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11: The Compromise and the Millennium

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The rest: a dead silence? After 1849, the Bach period -named after the Austrian Minister of Interior at the time- brought on a new version of absolutism that tried desperately both to preserve existing conditions and to open the way to unavoidable development.

For years, Hungary wore the black veil of mourning, haunted prisons, wrote pleas for mercy, hid fugitives and dreamt. It staked its hopes on developments taking place outside the country: in the Italian movement of Garibaldi, around whom vagrant freedom fighters in Europe had again gathered for a time, and in Napoleon III, who perpetuated the famous and notorious name of the Corsican (and only that).

Legends proliferated. Most of them involved the poet Sándor Petöfi, who, with the rank of major, was an adjutant of the diabolically clever Polish General Bem and who most certainly perished in the last of the more significant battles, at Segesvár, in Transylvania, impaled by a Cossack's lance. But the nation was not willing to accept his death. Like false czars in Old Russia, false Petöfis appeared throughout the country. He was also thought to have been hauled off to Siberia. We have not come across his grave to this day, and the enigma of his death is still being investigated.

Lajos Kossuth and his emigrant staff, going from country to country, attempted to rally support or at least to evoke expressions of sympathy. There was no lack of the latter. The former regent's tour of England and America were especially successful. His oratorical skills sparkled, his manly profile. was engaging; his best attributes asserted themselves. When he finally settled in Turin, Italy, the peoples' tribune became a living and very frequently speaking monument, a national idol. He spent his days as a polymathic naturalist; he corresponded about spiders and mosses, and worked on his memoirs. It was a holiday for him when growing numbers of guests and even delegations from the homeland called on him; he was the oracle in Hungary's domestic disputes, and he acted as an unavoidable counterpoint or at least a basis of reference for a series of political tendencies. An exile of the nation, he was still the ever-present paterfamilias to whom people sent first-baked bread to slice and newly drawn wine to taste. They solicited his opinion in legal matters; they asked him to be a distant witness at weddings, to be a godfather -and they paid increasingly less attention to his real views.

Austria fought a war first with France and then with Prussia -without much success. In the south, its interests in Italy were crumbling; from the northwest, Bismarck pressed it hard not to meddle in German affairs, even if it had been doing so for five hundred years. In recompense, let it expand toward the Balkans instead. (World War I was to develop out of this, or shall we not be in such a hurry?) But the peace terms were surprisingly lenient compared to the serious defeats Austria suffered in the battles. In the middle of the European power map, a need existed for this formation that divided the Germans, curbed the Slavs, and kept a tight rein on the emerging smaller national powers of Central Europe. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the land of the Habsburgs could have already been carved up and partitioned. Self-satisfied with his dynasty's and his own mission, why should Francis Joseph I see that only the need of others for the monarchy he ruled prevented this from happening.

Kossuth was on the move for years; he made plans in or at least kept watch from Turin for decades. His exile could even be viewed as the high point of his life. István Széchenyi, whom Kossuth, in an ebullient moment, called the "greatest Hungarian", was completely crippled by the debacle of the revolution that he had so long foreseen. Before he shot himself in the head in an asylum in the outskirts of Vienna (1860) after so many death plans, his mind sometimes cleared, sometimes plunged into the hell of madness. But to him, clear sightedness was the greater hell. Was this what drove him mad? The duty beyond fulfillment?

In its war against the French (1859) and the Prussians (1866), Austria's armies fought bravely but with poor equipment: with muzzle-loading rifles and in snow-white uniforms that made them easy targets, even though the camouflaging field-gray had already been invented by then. Francis Joseph I, whose chief merit was his conscientiousness as a state official and whose chief ambition was to place the needs of the armed forces in the forefront, chose one bad army commander after the other. It is an irony of fate that in both of the aforementioned wars, one or another Hungarian field officer played key roles who were, to the end, faithful to the court and the ruler, but incompetent. It was the military fiascos in which they also participated that actually cleared the way for the Compromise of 1867.

The lessons of war demanded of Austria the same thing as the bourgeois development did: modernization. And it became clear at this time that what remained of the realm, though it had many smaller and larger centers of gravity, had two major ones: Vienna and Pest. Neither could really prosper without the other. The bridge that would again span the chasm springing from the events of 1848-49 was being built from both sides. Austria lagged behind the more western parts of Europe, and Hungary behind Austria (and the Czech and Moravian areas). They had to take steps. Expansion toward the Balkans was not possible if the Hungarians were only pacified militarily and administratively. The structure based on state law which was brought about in 1867 had a thousand ramifications. The Age of Dualism began. The name that embodied this oddly balanced edifice was: the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

In Hungary, Ferenc Deák, a stocky and jovial member of the gentry, had a lion's share in its formation. His ornamental epithet was: "Sage of the Nation". What he devised with Vienna after many starts and stops, deals, retractions, and mutual compromises was a dual governmental structure whose political carrying capacity varied and whose domestic laws continually took shape in the course of subsequent difficult disputes and conflicts, and always did so late. However, the limit to economic possibilities and dimensions the structure gave birth to was hardly perceived for decades. The "happy times of peace commenced. It lasted for one, one and a half generations, which, however meant a century.

