The Royal Hungarian ‘Honvéd’ Army

The Royal Hungarian ‘Honvéd’ Army originally emerged in 1868 as a separate ‘small army’ (‘Magyar Királyi Honvédség’) within the overall military of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Known colloquially simply as the ‘Honvéd’, which in Hungarian means national or home protection, this ‘territorial army’ was considered by many in Hungary as the actual, unofficial Hungarian army. This minor force, although negligible in potential compared to the Imperial army in its entirety, inspired strong passions and a lingering air of suspicion right up until its collapse, in the military sense, at the end of World War I. Its opponents saw it as a rebellious, demoralising force that kept alive the spirit of the War of Independence of 1848, while Hungarians saw it as ‘our army’ and the core of what might one day become a Hungarian national army. Its emergence was the fruit of political bargaining; it was part of a wider tendency that began in the early

18th century and concentrated, for two centuries, on the preservation of a relatively balanced relationship between the “Lands of the Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen” and the Austrian Empire. Both the Viennese court and the Hungarian political forces maintained this equilibrium with a number of political compromises. The process also had its ups and downs — the most drastic breech was the Revolution and War of Independence of 1848-49.

The last major war of independence fought by Hungarians against the Habsburgs (1703-1711; headed by Ferenc Rákóczi II) had ended in a compromise: a peace treaty signed by the Habsburg dynasty and the Hungarian feudal estates at Szatmár in 1711. The contents of this treaty represented a true ‘historical settlement’ in both the symbolic and the practical sense. On one hand, the document codified the lasting rule of the House of Habsburg in Hungary, and on the other, it vouchsafed the stability of the Hungarian estates. In its time, this compromise was understood to be the result of sober deliberation — an optimal agreement that afforded Hungary considerable growth in economic, social and cultural terms for the remaining decades of the 18th century. It also reflected sober deliberation in the military sense: it was based on the recognition that in the newlv-emerging field of European force, Hungary was going to need the defence potential, the financial resources and the ‘large power’ background that the Habsburg Empire represented. Direct, firsthand experiences of the recent re-conquering wars were still vivid in people’s memories: the Ottoman Turks were only finally expelled from Hungary in the late 17th century by the troops of the Habsburg-headed Holy League (aided significantly, however, by Hungarian participation). It was as a result of these struggles that Hungary eventually regained territorial unity with the peace treaties of Karlóca (1699) and Pozsarevác (1718).

The price was a heavy one — Hungary gave up its status of an independent national monarchy, its existence as a sovereign state. Within the new power structure, Hungary became an integrated part of the Habsburg Empire. This was finalised by major peace treaties, which carved the new European status quo of the early 18,h century into stone (Utrecht, 1713; Rastatt, 1714). The inner unity of the Empire was secured by a series of agreements between the ruling house and the Hungarian feudal estates. Aside from the compromise of Szatmár, the most significant of these was the act ratified by the National Assembly of 1722-23 as ‘Prog- matica Sanctio . In this treatise, the Hungarian feudal estates once again foreswore the right to a freely-elected king of Hungary; in return for this, King Károly III of Hungary (as Kaiser Karl VI of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation) accepted the feudal constitution in the name of the dynasty and gave imperial guarantees to Hungary in matters of defence.

The lawful ‘common armed forces’ were already in place to substantiate such guarantees: in 1715, against a background of new threats from the Ottoman Empire, the Hungarian national assembly convened to prepare a constitutional framework for military matters which resulted in the drafting of a law on the creation of a permanent army. The act declared that, alongside the traditional personal and general mobilisation of the nobility, and in the event that it should be insufficient to defend the country, a regular army of Hungarian and foreign nationals would also to be maintained. According to the act, the necessary funds would be provided by Hungarian taxes. What this meant, in practise, was that the Hungarian estates gave up on establishing an independent Hungarian army: all army units from the dominion of the Hungarian Holy Crown, all infantry and hussar regiments in peacetime and wartime alike, came under the command of the central authorities of the Empire — the Court War Council and other high offices — in all matters of importance, including the stationing of the Habsburg Army on Hungarian territory.

