THE OBSCURE REPUBLIC
Banat Leitha, Burgenland, and Counter-Revolutionary Hungary

The story of resistance in Burgenland to the territorial order imposed on Hungary in the wake of the First World War is one of obscurity and conjecture. The chronology of events in Western Hungary from 1920–1921 tells a tale of disparate patriotism and nationalism mired by acts of desperate violence and injustice. Relatively under-researched as a historiographical subject, the period defined as ‘counter-revolutionary Hungary’ is rife with substantial misinterpretations and populist discourse. As with other Central and Eastern European states, the narrative that characterizes this era in Hungarian history is yet to be properly redressed. Traditionally polarized research has been keen to disavow ideological legacies rather than conduct the thorough analysis the subject deserves. 1Béla Bodó, ‘Iván Héjjas: The Life of a Counterrevolutionary’, East Central Europe, 37/2–3 (2010), 247. One of the seminal works on this period remains Oszkár Jászi’s Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Hungary (P. S. King & Son, 1924). Excellent contemporary work is also being done by Béla Bodó, Ignác Romsics, László Fogarassy, and Tibor Zsiga, for example. The objective of this study is to address the phenomenon of resistance in Western Hungary, its raison d’être, and the formation of the Banat Leitha Republic (Lajtabánság). Our goal is to better conceptualize and comprehend the broader patterns of state formation in Burgenland and its impact on the Austria–Hungary border controversy and upon the transformation of interwar Central Europe. The Burgenland dispute represents a unique and unprecedented application of the rights of self-determination. Conversely, its narrative is also one of many grim examples of overt violation of those rights.

Early resistance in Burgenland mirrored the chaotic period between the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the reception of the peace terms in 1919 and 1920. Small bands of resistors, often no more than a few dozen, disrupted affairs in German majority communities for varying purposes, including instilling fear over growing approval for annexation or secession. These resistors—predominantly made up of poor agrarian workers, veterans, or youths supported by the region’s landowning gentry—evolved into something larger and more deleterious in the years of the White Terror and the arrival of Hungarian battalions in Burgenland. The roots of organized revolt in Western Hungary may therefore be traced to the summer of 1919, during the earliest days of the counter-revolutionary government in Szeged. 2Eva S. Balogh, ‘Power Struggle in Hungary: Analysis in Post-war Domestic Politics August–
November 1919’, Canadian-American Review of Hungarian Studies, 4/1 (Spring 1977), 3–22.
In large part the individuals who would become the central figures in the revolt in Burgenland, and the short-lived Banat Leitha Republic, originated out of Miklós Horthy’s early anti-Bolshevik government and army. Horthy was an admiral in the Austro-Hungarian Navy who would become the Minister of War and commander of the National Army in the counter-revolutionary government before assuming the position of Regent of Hungary in 1920. Pál Prónay, Iván Héjjas, Anton Lehár, István Freidrich, Gyula Ostenburg-Moravek, and others would hold sway over an ambiguous period in interwar Hungary and, while typically framed by patriotism, they would follow a controversial path in Burgenland. Moreover, the predominance of individuals from aristocratic backgrounds ‘underscores the vital role that the traditional classes played’ in the revolts. 3Béla Bodó, ‘Hungarian Aristocracy and the White Terror’, Journal of Contemporary History, 4/4 (2010), 709. The White Terror allowed legitimists, revolutionaries, veterans, and military top-brass unchecked power over the Hungarian countryside, allowing them to unleash a period of gratuitous terror and injustice against those perceived to be the cause of Hungary’s darkest hour of territorial and political chaos. Resistance in Burgenland therefore represented Hungary’s final affront to the post-war peace settlement and a manifestation of decades of decline. 4See Gyula Somogyváry’s recent contextual historical fiction És mégis élünk (2004) which romanticizes the ‘heroic’ Burgenland revolt and Hungary’s habitual acquiescence to the losing side of history. Hungary’s eventual wrested concessions in Burgenland may indeed place this event in new light and challenge the existing scholarship’s attachment to the argumentation of economic and cultural elements as the sole root of resistance.

The conditions of peace imposed on Hungary, and the devastating loss of territory which resulted, have often been cited as the key determinant of Hungary’s tenacious resistance against Austrian claims to Burgenland. Indeed, the situation in Burgenland was in direct opposition to the rest of the territories detached from Hungary. Magyar officials remained in control in Western Hungary well into 1921, whereas Hungarian control over territories lost to Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia ended. 5Márton Békés, ‘A fegyveres revízió útja Nyugat-Magyarországon’ (The Progress of Armed Revisionism in Western Hungary), Vasi Szemle, 61/4 (2007), 2 Moreover, the overthrow of Bolshevik forces in the late summer of 1919 led to further animosity with Austria over Vienna’s sheltering of Béla Kun and his communist cronies. 6‘Vienna Workers Protect Bela Kun’, The New York Times (31 August 1919). The recruitment of militiamen in Szeged was eased by these animosities and the radicalization of Hungary’s traditional elites, many of whom had served in the military establishment, and who now found refuge in a new army resisting an ‘enemy’ determined to dismember and destroy Hungary. The most profound of these new detachments were the Prónay Battalions, and while these were not officially part of Horthy’s National Army, they existed with the consent of the counter-revolutionary government. 7‘Letter from Villányi to Bánffy, 23 August 1921’, in Francis Deák and Dezső Ujváry, eds, Papers and Documents Relating to the Foreign Relations of Hungary, Vol. III: 1919–1920, Royal Hungarian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 1939, 758. Pál Prónay, born into the aristocracy, would be the central figure of the Burgenland resistance and its short-lived republic. His early days as part of the White Terror demonstrated that there were no limits to what he would do in the name of patriotism. Prónay noted in his diary Ellenforradalmi napló jegyzeteim 1918–1921 (My Counter-Revolutionary Diary Entries, 1918–1921) some years later that ‘For twenty years only the Western Hungarian freedom struggle was a successful national development, which was achieved by guns that made a crack in the Trianon diktat’. 8Rezső Dabas, ‘Burgenland’ álarc nélkül: történeti-földrajzi tanulmány az elrabolt nyugati végekről (‘Burgenland’ without Mask: A Historical and Geographical Study of the Detached Western Borderlands), (1984), 140.

Prónay’s character is difficult to decipher. He represented the qualities of the traditional aristocratic elite: contempt towards Jews and Bolshevik sympathisers, and a deep-rooted disdain for peasants and labourers. His determination to retain the old feudal separation of classes was well known. Prónay’s patriotism to Hungary, while not in direct question, certainly determined his attitude toward powerful rightist, nationalist, and several legitimist personalities and elements. 9For an excellent overview of the Hungarian rightist elements, see Hans Rogger and Eugen Weber, The European Right: A Historical Profile (University of California Press, 1966), 364–407. His unstable behaviour, often noted by his contemporaries and acquaintances, speaks of a determined but troubled man. Support for Pál Prónay and his militias was widespread over the course of 1920–1921, but was contingent on his success in securing the interests of the aristocracy and the containment of Hungary’s territorial losses. Wealthy and influential landowners provided Prónay with the provisions, equipment, and refuge he needed to exact his own brand of justice and strengthen his militias. When supplies were short, his units would help themselves to the needed items taken from German households and estates throughout Burgenland without warning and without compensation. 10Béla Bodó, ‘Militia Violence and State Power in Hungary, 1919–1922’, Hungarian Studies Review, 33/1–2 (2006), 129. Disenfranchised men from the agrarian communities of southern Hungary and the rolling hills of Transylvania’s staunch Protestant communities supplied Prónay with the needed numbers to keep his battalions moving westward. 11See István I. Mócsy, The Effects of World War I. The Uprooted: Hungarian Refugees and Their Impact on Hungary’s Domestic Politics, 1918–1921 (Brooklyn College Press, 1983), 148–49, for further details on recruitment statistics for the Prónay and other White Terror battalions Anecdotal evidence of Prónay’s actions in southern, and subsequently western portions of Hungary, include unlawful arrest, torture, and execution. Investigation by prosecutors in Budapest into his activities demonstrate the grave concern of Hungarian authorities over reports of his extra judicial killings, although ultimately little was done to curb Prónay’s actions. 12Béla Bodó, ‘Pál Prónay: Paramilitary Violence and Anti-Semitism in Hungary, 1919–1921’, The Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies, 2101 (March 2011), 25–26. For further information pertaining to the investigation of Prónay, see Office of Chief Public Prosecutor in Budapest (Budapesti Kir. Ügyészség), Budapest, 23 September 1919, Állambiztonsági Szolgálatok Történeti Levéltára (ASZTL), 4.1. A-830. 422/19. The sporadic yet detailed reports of Prónay’s unsolicited activities paint a stark picture of unbridled revenge with the passive consent of government officials, including most prominently, Miklós Horthy himself. 13In Mária Ormos’s Hungary in the Age of the Two World Wars (Columbia UP, 2007), 66–67, the author refers to the possibility that blame for the White Terror cannot be immediately assigned to Horthy. Many acts of terror were orchestrated by separate and independent units of the National Army; neither of which were under the direct control of the central administration. This does not however negate Horthy’s knowledge or complacency in extrajudicial acts perpetrated during his consolidation of power.

