történeti tudományok köréből 6 (Pest: Eggenberger, 1867), 70–74.

83 The copy ratified by Bethlen is published in Gooss, Österreichische Staatsverträge, 440–47.

84 Ibid., 449–53.

85 Ibid., 447.

86 For the secret agreement: ibid., 449–53.

87 “Quod Sacratissimam Caesaream Regiamque Maiestatem eiusque legitimos successores pro capite totius Christianitatis et rege Hungariae, majoribus et superioribus suis agnoscant. Et Transylvaniam partesque ei subiectas pro inseparabili membro Coronae Regni Hungariae recolunt et recognoscunt, neque iuri coronae praeiudicabunt.” Gooss, Österreichische Staatsverträge, 452; Ferenc Eckhart, A szentkorona-eszme története (Budapest: Magyar Tudományos Akadémia, 1941); József Kardos, A Szent Korona és a Szentkorona-eszme története (Budapest: Ikva, 1992); Kees Teszelszky, “The Holy Crown for a Nation: The Symbolic Meaning of the Holy Crown of Hungary and the Construction of the Idea of a Nation,” in Building the Past/Konstruktion der eigenen Vergangenheit, ed. Rudolf Suntrup and Jan. R. Veenstra (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2006), 247–59.

88 The estates’ diploma: ibid., 453–56.

89 The first resolution of the diet in this matter was drafted at the Diet of Gyulafehérvár on September 8, 1567; EOE, vol. 2, 1556–1576, 335. See Graeme Murdock,“‘Freely Elected in Fear’: Princely Elections and Political Power in Early Modern Transylvania,” Journal of Early Modern History 7, no. 3–4 (2003): 214–44.

90 See Teréz Oborni, “Erdély közjogi helyzete a speyeri szerződés után (1571–1575),” in Tanulmányok Szakály Ferenc emlékére, ed. Pál Fodor, Géza Pálffy, and István György Tóth (Budapest: MTA TKI, 2002), 291–306; cf. Teréz Oborni, “Die Plane des Wiener Hofes zur Rückeroberung Siebenbürgens 1557–1563,” in Kaiser Ferdinand I: Ein mitteleuropaischer Herrscher, Geschichte in der Epoche Karls V, vol. 5, ed. Martina Fuchs, Teréz Oborni, and Gábor Ujváry (Münster: Aschendorff Verlag, 2005), 277–98.

91 Concerning the period up to 1608, see Géza Pálffy, The Kingdom of Hungary and the Habsburg Monarchy in the Sixteenth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009).

92 Dávid Angyal, “Az 1615-iki bécsi török békének titkos pontjai,” in Emlékkönyv Dr. Gróf Klebelsberg Kuno negyedszázados kulturpolitikai működésének emlékére születésének ötvenedik évfordulóján (Budapest: Rákosi Jenő 1925), 368–82; and Ludwig Fekete, ed., Türkische Schriften aus dem Archive des Palatinus Nicolaus Esterházy 1606–1645 (Budapest: n.p., 1932), 7–14, 213–22.

93 Cf. Gyula Szekfű, Bethlen Gábor (Budapest: Magyar Szemle Társaság 1929), 59–61; Géza Herczeg, “Bethlen Gábor külpolitikai törekvései,” in Bethlen Gábor állama és kora, ed. Kálmán Kovács (Budapest: ELTE 1980), 37–48.

94 Sándor Szilágyi, “Oklevelek a Homonnai-féle mozgalom történetéhez 1616-ban,” Történelmi Tár 4 (1881): 401–49.

95 For Balassi’s candidacy as prince, see Szilágyi, “Bethlen Gábor fejedelem uralkodásának történetéhez,” 229–33; Idem, “Balassa Zsigmond támadása,” Történelmi Tár 4 (1881): 551–68.

96 Gábor Bethlen to Ferenc Daróczy, prefect of the Szepes Chamber, Marosvásárhely, February 4, 1616, in Sándor Szilágyi, ed., Bethlen Gábor fejedelem kiadatlan politikai levelei (Budapest: M. Tud. Akadémia Könyvkiadó-Hivatala, 1879), 39–40.

97 Zsuzsanna J. Újváry “‘Utolsó veszedelmünknek eltávoztatásáért’ (Adalék Lippa 1616-os átadásának történetéhez),” A Ráday Gyűjtemény Évkönyve 10 (2002): 197–206; see also Sudár, “Iskender and Gábor Bethlen: The Pasha and the Prince.”

98 Gooss, Österreichische Staatsverträge, 470–74.

99 On his career, see Géza Pálffy, “Pozsony megyéből a Magyar Királyság élére. Karrierlehetőségek a magyar arisztokráciában a 16–17. század fordulóján (Az Esterházy, a Pálffy és az Illésházy család felemelkedése),” Századok 143, no. 4 (2009): 853–82, particularly 874–81.

pdfVolume 2 Issue 4 CONTENTS

Gábor Kármán

Gábor Bethlen’s Diplomats at the Protestant Courts of Europe

This paper addresses the phenomenon that the contacts of Prince Gábor Bethlen with non-neighboring rulers were almost exclusively maintained through diplomats who came originally from a foreign country and had very little to do with the Principality of Transylvania. Through a reconstruction of ten diplomats’ biographies, I identify several categories. The Czech/Palatinate group consists of three people (Ehrenfried von Berbisdorf, Jan Adam Čejkovský z Víckova and Matthias Quadt), the Silesian group of two (Weikhard Schulitz and Heinrich Dreiling), and three of Bethlen’s envoys could be identified as “wandering diplomats,” displaying certain facets of an adventurer’s character (Jacques Roussel, Charles de Talleyrand and Lorenzo Agazza). The remaining two (Zygmunt Zaklika and Hermann Beckmann) seem to be a category unto themselves, one having a Polish background, the other coming with Catherine, the prince’s consort, from Berlin.

The biographies of the diplomats show certain similarities, especially those within the Czech/Palatinate group, who had to leave their original country due to the collapse of the rule of Frederick of the Palatinate after the Battle of the White Mountain, and served several rulers in the years to come. Their loyalties lay primarily with the Protestant or the Palatinate cause and they served the rulers who seemed to be able to support this – sometimes even assuming tasks from several of them during one and the same journey.

The custom to employ foreigners for the Transylvanian diplomacy with non-neighboring lands must have been motivated by the fact that they were expected not so much to negotiate specific issues as to map out possibilities for cooperation and give general information concerning the prince’s intentions. Although the system changed in the later decades of the seventeenth century, this may be the result of the fact that in this period far fewer politically engaged emigrants came to Transylvania than in the 1620s.

Keywords: diplomacy, Protestantism, Transylvania, Thirty Years’ War, cosmopolitans

 

“For a state which lacked almost every resource for the conduct of sustained hostilities, Transylvania had done surprisingly well from the Thirty Years’ War.”1 This assessment by Geoffrey Parker, one of the leading experts on military history in recent decades, reflects an interest in Transylvania’s participation in the most comprehensive European wars of the seventeenth century; an interest which unfortunately has remained virtually unanswered by Hungarian historiography. In the field of military history new research has been available since the 1960s (although not translated into languages of international circulation), but the summaries on Gábor Bethlen’s (1613–1629) diplomacy, due to the lack of recent primary research, could not go beyond the results of nineteenth-century history writing.2 In the last few years, a number of historians have started to take up the challenge of this hiatus in historiography, and the first very promising analyses about Bethlen’s Ottoman contacts have already been published.3 The present study focuses on another field, the prince’s diplomacy towards the Protestant rulers, which brought the principality to the attention of European rulers in the late 1610s and 1620s and rendered the participation in the armed conflicts on the Holy Roman Empire’s territory possible. Also, I have chosen a method other than classic, event-based diplomatic history: I aim to discuss some specificities of Bethlen’s foreign policy through an analysis of the pool of persons he sent to diplomatic missions in this particular direction. Using the classic sources of diplomatic history, but focusing on the practical part rather than on the content of the negotiations allows me to discuss such phenomena as the selection criteria and the loyalty of the mediators of Bethlen’s contacts with faraway European rulers, who almost all came from a foreign country, and they changed their loyalties at least once during their lives.

Bethlen’s Diplomats: the Two Main Groups

The few historians who devoted any attention at all to the performance of Gábor Bethlen’s diplomatic corps were not very impressed by what they found. In his revisionist biography about the prince, Gyula Szekfű went so far as to label them “substandard,” and Kálmán Benda, who dedicated a short study to their persons in 1981, also reached the conclusion that Gábor Bethlen did not have the necessary number of reliable and educated diplomats at his disposal, who could have efficiently represented his interests at foreign courts or even could have helped his endeavors with their council.4 According to him, the prince thus had to formulate his conception about foreign policy on his own, and in many cases he could not even assume that the skills and erudition of his envoy would at least be enough to follow his instructions without major blunders.

Benda is undoubtedly right in the sense that Gábor Bethlen had no such assistance by his side as Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (1611–1632) in the person of Axel Oxenstierna, or some German princes, such as Georg Wilhelm of Brandeburg (1619–1640), whose secret counselors not only took part in shaping foreign policy but virtually supervised it themselves, with very limited interference on the part of the elector.5 His conclusions about the diplomats’ skills should nevertheless not be taken for granted: taking into consideration the prince’s different expectation towards various groups of his representatives and the divergent tasks they had to fulfill leads to the conclusion that the overall picture is far from being so dark as Benda painted it. Also, if the number of cases is extended, we get a more realistic image of how many missions failed because of the incompetence of the diplomats, and what the true relevance of these blunders was in Bethlen’s foreign policy.

