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SOME FACTS ABOUT HUNGARIAN PROPAGANDA FOR TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY ABROAD, 1918-20 Author(s): Tibor Glant Reviewed work(s): Source: Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies (HJEAS), Vol. 2, No. 1, AMERICAN STUDIES ISSUE (1996), pp. 43-56 Published by: Centre for Arts, Humanities and Sciences (CAHS), acting on behalf of the University of Debrecen CAHS Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41273913 . Accessed: 17/06/2012 05:19
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SOME FACTS ABOUT HUNGARIAN PROPAGANDA FOR TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY ABROAD, 1918-20
In the turbulent years following the First World War foreign language propaganda for Hungarian territorial integrity was a new development. When the war broke out only the most devoted Czech and South Slav politicians envisaged the dismemberment of (Austria-) Hungary. Anti-Hungarian propaganda during the war introduced a horrifying picture of the "Magyars" as closely linked to the "Teutonic Huns" and thus enemies of democracy and oppressors of the "non- Magyar" (i.e. Hungarian) peoples living in their "artificial" state.1
During 1916 and 1917 the journalist Gyula Gesztesi discussed anti- Hungarian- propaganda abroad in a series of articles written for Uj Nemzedek (New Generation), a Christian-national weekly newspaper. He realized the importance of press propaganda in influencing high politics through manipulating public opinion and demanded immediate action. In a similar article Count Albert Apponyi arrived at the same conclusion and established that the new and false image of Hungary and the Hungarians, then dominating the public opinion of the Allied countries, was largely due to Hungaiy's failure to conduct propaganda abroad. He suggested certain means of running such propaganda but intended it to begin only after the war.2 The only serious wartime discussion of Hungary's right to her territories was written by Professor Janos Karacsonyi of the Nagyvarad Academy of Law in 1916.3
The end of the war and the Armistice created an entirely new situation: on the territories of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy new and independent "nation states" were created including an independent Hungaiy. However, Hungary was treated as a defeated power by the victorious Allies. Moreover, she was held responsible for the war and was attacked by her new neighbours. Under these circumstances territorial losses became an. immediate threat. One natural reaction to this threat was large scale propaganda, which mobilized patriotic sentiments in wide circles irrespective of party lines. This propaganda had three distinct aspects: (1) domestic government propaganda; (2) irredentist agitation in the territories occupied by the Successor States; (3) propaganda for territorial integrity abroad. The aim of the present study is to provide some insight into the organization, conduct, contents and effect of the third categoiy. Below, two different levels are considered: propaganda by the official and unofficial governments of Hungary during the period, and the activities of the Territorial Integrity League and other social organizations.
Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1996. Copyright © by HJEAS. All rights to reproduction in any form are reserved.
2. Government Propaganda for Territorial Integrity
In late 1918, Count Michael Karolyi, the new Hungarian Premier, believed that demonstrations of good will and pacifism (disarmament, outspoken Wilsonism, etc.) were going to be enough to secure fair treatment for Hungaiy so he attributed little importance to territorial integrity propaganda abroad. The National Council created the National Propaganda Committee (Orszagos Propaganda Bizottsag, hereafter N.P.C.) which, in the opinion of Oszkar Jaszi, then Minister of Nationalities, "failed to discuss and promote the common, coalitional goals of the October Revolution, but under its auspices different trends of propaganda surfaced from no-no-never chauvinism to almost anarchic views."4 The most famous contribution of the N.P.C. was the poster depicting Wilson's head against a red background reading "From Wilson only a Wilsonian Peace!"5 Jaszi went on to suggest that actual government propaganda was no better organized: "There were three or four propaganda committees within the government which were hardly in touch with one another. Thus, it was only afterwards that I realized that in the question of nationalities Barna Buza and Friedrich each had a separate propaganda organization which worked without my consent and, in most cases, in contradiction with my principles."6
Jaszi was apparently unaware of the fact that the General News Service Section of the Political Division within the Foreign Ministry was responsible for coordinating propaganda abroad. This was perhaps because Karolyi also served as Foreign Minister and matters concerning the Ministry, with the exception of its actual organization and appointments, were not discussed in the Council of Ministers. On February 16, 1919, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Ferenc Harrer sent a report to Karolyi on foreign propaganda. According to the Harrer report, the General News Section was working with utmost secrecy (it did not even use the word "propaganda"), it did not publish pamphlets but circulated those of various social organizations abroad. The 35 pamphlets enclosed with the report, however, show a slightly different picture: although most of these were Territorial Integrity League publications, certain figures obviously originated from the Central Statistical Bureau, and La Hongrie, a 48-page pamphlet was prepared by government order. Another report from the early days of December 1918 listed the organizations which were to be provided with propaganda material. These included the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Central Statistical Bureau and the N.P.C. as well as the Militaiy Liaison Office, the Budapest Red Cross Society and various social organizations. The Foreign Ministry asked for at least one copy of all publications and some 20 packs of 25-50 pamphlets for circulation abroad.8
Numerous individuals also offered their services and connections to the Foreign Ministry, thus testifying to considerable patriotic sentiment. One such volunteer was Dr. Geza Austerweil. He suggested that the Hungarian government should initiate economic negotiations with the representatives of French' big business and press magnates. He argued that those people controlled French public opinion and their support would be invaluable in the Peace Negotiations.9 As early as November 1918 Dr. Istvan Kovacs was appointed as Commissioner of
Protestant Affairs, within the Ministry of Religion and Education, to organize missions abroad. Kovacs provided financial support and travel insurance for people who claimed to have important connections outside Hungary. Besides the three major Allied countries (i.e. the United States, Great Britain and France) a large number of these representatives were sent to Scandinavian countries as well as to Switzerland and Holland. This, however, proved to be a waste of money as only a few representatives sent final reports to Kovacs on their return to Hungary.10
An incident quoted by Gusztav Gratz reveals that some people even abused their position: "Imre Csernyak, founder of the Militaiy Council, who came up with impossible demands, among other things he wanted to be appointed Minister of Air Travel, was sent to America with the excuse of some political mission. He only got as far as the Hague where he settled in the empty palace of the Austro- Hungarian Embassy and acted as diplomatic 1 representative of Hungary; but at least he was removed from Hungary."
These dispositions became irrelevant when the Hungarian Soviet Republic (hereafter H.S.R.) came to power on March 21, 1919, after Karolyi had refused to make further territorial concessions demanded by Colonel Vix in his infamous ultimatum. The complete failure of Karolyi's pacifism and Entente-orientation, together with the general feeling that "at least some reproduction of the Russian Revolution was going to take place in our country as well,"12 paved the way for a new ideology and new hopes. The Communists and left-wing Social Democrats envisaged a United Europe under Communist control and Russian leadership. Within this new United Europe, born in revolution, boundaries would lose their significance. Consequently, Bela Kun's actual propaganda activities were limited to appeals to the peoples of the world and t