Oszkár Jászi’s vivid and judicious account of Prónay and his unit’s unchecked acts of violence during the years of revolutionary Hungary remain one of the most detailed. Jászi refers to the anti-Bolshevik Whites as orchestrating ‘a cold and refined system of vengeance and reprisal, which they applied with the cruelty of scoundrels masquerading as gentlemen’. 14Oszkár Jászi, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Hungary (H. Fertig, 1969), 160–161. Jászi’s narration, while not comprehensive, nonetheless exposes the sheer lack of order and non-existent accountability the White Terror afforded paramilitary and government forces. Several examples include over 200 individuals tortured and executed in Siófok; the violent killing of Albert Tószegi, a prominent landowner and Jewish businessman in Fonyód; and the random and numerous executions and mutilated corpses discovered in the town of Marcali in August 1919. Moreover, the raid on the leftist daily Népszava and the kidnapping of its editor demonstrated a complete disregard for civil society. There was talk of the politically motivated assassination of party leaders and peasant organizers—not to speak of prominent journalists, landowners, sympathizers, and Jews, regardless of guilt or innocence. 15Jászi, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Hungary, 161–169 Prónay would make light of Horthy’s refusal to impede the actions of the battalions noting: ‘He had to stick by the detachments … and he dared not impede the punitive expeditions, which had for their purpose a thorough reckoning of the Jews, because otherwise the camp standing on a national basis would have turned away from him.’ Béla Bodó further notes the impunity with which the detachments orchestrated their crimes:

This unit [Prónay and his offshoot militias] terrorized the county for weeks; their most infamous act was the kidnapping, torture and subsequent execution of four Jews from the prison in Lengyeltóti. None of the victims had anything to do with the crimes committed by the followers of the defunct leftist regime. 16Bodó, ‘Hungarian Aristocracy’, 712.

The patterns of violence orchestrated in the build-up to the revolt in Burgenland illustrate the full extent of social, moral, and administrative decay that occurred in the months prior to, and in the aftermath of, Trianon. While no justification may be offered for such acts of violence, the cause must nonetheless be considered. The trauma that Hungary’s dismemberment caused in the psyche of the Hungarian nation and its people cannot be underestimated as a prime factor in the rise and support for paramilitary forces determined to rectify perceived injustices. 17Steven B. Vardy, ‘The Impact of Trianon upon Hungary and the Hungarian Mind: The Nature of Interwar Hungarian Irredentism’, Hungarian Studies Review, 10/1 (Spring 1983), 22–23. Furthermore, that same determining factor places the Prónay battalions, among others, within the confines of a societal decay and desperation. Hungary’s Minister in Paris, Iván Praznovszky mirrored the opinion of the Hungarian government, noting:

It was impossible to make the Hungarian government responsible for events which happened in territories evacuated by us. We had predicted that the population of Western Hungary would resist, and we should not be astonished if this happened now, because to lose one’s fatherland and to become Austria to-day, when this means famine and the loss of property, was sufficient reason for an insurrection. 18Mari Vares, The Question of Western Hungary/Burgenland, 1918–1923. A Territorial Question in the Context of National and International Pressure (University of Jyväskylä, 2008), 234.

Tension between Austria and Hungary reached new levels in the early months of 1920. Austrian condemnation of Hungarian agents ‘circulating through Western Hungary organizing an agitation in favour of a plebiscite’ demonstrated overt proxy manoeuvring by Vienna and Budapest under the guise of exploiting subversive elements. 19‘The Council of Heads of Delegations: Minutes of Meetings November 6, 1919, to January 10, 1920’, Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), Vol. IX, 572 Whilst agitators did indeed exist in Burgenland, Austrian vested interest in delaying any potential vote would have significantly improved their strategic position in Western Hungary. As a result of growing rebellion in Burgenland, Austrian backtracking with regard to a plebiscite revealed fears that Vienna’s over-zealous request for a referendum could create disappointment at the polls. 20The Council of Heads of Delegations’, 572. In a letter from General Graziani, Head of the French Military Mission to Hungary, to General Hallier, Head of the French Military Mission in Vienna, there was acknowledgement that Hungary did orchestrate a planned campaign to instil violence and fear among the inhabitants in Burgenland. However, a placation of Austrian concerns through assurance of adherence to the Treaty of Saint-Germain and Hungary’s imminent signing of the Treaty of Trianon in June 1920 resulted only in temporary alleviation. Awareness among Hungarian authorities, and Prónay himself, of the Allied intention to maintain their position on Western Hungary ensured that the longer Hungary created or supported instability in Burgenland the better the Hungarian position became in relation to retaining as much territory as possible. Austrian authorities had expected a smooth transition of power in Burgenland, but were met instead with armed government-backed militias and well-organized, pre-emptive resistance.

Full, open revolt in Burgenland began on 27 August 1921, when all Hungarian forces were to evacuate the territory assigned to Austria. 21Dabas, ‘Burgenland’ álarc nélkül, 140. The Hungarian government’s withdrawal of regular troops and the subsequent arrival of Austrian gendarmerie on 28 and 29 August was met by fierce resistance. Prónay and his so-called ‘Ragged Army’ shocked Austrian forces into a retreat after successful insurgent battles at Pinkafő, Felsőőr, Alhó, Fraknó, Németgyirót, and Ágfalva. 22Dabas, ‘Burgenland’ álarc nélkül, 140–41 By the week of 8 September, all Austrian troops were recalled from Burgenland after a convincing defeat at Ágfalva, where five hundred Austrian troops were soundly pushed back by no more than three hundred resistors, according to contemporary accounts. Prónay would soon transfer his headquarters from Sopron, which had been secured, to Felsőőr where the eventual Banat Leitha Republic would be declared. Estimates place the number of loyal resistors in Burgenland between three or four thousand. 23From 1919–1921 the two largest battalions under the command of Prónay and OstenburgMoravek grew to approximately 1,500 troops each. These detachments would serve as the brunt of Hungary’s resistance to Austrian efforts in Burgenland. See Béla Bodó, ‘The White Terror in Hungary, 1919–1921: The Social Worlds of Paramilitary Groups’, Austrian History Yearbook, 42 (2011), 139. Allied estimates of Austrian troop numbers were more generous, placing their numbers at eight thousand or more. 248,000 Austrians Enter Burgenland’, The New York Times (31 August 1921). The Austrian gendarmerie proved no match for the well-organized and hardened Prónay and Héjjas militias, which consisted battle-trained veterans and former border guards. The Allies realized that a reinforced Austrian line would be required to re-establish control. However, they lacked the capability to reverse the course of events in Burgenland where the advance of Hungarian paramilitary detachments was met with little resistance. The chaotic situation benefited the Hungarian militias and forced an Austrian re-evaluation of the Burgenland dispute.

