A World Lifted off Its Hinges: The Social Impact of World War I on Hungary

Zsombor Bódy
Eötvös Loránd University
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 4  (2022):702–732 DOI 10.38145/2022.4.702

As was true virtually everywhere, World War I brought about significant social changes in Hungary. As a consequence of the wartime mobilization of the economy, the relationship between employers and workers in industry was transformed, as was the relationship between owners of different sizes of estates and farms and agricultural workers in rural areas. In both spheres, groups emerged which were much better organized than before. Some of them were capable of coordinated political action, and the balance of power between them changed rapidly over time. The wartime government tried to ensure continuous coordination and reconciliation of interests between the various ownership and labor groups in agriculture and industry, but it ultimately failed. Beyond the military defeat, this failure was the primary determining factor of the events of 1918–19 in Hungary. By analyzing the group dynamics of wartime society and the wartime economy in Hungary, this paper seeks to outline the social and historical background of the political struggles that came in the wake of the war. It ventures two core contentions. First, the emergence of various agricultural and industrial interest groups and their coordination with one another and with the government in the aftermath of the war constituted mechanisms of integration that had not existed before the war. As a result, the diverse socio-professional groups in Hungary became more integrated into one society within the framework of the state. The second finding contention is that the counterrevolutionary regime that took over in late 1919 was more successful than previous governments had been in establishing a balance between the different groups of owners and workers and learning from previous experience, and this was why it was able, ultimately, to consolidate its hold on power.

Keywords: World War I, Hungary, social history, labor history, history of rural society

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World War I as a Historical Divide

Béla Tomka
University of Szeged
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 4  (2022):675–701 DOI 10.38145/2022.4.675

While World War I certainly represents a historical rupture in Europe and many parts of the world, there are diverging views in scholarly literature and broader historical discourse regarding its character as a dividing line between historical periods. The essay identifies three main positions within the debate and elaborates on the broader consequences of these interpretations. Several scholars consider World War I as the end of an earlier, longer historical era. According to another periodization, the two World Wars and the two decades separating them make up an era together, which is distinct from the pre-1914 and post-1945 periods. Finally, a third major current interprets World War I as the overture to a new epoch. Each of the three approaches can be relevant to research on World War I and the twentieth century, but there are considerable divergences between the interpretations thus produced. If we regard World War I as the endpoint of the previous era, then great emphasis should be placed on the road leading up to the war. If we conceive of the two World Wars and the decades between them as a single unit, then we should focus on violence as a defining feature of the periodization, and short-term factors should be highlighted. Finally, if we understand the Great War as the beginning of a new period which lasted until the end of the twentieth century or beyond, World War I will be seen as the Urkatastrophe (primordial catastrophe) that set the stage for World War II and, indirectly, for the Cold War, while also generating seminal long-term processes in politics, society, and the economy.

Keywords: twentieth century, Europe, World War I, historiography, periodization

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Diverging Language Uses: Political Discourse in Hungary after World War I

József Takáts
University of Pécs
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 4  (2022):764–788 DOI 10.38145/2022.4.764

Following some introductory notes on methodology, this study analyzes the process of the intensifying militarization, polarization, brutalization, sacralization, saturation with extreme appeals to emotions, and apocalyptic tone of Hungarian political texts after 1918. It also examines the ways in which the National Darwinist political vocabulary, which evolved originally in the last third of the nineteenth century, survived after the World War, and how it created the double languages of nationalist discourse: the historicizing one and the racist one.

Keywords: Political discourses, brutalization, extreme political emotions, apocalyptic tone, National Darwinism

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The Story of Croatian Bosnia: Mythos, Empire-Building Aspirations, or a Failed Attempt at National Integration?

Dénes Sokcsevits
Research Centre for the Humanities
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 4  (2022):870–912 DOI 10.38145/2022.4.870

The nineteenth-century processes of “nation-building” and national integration took place in the western regions of southeastern Europe against a distinctive backdrop. The formation of national self-images, the creation of a national self-definition, and indeed the emergence of any clear consensus on who constituted or should constitute a given national community proved daunting tasks for the multi-ethnic and multi-religious populations of southeastern Europe in the provinces of the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire.
The essential contention of this inquiry is that religious and national identities are not clearly interrelated in southeastern Europe (much, indeed, as they are not clearly interrelated elsewhere). I offer, as a clear illustration of the untenability of religious identity as an adequate foundation for nation building, an examination of the case of Bosnia and the development of a sense of identity and national belonging among Bosnian Croats and Muslims. Even the case of the emergence of the modern Serbian and Croatian nations, often cited as archetypes of national identities which developed along religious fault lines, is not as clear as it often seems to be in the public mind. It was not the only possibility, but rather was merely one alternative, an alternative that was shaped as much by internal circumstances as by the prevailing foreign political situation: the emergence, meaning, and “content” of the nation can be interpreted as a response to these factors.

