Hungarian Revolution of 1848

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Hungarian Revolution of 1848
Part of the Revolutions of 1848
Artist Mihály Zichy's painting of Sándor Petőfi reciting the National Poem to a crowd on March 15, 1848
Date 15 March 1848 – 4 October 1849
(1 year, 6 months, and 19 days)
Location Hungary, Austrian Empire
Result Austro-Russian victory

Austrian Empire Austrian Empire

Russian Empire Russian Empire

1848as zaszlo.png Kingdom of Hungary

Flag of Poland.svg Polish legions
Flag of Germany.svg German and Viennese legion
Olasz légió zászló 1849 1.jpg Italian legion
Commanders and leaders

Austrian Empire Franz Joseph I
Austrian Empire Ferdinand I (until 1848)
Austrian Empire Alfred I, Prince of Windisch-Grätz
Austrian Empire Ludwig von Welden
Austrian Empire Julius Jacob von Haynau
Austrian EmpireCroatia-1848.gif Josip Jelačić
Austrian EmpireFlag of Serbian Vojvodina.svg Stevan Knićanin
Austrian EmpireSlovenskaVlajka1848.png Ľudovít Štúr
Austrian EmpireFlag of Wallachian Revolution of 1848, vertical stripes.svg Avram Iancu
Austrian EmpireBanner-Ruthenische-Nationalgarde-1848.JPG Hryhory Yakhymovych
Russian Empire Nicholas I

Russian Empire Ivan Paskevich

1848as zaszlo.png Lajos Kossuth
1848as zaszlo.png Lajos Batthyány  (POW)
1848as zaszlo.png Artúr Görgey  (POW)
1848as zaszlo.png György Klapka
1848as zaszlo.png János Damjanich
1848as zaszlo.png Lajos Aulich
Poland Henryk Dembiński
Poland Józef Bem
Poland Józef Wysocki
Germany Peter Giron

Olasz légió zászló 1849 1.jpg Alessandro Monti
170,000 men from the Austrian Empire,
and 200,000 men from the Russian Empire [1]
Beginning of 1849 : 170,000 men[2]
Photograph of the aged Emperor Ferdinand I dated circa 1870
Part of a series on the
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The Hungarian Revolution of 1848 was one of the many European Revolutions of 1848 and closely linked to other revolutions of 1848 in the Habsburg areas. The revolution in the Kingdom of Hungary grew into a war for independence from the Austrian Empire, ruled by the Habsburg dynasty.

After a series of serious Austrian defeats in 1849, the Austrian State came close to the brink of collapse, thus the new young emperor Franz Joseph I had to call for Russian help in the name of the Holy Alliance.[3] Czar Nicholas I answered, and sent a 200,000 men strong army with 80,000 auxiliary forces. Finally, the joint army of Russian and Austrian forces defeated the Hungarian forces. After the restoration of Habsburg power, Hungary was placed under brutal martial law.[4]

The anniversary of the Revolution's outbreak, 15 March, is one of Hungary's three national holidays.

Hungary before the revolution

The Kingdom of Hungary had always maintained a separate parliament, the Diet of Hungary, even after the Austrian Empire was created in 1804.[5] The administration and government of the Kingdom of Hungary (until 1848) remained largely untouched by the government structure of the overarching Austrian Empire. Hungary's central government structures remained well separated from the imperial government. The country was governed by the Council of Lieutenancy of Hungary (the Gubernium) - located in Pressburg and later in Pest - and by the Hungarian Royal Court Chancellery in Vienna.[6]

Ideological forerunners of extra-parliamentary radical youths: The Hungarian Jacobin Club

After the death of Joseph II, the Holy Roman Emperor, the enlightened reforms in the country ceased, which outraged many reform-oriented francophone intellectuals, who were followers of new radical ideas based on French philosophy and enlightenment. Ignác Martinovics worked as a secret agent for the new Austrian Emperor Leopold II until 1792. In his Oratio pro Leopoldo II, he explicitly declares that only authority derived from a social contract should be recognized; he saw the aristocracy as the enemy of mankind, because they prevented people from becoming educated. In another of his works, Catechism of People and Citizens, he argued that citizens tend to oppose any repression and that sovereignty resides with the people. He also became a Freemason, and was in favour of the adoption of a federal republic in Hungary. As a member of the Hungarian Jacobins, he was considered an idealistic forerunner of revolutionary thought by some, and an unscrupulous adventurer by others. He was in charge of stirring up a revolt against the nobility among the Hungarian serfs. For these subversive acts, Francis II, the Holy Roman Emperor, dismissed Martinovics and his boss, Ferenc Gotthardi, the former chief of the secret police. He was executed, together with six other prominent Jacobins, in May 1795. More than 42 members of the republican secret society were arrested, including the poet János Batsányi and linguist Ferenc Kazinczy[7][8][9][10][11]

Though the Hungarian Jacobin movement did not affect the policy of the Hungarian Parliament and the parliamentary parties, it had strong ideological ties with the extra-parliamentary forces: the radical youths and students like the poet Sándor Petőfi, the philosopher and historian Pál Vasvári and the novel-writer Mór Jókai, who sparked the revolution in the Pilvax coffee house on 15 March 1848.[12]

