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National Romanticism: The Formation of National Movements

Balázs Trencsényi
Michal Kopeček

Chapter IV. The Nation and Its Neighbors in Europe: Problems of Coexistence

Magyarism in Hungary

Ľudovít Šuhajda
Traduction de Petr Roubal et Gordon MacLean

Texte intégral

1Title: Der Magyarismus in Ungarn in rechtlicher, geschichtlicher und sprachlicher Hinsicht, mit Berichtigung der Vorurteile, aus denen seine Anmassungen entspringen (Magyarism in Hungary from the aspect of law, history and language, with the correction of the prejudices that are the base of its conceits)

2Originally published: Leipzig, Carl Drobisch, 1834

3Language: German

4Translated from the Slovak version: “Maďarizmus v Uhorsku z právnej, historickej a rečovej stránky,” in Ján V. Ormis, ed., O reč a národ. Slovenské národné obrany z rokov 1832–1848 (Bratislava: SAV, 1973), pp. 275–281.

About the author

5Ľudovít Matej Šuhajda [1806, Banská Štiavnica (Ger. Schemnitz, Hun. Selmecbánya, present-day Slovakia) – 1872, Banská Štiavnica]: Lutheran pastor,teacher and journalist. Born into a family of yeomen, Šuhajda worked for some time as a furrier. He studied at the Protestant seminary in his native town and in 1824 enrolled at the Lutheran lyceum in Pressburg (Hun. Pozsony, Slo. Prešporok, today Bratislava); later he continued his theological studies in Vienna and at the University of Jena. After 1830 he served as a chaplain in Banská Bystrica (Ger. Neusohl, Hun. Besztercebánya), and later taught at, and for some time was also headmaster of, the Lutheran lyceum in Banská Štiavnica, one of the most important cultural and educational centers of Upper Hungary. He was popular with the Slovak students at the lyceum for his publicistic work defending Slovak national rights and for his support of Slovak cultural and educational institutions. His essays defending the activities of Slovak students were also published in the Hungarian liberal Pesti Hírlap. In addition, Šuhajda wrote several articles dealing with literary criticism and poetry, and also published a number of his own sermons.

6Main works: Der Magyarismus in Ungarn in rechtlicher, geschichtlicher und sprachlicher Hinsicht, mit Berichtigung der Vorurteile, aus denen seine Anmassungen entspringen [Magyarism in Hungary from the aspect of law, history and language, with correction of the prejudices that are the base of its conceits] (1834); Neue, historisch-kritische Ansicht über das asiatische Seyn und das erste europäische Thatenleber der Magyaren [New critical-historical view on the Asiatic being and the first European deeds of the Hungarians] (1837); De natura poeseos suis in classe humanitatis auditoribus [On the nature of poetry, to his students in the Humanities class] (1851); Kázně [Sermons] (1863).


7During the first decades of the nineteenth century the development of nationalism in East Central Europe led from an interest in national language and culture to national mobilization and the formulation of a national political program aiming at some form of territorialization. In Hungary, a strong, independent and unified state came to be the main aim of gentry liberalism, supported also by the nascent bourgeoisie and intelligentsia. Despite their disapproval of the democratization of the Hungarian political system, some of the magnates who rejected the centralist policies of the Habsburg Court joined the liberals in their opposition to Vienna. The common ideological platform of the opposition became the ‘extension of rights’ of the political nation (i.e. the nobility) to the non-privileged population, and this program was underpinned by the vision of a uniform and modern Hungarian nation comprising both Magyars and all the non-Magyar peoples living in the territory of ‘St. Stephen’s Crown.’ One of the crucial means of creating such a political community was considered to be the introduction of a common language into all spheres of public life. This effort led the Hungarian Diets of the 1830–1840s to promote Magyarization, especially in education and public administration.

