DOMOKOS SZENT-IVÁNYI AND HIS BOOK – PART I

If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself
according to the outcome, he would never begin.
Even though the result may gladden the whole
world, that cannot help the hero; for he knows the
result only when the whole thing is over, and that is
not how he became a hero, but by virtue of the fact
that he began.

Søren Kierkegaard: Fear and Trembling

In our success-driven world we tend to judge events, people and decisions by their efficiency. The truths of wars are the truths of the victors, and a missed chance does not exist since it belongs to the world of useless questions, that deceptive world of “what if…”. If we evaluate the period of Hungarian history discussed by Domokos Szent-Iványi, then we see a sad story. Those few decades mark the most tragic years experienced by Hungary, even though our history is fraught with tragedies. Before the Great War Hungary as part of the Austro- Hungarian Empire was a great power, but after two lost wars and the horrors of the Nazi occupation, she found herself among the victims of the Bolshevik terror within the Soviet hemisphere. Her Revolution against the inhumanity of dictatorship was bloodily suppressed in 1956 and her fate remained one of subjugation to Soviet interests for decades. Burdened by these tragic historical events, many people tried – one way or another – to make a stand while adapting to historic necessities. Judging lives lived in morally corrupt dictatorships by the criteria of success is completely misleading. The most valuable members of a generation died in extermination camps, suffered imprisonment, or lived completely brushed aside.


What lessons can be learnt from these decades of Hungarian history by a sympathetic foreign observer? If we evaluate this story from the perspective of success and of the victorious, then it is a lesson of sympathy and respect for individual sacrifice, and of condemnation of those who did not make a stand that a sympathetic audience can appreciate. The tragedies within the tragedy of Soviet occupation may also provoke the victorious powers to wonder whether they had utilised the full potential of their victory. These aspects demand consideration; I strongly believe that this period of Hungary’s history is even more edifying and that its lessons go deeper.


Almost a hundred years ago, in his famous The Decline of the West Oswald Spengler criticised the European way of thinking about history. He believed that it is “an incredibly jejune and meaningless scheme, which has, however, entirely dominated our historical thinking — we have failed to perceive the true position in the general history of higher mankind, of the little part-world which has developed on West-European soil from the time of the Holy Roman Empire, to judge of its relative importance and above all to estimate its direction”. This false perception of history, says Spengler, was built upon the logic of Ptolemy’s system, in which “The ground of West Europe is treated as a steady pole […] and great histories of millennial duration and mighty far-away Cultures are made to revolve around this pole in all modesty. […] From it all the events of history receive their real light, from it their importance is judged in perspective.”1 Spengler’s words are to be read, marked, and inwardly digested: making the history of Western Europe the ideal measure of things not only distorts the history of the rest of the world but even prevents Europe’s own story from being properly understood if we analyse it under the dim misleading light of Western Europe’s centrality.


Modern history writing does show fine examples of more aware history – let us call it Spenglerian awareness – like Norman Davies’ excellent Europe: A History (1997), which demonstrates the core significance of Central Europe by reprinting, as the frontispiece to its Introduction, Sebastian Müntzer’s Europa regina etching (1550–54), in which the Queen’s solar plexus is situated somewhere between Germania, Hungaria and Vandalia.


Two World Wars undoubtedly prove that East Central Europe’s history is an organic and inevitable part of the history of Europe as a whole. Tensions and conflicts that were lurking in the deep and then roused from slumber by the World Wars cannot be properly understood without knowing this region well. The extent to which the West misunderstood its own wars is shown by the peace treaties ending them. The significance of Domokos Szent-Iványi’s wide-ranging memoirs is in the fact that he was quite consciously and intentionally summing up Hungary’s situation and the background of her decisions for Western European and American audiences. Yet he did it outside the context of Western logic and beyond the pressure of various European powers, as he depicts the logic stemming from the social and political traditions of Hungary. I believe that this book is a great help to any analytic mind who wants to go beyond Spengler’s limited Western horizon as a “Ptolemaic” system of historical thought.


