Hungarian Revolution of 1848
|Hungarian Revolution of 1848|
|Part of the Revolutions of 1848|
Artist Mihály Zichy's painting of Sándor Petőfi reciting the Nemzeti dal to a crowd on March 15, 1848
| Austrian Empire
|| Kingdom of Hungary
|Commanders and leaders|
| Ferdinand I
Franz Josef I
| Lajos Kossuth
|Beginning of 1849 : 170,000 men|
|Part of a series on the|
|History of Hungary|
|Prehistory and early history|
|Early modern history|
|Late modern period|
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 monarchy.
Many of its leaders and participants, including Lajos Kossuth, István Széchenyi, Sándor Petőfi, Józef Bem, are among the most respected national heroes in Hungarian history. The anniversary of the Revolution's outbreak, 15 March, is one of Hungary's three national holidays.
Status of Kingdom of Hungary before the revolution
The Kingdom of Hungary was only formally part of Empire of Austria. It was regnum independens, a separate Monarchy as Article X of 1790 stipulated. According to the Constitutional law and public law, the Empire of Austria has never lawfully included the Kingdom of Hungary. After the cessation of the Holy Roman Empire (Kingdom of Hungary was not part of it) the new title of the Habsburg rulers (Emperor of Austria) did not in any sense affect the laws and the constitution of Hungary according to the Hungarian Diet and the proclamation of Francis I in a rescript, thus the country was part of the other Lands of the empire largely through the common monarch.
The administration and government of the Kingdom of Hungary were not united with the common administrational and governmental structure of the Austrian Empire. The central governmental structures remained well separated from the imperial government, and they were linked largerly by the person of the common monarch. The country was governed by the Council of Liutenancy of Hungary (the Gubernium) - located in Pressburg and later in Pest - and by the Hungarian Royal Court Chancellery in Vienna.
The Empire of Austria and Kingdom of Hungary have always maintained separate parliaments. (See: Imperial Council (Austria) and Diet of Hungary.) Legally, except for the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713, common laws have never existed in the Empire of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary.
From 1527 (the creation of the monarchic personal union) to 1851 the Kingdom of Hungary maintained its own customs borders which separated it from the other parts of the Habsburg-ruled territories.
Origins of Revolution
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 hot-headed reforms of Joseph II – started what is known as the Reform Period (Hungarian: reformkor). But the Nobles still retained their privileges of paying no taxes and not giving the vote to the masses. It was in this time that Hungarian became an official language instead of Latin as had been used formally before.
The influential Hungarian politician Count István Széchenyi recognized the need to bring the country the niveau of the more developed West European countries, such as England. The Hungarian Parliament was summoned once again in 1825 to handle financial needs. A Liberal Party emerged in the Diet, which put its attention on providing for the peasantry. Lajos Kossuth, a famous journalist of the time, emerged as the leader of the lower house of Parliament.
Kossuth's aspiration was to build a modern democratic, liberal state with a constitution, ensuring civil equality. The people supported him in this modernisation, even though the Habsburg monarchs obstructed all important liberal laws about their civil and political rights and the economic reforms. Many reformers (such as Lajos Kossuth and Mihály Táncsics) were imprisoned by the authorities.
The Revolution started on 15 March 1848.
The bloodless mass demonstrations in Pest and Buda forced the Imperial governor to accept all twelve of their demands. After that, there were many insurrections throughout the Kingdom; on the pressure, 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 new government approved a sweeping reform package, referred to as the "April laws", which created a democratic political system. 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.
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.
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 local victories, the combined Bohemian and Croatian armies entered Pest on 5 January 1849 to put down the revolt.
Austria had its own problems with the revolution in Vienna that year, and it initially acknowledged Hungary's government. 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.
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. With Franz Joseph on throne, Austria now again refused to accept the Hungarian government. 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, upon which[a] the Imperial court, without authority for such, ordered the Hungarian Parliament and Government dissolved, and uniliterally appointed Jelačić – the same illegal invader referred to above – to take Lamberg's place as Palatine and commander-in-chief.
War between Austria and Hungary had officially begun.
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," and the Magyars were boxed in by their traditional enemies. In the north, from Nagyszombat (now Trnava, Slovakia) to the Nitra and the Prešov were almost two millions Slovaks and a few Ruthenians.
Croats and Slovenes lived in the south, between the Danube, the Sava and the Drava. More to the east, there was a Serb colony numbering over a million. These Slavic areas – the Slovenes and the Serbs – were linked with the Wallachians and the Saxons of Transylvania. Often these different ethnic groups were at war with each other.
In 1848–49, the Austrian monarchy, and those advising them, skillfully 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. 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 most notably Romanians.
But in 1848 and 1849, the Hungarians were supported by most Slovaks, Germans, Rusyns and Hungarian Slovenes, the Hungarian Jews, and many Polish, Austrian and Italian volunteers. On 28 July 1849, the Hungarian Revolutionary Parliament proclaimed and enacted the laws on ethnic and minority rights. But these were overturned after the Russian and Austrian armies crushed the Hungarian Revolution. 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. 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". 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 independece movement leading up to the 1848 Revolution the Austrian monarchy had promised an independent status for the Serbs of Vojvodina within the Austrian Empire.
Toward this end, Josif Rajačić was appointed to "Patriarch" of Vojvodina in February 1849. 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. 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.
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. 
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). 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".
With war on three fronts the Hungarian Government should have been squashed immediately 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-wingers 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.
At the start of the war, the Hungarian Defence Forces (Honvédség) won many battles 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.
Because of the success of revolutionary resistance, Franz Joseph had to ask for help from the "gendarme of Europe" Czar Nicholas I of Russia in March 1849. Russian armies, composed of about 8,000 soldiers, invaded Transylvania on 7 April 1848. 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. 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. 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. 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).
Meanwhile, 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 Pest and held it for a short while before being forced to give up their positions and move across the Danube to the town of Buda, located directly across the Danube from Pest. (the town was known in German as Ofen and later Buda and Pest were united into Budapest).
In April 1849, the Hungarian Government enjoyed success on this western front, crossing the Danube and forcing the Austrian Army to retreat from Buda back up the Danube. The Hungarian Army relieved the siege of Komárom and pushed the Austrians back towards Vienna.
Thus, the Hungarian Government was initially 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.
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. 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. After Vienna was recaptured by imperial forces, General Windischgrätz and 70,000 troops were sent to Hungary to crush the Hungarian revolution and as they advanced the Hungarian government evacuated Pest. However the Austrian army had to retreat after heavy defeats in the Spring Campaign of the Hungarian Army from March to May 1849. In April 1849, Ludwig Baron von Welden replaced Windischgrätz as the new supreme commander of Austrian forces in Hungary. Instead of pursuing the Austrian army, the Hungarians stopped to retake the Fort of Buda and prepared defenses. 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 Galacia in 1848. But even at this stage Vogl was occupied trying to stop another revolutionary uprising in Galacia. The Czar was also preparing to send 30,000 Russian soldiers back over the Eastern Carpathian Mountains from Poland. Austria held Galacia and moved into Hungary, independent of Vogl's forces. On August 13, after several bitter defeats in a hopeless situation, Görgey signed a surrender at Világos (now Şiria, Romania) to the Russians, who handed the army over to the Austrians.
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 The 13 Martyrs of Arad (now Arad, Romania) and Prime Minister Batthyány was executed the same day in Pest.
After the revolution, in 1849 the whole country was in "passive resistance". In 1851 Archduke Albrecht, Duke of Teschen was appointed as Regent, which lasted until 1860, during which time he implemented a process of Germanisation.
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, Italy.
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.
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.
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.
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