At the same time, the institution of the so-called ‘insurrection’ of the nobility remained under Hungarian regulation in accordance with the traditional feudal frames. Because of the related mandate of the Palatine as Commander-in-Chief and representative of the king, with the additional right to case-by-case legislation, the Hungarian National Assembly also had the power to ‘interfere’ with military affairs — although mostly on issues of secondary importance, such as the contribution of recruits to the armed forces, and matters of army supplies. These were mostly administrative rights and concerned, within the constitutional framework, issues such as the recruitment of new soldiers, billeting, and the question of (wartime) taxation; the deployment of the Hungarian Army abroad and the stationing of the same army inside the country.

However, throughout this period of compromise an opposing process was also discernible in Hungarian political and public discourse: it strove to loosen the bonds tying Hungarian military affairs to the Empire. Whenever internal or external circumstances favoured this process — usually when major shocks affected the Empire — the voices in favour of independence grew louder.

During the 18th century, this problem only manifested itself on the level of rhetoric, in the form of pamphlets or memoirs, and in conjunction with short-lived national movements. The issue was usually resolved rapidly and within constitutional bounds, as was the case during Maria Theresia’s ascent to the throne, the Austrian War of Succession and the brief interregnum following the death of Joseph II.

It was after the end of the 18th century that questions of the independence of Hungarian military affairs gained a new urgency, due to a newly awakened national awareness arising out of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. From this time onwards, sensitive military issues played an increasingly prevalent role on the Hungarian National Assembly’s agenda. Demands arose in connection to the strengthening of the national character of the Hungarian army within the wider imperial military, control over the deployment of Hungarian regular forces abroad and the stationing of Hungarian troops in Hungary during peacetime; the use of Hungarian within the military also became an important issue. Further recurring demands were that officers employed in Hungarian regiments all be Hungarian nationals and that the promotion of Hungarian officers be subject to special regulations; another was that Hungarian symbols, a Hungarian uniform and military flags in the Hungarian national colours be used.

The Hungarian military college, founded in 1808 and named ‘Ludovika Academy’ after Queen Maria Ludovika von Modena d’Este (third wife and cousin of Kaiser and King Franz I), also became the subject of a decade-long debate. The formal establishment of this institution was codified by the Hungarian National Assembly in 1808 but it was not until 1829 that Palatine Joseph, third brother of Franz I, ordered the construction of a building for the Ludovika Academy, which was partly financed from Hungary’s coronation gift to Queen Maria Ludovika. Despite the fact that by 1836, the building itself was in place, the absence of sufficient political will prevented its actual creation. The Empire and the government were demanding that the college display a spirit of loyalty to the court and use German as the language of instruction, while the Hungarian National Assembly wanted a nationalistic institution where the teaching was done in Hungarian: two points of view that couldn’t be further from each other. The institution’s status was also debated — should it be independent or merely one of a chain of Imperial military schools? Opinions varied in regards to financing, too: should the institution be funded mainly by voluntary donations or rely on Hungarian taxes, particularly those imposed on the nobility? Nevertheless, it was generally agreed that the Academy should only admit Hungarian nationals and should train officers for both the regular army and the home guard forces (known in Austria-Hungary as ‘Landsturm’) mobilised by the nobility. But the debated issues remained unresolved, and in 1836, the National Assembly decided to postpone the opening of the institution. After a short period of operation due to the occupation of Budapest after the revolution in 1848, it was finally opened in 1872 as an officers’ training institution ranked as a cadet school. It was not until 1897 that the ‘Ludovika’ was raised to the level of an academy ranking with the Theresianum and in the autumn of 1898 ‘academic’ training finally commenced. Certain demands from Hungary’s increasingly nationalistic aristocracy, such as the elaboration and encoding of an independent Hungarian military strategy, threatened to undermine the very foundations of the Empire’s unified war policy. Most far-reaching were the political and military notions aimed at creating an independent ‘national guard’. Following the model of the Prussian Landwehr, such a national force would essentially be based on the principle of general conscription. However, in the internal Hungarian political discourse of the time, the issue was seen in a more complicated light. At one pole of the debate sat the supporters of conservative notions, who sought to limit general conscription to the nobility, in the tradition of the ‘insurrection’; at the other end was the liberal opposition, which aimed to extend mobilisation to all adult male inhabitants of the country. In the case of the latter, it was necessary to reckon for further social effects, like comprehensive general taxation, or the extension of general liberties. Altogether, this presaged the necessity for a more thorough military reform that stretched beyond the borders of Hungary and could only be adequately carried out within the wider framework of the Empire. This is what happened in 1867-68 when the Royal Hungarian ‘Honvéd’ Army — the subject of this book — emerged as a result of the Empire’s military reform, even though it was only granted a limited degree of sovereignty.