A provisional Austrian administration was established in Mattersdorf in early September to implement a transfer, after attempts to take Sopron by force were repelled by the Ostenburg-Moravek and Prónay militias. 25B. Hamard, ‘Le transfert du Burgenland à l’Autriche 1918–1922, un arbitrage international de l’après-guerre’, Revue Historique, 596 (Octobre–Décembre 1995), 292. Paramilitary units under the command of Iván Héjjas took control of Sopron early and introduced a general draft call for all able-bodied men of or below the age of forty-five. This call to arms was also met by college and secondary school students, most of whom came from the Hungarian Royal Mining and Forestry College in Sopron. 26University of Sopron, Faculty of Forestry, last modified 12 May 2013, University of West Hungary: www.uniwest.hu On 9 and 10 September, Austrian troops retreated to the original borders of Burgenland, having been unprepared for resistance. Chancellor Johann Schober, infuriated by these events, vowed to resolve Austria’s loosened grip over Burgenland’s annexation. On 25 September, the Council of Ambassadors in Paris forwarded a stern ultimatum to Hungary that called for the full evacuation of Burgenland and the other districts assigned to Austria. 27Ultimatum to Hungary’, The Argus Melbourne (26 September 1921), 7. What followed broadened what was initially confined to Burgenland to areas formerly apart of pre-Trianon Hungary. With little intention of complying with Allied orders, Prónay felt his units could start offensive military operations outside of Burgenland as well. Prónay ordered his loyal commanders Héjjas and Latzay to close all bridges and roads over the Lajta River, approximately fifty kilometres north of Sopron. By 30 September, an ambitious provocation by Prónay towards Czechoslovakia permitted a handful of insurgents to penetrate Czechoslovak territory and take control of Bratislava’s bridgehead communes of Ligetfalu, Köpcsény, and Berg. 28László Fogarassy, ‘A nyugat-magyarországi kérdés katonai története’ (The Military History of the Question of Western Hungary), Soproni Szemle, 26/2 (1972), 26.

The prolonged paramilitary insurgency resulted in a complete halt to the Austrian acquisition of Western Hungary. Prónay and his units had achieved what the Hungarian government could not attain given its weakness: a direct challenge to the Paris peace treaties and an enforced stalemate that would benefit Hungary’s longer-term objectives of rectification of the Trianon provisions and retention of contested territory. Prónay’s early actions as an unconstrained paramilitary leader and nationalist escalated rapidly during the formation of the Banat Leitha Republic, which found its roots in the desperation and immanency of Burgenland’s annexation. The viability of a state in Burgenland proved to be a uniquely Hungarian-led experiment initiated by a most unlikely group of individuals. Banat Leitha and its inexperienced leaders encountered complex regional and international matters beyond their capabilities to influence or control. The success of paramilitary forces speaks of an era of lawlessness and the creation of Banat Leitha suggests a shift among paramilitaries from national to ‘proto-national’. This objective created an atmosphere in which violence flourished in the absence of government, order, and legitimacy. It further contributed to a significant transformation among paramilitary leaders. Prónay needed to become a force for order in Burgenland and to embrace state-creation as a means to a very uncertain end. This transformation would find its expression in the Banat Leitha Republic. Julia Eichenberg and John P. Newman correctly condense this sentiment toward violence in the borderlands, noting the following:

Typically, the violence was concentrated in ethnically or religiously diverse regions or areas, mostly former imperial borderlands, as these culturally heterogeneous ‘shatter zones’ of multi-ethnic empires often posed a threat, either real or perceived, to the project of realigning territories as parts of an integral nation state. 29Julia Eichenberg and John Paul Newman, ‘Aftershocks: Violence in Dissolving Empires after the First World War’, Contemporary European History, 19/3 (2010), 183.

Resistance in Burgenland therefore may be traced to several interrelated elements that were manifested in organized paramilitary activity, violence, and ultimately a proto-Hungarian state. The melee caused by the disintegration of Hungary produced competing ideological visions vying for control and hegemony amid an environment of territorial reconfiguration and ethnic division. Violence filled the void left by the traditional power brokers. The oppressed became the oppressors. The struggle for Western Hungary, and more importantly Banat Leitha, may also be associated with the inability of the Allies, Austria, and Hungary to arrive at a resolution suited to the ethnic, economic, political, and historical situation in Burgenland. As the Allies prepared to address the settlement of the Burgenland issue in Venice, the protracted situation created the conditions for Prónay’s proclamation of Banat Leitha (Lajtabánság). 30Letter from Praznovszky to Bánffy, 17 September 1921’, in Deák and Ujváry, Papers and Documents Relating to the Foreign Relations of Hungary, 903. Note: we shall use the terms Lajtabánság and Banat Leitha interchangeably in reference to the same entity.

The Banat Leitha Republic

The most aggressive and decisive phase in the dispute over Burgenland occurred between October and December 1921. Within a span of ten short weeks that largely determined the border between Austria and Hungary, Burgenland witnessed significant armed resistance; an attempted return of Charles IV (known as Charles I in Austria); the proclamation of an independent republic; and a plebiscite which resulted in Hungary regaining Burgenland’s most important urban centre, Sopron, and its environs (including eight surrounding villages). 31The eight surrounding villages of Sopron included in the plebiscite area were Fertőrákos, Ágfalva, Sopronbánfalva, Harka, Balf, Kópháza, Fertőboz, and Nagycenk.

The peculiarities of the Banat Leitha Republic have puzzled many and eluded most scholarly works of this period, attracting oddly little attention. Most available secondary sources, whether in Hungarian or German, deal with Banat Leitha as a mere aberration from the intricacies of the larger Burgenland border dispute; and more contextually, within the power vacuum and ethnic divide created by the collapse of the Habsburg Monarchy. The limited availability of primary sources has been caused largely by the destruction or loss of numerous documents. It is the objective of this segment of our paper to shed further insight on the Banat Leitha Republic and place it more distinctly within a pattern of new state formation, on the one hand, and the dispute and repudiation of post-war territorial reconfiguration, on the other. While geopolitics remains an important element of comprehending Banat Leitha’s creation, the overarching regional and European concepts that forged Lajtabánság for forty-five days in 1921 will illustrate the complexity and discord involved in the forging of a state entity amid the competing forces in the region. This situation was ostensibly caused by the vacuum of post-Habsburg chaos. That a nation emerged at all, as a manifestation of modernizing principles, to challenge the very notion of empire, nation state, and conventional blueprints for peace, remains a point which makes this region so difficult to study. The fact that we may observe the creation of such a peculiar state, while certainly not unprecedented, does prefigure the new Central Europe that emerged during the interwar period and, more importantly, the patterns of future conflict that would once again engulf Europe.

