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RACIAL PROBLEMS

IN

HUNGARY

By

SCOTUS VIATOR

 

 

 

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CHAPTER XVII

A Political Trial in Hungary and its Sequel

 

" In this country the political opponent is not merely, a personal enemy ; he is also at once branded as the enemy of the fatherland." Pester Lloyd (leading article), February 15, 1907.

 

RÓZSAHEGY is a small town of 8,000 inhabitants, situated in lovely scenery on the Vág, in one of the western valleys of the Tátra Mountains. The central square of the town crowns the summit of an outlying ridge, at either end of which rise the church and town hall, and the Piarist seminary and gymnasium. Round the base of the hill lies a dirty but thriving little town, full of shops and cheap stores, while a long straggling street leads to the new factory town (Rózsahegy-Gyár), over a mile away. Rózsahegy (really Rosenberg), like most North Hungarian towns, was originally founded by German colonists ; to-day it is divided between the Slovaks and the Jews, and with two important exceptions, most of the shops in the town arc owned by the latter. The population of the surrounding district is overwhelmingly Slovak : in the whole county of Liptó 92.5 per cent, are Slovaks and 90.6 per cent, understand no Magyar. With the excep­tion of the government and county officials, the Piarist Fathers and some of the regular clergy, there are no Magyars m the district;  but the Jewish element here, as in most parts of Hungary, has allowed itself to be assimilated. While par­tially retaining German as the language of the family, they have for the most part adopted the extreme Chauvinist prin­ciples now favoured by official circles.

In 1905 the Town Council, which is patron of the parish of Rózsahegy,[1] presented Father Andrew Hlinka to the vacant living Hlinka, who is a native of the neighbouring village of Csernova, rapidly acquired great influence among his parishioners, the more so because he encouraged them in the use of their native Slovak tongue. As a member of the Town Council, he took a leading part in exposing the municipal jobbery and corruption which had so long been rampant m Rózsahegy. The town having fairly large revenues, and the sanitary and lighting conditions being still somewhat primitive, local rates were practically unknown. None the less extravagance and dishonesty allowed a debt to accumulate. Large sums were squandered on building repairs-some times, as in the case of the church and of the town inn, double the estimated figure. At last a heavy rate had to be imposed, and the scandal could no longer be concealed. The muni­cipal elections were fought under the impression of these reflations, and as a result the Slovaks for the first time gained a majority in the Town Council and, declaring for a policy of retrenchment and economy, put a stop to building schemes which would have cost the town an additional sum of 600,000 crowns. Needless to say, as most of the defeated party happened to be Magyar in politics, these events tended to increase the racial friction in the town.

Meanwhile Father Hlinka did not confine his attention to municipal problems, but took a more or less active part politics. For many years the constituency of Rozsahegy was held by the old Liberal Party, which governed Hungary from the Ausgleich till the fall of Count Tisza in 1905.

of the settled policy of this party had been to force the non­Magyar races of the country into political passivity, and thus to secure safe seats in the non-Magyar districts, with which to outvote the staunch Kossuthists of the central plains. Among the Slovaks Kossuthism never gained any hold, but except in a few small centres like Turócz St. Márton, national sentiment was either dormant or despairing. Thus the only serious rival of the Liberals in the North was the People's, or Clerical, Party, section 13 of whose official pro­gramme favoured the execution of Law XLIV. of 1868 guaran­teeing the Equal Rights of the Nationalities. In 1905, however, when the People's party had joined the Coalition, this section was so interpreted as to lose whatever practical value it may have possessed ; and the alienation of the Slovaks was com­pleted by the fact that Count Zichy, the nominal leader of the party, was falling more and more into the hands of two ultra-Magyar Chauvinists, Abbot Molnár and Mr. Stephen Rákovszky, a landed proprietor in the Rózsahegy district. At the elections of 1906, as the Liberal Party had disappeared entirely from the political arena, the People's Party regarded Rózsahegy as a seat which they might occupy unopposed. Their annoyance can therefore be imagined when the Slovaks of the district, still elated by their municipal victory, decided to contest the seat in the interest of the newly formed Slovak National Party. Their candidate, Dr. Srobár, a local Slovak doctor, was eagerly supported by Father Hlinka, who on more than one occasion addressed village audiences in his favour, and publicly demanded the execution of the Law of Nationalities. Great enthusiasm prevailed and on the day of the election Dr. Srobár headed the poll till the very last moment. The High Sheriff, informed by telephone of the course of events, came over from Liptó, and by canvassing from door to door among the Jewish shopkeepers, induced a large number of them to record their votes for Mr. Beniczky, t he Clerical and Magyar candidate, who was thus elected by a majority of 104. Throughout the day perfect order prevailed — a most unusual occurrence at a disputed election in Hungary.