Origins of Revolution

The Diet of Hungary had not convened since 1811.[13]

The frequent diets held in the earlier part of the reign occupied themselves with little else but war subsidies; after 1811 they ceased to be summoned. In the latter years of Francis I. the dark shadow of Metternich's policy of "stability" fell across the kingdom, and the forces of reactionary absolutism were everywhere supreme. But beneath the surface a strong popular current was beginning to run in a contrary direction. Hungarian society, not unaffected by western Liberalism, but without any direct help from abroad, was preparing for the future emancipation. Writers, savants, poets, artists, noble and plebeian, layman and cleric, without any previous concert, or obvious connection, were working towards that ideal of political liberty which was to unite all the Magyars. Mihály Vörösmarty, Ferenc Kölcsey, Ferencz Kazinczy and his associates, to mention but a few of many great names, were, consciously or unconsciously, as the representatives of the renascent national literature, accomplishing a political mission, and their pens proved no less efficacious than the swords of their ancestors.

In 1825, Emperor Francis II convened the Diet in response to growing concerns amongst the Hungarian nobility about taxes and the diminishing economy, after the Napoleonic wars. This – and the reaction to the reforms of Joseph II – started what is known as the Reform Period (Hungarian: reformkor).[citation needed] But the Nobles still retained their privileges of paying no taxes and not giving the vote to the masses.

The influential Hungarian politician Count István Széchenyi recognized the need to bring the country the advances of the more developed West European countries, such as England.

It was a direct attack upon the constitution which, to use the words of István Széchenyi, first "startled the nation out of its sickly drowsiness". In 1823, when the reactionary powers were considering joint action to suppress the revolution in Spain, the government, without consulting the diet, imposed a war-tax and called out the recruits. The county assemblies instantly protested against this illegal act, and Francis I was obliged, at the diet of 1823, to repudiate the action of his ministers. But the estates felt that the maintenance of their liberties demanded more substantial guarantees than the dead letter of ancient laws. Széchenyi, who had resided abroad and studied Western institutions, was the recognized leader of all those who wished to create a new Hungary out of the old. For years he and his friends educated public opinion by issuing innumerable pamphlets in which the new Liberalism was eloquently expounded. In particular Széchenyi insisted that the people must not look exclusively to the government, or even to the diet, for the necessary reforms. Society itself must take the initiative by breaking down the barriers of class exclusiveness and reviving a healthy public spirit. The effect of this teaching was manifest at the diet of 1832, when the Liberals in the Lower Chamber had a large majority, prominent among whom were Ferenc Deák and Ödön Beothy. In the Upper House, however, the magnates united with the government to form a conservative party obstinately opposed to any project of reform, which frustrated all the efforts of the Liberals.

The alarm of the government at the power and popularity of the Liberal party induced it, soon after the accession of the new king, the emperor Ferdinand I. (1835–1848), to attempt to crush the reform movement by arresting and imprisoning the most active agitators among them, Louis Kossuth and Miklos Wesselenyi. But the nation was no longer to be cowed. The diet of 1839 refused to proceed to business till the political prisoners had been released, and, while in the Lower Chamber the reforming majority was larger than ever, a Liberal party was now also formed in the Upper House under the leadership of Count Louis Batthyány and Baron Joseph Eotvos. From 1000AD up to 1844, Latin language was the official language of administration, legislation and schooling in Kingdom of Hungary.[14] Two progressive measures of the highest importance were passed by this diet, one making Magyar the official language of Hungary, the other freeing the peasants' holdings from all feudal obligations.

The results of the diet of 1839 did not satisfy the advanced Liberals, while the opposition of the government and of the Upper House still further embittered the general discontent. The chief exponent of this temper was the Pesti Hirlap, Hungary's first political newspaper, founded in 1841 by Kossuth, whose articles, advocating armed reprisals if necessary, inflamed the extremists but alienated Széchenyi, who openly attacked Kossuth's opinions. The polemic on both sides was violent; but, as usual, the extreme views prevailed, and on the assembling of the diet of 1843 Kossuth was more popular than ever, while the influence of Széchenyi had sensibly declined. The tone of this diet was passionate, and the government was fiercely attacked for interfering with the elections. Fresh triumphs were won by the Liberals. Magyar was now declared to be the language of the schools and the law-courts as well as of the legislature; mixed marriages were legalized; and official positions were thrown open to non-nobles.

The interval between the diet of 1843 and that of 1847 saw a complete disintegration and transformation of the various political parties. Széchenyi openly joined the government, while the moderate Liberals separated from the extremists and formed a new party, the Centralists. Immediately before the elections, however, Deák succeeded in reuniting all the Liberals on the common platform of "The Ten Points".

