|1st President of Hungary|
11 January 1919 – 21 March 1919
Acting: 16 November 1918 – 11 January 1919
|Prime Minister||Dénes Berinkey|
|Preceded by||Position Established|
|Succeeded by||Sándor Garbai|
|20th Prime Minister of Hungary|
31 October 1918 – 11 January 1919
|Preceded by||János Hadik|
|Succeeded by||Dénes Berinkey|
Ádám György Miklós Károlyi de Nagykároly
4 March 1875
Fót, Kingdom of Hungary
(now Fót, Hungary)
|Died||19 March 1955 (aged 80)|
|Political party||National Independence Kossuth Party|
Count Mihály Ádám György Miklós Károlyi de Nagykároly (4 March 1875 – 19 March 1955) was a Hungarian politician who served as a leader of the short-lived and unrecognized First Hungarian Republic from 1918 to 1919. He served as Prime Minister between 1 and 16 November 1918 and as President between 16 November 1918 and 21 March 1919.
Early life and career
The Károlyi family were an illustrious, extremely wealthy, Roman Catholic aristocratic family who had played an important role in Hungarian life since the 17th century. Mihály Károlyi was born on March 4, 1875, in the Károlyi Palace in the aristocratic palace district of Pest. Károlyi, born of a cousin's marriage, thus born with a severe malformation: Cleft lip and cleft palate, and his illness deeply determined his entire childhood and personality development. Her mother died early in Tuberculosis and her father soon remarried. Mihály was considered unsuitable for a more serious career by his father, because he was incapable of normal speech training. He was teased and humiliated during his childhood, despite the power and wealth of his family, which influenced his subsequent vanity, ambition and desire for power. Mihály was raised with great devotion by his maternal grandmother.
He was raised with overcare with his older sister in the Castle of his grandmother at Fót, because Count Julius Károlyi, the politician father had not enough time for Mihály. At the age of 14, his grandmother sent him to a Viennese clinic and he underwent a special surgery to restore his palate and mouth.  The surgery proved to be a sharp turning point: After some weeks Mihály started to speak quickly, fluently and very elaborately, despite the family and relatives formerly thought that he is too dumb to speak. By this time, he was a relatively superficial aristocrat, but his knowledge and awareness was lower in a comparison with other members of the higher aristocracy. His thinking and character were shaped by extracurricular influences: the hatred towards the Habsburg dynasty, the traditional anti-German sentiment of his family, his foster father, the world-view of Sándor Károlyi, his adoration of the 1848 revolution in Hungary, his idea of organizing peasants into farming cooperatives. Based on his reading experiences, including the French Encyclopédie and Jules Verne novels, he developed an idealistic devotion to the cause of world justice, unbroken optimistic faith in the fast development of science and technology, which will solve all problems of humankind. He was not interested in university lectures, he managed to pass his exams with the help of a tutor. Nevertheless, he obtained his law degree and, at the age of 24, became a rampant adult. He wanted to make up for what he had missed as a teenager, throwing himself into the nightlife, with striking vehemence; he spent his time ruthlessly, playing cards, having fun in hunting, living in French spa towns, attended many international horse races and early automobile racings in various European countries. Francophone as was traditional in the family, he spent several years in Paris; he also traveled to the United Kingdom and the United States. Mihály became a passionate collector of racecars and yachts. As a gambling addict, he was known for his card battles, his lone card losses and his "dandy" lifestyle in famous casinos across Western Europe. The young tycoon begins to get serious and turn to politics and public life.
Early political career
In his youth, he was a wastrel, but as he grew older, he became devoted to more serious pursuits. In 1909, he became the President of the OMGE (National Agricultural Society), the main rural organization of the nobility. Initially a supporter of the existing political and social system in Hungary, Károlyi gradually became more progressive and left-wing during his career.
In 1910, Károlyi was elected to Parliament as a member of the opposition Party of Independence.
In January 1913, he was challenged to a duel by prime minister István Tisza, after refusing to shake Tisza's hand following a political disagreement. The 34-bout duel with cavalry sabres lasted an hour until Tisza cut Károlyi's arm and the seconds ended the duel.