On May 10, 1906 (i.e. within a fortnight of the election), Father Hlinka was suspended by the Bishop of Szepes (Zips) ab ordine et officio, on the ground of political agitation ! Against the nine Piarist priests and Hlinka's own curate, who had canvassed actively on the Magyar side (the latter it is said by the express orders of the Bishop !) no steps of any kind have been taken. The Papal Nuncio, when appealed to on the subject, demanded an explanation from the Bishop, and Hlinka was then permitted to read Mass, but not to preach or dispense the sacraments. In their indignation at this suspension, the parishioners decided to boycott the town church, and refused all intercourse with the priest appointed as Hlinka's substitute. They even attempted to organize processions, but these were promptly forbidden by the szólgabiró (the local executive official). On June 19, the Bishop, influenced by a memorial against Hlinka addressed to him by the Magyar Szövetség, once more wholly suspended Father Hlinka, this time on the ground of simony, committed at the time of his appointment to Rózsahegy. The vice­president of the society, Mr. Géza Chudovszky, if he did not actually take part in drawing up the memorial, was present when it was handed to the Bishop, and yet did not regard this fact as a reason for not presiding over the court which subsequently tried Father Hlinka ! Over two years have now elapsed, yet the contents of the memorial have been carefully kept secret, and thus the public is still ignorant of the nature of the charges against Hlinka. The nearest approach to simony of which he can be accused, is that being a man of some private means, he gave, previously to his appointment as priest of Rózsahegy, 75 crowns (Ł5) to a number of poor persons, to enable them to take part in the deputa­tion of welcome to Dr. Párvy, the newly appointed Bishop.

Father Hlinka, who had gone to plead his case personally with the Bishop, wired the same day to Dr. Šrobár : " New suspension. Arrive to-night." As the result of this telegram, a crowd of several hundred persons awaited the arrival of the train, gave Hlinka an ovation and indulged in hostile cries against the Magyars and the Jews. Gendarmes ordered the crowd to disperse, and they obeyed without any dis­turbance taking place.[2] A week later, Father Hlinka, Dr. Srobár and a number of other Slovaks were placed under arrest, and an inquiry was instituted against them for agi­tation and instigation during the recent elections. Hlinka, as well as three others who were merely charged with uttering anti-Magyar cries in the street, were left for five months in prison previous to trial.

At last, on November 26, 1906, the trial of Fathers Hlinka and Tomik, Dr. Šrobár and thirteen other Slovaks was opened before the court of Rózsahegy. A proclamation was issued, by which so long as the trial lasts all public meetings and demonstrations are prohibited in Rózsahegy and the surround­ing district, and every citizen must report all visitors to the police, under heavy penalties. The town was filled with gendarmes, forty guarding the courthouse, and forty the residence of the presiding judge. The latter, Mr. Chudovszky, himself of Slovak origin, has for many years, especially in his former capacity as public prosecutor in Nyitra, taken a prominent part in opposing national sentiment among the Slovaks. Since coming to Rózsahegy, he has been one of the leading members of the Magyar Szövetség (Union), which founded and owns a local Magyar paper (Rózsahegy és Vidéke) in which the most violent attacks upon the Slovaks and their tactics have frequently appeared. Needless to say, Mr. Chudovszky and Father Hlinka had long been on the worst possible terms. On these and other grounds (some of which were exaggerated and incorrect) the defence appealed to the court of second instance at Pressburg against the competence of Mr. Chudovszky to preside. The appeal was, however, overruled, the Court holding that Mr. Chudovszky was himself best fitted to decide as to his own impartiality. The latter took up the position that even if the five charges preferred against him were true (and this he denied) he would still be quite justified in presiding over the trial.[3] As the appeal accused him of "often trespassing the limits of a prosecutor" in political actions against the Slovaks, of lead­ing the Magyars of Rózsahegy in their boycott of the Slovaks, of writing "outrageously libellous" articles against them in the local paper, and of quarrelling with the town council led by Hlinka, on a matter of rent, it is obvious that if even a fraction of such charges were true (and there is every reason to accept his denial of their truth) Mr. Chudovszky would still be the last person in all Hungary competent to conduct the trial.

The accused were charged, under section 172 of the Criminal Code, with "instigation against the Magyar nationality," which the Public Prosecutor persisted throughout the trial in confusing with "the Hungarian nation!" No fewer than ninety-seven witnesses were summoned for the prosecution, close upon forty for the defence, but of the latter all save four were disallowed by the Court ! Moreover it is a remark­able fact that the incriminating witnesses almost without exception had either voted or taken an active part in the election on the other side from Hlinka, or else were members of the gendarmerie: that many of them were local officials or in positions of dependence on the authorities : and that some of the most important possessed only a smattering of the Slovak language. More than one witness was prevented by the presiding judge from answering questions put by counsel for the defence. One of the witnesses, a county official, hinted that Father Hlinka and his followers had leanings towards Russia ; but the president forbade his cross examina­tion. It is difficult to grasp the reasons for this refusal, since the charge of intrigue with Russia lies at the root of the whole "Pansláv movement," as the Pan-Magyars have christened the 'growing revival of national sentiment among the Slavs of Hungary ; and hence any clue to the reality of Pan­slavism ought to have been probed to the bottom. At one point the president declared that to sing "Isten áld meg a magyart" (God bless the Magyar) could not be described as a demonstration, when sung under Hlinka's window by an unfriendly crowd ; and yet the Slovak hymn "Hej Slováci" which contains no attack on the Magyars was treated as an "incitement against the idea of the Magyar state." Strangest of all was the treatment of Peter Cheben, one of the accused. This man was sitting one Sunday before the door of his house, and read aloud to a group of fifteen to twenty women an article from a Slovak newspaper. In it the phrase occurred, that there was nothing left for the Slovaks to do, but to take hoes and scythes into their hands and work harder than ever. A Jewess named Mrs. Eckstein, passing by with her maid, understood Cheben to be inciting the women round him to take up hoes and scythes and drive the hated Magyars from the town! The article in question was laid before the court, and it was proved that the witness had had no fewer than twelve lawsuits with the defendant and therefore was a somewhat prejudiced person. None the less, her statements were allowed to stand against the denials of the other women.

