The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 3/The Boundaries of Slovakia
The Boundaries of Slovakia
The empire of Austria-Hungary broke up suddenly, so suddenly that the Allied commanders operating against it from the south did not know, how to act in a situation radically different from what they had been facing for four years. At the end of October and in the first days of November the Austrian army on the Italian front was routed, the Jugoslavs took over the Austrian navy, the Czechoslovaks carried through a successful revolution, the Hapsburgs abdicated and in Budapest the Royal Hungarian government gave way to the Magyar National Council with Count Karolyi at the head. At that time the Balkan army under the command of French General Franchet d’Esperey had already crossed into Hungary from Serbia, and on November 8, the Austro-Hungarian army command having already surrendered, Franchet d’Esperey concluded an armistice with Count Karolyi. Regardless of the fact that the Austro-Hungarian empire had fallen to pieces and that Magyar National Council could speak only for the Magyars, regardless of the fact that the Allies had recognized the independence of the Czechoslovaks, the armistice granted by the Allied General provided that the new authorities of Budapest were to be left in authority throughout Hungary. Karolyi, taking his stand on this convention, refused to evacuate Slovakia and attempted to drive out by armed force Czechoslovak officials who were gradually taking over the administration of that portion of their new republic lying in Hungary. Serious conflicts broke out between soldiers of the two nations and great cruelties were committed by Magyars against Slovak leaders. The Prague government, being desirous of avoiding war, appealed to the Supreme Allied Command in Paris, and on December 3 Col. Vix, in command of the French garrison in Budapest, called upon Karolyi to withdraw his forces and his officials from Slovak territory. At the same time Col. Vix drew a provisional boundary between territory to be occupied by Czechoslovaks and that remaining to the Magyars. The boundary runs as follows:
Commencing on the Danube at the mouth of the river Morava (March) so as to include in Czechoslovakia the city of Prešpurk or Wilsonville, the line runs along the left bank of the main channel of the Danumber of Magyar settlers included in Slovakia would be about 480,000. A majority nube in a southeastern and then eastern direction, so as to bring into Czechoslovak territory the great Danube Island of Schutt and the ancient city of Komarno. At the mouth of the Ipol the demarcation line leaves the Danube and follows the Ipol in a northerly and northeasterly direction to the neighborhood of the town of Lučenec, thence in a generally eastern direction with a northerly slant past the city of Rimavska Sobota (Rima Szombat) across the counties of Nový Hrad, Gemer, Borsod, Abauj and Zemplin to the mouth of the River Ung as far as its source in the Carpathian mountains near the Uszok pass. For the rest both Slovakia and the entire Czechoslovak republic is delimited by its ancient boundaries as against Galicia, Germany and German Austria.
When the peace conference comes to consider the definitive boundaries of the Czechoslovak republic, it will meet with few difficulties, until it comes to the line which is to separate the Slovaks from the Magyars. While Germans of both Germany and Austria will ask for the separation from the new Slav state of large districts in the north of Silesia, Moravia and Bohemia, and in the west of Bohemia, there is little fear that their demands will be granted, especially as the German minorities concerned are themselves far from anxious to be incorporated into Germany. But when it comes to the southeastern boundary of Czechoslovakia, the statesmen sitting at Paris will not have an easy task. The Magyars are clamoring that the temporary delimitation is unfair to them; they would like to hold all Slovaks under their rule, for they have not yet given up all hopes of maintaining their domination over the Slavs and Latins of Hungary; and in any case they are endeavoring by the most prodigal use of propaganda to cut down the area of Slovak territory on the ground that it contains Magyar minorities. At the time the French officers compelled the Budapest government to withdraw from northern Hungary, Oszkar Jaszy, minister of nationalities in Karolyi's government, went so far as to urge the government and the Magyar people to inaugurate a passive opposition: to stop working, stop paying taxes, stop the machinery of the government and let the French administer the country as best they might. But wiser counsels prevailed and Karolyi actually issued a statement in which, while deprecating the Allied command to give way to the Czechs, he expressed the hope that at least it would now be possible to come to some understanding with the Czechoslovak government on urgent economic questions. The fact is that the Magyars expected to lose even more than they did and that secretly they were pleased by the limits drawn by Colonel Vix. A line drawn along strictly ethnographic boundary would make the area of Slovakia 54,000 square kilometers, whereas Slovakia as delimited by Colonel Vix covers only 48,000 square kilometers.
More important perhaps than ethnographical considerations are considerations of strategy. The boundary as drawn by the armistice commission leaves the Czechoslovak territories defenseless before some future German-Magyar attack. While the Danube is a useful boundary, the city of Prešpurk is situated on both banks of the river and has no natural defense. Now there is no doubt that this city will in the course of a generation become the most important Danube port and may even out grow Vienna. The Czechoslovak State should either be granted territory on the right bank of the Danube opposite Prešpurk, especially as these districts have a large Slovak minority, or to balance the disadvantageous location of the principal Slovak city Czechoslovak territory should be extended across the Danube opposite the mouth of the Ipol River, so as to take in the hills which command Budapest. Here also the territory in question is largely settled by Slovaks.
Considering the boundaries of Slovakia, as drawn by Colonel Vix, from the ethnographical point of view we come to the Magyar complaint that there will be some 600,000 Magyars in Slovak territory, that is to say 17 per cent of the population. This is so according to Magyar statistics, but the Magyars themselves, even Count Tisza, the greatest chauvinist of them all, admitted the strong bias of Hungarian statistics in favor of the Magyars. Thus statistics show Magyar minorities in Slovak counties where everyone knows there are no Magyar settlers or immigrants at all. The few Magyars found there are state officials or rail road employees, and these men will naturally disappear with the disappearance of Magyar rule. According to the census of 1910 there were 134,060 such Magyar employees in Slovak land, so that the real of these people also has been artificially settled in Slovakia during the last fifty years, both in the cities and on large estates owned by Magyar noblemen. Then again at least one-third of this number declared themselves Magyar in 1910 under official compulsion; with all pressure removed they will give their speech as Slovak. This is particularly true of the Jews. In any case the Magyars have about as much right to some of the cities of Slovakia, with artificially created Magyar preponderance, as immigrant races in America would have to some of the great American industrial cities. This argument reminds one of what Presidentsaid at Turin on January 4th. Speaking in a joking manner he said to his Italian hearers: “I was sorry I could not let you have New York City, which I understand is the greatest Italian city in the world.”
After all proper deductions are made, there will be in Slovakia as at present drawn about 200,000 genuine Magyars. But as against that Slovaks will lose large fragments of their people who have been for centuries settled in small compact bodies in the midst of Magyar territory. In Budapest itself there are 25,000 Slovaks, and in the neighborhood of the capital there are many Slovak villages. These ethnographical islands are scattered throughout the Hungarian plains as far south as the territory of the South Slavs. The number of men thus lost to Slovakia is estimated at 450,000, more than twice as many as the Magyars will lose.
Therefore, the Czechoslovak delegation at the peace conference will demand a correction of the provisional boundary, especially in the county of Abauj so as to have the entire county included in the Czechoslovak Republic.