World War I, political campaign for the Allied Powers
On August 5, when the war broke out, his ship has arrived to Le Havre, he has come back from his long trip from the United States. He was shortly arrested, as a citizen of an enemy country, despite Austria-Hungary was not at war with the French Republic yet, thus he was released from the prison. Later, he was arrested again for several weeks in Bordeaux for being a citizen of an enemy country. After Károlyi promised that he won't fight against the French during the war, the French authorities allowed him to return to Hungary via Switzerland.
During the First World War, the pro-Entente Károlyi led a small but very active pacifist anti-war maverick fraction in the Hungarian parliament. Károlyi made contact with British and French Entente diplomats behind the scenes in Switzerland during the war. The Károlyi Party was always a weak group with no mass organization and only 20 members in Parliament, most of whom had little commitment to the party. Károlyi argued for peace with the Allies, looser ties between Austria and Hungary, abolishing the property-based franchise requirements that allowed only 5.8% of the population to vote and run for office before the war, and giving women the right to vote and hold office. In particular, Károlyi's demand in 1915 that veterans should be granted the right to vote won so much popular support that enraged the Prime Minister, Count István Tisza. In 1916 Károlyi broke off with his party, which had found his openly pro-Entente attitude to be too radical and dangerous for a war-time pacifist fraction in the parliament. Therefore Károlyi formed a new party, called the United Party of Independence and of 1848, and generally known as the Károlyi Party.
Marriage and family
On 7 November 1914 in Budapest, Károlyi married Countess Katalin Andrássy de Csíkszentkirály et Krasznahorka, with whom he had three children. Károlyi's wife was a member of one of Hungary's most powerful families, and this marriage won Károlyi the protection of his influential father-in-law.
Leading the Democratic Republic
Following the Aster Revolution of October 1918, Károlyi became leader of the nation. On 25 October 1918 Károlyi had formed an opposition National Council. His reputation as an opponent of the much-hated war had thrust him into a role for which he was not suited. King-Emperor Charles IV designated him as prime minister as a part of a desperate attempt to hold Hungary on to the Habsburgs. Károlyi would have preferred to keep the monarchy and some link to Austria if possible. Only after Charles's withdrawal from government on 16 November 1918 made Károlyi proclaim the Hungarian Democratic Republic, with himself as provisional president. On 11 January 1919 the National Council formally recognized him as president.
The Hungarian Royal Honvéd army still had more than 1,400,000 soldiers when Mihály Károlyi was announced as prime minister of Hungary. Károlyi yielded to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's demand for pacifism by ordering the disarmament of the Hungarian army. This happened under the direction of Béla Linder, (minister of war) on 2 November, 1918. Due to the full disarmament of its army, Hungary was to remain without a national defence at a time of particular vulnerability. The Hungarian self-disarmament made the occupation of Hungary directly possible for the relatively small armies of Romania, the Franco-Serbian army and the armed forces of the newly established Czechoslovakia. During the rule of Károlyi's pacifist cabinet, Hungary lost control over approx. 75% of its former pre-WW1 territories (325 411 km²) without armed resistance and was subject to foreign occupation.
Military and political events changed rapidly and drastically after the Hungarian disarmament. On 5 November 1918, the Serbian army, with the help of the French army, crossed southern borders. On 8 November, the Czechoslovak Army crossed the northern borders, and on 13 November, the Romanian army crossed the eastern borders of the Kingdom of Hungary. On 13 November, Károlyi signed an armistice with the Allied nations in Belgrade. It limited the size of the Hungarian army to six infantry and two cavalry divisions. Demarcation lines defining the territory to remain under Hungarian control were made.
The lines would apply until definitive borders could be established. Under the terms of the armistice, Serbian and French troops advanced from the south, taking control of the Banat and Croatia. Czechoslovakia took control of Upper Hungary and Carpathian Ruthenia. Romanian forces were permitted to advance to the River Maros (Mureș) . However, on 14 November, Serbia occupied Pécs.
Many citizens thought that Károlyi could negotiate soft peace terms with the Allies for Hungary. Károlyi headed the Provisional Government from 1 November 1918 until 16 November, when the Hungarian Democratic Republic was proclaimed. Károlyi ruled Hungary through a National Council, transformed into the government that consisted of his party in alliance with the large Hungarian Social Democratic Party and the small Civic Radical Party led by Oszkár Jászi.