Keywords: Bosnia, Croatia, nationalism, Muslims, Catholics, Ortodox, empire building

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The Urban Space Through the Eyes of Women: The 1849 Siege of Buda in Women’s Ego-documents*

Emese Gyimesi
Research Centre for the Humanities
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 4  (2022):789–823 DOI 10.38145/2022.4.789

This study examines how female city dwellers experienced the siege of Buda Castle, a crucial event of the Revolution and War of Independence of 1848–1849, and the image of the city in their writings. The analysis focuses on three women’s ego-documents: the autobiography of Emília Kánya, the first female editor in the Habsburg Empire, the letters written by a young actress, Lilla Bulyovszky, to her husband and a letter by Anna Glasz, a resident of Buda Castle. I explore the kinds of mental map that emerge in the ego-documents in which the authors reflect on the urban experiences during the siege and the emotions that dominate their writings.
Keywords: Revolution and War of Independence of 1848–1849, urban history, female use of space, city representations


A Cold War Humanitarian Action: The Western Admission of 1956 Hungarian Refugees

Gusztáv D. Kecskés
Research Centre for the Humanities
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 4  (2022):913–935 DOI 10.38145/2022.4.913

The story of the refugees who fled Hungary following the Soviet suppression of the 1956 Revolution and the coordinated international humanitarian operation launched to receive them is an outstanding chapter in the history of emigration. These refugees received far more favorable treatment than earlier Hungarian expatriates or other European refugees had been given. With a total of 200,000 refugees, their successful transportation to host countries and their subsequent integration represented an exceptional success for international aid efforts. How can this efficiency be explained? Trends in humanitarian sentiment in world public opinion, influenced in part by the horrors of World War II, and the increasingly precise formulation of the rights of the refugees were just as important, as factors, as the supportive attitude of the populations of Western countries, who empathized with the suppressed revolution. The exceptionally favorable composition, from the perspective of the labor market, of the mass of people who fled in 1956 coincided with Western economic prosperity, producing economic “miracles.” However, even these favorable initial conditions would not have led to such a swift and successful settlement in the West of nearly 200,000 Hungarians had it not been for the Cold War rivalry between the Eastern and the Western blocs. As a consequence of the ideological and propaganda conflict with the Soviets, the NATO governments had the necessary political will to give effective support for a resolution to the Hungarian refugee problem, even after emotional support among the public opinion had waned.

Keywords: humanitarian action, 1956, Hungarian refugees, United Nations, UNHCR

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War and Revolutions: Trauma and Violence from a Socio-Psychological Approach*

Ferenc Erős (1946–2020†)
Janus Pannonius University of Pécs

Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 4  (2022):733–763 DOI 10.38145/2022.4.733

World War I, which broke out more than 100 years ago, placed not only a tremendous material and physical burden on the citizens of the participating countries, military and civilians alike, but also a psychological one. The study of the psychological consequences of the war has been pushed somewhat into the background in comparison to the historical and political analyses, though the uses of psychology—and broadly speaking, of the so-called “psy” disciplines, i.e., psychiatry, psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, social psychology, psychotechnics, criminology, pedagogy, etc.—were a crucial part of the history of this war. However, a history of the “psy” disciplines would not be complete without some discussion of the fact that World War I and World War II (and subsequent conflicts) played a fundamental role in the development of these sciences. Arguably, World War led to the emergence—as a kind of “experimental laboratory”—of practices and methods of the application of violence, trauma management, intimidation, terror, manipulation, and propaganda which draw on (and contribute to) insights from these disciplines, not to mention new approaches to the management of subjectivity and the manipulation of sentiments, which proved effective both in times of war and peace.

Keywords: trauma, violence, socio-psychology, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, psycho­therapy, World War I

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