  • (1) Responsible ministries,
  • (2) Freedom of the Press
  • (3) Popular representation (by parliamentary elections),
  • (4) The reincorporation of Transylvania,
  • (5) Right of public meeting, (Freedom of assembly and freedom of association)
  • (6) Absolute religious liberty, the abolition of the (Catholic) State Religion,
  • (7) Universal equality before the law,
  • (8) Universal and equal taxation, (abolition of the tax exemption of the aristocracy)
  • (9) The abolition of the Aviticum, an obsolete and anomalous land-tenure,
  • (10) The abolition of serfdom and bondservices, with state financed compensation to the landlords.

The ensuing parliamentary elections resulted in a complete victory of the Progressives. All efforts to bring about an understanding between the government and the opposition were fruitless. Kossuth demanded not merely the redress of actual grievances, but a liberal reform which would make grievances impossible in the future. In the highest circles a dissolution of the diet now seemed to be the sole remedy; but, before it could be carried out, tidings of the February revolution in Paris reached Pressburg on the 1st of March, and on the 3rd of March Kossuth's motion for the appointment of an independent, responsible ministry was accepted by the Lower House. The moderates, alarmed not so much by the motion itself as by its tone, again tried to intervene; but on the 13th of March the Vienna revolution broke out, and the Emperor, yielding to pressure or panic, appointed Count Louis Batthyány premier of the first Hungarian responsible ministry, which included Kossuth, Széchenyi and Deák.[15]

The "long debate" of reformers in the press

The entrance room of the Pilvax coffee palace at Pest in the 1840s
Members of the Batthyány government
The recitation of the National Song at the National Museum
The crowd captured the Landerer & Heckenast printing house, where they printed the 12 points and the National Song. Thus 15 of march became the memorial Day of the Freedom of the Press in Hungary.

Count Széchenyi analyzed the reform system of Lajos Kossuth in the pamphlet of Kelet Népe written in 1841. According to Széchenyi, the economic, political and social reforms had to be installed slowly and very carefully so that Hungary avoided the violent reaction of the Habsburg dynasty, which could lead to a tragic end.

Széchenyi observed the expansion of Kossuth’s ideas in the Hungarian society, who did not advocate for good relations with the Habsburg dynasty. Kossuth also ignored the role of aristocracy, and he detested social stratification.

In contrast, Kossuth believed that the society could not be forced into a passive role by any reasons through the social changing. According to Kossuth the wider social movements can’t be continually excluded from the political life. Therefore, he supported democracy and he did not believe in almighty elites and government. In 1885, Kossuth named Széchenyi as a liberal elitist aristocrat, while he considered himself to be a democrat.[16]

Széchenyi was an isolationist politician, while according to Kossuth strong relations and collaboration with international liberal and progressive movements were essential for the success of liberty.[17]

Széchenyi's economic policy was based on Anglo-Saxon free-market principles, while Kossuth supported protective tariffs due to the weaker Hungarian industrial sector. Kossuth wanted to build a rapidly industrialized country in his vision, while Széchenyi wanted to preserve the traditionally strong agricultural sector as the main character of the economy.[18]

The bloodless revolution in Pest

The Hungarian cockade used in 1848

The crisis came from abroad - as Kossuth expected - and he used it to the full. On 3 March 1848, shortly after the news of the revolution in Paris had arrived, in a speech of surpassing power he demanded parliamentary government for Hungary and constitutional government for the rest of Austria. He appealed to the hope of the Habsburgs, "our beloved Archduke Franz Joseph" (then seventeen years old), to perpetuate the ancient glory of the dynasty by meeting half-way the aspirations of a free people. He at once became the leader of the European revolution; his speech was read aloud in the streets of Vienna to the mob by which Metternich was overthrown (13 March), and when a deputation from the Diet visited Vienna to receive the assent of Emperor Ferdinand to their petition it was Kossuth who received the chief ovation. The arrival of the news of the revolution in Paris, and Kossuth's German speech about freedom and human rights had whipped up the passions of Austrian crowd in Vienna on March 13.[19] While Viennese masses celebrated Kossuth as their hero, revolution broke out in Buda on 15 March; Kossuth traveled home immediately.[20]

The revolution started in the Pilvax coffee palace at Pest, which was a favourite meeting point of the young extra-parliamentary radical liberal intellectuals in the 1840s. On the morning of March 15, 1848, revolutionaries marched around the city of Pest, reading Sándor Petőfi's Nemzeti dal (National Song) and the 12 points (the twelve demands of theirs) to the crowd (which swelled to thousands). Declaring an end to all forms of censorship, they visited the printing presses of Landerer and Heckenast and printed Petőfi's poem together with the demands. A mass demonstration was held in front of the newly built National Museum, after which the group left for the Buda Chancellery (the Office of the Governor-General) on the other bank of the Danube.

The bloodless mass demonstrations in Pest and Buda forced the Imperial governor to accept all twelve of their demands.

Austria had its own problems with the revolution in Vienna that year, and it initially acknowledged Hungary's government. Therefore, the Governor-General's officers, acting in the name of the King appointed Hungary's new parliament with Lajos Batthyány as its first Prime Minister. The Austrian monarchy also made other concessions[which?] to subdue the Vienna masses: on 13 March 1848, Prince Klemens von Metternich was made to resign his position as the Austrian Government's Chancellor. He then fled to London for his own safety.