Thus the issue of the trial was a foregone conclusion. Sen­tences were passed as follows : —

 

Father Hlinka, 2 years and fine of 1,500 crowns.

Dr. Šrobár, 1 year.

Father Tomik, 4 months and 300 crowns.

Andrew Janček, 6 ,,

George Greguš, 6 ,,

Peter Cheben, 6 ,,

Antony Matiasovsky           

Michael Serafin         

Joseph Janovec              3 months each and 5,500

Steve Jesenský                    crowns.

George Novák         

John Vlkolinsky         

Total : 5 years and 10 months imprisonment and fines of 8,720 crowns (costs extra).

At the very time of the Hlinka trial, when the whole neighbourhood was in a fever of excitement, the Bishop saw fit to transfer Father Moyš, priest of Lúcski (a village of 1,400 inhabitants, some miles east of Rózsahegy) to another and inferior charge, on the ground of " Pansláv agitation." To prevent "excesses" arising from this high-handed action, troops were sent to Lúcski (Pester Lloyd, November 30, 1906). As a result, the parishioners vowed not to set foot in the church until their priest is restored to them. They erected in the open air the picture of a favourite saint, to which they go in pro­cession, presumably to invoke his intercession. Meanwhile the new priest is sternly boycotted, and for nearly two years the population has voluntarily deprived itself of the sacraments and has buried its own dead. No one will supply the priest with provisions, no servant will stay with him ; he is obliged to hack his own wood, and is dependent upon the protec­tion of soldiers. This tactless Bishop has transferred as many as twenty of his clergy as a punishment for national feeling, evidently failing to realize that his action only serves to spread the Slovak movement over a wider area. Meanwhile the unfortunate boycotting movement has spread from church to school. At the Hlinka trial it transpired from the address of the public prosecutor and from the evidence of four local teachers, that parents no longer sent their children to schools where the instruction was solely Magyar. In three vil­lages near Rózsahegy, out of 306 children only 46 appeared at the final examination : in Bielapotok, out of 100 only 4. The Court was amply justified in ascribing this to Father Hlinka's influence ; its fault lay in ignoring the fact that Hlinka was simply claiming the fulfilment of one of the funda­mental laws of the state.[4]

Father Hlinka's persecution by the civil authorities finds its counterpart in his treatment by the Bishop of Szepes (Zips), who is a pliant instrument in the hands of the Magyar Govern­ment. Father Hlinka was suspended on June 19, 1906, ab ordine et officio, on a charge of simony. A private discussion of his case had previously been held before the Bishop, and Mr. Chudovszky had been consulted. But no formal investigation has ever taken place, and Hlinka has never been heard in his own defence, though over two years have elapsed since his suspension. Of the eight points upon which the charge of simony was based, seven have gradually been allowed to drop, and the main hope of his accusers rests upon false informa­tion supplied to the Roman Curia regarding the eighth point. Hlinka is accused of having written to Mr. Szmrecsányi, the former High Sheriff of Liptó county, and to have promised, if elected priest of Rózsahegy, to use his influence in support of the Liberal Party and to refrain from all political action on behalf of the Slovaks. No such letter has been produced, and its very existence is effectively disproved by the sworn evidence of Mr. Szmrecsányi at the political trial of Father Hlinka in November, 1906. On that occasion he stated that he had given Hlinka nothing and had asked nothing from him, and expressly denied having helped Hlinka to the appointment in any way whatever. Hlinka's defenders only ascertained indirectly that this imaginary document had been dispatched /to Rome, and they at once took steps to inform the Curia of Mr. Szmrecsányi's evidence. The decision, however, is still pending.

Neither Bishop Párvy nor Father Hlinka can be said to have shown conspicuous tact or forbearance in their mutual rela­tions ; and it is possible that the Bishop, who has allowed himself to be captured by such extreme Chauvinists as Mr. Stephen Rákovszky,[5] may have been the dupe of unscrupulous informants. If the supporters of Hlinka were unwise enough to treat the question as a trial of strength between Hlinka and Párvy, the Roman Curia might well take alarm, and in the inter­ests of church discipline agree to rid the Bishop of "this turbu­lent priest." To Rome the political aspect of the case is a matter of complete indifference, and if Bohemian advocacy of Hlinka's cause should appear more lukewarm than Magyar official support of Párvy, the Slovaks will inevitably go to the wall. In any case, a loophole must be left to the Bishop for an honourable retreat, and there can be little doubt that this might be found but for the influence of the Coalition Govern­ment.

Meanwhile, Hlinka's persecution continues. On May 4, 1908, he was brought from the prison of Szeged to answer to a fresh charge of " incitement," incurred in two farewell articles addressed to his parishioners on his entrance into prison. For this the Court of Pressburg condemned him to eighteen months' imprisonment and a fine of 200 crowns, thus making a total of three years and a half for political offences.[6] The object of this unjust and vindictive policy is, of course, to deprive the Slovaks of one of their ablest leaders, and thus, if possible, to crush out all resistance to Magyarization.