Short-lived pseudo-states not unlike Lajtabánság did have precedents in Western Hungary, including the Republic of Heinzenland, which was proclaimed in December 1918 with the intention of uniting Austrian lands. 32For further analysis and details on Heinzenland, see Hans Ferdinand Helmolt, Weltgeschichte: Bd. Südosteuropa und Osteuropa, vol. 5 (Bibliographisches Institut, 1905). Similarly, the ephemeral Prekmurje Republic had also laid claim to southern Burgenland, as well as other nearby territories, with modest success. However, it was also disbanded in 1919. 33For an excellent overview of the Prekmurje Republic and its regional history, see László Göncz, ‘A muravidéki magyarság 1918–1941’ (The Magyars of Muravidék), PhD dissertation, University of Pécs (2000). Mari Vares attempts to characterize the chaotic events surrounding Banat Leitha as ‘local historical elements that illustrated Hungary’s struggle with the extreme right-wing’ and an experiment which ‘took its place as one of Hungary’s domestic disputes’. 34Vares, The Question of Western Hungary/Burgenland, 253. This definition, however appropriate to regional dimensions, does not venture far enough in adequately elucidating the circumstances that gave rise to the Banat Leitha Republic. Undoubtedly, we must acknowledge the domestic conditions and Budapest’s tacit support for Hungarian revisionist and irredentist policy as a contributor to paramilitary activities in Western Hungary, and the prolonged anarchy which led to its creation. However, equally relevant is the assumption that the Banat Leitha Republic was neither a response directly or solely connected with domestic struggles between right-wing and conservative (legitimist) elements, but rather a genuine attempt at creating a viable state entity that was free from the machinations of Budapest, Vienna, and Paris. It was, after all, the failures of domestic manoeuvring and continental intransigence that foreshadowed Banat Leitha’s creation, if not its rapid demise. The inability of the Allied powers to exact a prompt resolution to the Burgenland and Hungarian question—one that was properly in line with the declared principles of self-determination—exacerbated regional discontent with the discredited system expected to govern the new Central European order. Austria’s stolid resistance to any deviation from the treaties of Saint-Germain and Trianon, coupled with periodic uncertainty among the Hungarian authorities, served to further strengthen paramilitary militias in Burgenland and turn what was originally a local protest and act of defiance against Hungary’s dismemberment into a separate, semi-autonomous, multi-ethnic republic locked between two defeated states. The Banat Leitha Republic would find itself modelled on the very principles that brought an end to the historical Kingdom of Hungary, and it was as much a reflection of discontinuity in regional dynamics as a very real and pragmatic solution to it.

On 3 October 1921, the Hungarian government notified Austrian and Allied officials that all regular Hungarian troops had been successfully withdrawn from Burgenland. 35Tibor Zsiga, Horthy ellen, a királyért (Against Horthy and for the King) (Budapest: Gondolat, 1989), 128. Implicit, if not overtly discernible, was the understanding that irregular paramilitary units were still active and provisionally in control of Burgenland and thus separate from Hungarian authority or culpability. Expeditiously following the rather flimsy transfer of authority to Austria, early forms of organized government under Prónay’s supervision began to appear. On 4 October 1921, a gathering organized by Arkangyal Bónis, a leading priest in Felsőőr (Oberwart), became an accepted founding constitutional gathering after Hungary ceded authority to Austria without the expected approval of the Prónay-led resistance. 36Zsiga, Horthy ellen, a királyért, 129. Prónay declared at the gathering:

Honoured Constitutional gathering! At this moment, every Western Hungary settlement in Moson and Sopron and Vas counties assigned to Austria is waiting for its fate to take a turn for the better. The short-sighted Trianon Peace Treaty has torn from Hungary these Hungarian, German, and Croat-speaking people who have lived together in peace for a thousand years. Not one village wishes to be annexed to communist Austria. Hence, let Western Hungary be independent and free! 37József Botlik, The Fate of Western Hungary 1918–1921 (Corvinus Publishers, 2012), 160.

That same day Pál Prónay, Béla Bárdos, and Ferenc Lévay issued a proclamation in Magyar, German, and Croatian, formally declaring the independent and neutral state of Banat Leitha. Within hours, tri-lingual banners in communes across the region declared the new state based on a preliminary consensus and agreement among a host of regional villages and communes. 38Prónay ordered the proclamation be issued in Magyar, German, and Croatian. See Ágnes Szabó and Ervin Pamlényi, A határban a halál kaszál … Fejezetek Prónay Pál feljegyzéseiből (Death’s Scythe at Work in the Fields. Chapters from Pál Prónay’s Memos) (Kossuth Könyvkiadó, 1963), 271. The proclamation read:

People of Western Hungary! All territories affected by the Trianon Peace Treaty were declared neutral and independent at Felsőőr on 4 October 1921 at noon and the High Command of the insurgent armies for the evacuated areas has been established. The populations of Nezsider, Kismarton, Felsőpulya, and Németújvár districts supported the declaration of independence and the related reports, declaring their intentions and duly signed under the seal by district officials, were sent to the Commander-in-chief in Felsőőr. Pál Prónay, Commander-in-chief 39Károly Seper, Alsóőr történetéből. İrásos emlékek és szájhagyomány (From the History of Alsóőr. Documents and Oral tradition) (Unterwart/Alsóőr, 1988), 22

The proclamation of the Banat Leitha Republic was followed by the establishment of the structures and bureaucracy of state. The new head of state, or bán, was to be Prónay (hence the use of the historical term bán in Lajtabánság) who would be elected by a Constitutional Assembly and supported by a six-member cabinet of government ministers. 40Botlik, The Fate of Western Hungary, 162. Prónay would remain the commander-in-chief (fővezér) of all unified army units and detachments now under the control of a central authority. 41Zsiga, Horthy ellen, a királyért, 135. László Apáthy would become the president of the government and minister of education. The important posts of foreign and justice ministers went to Dr Ferenc Lévay who would begin an immediate charm offensive with the Austrian, Hungarian, and Allied governments in the hope of securing legitimacy and much-needed time. Béla Bárdos would control the interior ministry and its urgent responsibility for issuing state insignia and ensuring the unity of border control and law enforcement. Finally, the economic portfolio would fall to György Hir, along with the responsibility for establishing a system of taxation and loans. The promulgation of a State Council, a de facto parliament, was set to include fifteen members but never materialized, given the short life of Lajtabánság and local hesitance when it came to partaking in the new legislative body. 42Katalin Soós, Burgenland az európai politikában 1918–1921 (Akadémiai Kiadó, 1971), 158. Internal stabilization was improved when paramilitary activity in Kismarton (Eisenstadt) was completed and all remaining fighters pledged allegiance to the Prónay government. Ostenburg-Moravek also agreed to recognize Prónay as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. 43Zsiga, Horthy ellen, a királyért, 140. Furthermore, Prónay sent an official note to Budapest, requesting that officials from his new government meet their Hungarian counterparts to formalize the border with Hungary. A response by Prime Minister Bethlen, calling on Prónay to abandon his experiment with an independent republic, was met with resolute silence. 44Zsiga, Horthy ellen, a királyért, 140–142. Prónay’s dismay with Budapest’s lack of support led to posters across the republic declaring the need for the citizens of Lajtabánság to fight all enemies, whether from Hungary or elsewhere. 45Soós, Burgenland, 158. Based on census data completed in 1920, Banat Leitha had a population of 198,204 citizens. 46Az 1920. évi népszámlás (The 1920 Census) (Magyar Királyi Központi Statisztikai Hivatal, 1924). Lajtabánság’s new capital was to be Felsőőr (Oberwart).

The establishment of the institutions of state is an important if not crucial element of the Lajtabánság experiment. It is perhaps altogether inappropriate to classify Banat Leitha as an experiment per se, since it was intended to be a fully functioning state entity, recognized by foreign powers. The issuing of a national flag, crest, seal, and stamps, in addition to identification documents permitting free movement and duty free imports by its citizens, were very much a part of Banat Leitha’s desire for legitimacy amid the trappings of newly acquired state rights, and not mere chicanery. The pragmatic efforts of Prónay and his new government to bring about an independent state modelled on concepts unfamiliar to Hungary’s upper classes and peasantry seem perhaps the true peculiarity of this whole episode in Burgenland’s history. Traditionally—and this classification refers to the overwhelming contingent of legitimists among Prónay’s followers—a suspicion of Vienna’s historical dominance and uncertainty over Horthy’s delicate grasp of power forced a re-evaluation, albeit not a complete cessation of monarchist tendencies, of reliance upon a restoration of the monarchy to resurrect historical Hungary. 47Ignác Romsics, ‘Hungarian Society and Social Conflicts before and after Trianon’, Hungarian Studies, 13/1 (1998–1999), 53. Federalism had never been a truly viable option for the Austro-Hungarian Empire in its old form of centralized administration, and the aberration of Wilsonian national self-determination had proven dysfunctional in post-Habsburg Europe, and particularly Hungary. The nation state sustained Prónay’s vision of an essentially Hungarian body politic, but one in which Germans and Slavs also enjoyed a level of inclusion at certain levels. A timely lesson from the old feudal Kingdom of Hungary. Lajtabánság therefore became a manifestation, whether intentionally or not, of the very concept of the state as a solution to the territorial and ethnic divisions plaguing post-war Central Europe. 48See Ignaz Seipel’s Nation und Staat (1916) for a discussion of the multinational state as the only viable framework for the maintenance of cooperation and the suppression of nationalism. At its core, Banat Leitha represented what Austria and Hungary could not successfully evolve into, and was therefore most assuredly not an arbitrary phenomenon but a distinct part of a trend of state formation vis-à-vis self-determination, plurality, and a pseudo-republican model. Banat Leitha was created not solely with the intention of hindering Austrian territorial ambitions and Hungary’s dismemberment, but a genuine solution to more than half a century of decline and internal disintegration. Prónay had validated the plausibility of an independent, multinational Hungarian state outside of post-Trianon Hungary, and provided for a somewhat organic evolution, not merely through violence, from resistance to viable state entity that advanced principles larger than those befitting its status.

