István Janek: Mihály Károlyi for the Settlement of the Czechoslovak–Hungarian Relationship and Population Exchange Between 1945–48

Mihály Károlyi returned to Hungary on 8th May 1946 after twenty-seven years of emigration. Károlyi is considered to be the most controversial and most colorful person of the Hungarian history. During his career he was the nation’s redeemer and later the nation’s traitor. Many people blamed him for the Trianon catastrophe. During his life, he was an emigrant two times and he was two times rehabilitated. His second return to his home was possible only after his death in 1962. The study deals with those activities of Mihály Károlyi that he made for the sake of Hungarians living in Czechoslovakia between 1945 and 1948.
From Hungary’s neighbors the worst relationship was that with Czechoslovakia in 1945 that stems from the minority policy of the Czechoslovak government, persecution of Highland Hungarians. According to the government program announced by President Beneš on 5th April 1945 in Košice Hungarians were allowed to be members of neither political nor mass organizations, even civil servants of Hungarian origin were discharged from their positions. Businesses in the ownership of Hungarians were taken by the state. The flats of Hungarians in the cities were expropriated. Part of Hungarians living in cities was interned. In several parts of Slovakia internment camps were set up. Due to the restricting arrangements the Hungarian minority was deprived of health care and pensions. According to the Decree No. 88/1945 the Hungarians could be taken to work by force to the Czech country, where there were vast shortages of labor force due to the leave of Sudeta Germans.
Mihály Károlyi followed the development of the Czechoslovak-Hungarian relationship even during his emigration in London. He could not forgive the Czechoslovak leaders that after the Second World War the Czechoslovak politics did not support the peaceful settlement of East-European situation and the process leading to democratization, and on the contrary, it used such methods on the Hungarian minority that were unknown in Europe before fascism. He did not understand how the authors of laws and orders could expel people living in a mostly ethnically locked Hungarian line for decades from their homes, force them to work, take them to collection camps, and move them to the other side of the border with impunity. To the Hungarian government he also felt disappointment. He resented that he did not become the member of the Hungarian delegation meeting in London and Washington, since he had a larger circle of relationships, and/or he had a better local knowledge. He was angry at the Hungarian government, because when the delegation returned from its tour on the west, they did not address him to inform him about their results. From the side of the Hungarian government it was a tactical mistake, since they know that Beneš invited Károlyi to Prague and that he intended to discuss with him. Károlyi was embarrassed even because his proposal for establishing an office belonging to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be led by him, of which goal would had been to promote the co-operation with the neighbors, and to prepare the Duna-confederation, was rejected.
He was rightfully harmed when he was not addressed to be the member of the delegation of the Peace Conference in Paris and that later he could participate on it as an advisor and not as the leader of the delegation. Although, the reason could have been the fact that the Hungarian political leaders did not want to connect Károlyi’s name with the second “bad peace”. In my opinion Károlyi knew this and in spite of this he was ready to use his experience and influence for the sake of achieving peace. Károlyi realized that for Hungary instead of bad automatic response full of prejudice economic and political co-operation with the neighboring countries could also be the way out. His sense of justice is evidenced by the fact that he always spoke against the deportation of Germans living in Hungary and thought that the persecution of Hungarians living in Czechoslovakia was inhuman, and in all of his writings and acts he tried to prevent these acts.