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Liberation Monument on Gellert Hill in Budapest
Courtesy Sam and Sarah Stulberg
Hungarian independence came in 1918, when the Habsburg
Empire's disintegration gave not only the Hungarians but
empire's other nationalities the opportunity to establish
sovereign states. Hungarian soldiers, scattered among the
Habsburg troops at various places within and outside the
were ordered home by the government of Mihaly Karolyi in
of 1918. They found their country racked by political and
economic strife. Hungary could not resist the Romanian
advance to Budapest but did drive the Czechs out of
Hungary (present-day Slovakia). However, the Treaty of
signed in June 1920 pushed the Hungarian army back close
boundaries of the present-day boundaries
(see Trianon Hungary
, ch. 1). Moreover, the Treaty of Trianon limited Hungary's
military forces to 35,000 soldiers.
Motivated by a desire to regain lands lost as a result
Treaty of Trianon, Hungary allied itself with Italy in the
1920s and with Germany during the 1930s. Diplomacy and
rather than military action, brought about the return of
Hungarian lands in 1938-39. Hungary participated in the
invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 by committing a
force to aid in the German occupation of the Ukraine.
January 1942, however, the Hungarian army was thrown into
front lines with the Germans. Underequipped (one machine
allotted for every kilometer of front line) and lacking
clothing and fuel, this army suffered about 200,000
the battle of Stalingrad during the winter of 1942-43.
defeat, combined with the Soviet rollback of the German
quickly turned Hungarian public opinion against the war.
Hungarian prisoners of war fought on the side of their
captors or were sent as partisans behind the Axis lines in
southeastern Europe. Tired of the half-hearted Hungarian
effort, the Germans occupied Hungary in March 1943.
Miklos Horthy, the Hungarian regent, attempted to
armistice with the Allies in the fall of 1944. Horthy was
arrested by the Germans, but by then the Red Army had
entered eastern Hungary. The Red Army captured Budapest in
December and pushed the Germans completely out of Hungary
early April 1945.
Data as of September 1989