As the winter months approached, Lajtabánság was afforded limited respite to establish domestic order and territorial integrity before succumbing to a set of challenges against its status as a fledgling, unrecognized state. In fact, Lajtabánság was the only state established by Hungarians living outside the post-Trianon borders of Hungary not to be recognized by the Hungarian government. Austria’s persistent refusal to modify its claims, and Hungary’s keen attempt to distance itself strategically from the resistance and the self-proclaimed republic, undermined Banat Leitha from its inception. The Hungarian government’s repeated efforts to terminate Prónay’s pseudo-state were reflected in a flurry of letters between Miklós Horthy, István Bethlen, Gyula Gömbös (a prominent and influential protégé to Horthy and prime minister in 1932), and Pál Prónay in the last months of 1921. Bethlen’s overt disapproval of the Lajtabánság experiment provoked the irritable Prónay to write a letter to the Hungarian prime minister on 7 October, in which he arrogantly defended Banat Leitha’s right to remain free and independent. Prónay extolled his republic’s neutrality and its prerogative not to negotiate with either Austria or Hungary if it so chose. Lajtabánság would, in Prónay’s words, defend its rights to the last bullet. 49Soós, Burgenland, 159. Although Prónay would assume a more conciliatory tone in the months to come, his poor relationship with Budapest is demonstrated by the failure to agree between the Hungarian government and Banat Leitha on how to proceed in determining Hungary’s western frontier. Further communication on 12 October 1921, from Gömbös and Prime Minister Bethlen respectively, reaffirmed Budapest’s desire to bring an end to Lajtabánság before negotiations with the Allied powers soured further. Gömbös stressed Hungary’s desire to enter the Venice negotiation, to be mediated by the British, French, and Italian governments, with solid assurances of the dissolution of Lajtabánság. As with other letters from Budapest, Prónay was urged to maintain his long-standing friendships and not jeopardize Hungary’s modest chance of holding onto Burgenland. 50Szabó and Pamlényi, A határban a halál kaszál, 282. Prónay, although somewhat hesitant to meet with Horthy or send representatives, was anxious because of Hungary’s uncertain position with the Allies, and worried that either he or his men would face prosecution or imprisonment for their paramilitary actions.

Further pressure arrived in a letter from Horthy, also on 12 October. Horthy echoed his counterparts’ concern over the course and outcome of the Venice negotiations, and assured Prónay that he must not place Hungary in a position where it could not deliver on its promises. Horthy emphasized that he would have to employ any means within his power to comply with the Venice Protocol.51 Szabó and Pamlényi, A határban a halál kaszál, 284–285. Prime Minister Bethlen capped off a string of letters to Prónay on 17 October, thanking him for saving Burgenland but emphasizing that Hungary could face further sanctions, a blockade, or even invasion if Lajtabánság was not demobilized or disbanded. Bethlen concluded by referring to a traditional German adage: ‘Those who do not appreciate the small do not deserve the big.’ 52Szabó and Pamlényi, A határban a halál kaszál, 286–293.The response forwent all pleasantries. Prónay expanded upon his previous correspondence to highlight that the creation of Lajtabánság was a natural and logical next step for the people of Western Hungary. Banat Leitha represented the purest ideals of the local population, and an embodiment of self-determination. Lajtabánság illustrated that Burgenland and its people would not be handed over to Austria which, according to Prónay, had fallen under the sway of a loathsome Bolshevik, Jewish influence. He continued with a castigation of Hungary’s guilt in allowing the situation in Burgenland to spiral into chaos, allowing those who were loyal to their homeland to be transferred without consent or consultation. Prónay concluded by sternly declaring his right to carry out the wishes of the new republic’s citizens, and argued that he was in no position to fulfil the wishes of the Hungarian government. 53Szabó and Pamlényi, A határban a halál kaszál, 293–295. If we may glean any indications from these letters, they are of a drastically altered Prónay persona. In defence of the new republic, we may witness the adoption of progressive post-war ideological tenets of state formation as the only plausible option for maintaining collective rights. Prónay assumed the traditional role of the nationalist, but had also become a proto-national leader, ultimately advocating for an independent state.

During Easter of 1921, further destabilizing events plagued Lajtabánság, placing considerable strain on state legitimacy. The failed coup attempt by Habsburg Charles IV to regain the Hungarian crown and thus the former lands of the Kingdom of Hungary, created a split between those loyal to the Banat Leitha Republic and those loyal to a return of Habsburg power as a means to resurrect historical Hungary. Charles IV arrived in Szombathely in March 1921 and was secretly transported to Budapest for a meeting with Miklós Horthy. Horthy was able to dispel Charles’s hopes of reinstating the Habsburg Monarchy amid growing mistrust among Hungary’s neighbours and the Allied powers regarding attempts to re-establish Habsburg rule. Defeated, Charles returned to Western Hungary where he was first granted refuge by legitimist officers in Prónay’s paramilitary forces. The Easter Crisis of March 1921 threatened the undoing and destruction of ‘everything we had just achieved’, pronounced Count Bethlen shortly before being appointed prime minister in April. 54Patrick Thursfield, ‘A Royal Putsch in Hungary, 1921’, Contemporary Review, 271 (August 1997), 2. Charles’s return to Western Hungary offered an opportunity to raise an army within the relative safety of the Lajtabánság Republic, with the intention of marching on Budapest.55 These efforts were pre-empted by armed resistance at Budaörs, just outside of Budapest. Peter F. Sugar et al., A History of Hungary (Indiana UP, 1990), 319. Charles’s failed attempt had the unintended result of wrecking the alliance of paramilitary leaders in Burgenland, threatening the very fabric of a state which relied heavily on its monopoly of force. Prónay’s veiled attempts to distance himself from the Karlist coup was not enough to eliminate the spectre of foreign invasion, or diminish the threat to Lajtabánság’s existence externally from Budapest, Vienna, and now Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. 56See Allied threats against Hungary published in Deutschösterreichischer Tageszeitung, 9 September 1921. Also Bodó’s ‘Militia Violence and State Power’, 147–148, notes that ‘Prónay did not support the second royalist coup at the end of October, even though recent political events made him lean in that direction. His neutrality, however, failed to endear him to the holders of power in Budapest, while his stubbornness to leave the province raised the spectre of Entente sanctions. Having run out of options, the Bethlen government was prepared to use military force against Prónay’s and Héjjas’s units and only their last-minute withdrawal from the region saved them from destruction. Still, as a sign of his sympathy for Prónay, Horthy offered the discredited militia leader a minor position in the army. In early November, as an additional favour, he declared full amnesty for the crimes the militias had committed since August 1919.’ Béla Bodó notes Prónay’s somewhat indecisive response to the coup:

[H]ad it not been for the attempted legitimist coup, which coincided with the last phase of the insurgency, the militias could have benefited significantly from their role in the affair. This was, however, not the case. Lehár and Ostenburg-Moravek, who had supported the king, were forced to quit politics after the failure of the coup. Prónay, who could not decide which side to take during the coup, also lost favour with Horthy in November. 57Bodó, ‘The White Terror in Hungary’, 141.