The example of Márton Boncziday, quoted by both authors, is quite characteristic.6 The postal envoy of the prince, whose activities are documented from the early 1620s on, negotiated with Johannes Nicodemi, an agent of Axel Oxenstierna, in Königsberg in January 1629.7 The report of the Swedish secretary painted a quite sad picture of Boncziday, who provided no new information during the talks, which were in any case seriously hindered by the fact that the Hungarian envoy could not speak Latin. At the same time, Boncziday seemed to have been upset about the small amount of gifts he was sent by Oxenstierna. Nicodemi noted that after the initial problems he started to doubt whether Bethlen, who had been known as a cautious man, would have trusted any important issues on this envoy.8 In all likelihood, Nicodemi’s judgment was right: there is no data that the prince would have given a diplomatic mission to Boncziday, and he did not claim this either. In his first letter to Oxenstierna, he only stated that he came to Königsberg to deliver the letter of Catherine of Brandenburg, the consort of Gábor Bethlen, to her brother, the elector; and as the Swedish chancellor stayed in the nearby Elbing, it seemed to be useful to visit him as well. It is quite likely that the princely credential letter that would have been necessary for his acknowledgment as a diplomat was substituted in this case by a letter of Paul Strassburg, the diplomat of the Swedish king at Bethlen’s court, to the chancellor, which was taken to the Baltic region by Boncziday and which mentioned the postal envoy’s name in the post scriptum.9 The story of the arrogant, greedy and immature diplomat, who could not even speak proper Latin, may be a shock for the reader of Nicodemi’s report, but it probably did not have such a great impact on the image of Bethlen among the exponents of contemporary Protestant politicians as was suggested by Szekfű and Benda. In any case, we find no trace in Axel Oxenstierna’s correspondence that the Transylvanian envoy’s performance would have influenced his attitude towards Gábor Bethlen.10

We also have to take into account that Benda concentrated, apart from the embassy in Constantinople, on the diplomats the prince sent to Western European courts. This is in spite of the fact that the contacts with the neighboring empires and the results that could be achieved there must have played a much more important role for Bethlen than the negotiations with the leading circles in the Netherlands, England or Sweden. Although the structural specificities of the embassy in Constantinople, the only resident representation that the principality maintained, caused some problems and allowed less motivated diplomats to abuse the lack of very strict princely control, in this specific period we find several highly skilled Transylvanian resident envoys and ambassadors who knew the ways of politics at the Sublime Porte very well.11 Experience mattered much more in this diplomatic milieu (the most important for the principality) than the diplomats’ ultimate lack of humanist Latin education or the limits of their outlook, which did not cover all the subtleties of the conflicts in the Western parts of Europe, even if these diplomats maintained some contacts with the English and Dutch governments as well through the diplomats of these powers stationed in the Ottoman capital.12

Similarly, Bethlen had no serious reason to complain about the diplomats sent to negotiate with Emperor Ferdinand II. These people, mostly recruited from among the prince’s supporters in the Kingdom of Hungary, may have also lacked the outlook encompassing the situation in the Western half of Europe, but they did not necessarily need this to fulfill their tasks either. In the peace negotiations closing the successive armed conflicts in Hungary it was much more important to be an expert in Hungarian law, on which the legitimation strategies of the prince’s interventions were built, than to know the legal details of debates conducted in faraway corners of the Holy Roman Empire. The negotiations with the representatives of Ferdinand II were usually centered on concrete questions, and thus local knowledge played a very important part in them. Contrary to this, the main goal of the prince’s diplomatic contacts with Protestant powers in Western Europe and Venice was to recognize their common interests and produce a treaty that would provide the framework for later cooperation; the details of which in any case had to be postponed to later talks. This was all that the constantly changing military situation, and the distance between the power centers allowed – it should not be forgotten that it took months for a letter from the Netherlands to reach the princely capital of Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia, Romania).

The problems of cooperating with the Protestant powers are well illustrated by Gábor Bethlen’s attitude to The Hague alliance. Although the prince’s envoy, Matthias Quadt was present in the Netherlands in the late autumn of 1625, when the English, Danish and Dutch representatives concluded their treaty, he had no official credits to negotiate about the details of cooperation. One year later he returned and collected the signature from the rulers of all three countries on the treaty recognizing Bethlen as an ally; however, by the time he returned to Transylvania, the prince had concluded peace with Ferdinand II, and the military situation of the Protestant powers had also turned so critical that any further effective cooperation became impossible.13 Distance excluded the possibility that Bethlen would be able to work out a detailed plan with the leading Protestant powers, and so the main function of the diplomatic missions was to inform each other about the parties’ intentions. The prince learned whether he could count on military activity in the rear of his adversary, the Habsburg ruler; whereas the Protestant powers of Western and Northern Europe were advised to expect a diversion by Bethlen that would keep a part of the emperor’s forces occupied.

On account of the above, two distinct groups can be identified in Bethlen’s diplomatic corps, of whom the prince had markedly different expectations. For the one it was important to know the specific situation very well and work while keeping an eye on precise details; for the other, it was necessary to think in broader terms and be able to support his argumentation with the current political vocabulary of Western Europe. This dual character of Bethlen’s diplomacy is well illustrated by the mission sent by the prince to Brandenburg during the summer of 1625: whereas István Kovacsóczy and Ferenc Mikó, the chancellor and treasurer of Transylvania, were responsible for giving a final form to Bethlen’s marriage contract with Catherine of Brandenburg, it was Matthias Quadt who was entrusted with the negotiations about political cooperation (his journey to the Netherlands was the continuation of this mission).14 For the tasks of the latter group it seemed best to employ people (such as Quadt) who came from the Holy Roman Empire or Western Europe. Apart from Boncziday, the self-appointed envoy, every other diplomat of Bethlen who visited European Protestant courts and rulers was a foreigner in the Principality of Transylvania. Among them, several groups can be identified on the basis of their origin and the way they came to Bethlen’s court.

The Czech/Palatinate Group

The most numerous group among Bethlen’s diplomats is made up of those who after the fall of Frederick V of the Palatinate as king of Bohemia were forced to emigrate either from the territories of the kingdom or the Silesian German principalities that supported the rule of the “Winter King.” After the Battle of the White Mountain, many military as well as political notables came to Bethlen, among them some of the highest rank such as Heinrich Matthias von Thurn, who had played a leading role in the government at Prague and arrived at Bethlen’s camp with the remnants of the Bohemian army in the second half of 1621, accompanied by Margrave Johann Georg of Hohenzollern, Duke of Jägerndorf.15 A great many of these people did not stay long: Thurn himself left for the Sublime Porte in 1622, after the conclusion of the Peace of Nikolsburg, and a year later went over to Venetian service; nevertheless, he continued to maintain his contacts with the prince of Transylvania.16

Unlike him, we know of two emigrant noblemen from the lands of the Bohemian crown who went over to Bethlen’s service and were commissioned to travel to the Netherlands on his behalf. Ehrenfried von Berbisdorf was not unknown to Bethlen, because he had already been one of Johann Georg’s envoys to Bethlen in 1621. He joined the prince in the company of the Margrave of Jägerndorf, and in early February 1623 he was already in The Hague, where he presented Bethlen’s message to the Staten Generaal.17 This Bohemian nobleman, sentenced to death in absentia by the Habsburg government, later entered Danish service. He received his appointment as Generalproviantmeister in June 1625 but could hardly have started his military service when he was entrusted with a mission to Transylvania by King Christian IV (1588–1648) in August of the same year. He received his letter of recredentials from Bethlen in December 1625, and revisited him as a diplomat of the Danish king in the summer of 1627. Between 1629 and 1631 we find him in Swedish service, after which he disappears from the sources.18 One year after Berbisdorf, Bethlen was represented in The Hague by Jan Adam Čejkovksý z Víckova. This Moravian nobleman, earlier the leader of the Vlachs’ uprising in Moravia, later continued his activities for the Protestant cause in Brandenburg until his death in 1628.19

Nevertheless, the best known person from the Czech–Palatinate emigration was undoubtedly the oft-mentioned Matthias Quadt. He had also come to Hungary in the retinue of the Margrave of Jägerndorf, and it is very likely that, unlike Berbisdorf and Víckov, he had been in Johann Georg’s service already before the outbreak of the war. The estates of his family, an old noble kin with more than hundred branches, were in Berg in the Rhineland, and many of his relatives stood traditionally in the service of the Catholic elector of Cologne; however, Matthias’s branch, who used the by-names von Wickrath or von Zoppenbroich, settled in nearby Jülich and served the Protestant elector of Brandenburg instead.20 Matthias’s father had already had a counselor’s rank in Brandenburg, and his brother served in the elector’s army during the 1620s.21 It can be thus assumed that it was before the 1620s that Matthias came into the service of Johann Georg of Jägerndorf, who was the elector’s uncle. It is in any case clear that during the margrave’s stay in Hungary Quadt was already one of his most trusted men.22 He must have offered his services to Bethlen after Johann Georg’s death in Lőcse (Levoča, Slovakia) at Upper Hungary, on March 12, 1624, and, unlike the two Bohemian emigrants, he also stayed in the Transylvanian prince’s employment until his death.23

Although Bethlen always referred to Quadt as the captain of his German infantry, his activities in the field of diplomacy are much better known than his military contributions. He could only have been in the prince’s service for a few months when he was already sent on his first mission to Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden; he was captured and turned back by Polish authorities in the early autumn of 1624.24 In the summer of 1625, he was on the road again: first, as noted above, he went to Brandenburg, and from there to Lower Saxony to meet Christian IV of Denmark in his camp at Nienburg. On November 1 he was already in Bremen, and in the middle of the month he reached The Hague, from where he started the long journey back to Transylvania at the end of December.25

The following year he left the country again: he went to Berlin, and from there to the theater of war in Lower Saxony, where he met Christian IV again.26 This time, after his negotiations with the Danish king, he did not continue his journey towards the United Provinces, but rather returned to Berlin and tried to make contact with Gustavus Adolphus, who had been in Western Pomerania at the moment; however, a personal meeting could not take place.27 In August, Quadt was already in The Hague, from where he went to London in early October in order to collect the signature of King Charles I (1625–1649) on the treaty acknowledging Bethlen as a member of The Hague alliance. After the unexpectedly lengthy, but eventually successful procedure, the envoy left the English capital at the end of December, and by late February 1627 he also managed to get the signatures from the Staten Generaal and the Danish king.28 We do not know exactly when he arrived back to Gábor Bethlen, but as I noted before, he was late: his formal success did not bring any fruits in practice, as by the time the treaty reached him, the prince of Transylvania had already concluded peace with Ferdinand II.29

Originally a soldier, Matthias Quadt seems to have had all the necessary skills for a diplomatic career as well. He not only seems to have been confident moving in the highest circles of European Protestant politics, but his surviving speeches also testify to his rhetorical skills and familiarity with the contemporary political language of Western Europe.30 This is less surprising if we take into account that Ludwig Camerarius, a legal scholar of distinguished erudition, and at that time one of the leaders of the exiled Frederick V’s foreign policy, referred to Quadt as an outstanding person and his friend.31 Nevertheless, we do not have any information indicating that he would have continued his career as a diplomat after his return to Transylvania in the first half of 1627. The reason for this cannot be an illness, otherwise there would not have been so many rumors circulating in Transylvania about poisoning when Quadt eventually died in October 1628 in Gyulafehérvár, after a three-day fever. Both known accounts of his funeral on December 1 of that same year show the high favors he enjoyed at the Transylvanian court: apart from Bethlen and Catherine of Brandenburg, many aristocrats listened to the funeral orations in three languages and watched Quadt’s remaining two battalions shoot a salvo for their deceased commander.32

The Silesian Group

Martin Opitz, one of the most important figures in the history of German Baroque prose, was not unfamiliar with Transylvania: he spent some time in the principality in the mid-1620s as a guest of Gábor Bethlen. In 1630, he recommended two of his fellow countrymen staying at Gyulafehérvár to Martin Schödel, a Hungarian student who was going home after visiting foreign universities: Weikhard Schulitz and Heinrich Dreiling.33 Although geographical factors would not necessarily motivate to separate them from the Czech–Palatinate emigration (as Silesia was also a land of the Bohemian crown and Jägerndorf a part of the province), in their case we cannot be sure whether they also came to Bethlen with the wave of emigrants after White Mountain or on the invitation of the prince, similarly to Opitz. Also, unlike Berbisdorf, Víckov and Quadt, they seem to have been only in the service of Bethlen and no other Protestant ruler during the 1620s.