Parliamentary monarchy, the Batthyány government

A parliamentary election campaign of a candidate
5 July 1848: The opening ceremony of the first parliament, which based on popular representation. The members of first responsible government are on the balcony.
Jelačić’s attacks in the last quarter of 1848
Battle of Pákozd was a draw that pushed the loyalist Croatian forces towards Vienna and away from Pest.

On 17 March 1848 the Emperor assented and Batthyány created the first Hungarian Diet. On 23 March 1848, as head of government, Batthyány commended his government to the Diet.

The first responsible government was formed:

Prime Minister: Lajos Batthyány
Minister of the Interior: Bertalan Szemere,
Finance minister: Lajos Kossuth,
Minister of Justice: Ferenc Deák,
Minister of defense: Lázár Mészáros,
Minister of Agriculture, Industry and Trade: Gábor Klauzál,
Minister of Labour, Infrastructure and Transport: István Széchenyi,
Minister of Education, Science and Culture: József Eötvös,
Minister besides the King (roughly Foreign Minister): Pál Antal Esterházy

The Ten Points, or the March Laws as they were now called, were then adopted by the legislature and received royal assent on the 10th of April 10. Hungary had, to all intents and purposes, become an independent state bound to Austria only by the Austrian Archduke as Palatine.[21] The new government approved a sweeping reform package, referred to as the "April laws", which created a democratic political system.[22] The newly established government also demanded that the Habsburg Empire spend all taxes they received from Hungary in Hungary itself, and that the Parliament should have authority over the Hungarian regiments of the Habsburg Army.

At that time the internal affairs and foreign policy of Hungary were not stable, and Batthyány faced many problems. His first and most important act was to organise the armed forces and the local governments. He insisted that the Austrian army, when in Hungary, would come under Hungarian law, and this was conceded by the Austrian Empire. He tried to repatriate conscript soldiers from Hungary. He established the Organisation of Militiamen, whose job was to ensure internal security of the country.

The first general parliamentary elections were held in June, which were based on popular representation instead of former feudal parliamentary delegates (Estates General), where the reform oriented political forces won the elections. The electoral system and franchise were similar to the contemporary British system.[23]

Batthyány was a very capable leader, but he was stuck in the middle of a clash between the Austrian monarchy and the Hungarian separatists. He was devoted to the constitutional monarchy and aimed to keep the constitution, but the Emperor was dissatisfied with his work. On 29 August, with the assent of parliament, he went with Ferenc Deák to the Emperor to ask him to order the Serbs to capitulate and stop Jelačić, who was going to attack Hungary.

In the summer of 1848, Hungarian Government ministers, seeing the civil war ahead, tried to get the Habsburgs' support against the conservative Josip Jelačić. They offered to send troops to northern Italy. By the end of August 1848, the Imperial Government in Vienna officially ordered the Hungarian Government in Pest not to form an Army. Jelačić, being a Count in Croatia and Dalmatia, which were at that time part of Hungary, had a different view. He invaded Hungary to dissolve the Hungarian Government, without any order by the Austrian throne.

Though the Emperor formally relieved Jelačić of his duties, Jelačić and his army invaded Southern Transdanubian parts of Hungary on 11 September 1848.

After the Austrian revolution in Vienna was defeated, the kamarilla orchestrated Franz Joseph I of Austria to replace his uncle Ferdinand I of Austria, who was not of sound mind. The new young monarch Franz Joseph didn't recognise Batthyány's second premiere on 25 September. In the end, the final break between Vienna and Pest occurred when Field-Marshal Count Franz Philipp von Lamberg was given control of every army in Hungary (including Jelačić's). He went to Hungary where he was mobbed and viciously murdered; following his murder the Imperial court dissolved the Hungarian Diet and appointed Jelačić as Regent.[citation needed]

Meanwhile, Batthyány travelled again to Vienna to seek a compromise with the new Emperor, however his efforts remained unsuccessful, because Francis Joseph refused to accept the reform laws. This was an unconstitutional deed, because the laws were already signed by his uncle, and the monarch had no right to revoke laws, which were already signed.

Hungarian liberals in Pest saw this as an opportunity. In September 1848, the Diet made concessions to the Pest Uprising, so as not to break up the Austro-Hungarian Union. But the counter-revolutionary forces were gathering. After many[quantify] local victories, the combined Bohemian and Croatian armies entered Pest on 5 January 1849 to put down the revolt.[24]

So Batthyány and his government resigned, except for Kossuth, Szemere and Mészáros. Later, on Palatine Stephen's request, Batthyány became Prime Minister again. On 13 September Batthyány announced a rebellion and requested that the Palatine lead them. However the Palatine, under the Emperor's orders, resigned and left Hungary.

Hungary now had war raging on three fronts: Jelačić's Croatian troops to the South, Romanians in Banat and in Transylvania to the East, and Austria to the West.

The Hungarian government was in serious military crisis due to the lack of soldiers, therefore they sent Kossuth (a brilliant orator) to recruit volunteers for the new Hungarian army. While Croatian ban Josip Jelačić was marching on Pest, Kossuth went from town to town rousing the people to the defense of the country, and the popular force of the Honvéd was his creation.

