Hungary Table of Contents
Liberation Monument on Gellert Hill in Budapest
Courtesy Sam and Sarah Stulberg
Hungarian independence came in 1918, when the Habsburg Empire's disintegration gave not only the Hungarians but also the empire's other nationalities the opportunity to establish sovereign states. Hungarian soldiers, scattered among the Habsburg troops at various places within and outside the empire, were ordered home by the government of Mihaly Karolyi in the fall of 1918. They found their country racked by political and economic strife. Hungary could not resist the Romanian army's advance to Budapest but did drive the Czechs out of northern Hungary (present-day Slovakia). However, the Treaty of Trianon signed in June 1920 pushed the Hungarian army back close to the boundaries of the present-day boundaries (see Trianon Hungary , ch. 1). Moreover, the Treaty of Trianon limited Hungary's military forces to 35,000 soldiers.
Motivated by a desire to regain lands lost as a result of the Treaty of Trianon, Hungary allied itself with Italy in the late 1920s and with Germany during the 1930s. Diplomacy and alliances, rather than military action, brought about the return of former Hungarian lands in 1938-39. Hungary participated in the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 by committing a small force to aid in the German occupation of the Ukraine. After January 1942, however, the Hungarian army was thrown into the front lines with the Germans. Underequipped (one machine gun was allotted for every kilometer of front line) and lacking warm clothing and fuel, this army suffered about 200,000 casualties at the battle of Stalingrad during the winter of 1942-43. This defeat, combined with the Soviet rollback of the German invasion, quickly turned Hungarian public opinion against the war. Many Hungarian prisoners of war fought on the side of their Soviet captors or were sent as partisans behind the Axis lines in southeastern Europe. Tired of the half-hearted Hungarian war effort, the Germans occupied Hungary in March 1943. Admiral Miklos Horthy, the Hungarian regent, attempted to negotiate an armistice with the Allies in the fall of 1944. Horthy was soon arrested by the Germans, but by then the Red Army had already entered eastern Hungary. The Red Army captured Budapest in December and pushed the Germans completely out of Hungary by early April 1945.
Data as of September 1989