Heinrich Dreiling, an alumnus of Heidelberg University, started to assume diplomatic commissions in the service of the Transylvanian prince in mid-1626: it was then that he visited Gustavus Adolphus. On the way back, he fell into Habsburg captivity, which motivated the Swedish king (who at that time was not yet a belligerent party) to file an official complaint. Before September 1627, Dreiling was back in the principality again.34 After Bethlen’s death, Dreiling continued to receive diplomatic commissions. Cornelis Haga, the resident ambassador of the Netherlands to the Sublime Porte, recommended him in January 1630 as a representative of Bethlen’s successor, Catherine of Brandenburg (1629–1630), in Constantinople, claiming that there could hardly be a more able and faithful person than him in Transylvania. Dreiling duly received the commission and was in Constantinople already in April of that same year.35 In the early 1630s, he visited the Swedish king again. We do not know when he left Transylvania, but he seems to have made peace with the Habsburgs, the only one of Bethlen’s foreign diplomats to do so, because in the mid-1640s we find him in Vienna.36

We do not know how much influence Dreiling had at the princely court, in contrast to Schulitz, whose political activities are well documented. Although the emigrant, better known in Transylvania under the Latinized form of his name, Scultetus, became really powerful later on, under the rule of Catherine of Brandenburg, he had a hand in the principality’s foreign policy already as a court physician to Gábor Bethlen.37 The young Calvinist nobleman, born in the Silesian town of Trachtenberg, came to Transylvania in the early 1620s.38 The medical activities of this talented doctor are well documented: he received a series of highly important tasks, such as the autopsy of Johann Georg in 1624, but was also asked to cure the illnesses of the prince himself. Although he was thrown into prison in late 1628 and later exiled due to intrigues at the court, Bethlen was forced somewhat later to invite the Silesian doctor back to his country, due to his worsening hydropsy.39 Schulitz had lengthy debates about the right treatment with a Moravian doctor sent to Bethlen by Emperor Ferdinand II, which he later put into writing as an apology for the failure. He could not save the prince’s life, but generally must have been considered a good doctor, because János Kemény notes that among contemporaries he was rumored to have a familiaris spiritus of his own, who gives him counsel.40

Contrary to most of Bethlen’s other diplomats, who represented the prince at various European courts, the Silesian doctor only mediated between Brandenburg and Transylvania; but he managed to cover the distance between the two countries three times in only one year. He set out for the first journey in March 1625 and in April could report the prince’s offer of political cooperation to Elector Georg Wilhelm. He was the first envoy through whom Bethlen raised the idea of the marriage with Catherine of Brandenburg. For reasons unknown, Schulitz was not the only one commissioned with this task. Ferenc Listhius, whose credentials were issued only four days after those of the Silesian doctor, also delivered a message similar to Schulitz’s when he came to Berlin accompanied by Péter Bethlen, the prince’s nephew, who had set out to visit foreign universities. The answer, which was couched as yet in vague terms, was given to both of them and they took it together back to Transylvania.41 The prince’s next letter was delivered during the summer by Schulitz alone, and in August he could report that the proposal for marriage seemed to have good prospects.42 The Silesian doctor returned to Transylvania but in January 1626 was received as envoy at the elector’s seat again. He arrived somewhat later than the solemn embassy to escort Catherine to Transylvania, but he left Berlin together with them.43

It seems that Schulitz’s political activities were interrupted even before his temporary exile, only to come into full bloom after the death of Gábor Bethlen, in the political crisis of 1629–1630, during the conflict between Catherine, who became the ruling princess, and István Bethlen, the governor appointed to assist her.44 Schulitz came to be one of Catherine’s most important counselors, and stayed in contact not only with the princess, but also with the envoys sent to assist her from Brandenburg. One of them, Secret Counselor Levin von dem Knesebeck, noted about him that he was a “faithful and honest man, shows such a loyalty towards the princess that could not be any greater.”45 In light of this, it is quite surprising that the assassination of the Silesian doctor on his way back from the Sublime Porte in December 1630 was organized by people also belonging to the princess’ circle and not to that of István Bethlen. It was István Csáki, the main advisor and most probably the lover of Catherine, who hired the people who captured Schulitz by a bridge near Porumbák in southern Transylvania and threw the bound doctor into the icy River Olt. His body having been fished out of the river, Schulitz was buried in the Franciscan church at Nagyszeben.46

“Wandering Diplomats”

Jacques Roussel and Charles de Talleyrand were the diplomats who elicited the greatest number of ironic comments from analysts of Bethlen’s foreign policy. The two Huguenot emigrants visited the Sublime Porte in 1629 on the prince’s behalf and continued their journey from Constantinople to the Russian tsar. Their ideas about the creation of an anti-Polish front in Eastern Europe met with the spirited approval of Cornelis Haga, the Dutch resident ambassador to the Porte, but their mission remained without success and hardly only for the reason that by the time they reached Moscow, Bethlen had already been dead.47

Gábor Bethlen was neither the first nor the last European ruler for whom Jacques Roussel offered to obtain the Polish throne. The Huguenot lawyer, who had for a while been a teacher of Greek language and librarian of the academy at Sedan, had already made a similar offer to Richelieu, but the cardinal did not believe Roussel when he latter claimed ambitiously that he could make a Polish king of anyone he wanted. According to an anonymous account of his life, which does not show much sympathy for Roussel, he came into contact with Bethlen already before 1629 and the French emigrant, who claimed to have excellent contacts with a number of Polish magnates, was employed as an expert on Polish issues by the prince. For the diplomatic mission best known to the historiography related to Bethlen, he arrived in Transylvania from Venice (from where he also received an annuity) in the company of Talleyrand. The latter, who came from a prominent family of the French Huguenot aristocracy (his full title was the Comte of Grignols, Duke of Chalais, Marquis of Excideuil and Baron of Mareuil and Boisville), left his homeland most probably due to the execution of his brother Henri for his participation in the Chalais conspiracy (which was named after him). Their cooperation later took a rather extraordinary turn: because of an insult against his person, Roussel had the Marquis arrested on the charge of spying in Moscow, and Talleyrand was sent to Siberia. The French aristocrat was only released in the mid-1630s at the intervention of King Louis XIII.48

Gyula Szekfű and others suggested that it must have been Bethlen’s illness, which became preponderant in his last year, that deprived him of his proper judgment so that he gave credit to these adventurers.49 This is not only contradicted by the statement of the anonymous manuscript biography of Roussel (which was not known to Szekfű) that reports an earlier contact between the prince and the Huguenot lawyer. Also, it seems that it was not only the prince and Paul Strassburg (who stayed at his court as the Swedish king’s diplomat) who were impressed by the eloquence, erudition and cosmopolite worldview of the French adventurer.50 From Moscow, Roussel went on to Germany, where, after presenting the letter of the kaymakam (the grand vizier’s deputy) to Gustavus Adolphus, he received a commission from the Swedish king to represent the latter’s interests in Poland and Muscovy as a Swedish royal counselor. During 1631–32, while based in Riga, he maintained an extensive correspondence with the Cossacks and the Polish estates gathering for the diet, thereby causing a huge scandal in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.51 Later he visited Moscow again, this time in Dutch service, and with the tsar’s letter of recommendation went to Constantinople again. He wanted to continue his journey to Transylvania in 1634, but the new prince, György Rákóczi I (1630–1648), did not grant him entry into the country. It was in the Ottoman capital that he died in plague.52

Roussel’s contacts with Gustavus Adolphus show nevertheless that those rulers who employed the French adventurer as a diplomat did not necessarily trust him fully. In 1630 the king and his chancellor agreed that although Roussel was beyond doubt a very clever man, he also seemed to be a rather strange and inconsistent person, and therefore they could not be sure which of his generous offers could be taken seriously. In any case, the benefits that could be won through him seemed to be larger than the damage he could cause, and this was the reason he received a commission from the otherwise rather skeptical Gustavus Adolphus.53 It can be assumed that if we had direct sources about Gábor Bethlen’s plans in giving accreditation to the two French diplomats, they would show similar motivations. The potential damage Roussel and Talleyrand could cause at the Sublime Porte was prevented by Bethlen’s other representatives there: the French diplomats’ activities were constantly monitored (or, according to their own account, hindered) by one of the prince’s ambassadors, Kelemen Mikes, who was sent there in their company.54 An analogous example can be found in the case of Lorenzo Agazza from Vercelli, Savoy, who was Bethlen’s representative to Venice in 1621. Although we know of no negative description of him similar to those of the French diplomats, we can still assume that it was the earlier, rather adventurous career of this Italian envoy that motivated Bethlen to send his other two men with him to the Serenissima. Thus Gáspár Szunyogh and Illés Vajnay could at the same time keep an eye on Agazza, who had earlier been in the service of the duke of Savoy, the kings of Denmark, Bohemia and various German princes, and who also applied for an office in Venice.55

Individual Emigrants

It is not easy to place Zygmunt Zaklika in the typology described above. He also came to Bethlen from Protestant courts in East Central Europe, but he could also be connected to the “wandering adventurer-diplomats,” if not due to his far-fetched political visions, then at least due to his rather extravagant behavior, which led to his arrest in Brandenburg at the turn of 1626. He came from a Polish Calvinist family and was most probably a relative of the similarly named sixteenth-century politician, who visited Hungary several times and even spent some time in the prison of the Habsburgs for his support of István Báthory’s election as king of Poland.56 It seems that Zaklika had good contacts with the Calvinist elite of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth: he was an envoy of Prince Janusz Radziwiłł to Livonia and Muscovy. As the Lithuanian magnate maintained correspondence with the Protestant rulers of Europe, we can assume that Zaklika came into contact with Bethlen through him.57

According to his own testimony, Zaklika joined Bethlen’s service in 1624 (that is, four years after Radziwiłł’s death). He was commissioned twice by the Transylvanian prince to travel to the Netherlands and visit Frederick V on his behalf. During the spring of 1625 he reached The Hague and negotiated with the exiled king-elector.58 His mission in the autumn of the same year, however, took many unexpected turns. Travelling through Polish territory and Brandenburg, Zaklika reached the camp of Ernst von Mansfeld, and later that of Christian IV in late November.59 From there, the Polish envoy decided not to continue his journey, according to his own testimony because he learned that Matthias Quadt was also on his way with the same assignments, and instead returned to Berlin. The Brandenburg counselors, who had already been suspicious of him because of his earlier awkward behavior, listened to a number of self-contradictory statements about his instructions and intentions, and then decided that he must be a spy and arrested him. He was held in custody for more than three months, until Bethlen’s response to the very detailed description of Zaklika’s blunder arrived, in which the prince identified the Polish nobleman as his agent and apologized for his incomprehensible behavior.60 After he left Berlin, we have no information about him: he may have continued a military career in Bethlen’s service, but (not surprisingly) he received no further diplomatic commissions.

