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Hungarian Revolution of 1848

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By the middle of the XIX century, the system of absolutism, established during the Napoleonic wars in Hungary, ceased to meet the interests of the main social groups of the country. The government of the Austrian Empire did not want to go to any reforms in the administrative or political sphere, preserving the bureaucratic system and feudal order. The public life of Hungary was under full control of Vienna, censorship and police persecution of the opposition were the norm. The Hungarian kingdom was practically deprived of independence within the framework of the Austrian Empire, for a long time the Hungarian State Assembly was not convened at all, German remained the state language. The Hungarians had no influence on politics within their own country and were forced to settle for only limited forms of local self-government at the level of committees. The customs and tariff system of the empire was established in the interests of the Austrian industry and turned Hungary into a supplier of raw materials for the rapidly developing enterprises of Austria and the Czech Republic. The peasant question was also not resolved: the country retained serfdom, the judicial power of the landlord and the feudal duties of the peasants. A number of obsolete customs, such as aviticite (the inalienability of noble landed property), as well as the extreme poverty of the peasantry and feudal relations hampered the development of agriculture, which remains the basis of the country’s economy. At the same time in the 1830’s. the rapid upsurge of the national movement began. Ideas of ​​a broad renewal of the country, especially in the sphere of economy, and dismantling of the feudal system. This received great public response and prompted many Hungarian nobles to engage in political activities.

A feature of the Hungarian liberal movement was the fact that the nobility was the bearer of the ideas of democratic transformations and the driving force of the revolution. This was due to the underdevelopment of cities in Hungary, the weakness of the bourgeoisie and the historically established role of the nobility as a defender of the rights and freedoms of the Hungarian nation against foreign domination. Another important feature of the movement was the lack of attention to the national question: the liberals believed that democratic reforms and affirmation of the priority of personal freedom would render unnecessary the corporate rights of national minorities, which they considered a relic of the feudal system. This belief in the conditions of the Hungarian kingdom, in which representatives of the titular nation accounted for only 38% of the population, threatened a surge of national conflicts. In parallel with the development of the Hungarian movement, the self-consciousness of other people in the country – Croats, Serbs, Slovaks, Romanians and Russians, often came into conflict with the interests of the Hungarians.

At the state assembly of 1839 – 1840 liberals succeeded in obtaining amnesty for political prisoners, expanding the scope of the Hungarian language in administration and affirming the possibility of emancipation of peasants for ransom. At the same time, centralization was strengthened, and the power of administrators and foyshpans (representatives of the central government in the committees) were expanded. The new state assembly, which opened in 1847, however, stalled because of the contradictions between liberals and conservatives and could not make decisions about the reforms.

The Beginning

March 1, 1848 in Pozzhn, where the Hungarian state assembly met, came the news of the revolution in Paris. On March 3, Kossuth made a fiery speech demanding the immediate implementation of a liberal reform program, the introduction of a constitution and the formation of a government responsible to the parliament. Soon the revolution broke out in Vienna, Metternich was deprived of his powers, and the Emperor Ferdinand promised the Austrians a constitution and civil liberties.

On March 15, the delegation of the Hungarian Parliament went to Vienna to transmit the petition adopted on the basis of the Kossuth program. On the same day, an uprising began in Pesta: under the influence of the published “Twelve Points” by Jozsef Irini and the “National Song” by Shandor Petofi, students and urban intelligentsia surrounded the city’s administrative institutions, released M. Tancic from prison and deposed the municipal authorities. The demands of the insurgents in Pest were the introduction of press freedom, the proclamation of equality of civil rights, the creation of a responsible government, the annual convening of the parliament, the introduction of universal taxation and jury trials, the liberation of the peasants and the union with Transylvania. The uprising quickly spread throughout the country.

Reforms and Action

On March 18, King Ferdinand V expanded the autonomy of Hungary and appointed Lajos Battyani the first Prime Minister of Hungary. The government also included prominent figures of the liberal movement.

On March 18, 1848, the Hungarian State Assembly approved a whole series of reforms. Later serfdom was abolished, land was transferred to peasants, and redemption payments to landowners were to be paid by the state. The implementation of this reform led to the elimination of feudalism in agrarian relations and opened the way for the transition of Hungarian agriculture to capitalist rails. The law on the introduction of universal taxation and the deprivation of the nobility and priests of tax privileges was also adopted. Freedom of the press, inviolability of the individual and property, equality of Christian denominations, the responsibility of the government to the parliament were introduced, the suffrage was expanded (up to 7-9% of the population), and the state assembly was to be convened from now on. The union of Hungary and Transylvania was proclaimed.

On April 11, the king approved the reforms of the Hungarian revolution. The country became a constitutional monarchy. Ferdinand V retained the right to declare war and conclude peace, as well as the appointment of senior officials of the Kingdom of Hungary, but the actual power passed into the hands of the national government responsible to the parliament. However, the problems of distribution of powers between Vienna and Pest in issues of international relations, financial policy and, most importantly, the armed forces were not solved. Also, in the reforms of the state assembly and the decrees of the government, the national question was not reflected.

Meanwhile, in the ethnic regions of the Hungarian kingdom, revolutions also began, which quickly acquired a national color. On March 22, 1848 Josip Jelacic became the ban of Croatia, which launched a program for the restoration of the Triune Kingdom and, with the support of the emperor, created his own army and demanded independence from Hungary. In Vojvodina, the Serbian national movement resulted in the proclamation of autonomy and skirmishes with the Hungarians. The Slovaks and Romanians also demanded national autonomy, and the decision to unite with Hungary triggered bloody interethnic conflicts in Transylvania.


Vodovozov VV Revolution of 1848 / / Encyclopaedic dictionary of Brockhaus and Efron

Averbukh R. A. The Revolution and the National Liberation War in Hungary in 1848-49
European revolutions of 1848. “Principle of nationality” in politics and ideology
Conttler L. History of Hungary: The Millennium in the Center of Europe

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