In the K. und K., the Kaiserlich und Königlich, structure, Austrian and Hungarian foreign and military affairs were conducted jointly; a joint Ministry of Finance was added to them; the other ministerial departments were separated (Hungarians bore 30 percent of the common expenses of the Monarchy); the various other parts of the realm were connected to one or the other of the two parts in complex and diverse ways. The joint Foreign Minister was Hungarian for an extended period of time, but generally, it was not Hungarians who directed the joint affairs. And occasionally, the joint expenditures, the customs union, and the segregation of Hungarian units in the army and the subordination of the official Hungarian language of command created daggers-drawn conflicts.

But let us linger awhile in the "honeymoon". According to a romantic view, the language of the heart played a great role in the Compromise of 1867. As early as 1854, Francis Joseph I had married his first cousin, the sixteen-year-old Bavarian princess, Elizabeth. In the marriage that began with true love, grew bitter later, and finally ended in separation without divorce, the life of this extraordinarily beautiful young woman, who longed for emancipation and possessed an intellectual bent and a warm but melancholy temperament, was so embittered by her overbearing mother-in-law, the Hungarian-hating Archduchess Sophia, that Elizabeth -if only out of spite- became increasingly sympathetic toward the Hungarians. She learned their language and studied their history. She came into personal contact with them. The extent of the intimacy in her relationship with Count Gyula Andrássy, who was considered to be one of the most attractive European statesmen of his time, is uncertain. (In 1849, he was Görgey's adjutant; he was an organizer of the exile; in 1851, he was sentenced to death in absentia and hanged symbolically; he returned home under an amnesty; he was Prime Minister from 1867 on and thus the second responsible Hungarian prime minister; appointed to head the joint Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he became probably the most successful politician in foreign affairs in the Dual Monarchy, in a way, however, that his successes, reflected in the strengthening of the Monarchy, originated in his exploitation of growing -and ultimately dangerous- German orientation and alignment.) It is certain, however, that Elizabeth greatly respected the wise Deák's human disposition and his political ideals, and she gave many signs of her regard. At the time of the Compromise, Elizabeth was still a wife, not just an empress and queen; in the summer of 1868, after a ten-year interval, her fourth child, Maria Valeria, was born.

In the final analysis, the Compromise, the creation of a dual state, which represents a relationship of higher degree between two countries than a personal union does, was a historical necessity (with economics at the bottom of it all) whose foundation could not rest upon accidental human factors, even though they could influence details in a substantial way.

From abroad Kossuth passionately opposed Deák and his work. There was much truth in his prophecy that by tying themselves to a Monarchy doomed to destruction, the Hungarians were heading for disaster. But was what came to pass with World War I really predestined? And what else could have been done during the intervening half century? The hope of active revolutionary changes slipped away. The passive resistance that developed to such a masterly extent during the Bach period, the obstinate daily confrontation with the foreign state power became such an obsession that its effect is felt even today; for example, the ways of outwitting customs, of smuggling goods across borders, of concealing income and not paying taxes, of distilling brandy clandestinely, of deceiving administrative bureaus at every step by Hungarian citizens are not thought of as immoral actions but as downright honorable national exploits. These are, however-let us not quibble-negative virtues; a developed economy, a national future can hardly be built with them.

Meanwhile, a substantial amount of uncommitted capital accumulated in Europe, which, at signs of domestic consolidation in the Monarchy, headed for Hungary -mainly from Berlin and Vienna. The eye seemed dazzled, seeing all and even more than Széchenyi, amid so many grievances, recommended, dreamed of, urged, and also initiated now materializing one after the other. Instead of singling out data on the length in kilometers of roads and railways being built and other numbers filling statistical columns, I should like to make apparent the developments that emerged during the last third of the nineteenth century and at the turn of the century.

In the 1960s and the 1970s, the number of highly reputable Hungarian businesses celebrating the centenary of their founding was striking. Behind most of these enterprises were hidden an unwritten Buddenbrooks, by Thomas Mann, Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy, The Thibaults, by Roger Martin du Gard, and The Artamonov's Business, by Maxim Gorky.

Now classicism tempestuously repainted cities that had taken on a Baroque character after the Turks and then the style of the Art Nouveau and eclecticism, while farther out on their periphery, the zone around the factories and workers' colonies displayed the bleak soot-gray of classical capitalism, of the original accumulation of capital. A large number of sturdy but airy public buildings existing even today-railway stations, post offices, army barracks, schools, offices, banks, and museums-wear the indelible marks of the period.