Finally, we can treat Hermann Beckmann as a category of his own: he came to Transylvania as the secretary of Catherine of Brandenburg, but we find him in Berlin again a short time after the wedding, which took place in March 1626: in July he informed the elector there that his sister had been elected princess of Transylvania by the estates of the country with the stipulation that she could only rule after her husband’s death.61 From Brandenburg he went to Wolfenbüttel to meet Christian IV, and probably before going back to Transylvania received a new message from Bethlen ordering him to visit Gustavus Adolphus; in mid-September he was already on his way back from the king’s camp in Prussia.62 After this, he disappears from the sources.

Emigrant Diplomats for the Protestant Cause: Gábor Bethlen’s System of Diplomacy in European Context

Apart from being almost exclusively of foreign origin, there is another striking phenomenon that can be observed about Gábor Bethlen’s diplomats at the Protestant courts of Europe: most of them served more than one ruler during their lifetime. Even if we disregard the extreme cases of Roussel and Agazza, the majority (Berbisdorf, Quadt, Víckov and Zaklika) also changed their professed loyalty at least once during their careers. This makes the example of Schulitz the extraordinary one, and makes one wonder whether it was his profession as physician that provided peculiar circumstances for him, or that we might just miss some information on earlier assignments from a Silesian prince that would fit him into the general picture.

In the seventeenth-century system of diplomatic representation, the employment of foreigners as envoys was a well-established practice. If we take into account that more than half of the diplomats representing Sweden were born outside the territories belonging to the Swedish Crown, Bethlen’s example is far from extraordinary, because the prince never trusted foreigners with diplomatic assignments to the neighboring empires, thus making their ratio among the total number of his envoys less than 30 percent.63 Even their change of loyalties was no exception in contemporary European diplomacy. The example of Ludwig Camerarius, which is much better documented than any of Bethlen’s diplomats, shows that it was no problem for emigrant diplomats whose loyalties were not connected to the dynastic interests of a specific ruler but rather to the Protestant cause, to serve even several such rulers at the same time, if the latter seemed relevant to pursuing their agenda. Thus Camerarius, who was one of the leading politicians of the Palatinate emigration in the mid-1620s, wrote regular reports to the Swedish chancellor, Axel Oxenstierna. What is more, in 1626 he officially entered Swedish service, but nevertheless did not sever his contacts with Frederick V but continued to support him with political advice.64 When Víckov visited the exiled elector in The Hague as Bethlen’s envoy and returned to Transylvania with a detailed description of the opportunities for the two rulers to cooperate, it makes no sense to ask whom he was actually representing. Forced into emigration because of his earlier commitment to Frederick V, he was even personally interested in the issue that the two rulers were negotiating through him, the establishment of a Protestant, anti-Habsburg alliance.65 Similar motivations may have been at work in the case of Berbisdorf and Quadt as well: as long as they were working for the Protestant cause (and thus to put an end to their exile), it could not have mattered to them whether they were fulfilling the assignments of the prince of Transylvania, the king of Denmark or the elector of Brandenburg.

Berbisdorf is an especially illustrative example of this flexibility inside the same camp: he worked for the same task, the mediation between Transylvania and the Protestants of northwestern Europe, before and after 1625, and only the person who signed his credentials changed. One could suggest that this solution was motivated by the lack in Western and Northern European courts of people who would have been familiar with the circumstances at the southeastern borders of Latin Christianity. Examples such as that of Sir James (Jacob) Spens, however, warn against such an interpretation. This Scottish nobleman, after having served as an ambassador of the Swedish Crown in London between 1613 and 1620, and again between 1623 and 1626, was sent to Gustavus Adolphus as the diplomat of Charles I in 1627.66

It is probably the career of Paul Strassburg that offers the best illustration that in the Protestant politics of the 1620s an envoy was not necessarily expected to be loyal to the dynastic interests of the ruler who sent him, which otherwise would have excluded the possibility of him subsequently representing various princes. He visited Gábor Bethlen for the first time in 1625, at the request of Heinrich Matthias von Thurn, but indirectly representing Frederick V. In 1627 he was received in Königsberg as the envoy of Catherine of Brandenburg (at that time not yet as a ruling princess). From there he went to Royal Prussia to meet Gustavus Adolphus, who gave him the title of court counselor and sent him back to Gábor Bethlen’s court to represent him there in 1628.67

With the cases of these diplomats in mind, who changed their loyalties to specific rulers, another phenomenon, found in the career of Quadt, is perhaps less surprising. During the autumn of 1625 it was not only the offers of Gábor Bethlen that were on the table of the Brandenburg Secret Council, but also the question of sending a representative to The Hague conference, where the alliance of Protestant powers was to be concluded. The question was raised whether a Brandenburg diplomat, who could inform Christian IV about the intentions of the elector, should accompany Matthias Quadt on his way to the northwest. As those secret counselors who had any experience in matters of diplomacy were on other missions or lying sick in bed, the decision was made to give this task to Bethlen’s envoy. Apart from negotiating with the Danish king on Bethlen’s behalf, Quadt thus also handed him Georg Wilhelm’s letter; what is more, he gave a summary of some new developments in the elector’s secret diplomacy. Although Quadt was representing two rulers at the same time, Christian IV regarded him unambiguously as the envoy of the Transylvanian prince and avoided referring to him as Georg Wilhelm’s diplomat even in his response to the elector.68 The envoy’s loyalty towards the prince of Transylvania thus was not questioned by anyone due to the fact that during his mission he also took on assignments from another ruler from the Protestant camp.69

Conclusion

It was thus not an extraordinary situation that the diplomats representing the prince of Transylvania at the European Protestant courts were mostly foreigners connected to his person and not to the principality. This trend seems to have changed in the following decades. The rather rare Transylvanian diplomatic missions in the 1630s were still mostly assigned to people of foreign origin: the prince was represented at the courts of Sweden and France by Heinrich Dreiling in 1632, Heinrich Meerbott in 1634 and 1637, and Johann Heinrich Bisterfeld in 1638–1639. However, apart from them it was not only Boncziday who continued his activities, but in 1632 and 1634 other Hungarians, Pál Csontos and Balázs Bálintffy, were also entrusted with diplomatic missions.70 In the 1640s, then, missions to Western and Northern Europe were usually granted to Hungarians, and the same trend can be observed under the rule of György Rákóczi II (1648–1660, with interruption). This change could be interpreted so that in the 1640s there were already widely traveled, well-educated people with experience of peregrination available to the prince, such as János Dániel, who delivered the news of György Rákóczi I’s death to Protestant principalities on behalf of his son and successor.71 At the same time, there was a number of diplomats in the service of György Rákóczi I and II from Hungary and Transylvania who are not known for their eminent backgrounds. Even Ferenc Jármi, who was the prince’s envoy to the peace congress of Westphalia, had no better background than any of those people having politically relevant offices under Gábor Bethlen.72 This renders an alternative interpretation more likely: namely, that the huge migratory wave of politically competent persons in the 1620s was not followed by others later on, and the princes simply ran out of foreigners who could be used as diplomats. The few exceptions to this rule had diverse backgrounds. Constantin Schaum came from the circle of Comenius and used his network during his mission to the Protestant rulers of Europe; thus, he shows similarities with the Czech–Palatinate group in Bethlen’s time. On the other hand, Tymoshka Akudinov, who sought assistance for his aspirations concerning the Russian throne and received the pass of the prince of Transylvania to travel to Sweden as his envoy, belongs in the category of adventurers.73 The fact that they were employed by György Rákóczi II and were exclusively used for long-distance missions and never in relations with neighboring states, suggests that it was not the principal fundaments of the system of foreign policy during Bethlen’s reign that changed in the following decades but only the available personnel.

Archival Sources

Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych (Warsaw) [Central Archives of Historical Records]

Archiwum Koronne Warszawskie [Warsaw Crown Archives]

Metryka Koronna [Crown Registers] Libri Legationum

Arhivele Naţionale ale României Direcţia Judeţeană Braşov [National Archives of Romania, County Directorate Braşov]

Primăria oraşului Braşov, Socotele alodiale [Municipality of the town of Braşov, Domanial Accounts]

Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich)

Clm 10375

Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv (Munich)

Kasten Schwarz

Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin-Dahlem)

I. Hauptabteilung Rep. 11., Rep. 21., Rep. 24.

Brandenburgisch–preussisches Hausarchiv Rep. 32., Rep. 33.

Krigsarkivet (Stockholm) [War Archives]

Biografica

Österreichisches Staatsarchiv, Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv (Vienna)

Ungarische Akten: Allgemeine Akten

Staatenabteilungen: Türkei I.; Polen I.

Rigsarkivet (Copenhagen) [State Archives]

Tyske Kancelli, Udenrigske Afdelning [German Chancellery, Department for Foreign Policy]

Riksarkivet (Stockholm) [State Archives]

Oxenstiernasamlingen [Oxenstierna collection]

Diplomatica Transylvanica

Riksregistraturet [State Registers]

Skrivelser till konungen Gustaf II Adolfs tid [Letters to the king: The time of Gustavus Adolphus]

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1 Geoffrey Parker, The Thirty Years’ War (London: Routledge, 1984), 176.

2 This is the reason why, in spite of his clear interest in understanding the developments in this easternmost theater of the Thirty Years’ War, Peter H. Wilson, the author of the recent comprehensive synthesis on the conflict, could not avoid certain unfortunate misunderstandings; cf. his Europe’s Tragedy: The History of the Thirty Years War (London: Allen Lane, 2009). The best overview of Bethlen’s activities is Katalin Péter, “The Golden Age of the Principality,” in The History of Transylvania, vol. 2: From 1606 to 1830, ed. László Makkai and Zoltán Szász (Boulder, Colo.: East European Monographs, 2002), 57–98. See also the short summary by János Csohány, “Die politischen Beziehungen von Gábor Bethlen zum reformierten Europa,” Jahrbuch für die Geschichte des Protestantismus in Österreich 101–102 (1994–1995): 87–98.

3 See primarily Sándor Papp, “Bethlen Gábor, a magyar királyság és a Porta (1619–1622),” Századok 145 (2011): 915–74; Balázs Sudár, “ Iskender and Gábor Bethlen: The Pasha and the Prince,” in Europe and the Ottoman World: Exchanges and Conflicts (Sixteenth–Seventeenth Centuries), ed. Gábor Kármán and Radu G. Păun (Istanbul: Isis, 2013), 141–69.

4 Gyula Szekfű, Bethlen Gábor: Történelmi tanulmány (Budapest: Magyar Szemle Társaság, 1929), 270–71; Kálmán Benda, “Diplomáciai szervezet és diplomaták Erdélyben Bethlen Gábor korában,” Századok 115 (1981): 725–30.