Domokos Szent-Iványi was born on 28 April 1898 in Budapest as the fourth child of a well-off Transylvanian gentry family. Income from their lands provided for the family a life of ease, thus young Szent-Iványi could focus all his attention on his studies. After finishing from the renowned Lónyay Street Calvinist Grammar School in Budapest he earned a degree in Law and in Economic and Political Geography at Pázmány Péter University. In 1922 he went abroad and studied economic and political geography and literature at the Sorbonne and at the Collège de France. In 1924 he studied diplomacy at the École des Sciences Politiques. From 1925 he studied geography, geology and economic geography at the University of Vienna and at the Exportakademie. From 1927 he was a Hungarian diplomat in North America, and during these years he studied American public administration and international law at Western Reserve University, Cleveland, and English and American language and literature at Northwestern University, Evanston.


In 1926 when he became an assistant legal clerk at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) he already spoke seven languages, was extraordinarily well-educated and had a solid overall view on international affairs. Still, however well qualified, Szent-Iványi had to work in this modest position before his first diplomatic mission abroad. This followed from the highly hierarchic social exigencies of the Horthy era. For a serious job at MOFA you had to be not just one of the nobility but an aristocrat. So the only reason he could acquire the not-very-tempting position of Vice Consul in Cleveland, Chicago and Winnipeg (all far from being influential in world affairs) was that others had refused the job before him. His eight-year North American mission was nonetheless an important experience. Thanks to these years Domokos Szent-Iványi became one of those Hungarian politicians who clearly saw the increasingly definitive role of the United States as an economic and political great power. At the same time his work as a diplomat gained him such recognition both in the US and Hungary that the Hungarian Prime Minister, István Bethlen, wanted to make him his advisor on his return. Though this intention was thwarted by Bethlen’s resignation in 1931, Szent- Iványi was reinstated in Budapest in 1935 as an influential foreign policy advisor.


In 1935–36 he was the deputy head of MOFA’s Department of Public Relations, until in October 1936 Prime Minister Kálmán Darányi, lacking proficiency in foreign languages and feeling inexperienced in international affairs, made him his personal secretary. The following two years were a milestone in Szent-Iványi’s life. Due to this position he was not just a well informed foreign policy advisor but someone with entrance into the highest circles of Hungary’s political elite. His performance as Darányi’s personal secretary proved that it was no accident that he had come from the formative circle of geographer and former Prime Minister Count Pál Teleki. Teleki had been gathering around him the young men best equipped to help build a modern post-Trianon Hungary. The cornerstone of his political philosophy was the preservation of Hungarian sovereignty and resistance to German influence in the region.


Following the resignation of Darányi in November 1938, Teleki, then Minister of Culture, entrusted Szent-Iványi with a confidential charge: to put together a report assessing the (future) position of North America in case war broke out.

His 80-page report, completed in February 1939, tells a great deal about Domokos Szent-Iványi’s insight, vision and sophisticated knowledge of the subject. He was of the opinion that war was inescapably going to break out within half a year, and that after the US entered the conflict (in his prediction sometime in 1942) Germany would be defeated. “In the evolving world war – except for the United States and the Soviet Union – there will be in reality only defeated powers. As a consequence of Europe’s collapse into ruins, the United States will profit from putting the British Empire on her leash; and in this ragged, and completely broken Europe, the Soviet Union can conquer either by gaining territory or simply through the influence of its Bolshevist ideology.”(2)


His astonishingly precise analysis was made even more significant by the fact that he was clearly arguing for Germany’s defeat. On the eve of war in February 1939 it was not only an assessment but also a notable political programme. After the Treaties of the Paris Peace Conference (1919–20) Hungary had experienced the extreme depths of what it means to be in the grip of bigger powers. As a result, in its domestic politics also, political groups were polarised according to the future international status quo they envisaged. When the Second World War broke out this division became more profound. Predicting the outcome of the war thus became more than a theoretical question of strategy; it became a firm ideological stance. Following his report Szent-Iványi was accepted in anti-Nazi circles as a trustworthy confidant. This status largely determined his future.