There were a number of military and political events of Hungarian relevance in the background. In the foreground, history was being written in the battlefields by the regular soldiers in the King of Hungary’s Hungarian infantry and cavalry regiments.

Regular Hungarian regiments in the classic sense of the word were still rare in the first decades of the 18th century. Except for the one infantry regiment (the ‘hajdú’ regiment), all others could be described as Tight cavalry’. However, under the pressure of the wars in the 18th century, their number grew sharply: by the middle of the century, almost one sixth of the Empire’s forces were Hungarian in origin. When Maria Theresia ascended the throne, three of the 52 infantry regiments and eight of the 40 cavalry regiments consisted of Hungarian nationals. And when, in 1792, the Empire engaged in an armed struggle with revolutionary France, 11 regular infantry regiments (about one fifth of the infantry force) and 10 hussar regiments (about one third of the total cavalry) represented Hungary in the Habsburg Imperial Army of 300,000 men. Several hundred thousand Hungarian soldiers fought in an armed confrontation with France that stretched over a quarter of a century. Owing to almost ceaseless recruitment, in the 23 years of the war, Hungarian participation exceeded 300,000. Add to this the soldiers of the home guard troops mobilised by the nobility and the various loosely- organised irregular troops, and it’s possible to conclude that around half a million Hungarian or Hungarian-based soldiers were direct participants of this prolonged struggle.

The quantity of soldiers contributed by the Hungarian kingdom to the Imperial Army was determined by a relevant quota: the number of recruits was adjusted to current strategic plans — plans that were submitted by the War Council to the monarch. who passed them on to the Hungarian National Assembly. The Assembly then ‘proposed’ the ruler’s wishes and the total number was broken down according to districts, counties, cities and privileged areas. Then these numbers were further divided in proportion to individual towns and villages. Recruitment followed a territorial principle: every infantry and cavalry regiment had a specific area that provided its members. In the 18th century, these were established on a case-bycase basis until 1783, when the districts became officially fixed.

Besides the maintenance of the regular army, another, feudal form of military contribution also survived: Hungary supported the Empire’s military in accord

ance with the traditional obligations of the estates — the so-called ‘insurrections’. Hungarian law prescribed that if the country were threatened by war, a special war tax would be levied on the nobility, the clergy, the cities and the privileged Jász and Kun areas. They had to present a militia-type armed force comprising either their own persons or other men, in proportion to their wealth. This army, according to Hungarian tradition, consisted mainly of light cavalry — a smaller section was infantry — and the proportions were determined by the distribution of wealth. During the 18th century, the Hungarian insurrection was summoned to arms several times. Home guard regiments fought to defend the power of Maria Theresia, Queen of Hungary, in the Austrian War of Succession, as they did in the Seven Years’ War. The insurrection also fought on four occasions during the Napoleonic Wars. At the end of each campaign, the home guard forces usually disbanded, but certain units were reorganised into regular ‘hussar’ regiments. This is how Hussar Regiment No. 10 was later formed during the insurrection of 1741, and Hussar Regiment No. 12 (‘the Palatine’s’), in 1800. When the Hungarian nobility were summoned to arms for the last time in 1809, the insurrection army comprised 17,266 cavalrymen and 20,361 infantry soldiers. This was the swan song of the Insurrection Army, which, however, officially remained in existence until 1848.