Fear of a return of Charles IV prompted discussion between the Austrian administration and the recently emerged Little Entente. Czechoslovakia responded to the legitimist episode by threatening a full invasion of Hungary and a forced mediation over Burgenland. 58Cyril Brown, ‘Fear Little Entente: Hungary Expects Invasion, but Has No Ultimatum Yet’, The New York Times (29 October 1921), 6. A conference between Austrian Chancellor Johann Schober and Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Edvard Beneš placed increasing pressure on the Hungarian government and the Banat Leitha Republic by promising to mediate the Burgenland dispute. 59Andrew F. Burghardt, The Political Geography of Burgenland (National Academy of Sciences, 1958), 67. Both Prónay and the Hungarian authorities knew that Czechoslovakian mediation would guarantee the cession of Burgenland to Austria. It would, naturally, also signal the end of Lajtabánság. Fearing a further weakening of Hungary, Italy intervened to mediate the affair with the hope of protecting Hungarian and Italian interests. A meeting in Venice was called for 11 October in what would mark the final phase for the Banat Leitha Republic. 60Burghardt, The Political Geography of Burgenland, 68. Mediation was initiated by Italian Foreign Minister Marquis della Torretta, and Hungary and Austria were represented by Chancellor Schober and Prime Minister Bethlen respectively. Hungary’s fear that its position would be undermined as a result of the Banat Leitha experiment was expressed in a stern letter from Gyula Gömbös to Prónay in October 1921 stating: ‘The present situation in Venice is such that the negotiations are going well and are beneficial for us. Under no circumstances should we interfere with it. The constant sounding of Lajtabánság gives false impression and is disturbing to the negotiations, therefore we need you to remain silent.’ 61László Fogarassy, ‘Prónay Pál emlékezései az 1921. évi nyugat-magyarországi eseményekről. Harmadik rész’ (Pál Prónay’s Memories of the Events in Western Hungary in 1921. Part III), Sopron Szemle, 40/3 (1986), 12–13.

In Venice, after two days of negotiations, the participating parties agreed to several important conclusions of considerable consequence for the Banat Leitha Republic and the Burgenland dispute. Firstly, there was a direct, unambiguous indictment of the paramilitary leaders responsible for the unrest in Burgenland. The conference called on both the Austrian and Hungarian governments to prosecute all members of the paramilitary units involved. If, in the course of ten days, insurgents did not surrender, they were to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Moreover, all university students and youths who had participated in the revolts and who did not cease their continued involvement were to be suspended from their institutions.62 Bundesgesetzblatt für die Republik Österreich, 138 (1922). The Venice decrees directly undermined the legitimacy of the Prónay government and its origins as a ‘freedom-fighting’ paramilitary group, by acknowledging its controversial activities and extra-judicial killings. The endorsement of these resolutions by Prime Minister Bethlen quickly erased what little support Lajtabánság could rely on from Budapest. Bethlen did, however, wrestle for the inclusion of a clause that would remove any Hungarian culpability for the insurrections in Burgenland. On his return from Venice, Bethlen forwarded a letter of update to Prónay, stating: ‘There are no more fruits to be plucked: whoever thinks that further resistance can lead to further achievement is grossly mistaken.’ 63Ignác Romsics, István Bethlen: A Great Conservative Statesmen of Hungary, 1874–1946 (Social Sciences Monographs, 1995), 159. Bethlen’s patience for Prónay had worn thin, weakening the viability of Banat Leitha and its much-sought legitimacy. The pressure of the protocols and the loss of support from Budapest and its conservative elements signalled the beginning of the end of Lajtabánság, which was formally suspended on 4 November 1921. The historian Gerald Schlag adds a comment to this story:

The attempt to make this state work proved the inherent weakness of the irregulars. The disagreement between supporters of King Charles and those irregulars who wanted to elect a king led to battles amongst the insurgents. The Hungarians put an end to this ‘operetta-state’ on 4 November. 64Gerald Schlag, ‘Die Kampfe um das Burgenland, 1921’, Militärhistorische Schriftenreihe, 16 (1983), 8.

The Venice Protocol formalized the organization and implementation of a referendum in Sopron and its surrounding communities. A plebiscite was to be held after a week of preparation within the jurisdictions to be held to a vote. Both Hungary and Austria were to be bound by the outcome of the referendum and agreed to vacate the territories in question. 65Bundesgesetzblatt für die Republik Österreich, 138 (1922). While the Sopron plebiscite remains outside the purview of this work, there are some important elements relevant to the history of Banat Leitha. The Sopron vote took place in two distinct phases on 14 and 16 December 1921. The vote would prove to be a symbolic success for Hungary but put an end to Lajtabánság and the rule of paramilitary units across Western Hungary. The voting zone comprised largely the areas previously controlled by Prónay and his units. While the tainted nature of the poll has been raised as a point of scholarly inquiry, the outcome was ultimately ratified by both parties to the dispute. 66Sarah Wambaugh, Plebiscites since the World War (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1933), 271–297. Sarah Wambaugh notes in her seminal work Plebiscites since the World War that ‘as proper safeguards for a free and fair plebiscite were lacking, the vote is not convincing either one way or the other’. 67Wambaugh, Plebiscites since the World War, 297. The result in Sopron was a resounding urban–rural split, with 73 per cent of city-dwellers voting to remain with Hungary, while the more rural settlements voted 55 per cent in favour of annexation to Austria. This result reflected the traditional Magyar control of larger urban centres in Burgenland versus the rural predominance of German-speaking peoples in the countryside. 68John C. Swanson, ‘The Sopron Plebiscite of 1921: A Success Story’, East European Quarterly, 34/1 (March 2000), 91–92. The momentum that had favoured Austria from 1918–1921 appeared to have wavered leading up to the Sopron vote. Allied interest in the Burgenland issue had greatly diminished, and even Austria’s elite appeared complacent regarding the possibility that it might lose the referendum in Hungary’s favour. Years of rebellion and resistance in Western Hungary, in addition to the creation of the Banat Leitha Republic, largely compelled Austria and Hungary to reach a compromise and end the stalemate. By January 1922, Burgenland was under Austrian control, while Sopron, its environs, as well as several villages along the border, were declared part of Hungary.

The many challenges facing the Banat Leitha Republic during its short existence maintained an unfortunate state of unrest that blurred the lines between ethnic identity, state formation, and nationalism, aggravated by the post-war territorial reorganization in Central Europe. 69Johann P. Arnason, ‘Introduction: Demarcating East Central Europe’, European Journal of Social Theory, 8/4 (2005), 395. Banat Leitha is positioned at the centre of this confrontation in post-First-World-War Europe, and yet also represents an embodiment of a peculiar mix of intransigent aristocratic, ultra-nationalist forces embracing the very means of state formation that brought an end to the historical Kingdom of Hungary. Lajtabánság was therefore a Petri dish of differing internal and external ideological forces at odds with one another during a time of societal and political decay. Banat Leitha is certainly a part of the continental shift from empire to nation state, and, while limited by its short existence, is nonetheless an important part of post-war history and a critical component in the examination of Hungary’s and Austria’s historical evolution in the twentieth century.

The Lajtabánság experience can also be seen as a pragmatic solution to the collapse of the Dual Monarchy, created to delegitimize Hungary’s dismemberment during a moment of considerable ethnic division and uncertainty. If we place Lajtabánság amid a contextual view of state formation in the post-war period, then we may better identify key ideological tenets at the root of territorial disputes in Central Europe between 1918 and 1922. The evolution of the principal actors of unrest and violence in this story reveals fascinating linkages between the old regime and the newly emerged nationalism. Lajtabánság indeed remains an important component of interwar historiography, and it is hoped that Burgenland’s place in the history of Central Europe may be viewed as an integral part of the period between the end of the First World War and the rise of nation states.