By February 1939 when Pál Teleki was appointed Prime Minister again, he and Domokos Szent-Iványi developed close personal relations, which explains why Teleki entrusted him with what was less a diplomatic mission than a confidential secret project. Teleki had created a so-called Information Department (the Fourth Section of the Premier’s Office – ME-IV), which was officially a “private cabinet” managing the Prime Minister’s personal and press matters as well as connections with Hungarian minorities abroad. In reality it was an alternative secret cabinet on foreign policy and an intelligence centre designed to organise an anti-German foreign policy that would have been unrealistic in the Third Reich’s shadow if pursued openly. As Szent-Iványi was appointed head of ME-IV he became the key figure of this anti-Nazi conspiracy. Although this Information Department was dispersed by degrees by Teleki’s successor Bárdossy following his suicide, Szent-Iványi carried on the work together with his team, developing ME-IV’s clandestine “successor”, the Hungarian Independence Movement (Magyar Függetlenségi Mozgalom, MFM), through which he was to play a key role in the anti-Nazi Resistance. This stepped far beyond the constraints of a secret foreign policy cabinet.


Szent-Iványi was a man with sophisticated sense of diplomacy. He was even to be considered by the Soviets in 1944 as a suitable candidate for the position of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He could have had a brilliant career as a diplomat. But in addition to being a born diplomat, he was also a conspiring mind to the core. In the given historic situation it was his flair for conspiracy that made him the key mover of events. If we consider only the political positions he held – officially, personal secretary to Kálmán Darányi was the highest – we see an ambitious man stuck in secondary positions. But Szent-Iványi’s historic role cannot be measured only by the positions he held in the state apparatus, or by the reputation and publicity of his personae. His personal significance lay in the fact that he governed the Hungarian Independence Movement from the background and tried to mobilise all political and social forces – from the highest circles of the Hungarian state, including Regent Horthy and former Premier István Bethlen, down to the lowest levels of society – that held the Nazi occupation in East Central Europe and so in Hungary to be completely unacceptable.


It is hard to overstate the importance of the Hungarian Independence Movement. Although, for reasons of security, it was a formal organisation that served as a front for a real secret network with no formal membership or hierarchy, it did its job well. In its mission as a national independence movement it infiltrated institutions and social groups, in order to organise anti-Nazi resistance and to integrate and encourage anti-Nazi actions, attitudes and sentiments in society. Organisationally, it had the unique feature of building in both directions from the top and from the bottom. To its invisible network belonged a whole gamut of Hungarian state bureaus and offices including state security, as well as seminal figures and institutions of Hungary’s academic and cultural life. It had undercover men in far-right extremist parties and in embassies in Budapest and abroad, and it maintained connection with various foreign resistance groups. Beyond these a number of bottom-up movements, religious communities, and key members of the so-called “populist movement” took part in the many various activities of the Hungarian Independence Movement. In MFM’s fold were enlisted members of opposition groups from both inside and outside the Parliament, such as the members of the Independent Smallholders’ Party, but also Social Democrats and Communists, who otherwise publicly denounced and opposed the government – all of them able and willing to work together with the anti-Nazi section of the ruling elite of the Horthy era. It was an unlikely secret fellowship that publicly would have been hard to imagine.