5 On the institutions of Brandenburg foreign policy in the first half of the Thirty Years’ War, see Ulrich Kober, Eine Karriere im Krieg: Graf Adam von Schwarzenberg und die kurbrandenburgische Politik von 1619 bis 1641 (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2004), 25–39. The classic monograph about the cooperation between Gustavus Adolphus and Oxenstierna is Nils Ahnlund, Axel Oxenstierna intill Gustav Adolfs död (Stockholm: Norstedt, 1940).

6 Szekfű, Bethlen Gábor, 270–71; Benda, “Diplomáciai szervezet,” 729. For more details on the mission, see Sándor Szilágyi, “Gabriel Bethlen und die schwedische Diplomatie,” Ungarische Revue 2 (1882): 473–77.

7 The first data about Boncziday are from January 1620, when he was travelling back and forth between Transylvania and Moldavia, see Zsuzsanna Cziráki, Autonóm közösség és központi hatalom: Udvar, fejedelem és város viszonya a Bethlen-kori Brassóban (Budapest: ELTE, 2011), 202. In 1624, the prince ordered him to guide his envoy, Matthias Quadt, on his way to Thorn, which suggests that he had been to Poland before. In this case, the prince explicitly refers to him as his “postal envoy;” see his letter to Péter Alvinczi (Gyulafehérvár, October 7, 1624) in Sándor Szilágyi, “Bethlen Gábor uralkodásának történetéhez,” Történelmi Tár 2 (1879): 411. Most of the sources concerning the negotiations in Königsberg were published by Sándor Szilágyi, “Oklevelek Bethlen Gábor és Gusztáv Adolf összeköttetéseinek történetéhez,” Történelmi Tár 5 (1882): 243–53.

8 Johannes Nicodemi’s report to Axel Oxenstierna (Elbing, February 4, 1629) Szilágyi, “Oklevelek,” 249–53.

9 Paul Strassburg’s letter to Axel Oxenstierna (Gyulafehérvár, October 28, 1629), Carl Wibling, “Magyarország történetét érdeklő okiratok a svédországi levéltárakból,” Történelmi Tár 15 (1892): 451.

10 The Swedish chancellor seems not to have considered Boncziday as an envoy of the prince; at least he did not send any letter to Bethlen with him, but only replied Paul Strassburg’s message (Elbing, January 24[/February 3], 1629) Szilágyi, “Oklevelek,” 253–56. Boncziday continued to receive assignments within the framework of Transylvanian foreign policy later on: in 1632 he visited Gustavus Adolphus as a representative of Prince György Rákóczi I; see the envoy’s letter to Axel Oxenstierna (Mainz, June 8, 1632). Riksarkivet (Stockholm, henceforth RA(S)) Oxenstiernasamlingen E 570; as well as the king’s letter to György Rákóczi I (Hersbruck, June 25[/July 5], 1632), Sándor Szilágyi, ed., Okirattár Strassburg Pál 1631–1633-iki követsége és I. Rákóczy György első diplomacziai összeköttetései történetéhez, Monumenta Hungariae Historica, Diplomataria 26 (Budapest: Magyar Tudományos Akadémia, 1882), 59.

11 The classic study on the Constantinople embassy of Transylvania is Vencel Bíró, Erdély követei a Portán (Kolozsvár: Minerva, 1921). See also the German summary by Georg Müller, Die Türkenherrschaft in Siebenbürgen: Verfassungsrechtliches Verhältnis Siebenbürgens zur Pforte 1541–1688 (Hermannstadt: Krafft, 1923), 74–96; as well as Gábor Kármán, “Sovereignty and Representation: Tributary States in the Seventeenth-Century Diplomatic System of the Ottoman Empire,” in The European Tributary States of the Ottoman Empire in the Sixteenth–Seventeenth Centuries, ed. Gábor Kármán and Lovro Kunčević (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 155–85. On the activities of the embassy during Bethlen’s rule, see Papp, “Bethlen Gábor;” and Sudár, “Iskender.”

12 György Kurucz, “Polish–Transylvanian Relations and English Diplomacy from the 16th to the mid-17th Century,” Ungarn-Jahrbuch 36 (2002/2003): 25–28; Anikó Kellner, “Strife for a Dream: Sir Thomas Roe’s Case with Gabor Bethlen, Prince of Transylvania,” Studia Universitatis Petru Maior: Series Historia 5 (2005): 41–56.

13 On the details, see Anton Gindely, “Bethlen Gábor 1580–1629,” in Anton Gindely and Ignác Acsády, Bethlen Gábor és udvara 1580–1629 (Budapest: Magyar Történelmi Társulat, 1980), 161–65; Zoltán Piri, “Bethlen Gábor fejedelem útja a hágai szövetségbe,” Történelmi Szemle 41, no. 1–2 (1999): 157–75. Bethlen did receive the news about the conference of Protestant powers, and wrote new instructions to Quadt, but it would have reached the envoy halfway home even if the postal envoy, who was supposed to deliver it, had not drowned in the River Tisza. See Bethlen’s letter to Péter Alvinczi (Gyulafehérvár, 12 January 1626) in Szilágyi, “Bethlen Gábor uralkodásának történetéhez,” 415. For an extract of the instruction, dated December 23, 1625, see Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin-Dahlem, henceforth GStA PK) I. Hauptabteilung (henceforth HA) rep. 11. Auswärtige Beziehungen: Akten Nr. 10175.

14 Gábor Bethlen’s credentials to Ferenc Mikó and Matthias Quadt for Elector Georg Wilhelm (Gyulafehérvár, July 1, 1625) GStA PK Brandenburgisch–preussisches Hausarchiv (henceforth cited as BPH), rep. 33. W, nr. 62, fol. 25r. Under the date 14 July, Quadt also received a separate letter of credence, ibid., fol. 28r. On the presence of Kovacsóczy, see the credentials of Georg Wilhelm (Cölln an der Spree, 26 September[/6 October] 1625) ibid., fol. 76r; and the marriage contract (Cölln an der Spree, 6 October 1625, with the clause of Bethlen) in Gyula Szabó, “Bethlen Gábor házassága Brandenburgi Katalinnal (A berlini titkos állami levéltárból),” Történelmi Tár 11 (1888): 656–63.

15 On the cooperation between the Margrave and Bethlen, see Hans Schulz, Markgraf Johann Georg von Brandenburg-Jägerndorf Generalfeldoberst (Halle: Niemeyer, 1899), 118–34.

16 Hans von Zwiedeneck-Südenhorst, “Graf Heinrich Matthias von Thurn in Diensten der Republik Venedig: Eine Studie nach venetianischen Akten,” Archiv für Österreichische Geschichte 66 (1884): 257–76; Alexander Schunka, “Böhmen am Bosporus: Migrationserfahrung und diplomatische Kommunikation am Beispiel des Grafen Heinrich Matthias von Thurn,” in Migrationserfahrungen – Migrationsstrukturen, ed. Alexander Schunka and Eckart Olshausen (Stuttgart: Steiner, 2010), 67–85.

17 On the mission to The Hague, see the registers of the Staten Generaal in Joke Roelevink, ed., Resolutiën der Staten-Generaal: Nieuwe reeks 1610–1670, vol. 6: 2 januari 1623 – 30 juni 1624 (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1989), 28–38. (nos. 170, 196, 226, 256A). The envoy was also granted 600 gulden for his travel expenses by the government of the United Provinces. His speech before the Staaten General in 1623 is edited in Otakár Odložilík, ed., Z korespondence pobĕlohorské emigrace z let 1621–1624 (Prague: Náklad. Královské České Společnosti Nauk, 1933), 42–44. For his letters from Transylvania in the later summer of 1622, see ibid., 20–24. On the mission to Bethlen in 1621, see the letters of Miech von Miltiz to Johann Georg, elector of Saxony (s.l., 8[/18] and 14[/24] April 1621), in Hermann Palm, ed., Acta publica: Verhandlungen und Correspondenzen der schlesischen Fürsten und Stände: Jahrgang 1621 (Breslau: Max, 1875), 157n. On his earlier military career, see ibid., 70; as well as his letter to Ernst von Mansfeld (Camp by Striga, March 24, 1621), Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv (Munich) Kasten Schwarz 16744. fol. 136. For further data, see Piri, “Bethlen Gábor,” 161, n. 9.

18 For his Danish service as well as the mission of 1625, see C. F. Bricka and J. A. Fridericia, ed., Kong Christian den Fjerdes egenhændige Breve, vol. 2: 1626–1631 (Copenhagen: Gad, 1889–91), 2, n. 2; as well as the recredentials of Gábor Bethlen to Berbisdorf (Gyulafehérvár, December 24, 1625) Rigsarkivet (Copenhagen, henceforth RA(K)) Tyske Kancelli, Udenrigske Afdelning (henceforth TKUA) Speciel Del (henceforth SD) 82-1 Ungarn og Valakiet, fol. 10. On his 1627 mission, see the resolutio of Gábor Bethlen given to him (Fogaras, July 22, 1627) in Szilágyi, “Bethlen Gábor uralkodásának történetéhez,” 446. His career in Swedish service is documented by his letters to Axel Oxenstierna and an invoice of his from 1629; see RA(S) Oxenstiernasamlingen E 566, respectively Krigsarkivet (Stockholm) Biografica.

19 On his journey to the Netherlands, see Roelevink, Resolutiën, 456–80 (nos. 2820, 2930, 2962); his credentials to Ladislav Velen ze Žerotína (Besztercebánya, January 8, 1624) and the response of the Staten Generaal to Bethlen (The Hague, March 29 [/April 8], 1624) are edited in Odložilík, Z korespondence, 164–65, resp. 169–72. For further biographical details, see František Hrubý, ed., Moravské korespondence a akta z let 1620–1636, vol. 1: 1620–1624 (Brno: Nákl. Zemĕ Moravskosl., 1934), 110, 161; as well as Piri, “Bethlen Gábor,” 165, n. 22.

20 Zoppenbroich, now a suburb of Mönchengladbach, was donated to Wilhelm Quadt, the father of Matthias, see Herbert M. Schleicher, ed., Ernst von Oidtman und seine genealogisch-heraldische Sammlung in der Universitäts-Bibliothek zu Köln, vol. 12 (Cologne: n.p., 1997), 316–17; Detlev Schwennicke, ed., Europäische Stammtafeln: Neue Folge, vol. 4: Standesherrliche Häuser, vol. 1 (Marburg: Stargardt, 1981), Tafel 78. There are examples for the usage of both by-names for Matthias Quadt as well, but most credentials of Bethlen refer to him without any by-name. On his Jülich origins, see the letter of Elector Georg Wilhelm to Christian IV (Cölln an der Spree, October 3[/13], 1625) RA(K) TKUA SD 12-20 Brandenburg.

