“Let These be our Colonies: Dalmatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina!” Rezső Havass and the Outlook of Hungarian Imperialism at the Turn of the Century

Mátyás Erdélyi
Research Centre for the Humanities
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 2  (2022): 359-386 DOI 10.38145/2022.2.359

Hungarian imperial thought after the fall of the Habsburg Monarchy became a fantasy of past times, and thus the imperial propaganda of Rezső Havass was long irrelevant by the time of his death in 1927. In spite of this, Havass was called the “wholehearted devotee of Hungarian imperialism” in his obituary, a man who believed in further Hungarian expansion with the faith of prophets and whose goal was to resurrect the imperium of Louis I of Hungary. The present study analyzes the career trajectory of Rezső Havass and his multiple and overlapping identities in order to uncover the different faces of Hungarian imperialism before the Great War. Havass was a “bourgeois citizen,” a “Hungarian fanatic,” “a scholar,” and a “clerk and chairman of business companies,” or in other words, he had an array of identities which made him capable of using historic, legal, political, and economic arguments to aid the advancement of Hungarian imperialism. For Havass, the Hungarian Kingdom was undoubtedly a would-be-colonial empire with well-defined political goals (the colonization of Dalmatia), and his texts mixed and vulgarized elements of the sciences subordinated to political goals. For instance, it is relevant that the empire was a facilitating factor for geographical scholarship in the case of Havass, besides the obvious political leanings. My main research question concerns the modalities of imperial thought in Hungary through the case study of Rezső Havass. What did it consist of? How did it compare to other notions of imperialism and economic expansionism? And how widespread was it in the public sphere in Hungary?