It was a right of historic standing that the chief commander of the insurgent forces was the Palatine (‘nádor’) of Hungary. The Palatine was also in command of the military contingents of the privileged areas, i.e. the Jász and Kun regions. The insurgent forces from the Croatian areas, if encamped, were led by the Regent (‘bán’) of Croatia. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the post of Palatine was filled by high-level Hungarian aristocrats, and Habsburg princes and archdukes: Pál Eszterházy (1681-1713), Miklós Pálffy (1714-1732), János Pálffy (1741-1751), Lajos Batthyány (1751-1765), (Habsburg) Archduke Alexander Leopold (1790- 1796); Archduke Joseph (1796-1847) and Archduke Stephan (1847-1849).

On the subject of palatines, the Hungarian branch of the Habsburg dynasty is of particular note. The nomination of Habsburg viceroys after 1790, as well as their appointments as palatines, was a result of the series of compromises that the dynasty and the Hungarian estates achieved over the centuries. When the centralising reforms introduced under Joseph were reversed and the constitutional status quo in Hungary re-instated, Leopold II also allowed the election of a palatine. He stipulated however, as a concession to the nobility, that the candidate should be a Habsburg. Who filled this post was a matter of great importance since, as the Kaiser’s Viceroy in Hungary, their mission was to represent and enforce the Royal will — so their presence was, in itself, a guarantee in the eyes of the court. The branch of the Habsburg family whose members held the position of palatine soon began to take root in Hungary, became one of the country’s aristocratic families, and began to define itself as Hungarian. The first of them was Palatine Archduke Alexander Leopold, who marked the beginning of the direct presence of the Habsburg dynasty on Hungarian territory. After his early and unexpected death, his brother Archduke Joseph Anton came to fill first the post of Viceroy and then that of Palatine, too, after being elected to the latter post in 1796 by the Hungarian estates. In essence, he was the dynastic founder of the Hungarian branch of the Habsburgs. Besides filling the post of Palatine for 51 years, he particularly did a great deal for the development of the country’s twin capitals, Buda and Pest. After his death in 1847, the post was filled by his son from his second marriage, Archduke Stephan (1817-1867), who went on to play a very important role during the heated months of the 1848 revolution. It was Archduke Stephan who submitted the Hungarian National Assembly’s petition to the King and empowered Lajos Batthyány to form Hungary’s first parliamentary government. Because of the Archduke’s liberal views, Lajos Kossuth even offered him the throne. He was also named commander in chief of the Royal troops against Ban Count Jelacic. In September 1848, he was summoned to Vienna, where the Emperor promptly forced him to resign his office as Palatine and exiled him to his estates in Nassau. Archduke Stephan was Hungary’s last Palatine. After the revolution was put down, the neo-absolutionist government abolished the post and when the Hungarian constitution was reinstated in the 1860s, it was not re-introduced.

Palatine Joseph’s son from his third marriage, Archduke Joseph (Karl Ludwig) also became one of the major and decisive figures in Hungarian history. A military man, a scholar and a public figure, he filled the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Hungarian ‘Honvéd’ Army from 1868 until his death in 1905; his activities will be referred to on many occasions in this volume. His son, Archduke Joseph August (a prince by blood) displayed a military career worthy of his forebears, reaching the highest rank (field marshal). ‘Our father Joseph’ — as he was colloquially called — filled high commanding posts during World War I. He played an important balancing, mediating role during the troubled and tense months of 1918-19. His interests stretched beyond the military: he was deeply involved in many public and academic pursuits. For eight years from 1936 onwards, he was the head of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Now, to return to Hungarian military affairs in a more specific sense: a special feature of (Hungarian) military culture of the era was embodied by urban ‘civil guard’ units. With some reservations, these units were almost considered to be military formations, and were often perceived as having that potential. Their role increased during wartime, when they practically filled the role of garrisons by making up for the troops that had vacated the cities for ongoing campaigns. Yet after the wars ended, the civil guard’s military’ role was reduced to almost nothing. In the 42 cities of Reform Age Hungary, this continually-growing section comprised 36,000 citizens of both Hungarian and other nationalities. Although they represented significant military’ potential, the real essence of these urban militias could be found in their exterior appearance: parading was almost their main function. Their attire — which followed contemporary Hungarian fashion, and ever more emphatically displayed the Hungarian symbols they effectively created under the eyes of a rather displeased ruling power — was one of the prototypes for the Hungarian national army uniform.