With the help of Kossuth's recruiting speech, Batthyány was successful in his hurried effort to arrange the Hungarian Revolutionary Army: the new Hungarian army defeated the Croatians on 29 September at the Battle of Pákozd.

The battle became an icon for the Hungarian army because of it is influence on politics and morale. Kossuth's second letter for the Austrian people and this battle were the causes of the second revolution in Vienna on 6 October.

Batthyány realised that he could not compromise with the Emperor, so on 2 October he resigned and simultaneously resigned his seat in parliament.

The Hungarian Republic, Regent-President Louis Kossuth

When Batthyány resigned he was appointed with Szemere to carry on the government provisionally, and at the end of September he was made President of the Committee of National Defense. Kossuth was elected[by whom?] as the head of state of Hungary.

New government (The Szemere government) was formed on 2 May 1849:[25][26]

Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, Bertalan Szemere

Foreign Minister, Minister of Agriculture, Industry and Trade : Kázmér Batthyány

Finance Minister: Ferenc Duschek

Minister of Justice: Sebő Vukovics

Minister of Education, Science and Culture: Mihály Horváth

Minister of Labour, Infrastructure and Transport: László Csány

Ministers of Defence: Lázár Mészáros (7 May 1849 - 9 May 1849) Artúr Görgey (9 May 1849 - 7 July 1849) and Lajos Aulich (14 July 1849 - 11 August 1849)

From this time he had increased amounts of power. The direction of the whole government was in his hands. Without military experience, he had to control and direct the movements of armies; he was unable to keep control over the generals or to establish that military co-operation so essential to success. Arthur Görgey in particular, whose abilities Kossuth was the first to recognize, refused obedience; the two men were very different personalities. Twice Kossuth deposed him from the command; twice he had to restore him. It would have been well if Kossuth had had something more of Görgey's calculated ruthlessness, for, as has been truly said, the revolutionary power he had seized could only be held by revolutionary means; but he was by nature soft-hearted and always merciful; though often audacious, he lacked decision in dealing with men. It has been said that he showed a want of personal courage; this is not improbable, the excess of feeling which made him so great an orator could hardly be combined with the coolness in danger required of a soldier; but no one was able, as he was, to infuse courage into others.

During all the terrible winter which followed, his energy and spirit never failed him. It was he who overcame the reluctance of the army to march to the relief of Vienna; after the defeat at the Battle of Schwechat, at which he was present, he sent Józef Bem to carry on the war in Transylvania. At the end of the year, when the Austrians were approaching Pest, he asked for the mediation of Mr Stiles, the American envoy. Alfred I, Prince of Windisch-Grätz, however, refused all terms, and the Diet and government fled to Debrecen, Kossuth taking with him the Crown of St Stephen, the sacred emblem of the Hungarian nation. In November 1848, Emperor Ferdinand abdicated in favour of Franz Joseph. The new Emperor revoked all the concessions granted in March and outlawed Kossuth and the Hungarian government – set up lawfully on the basis of the April laws. In April 1849, when the Hungarians had won many successes, after sounding the army, Kossuth issued the celebrated Hungarian Declaration of Independence, in which he declared that "the house of Habsburg-Lorraine, perjured in the sight of God and man, had forfeited the Hungarian throne." It was a step characteristic of his love for extreme and dramatic action, but it added to the dissensions between him and those who wished only for autonomy under the old dynasty, and his enemies did not scruple to accuse him of aiming for Kingship. The dethronement also made any compromise with the Habsburgs practically impossible.

Kossuth played a key role in tying down the Hungarian army for weeks for the siege and recapture of Buda castle, finally successful on 4 May 1849. The hopes of ultimate success were, however, frustrated by the intervention of Russia; all appeals to the western powers were vain, and on 11 August Kossuth abdicated in favor of Görgey, on the ground that in the last extremity the general alone could save the nation. Görgey capitulated at Világos (now Şiria, Romania) to the Russians, who handed over the army to the Austrians.[27]

War of Independence

In 1848 and 1849, the Hungarian people or Magyars, who wanted independence, formed a majority only in about a third of the total country known as "Hungary and Transylvania," [3][dubious ] since Transylvania had many Romanian people in it and the Magyars were surrounded by other nationalities.

In the north, from Nagyszombat (now Trnava, Slovakia) to the Nitra and the Prešov were almost two million Slovaks and Ruthenians;[28] Croats and Slovenes lived in the south, between the Danube, the Sava and the Drava. To the east, there was a Serb community numbering over a million.[28] These Slavic areas – the Slovenes and the Serbs – were adjacent to the Romanians and the Saxons of Transylvania.[28]

In 1848–49, the Austrian monarchy and those advising them manipulated the Croatians, Serbians and Romanians, making promises to the Magyars one day and making conflicting promises to the Serbs and other groups the next.[29] Some of these groups were led to fight against the Hungarian Government by their leaders who were striving for their own independence; this triggered numerous brutal incidents between the Magyars and Romanians among others.