 

THE MASSACRE OF CSERNOVA

Previous to his suspension, Father Hlinka had, partly out of his own means but chiefly by public subscription, arranged for the erection of a church in his birthplace, Csernova, a Slovak village of 1,300 inhabitants, situated within the parish of Rózsahegy. To the cost of erection, which reached the figure of 80,000 crowns (Ł3,300), no one belonging to the official world contributed a single farthing ; everything was done by the unaided efforts of the parishioners, and their friends. Under these circumstances, they naturally regarded themselves as entitled to some say in the matter of the consecration. In September, 1907, as the church was approaching completion, a petition in favour of its consecration was handed in to the bishop ; this document, which was only signed by four of the villagers, was drafted by Father Hlinka himself. The great majority of the people of Csernova, however, were indignant at this petition, and only willing to consent to the ceremony on condition that Hlinka was allowed to be present. This was the general sentiment expressed at a meeting which was held in the village on October 6, and which was attended by Dean Pazúrik and Father Fischer, the unpopular substitute of Hlinka since his suspension. Father Pazúrik helped the vil­lagers to prepare a fresh petition to the bishop, and promised to use his influence in its support. To the original petition Bishop Párvy replied by fixing October 20 as the day of the consecration and entrusting Canon Kurimsky with the ceremony ; to the second petition and to a third which insisted more strongly than ever that before the ceremony took place Hlinka must either be rehabilitated or finally condemned, the bishop returned no answer whatever. Deputations and messages were equally without effect. Father Pazúrik did indeed obtain a postponement of the date, but merely in order to announce from all the pulpits of the neighbourhood that the ceremony would definitely take place on Sunday, October 27. Alarmed at this, the villagers sent a fresh deputation to Pazúrik and Fischer. They were met with evasive answers from the two priests, but it transpired at the subsequent trial that Pazúrik ordered the painter to be finished with his work inside the church by the following Sunday. On Saturday, the 26th, Bačkor the village mayor visited Pazúrik and advised him to abandon all idea of the consecration, owing to the excite­ment which prevailed in Csernova. According to Bačkor's own story, the priest replied, " Whether it ends well or ill, the consecration must take place."[7] The villagers had already telegraphed to the canon who was to officiate, that they would not permit the ceremony, and as a result Canon Kurimsky actually gave up his journey to Csernova. But the clergy of Rózsahegy, under the influence of the civil authorities, decided not to let the matter drop, and doubtless by way of pouring oil upon the troubled waters, sent gendarmes on the previous day to Csernova. As a last resort, the villagers had removed and hidden the various church utensils and vestments required for the ceremony ; but the gendarmes recovered these by force and set a watch upon the church. On Sunday morning early the villagers sent a further deputation to the Rózsahegy clergy, begging Fathers Pazúrik and Fischer to renounce their intention, since the greatest excitement prevailed in the village. Mr. Andaházy, the chief szólgabiró, who had received a report from the gendarmes in the village, also strongly advised the priests to desist, since he could not answer for the consequences. Only when they stubbornly ignored his repeated warnings, did he give them an escort of gendarmes and instruct Mr. Pereszlényi the under-szól­gabiró to accompany them to Csernova. The latter, unlike some of those who accompanied him, is a genuine Magyar by birth, and is specially suited to his official position amid a Slovak population, by reason of the fact that he is ignorant of the Slovak language !

A slovak peasant group.

 

In two carriages the false apostles of Magyar culture set forth upon their self-imposed errand, escorted by Pereszlényi and his eight gendarmes. At the entrance of the village of Csernova, in the long narrow street, a crowd of several hundred Slovak peasants had assembled. A solid phalanx blocked the way, the cortege was greeted with cries of "Turn back," "We don't want you," and a spokesman came forward from the crowd and begged the szólgabiró to desist from the attempt to consecrate the church. The szólgabiró ordered his coach­man to force a passage through the crowd, and when the latter attempted to obey, a number of young fellows seized the horses' heads and tried to turn the carriage back in the direc­tion from which it came. At this moment stones must have been thrown from the back of the crowd ; for when all was over, it was discovered that, though no one else in the party had been hurt, one of the gendarmes had received a slight injury in the face. Fortunately this could speedily be remedied by the application of some English sticking-plaster, and he was then doubtless free to assist his comrades to remove the dead and dying. For without any preliminary warning to the crowd to disperse, the gendarmes began to fire upon the peasants. Some accounts assert that Pereszlényi himself brandishing his stick, gave the order "quick fire"; but he has publicly denied this in the press, and there is no good reason for doubt­ing his word.[8] The commander of the gendarmerie appears to have ordered one of his men to fire on any one whom he saw lifting stones, and hence the first victim was a woman, shot through the breast at a distance of two paces. The other gendarmes followed suit, though none had actually heard the command to fire.

It matters very little who gave the order to fire ; one dread­ful fact stands beyond all doubt. Without even resorting to the bayonet, far less to the butt-ends of their rifles, the gendarmes fired indiscriminately into the crowd, packed to­gether as it was in the narrow roadway, and some are said to have reloaded and discharged again. Nine persons were killed on the spot, including two women; three more succumbed to their wounds in the course of the day; twelve more were seriously wounded, and three of their number have subse­quently died. Among the. slain was a woman far advanced with child, who in her dying agony gave birth to an infant. Another was a girl of sixteen, who tried to seize a gendarme's rifle and was shot down in the attempt. The number of persons slightly wounded is said to have exceeded sixty.