In 1848-49, the question of a ‘national guard’, or what could be described as an ‘independent national force’, became topical practically overnight. After the revolution in March, ‘national guard’ units were formed spontaneously while the ‘April laws’ created a legal framework for such a nation-wide force. By the autumn, the number of ‘national guard’ members rose to 400,000, but lack of training and arms reduced their actual military value to almost nothing. In fact, revolutionary Hungary was in need of military might quite early on: in late April, a Serbian national uprising broke out in the southern part of the country, while in Transylvania, the Romanian population was growing restless. In an effort to control the Serbs, the Hungarian government ordered the establishment of a ‘mobile national guard’ of 10,000; this was followed by the monarch’s approval of the creation of a ‘volunteer defence army’ to fight the rebellious Serbs. The battalions recruited for ‘national guard’ purposes soon assumed the name ‘Honvéd’ (which means ‘national defence’), and as a result of further recruitment — this time without the monarch’s approval — new units were formed, which were referred to as ‘Honvéd battalions’. The national-guard units, and the newly-organised Honvéd battalions that emerged in the summer and became regularised during the autumn, came to constitute one of the pillars of the Hungarian Army. The other pillar consisted ot such units of the imperial regular infantry and hussars as were either stationed in Hungary, or had been ordered to return, or had fled home after the outbreak ot armed hostilities. Almost 30,000 soldiers in the common (also known as the ‘ or ‘Imperial and Royal’) army, including a great number of officers, had sworn an oath to the Hungarian constitution. The officers of these regular regiments also provided some 70 percent of the field- grade officers and generals of the Honvéd Army. By the middle of December 1848, the total number of men in the Hungarian military rose to nearly 100,000. Around two thirds were part of the regular army: regular infantry, hussars, artillery and the newly-recruited Honvéd soldiers — most of whom were infantrymen. The remaining one third was part of the irregular national-guard. By the beginning of the following summer, the middle of the War of Independence, the Honvéd Army in its entirety comprised approximately 170,000 members.

The establishment of the Honvéd Army during the War of Independence is a true success story of Hungarian military history. Under extremely difficult circumstances, and amidst continual fighting, Hungary created a large and tolerably well-equipped army that could be efficiently operated and that, in terms of its structure and clearly compartmentalised organisation, followed the principles of modern military organisation in its age. All of this represented a massive victory for rationality in contemporary Hungarian society. For over a year, the Honvéd Army was able to wage an armed campaign against its enemy — a force of more illustrious history — in full hope of military victory. It did, in fact, prevail over its opponent during the successful battles in the spring of 1849; and it was only the

differences in numbers and, eventually, the Russian invasion, that presented an insurmountable military obstacle and led, in the summer 1849, to the Army’s surrender at Világos. With foreign assistance, the Habsburg Empire had won the War of Independence, but it was unable to translate this military victory into a political victory. In the settlement of 1867, the Habsburgs were forced to accord Hungary a restricted form of sovereignty. In 1867, amidst altered circumstances, the claims and achievements of 1848 became the letter of the law: Hungary did not become independent but gained autonomy within the Empire — thus effectively attaining what the country had set out to fight for in 1848.