Since MFM was in practice the animator of anti-Nazi Hungarian policies and the key body integrating bottom-up forces with the top-down policies of the Horthy-elite, it was a political formation uniquely designed for East Central Europe. Many experts, in the course of analysing the individual features of European regions, had concluded that the lack of cooperation based on mutual interest generated social imbalances and was thus the primary cause of why the region lagged behind the West in matters of national unity. The operational philosophy of the Hungarian Independence Movement – and no less its workaday routine – succeeded in overcoming this East Central European “curse”, dedicated as it was to the all- embracing ideal of independence which envisaged Hungary as a completely sovereign state not subjected to any other greater power. Although it was seldom that this dominant political idea had been able to reach full fruition in Hungarian history, all the same it was a political will – irrespective of social class or rank – deeply embedded into Hungarian society. Beside its evident foreign policy aspirations, the ideal of Hungarian sovereignty became a determining force in social solidarity and national identity. As a decisive element of Hungary’s political identity, it was a very strong presence that influenced (sometimes strongly, sometimes softly) social, economic and cultural issues. In crises it was able to bridge huge differences and activate tremendous energies. We need mention only the Revolution and War of Independence of 1848–49 and again of 1956 here. Even though in the shadow of the German conquest, it could not become the decisive social force nor raise enough political capital, the Hungarian Independence Movement mobilised most of the various forces hidden in Hungary’s society and created a framework to integrate otherwise opposing ideologies and social classes. The significance of this wide non-violent social cooperation is shown by the fact that the Soviet-ruled Hungarian Communist regime saw the MFM as a threat and made it a political priority to ostracise its members and ideology by making them targets of the first relentless round of fabricated show trials.


Pál Teleki was a key figure of these years. The world-famous geographer, Hungary’s Prime Minister for the second time from 1939 to 1941, was among the most influential politicians of the inter-war period. He had a special role in Szent-Iványi’s career. Their acquaintance was far from being a mere accident. It came about as the fruit of a unique, dogged effort on the part of Szent-Iványi, as he recalls in his memoirs. He only enrolled at the Faculty of Economics of Pázmány Péter University in order to meet Teleki and to build a personal relation with this extraordinary man. To his friends he ironically recalled later how intent he was on gaining Teleki’s attention: volunteering for each and every extra task, trying to be the first to answer any question of his professor.(3) He was so fast winning Pál Teleki’s trust that the latter made him his Assistant Lecturer in 1922, his freshman year. Their relationship became a friendship that lasted over the years, and Teleki felt an increasing admiration both for Domokos Szent-Iványi’s character and for his political and intellectual talent. He came to see him as an ally who might potentially be his right hand in implementing a political programme. So, following Teleki’s urging, Szent-Iványi, who was originally ambitious to make a name for himself as an authority in academic fields, turned to a career in foreign policy, where the foundations were defined by scientifically established directives laid down by Teleki.


What were these foreign policy principles? And what was the political situation in which these directives were formulated? Having signed the Peace Treaty on 4 June 1920 in Trianon Hungary lost two-thirds of her former territory and one third of her population. She fell from her previous international power status, from the greater unity of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and from the far bigger structure of the Kingdom of Hungary. Many of her officials and intellectuals, used to serving a far bigger state, were now stuck in newly-formed nation-states, given the choice of either vegetating outside the new borders of Hungary or fleeing to her as refugees. This national loss could not be measured simply in square kilometres – it was very much the near death of a nation, and that is how it was perceived by Hungarians of the day. Though Hungary regained her independence lost in 1526 to the Habsburg Dynasty which now ceased to exist, yet this long (nearly for 400 years) awaited sovereignty came to realisation in a maimed country, and its achievement ”cost” much of the lands and 5 million people of the so-called Greater Hungary.


This new country, artificially created in Trianon and deprived of its organic integrity, was considered by each and every class of Hungarian society as a provisional state with territorial constraints that were unacceptable in the long run. Celebrating Hungary’s regained sovereignty was out of question because this “artificial creature” was thought to be unfit for survival. Stemming from these perceptions, the generally held conviction of contemporary Hungarians – and many others abroad – was that in the failure or success of Revisionism Hungary’s very survival was at stake. For two decades it was a tenet for all Hungarian political parties that the revision of the Treaty of Trianon was a necessity, being the alpha and omega of foreign and internal affairs. How to achieve it, however, was a divisive question.


As for Revision, even Pál Teleki himself had changed his own concept several times: in the 1920s he advocated a complete territorial revision, but then during the 1930s he argued for a partial readjustment of the borders, a revision based on ethnic composition. But behind his changing point of view there was a scientifically founded theory, based on the concepts of contemporary French and Anglo-Saxon schools of political and economic geography that went back to the traditions of antiquity. According to this school of thought, “this globe that presents natural life and social activities is like an organic body, a system of connections with a net of capillaries”(4), where natural surroundings together with social and political factors are in a close and mutual correspondence.