21 The Brandenburg connections of Matthias Quadt were discussed by Adam von Schwarzenberg at the meeting of the electorate’s secret council on October 1[/11], 1625; see GStA PK I. HA, rep. 21, nr. 127m, vol. 1, fol. 65v. It is almost sure that the title “Raht” attributed to his father by Schwarzenberg does not refer to a secret councilor’s position, but its actual contents remain unclear. The brother of Matthias, also mentioned here, is most probably identical to a certain Johann Friedrich von Quadt, whose appointment as an officer in the elector’s service dates from Königsberg May 11/21, 1620, and was signed by Schwarzenberg, GStA PK I. HA, rep. 24, lit. P, fasc. 2. The letter of Georg Wilhelm, cited in the previous footnote, also noted that Matthias’ brother supervised an infantry, as well as a mounted company in his service. His activities are documented as late as January 15[/25], 1629; see the letter of secret counselors to Georg Wilhelm from this date, GStA PK I. HA rep. 21, nr. 136h, vol. I.

22 He was one of the two guarantors of the Margrave’s loan transaction in Hungary; see the certificate of Johann Georg (Kassa, September 19, 1623) GStA PK BPH, rep. 32. Kurfürst Joachim Friedrich V, nr. 9.

23 On the death of Johann Georg, see the letter of Elisabeth Charlotte, the consort of the elector to Barbara Sophia, duchess of Württemberg (Cölln an der Spree, May 11[/21], 1624), GStA PK BPH, rep. 32, V nr. 19.

24 His credentials and instructions are not known, but the diplomat was granted money for travel expenses on August 19, 1624; Béla Radvánszky, ed., “Bethlen Gábor fejedelem udvartartása,” vol. 1 of Udvartartás és számadáskönyvek (Budapest: Magyar Történelmi Társulat, 1888), 189. On the failure of the mission, see the proposition of Piotr Szyszkowski to Georg Wilhelm (October 3, 1624) GStA PK BPH W nr. 65a fols. 4–6.; and the instructions of Sigismund III, king of Poland to Samuel Targowski (Warsaw, September [day missing], 1624), Sándor Szilágyi, “A ‘Collectio Camerariana’-ból,” Történelmi Tár 6 (1883): 222–23; as well as the account of János Kemény, “Önéletírása,” in Kemény János és Bethlen Miklós művei, ed. Éva V. Windisch (Magyar remekírók) (Budapest: Szépirodalmi, 1980), 51. Bethlen’s instructions survived in a copy at Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych (Warsaw, henceforth AGAD) Metryka Koronna Libri Legationum, vol. 29, 328–39.

25 On his stay in Brandenburg, see the sources cited in footnote 14. He arrived at Nienburg on October 26, 1625 and continued his journey on the 29th;; see Rasmus Nyerup, ed., Kong Christian des Fjerdes Dagbøger for Aarene 1618, 1619, 1620, 1625, 1635 (Copenhagen: Brummer, 1825), 144; also the letter of Chistian IV to Gábor Bethlen (Nienburg, October 19[/29], 1625) Vilmos Fraknói, “Bethlen Gábor és IV. Keresztély dán király (1625–1628): Közlemények a koppenhágai kir. levéltárból,” Történelmi Tár 4 (1881): 98. Quadt dated his letter to Georg Wilhelm from Bremen on October 21 [November 1], 1625; GStA PK I. HA rep. 24 a, nr. 2, fasc. 32. On his arrival in The Hague, see the letter of Ludwig Camerarius to Axel Oxenstierna (The Hague, November 5/15, 1625), Magnus Gottfrid Schybergson, ed., Sveriges och Hollands diplomatiska förbindelser 1621–1630 (Helsingfors: Finska Litteratur Sällskap, 1881), 331. On January 9, 1626, he was already on his way back when he again travelled through the camp of Christian IV, this time in Rotenburg, in the company of Camerarius, who was heading for Sweden, see Nyerup, Kong Christian des Fjerdes Dagbøger, 150.

26 See the letter of Christian IV to Bethlen (Wolfenbüttel, May 30 [/June 9], 1626), Fraknói, “Bethlen Gábor,” 101–2. On Quadt’s journey to Berlin, see the letter of Bethlen to Adam von Schwarzenberg (Kézdivásárhely, April 19, 1626) and the latter’s reply (Kassa, April 25 [/May 5], 1626), GStA PK BPH rep. 33, W, nr. 65, vol. 4, unnumbered page after fol. 137, resp. ibid, nr. 65a, vol. 5, fol. 200r.

27 See the letter of Matthias Quadt to Gustavus Adolphus (Berlin, June 15[/25], 1626), RA(S) Transylvanica, vol. 1, nr. 5. The Swedish king reproached a Brandenburg secret councilor, Samuel von Winterfeld that his lord would not allow Bethlen’s envoy travel to him, see Winterfeld’s report to Georg Wilhelm (Berlin, July 27 [/August 6]), GStA PK I. HA rep. 11. Auswärtige Beziehungen: Akten nr. 9302.

28 On his arrival at The Hague, see the letter of Ludwig Camerarius to Axel Oxenstierna, and to Johann Joachim Rusdorf (The Hague, August 16/26, 1626) Schybergson, Sveriges och Hollands diplomatiska förbindelser, 430; resp. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, henceforth BSB) Clm 10375, fols. 232–33. Quadt’s stay in London can be reconstructed from the letters of Rusdorf to Frederick V and to Axel Oxenstierna, and the reports of Alvise Contarini to the Doge of Venice: Ernst Wilhelm Cuhn, ed., Memoires et negociations secretes de Mr. de Rusdorf conseiller d’etat de S.M. Frederich V. Roi de Boheme, Electeur Palatin, pour servir á l’histoire de la guerre de trente ans, vol. 1 (Leipzig: Weygand, 1789), 748–88; vol. 2, 251–307; resp. Lipót Óváry, ed., Oklevéltár Bethlen Gábor diplomácziai összeköttetései történetéhez a velenczei állami levéltárban Mircse János által eszközölt másolatokból (Budapest: Magyar Tudományos Akadémia, 1886), 798–804. See also the letters of Rusdorf to Gábor Bethlen and Paul Strassburg (London, 3[/13], resp. December 4[/14], 1626) Judit P. Vásárhelyi, “Johann Joachim Rusdorf válogatott levelei,” Lymbus: Művelődéstörténeti Tár 3 (1991): 127, 168. For the dates of the signatures by the Staten Generaal and Christian IV, see their clauses in the treaty, edited by Sándor Szilágyi, Adalékok Bethlen Gábor szövetkezéseinek történetéhez (Budapest: Eggenberger, 1873), 89–93. See also Piri, “Bethlen Gábor,” 173–75.

29 Gábor Bethlen refers to this late delivery of the treaties in his resolutio given to Christian Wilhelm, Margrave of Brandenburg and Administrator of Magdeburg ([August 1627]), as well as in a letter to unknown (Gyulafehérvár, August 19, 1627) Anton Gindely, ed., Okmánytár Bethlen Gábor fejedelem uralkodása történetéhez (Budapest: Magyar Tudományos Akadémia, 1890), 472–73; resp. Imre Nagy et al., ed., Hazai okmánytár, vol. 4 (Győr: Sauervein, 1867), 470.

30 See the edition of his proposition in Berlin in September 1625, or his speech in The Hague the same year: Szilágyi, “A ‘Collectio Camerariana’-ból,” 237–43; resp. Ludovici Camerarii I.C. aliorumque epistolae nuper post pugnam maritinam in Suedica navi capta captae a victore Polono… (S. l.: s. n., 1627), 34–48.

31 “… vir optimus and mihi amicus”, see the letter of Camerarius to Axel Oxenstierna (The Hague, December 9/19, 1624) Schybergson, Sveriges och Hollands diplomatiska förbindelser, 119.

32 The anonymous account claims that “[der Fürst hat Quadt] stattlich unndt fast fürstlich begraben laßen”, and Caspar Dornau (Dornavius) had a similar formulation in his letter to Friedrich Pruckmann, chancellor of Brandenburg ([Breslau], December 31, 1628 [/January 10, 1629]): “splendida pompa in crypta depositus;” GStA PK BPH rep. 33. W nr. 70, fol. 32r, resp. ibid. I. HA rep. 21, nr. 136 g, vol. 1. The details of the funeral are described in the anonymous account, which also notes the suspicion concerning poisoning. This is also confirmed by the information of János Kemény, who writes that Quadt’s dissection made sick and eventually killed the doctor commissioned with it, see Kemény, “Önéletírása,” 51–52. The legacy of the German soldier diplomat was sent back to his family by Bethlen, see the letter of Princess Luise Juliana of Orange-Nassau to the prince (Cölln an der Spree, January 4[/14], 1629) Sándor Szilágyi, “Levelek és okiratok Bethlen Gábor utolsó évei történetéhez (1627–1629),” Történelmi Tár 10 (1887): 19.

33 Letter of Martin Opitz to Martin Schödel (Paris, May 14, 1630), Martin Opitz, Briefwechsel und Lebenszeugnisse: Kritische Edition mit Übersetzung, ed. Klaus Conermann, vol. 2 (Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 2009), 800–1 (no. 300514 ep). Strangely enough, the editor left the question of Dreiling’s origins open, citing also the statement of a part of earlier literature, which suggested that he might have been a Transylvanian Saxon; in spite of the fact that both the letter’s text and the June 5, 1615 entry in the Heidelberg university register, quoted also by Conermann (“Heinricus Dreilingius Sagano-Silesius”), unambiguously point to his Silesian birth; cf. ibid., 806, commentary no. 13. On Opitz’s stay in Transylvania, see Martin Szyrocki, Martin Opitz, 2nd ed. (Munich: Beck, 1974), 51–56; János Heltai, “Martin Opitz und sein intellektuelles Umfeld in Siebenbürgen,” in Martin Opitz 1597–1639: Fremdheit und Gegenwärtigkeit einer geschichtlichen Persönlichkeit, ed. Jörg-Ulrich Fechner and Wolfgang Kessler (Herne: Stiftung Martin-Opitz-Bibliothek, 2006), 79–103.

34 See the following letters: Gustavus Adolphus to Gábor Bethlen (Camp near Dirschau, July 14[/24], 1626), RA(S) Riksregistraturet (henceforth RR) vol. 156, fols. 23–25; Ludwig Camerarius to Axel Oxenstierna (The Hague, October 1, 1626), Schybergson, Sveriges och Hollands diplomatiska förbindelser, 449; Gábor Bethlen to Gustavus Adolphus (September [without day], 1627), Szilágyi, “Oklevelek,” 240. The capture of Dreiling was later used by Gustavus Adolphus in his legitimation for entering the war, see Anna Maria Forssberg, “Arguments of War: Norm and Information Systems in Sweden and France during the Thirty Years War,” in Organizing History: Studies in Honour of Jan Glete, ed. Anna Maria Forssberg et al. (Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2011), 151.