The Emergence of the Royal Hungarian Honvéd Army

In 1866 the Habsburg Empire finally bowed to Prussia in the fight for supremacy in the German-speaking world, also losing the last remaining predominantly Italian regions. As a result of this grave defeat the Danube Monarchy turned its sights toward the Balkan, at the same time recognising the need for military reform it had so far neglected. It was now more important than ever for Austria to come to a political agreement with Hungary, as settled relations within the Empire and Hungary’s assent were essential for the army reform and its financing. In 1867, the main events unfolded in rapid succession. On February 17th, Franz Joseph I restored the Hungarian Constitution; a few days later, he appointed Count Gyula Andrássy to the national posts of Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. On June 8th, Franz Joseph I was crowned King of Hungary at Buda. Four days later, on June 12th, the Emperor ratified Act XII of 1867, commonly known as the Settlement Act. The compound of laws known as the ‘December Constitution’ (articles 141-147) and passed by the Austrian Parliament was the Austrian counterpart of the Hungarian Settlement Act, and was ratified by the Emperor on December 21st. The reorganisation of the Habsburg Empire into a dual monarchy under constitutional law was completed after negotiations, initiated in 1864/65 and interrupted in 1866 due to the war, were finally concluded. Although the title ‘Austro-Hungarian Empire’ was put down in an Imperial Decree of 1868, the two halves of the Empire were officially known as “The Kingdoms and Lands represented in the Imperial Council and The Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen” and were only known colloquially as ‘Austria’ and ‘Hungary’. Each half of the Empire had its own independent domestic policies but under international law they, together, constituted one state. The alliance was primarily ensured by the regent in person (which led to the Hungarian view of a state alliance bound by a Personal Union), and foreign policies, (joint) warfare, and the financing provided by both halves were seen as ‘joint concerns’ (which in turn supported the Austrian view of a Real Union). In 1878 and 1908 respectively, the joint administration and financing of Bosnia- Herzegovina were added to this list of joint concerns.

The following year, in a knock-on effect of the larger settlement, Hungary and Croatia also came to a compromise. Public relations broken off in 1848-49 were resumed on a new footing. The Croatian-Hungarian ’Little Settlement’ declared that the two countries constituted a confederacy, but Croatia ‘was a politically independent nation, a sovereign possessor of its territory, with its internal affairs handled by its own legislative power and an autonomous government’. The viceroy in charge of Croatian affairs (the ‘bán’) was to act as head of the Zagreb government, while in the Hungarian government, the affairs of the confederate would be handled by a minister without a portfolio. Croatia’s home affairs included public administration, justice, religion and education (with Croatian as the official language), while issues such as the costs of running the court, the provision of army recruits, defence and related finances came under the heading of ‘joint affairs’. On these issues, decisions were made by the Hungarian parliament, with Croatian interests represented by 42 delegates from the Croatian Parliament.

In terms of military matters, an Austro- Hungarian deal was not struck until 1868; the settlement assumed its final form — after a great deal of political negotiation and lengthy legislative procedure — in the shape of the Defence Act. The aim of the Defence Act was to modernise the Empire’s defence potential; to considerably increase the number of soldiers; and to introduce, as a prerequisite, general and personal compulsory conscription based on the principle of equal civil rights, as well as encoding general conscription. The latter, known as ‘mobilisation of the people’, meant that all of the men in the Empire’s countries and provinces that were fit for fighting would be obliged to offer their services in defence of the Empire.

The more controversial points of the Defence Act inspired heated domestic debate. The soldiers’ aim was to render the army independent of parliamentary politics, but this set them against almost the entire political sphere. The governing liberals in Austria rejected a Prussian- style ‘army for its own sake’ (‘Soldatenheer’), while the Hungarians felt that the soldiers’ demands threatened the loss of ‘national control’ over army affairs. The latter also declared that they would not support any transformation of the army as part of the Defence Act unless it entailed the creation of an independent Hungarian military corps — the Hungarian Royal Army, the ‘Honvéd’ Army or ‘Honvédség’ in Hungarian. In Hungary, the question of independence was a matter of principle: the Honvéd Army would serve as a symbol of Hungarian statehood. Its establishment had already been encoded in the Settlement Act of 1867 — it was a pre-condition (if not the most important pre-condition) of the Settlement itself.4 Even as early as the mid-1850’s, there were several alternative plans about the Royal Army — and, in some cases, the future of the military as a whole — being considered in Hungarian national politics. These contesting strategies developed independently of party loyalties.

The ‘realist’ side was championed by Ferenc Deák and his fellow thinkers. They envisaged an army based on the system that had emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries: a construction that would not question the unity of the Imperial Army — a Hungarian military that would remain part of the united forces, while the Hungarian Parliament and government were responsible for matters such as the contributions to the common army, the correct and exact conditions of recruitment, and the housing and alimentation of the Honvéd Army. This is also the position that Deák represented during the Settlement negotiations.