In 1848 and 1849, however, the Hungarians were supported by most Slovaks, Germans, Rusyns and Hungarian Slovenes,[30][31][32] the Hungarian Jews, and many[quantify] Polish, Austrian and Italian volunteers.[33] On 28 July 1849, the Hungarian Revolutionary Parliament proclaimed and enacted the first[34][35] laws on ethnic and minority rights in Europe, but these were overturned after the Russian and Austrian armies crushed the Hungarian Revolution.[36][37][38] Occasionally, the Austrian throne would overplay their hand in their tactics of divide and conquer in Hungary – with some quite unintended results. This happened in the case of the Slovaks who had begun the war as at least indifferent if not positively anti-Magyar, but came to support the Hungarian Government against the Dynasty.[39] But in another case, the Austrians' double-dealing brought some even more surprising new allies to the Hungarian cause during the war in 1849.


Between the Tisza river and Transylvania, north of the Danube lies the former region of Hungary called the "Banat".[40] After the Battle of Mohács during the subsequent Ottoman rule the area north of the Danube saw an influx of Southern Slavs along with the invading Ottoman army. In 1804 the semi-independent Principality of Serbia had formed south of the Danube with Belgrade as its capital. So in 1849, the Danube divided Serbia from the Kingdom of Hungary. The Hungarian district on the northern side of the river was called "Vojvodina", and by that that time it was home to almost half a million Serbian inhabitants. According to the census of 1840 in Vojvodina Serbs comprised 49% of the total population. The Serbs of Vojvodina had long sought their independence or attachment with the Principality of Serbia on the other side of the Danube. In face of the emerging Hungarian independence movement leading up to the 1848 Revolution the Austrian monarchy had promised an independent status for the Serbs of Vojvodina within the Austrian Empire.[citation needed]

Toward this end, Josif Rajačić was appointed Patriarch of Vojvodina in February 1849.[41] Rajačić was a supporter of the Serbian national movement, although somewhat conservative with pro-Austrian leanings. At a crucial point during the war against the Hungarian Government, in late March 1849 when the Austrians needed more Serbian soldiers to fight the war, the Austrian General Georg Rukavina Baron von Vidovgrad, who commanded the Austrian troops in Hungary, officially re-stated this promise of independence for Vojvodina and conceded to all the demands of the Patriarch regarding Serbian nationhood.[42] Acquiescence to the demands of the Patriarch should have meant a relaxation of the strict military administration of Vojvodina. Under this military administration in the border areas, any male between the ages of 16 years and 60 years of age could be conscripted into the army.[43]

The Serbs of Vojvodina were expecting their requirement for Austrian military conscription to be the first measure to be relaxed. But the new Emperor Franz Joseph had other ideas and this promise was broken not more than two weeks after it had been made to the people of Vojvodina. This caused a split in the population of the Vojvodina and at least part of the Serbs in that province began to support the elected Hungarian Government against the Austrians. [43]

Some Serbs sought to ingratiate the Serb nation with the Austrian Empire to promote the independence of Vojvodina. Followers of the idea of a "Greater Serbia" hoped that an independent Vojvodina would sooner or later attach itself to the Serbian nation. Believers in Greater Serbia already looked forward to acquiring Bosnia (37.1% Serb), Herzegovina (37.9% Serb), and Montenegro (mainly populated by Serbs).[44] But some supporters of Greater Serbia also threw in acquisition of the northern part of Albania (less than 1% Serb) as another desirable goal for Serbian acquisition, not so much because of any ethnic link, but rather so that the Greater Serbia would have "access to the sea".[44]

With war on three fronts the Hungarian Government should have been squashed immediately[according to whom?] upon the start of hostilities. However, events early in the war worked in favour of the Government. The unity of the Serbs on the southern front was ruined by Austrian perfidy over the legal status of Vojvodina.

Some right-wing participants in the Serbian national movement felt that a "revolution" in Hungary more threatened the prerogatives of landowners, and the nobles in Serbian Vojvodina, than the occupying Austrians.[45]

Battle at Tápióbicske (4 April 1849) by Mór Than

At the start of the war, the Hungarian Defence Forces (Honvédség) won some[quantify] battles[46][47] against the Austrians, for example at the Battle of Pákozd in September 1848 and at the Isaszeg in April 1849, at which time they even stated the Hungarian Declaration of Independence from the Habsburg Empire. The same month, Artúr Görgey became the new Commander-in-Chief of all the Hungarian Republic's armies.[48]


Slovak volunteers, 1848/49

The Slovak Uprising was a reactionary movement to the Hungarian Revolution. The Slovak nation and people had been poorly defined up to this point, as the Slovak people lacked a definitive border or national identity. However, in the years leading up to the revolution, the Hungarians had taken steps to Magyarize the Slovak region under Hungarian control. The aim of this was to bring the varied ethnic groups around Hungary into a common culture. At the outbreak of the Hungarian Revolution this process was seen as more imminent and threatening to ethnic groups, especially the Slovaks.[49]

