Hungarian–Romanian diplomatic relations in the 1920s

Principal investigator: Réka Marchut

Period: 2014-present

Grant, funding agency: 2014–2018 NKFIF PD 112304

Research questions and objectives:

Following the Treaty of Trianon, the minority issue was a key element of foreign policy in the states of Central and Eastern Europe. With the reorganization of the borders, the Hungarian minority became the most significant minority in the region, and the largest number of Hungarian minorities outside of Hungary came to exist in Romania. In Hungarian–Romanian diplomatic relations, the representatives of two equal states did not negotiate with each other, but a diplomatic struggle between a losing small state that did not want to accept the status quo and could maintain the status quo. In such a situation, there was/could be little chance of reaching an agreement or finding a compromise. It is also certain that the bilateral relationship cannot be interpreted in itself, nor are its possibilities merely a function of the relationship between the two states. It is from this framework that we formulate the hypothesis that when international relations so wished, there could have been a chance for agreement.

The key issues of our research are:

1. Despite the limited possibilities of official Hungarian foreign policy, how effectively could the Romanian government influence the policy of the Hungarian minority?
2. What could the Romanian government achieve in Budapest for the benefit of Romanians in Hungary? After the Treaty of Trianon, the Romanians in Hungary were a strongly assimilating national minority that was significantly declining in number. However, in terms of their religion, they were sharply separated from the majority Hungarians, so the process of assimilation in this field could be slowed down.
3. What was the system of relations of the Hungarian diplomatic and consular bodies in Romania with the diplomatic and consular representatives of other states? How could they indirectly put these relationships to help with their aspirations in an indirect way? How did Romanian diplomats in Budapest react to this?
4. In German foreign policy until 1929, the Südostraum was of only secondary importance after French relations. Streseman's performance policy did not deal specifically with this region, but we know from the literature that Romania and Yugoslavia were primarily commercially important for Germany, and from this point of view we ask the question: how did the Weimar policy affect Hungarian–Romanian relations? In addition to the commercial interests, the region was also interesting to Germany because of the German minority living here. We know for a fact that the Hungarian government wanted to create a Hungarian–German alliance in the neighboring states, but in the end the plan did not succeed, because Germany did not support it. This also had an impact on the development of Hungarian–Romanian relations, but how and to what extent was not explored.

Objectives of the project

Our goal is to carry out basic research in which we examine the diplomatic relations between Hungary and Romania and the emergence of the minority issue between 1921 and 1931 from the perspective of political history and diplomacy. During that time the leader of Hungarian foreign policy was not the foreign minister (as it is now), but rather it was the prime minister, István Bethlen, who was a skilled statesman. In contrast to Hungary, which showed a uniform political image, Romania was experiencing political shifts between the National Liberals and Peasants’ Party. Although the Romanian political forces acted together in foreign policy, the Hungarian government had different opportunities to remedy the grievances of the Hungarian minority.

Our goal is to reveal what was the the scope and possibilities of the two countries in their diplomatic relationship via source investigation and source processing.

Research history:

The basic research part of the research was funded by the OTKA PD 112304 project. The results in brief are below.

The project entitled “Minority issue in Hungarian–Romanian diplomatic relations during the presidency of István Bethlen” (OTKA PD 112304) was completed from September 1, 2014, to March 31, 2018. The research aimed at finding, digitizing, and processing archival sources. Sources found in archives in Budapest, Bucharest, and Berlin related to this topic have been successfully collected and systematized. The processed sources can already be publicly seen in then journal articles and book chapters. A planned source publication was also compiled, which contains more than 200 unpublished archival sources within approximately 500 pages. The publication, which will be primarily useful for researchers focusing on the era, is expected to be published by the end of the year, and it will also serve as the basis for a future monograph.

Research methods:

The research consists mainly of archival research and the processing of the archival sources. Outside of Hungary, I conducted archival research in the German Foreign Archives, the Bucharest Foreign Archives, and the Central Historical Archives in Bucharest. In the National Archives of Hungary, I reviewed and took notes/digitized the documents of the Political Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (K63) and the reserved political documents of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (K64). In the archives of Berlin and Bucharest, I photographed relevant documents, and then subsequently I converted the documents into .pdfs by thread, along references.

Subsequently, the documents were selected for the source publication. The main criteria for the selection of the documents were: the document should provide a comprehensive picture of a question; relevant sources should be available for all major topics; the document should be able to present a problem from several perspectives; and the document should be of macro-historical nature (a micro-historical question is included only if it points to a historical structure).

The source publication contains sources in Hungarian, Romanian, and German. Footnotes to the sources are currently being worked on. The fund provided by the National Cultural Fund's book publishing application can be used to translate foreign language texts into Hungarian.

I am publishing the results of the vast source material in several papers that can be considered as the preparation of a monograph.

Research results in 2019:

Change of regime and society in the Carpathian Basin. The effects of changes in sovereign power on society (16th–20th centuries). Conference organized by the Hungarian Historical Society in Tengelic on August 14–16, 2019. Title of paper: Minority Hungarian and German responses to Romanian nation-building in the 1920s

A magyar–román viszony és a német külügyminisztérium az 1920-as években. SZÁZADOK 153: 4 pp. 769-802. (2019)

The source publication was prepared to such a degree of completion that I could apply for and won the National Cultural Fund’s Book Publishing Fellowship.

Publications, databases: