Magyarisation Essay

2238 words - 9 pages

The Kingdom of Hungary, essentially the Kingdom of Magyar, surrounded by other states, had often been vulnerable to the invasion, which led to the division of the country: central and Southern part was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire for more than a century, North and West part was ruled by Hapsburg and the Eastern territory remained as the Hungarian Kingdom which later became the Principality of Transylvania. The kingdom was finally united in 1699, though under the rule of Hapsburg-Austria. Prior to the establishment of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungry Empire in 1868, the Magyars rose in arms to gain independence, just as French and Prussians did. However, the Hungarian ...view middle of the document...

It was driven by a small group of ruling class of Magyar people, whose intentions would be discussed in detail in the following paragraphs. What they ultimately hoped to achieve was a monolingual state, whose politic was called ‘Magyar politikai nemzet (Hungarian political nation).’ The entire citizen was to be nation was to include all inhabitants regardless of language or culture, but was simultaneously defined in terms of Magyar language and culture. Ferenc Pulszky expresses this attitude in a very clear manner below, on the imposition of Hungarian language to the Slavs:
What do we Hungarians demand of the Slavs…[?] We want that all public documents in Hungary, …… the language of instruction will be Hungarian…… Hungarian will however never violently force itself into the domestic circle. It is completely natural that this too, with increasing education, will also become slowly Hungarianised …the most enthusiastic Slav becomes a Hungarian when he becomes a lawyer.

Defensive Reaction
The first step of the Magyarisation could have been perceived as a defence-reaction taken by the Magyar nobles, against the centralisation exercised by Hapsburg-Austria which seemed to seize their prestigious position. The Hungarian Constitution granted all the power in the hands of Magyar nobility, and thus exempted themselves from the payment of tax. Maria Theresa and Joseph II attempted to introduce laws that would end this exploitation of the nobilities , which were strongly opposed, until 1790 when it was finally accepted as Urbanium (agricultural code), in a very advantageous terms to the Magyar nobility. However, a careful analysis of a letter written by Joseph II to Hungarian chancellor Count Palffy illustrates that Hapsburg-Austria was ready to offer their generosity, as the emperor offered to treat Hungary as equal as Austria, if the Hungarian nobility surrendered its exclusion from taxation. However, Magyars dismissed this offer and instead claimed that the Hapsburg absolutism was preventing the development of Hungary.
In addition to the economic sanction, Hapsburg-Austria also imposed German as the official language and medium of instruction at primary schools across its territory including Hungary in 1784. For Magyars this seemed as if the ‘prophecy’ that Magyar language will disappear presented by Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) was becoming true. This German philosopher’s theory is based on the notion that language constructs thought, then was developed that each person has the collective soul or spirit called Volksgeist, which is reflected on national language. He also commented on language spoken by a small group of people and claimed that such language would disappear through assimilation by other languages used by the surrounding countries such as German and Slovak.
Nobility seems to have instantly recognised this opportunity to present this Germanisation as the exploitation that people in Hungary should not tolerate, and thus...

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