35 In a later dispatch, Cornelis Haga referred to him as to an old friend; see his letters to Weikhard Schulitz (Constantinople, January 22 and May 30, 1630), as well as the letter of Dreiling to Catherine of Brandenburg (Constantinople, April 14, 1630), all published in –a –a (the author’s pseudonym), “Brandenburgi Katalin és a diplomáczia,” Történelmi Tár 18 (1895): 219; Történelmi Tár 21 (1898): 527; resp. Történelmi Tár 2 (1897): 715–17.

36 On his 1632 mission, see the letter of Gustavus Adolphus to György Rákóczi I (Augsburg, May 18[/28], 1632), Szilágyi, Okirattár, 52. His stay in Vienna is documented by the letter of F. Hofmüller to Johann Georg Purcher (Vienna, May 9, 1646), Österreichisches Staarsarchiv, Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv (Vienna, henceforth HHStA) Ungarische Akten: Allgemeine Akten, fasc. 175, fol. 199. Hofmüller explains that they could not find the copy of the agreement between Bethlen and Gustavus Adolphus, which was taken from the prince’s envoy in 1626. Thus, he sent for Dreiling, who brought a copy of the document himself.

37 From among the personalities discussed here, Weikhard Schulitz is the only one who has been dedicated a biographical study, which nevertheless does not even cover all the sources that were available in print at the time of writing; see Karl Kurt Klein, “Weighard Schulitz: Ein Gönner und Freund des Dichters Martin Opitz, Leibarzt und Berater des siebenbürgischen Fürsten Gabriel Bethlen,” Siebenbürgische Vierteljahrschrift 54 (1931): 1–26.

38 The birth year of Schulitz is given as 1599 by the earliest source, the Silesia Togata of Johann Heinrich Cunradi (1706), but we can agree with the doubts expressed by Klein, who suggested 1590, found in a secondary source, as the correct date; cf. Klein, “Weighard Schulitz,” 2–5. Even if we accept the earlier birth year, Schulitz must have had great talent if he managed to attain the prominent position among Bethlen’s physicians at such a young age. His noble origins are attested by the surname “von Schulitz(au)” given to him in German correspondence; see many examples in –a –a, “Brandenburgi Katalin.” The first trace of his presence in Transylvania is a book dedication from Opitz to him on June 8, 1623; see Leonard Forster, “Opitziana im Brukenthal-Museum Sibiu/Hermannstadt, RSR,” Wolfenbütteler Barock-Nachrichten 3 (1976): 254–55.

39 The actual causes of Schulitz’s disgrace are not known. The anonymous account cited in footnote 32 noted three possible reasons: he either revealed political secrets to a Hungarian lady with whom he was on familiar terms; chose the wrong side in a conflict between the Hungarian and German ladies at Catherine of Brandenburg’s court; or he insulted the princely consort. This account, as well as the letter of Caspar Dornau to Friedrich von Pruckmann, cited ibidem, state that he could only avoid a harsher punishment because the Administrator of Brandenburg, who was in Transylvania at that time, intervened on his behalf. On his revocation, see the letters of Dornau to Pruckmann (s. l., April 29 [/May 9], [1629] and Breslau, October 7[/17], 1629), GStA PK I. HA rep. 21, nr. 136 h, vol. 4, resp. VIII.

40 Kemény, “Önéletírása,” 136. On the medical activity of Schulitz as well as his manuscript Discursus de Acidularum et Thermarum usu in Hydrope, see István Weszprémi, Magyarország és Erdély orvosainak rövid életrajza: Első száz, trans. Aladár Kővári (Budapest: Medicina, 1960), 329; Klein, “Weighard Schulitz,” 12–16.

41 The following sources serve as the mission’s documentation: Bethlen’s credentials to Schulitz for Georg Wilhelm, as well as Anna, dowager electrice of Brandenburg (Segesvár, March 4, 1625), Sándor Szilágyi, “Levelek és acták Bethlen Gábor uralkodása történetéhez 1620–1629 között,” Történelmi Tár 9 (1886): 628; resp. GStA PK BPH rep. 33, W nr. 62, fol. 11r; report on the talks with Schulitz (April 1625), as well as the letters of Listhius to Georg Wilhelm ([April 1625]) and his counselors (Frankfurt an der Oder, April 25, 1625), Szabó, “Bethlen Gábor,” 647–53, 641, resp. 642–43.

42 See the letter of Weikhard Schulitz to Gábor Bethlen (Berlin, August 13[/23], 1625) Ágoston Ötvös, “Brandenburgi Katalin fejedelemsége,” Magyar Akadémiai Értesítő: A Törvény- és Történettudományi Osztályok Közlönye 2, no. 2 (1861): 209–10. The credentials given to Schulitz by Bethlen for Georg Wilhelm also survived, as well as the prince’s answer to the elector’s letter (both under the date Gyulafehérvár, June 25, 1625), GStA PK BPH rep. 33, W, nr. 62, fol. 20, resp. 15–17.

43 See the credentials of Gábor Bethlen to Schulitz for Georg Wilhelm (Gyulafehérvár, December 16, 1625), GStA PK BPH, rep. 33, W, nr. 62, fol. 175r. On his arrival, see the minutes of the secret council of Brandenburg (January 12[/22] and 14[/24], 1626), GStA PK I. HA, rep. 21, 127 m, vol. II 6v, resp. 7v–8r. The latter mentions that the preparations for Schulitz’s audience, who came on an issue separate from the marriage, are under way. Unfortunately, we have no source about the audience itself, or the content of Schulitz’s third mission.

44 On the political turmoil under the rule of Catherine of Brandenburg, see Éva Deák, “ ‘Princeps non Principissa’: Catherine of Brandenburg, Elected Prince of Transylvania (1629–1630),” in The Rule of Women in Early Modern Europe, ed. Anne J. Cruz and Mihoko Suzuki (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009), 80–99.

45 Knesebeck’s note on a letter of Schulitz to Georg Wilhelm (Munkács, June 1, 1630), –a –a, “Brandenburgi Katalin,” Történelmi Tár 21 (1898): 671.

46 It is unclear whether Catherine had any share in the assassination of Schulitz. The best informed source, the autobiography of János Kemény, suggests so; see Kemény, “Önéletírása,” 136. Several other chroniclers nevertheless state that the princess was not even aware that the Silesian doctor had been murdered and was told that he fell out of the boat when crossing the river; see Georg Kraus, Siebenbürgische Chronik des schässburger Stadtschreibers Georg Kraus 1608–1665, vol. 1 (Vienna: Kaiserlich-Königliche Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1862), 85; Joseph Trausch, ed., Chronicon Fuchsio-Lupino-Oltardinum sive Annales Hungarici et Transilvanici, vol. 1 (Coronae: Gött, 1847), 312. The chronicles offer contradictory information about the date of the assassination; the terminus post quem is provided by the registries of Brassó, according to which Schulitz was the town’s guest on December 8–9; it was from here that he started his fatal journey; cf. Arhivele Naţionale ale României Direcţia Judeţeană Braşov, Primăria oraşului Braşov, Socotele alodiale V/19, 814. Cornelis Haga, not much after having most probably met Schulitz personally in Constantinople, wrote to Ludwig Camerarius that the princess had alienated her counselor with her growing sympathies towards the Habsburgs (Constantinople, October 26, 1630), BSB Clm 10369, no. 295.

47 On their negotiations in Constantinople, see their letters to Gábor Bethlen (Constantinople, May 15, June 16 and 25, 1629), Áron Szilády and Sándor Szilágyi, ed., Török–magyarkori állam-okmánytár, vol. 2 (Pest: Eggenberger, 1868), 104–8, 116–7, 125; as well as the reports of Sebastiano Vener, the Venetian bailo to the Doge (Vigne di Pera, May 12, May 26, July 25 and August 4, 1629), Óváry, Oklevéltár, 752–66. The documents related to their journey to Moscow, together with a description of their audience are published by János Supala and Kálmán Géresi, “Talleyrand és Roussel követsége az orosz czárhoz,” Történelmi Tár 10 (1887): 53–78. Boris F. Porshnev regards the mission as promising, see his Muscovy and Sweden in the Thirty Years’ War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 35; for further biographical details on Roussel, see 79–80.

48 The most detailed biography of Roussel, available in published form is in Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux, Historiettes, vol. 2, ed. Antoine Adam (Paris: Gallimard, 1961), 187–89, and 1056–58 (Adam’s notes). Many further details are provided by the manuscript “Kurtzer und einfältiger Bericht deß Jacob Roussels leben, reysen, handel...” BSB Clm 10416, nr. 78–79. Further biographical data about both of them are offered by the letter of Sebastiano Venier to the Doge (Vigne di Pera, August 4, 1629), Óváry, Oklevéltár, 766; as well as by the letter of Johann Rudolf Schmid to Ferdinand II (Constantinople, August 26, 1634) HHStA Türkei I, Kt. 114, F fasc. 85/b, conv. A, fol. 48r. See also Gunnar Hering, Ökumenisches Patriarchat und europäische Politik 1620–1638 (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1968), 214.

49 Szekfű, Bethlen Gábor, 271.

50 See the captivated description of Roussel in Paul Strassburg’s report to Gustavus Adolphus ([early 1630]), Szilágyi, “Oklevelek,” 274–75.

51 On his Swedish service, see David Norrman, Gustav Adolfs politik mot Ryssland och Polen under tyska kriget (1630–1632) (Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1943), 34–41. Roussel had already written letters from France to the Swedish king in 1627–1628, RA(S) Skrivelser till konungen Gustaf II Adolfs tid vol. 29. See also his letters to Axel Oxenstierna: RA(S) Oxenstiernasamlingen E 700. His letters to the Cossacks (Riga, July 25, 1631) and to the Polish estates (Riga, January 1 and February 20, 1632) are found in HHStA Polen I, kt. 54, konv. 1631, fols. 24–26; konv. 1632 Jänner, fols. 1–5., illetve konv. 1632 März, fols. 8–11; another letter of his to Aleksandr Korwin Gosiewski (Riga, August 7, 1631) at AGAD Archiwum Koronne Warszawskie, Dzieł szwedzkie 8b/28.

52 On the Dutch commission, see the “Kurtzer … Bericht” BSB Clm 10416, fols. 342–44; as well as the letter of Axel Oxenstierna to the State Council (Frankfurt am Main, July 12[/22], 1633), Herman Brulin, ed., Rikskansleren Axel Oxenstiernas skrifter och brefvexling, ser. 1, vol. 9: Bref 1633 juni–september (Stockholm: Norstedt, 1946), 176. On the second journey to Constantinople, see Hering, Ökumenisches Patriarchat, 246, n. 126. On the denial of entry to Transylvania, see the letters of György Rákóczi I to Mihály Tholdalagi and to Cornelis Haga (Gyulafehérvár, March 10, resp. June 10, 1635) Szilády and Szilágyi, Török–magyarkori állam-okmánytár, 232, resp. 236. On his death, see Tallemant des Réaux, Historiettes, 189.

