Lajos Kossuth

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Kossuth, Lajos

 

Born Sept. 19, 1802, in Monok, Zemplen County; died Mar. 20, 1894, in Turin. Hungarian political leader and statesman. Born into a noble family of modest means.

Kossuth was a lawyer by profession. From 1841 to 1844 he published the newspaper Pesti Hirlap, which opposed the absolutist oppression of the Hapsburgs. He headed an oppositionist wing of the state assembly that opened Nov. 12, 1847, in the city of Pozsony (Bratislava). On Mar. 3, 1848, delivering a programmatic speech at a meeting of the assembly, he proposed that a petition be sent to the Austrian emperor Ferdinand I (who was simultaneously the Hungarian king Ferdinand V) demanding the introduction of a constitution, the creation of an independent Hungarian government responsible to a parliament, and the establishment of civil liberties. After the revolt in Pest on Mar. 15, 1848, which was the beginning of the Revolution of 1848-49 in Hungary, Kossuth headed a delegation sent by the assembly to hand the emperor the petition on reforms.

From March to September 1848 he was minister of finance in the first Hungarian government of L. Batthyány. In July 1848 he was elected a deputy to the assembly convened in Pest. He created a Hungarian national army. In August-September 1848 he visited several regions of Hungary, urging peasants to take part in the defense of the homeland. In September he became head of the Committee of National Defense, to which the parliament turned over the functions of government on Oct. 8, 1848. He advocated a struggle against the Hapsburgs in alliance with Austrian democrats. Kossuth initiated the publication of a declaration of independence (Apr. 14, 1849) and fought the Peace Party, which was calling for an agreement with the Hapsburgs. On May 2, 1849, he was elected supreme ruler of Hungary.

Despite his uncompromising attitude toward the Hapsburgs on the question of Hungary’s national independence, Kossuth expressed the interests of the middle-level landed gentry, was inconsistent and vacillating on the peasant, nationality, and other cardinal questions, backed the Hungarian revolutionary government’s policy of repression of peasant movements, and was a supporter of the Magyarization of Hungary’s national regions. On Aug. 11, 1849, he turned over power to Görgey, commander in chief of the Hungarian national army, and emi-grated. The Austrian government sentenced Kossuth to death in absentia.

While living in Great Britain from 1852 to 1859, Kossuth met and became a friend of A. I. Herzen. In 1859 he formed a Hungarian legion to fight under G. Garibaldi. He refused to return to Hungary in 1867 under an amnesty.

Kossuth was a prominent spokesman for the antifeudal cur-rent in Hungarian economic thought. The State Prize of the Hungarian People’s Republic is named after him.

WORKS

Összes munkái, vols. 1-6, 11-15. Budapest, 1948-66.

REFERENCES

Marx, K. “Koshut i Lui-Napoleon.” K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch. , 2nd ed., vol. 13.
Engels, F. “Bor’ba v Vengrii.” Ibid. , vol. 6.

R. A. AVERBUKH

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