For a time all was in confusion. The panic-stricken peasants scattered in all directions, the clergy fled in just horror at the bloodshed caused by their own insistence. The szólgabiró, instead of sending for doctors in all haste, turned back to Rózsahegy to summon the military and to make preparations for a judicial inquiry ! A young peasant had the presence of mind to run for a doctor ; and thus Dr. Srobár, the leader of the Rózsahegy Slovaks, was the first to appear upon the scene. This so incensed the szólgabiró, who soon afterwards returned to Csernova with a clerk to draw up a report, that he at once had the youth who had fetched Dr. Šrobár arrested and put into prison. So great was the terror among the villagers, that when Dr. Polgár, the official surgeon, arrived, hardly any of the wounded would trust themselves to his care. An even clearer idea of the depth of feeling among the peasantry may be obtained from the fact that the relatives of the victims refused the assistance of the Magyar clergy and buried their dead without the rites of the Church ; that all the wounded with one exception refused to receive a Magyar priest : and that the eighteen persons who were arrested for their share in the incident declined to attend the Magyar prison chaplain's Mass.

Such an incident naturally could not be ignored by Parlia­ment, and two interpellations were brought before the Lower House in the course of the week. Despite the conflicting reports which were circulating in the Press, the Speaker, Mr. Justh, did not regard the matter as urgent, and the discussion was not open till Wednesday, October 30th.

Mr. Hodža, the Slovak leader, in addressing his interpella­tion to the Minister of the Interior, was repeatedly interrupted by loud and hostile cries. The Deputy-Speaker rebuked him for speaking at such length, and actually insinuated that he was treating the incident in a cynical manner. When Mr. Hodža protested against this charge, he was at once called to order, and when he apologized for the length of his explanation, a deputy cried out that he was simply talking to waste the House's time. When at length, roused by other frivolous and insulting interruptions, he went on to inquire, "who then were the murderers?" he was greeted by a storm of abuse and shouts of "You are the murderers." Mr. Rákovszky was obliged to suspend the sitting for five minutes, and even after proceedings were resumed a second suspension was almost rendered necessary. But if the attitude of the House in general was sufficiently reprehensible, the reply of Count Andrássy was even more extraordinary. He began by expressing his surprise that Mr. Hodža had dared to inter­pellate in this particular matter. He then stated that accord­ing to information received, all idea of consecrating the church had been abandoned, and that the clergy had come with the very object of calming the people and of announcing that the consecration would not take place. It is unfor­tunate that Count Andrássy made no attempt to explain why the clergy charged with such a message (which they must have known would be received with the greatest delight by the people), took an escort of gendarmes with them, to say nothing of an unpopular official who could not speak the language of the villagers, and why on finding a large crowd blocking their progress, they did not at once make known their  errand. Incredible as it may seem, the explanation was regarded as satisfactory by the House, which gave new and signal proof of its racial intolerance by its attitude to the whole affair. But it sets too great a demand on the credulity of external observers, and his speech will go far to confirm the impression, already widespread in Hungary, that Count Andrássy's utterances on the racial question do more harm to his own cause than all the mistakes of the Coalition Government or the unlovely Jingoism of its satellites in Parliament.

After this promising beginning Count Andrássy went on to assert that the standpoint of the villagers, in not allowing anyone save Hlinka to consecrate the church, was in itself an offence against all order in State and in Church — an asser­tion which was greeted with stormy applause from the House. When, he added, the crowd threw stones, and caught hold of the rifles of the gendarmes, their captain gave the order to fire ; and this being so, he, the Minister of the Interior, took full responsibility for their action, and saw not the slight­est reason for suspending the officials concerned from office. In conclusion, Count Andrássy quoted from an article pub­lished some months before in Mr. Hodža's paper, Slovenský Týždenník, entitled "We can wait no longer." This article referred to the victory of the well-known Roumanian priest Father Lucaciu at a recent bye-election, despite the swarms of gendarmes and troops employed by the authorities, and contained the following passage : "The Roumanians are not afraid of a little blood ; and the result was that this nation has won. But we Slovaks are but a timid people. We have never indulged in violence, and so our position is a worse one than that of the Roumanians." Only those who know of the veritable pitched battles by which alone the Roumanians have sometimes managed even to reach the poll, can realize the terrible truth of these words.

Mr. Günther, the Minister of Justice, rode the same high horse as his colleague, actually boasted of the withdrawal of the postal delivery from certain foreign newspapers, and appeased the outraged feelings of the House by the assurance that eight Press actions were pending against Mr. Hodža's journal alone, to say nothing of other Slovak newspapers. Thus an incident which could never have occurred in most Western countries, or whose occurrence would have caused the fall of the Government, was merely treated as a pretext for re­newed abuse and persecution of the wicked "Panslavs."[9]

Needless to say, the attitude of the Magyar Press corre­sponded to that of the parliamentary Jingoes[10]; and even the Pester Lloyd, which treated the matter with conspicuous moderation, wrote as follows: "We shall say no more of the Hlinkas and the Hodžas. These are small fry, who live upon blind nationalism, just as those amongst us who rise to honours and riches through frenzied Chauvinism.[11] People of that sort one seizes by the collar if they break the law, and basta." The writer takes himself more seriously when he goes -on to argue that prosecutions are no policy, and that the general policy of the Government towards the nationali­ties must be changed. "But," he adds, "we want to be the masters in our own house."[12] Here is the crux of the whole Hungarian question. Soft phrases about the policy of Deák, comradeship, "the moral suasion of culture and law," are mere waste of breath, so long as this odious phrase is upheld. If the Magyars are the masters, the other races must be servants, and while this relationship subsists it is absurd to talk of equality.