53 On the opinion of Gustavus Adolphus, see Normann, Gustav Adolfs politik, 35–37. The skeptical attitude of Axel Oxenstierna is well illustrated by his letters to the king (Elbing, December 14[/24], 1630 and January 17, 1631), Herman Brulin, ed., Rikskansleren Axel Oxenstiernas skrifter och brefvexling, ser. 1, vol. 5: Bref 1630 (Stockholm: Norstedt, 1915), 730; resp. vol. 6: Bref 1631 (Stockholm: Norstedt, 1918), 53.

54 See the complaints concerning Mikes in the letters of Cornelis Haga to Gábor Bethlen (Constantinople, June 15, 1629), Szilády and Szilágyi, Török–magyarkori állam-okmánytár, 114.

55 On the earlier career of Agazza, see the Venetian council registers from June 28, 1621, Óváry, Oklevéltár, 41. Bethlen sent Italian envoys to Venice also on other occasions, but we know nothing of Alessandro Lucio’s background, only that represented the prince without any fellow diplomats in 1621. Daniel Nijs, a Flemish merchant, well known art dealer and political mediator also played an important part in representing the prince’s interests in Venice. On his person, see Maartje van Gelder, Trading Places: The Netherlandish Merchants in Early Modern Venice (Leiden: Brill, 2009). On their contact, apart from the data in Óváry, Oklevéltár, see also Bethlen’s letters to János Pálóczi Horváth (Fogaras, March 25, 1629 and Balázsfalva, May 17, 1629), Szilágyi, “Levelek és okiratok,” 21, resp. 26.

56 Kasper Niesiecki, Herbarz polski, vol. 10 (Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, 1845), 31. For this information I am grateful to Dariusz Milewski.

57 Zaklika talked about his contacts with Radziwiłł in the interrogation protocol after his arrest; see GStA PK BPH, rep. 33 W, nr. 63, fols. 80r–v, 113v–114r, 118v. His information was also confirmed by the letters of Fabian von Czemen, the castellan in Danzig (Behnhof, January 9[/19], 1626), as well as of Christoph von Dohna (Carweide(?),January 1[/11], 1626) ibid., fols. 31v, 33r. On the network of Radziwiłł, see Adam Szęlagowski, Śląsk i Polska wobec powstania czeskiego (Lwów: Połoniecki, 1904), 17–23.

58 See the interrogation protocol: GStA PK BPH rep. 33, W, nr. 63, fols. 113r–v; as well as the dispatch of Ludwig Camerarius to Axel Oxenstierna (The Hague, May 6/16, 1625), who wrote that Bethlen sent a “Polonus vir bonus” to Frederick V, see Schybergson, Sveriges och Hollands diplomatiska förbindelser, 219.

59 See the letter of Christian IV to Gábor Bethlen (Nienburg, November 16[/26], 1625) Fraknói, “Bethlen Gábor,” 98; as well as Nyerup, Kong Christian des Fjerdes Dagbøger, 147. On his stay in Brandenburg, see the letters of Adam von Schwarzenberg to Levin von dem Knesebeck (Küstrin, October 26 and 28 [/november 5 and 7], 1625), as well as his later account ([early December 1625], GStA PK BPH rep. 33, W, nr. 63, fols. 14r–16r, 21v; resp. 2r–8r. He had his audience with Georg Wilhelm on November 5, as is clear from the note written on the credentials given to him by Bethlen (Várad, September 16, 1625), ibid., fol. 12.

60 See the letter of Gábor Bethlen to Georg Wilhelm (Várad, January 30, 1626), and the response of Georg Wilhelm about the release of Zaklika (Cölln an der Spree, March 3[/13], 1626), GStA PK BPH rep. 33, W nr. 63, fol. 47, resp. 163. For further details on Zaklika’s arrest, see Gábor Kármán, “Külföldi diplomaták Bethlen Gábor szolgálatában,” in Bethlen Gábor és Európa, ed. Gábor Kármán and Kees Teszelszky (Budapest: ELTE BTK Középkori és Kora Újkori Magyar Történeti Tanszék–Transylvania Emlékeiért Tudományos Egyesület, 2013), 170–81.

61 See Gábor Bethlen’s letter to Georg Wilhelm (Gyulafehérvár, June 25 [/July 5], 1626), Szilágyi, “Levelek és acták,” 658; and the minutes of the Brandenburg Secret Council from July 6[/16], 1626, GStA PK I. HA rep. 21, nr. 127 m, vol. 2, fol. 155r.

62 See the letter of Adam von Schwarzenberg to Friedrich Pruckmann (Jägersburg, September 1[/11], 1626), GStA PK I. HA . 21, nr. 136 f, vol. 4, fol. 31v–32r. Gustavus Adolphus also referred to Beckmann’s mission in his letter to Gábor Bethlen (“Lissoviae”, October 20[/30], 1626), RA(S) RR vol. 156, fol. 193. On the Danish mission, see the letter of Christian IV to Gábor Bethlen (Wolfenbüttel, July 16[/26], 1626), RA(K) TKUA AD 1-10 Latina fol. 172v–173r.

63 On the origins of the diplomats of the Swedish Crown, see Heiko Droste, Im Dienst der Krone: Schwedische Diplomaten im 17. Jahrhundert (Berlin: LIT, 2006), 86.

64 Friedrich Hermann Schubert, Ludwig Camerarius 1573–1651: Eine Biographie, Münchener historische Studien. Abteilung Neuere Geschichte 1 (Kallmünz: Lassleben, 1955), 242–65.

65 See the resolutio given by Frederick V for the mission of Jan Adam z Víckova (The Hague, April 12[/22], 1624), Odložilík, Z korespondence, 173–77.

66 Arne Jönsson, “Introduction,” in Rikskansleren Axel Oxenstiernas skrifter och brefvexling, ser. 2, vol. 13, ed. Arne Jönsson (Stockholm: Norstedt, 2007), 11–14.

67 See the biography of Strassburg by Magnus Mörner, “Paul Straßburg, ein Diplomat aus der Zeit des Dreißigjährigen Krieges,” Südost-Forschungen 15 (1956): 327–63. For the reference on him as a diplomat of Catherine, see the letter of Georg Wilhelm to his counselors (Königsberg, October 20/30, 1627), GStA PK BPH, rep. 33 W, nr. 80, fol. 9r. See also his Bestallung on the occasion of going to Swedish service (Dirschau, July 16[/26], 1628), RA(S) RR vol. 161, fols. 162v–163r.

68 The information that Georg Wilhelm entrusted to Quadt was actually quite important that when a French envoy had visited him some time before, the elector gave him, apart from the official, evasive answer, a resolutio in which he committed himself for the Protestant cooperation against the emperor, see the proposal submitted by Quadt to Christian IV ([October 1625]) RA(K) TKUA SD 12-20 Brandenburg. On the diplomatic task, see also the letter of Christian IV to Georg Wilhelm (Nienburg, October 20[/30], 1625), GStA PK I. HA, rep. 24 a, nr. 2, fasc. 21.; as well as the letters of Matthias Quadt to Georg Wilhelm and Levin von dem Knesebeck (Bremen, October 21 [/November 1], 1625), ibid., fasc. 32. See also the discussion leading to this solution in the minutes of the Secret Council: GStA PK I. HA rep. 21. Nr. 127 m vol. I. fol. 59r–v, resp. 65r–v.

69 In the same period, there are also examples of a somewhat different type of “dual ambassador,” such as that of Sir Robert Arnstruther, who visited Frederick V on behalf of the English and Danish crowns during 1624 and 1625; see Steve Murdoch, “Scottish Ambassadors and British Diplomacy 1618–1635,” in Scotland and the Thirty Years War, ed. Steve Murdoch (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 30.

70 See Sándor Szilágyi, Georg Rákóczy I. im dreissigjährigen Kriege 1630–1640: Mit Urkunden aus schwedischen und ungarischen Archiven (Budapest: Kilián, 1883); as well as idem, “Georg Rákóczy I. und die Diplomatie,” Literarische Berichte aus Ungarn 2 (1878): 402–17. On Dreiling, see footnote 36. On Meerbott, see Noémi Viskolcz, Reformációs könyvek: Tervek az evangélikus egyház megújítására (Budapest: OSZK and Universitas, 2006), 78–80. On Bisterfeld’s diplomatic actitivies, see eadem, “Johann Heinrich Bisterfeld: Ein Professor als Vermittler zwischen West und Ost an der siebenbürgischen Akademie in Weißenburg, 1630–1655,” in Calvin und Reformiertentum in Ungarn und Siebenbürgen: Helvetisches Bekenntnis, Ethnie und Politik vom 16. Jahrhundert bis 1918, ed. Márta Fata and Anton Schindling (Münster: Aschendorff, 2010), 204–6. On Boncziday, see footnote 10. On Csontos, see his oration to Gustavus Adolphus ([1632]) Wibling, “Magyarország történetét érdeklő okiratok,” 457–58; as well as the list he submitted to the elector of Saxony, RA(S) Transylvanica, vol. 1, nr. 123/1.2. On Balázs Bálintffy, see the letter of György Rákóczi I to Heinrich Meerbott (Gyulafehérvár, June 4, 1634), RA(S) Transsylvanica, vol. 1, nr. 129/1.

71 On Dániel, see Judit Balogh, “A vargyasi Daniel család karrierjének kezdetei,” Történelmi Szemle 51, no. 3 (2009): 351. On his diplomatic activities, see Gábor Kármán, “The Hardship of Being an Ottoman Tributary: Transylvania at the Peace Congress of Westphalia,” in Frieden und Konfliktmanagement in interkulturellen Räumen: Das Osmanische Reich und Europa (16–18. Jahrhundert), ed. Arno Strohmeyer and Norbert Spannenberger (Stuttgart: Steiner, 2013) 163–83.

72 From among the diplomats of the Rákóczis, there is only one, Ferenc Sebesi, whose biography has been written, see Ildikó Horn, “Sebesi Ferenc – egy erdélyi diplomata,” in Scripta manent: Ünnepi tanulmányok a 60. életévét betöltött Gerics József professzor tiszteletére, ed. István Draskóczy (Budapest: ELTE, 1994), 199–205. On the political activities of the others, István Dalmádi, Miklós Jakabfalvi, György Mednyánszky, and István Szentpáli, see Gábor Kármán, Erdélyi külpolitika a vesztfáliai béke után (Budapest: L’Harmattan, 2011), 129–32, 318–26, 181–90, resp. 94–95.

73 On the details of their activity, see Graeme Murdock, Calvinism on the Frontier 1600–1660: International Calvinism and the Reformed Church in Hungary and Transylvania (Oxford: Clarendon, 2000), 279–80; Kármán, Erdélyi külpolitika, 354–64; resp. Sven Ingemar Olofsson, Efter Westfaliska freden: Sveriges yttre politik 1650–1654 (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1957), 214–22; Kármán, Erdélyi külpolitika, 313–14.