The Slovaks made demands that their culture be spared Magyarization and that they be given certain liberties and rights. These demands soon broke out into demonstrations clamouring for the rights of ethnic minorities in Hungary. Arrests were made that further enraged the demonstrators and eventually a Pan-Slavic Congress was held in Vienna. A document was drafted at this congress and sent to the Hungarian government demanding the rights of the Slovak people. The Hungarians responded by imposing martial law on the Slovak region.[49]

The Imperial government recognized that all across the Empire, ethnic minorities were seeking more autonomy, but it was only Hungary that desired a complete break. They used this by supporting the ethnic national movements against the Hungarian government. Slovak volunteer units were commissioned in Vienna to join campaigns against the Hungarians across the theatre. A Slovak regiment then marched to Miava[clarification needed] where a Slovak council openly seceded from Hungary. Tensions rose as the Hungarian army executed a number of Slovak leaders for treason and the fighting became more bloody.[49]

However, the Slovak uprising also wanted its independence from the Empire as well and tensions with the Austrians soon began to rise. Lacking support and with increased Hungarian efforts, the Slovak volunteer corps had little impact for the rest of the war until the Russians marched in. It was used in 'mopping up' resistance in the wake of the Russian advance and then soon after was disbanded, ending Slovak involvement in the Revolution. The conclusion of the uprising is unclear, as the Slovaks fell back under Imperial authority and lacked any autonomy for some time.[49]


On 29 May 1848, at Cluj, the Transylvanian Diet (formed of 116 Hungarians, 114 Székelys and 35 Saxons[50]) ratified the union with Hungary. Romanians and Germans disagreed with the decision.[51]

On 10 June 1848 the newspaper Wiener Zeitung wrote: In any case, the union of Transylvania, proclaimed against all human rights, is not valid, and the courts of law in the entire world must admit the justness of the Romanian people's protest[52]


On 25 February 1849 the representatives of the Romanian population sent to the Habsburg Emperor The Memorandum of the Romanian nation from the Great Principality of Transylvania, Banat, from neighbouring territories to Hungary and Bukovina where they demanded the union of Bukovina, Transylvania and Banat under a government (...) the union of all Romanians in the Austrian state into one single independent nation under the rule of Austria as completing part of the Monarchy[53]

Transylvanian Saxons

In the first days of October 1848, Stephan Ludwig Roth considered that there were two options for the Saxons: The first is to side with the Hungarians, and thus turn against the Romanians and the empire; the second is to side with the Romanians, and thus support the empire against the Hungarians. In this choice, the Romanians and Hungarians are incidental factors. The most important principle is that of a united empire, for it guarantees the extension of Austria's proclaimed constitution.[54]

The Transylvanian Saxons rejected the incorporation of Transylvania into Hungary.[55]


Because of the success of revolutionary resistance, Franz Joseph had to ask for help from the "gendarme of Europe"[56] Czar Nicholas I of Russia in March 1849. A Russian army, composed of about 8,000 soldiers, invaded Transylvania on 8 April 1849.[57] But as they crossed the Southern Carpathian mountain passes (along the border of Transylvania and Wallachia), they were met by a large Hungarian revolutionary army led by Józef Bem, a Polish-born General.

Bem had been a participant in the Polish insurrection of 1830 – 1831, had been involved in the uprising in Vienna in 1848 and, finally, became one of the top army commanders for the Hungarian Republic from 1848 – 1849.[58] When he encountered the Russians, Bem defeated them and forced them back out of the towns of Hermannstadt (now Sibiu, Romania) and Kronstadt (now Brașov) in Transylvania, back over the Southern Carpathian Mountains through the Roterturm Pass into Wallachia.[58] Only 2,000 Russian soldiers made it out of Transylvania back into Wallachia, the other 6,000 troops being killed or captured by the Hungarian Army.[59] After securing all of Transylvania, Bem moved his 30,000–40,000-man Hungarian army against Austrian forces in the northern Banat capturing the city of Temesvár (now Timişoara, Romania).[60]


Alfred I, Prince of Windisch-Grätz

Laval Nugent von Westmeath was the Austrian Master of Ordnance, but was serving as the general in the field attempting to marshall all the Serbs still loyal to the Austrian throne, for another offensive against the Hungarian Government.[61] Here, even on the southern front the Hungarian Armies were proving successful, initially.

This combat led to the Vienna Uprising of October 1848, when insurgents attacked a garrison on its way to Hungary to support forces. However, the Austrian army was able to quell the rebellion. At the same time, at Schwechat, the Austrians defeated a Hungarian attempt to capture Vienna. After this victory, General Windischgrätz and 70,000 troops were sent to Hungary to crush the Hungarian revolution. the Austrians followed the Danube down from Vienna and crossed over into Hungary to envelope Komorn (now Komárom, Hungary and Komárno, Slovakia). They continued down the Danube to Pest, the capital of the Hungarian Kingdom. After some fierce fighting, the Austrians, led by Alfred I, Prince of Windisch-Grätz, captured Buda and Pest.[62] (the town was known in German as Ofen and later Buda and Pest were united into Budapest).

In April 1849, after these defeats, the Hungarian Government recovered and scored several victories on this western front. They stopped the Austrian advance and retook Buda and Pest. [63] Then, the Hungarian Army relieved the siege of Komárom. [64] The spring offensive hence proved to be a great success for the revolution.