The unhappy incident of Csernova was used by Father Hlinka's enemies to blacken his reputation still further, and at the same time to touch a weak spot in his armour by mak­ing his sister the scapegoat of the subsequent trial. The story was spread abroad that Father Hlinka wished at all costs to prevent the consecration of the church, incited the people of Csernova to resistance, and then decamped to Mor­avia, in order to be out of harm's way. The true facts are very different. More than three months before the massacre Father Hlinka had made arrangements with Czech friends to give a series of lectures upon the Slovaks the following autumn in a number of Bohemian and Moravian towns. The first lecture was to have been held at Göding on October 13 but a week before Hlinka sent the following telegram to the professor who had been entrusted with the arrange­ments : "Impossible owing to dedication of church in Csernova and possible visit of Bishop : — Andreas." Hlinka's idea that the Bishop was coming proved to be based on a misunder­standing ; and as the dedication did not take place on the 13th, and as there seemed no prospect of any fresh arrangement, Hlinka yielded to the pressure of his friends, and left Rózsahegy on October 17 for Moravia. During the next few days he lectured at Olmütz, Kremsier and other places, and was in Göding when a telegram arrived announcing the massacre. In his horror and excitement at the news, he wished to hurry back to Rózsahegy, but his friends, knowing that this would merely have led to his arrest, restrained him with difficulty and eventually induced him to continue his course of lectures as announced. Yet at this very time certain Magyar news­papers were spreading the story that Father Hlinka, disguised in woman's clothing, had agitated among the peasantry for days before the massacre and fled out of danger at the critical moment !

Father Hlinka was probably well advised in continuing his lectures, for they contributed materially to the storm of indignation which the incident of Csernova aroused in Bohemia, and indeed in most parts of the Austrian Empire. Father Sillinger, a Moravian member of the Reichsrath, brought forward an interpellation on the subject, which led to a heated demonstration against Magyar policy. The speeches of Professor Redlich for the German Liberals and Professor Masaryk for the Czechs accurately reflected the opinion of most Austrians ; and Dr. Weisskirchner, the President of the House and one of the leaders of the Christian Socialist party, formally expressed the sympathy of the House towards the relatives of the victims. This attitude was keenly resented by the Hungarian Parliament as an unwarranted interfer­ence in the private affairs of an independent state, and mutual recriminations between the two countries were the result, In this connexion it is impossible to bestow full approval upon either Parliament. On the one hand, Hungary was fully entitled to treat as an insult the cries of Austrian hot­heads for active intervention. On the other hand, no true believer in the Dual System could concede the theory of absolute non-interference between two States which are interdependent, not independent, of each other. Had the Csernova incident occurred upon the Servian or Roumanian frontier, it might easily have led to complications with Belgrad or Bucarest, such as must have involved not merely Hungary but Austria as well. The idea that Austria must blindly and unquestioningly follow Hungary, or Hungary Austria, in dealing with some internal affair which influences opinion in both countries, and their relations to neighbouring states, is altogether intolerable and would speedily prove fatal to the partnership. It is only necessary to consult the history of the last half century', in order to realize that the theory of non-interference has never been acted upon in the past, and that Hungary has been the chief offender.[13]

Eighteen villagers were at once arrested for complicity in what was officially described as "the revolt of Csernova" ; and a number of gendarmes were quartered in the village for months afterwards. The gendarmes who had fired the volley were brought before a court martial but acquitted of all blame. But this was not deemed sufficient by the local authorities, who were determined that all the responsibility should be thrown upon Hlinka and his supporters. On March 2,1908, therefore, no fewer than fifty-nine persons were brought to trial before the court of Rózsahegy on a charge of " violence against the authorities and against private individuals." As usual the presiding judge was Mr. Géza Chudovszky, Father Hlinka's leading opponent in the dis­trict ; and the fact that the latter's sister was the principal defendant merely serves to emphasize his unfitness to conduct this new trial. In such circumstances a severe sentence was to be expected ; but the cruel truth surpassed all expecta­tions. Mrs. Fulla, née Hlinka — a woman of fifty-seven — was condemned to three years' imprisonment, while twenty­two men and sixteen women (including one who had lost her husband in the massacre, who was herself severely wounded in the breast, who had seven children, and against whom nothing was proved save that she was present in the crowd) were sentenced to terms varying from eighteen to six months' imprisonment. Thus a total of thirty-six years and six months' imprisonment was imposed on these unhappy peasants for acting as every self-respecting man or woman would have acted in their position.

A full account of this astounding trial would form a highly instructive commentary on the Magyar judicial attitude towards the subject races ; but the proportions of the present volume compel me to be brief, and I must confine myself to recounting a few of its most salient features.

It was, of course, established beyond all doubt that the villagers had agitated previously against the ceremony; indeed Father Pazúrik actually received a threatening letter, warning him that he would be beaten if he attempted to con­secrate the church. It was further proved that the crowd resisted and threatened the authorities on their arrival, and one gendarme swore that he heard cries of "Kill the Jews," which might have referred to the Hebrew origin of Father Fischer. But so far from blaming them for their resistance, I fail to see what else they could have done without sinking to the level of mere beasts of burden.

The fifty-nine defendants were selected in an entirely arbitrary manner. Those peasants who came forward as witnesses at the preliminary inquiry in order to establish their alibi, found themselves brought to trial for the same offence as those arrested at the time; and this whole­sale indictment entirely denuded the defence of witnesses, since all those who could give first-hand evidence concerning the incident were either killed or in the dock. In such cir­cumstances, the principal witnesses were the gendarmes, the szólgabiró and the two priests, all of whom were naturally hostile to the defendants.

The judge conducted the trial with extreme severity and par­tiality, repeatedly browbeating and contradicting the witnesses, One witness, Francis Holota, he interrupted with the words, "That is a lie, I will not let you say more of that," When one of the defendants, in [cross-examination, asked that Father Fischer should be heard in support of [a certain statement, Chudovszky exclaimed, "Kindly don't offer me advice. We shall soon see whether there is any truth in your tittle-tattle." One witness, Stephen Fiath, in his excitement cried, "It was a murder, just a regular murder" ; whereupon the judge fined him zoo crowns, with the alternative of five days' arrest. When a female witness, Ludmilla Druppa, asserted that Mrs. Fulla incited the crowd to throw stones at the gendarmes (a fact which the great majority of witnesses denied), and when Mrs. Fulla indignantly interrupted and called the witness a liar, the judge promptly imposed on her a fine of 100 crowns. On the other hand, he treated witnesses for the prosecution with marked leniency, refused to press home facts which seemed to favour the accused, and more than once prohibited counsel for the defence from questioning and cross-examining. A good deal turned on the question whether Pereszlényi's coach­man used his whip against the crowd, as this might be regarded as a provocation. The villagers maintained that he did, while the gendarmes to a man denied it. Yet Mr. Chudovszky refused to permit the coachman himself to be put on oath ! In the same way he would not allow the official report of the coroner to be read in court, though one of the gendarmes maintained that a peasant had seized hold of his bayonet and no trace of such a wound was to be found on any of the survivors. It had been established at the inquest that all the wounds were in vital parts, and their position proved the gendarmes to have fired upon the unfortunate peasants in their flight; and it was to prevent the publication of these awkward facts that Mr. Chudovszky disallowed the reading of the report.

It was proved that no one was injured by the stones which the villagers threw, so that the danger of the priests and gendarmes cannot have been very great. Indeed, only one person out of the entire fifty-nine admitted having thrown a stone ; only against the first seven was any direct share in the resistance proved ; the remainder were merely present in the crowd and raised cries and shouts of protest. Judg­ment was therefore based upon an anachronous provision of the Hungarian criminal code, by which collective offences are punishable more severely than individual offences.[14] The judge doubtless had in his mind a famous pronouncement of the Supreme Court that mere passive presence in a crowd guilty of excesses constitutes a committal of the same offence.[15]

Father Pazúrik maintained that he and his colleague, when they went to Csernova, had no intention of consecrating the church without the consent of the villagers, and merely wished to read to them a letter of Hlinka, which approved of the ceremony. The improbability of this story may be gathered from the fact that the dedication had been announced for that day from all the pulpits of the neighbourhood, that a deputation from Csernova had in vain urged Pazúrik to desist, and that the szólgabiró invited a friend whom he met on the road to come with them "to the consecration." The priests appear to have brought with them all that was requisite for the service, but this they explained at the trial by their intention to telephone for the Bishop's permission to proceed with the ceremony, in the event of the villagers expressing their approval. Considering that they only arrived in Cser­nova at 10.15, that the nearest telephone was well over a mile distant, and that some delay would have been almost inevitable in establishing connexion with Szepes Váralja (seventy miles away), it is difficult to see how they could have hoped in any circumstances to begin the ceremony before midday, after which hour high mass may not be cele­brated. In short, their story can scarcely be taken seriously ; either they had already obtained the Bishop's permission, or else they went prepared to conduct the ceremony by force. The fact that Canon Kurimszky, who was originally deputed to officiate, never came at all, suggests that the former alter­native is the true one.

Mr. Andaházy, the chief szólgabiró of the district, gave evidence that on the morning of the massacre he had received reports from the gendarmes in Csernova warning him of the excitement in the village, that he called upon Fathers Pazúrik and Fischer and repeatedly urged them to abandon the project. When they still persisted, he instructed Mr. Pereszlényi to accompany them, but to withdraw all the gendarmes immediately if they should meet with any resist­ance. Both the priests and Pereszlényi, in the course of their evidence, asserted that they had merely met each other accidentally on the road to Csernova, but the latter, when confronted with his chief, admitted that he might possibly have received instructions to go with them, though he had no recollection of receiving them. It is highly characteristic that Mr. Andaházy, who alone of all the authorities showed signs of tact and humanity, has since the massacre been removed from office, and Pereszlényi promoted to his place!

Perhaps, however, the most astounding incident in the whole trial is the fact that this same Pereszlényi acted as reporter for the Hungarian Telegraphic Bureau,[16] and thus was respon­sible for the reports of the trial in the Hungarian Press. As Mr. Chudovszky would not allow a single representive of Slovak or Czech newspapers entrance to the court, the out­side world was mainly dependent for its information con­cerning the trial upon one of the chief witnesses for the pro­secution, who had taken a prominent part in the actual mas­sacre, and whose reputation depended upon the conviction of the prisoners.