At the same time, there existed various revolutionary councils, which were dominated by the Social Democrats, which were not unlike the Soviets (Councils) that existed in Russia in 1917. This situation of Dual Power gave Károlyi responsibility without much power while giving the Social Democrats power without much responsibility.
During their brief periods in power, Károlyi and Jászi, who served as Nationalities Minister, tried to create an "Eastern Switzerland" by persuading the non-Magyar peoples of Hungary to stay as part of the new Hungarian Democratic Republic.
Additional trouble for the new government occurred over the question of the armistice. Austria-Hungary had signed the lenient Armistice of villa Giusti (close to Padua, Italy) with the Allies on 3 November 1918. Since Hungary was now independent, some in the Cabinet argued that Hungary needed to sign a new armistice. Against his better judgement, Károlyi agreed to this idea, and had Hungary sign in November 1918, a new armistice with the Allies in Belgrade with the Allied Commander in the Balkans, the French General Louis Franchet d'Esperey.
General Franchet d'Esperey treated the Hungarians with open contempt and imposed a much harsher armistice on the defeated nation than the Padua Armistice had. This was the source of much criticism of Károlyi, who had been expected – and who himself expected – the Allies to treat Hungary as a friend, not an enemy. Moreover, Károlyi's opponents argued that by needlessly seeking a second armistice, Károlyi had worsened Hungary's situation.
Furthermore, the Social Democrats who were Hungary's largest party by far, frequently undercut Károlyi and imposed their decisions on him without taking responsibility for their actions. Károlyi wished to transfer almost all of the rural lands to the peasants. To set an example, he gave all of his own vast family estates to his tenants. But this was the only land transfer that took place; the Social Democrats blocked any measures that might give the control of those lands to the peasantry on the grounds that it was promoting capitalism.
In another equally unfortunate move, the pacific-minded Károlyi had abolished almost all the Hungarian armed forces in November 1918. All through the winter of 1918–19, the Romanians, the Yugoslavs and the Czechoslovaks often broke the armistice in order to seize more territory for themselves. After January 1919, Károlyi ordered the build-up of a Hungarian army and started to consider the idea of an alliance with Soviet Russia, through Károlyi was opposed to the idea of Communism in Hungary itself.
In addition, as Hungary had signed an armistice, not a peace treaty, the Allied blockade continued until such time as a peace treaty was signed. Hungary had suffered from food shortages throughout the war and deaths from starvation had become common from 1917 onwards. Furthermore, the country had been overwhelmed with refugees from Transylvania and Galicia.
Making things worse was the creation of Czechoslovakia which had cut Hungary off from supplies of German coal. Hungary which possessed little coal depended upon German coal imports. Without coal, most had to live without heat in the winter of 1918–19, and the railroad network had gradually ceased to function. The collapse of railroads in their turn caused the collapse of industry and hence mass unemployment.
Making things even worse was the economic incompetence of the government which printed more and more money, leading to massive inflation and even more impoverishment. Károlyi's failure to improve living conditions or persuade the Allies to lift the blockade led to public criticism of Károlyi.
Baron Lajos Hatvany described Károlyi's leadership well when he noted "From the discussions no decisions arose, and from the decisions – no actions. A cabinet? No, it was a debating club". In the same vein, the British writer Harold Nicolson, who had known Károlyi during his exile in Britain, when reviewing Károlyi's memoirs in 1957 noted that: "he had many qualities, but unfortunately lacked those for which a man is taken seriously by serious people".
Sigmund Freud, the Austrian psychologist—who had known the two politicians personally—wrote about the assassination of István Tisza and the appointment of Mihály Károlyi as new prime minister of Hungary:
"I was certainly no adherent of the ancien regime, but it seems doubtful to me whether it is a sign of political shrewdness to beat to death the smartest of the many counts [Count Istvan Tisza] and to make the stupidest one [Count Mihaly Karolyi] president."
