Revolution of 1848–49 in Hungary

Revolution of 1848–49 in Hungary


a bourgeois revolution whose objectives were the abolition of the feudal serf-owning system, an end to the oppression of nationalities in the country, and national independence for Hungary. It was the final stage in the general European Revolution of 1848–49, and its principal moving forces were the peasants, artisans, urban poor, and workers.

The revolution began on Mar. 15, 1848, with a popular uprising in Pest that flared up under the influence of news of the victory of the revolution in Vienna. During the uprising, which was headed by S. Petȍfi and P. Vasvári, a program of bourgeois-democratic reforms, called the Twelve Points, was adopted at popular assemblies. Power passed to the Committee for Public Salvation, made up of representatives of the democratic forces. National Guard detachments were soon organized. In response to the committee’s appeal, popular uprisings broke out in Szeged, Gyȍr, Miskolc, and other cities and districts, and revolutionary governing bodies were organized in the areas.

On March 17, Emperor Ferdinand I, who was also the Hungarian king Ferdinand V, was obliged to appoint an “independent and responsible Hungarian government” headed by Count L. Batthyány. The government included both landed magnates and middle-level noblemen: I. Széchenyi, F. Deák, and G. Mészáros. The democrats were represented by L. Kossuth, who was appointed minister of finance. On March 18 the National Assembly promulgated a number of bourgeois reforms abolishing serfdom, corvée, the tithe, peasant dues, and landowners’ courts. It also instituted a universal tax. These laws, however, contained provisions that rendered them useless. The National Assembly declared Hungary’s independence in matters of finance and war, but Hungary remained linked to the Empire through a joint monarch of the Hapsburg dynasty. Under a new electoral law the right to vote was not granted to village or urban poor, or to a considerable portion of the non-Hungarian population (a knowledge of Hungarian was mandatory for elected deputies).

The partial resolution of the question of the country’s independence and the reforms did not satisfy the popular masses. Between March and August 1848 outbreaks occurred among urban and rural working people, the largest ones being in Pest under the slogan “Bread for the people!” The newspaper Munkások ujsága (Workers’ Newspaper) became the tribune of the urban and rural poor. The peasant movement grew, encompassing 29 out of 72 provinces by the end of April. An antifeudal and national movement developed among the non-Hungarian peoples within the Kingdom of Hungary. In Croatia, Transylvania, Slavonia, and the Transcarpathian region the peasants seized and partitioned the landed estates. The Batthyány government refused to recognize the national autonomy of Croatia, proclaimed on June 5, 1848, by the Croatian Assembly. Nor did it recognize the nationalist demands of the Voivodina Serbs and the Slovaks.

In the Hungarian National Assembly that met on July 5, 1848, the upper house, composed of representatives of the landed magnates and the new administrators in the provinces, took a reactionary position. The majority of the 400 deputies in the lower house also advocated an alliance with the Hapsburgs. Only a group of left-wing deputies (30 to 40 persons), headed by L. Madarász, J. Madarász, and M. Perczel, adhered to an anti-Hapsburg line. The vacillating position of the Batthyány government on the peasant and nationality questions, as well as on the matter of defending the revolution, provoked widespread discontent among the popular masses. Under pressure from the revolutionary forces, the National Assembly on July 11 adopted a resolution providing for the creation of a Hungarian national army (honvéd).

Taking advantage of the efforts of Croatian bourgeois-gentry circles to carry out their own national political program with the aid of military force, the Hapsburgs supported the Croatian ban (ruler) J. Jelčic, who declared war on Hungary on Sept. 7, 1848. On September 11, Jelačić’s army invaded Hungary. On September 21 the Committee for the Defense of the Homeland, headed by Kossuth, was formed, and on September 29 the Hungarian revolutionary troops defeated Jelačić’s army at the village of Pákozd. In October, after the Batthyány government had resigned in September, Kossuth was chosen as the country’s leader. In violation of Kossuth’s orders, reactionary elements in the Hungarian Army and the National Assembly prevented the Hungarian troops from entering Austrian territory to complete the rout of the counterrevolutionary Croatian troops and to aid the revolutionary forces in Vienna.

After putting down the October Uprising in Vienna, the Hapsburgs in December 1848 sent their principal forces against revolutionary Hungary. On Jan. 5, 1849, Austrian troops captured Pest. The Committee for the Defense of the Homeland and the National Assembly moved to Debrecen, where the committee took measures to raise and equip an army of some 100,000 men. A group of gifted commanders emerged, among them D. Klapka and N. Sandor. A partisan movement developed on Hungarian territory, and detachments of revolutionary youth arrived from Austria to defend the revolution. Military units were formed of volunteers from among the non-Hungarian population. Many Polish revolutionaries and military commanders, notably J. Bem and H. Dembiński, joined the Hungarian Army. In February 1849 imperial troops began an offensive against Debrecen. A fierce battle was fought on Feb. 26–27 without a decisive outcome. In April 1849, Hungarian troops inflicted several defeats on the imperial troops and almost completely drove them out of Hungary.

On Apr. 14, 1849, the National Assembly adopted the Declaration of Independence, deposing the Hapsburgs. Alarmed by the growing involvement of the people, the liberal gentry openly advocated a halt to the revolution and an agreement with the Hapsburgs. The Hungarian government that was formed on May 2, 1849, with B. Szemere at its head, pursued a policy of accommodation with the counterrevolutionary gentry. The command of the Hungarian Army, headed by A. Görgey, paralyzed the armed forces. On Apr. 21, 1849, Emperor Franz Joseph turned to Nicholas I for help in dealing with revolutionary Hungary, and in May 1849 tsarism began an armed intervention against the Hungarian Revolution. On Aug. 13, 1849, near Világos the bulk of the revolutionary forces surrendered to the troops of tsarist Russia, commanded by I. F. Paskevich. Within a few weeks the revolution was suppressed. Despite its defeat, the Revolution of 1848–49 inflicted a blow on the feudal-landowning system. Its patriotic and revolutionary traditions inspired the Hungarian people in their subsequent struggle for liberty and independence.


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Engels, F. “Vengriia.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “‘Krest’ianskaia reforma’ i proletarski-krest’ianskaia revoliutsiia.” Poln. sobr. Soch., 5th ed., vol. 20.
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Kheveshi, M. A. Mirovozzrenie vengerskikh revoliutsionnykh demokratov (40-e gody XIX v.). Moscow, 1962.


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