I think I have said enough to show that the Csernova trial was a mere travesty of justice, and that the sentence was literally a punishment imposed for daring to survive mas­sacre. The Court of Rózsahegy has no mercy: for it justice and equity alike are a sealed book, and from its brutal decisions we may appeal to a higher court, to the public opinion of the civilized world. If the incident had occurred in Turkey or in Russia, it would have aroused a storm of indignation throughout Europe ; and the fact that it actually occurred in the country of the Golden Bull and the Pragmatic Sanction is no reason why it should be allowed to pass unpunished. Nor is it unreasonable to express the hope that the venerable Emperor-King, on the occasion of his impending Diamond Jubilee, may see fit to extend a pardon to Father Hlinka and the victims of the Csernova trial, even if no general amnesty should be proclaimed for political offences.


 


Note. — Authorities for this chapter: (1) The indictment and verdict (No. 2,634, December 6, 1906) in the first Hlinka trial, of which I possess copies ; (2) A Political Criminal Trial in Hungary, published by the American Slovak Association of Journalists of U.S.A. and dedicated "To the free and fair people of the United States." This pamphlet, though based on original documents, must be used with considerable caution, owing to its omissions and inaccurate translations. (3) Reports of the massacre of Csernova and of the subsequent trial, in Pester Lloyd, and other newspapers (in English, see Times of Oct. 30, Nov. i, 1907, and Spectator of Nov. 2, 1907, March 28, 1908). (4) Ä private account of the massacre sent to me direct from Rózsahegy ; this contains exagger­tions, but is on the whole accurate. (5) Two detailed reports of the Csernova trial of last spring, drawn up on the spot by persons for whose trustworthiness and accuracy I can vouch, but whom, for obvious reasons, I cannot allude to by name. I also had the advantage of personal conversations in May and June, 1907, with two of the leading actors in the drama — Mr. Chudovszky ,'and Dr. Šrobár. Appendix xxi. contains the defence of Father Hlinka before the Court of Pressburg in May, 1908. This speech, and the photograph which forms the frontis­piece of my book, will enable the reader to form his own personal impression of the Slovak leader.

[1] By right of a special charter dating from the year 1424, allowing them to elect as their priest quemcunque et undequaque.

[2] In the subsequent trial one of the charges against Dr. Šrobár was that he had made known Hlinka's wire — as if this were a criminal act ! — and had thus caused an anti-Magyar demonstration, or in legal phrase, had " incited one nationality to hatred of another." It transpired that the Postmaster of Rózsahegy had revealed to the szólgabiró the contents of the wire, thus violating postal secrecy. The authorities had therefore ample time to act, and theirs would have been the blame, had the bloodbath of Csernova been forestalled in Rózsahegy itself.

[3] This was the attitude which he took up in a private conversa­tion with the present writer.

[4] I am quite aware that in the strict legal sense Hungary, like our own country, has no "fundamental" laws. But those who regard Habeas Corpus and the Act of Settlement as two of the foundations on which modern Britain is built, will hardly attempt to deny that the Law of 1868, guaranteeing equal rights to the various races of Hungary, partakes equally of the nature of a fundamental law, which may not lightly be revoked or left unexecuted.

[5] One of the leaders of the People's Party and Vice-President of the Hungarian Parliament.

[6] See Pester Lloyd, May 5, 1908, and Appendix xxi., containing" his speech in his own defence.

[7] At the trial (see p. 347) when Bačkor gave evidence to this effect, he was interrupted by the judge, who remarked that Father Pazúrik could not possibly have said this. Bačkor repeated his evidence no less than three times, until at last, yielding to the intimidation of the judge, he conceded that the phrase used by Pazúrik might have run, "Whether it ends well or ill, we must go there."

[8] See Pester Lloyd, Oct. 27 to Nov. 2, 1907.

[9] Mr. Széli, the ex-Premier, however, affects to believe that "incidents like that of Csernova occur in every country." See his speech at the Congress of Magyar Cultural Leagues, June 21, 1908, reported in Pester Lloyd of following day.

[10] A selection of the comments of the Magyar Press would be most instructive reading. The massacre was invariably described as the "revolt!"

[11] A very delicate reference to the prevalent corruption.

[12] A similar confusion of ideas is betrayed by another article of the Pester Lloyd, April 3, 1907, where the writer advocates a coalition of all Hungarians" against Austria and against the nationalities." If then the nationalities are not Hungarians, what are they ? If they dare to call themselves Slovaks or Roumanians, they are promptly accused of Panslavism or Daco-Romanism. Here we have the same state of mind as created the proverb "tót nem ember" ("the Slovak is not a man").

[13] Andrássy's action against the Hohenwart Ministry in 1870, and Bánffy's action against Badeni in 1897, are only two of the most notable instances. Andrássy's attitude in 1878, when he won the Tisza Cabinet for the Austrian policy in Bosnia in defiance of Hungarian public opinion, hardly fits into the same category, and since 1867 no case has occurred where Austrian influence has caused the fall of a Hungarian Cabinet.

[14] § 163 (1878 v.) for collective offences up to five years, for individual up to three years.

[15] Under the terms of § 176.

[16] Except for the first two days.

 

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