Page 7, 4th December 1936

4th December 1936
Page 7
Page 7, 4th December 1936 — STORM CLOUDS OVER EUROPE Czecho-Hungarian Tension

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People: Basch, Tuka
Locations: London


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STORM CLOUDS OVER EUROPE Czecho-Hungarian Tension

Complexity Of Revisionist Claims

Two Racial Viewpoints

From Our Central European Correspondent Tension is increasing in Central Europe. The new Germano. Japanese pact has come as a bombshell to many. To others it is but a further and clearer indication of the steadily growing division of the greater part of the world into two irreconcilable blocs. And Central Europe views the more anxiously those problems, any one of which may provide the spark to set Europe ablaze. It should never be forgotten that an attack upon Czechoslovakia might well involve Great Britain in the ensuing war.

Amongst Central European countries none has more anxious problems than Czechoslovakia. There is the grave problem of the three million Germans within her borders; there is the friction with Poland. (And here I am able to state on good authority that this point was raised during the Polish Foreign Minister's recent London visit and that he was advised to do what he could to allay this friction); and there is also the ever-present question of Hungarian revisionist claims.

Both countries have very definite claims to sympathy. The Magyars (or Htingarians) are a noble and chivalrous race who have rendered yeoman service to Christianity and to Europe in the past, so it is easy to understand their sorrow and indignation when they contrast pre-war Hungary and the Hungary of today.

Czechoslovakia, on the other hand, has managed to maintain the banner of democracy when surrounded by totalitarian or semi-totalitarian neighbours and her contributions to civilisation, together with the tremendous difficulties confrOnted since 1918 and the long centuries of lost Czech independence, entitle her to respect.

No subject, no political case is all black or all white; and certainly no subject has given rise to more passionate interest than Hungarian revisionist That there are rights and wrongs on both sides is undeniable. And it may therefore be the more interesting, in view of the present tension and growing importance of Central European politics, to compare the arguments of a Hungarian and a Czech patriot, resulting from the recent articles in the Catholic Herald on ITungarian claims. They cannot fail to illustrate the complexity of the problem, as well as of Central European politics in general.

The arguments and counter-arguments of both parties are set down below.

(1) HUNGARIAN it is important to remember that prewar national minorities in Hungary were not indigenous. Hungary's gallant fight against the Turks in past centuries had so killed off her population that wholesale immigeeation of Germans and Slovaks had takenr race. Dr. Basch, leader of the German inority in Hungary, was condemned to five months' imprisonment for Nazi propaganda (now rife in Hungary), but in Czechoslovakia Ear. Tuka, a well-known Slovak, was condemned to fifteen years' imprisonment for anti-Czech propaganda!

CZECH The Magyars came to Hungary in A.D. 894, but the Western and Northern parts of Hungary were under Slav rule in the 6th century, while north of the Danube the Slav kingdom of Moravia was founded in 828. Thus the Slays were on pre-war Hungarian soil prior to the Magyars. Dr. Basch was not condemned for Nazi propaganda, but for criticism of Hungarian methods towards the German minority, while Dr. Tuka was convicted of betraying Czech military secrets to Hungary, of planning Slovak separatism and forming a semi-military body to this end—a very different matter!


Land reform was a purely political move on the part of the Czechs. Compensation to landowners was inadequate and unfair. Moreover, 96 per cent. of the land thus split up in an area where the Hungarian minority predominated like Komarno went to Czechs and Slovaks, while only 4 per cent. went to Hungarians. Land reform was more actively pursued in such districts than elsewhere and, although the old Magyar landed aristocracy was deliberately wiped out by land-holding limitations, a new political Czech and pro-Czech aristocracy has " replaced " it.


No less than 80 per cent. of the country was owned by large landowners (almost exclusively Hungarian) and naturally the mainly Slovak workers benefited. Compensation was based upon world prices and the Government had to contend with such factors as inflation, but a comparison of Czech Land Reform with that enforced in most other European countries shows that the Czech Government was relatively generous.

Up to 1928 over 6,000 Hungarian applicants for land had received 8,188 hectares in small-holdings and over 2,000 others had leased land that will one day become their own. It is obviously unfair to select one district alone.


The Czech State has confiscated all the ecclesiastical possessions of the Hungarian dioceses in Slovakia, the Archdiocese of Estergom and the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma amongst others not having received a penny of compensation.