On 20 March 1919 the French presented the Vix Note ordering Hungarian troops further back into Hungary; it was widely assumed that the military lines would be the new frontiers. Károlyi and Prime Minister Dénes Berinkey were now in an untenable position. Although they did not want to accept this French demand, they were in no position to reject it either. On 21 March, Berinkey resigned. Károlyi then announced that only the Social Democrats could form a new government. Unknown to Károlyi, however, the Social Democrats had merged their party with the Communists led by Béla Kun. Hours after Berinkey resigned, the newly merged Hungarian Socialist Party announced Károlyi's resignation and the formation of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. At that point, Károlyi accepted the fait accompli and retired from active politics.
- Minister of Agriculture: Barna Buza
- Minister of Commerce: Ernő Garami
- Minister of Defense: Béla Linder (31 October 1918 to 9 November 1918); Albert Bartha (9 November 1918 to 12 December 1918; Mihály Károlyi (12 December 1918 to 29 December 1918; Sándor Festetics (29 December 1918 to 19 January 1919)
- Minister of Finance: Mihály Károlyi (31 October 1918 to 25 November 1918; Pál Szende (25 November 1918 to 19 January 1919)
- Minister of Food: Ferenc Nagy
- Minister of the Interior: Tivadar Batthyány (31 October 1918 to 12 December 1918; Vince Nagy (12 December 1918 to 19 January 1919)
- Minister of Justice: Barna Buza (31 October 1918 to 3 November 1918; Dénes Berinkey (3 November 1918 to 19 January 1919)
- King's Personal Minister: Tivadar Batthyány (31 October 1918 to 1 November 1918)
- Minister of Religion and Education: Márton Lovászy (31 October 1918 to 23 December 1918)
- Minister of Welfare and Labour: Zsigmond Kunfi (12 December 1918 to 19 January 1919)
- Minister Without Portfolio: Oszkár Jászi (31 October 1918 to 1 November 1918); Zsigmond Kunfi (31 October 1918 to 12 November 1918); Béla Linder (9 November 1918 to 12 December 1918)
- Minister Without Portfolio for Croatia-Slavonia and Dalmatia: Zsigmond Kunfi (6 November 1918 to 19 January 1919)
- Minister Without Portfolio for Nationalities: Oszkár Jászi (1 November 1918 to 19 January 1919)
On 10 April 1919, "Romanian troops began to invade Hungary to forestall reconquest of Transylvania. A provisional government was set up by Count Julius Karolyi (brother of Michael), Count István Bethlen, Admiral Horthy, and Archduke Joseph at Szeged (under French occupation)."
In 1924, while Károlyi's wife was in the United States she came down with typhoid fever. Károlyi applied for a visa to come to the United States to visit her, but the State Department imposed a gag order, preventing him from giving any political speeches, as the State Department believed him to be a Communist. A year later, Countess Károlyi was denied a visa to visit the United States, but Secretary Kellogg of the State Department refused to explain on what grounds her visa denial was made. Morris Ernst acted as Károlyi's lawyer for these issues.
In 1946, Károlyi, who by that time had become a socialist, returned to Hungary and from 1947–49 served as the Hungarian Ambassador to France. In 1949, he resigned in protest over the show trial and execution of László Rajk.
He wrote two volumes of memoirs in exile; Egy egész világ ellen ("Against the Entire World") in 1925 and Memoirs: Faith without Illusion in 1954.
He died in Vence, France, on 19 March 1955 at the age of 80.
In 1975, a memorial to Károlyi, sculpted by Imre Varga, was installed in Budapest's Kossuth Lajos tér. In 2012, the government began renovation to the square to the way it looked before World War II, and Károlyi's statue was moved to Siófok. At the same time, throughout Hungary, many cities changed the name of their own streets named after Mihály Károlyi. In Budapest for example the name of the prominent street in downtown, was changed from "Károlyi Mihály utca" to simply "Károlyi utca", removing the association with him.
- Cowles, Virginia (1967). 1913: The Defiant Swan Song. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. pp. 157–158.
- Robert Paxton; Julie Hessler (2011). Europe in the Twentieth Century. CEngage Learning. p. 129. ISBN 9780495913191.
- Deborah S. Cornelius (2011). Hungary in World War II: Caught in the Cauldron. Fordham University Press. p. 9. ISBN 9780823233434.