According to historical geography, the picture of nature that had unfolded before the eyes of Árpád's Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin altered in its basic features only at this time. Through a thousand years, vegetation and riverbeds remained virtually unchanged. However, Széchenyi, back in 1846, broke ground for his gigantic project in flood control and regulation of rivers. But the actual continuation of the venture could occur only after 1867. And in it, the landless cotters, who had gained hardly a thing from the liberation of the serfs, found employment for decades; they were agricultural laborers by this time. The construction of railroads and cities also required tremendous amounts of raw manpower at their work sites, where even the simple machines used to build the Suez and chiefly the Panama Canal were lacking. For example, in the course of Hungarian development, which was one-sided and gaining momentum while retaining many outmoded practices, large estates used enormous steam-powered machines to plow their fields, thus supplanting the old shallow-working shoe of the plow, and the deeper turning of the soil suddenly increased the average yield. But landowners did not import the harvesting machines already in use throughout Europe; harvesting was still performed with a hand scythe on a sharing basis, thus guaranteeing a yearly livelihood earned in kind to the greater part of the agrarian population. On the other hand, threshing was carried out with modern machinery.

It is an old accusation that the Monarchy condemned Hungary to be an exporter of agricultural products and that industrial development remained the prerogative of Austria, Bohemia, and Moravia. This is partially true. But the natural endowments of the Carpathian Basin are really the best in this region. And with equitable terms of trade, the large agricultural surplus is so valuable that only a very profitable industrial export could compete with it. If we examine the complex question of grain production, we encounter an instructive example. For centuries the export of grain flowed from Hungarian soil, while water mills floating on the Danube ground flour mainly for domestic consumption, and so did numerous mills throughout the country driven by water, wind, and animals. But at the end of the century, a pool of steam-powered mills already handled the substantial export of flour. The domestic machine industry meeting the demands of these steam-powered mills -with new inventions, like the roller frame and the flat sifter- grew into an important segment of export and a leading branch in manufacturing, whose prosperity spread into other areas and gave an impetus to the ironworks as well.

Following London, Budapest built an underground railway. The electrical engineering industry also became a leading branch of Hungarian industry. It became the chief supplier of Southeast Europe. And in this branch, numerous inventions sprang up and were quickly put to use, like the transformer. At a time when electrical power stations individually serving their own exclusive limited districts were functioning worldwide by the thousands, Hungary was the first to link them with long-distance transmission lines. In this way, the differing peak loads and the interruptions caused by industrial mistakes could be bridged.

Two spectacular events framed the period from which we have already departed occasionally. Not until 1867 could the Hungarian royal crown be placed on the head of Francis Joseph I, who had been emperor since 1848, and that of Elizabeth, who had been empress since 1854. Apparently at Elizabeth's urging, Francis Joseph returned the coronation gift customary on such occasions to the donors, the Hungarian people, by presenting it to the disabled soldiers of the War of Independence as a dramatic gesture of reconciliation. An enormous body of literature treats the Hungarian ambivalences of this period: after all, they were finally crowning that emperor and king who, at an early age, was responsible for Haynau's carnages but who although a Habsburg, now extended the promise of a special upturn to the Hungarian nation.

In 1896, Hungarians put on the Millennium of the Conquest. (At this time, the remains of Kossuth had been resting in native soil for two years.) Externals were dazzling; the gala attire of the Hungarians sparkled and glittered: panther skins, capes of leopard skin thrown over shoulders, pipings, shakoes, plumes studded with gems, boots with spurs, dress swords, heavy decorations on heavy chains; regimental music and fireworks were inexhaustible. The most faithful picture of the character of the celebrations and of the whole atmosphere of the Millennium is not reflected by the Millenary Monument, whose construction was started on this occasion and which can still be seen in its largely original condition in Heroes' Square in Budapest (the Habsburg rulers were later removed from its gallery of statues and replaced with anti-Habsburg heroes of liberty from our own history). More characteristic than this is the Vajdahunyad Castle (today an agricultural museum) next to and behind the monument. This is every bit a special "neo" construction, which unites, jammed together, the motifs of several of the most characteristic monuments in the history of Hungarian architecture, all of them beautiful in their own locations but here overwhelming and overdone in their ornamental details. But we can also take the neo-Gothic Parliament building on the Pest bank of the Danube opposite Buda Castle as an example; today we would not give up its deeply familiar stone embroideries for any amount of money, although the intellectual background of the making of history that its exterior and interior embody is unsettled; here we see frozen in stone and ornamentation a past that was extraordinarily cultivated but never historically valid -the myth and illusion of past glories. As we have already written, at this time the legendary bird of the ancient Hungarians was again flying everywhere: the proud turul, or falcon.

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