Thus, the Hungarian Government was equally successful on its eastern front (Transylvania) against the Russians, and on its western front against the Austrians. But there was a third front – the southern front in the Banat, fighting the troops of the Serbian national movement and the Croatian troops of Jelačić within the province of Vojvodina itself. Mór Perczel, the General of the Hungarian forces in the Banat, was initially successful in battles along the southern front.[65]

In April 1849, Ludwig Baron von Welden replaced Windischgrätz as the new supreme commander of Austrian forces in Hungary.[66] Instead of pursuing the Austrian army, the Hungarians stopped to retake the Fort of Buda and prepared defenses. At the same time, however, victory in Italy had freed many Austrian troops which had hitherto been fighting on this front. In June 1849 Russian and Austrian troops entered Hungary heavily outnumbering the Hungarian army. After all appeals to other European states failed, Kossuth abdicated on August 11, 1849 in favour of Artúr Görgey, who he thought was the only general who was capable of saving the nation.

However, in May 1849, Czar Nicholas I pledged to redouble his efforts against the Hungarian Government. He and Emperor Franz Joseph started to regather and rearm an army to be commanded by Anton Vogl, the Austrian lieutenant-field-marshal who had actively participated in the suppression of the national liberation movement in Galicia in 1848.[67] But even at this stage Vogl was occupied trying to stop another revolutionary uprising in Galicia.[68] The Czar was also preparing to send 30,000 Russian soldiers back over the Eastern Carpathian Mountains from Poland. Austria held Galicia and moved into Hungary, independent of Vogl's forces. At the same time, the able Haynau led an army of 60,000 Austrians from the West and retook the ground lost throughout the spring. On July 18, he finally captured Buda and Pest.[69] The Russians were also successful in the east and the situation of the Hungarians became increasingly desperate.

On August 13, after several bitter defeats, especially the battle of Segesvár against the Russians and the battles of Szöreg and Temesvár [69] against the Austrian army, it was clear that Hungary had lost. In a hopeless situation, Görgey signed a surrender at Világos (now Şiria, Romania) to the Russians (so that the war would be considered a Russian victory and because the rebels considered the Russians more lenient), who handed the army over to the Austrians.[70]


Julius Jacob von Haynau, the leader of the Austrian army, was appointed plenipotentiary to restore order in Hungary after the conflict. He ordered the execution of The 13 Martyrs of Arad (now Arad, Romania) and Prime Minister Batthyány was executed the same day in Pest.[70]

After the failed revolution, in 1849 there was nationwide "passive resistance".[71] In 1851 Archduke Albrecht, Duke of Teschen was appointed as Regent, which lasted until 1860, during which time he implemented a process of Germanisation.[72]

Kossuth went into exile after the revolution. In the US he was warmly received by the general public as well as the then US Secretary of State, Daniel Webster, which made relations between the US and Austria somewhat strained for the following twenty years. Kossuth County, Iowa was named for him. He then also travelled through Constantinople, the Ottoman Empire and to Turin, at the time the capital of Piedmont-Sardinia.

Kossuth thought his biggest mistake was to confront the Hungarian minorities. He set forth the dream of a multi-ethnic confederation of republics along the Danube, which might have prevented the escalation of hostile feelings between the ethnic groups in these areas.[73]

Many of Kossuth's comrades-in-exile joined him in the United States, including the sons of one of his sisters. These "Forty-Eighters" fought on the Union side in the US Civil War. Hungarian lawyer George Lichtenstein, who served as Kossuth's private secretary, fled to Königsberg after the revolution and eventually settled in Edinburgh where he became noted as a musician.[74]

After the Hungarian Army's surrender at Világos in 1849, their revolutionary banners were taken to Russia by the Tsarist troops, and were kept there both under the Tsarist and Communist systems. In 1940 the Soviet Union offered the banners to the Horthy government in exchange for the release of the imprisoned Hungarian Communist leader Mátyás Rákosi – the Horthy government accepted the offer.[75]

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Further reading

  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Barany, George. "The awakening of Magyar nationalism before 1848." Austrian History Yearbook 2 (1966) pp: 19-50.
  • Cavendish, Richard. "Declaration of Hungary's Independence: April 14th, 1849." History Today 49#4 (1999) pp: 50-51
  • Deák, István. Lawful Revolution: Louis Kossuth and the Hungarians 1848-1849 (Phoenix, 2001)
  • Deme, László. "The Society for Equality in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848." Slavic Review (1972): 71-88. in JSTOR
  • Gángó, Gábor. "1848-1849 in Hungary," Hungarian Studies (2001) 15#1 pp 39–47. online
  • Judah, Tim (1997). The Serbs: History, Myth & the Destruction of Yugoslavia. New Haven, CT, USA: Yale. ISBN 978-0-300-08507-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Kosáry, Domokos G. The press during the Hungarian revolution of 1848-1849 (East European Monographs, 1986)
  • Szilassy, Sandor. "America and the Hungarian Revolution of 1848-49." Slavonic and East European Review (1966): 180-196. in JSTOR