- Martin Kitchen (2014). Europe Between the Wars. Routledge. p. 190. ISBN 9781317867531.
- Ignác Romsics (2002). Dismantling of Historic Hungary: The Peace Treaty of Trianon, 1920 Issue 3 of CHSP Hungarian authors series East European monographs. Social Science Monographs. p. 62. ISBN 9780880335058.
- Dixon J. C. Defeat and Disarmament, Allied Diplomacy and Politics of Military Affairs in Austria, 1918–1922. Associated University Presses 1986. p. 34.
- Sharp A. The Versailles Settlement: Peacemaking after the First World War, 1919–1923. Palgrave Macmillan 2008. p. 156. ISBN 9781137069689.
- Agárdy, Csaba (6 June 2016). "Trianon volt az utolsó csepp - A Magyar Királyság sorsa már jóval a békeszerződés aláírása előtt eldőlt". veol.hu. Mediaworks Hungary Zrt.
- Krizman B. The Belgrade Armistice of 13 November 1918 Archived 26 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine in The Slavonic and East European Review January 1970, 48:110.
- Roberts, P. M. (1929). World War I: A Student Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. p. 1824. ISBN 9781851098798.
- Breit J. Hungarian Revolutionary Movements of 1918–19 and the History of the Red War in Main Events of the Károlyi Era Budapest 1929. pp. 115–116.
- Vermes, Gabor "The October Revolution In Hungary" from Hungary in Revolution edited by Ivan Volgyes Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1971 page 49.
- Menczer, Bela "Bela Kun and the Hungarian Revolution of 1919" pages 299–309 Volume XIX, Issue #5, May 1969, History Today Inc: London page 301.
- Sigmund Freud; Sándor Ferenczi; Eva Brabant; Ernst Falzeder; Patrizia Giampieri-Deutsch (1993). " The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi, Volume 2: 1914-1919. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674174191.
- Penfield Roberts, "Hungary", in William L. Langer (1948), ed., An Encyclopedia of History, Rev. Edition, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, p. 1014.
-  THE CABINET: Law and Discretion, Time, Monday, Nov. 02, 1925
- Taking a stand on Kossuth square Archived 2014-04-08 at the Wayback Machine, Budapest Times
References and further reading
- Deak, Istvan. "Budapest and the Hungarian Revolutions of 1918-1919." Slavonic and East European Review 46.106 (1968): 129-140. online
- Deak, Istvan "The Decline and Fall of Habsburg Hungary, 1914–18" pages 10–30 from Hungary in Revolution edited by Ivan Volgyes Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1971.
- Hajdu, Tibor. "Michael Károlyi and the Revolutions of 1918–19." Acta Historica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 10.3/4 (1964): 351-371. online
- Károlyi, Mihály. Memoirs of Michael Karolyi: faith without illusion (London: J. Cape, 1956). online free to borrow
- Menczer, Bela "Bela Kun and the Hungarian Revolution of 1919" pages 299–309 from History Today Volume XIX, Issue #5, May 1969, History Today Inc: London
- Pastor, Peter, Hungary between Wilson and Lenin: the Hungarian revolution of 1918–1919 and the Big Three, Boulder: East European Quarterly; New York: distributed by Columbia University Press, 1976.
- Polanyi, Karl. "Count Michael Károlyi." Slavonic and East European Review (1946): 92-97. online
- Szilassy, Sándor Revolutionary Hungary, 1918–1921, Astor Park. Fla., Danubian Press 1971.
- Vassady, Bela. "The" Homeland Cause" as Stimulant to Ethnic Unity: The Hungarian-American Response to Károlyi's 1914 American Tour." Journal of American Ethnic History 2.1 (1982): 39-64. online
- Vermes, Gabor "The October Revolution In Hungary" pages 31–60 from Hungary in Revolution edited by Ivan Volgyes Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1971.
- Mihály Graf Károlyi von Nagykárolyi at the Wayback Machine (archived October 27, 2009)
- Newspaper clippings about Mihály Károlyi in the 20th Century Press Archives of the ZBW
| Prime Minister of Hungary
| Minister of Foreign Affairs|
| Minister of Finance
as King of Hungary
| Provisional President of Hungary
as Chairman of the Hungarian Central Executive Council
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