Conclusion

This study focused on the emergence of violence as a defining aspect of the birth, evolution, and eventual demise of the Banat Leitha Republic. The employment of paramilitary and state-sanctioned militias may be traced from the summer of 1919 to the end of 1922, with mixed and often ephemeral results. Allied incompetence with regard to the dismantling of the Habsburg Empire radicalized Hungary’s traditional elite and career military officers with access to weapons, wealth, and resources. This early radicalization, unrestrained by weak and short-lived Hungarian governments, found considerable support in the imposition of indiscriminate forms of justice against those perceived to be the cause of the country’s decline. The personification of that violence was Pál Prónay, a nationalist paramilitary commander who would reap a controversial path to becoming the leader of Hungarian resistance in Burgenland and the chief architect of Lajtabánság. By applying a more contextual analysis towards resistance in post-war Hungary, as well as the transformative role of nationalism, ethnic and geographic history, and state formation, we have placed Burgenland at the epicentre of interwar ideological conflict, and suggested a broader approach to Burgenland and Banat Leitha’s role in twentieth century Hungarian, Austrian, and Central European history.

The apex of Burgenland’s contentious history is represented by the Banat Leitha Republic. It remains prudent to challenge the notion that the Banat Leitha Republic was for all intents and purposes simply the unfortunate culmination of events during a period of sustained political acrimony between Hungary and Austria. The creation of Lajtabánság amounted to a tangible and potent reminder of the principles of state formation, and the iniquitous application of ethnic rights in Central Europe that brought it into being. Banat Leitha was a perceived solution to that injustice, and it represented, above all, not merely resistance to Hungary’s dismemberment, but disillusionment with the political developments and ideological disorder occurring in Budapest, Vienna, and beyond. We must not forget that to view the Banat Leitha Republic in isolation would do history a great disservice. If Lajtabánság is placed among the patterns of state formation, disregarding its longevity, then we may come to understand that as a result of the disintegration of empire, there grew an unstoppable desire to create a new beginning for the multiethnic regions of Central Europe. Self-determination signalled the end of the old system of feudal control and, whether justly or not, broke apart historical, political, social, and economic units which had been in existence for centuries. The Banat Leitha Republic may therefore be viewed as a part of a larger, more contextual experiment when we consider the implications of its controversial beginnings and its turn away from Hungary and Austria.

While considerable room remains for reassessing the political, ethnic, geographic, and historical importance of the decline and birth of states and empires in the aftermath of the First World War and the interwar period, it is hoped that Burgenland may be afforded a new historiographical footnote, and that the narrative of Austria, Hungary, and Southeastern Europe may acquire a greater role. In reconciling and recounting the ambiguous components of Burgenland’s unique and fascinating history, the student of history may come to appreciate the formative elements of the Central European region in the twentieth century. It is hoped that through this work we may also come to understand the construction and formation of borders, and of their political and social identities, manifestations, and impact upon regional dimensions. As the remnants of long-coveted borders, changing allegiances, and forced ideological separation disappear both physically and psychologically from an increasingly integrated Europe, the disconnected descendants of Burgenland’s Hungarian, German, and Slavic peoples may also find a common path to comprehending their shared history. Burgenland and Lajtabánság must therefore be considered a crucial lesson of that reconciliation. Perhaps our concluding thoughts may best be summarized by the eminent historian, Norman Davies: ‘For ships of state do not sail on forever. They sometime ride the storms, and sometimes founder. On occasion they limp into port to be refitted; on other occasions, damaged beyond repair, they are broken up; or they sink, slipping beneath the surface to a hidden resting place among the barnacles and the fishes.’ 70Norman Davies, Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe (Allen Lane, 2011), 10–11.