Translated into politics, this was a conviction that decisions failing to respect this organic integrity and concentrating instead on actual power relations and political interests could not create a viable territorial balance. Territorial entities created in such a manner could only be preserved by raw force. Such enforced territorial arrangements take place by means of population exchanges, by drawing borders by rulers, or per se by the enforced treaties concocted by the Paris Peace Conferences of 1919–20.


If we adapt this thought to the Hungarian situation, then we have a well-defined concept of foreign policy with a time-honoured European tradition behind it. The basic principle of this concept was concisely summed up by László Németh, one of the era’s most influential thinkers: “Nation is not land, but a historic reality”. In this light Hungary’s historic calling is to resist any forces threatening the uniqueness and existence of the region of East Central Europe. Hungary fulfilled such a calling, Teleki argued, when she fought the Ottoman Empire, and the same idea moved her when she waged wars against 400 years of Habsburg efforts to attach the region to a centre outside it. It was this anti-Habsburg tradition in the best Hungarian political minds that made Hungarians so sensitive to the new German threat of the Thirties in the fever of Drang nach Osten. Although sovereignty is first and foremost a national interest, yet this protracted struggle was also about finding an answer to the question whether East Central Europe could become an independent player with its own unique features – and with Hungary as a key entity at its heart. This question implied, moreover, that Europe’s peace was at stake. If East Central Europe became subordinate to any of the Great Powers’ own individual interests then the subtle balance of the Continent could be easily lost – and then war is just another step away.


For Europe’s overall stability, then, not only the independence of the region, but also the vital and needed cooperation between East Central European countries were the cardinal issues. A long-standing independence is only possible via the cooperation of neighbours. As one of the most acute minds of the era, the brilliant essayist Zoltán Szabó (who was to live in London exile after 1948) put it: already in the Thirties, there were only two paths to follow for the nations of East Central Europe: either they find the guarantees of their independence against the Great Powers in each other, or be forced to seek patronage from the Great Powers for their own individual independence.(5)


A foreign policy that envisaged Hungary in the historic role of forging an alliance with the nations of the region against the ambitions of the Great Powers faced difficult geopolitical realities. For one, the fatal dictate of the Trianon Treaty assigned Hungary a completely different role. Yet Pál Teleki, Prime Minister István Bethlen, Minister of Foreign Affairs Miklós Bánffy and many other Hungarian politicians of the inter-war period who felt responsible for the fate of their country, believed that Hungary did have a calling to integrate the interests of the region. Though Hungarian foreign policy was forced to obey the harsh realities of geopolitics, the thought of independence and the interdependence of the region can always be found in its specific decisions.


Following the peace treaties of the Great War, Western European policy envisaged a diametrically opposed road map for East Central Europe. That map was conceived in the spirit of a fallacy that polarised the defeated and the victorious, and was intended to protect the interests of the victors. The thoughts and policies of the prime builder of these fallacies, the influential Czech propagandist and politician Edvard Beneš, and the formation of the Little Entente reflected them. Its first and foremost purpose was to isolate Hungary and Austria. But there was an immense price to pay for that fallacy: it blocked centuries-old organic economic, political and cultural relations in the region. Even in this situation Hungarian politicians recognised that, putting wounds aside, it was in Hungary’s best interest to keep alive the possibility of cooperation with her neighbours. The trade negotiations of István Bethlen in Czechoslovakia or Miklós Bánffy’s many attempts to bring about a rapprochement with Romania – which even included union between the two countries – demonstrate this recognition. Bánffy went as far as moving back to his estate in Transylvania, and symbolically taking his Romanian citizenship from the hands of the Romanian king. Soon, however, when the Little Entente was finalised as an exclusive league for the small countries created at Versailles in 1920, and it was then endorsed and supported by the Great Powers, all possibilities of mutual cooperation were lost.