The other camp was represented by ‘the radical opposition of 48’ or, as they were called in Austria, the ‘Honvéd party’. The ideal they followed was a vision of the Honvéd Army of 1848: a separate army within the Empire. It would be control led solely by the Hungarian Parliament and government, and would only be affiliated with the larger imperial military through the monarch. In the contemporary political situation, there was no realistic chance this scheme would actually come to pass, but the suggestion of it was enough to keep suspicion alive. To many, there was no doubt that, despite the Settlement and the oath sworn to the monarch, an independent Hungarian Honvéd Army would turn against its lawful ruler on the first possible occasion — as it had done before.

In terms of concrete detail, the Hungarian plans were realistic and open to compromise. The first version was developed by the ‘Hungarian National Interim Committee’.» Its key points were the following: the nascent Honvéd Army would be controlled by the Hungarian Royal Defence Ministry; it would have a permanent cadre, even in peacetime; its numbers could be supplemented by direct recruitment; new recruits would be trained by the Imperial Army; service and drill regulations would be the same as those of the Imperial Army, and commands would be issued in German. The plan clearly avoided delicate issues, and thus made no mention of the integrity of the common army. Preserving this integrity was a basic question of the ‘military settlement’; it was an issue about which many a plan, treatise and semi-official outline — the quality varying according to political affiliation and professional competence — had been written. One of the highest-quality proposals came from the head of the Military Chancellery, Friedrich Graf von Beck-Rz ikowsky. The title of his text captured the essence of its message perfectly: ‘Against Splitting the Army into Tiro’. As Beck-Rzikowskv saw it, the unitv of the military should he maintained at any cost, since making allowances to the Hungarians might set a precedent for other nations in the Empire, splintering the military into many more than two parts.

Beck-Rzikowsky, a trusted friend of the Emperor and, for 25 years starting in 1881, Chief of the General Staff, played a key role in drafting the Defence Act and in finding a compromise with the Hungarians. Empowered by the Emperor, he held talks in Pest with the Hungarian Prime Minister in November 1867; the two of them found common ground on a number of important questions. Beck-Rzikowsky prepared a report about the defence law and ‘the Honvéd Army question’ that could be fairly described as a joint proposal by Beck and Andrássy. This stated that the term ‘Hungarian army’ was to be replaced by ‘Hungarian defence force’ (‘Honvédség’): a militia that would be less well trained and cheaper to maintain, and would fall under the control of the Hungarian Ministry of Defence, but would not be on a par with — and thus no rival to the Imperial Army. In return for a defence force of this kind, the Hungarians would have to give up any ambitions of dividing the imperial forces into two parts, so its military would remain clearly under the control of the Vienna War Ministry. If the (moderate) basic claim of the Hungarians were to be fulfilled, they would vote for general conscription. Thus the compromise struck by Beck-Rzikowsky and Andrássy can essentially be identified as the basis of the Defence Act. It took three phases of negotiations over one year to create the Defence Act. The first phase took place in November-December 1867 — this was when the above-described political and tactical talks between Beck-Rzikowsky and Andrássy occurred. The second was the conference of generals that sat in a series of sessions between January 29th and mid- March 1868: the participants mainly discussed military and professional issues, including proposals made by the Hungarians. In the third phase, a ministerial conference in late April 1868 strove to mould the Act into its final shape. At the earlier conference (February- March 1868), the Committee of Generals headed by the Imperial Minister of Defence, Lieutenant General (‘Feld- marschall-Leutnant’) Count Franz Kuhn von Khunenfeld, rejected practically all elements of the Hungarian proposals. Most of the members argued against the independence of the Honvéd Army, because it might mean the common army would occupy a position of lesser importance in the eyes of the Hungarians. They also refused to accept the idea of a Honvéd Army controlled only by the Hungarian Ministry of Defence, as they felt this could easily cause political — and even military — problems. They dismissed the idea of a permanent Honvéd Army cadre; it would be enough, they argued, for it to have administrators who keep registers. The War Minister had made a positive gesture: he declared that he could imagine the emergence of a ‘popular militia adapted to the territorial differences of the Monarchy’.11 In other words, instead of only a Hungarian defence force, several minor territorial militias that had developed according to national traditions would be established as a ‘second line’ of the imperial military. Alongside an army of 800,000, this ‘imperial defence militia’ would amount to a further 200,000 men.12

The final form of the Defence Act was developed at Buda, in a series of eight conferences held — in the Emperor’s presence — between April 18th and May 29th, 1868.13 The tone of the negotiations was struck by the Kaiser himself, who declared that there could be but one aim: to strengthen the common army. All other questions would be subordinated to that one consideration. The Hungarian defence militia must not develop into a ‘second army’, since that would divide resources and soon lead to political problems. There was no debate about this basic issue, and the overall conclusion was also in line with the Emperor’s wish: a strong common army and its unquestionable primacy in the Monarchy’s reorganised military.