  • 1
    Béla Bodó, ‘Iván Héjjas: The Life of a Counterrevolutionary’, East Central Europe, 37/2–3 (2010), 247.
  • 2
    Eva S. Balogh, ‘Power Struggle in Hungary: Analysis in Post-war Domestic Politics August–
    November 1919’, Canadian-American Review of Hungarian Studies, 4/1 (Spring 1977), 3–22.
  • 3
    Béla Bodó, ‘Hungarian Aristocracy and the White Terror’, Journal of Contemporary History, 4/4 (2010), 709.
  • 4
    See Gyula Somogyváry’s recent contextual historical fiction És mégis élünk (2004) which romanticizes the ‘heroic’ Burgenland revolt and Hungary’s habitual acquiescence to the losing side of history. Hungary’s eventual wrested concessions in Burgenland may indeed place this event in new light and challenge the existing scholarship’s attachment to the argumentation of economic and cultural elements as the sole root of resistance.
  • 5
    Márton Békés, ‘A fegyveres revízió útja Nyugat-Magyarországon’ (The Progress of Armed Revisionism in Western Hungary), Vasi Szemle, 61/4 (2007), 2
  • 6
    ‘Vienna Workers Protect Bela Kun’, The New York Times (31 August 1919).
  • 7
    ‘Letter from Villányi to Bánffy, 23 August 1921’, in Francis Deák and Dezső Ujváry, eds, Papers and Documents Relating to the Foreign Relations of Hungary, Vol. III: 1919–1920, Royal Hungarian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 1939, 758.
  • 8
    Rezső Dabas, ‘Burgenland’ álarc nélkül: történeti-földrajzi tanulmány az elrabolt nyugati végekről (‘Burgenland’ without Mask: A Historical and Geographical Study of the Detached Western Borderlands), (1984), 140.
  • 9
    For an excellent overview of the Hungarian rightist elements, see Hans Rogger and Eugen Weber, The European Right: A Historical Profile (University of California Press, 1966), 364–407.
  • 10
    Béla Bodó, ‘Militia Violence and State Power in Hungary, 1919–1922’, Hungarian Studies Review, 33/1–2 (2006), 129.
  • 11
    See István I. Mócsy, The Effects of World War I. The Uprooted: Hungarian Refugees and Their Impact on Hungary’s Domestic Politics, 1918–1921 (Brooklyn College Press, 1983), 148–49, for further details on recruitment statistics for the Prónay and other White Terror battalions
  • 12
    Béla Bodó, ‘Pál Prónay: Paramilitary Violence and Anti-Semitism in Hungary, 1919–1921’, The Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies, 2101 (March 2011), 25–26. For further information pertaining to the investigation of Prónay, see Office of Chief Public Prosecutor in Budapest (Budapesti Kir. Ügyészség), Budapest, 23 September 1919, Állambiztonsági Szolgálatok Történeti Levéltára (ASZTL), 4.1. A-830. 422/19.
  • 13
    In Mária Ormos’s Hungary in the Age of the Two World Wars (Columbia UP, 2007), 66–67, the author refers to the possibility that blame for the White Terror cannot be immediately assigned to Horthy. Many acts of terror were orchestrated by separate and independent units of the National Army; neither of which were under the direct control of the central administration. This does not however negate Horthy’s knowledge or complacency in extrajudicial acts perpetrated during his consolidation of power.
  • 14
    Oszkár Jászi, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Hungary (H. Fertig, 1969), 160–161.
  • 15
    Jászi, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Hungary, 161–169
  • 16
    Bodó, ‘Hungarian Aristocracy’, 712.
  • 17
    Steven B. Vardy, ‘The Impact of Trianon upon Hungary and the Hungarian Mind: The Nature of Interwar Hungarian Irredentism’, Hungarian Studies Review, 10/1 (Spring 1983), 22–23.
  • 18
    Mari Vares, The Question of Western Hungary/Burgenland, 1918–1923. A Territorial Question in the Context of National and International Pressure (University of Jyväskylä, 2008), 234.
  • 19
    ‘The Council of Heads of Delegations: Minutes of Meetings November 6, 1919, to January 10, 1920’, Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), Vol. IX, 572
  • 20
    The Council of Heads of Delegations’, 572.
  • 21
    Dabas, ‘Burgenland’ álarc nélkül, 140.
  • 22
    Dabas, ‘Burgenland’ álarc nélkül, 140–41
  • 23
    From 1919–1921 the two largest battalions under the command of Prónay and OstenburgMoravek grew to approximately 1,500 troops each. These detachments would serve as the brunt of Hungary’s resistance to Austrian efforts in Burgenland. See Béla Bodó, ‘The White Terror in Hungary, 1919–1921: The Social Worlds of Paramilitary Groups’, Austrian History Yearbook, 42 (2011), 139.
  • 24
    8,000 Austrians Enter Burgenland’, The New York Times (31 August 1921).
  • 25
    B. Hamard, ‘Le transfert du Burgenland à l’Autriche 1918–1922, un arbitrage international de l’après-guerre’, Revue Historique, 596 (Octobre–Décembre 1995), 292.
  • 26
    University of Sopron, Faculty of Forestry, last modified 12 May 2013, University of West Hungary: www.uniwest.hu
  • 27
    Ultimatum to Hungary’, The Argus Melbourne (26 September 1921), 7.
  • 28
    László Fogarassy, ‘A nyugat-magyarországi kérdés katonai története’ (The Military History of the Question of Western Hungary), Soproni Szemle, 26/2 (1972), 26.
  • 29
    Julia Eichenberg and John Paul Newman, ‘Aftershocks: Violence in Dissolving Empires after the First World War’, Contemporary European History, 19/3 (2010), 183.
  • 30
    Letter from Praznovszky to Bánffy, 17 September 1921’, in Deák and Ujváry, Papers and Documents Relating to the Foreign Relations of Hungary, 903. Note: we shall use the terms Lajtabánság and Banat Leitha interchangeably in reference to the same entity.
  • 31
    The eight surrounding villages of Sopron included in the plebiscite area were Fertőrákos, Ágfalva, Sopronbánfalva, Harka, Balf, Kópháza, Fertőboz, and Nagycenk.
  • 32
    For further analysis and details on Heinzenland, see Hans Ferdinand Helmolt, Weltgeschichte: Bd. Südosteuropa und Osteuropa, vol. 5 (Bibliographisches Institut, 1905).
  • 33
    For an excellent overview of the Prekmurje Republic and its regional history, see László Göncz, ‘A muravidéki magyarság 1918–1941’ (The Magyars of Muravidék), PhD dissertation, University of Pécs (2000).
  • 34
    Vares, The Question of Western Hungary/Burgenland, 253.
  • 35
    Tibor Zsiga, Horthy ellen, a királyért (Against Horthy and for the King) (Budapest: Gondolat, 1989), 128.
  • 36
    Zsiga, Horthy ellen, a királyért, 129.
  • 37
    József Botlik, The Fate of Western Hungary 1918–1921 (Corvinus Publishers, 2012), 160.
  • 38
    Prónay ordered the proclamation be issued in Magyar, German, and Croatian. See Ágnes Szabó and Ervin Pamlényi, A határban a halál kaszál … Fejezetek Prónay Pál feljegyzéseiből (Death’s Scythe at Work in the Fields. Chapters from Pál Prónay’s Memos) (Kossuth Könyvkiadó, 1963), 271.
  • 39
    Károly Seper, Alsóőr történetéből. İrásos emlékek és szájhagyomány (From the History of Alsóőr. Documents and Oral tradition) (Unterwart/Alsóőr, 1988), 22
  • 40
    Botlik, The Fate of Western Hungary, 162.
  • 41
    Zsiga, Horthy ellen, a királyért, 135.
  • 42
    Katalin Soós, Burgenland az európai politikában 1918–1921 (Akadémiai Kiadó, 1971), 158.
  • 43
    Zsiga, Horthy ellen, a királyért, 140.
  • 44
    Zsiga, Horthy ellen, a királyért, 140–142.
  • 45
    Soós, Burgenland, 158.
  • 46
    Az 1920. évi népszámlás (The 1920 Census) (Magyar Királyi Központi Statisztikai Hivatal, 1924).
  • 47
    Ignác Romsics, ‘Hungarian Society and Social Conflicts before and after Trianon’, Hungarian Studies, 13/1 (1998–1999), 53.
  • 48
    See Ignaz Seipel’s Nation und Staat (1916) for a discussion of the multinational state as the only viable framework for the maintenance of cooperation and the suppression of nationalism.
  • 49
    Soós, Burgenland, 159.
  • 50
    Szabó and Pamlényi, A határban a halál kaszál, 282
  • 51
    Szabó and Pamlényi, A határban a halál kaszál, 284–285.
  • 52
    Szabó and Pamlényi, A határban a halál kaszál, 286–293.
  • 53
    Szabó and Pamlényi, A határban a halál kaszál, 293–295.
  • 54
    Patrick Thursfield, ‘A Royal Putsch in Hungary, 1921’, Contemporary Review, 271 (August 1997), 2.
  • 55
    These efforts were pre-empted by armed resistance at Budaörs, just outside of Budapest. Peter F. Sugar et al., A History of Hungary (Indiana UP, 1990), 319
  • 56
    See Allied threats against Hungary published in Deutschösterreichischer Tageszeitung, 9 September 1921. Also Bodó’s ‘Militia Violence and State Power’, 147–148, notes that ‘Prónay did not support the second royalist coup at the end of October, even though recent political events made him lean in that direction. His neutrality, however, failed to endear him to the holders of power in Budapest, while his stubbornness to leave the province raised the spectre of Entente sanctions. Having run out of options, the Bethlen government was prepared to use military force against Prónay’s and Héjjas’s units and only their last-minute withdrawal from the region saved them from destruction. Still, as a sign of his sympathy for Prónay, Horthy offered the discredited militia leader a minor position in the army. In early November, as an additional favour, he declared full amnesty for the crimes the militias had committed since August 1919.’
  • 57
    Bodó, ‘The White Terror in Hungary’, 141.
  • 58
    Cyril Brown, ‘Fear Little Entente: Hungary Expects Invasion, but Has No Ultimatum Yet’, The New York Times (29 October 1921), 6.
  • 59
    Andrew F. Burghardt, The Political Geography of Burgenland (National Academy of Sciences, 1958), 67.
  • 60
    Burghardt, The Political Geography of Burgenland, 68.
  • 61
    László Fogarassy, ‘Prónay Pál emlékezései az 1921. évi nyugat-magyarországi eseményekről. Harmadik rész’ (Pál Prónay’s Memories of the Events in Western Hungary in 1921. Part III), Sopron Szemle, 40/3 (1986), 12–13.
  • 62
    Bundesgesetzblatt für die Republik Österreich, 138 (1922).
  • 63
    Ignác Romsics, István Bethlen: A Great Conservative Statesmen of Hungary, 1874–1946 (Social Sciences Monographs, 1995), 159.
  • 64
    Gerald Schlag, ‘Die Kampfe um das Burgenland, 1921’, Militärhistorische Schriftenreihe, 16 (1983), 8.
  • 65
    Bundesgesetzblatt für die Republik Österreich, 138 (1922).
  • 66
    Sarah Wambaugh, Plebiscites since the World War (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1933), 271–297.
  • 67
    Wambaugh, Plebiscites since the World War, 297.
  • 68
    John C. Swanson, ‘The Sopron Plebiscite of 1921: A Success Story’, East European Quarterly, 34/1 (March 2000), 91–92.
  • 69
    Johann P. Arnason, ‘Introduction: Demarcating East Central Europe’, European Journal of Social Theory, 8/4 (2005), 395.
  • 70
    Norman Davies, Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe (Allen Lane, 2011), 10–11.

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