It was the rigid logic and enforcement of the Treaties made at Versailles that isolated Hungary and pushed her towards Germanophile sentiments in the Thirties. Yet, if we study Hungarian intentions carefully, it becomes evident how Hungarian foreign policy makers tried to separate territorial revision for Hungary from German policies and interests. There were many strategic attempts to go around that trap, such as building ties with Italy, the easing of relations with French and English political circles, the plan to build a Hungarian–Polish horizontal axis of mutual friendship, and the establishment of friendly contacts with Yugoslavia. All of these were designed to avoid a one-sided German orientation.


Once Hitler came to power – and much more so after the Second World War broke out in September 1939 – Teleki’s foreign policy was focused on preserving Hungarian sovereignty in its geopolitical relationship with Germany, while at the same time avoiding confrontation with the Allied powers. He stuck to these principles even when the world was silenced by German military success – and when restricting German influence on Hungary jeopardised future territorial revisions. His unmoved consistency stemmed not only from the fact that he feared for Hungary’s independence but also from his own moral stand. He found the policies and the ideology of the Third Reich unacceptable. In his view a final German victory would mean the end of European moral and spiritual values and the better European political traditions. It promised a situation in which Hungary, together with other countries with long sovereign traditions, could only exist as a second-rate subordinate state. In the moment when he was compelled to realise that political developments had closed down even the very restricted room for political manoeuvring that Hungary enjoyed and the country had become the toy of Nazi imperial goals, he did not resign from his Premiership but committed suicide. Pál Teleki’s final act proved that his stance against the values and aspirations of Hitler’s Nazi Germany was grounded in deep political, moral and spiritual convictions. His suicide also sent an important message, understood everywhere in Europe, pointing out tragically what choices a politician of the East Central European region had to face if he did not wish to follow Hitler’s fold.


Here emerges a unique feature of policy-making, which, unless we regard it with due seriousness, prevents us from understanding Teleki properly. This feature is not a world view or ideology but much rather a kind of political behaviour; in this behaviour instinct and the traditions that live in us overrule our consciousness and calculations. In Teleki’s case – and in that of Szent-Iványi – traditions meant their Transylvanian roots. In that historic regions, attracted by both East and West, in the dual shadows of the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires, open confrontation was not a viable policy, and survival was only possible through subtle, if pragmatic, political games. This Transylvanian “genius” shaped by centuries was characterised by the major 20th-century essayist and thinker Béla Hamvas as follows: “For a man from the Great Hungarian Plains politics is a declaration of his passion for freedom, for the Transylvanian it is much more. This is the realm where the manifold complexity of his substance can flourish in its full bloom. Compromise in the Great Plains is mere politicking, a type of treachery: in Transylvania it is wisdom and virtue, with an almost English foresight and humour. It seems as if History taught Transylvania manifold lessons. She always had to heed some other part of Hungary, but sometimes also Byzantium or Constantinople, and she had to bargain with each of them to survive, she had to fool a little one or the other, because she had to fool someone so that she can live.”(6)

Between the two world wars the significance of Transylvanian politicians became decisive in Hungary’s public life. In this historic situation Hungary badly needed the traditionally subtle Transylvanian policy. As a consequence Hungarian policy of the era cannot be judged only by the events visible on the surface. All speeches, declarations and concrete actions only allow us to see the surface because – and let me return here to Béla Hamvas – “beneath everything visible there is something deeper, something at least equivalent with the surface, but something that opposes it”.(7)


A quite clear example of this was the way Pál Teleki handled matters: while being an active Prime Minister, he organised and steered a secret and illegal resistance movement, which represented a political path that was exactly the opposite of his government’s official propaganda and public foreign policy. This organisation included the Information Department (ME-IV) – in reality Teleki’s privy cabinet of foreign policy, headed by Szent-Iványi, again, characteristically a Transylvanian – as well as the Service of National Policy led by university professor Béla Kovrig, which helped build resistance among intellectuals opposed to Hitler’s Nazi ideology. There are not many other examples in history of a Prime Minister who organised and led the resistance movement confronting his own government.