When it came to ‘matters of detail’ — which, in fact, were very important questions — there was very little accord between the parties. The Austrians claimed it was only natural that the Hungarian Army should come under joint military administration, with German as the language of command, thus serving under the imperial and royal standard as a supplement to the common army. Any different status would not only recall the spirit of 1848-49, but also endanger the unity of the Empire by setting a precedent for separatist forces in other regions. If, however, there were no Hungarian defence force subordinate to the Hungarian government, there would be no need to create an Austrian counterpart.

At the conferences, Hungarian interests were skilfully represented by Gyula Andrássy. The Prime Minister was a clever tactician: he accepted the primacy of German as the language of command in the common army, but insisted throughout that Hungarian be used in the Honvéd Army. Language was key to the development of the Honvéd Army’s national spirit — Andrássy argued that unless Hungarian was encoded as the language of command, his country’s National Assembly would be sure to reject the Defence Act. The appointing of officers was also an issue. The Hungarians wanted to incorporate an ‘ameliorating’ element — the right of the Hungarian Ministry to countersign — but were eventually only granted ‘consultation rights’. After a lengthy debate, a mutual understanding was reached about organisational issues as well: the Hungarian Ministry of Defence would be in charge of the Honvéd Army; the organisational framework would be permanent; a certain number of new recruits could be enlisted directly into the Honvéd Army, but only after the common army quota had been filled. An agreement was reached regarding the use of Hungarian and Croatian as languages of command in the Honvéd Army; proposals for the uniform and the flag were also accepted.14 At the conferences, the Hungarian Prime Minister achieved practically everything that he could, under the circumstances; the best possible result was simply the creation of a ‘second line armed force’. The draft proposals15 were approved by the Council of Ministers on June 10th, 1868, and were submitted to the House of Representatives on June 27th. The original points were modified by two additions: according to one, Honvéd veteran-officers of the 1848 War of Independence were eligible for selection as officers in the future Honvéd Army; and secondly, at the joint session of the Council of Ministers in June, it was decided that the text of the relevant Act would use the term ‘for the present’ in reference to the fact that the Honvéd Army would consist initially of an infantry and a cavalry. This phrasing acted as an appeasing gesture to the radical opposition, while leaving the way open for further, future development in the Honvéd Army.

In the Hungarian National Assembly, the debate about the draft proposal effectively began on July 30th and lasted for well over a week. The opposition clamoured that it meant submission to Austria; they protested against general conscription, made speeches about the defacement of democracy and argued that to accept it would be an irresponsible political decision, sacrificing Hungarian youth ‘on the altar of an Austria which is doomed to collapse sooner or later’. Naturally, they wanted an independent Hungarian army, and demanded that the proposal be redrafted — indeed, that an entirely new proposal be drawn up. The centre-left opposition also criticised the draft law, but did not question the essential points: they accepted general conscription and the status of the Honvéd Army, but called for stronger Hungarian influence in military affairs, particularly with regard to the Army’s budget, and its deployment in wartime. They disapproved of the determination of the number of required recruits 10 years in advance — and, not surprisingly, also bemoaned the lack of artillery and technical troops. The ballot eventually brought victory for the government: a majority voted for the proposal. On August 11th, the proposal swiftly passed through the House of Lords. In the Austrian Parliament, the proposal was accepted on November 13th, and on December 5th, 1868, the Emperor signed Act XL on the Joint Defence Forces, Act XLI on the Honvéd Army and Act XLII on the voluntary Royal Hungarian Home Guard.

Опубликовал: Дмитрий Адаменко | 4 мая 2010
Рубрика: Книги, Общеисторические работы

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