CZECH The lands in question being today in Czechoslovakia, the whole question of their revenues has been dealt with according, first to the modus vivendi and then the Concordat, with the Vatican. New Czech dioceses have now been set up and the administration has been transferred to art ecclesiastical commission. The whole question of the division of such revenues is being settled between the Czechoslovak and Hungarian ecclesiastical authorities, a method approved by the Vatican in accordance with the Concordat.


The number of Hungarian primary schools in Slovakia decreased during the years 1921 to 1926, which is unfair in view of the high Hungarian birth-rate. As regards the vote. a Slovak or Czech district requires far fewer votes to return a member to Parliament than a German or Magyar district (e.g., Liptau (Slovak) 17,769 — Ersekjvar (Hungarian) 27,673 votes). That is why Herr Henlein's German party, although the largest cannot obtain a majority in the Prague Parliament. Moreover, Hungarian papers books and reviews are heavily censored and often confiscated.

CZECH Official statistics prove that Hungarian primary school classes have greatly increased, although the number of such schools has declined. The Magyar minority has declined also because Magyarised Slovaks have reverted to the race and nationality of their fathers. As regards elected representations, there arc 13 Hungarians out of 300 members of Parliament, which corresponds roughly to the Hungarian population. Anomalies there are in the constituencies (there are certainly some far greater ones in England!), but these are liable to affect any area. Herr Henleinns party has not got nearly a majority in Czechoslovakia. The Hungarian minority possesses nearly seventy purely Hungarian papers (including five dailies) and forty bi-lingual papers. Hungarian papers are only banned or censored when violently antiCzech or revisionist.


The Czech State is riddled with Bolshevism and is notoriously anti-Catholic, Any deviation from this attitude is for purely political reasons. Soviet air-bases exist in Ruthenia. No Catholic can or should sympathise with a state which is so predomin

antly anti-Catholic, the most anti-Catholic of all being President &nes.


In view of the centuries-old ties of race and sympathy between Czechs, Slovaks and Russians, what is astonishing is that Czechoslovakia is so little infected by the views of Bolshevism. The story about Soviet air-bases in Ruthenia has been denied by all Czech leaders and in the House of Commons, while not a single proof of their existence has ever been supplied! Some claim President iBenes to be a Catholic, others the reverse. But, Catholic or not, all the Catholic parties in Czechoslovakia voted for his re-election, including the Hungarian Catholics. Innumerable proofs of altered feelings and real friendship towards the Church have been given latterly by Czech statesmen and the best proof of all is the recent Concordat with the Vatican. Moreover, most of the Catholic parties have representatives in the Government, including a priest!

Enough To Bite On

It is to be regretted that lack of space prevents the giving of the more detailed facts and statistics. arguments and proofs given by the two protagonists. Their controversial points as indicated, however, illustrate the main outline of a bitter dispute which has created untold difficulties in Central Europe and found eager partisans of both countries as far afield as Great Britain.

It should never be forgotten that there are mistakes on both sides. Undoubtedly in some cases Hungarians have suffered injustice in Slovakia. Relations with the Hungarian minority have not always been easy.

Slovaks Mainly to Blame

On the other hand, such bitterness as there es conies mainly from the Slovaks. Mgr. Hlinka, the veteran priest who leads the Slovak Autonomists, remembers well the fate of the Slovaks under Hungarian rule prior to the Great War. (The incident at Cernovo when he was forbidden to speak Slovak at a consecration and the troops fired on the Slovak crowd is still remembered.) He, and other Slovak leaders, have always been the fiercest opponents of Hungarian revisionist claims. Rightly or wrongly, they prefer the secret Czech ballot with all its limitations to the prospect of the open vote of the Hungarian countryside. And all the Slovakian deputies, proand anti-Government alike, to the Prague Parliament have protested against Hungarian revisionist claims and methods.

But treaties were made for man and are not eternal. Reasonable Czechs (including President Benes himself) have never desired the possibility of peaceful conversations regarding revision.

Undoubtedly the day will come when such talks will be possible, and a complete denial and refusal even to discuss Hungary's claims would be as foolish and wicked as it would be to risk a turmoil by revising frontiers and creating chaos at the present time of crisis.

If They Could Realise

It would not be too much to hope that reasonable Hungarians will see the immense harm that the nature and violence of their anti-Czech propaganda has done to their own cause.

It is these advocates who have done more than anyone the to harden the Slovaks and postpone all possibility of good relations with Czechoslovakia.

Conversations may and will be possible in an atmosphere of goodwill, but this can only be achieved if hatred and the spirit of vengeance be put aside.

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