***

It is necessary to step aside briefly from this narrative of events to reflect on Szent- Iványi’s personal stance toward the ideas and policies of Teleki – which, as we have seen, he supported with all his considerable intellectual and organisational talent, and with such loyalty and personal humility. He himself makes such a digression in the memoir, after detailing the ups and downs of Teleki’s efforts at a reasonable and justified territorial revision. In an unexpected meditation on national borders Szent- Iványi confesses that whatever the goals and achievements of Teleki’s endeavours had been, he himself had believed from his early youth that there could be no just re-drawing of the borders on ethnic principles – even if the momentary borders, drawn at the Versailles negotiating rooms, were entirely unjust. The solution to the problem of borders in East Central Europe could only be the creation of a larger European entity, Szent-Iványi argues, dating his meditations on borders back to the war years. Szent-Iványi, in other words, envisages a European union in which borders are spiritualised, while communication and cooperation meet no obstacles. Even if the reader is sceptical about the maturing of these ideas in Szent-Iványi as early as during the war, his vision must be seen as impressive even for 1977, when he finished this book. At that time the idea of this Union in its extended form was still not in the air. The idea that East Central Europe might soon constitute, in historical time, an organic unit with Western Europe, was regarded as a daydream even by daring strategic thinkers of the day.


This meditation, halfway through the book, is part of a larger coherent system of historical thought on Szent-Iványi’s part, which will deserve careful study by researchers. This system includes his analysis of the fatal consequences for East Central Europe of France’s millennial efforts to define itself as a great power vis-à- vis Germany. Szent-Iványi enters the company of political thinkers and actors in the constellation of Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer and other early architects of the European Union. Elsewhere, too, Szent-Iványi talks of his fascination with and belief in the feasibility of large political associations in history, within which a variety of ethnicities and faiths were allowed to bloom in a prosperous political and economic union, alliance or empire.


But this idea can also be connected with what Szent-Iványi learned from Teleki as political geographer. Teleki as Prime Minister was compelled to work within the fatally tight framework that destiny had offered him – but Teleki the scholar and thinker was an admirer of geographically and economically well-integrated large entities, not just the geographically well-defined entity of the old Kingdom of Hungary but also the United States of America, its unity in variety and complexity, about which he wrote a fascinated and fascinating scientific book in the 1920s.

Translated by János Kávássy and Gyula Kodolányi



1   Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, Vol. I (Form and Actuality), pp. 16–17. http://ia700204. us.archive.org/0/items/declineofwest01spenuoft/declineofwest01spenuoft.pdf

2   DomokosSzent-Iványi,AtrianoniMagyarországkülpolitikája.1919.június–1944.március19.

[The Foreign Policies of Post-Trianon Hungary], pp. 260–261. Ráday Archives of the Hungarian Calvinist Church, Szent-Iványi Bequest, Budapest. C/80. 1. boksz. Quoted in: Bálint Török, Farkas esz meg, medve esz meg [Domokos Szent-Iványi and the Hungarian Independence Movement]. Európai Protestáns Magyar Szabadegyetem, Basel–Budapest, 2004, p. 26.

3   These personal anecdotes were told by Ágnes Szent-Iványi.

4   Pál Teleki, A földrajzi gondolat története [The History of Geographic Thought]. Quoted by János Kubassek, “Teleki Pál, a földrajztudós” [Pál Teleki, Geographer] in: Béla Barabás (ed.), Teleki Pál öröksége [Pál Teleki’s Heritage]. Antológia Nyomda, Lakitelek, 1992, p. 59.

5   Zoltán Szabó, A magyarság Európában – Európa a magyarságban [Hungarians in Europe – Europe in

Hungarians]. Kortárs Kiadó, Budapest, 2002, p. 59.

6   Béla Hamvas, Az öt géniusz [The Five Geniuses]. Európai Protestáns Szabadegyetem, Budapest,

1996, pp. 72–75.

7   Ibid.

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