8In Upper Hungary, the Hungarian nation and state-building process started to clash with the growing Slovak national consciousness. In this situation, a new wave of ‘national apologies’ appeared (Pavol Senický, Michal Kuniš, Samuel Hojč, Ľudovít Šuhajda), which were mostly published abroad in the 1830s. These authors usually admitted the dominant position of the Hungarian language in the country and expressed their allegiance to the Hungarian state, to the establishment and defense of which, as they emphasized, the Slavs (and particularly the Slovaks) had contributed significantly in the past. Usually they also expressed sympathy with the democratizing and modernizing tendencies in the plans of the Hungarian reform movement. However, they criticized the policy of Magyarization, which in their view was poisoning the friendly coexistence among the nations in multi-ethnic Hungary. Inspired by German Romantic literature and its conception of the nation based on culture—mediated above all by Ján Kollár—they favored the theory of natural rights (of man as well as of the national community) in contrast to the concept of historical rights promoted by the traditional Hungarian political discourse.

9Besides the usual apologetic arguments, one finds in Šuhajda’s text ideas and suggestions concerning the solution of the language controversies in Hungary. He opposed on principle the extension of any language by administrative measures. In his view, each language had a right to be used and extended only on the basis of its own attractiveness and usefulness. In the spirit of the German Romantic conception of nation, Šuhajda distinguished between the ‘homeland’ or ‘state’ as an artificial and replaceable category and the ‘nation’ as a natural given which demanded man’s primary emotional engagement. Hence, for him the “nation” as defined by language—and thus of enduring nature—stood above the state. According to Šuhajda, the multiethnic Hungarian homeland consisted of eight regions populated by eight nations. The only possible way to guarantee the future of the common state was therefore a law-based union of all of these nations based on a political agreement.

10The primary aim of the Slovak ‘national apologies’ was the reinforcement of the historical ‘givens,’ the most important of which was the national language, albeit as yet uncodified. At the same time, in these texts there is still missing the specific notion of ‘Slovakness’ and the particular narrative of Slovak national identity which was to be developed by Ľudovít Štúr’s generation in the coming decade. Nevertheless, Šuhajda in his text sought to raise the ‘ethnic’ nation to the position of a political subject, which was one of the key ingredients of the ensuing Slovak federalist discourse as applied in the Hungarian context. From this point of view, Šuhajda was also accepted by and integrated into the later national movement. In the revolutionary years of 1848–1849 these federalist incentives were adopted by the leading personalities of the Slovak national movement, who set the territorial autonomy of Slovakia within Hungary or the whole Habsburg Empire as their main goal.


Magyarism in Hungary

12Of all oppressions, the most abhorrent is that which aims at the destruction of the language of a particular nation, for it attacks the popular basis and consequently the very dignity of the nation. This is the intention of the Hungarian nobility and—according to our understanding—of the Hungarian nation as such. From the native nations of the country—the Slavs, who are divided here into Slovaks, Ruthenians, Slovenians, Croats, Slavonians, and Serbs and from other tribes, such as the Germans in Transylvania and in the major cities of Hungary, the Wallachians in the south, scattered Jews and Gypsies, and if there be any, from any additional ragged rabble, they want to make loyal and enthusiastic Magyars. This is to be done through the help of the Hungarian language, which will be forced upon the other nationalities of Hungary. Since it is in general deplorable to imitate foreign mores and habits, foreign ways and moods, since parroting testifies to the unhealthy and diseased spirit of the nation, it is most unjust and impermissible for any nation to demand from the inhabitants of any particular state the acquisition of its own language, way of thinking and lifestyle. The conquests of language are as unjust and damnable as are the conquests of land, even more damned, as language has far greater value for a man than land. How could any nation dare to force any other nation, even if in the same political state, to accept its language, its ways and mores, through the help of compulsory laws, which, as it is to be feared, will introduce inquisitorial trials over (the Hungarian) language. Language, the property of each and every nation, represents the distinguishing feature of a nation, its character, through which the soul of the community is expressed, even the very meaning of the nation. If, however, the language is obstructed and destroyed, the very humanity of man is wasted and he is made a spiritual slave. What type of tyranny could be more cruel, more difficult to bear, more hideous, and yes, more mean-minded than this despotic destruction and disgrace of the holiest rights of peoples and nations? […]

13Hungarians, you should become a proper nation in your own territory—do not become French, nor German, nor Slavs. But do not forget at the same time that our state consists of many languages, that each nation is independent and its rights are holy, that each has the right to the protection of its language, and that no nation is in any way obliged to grant to another nation its innermost essence, its self. […]

14We ask, therefore, those who attempt to Magyarize, who so often and so firmly praise the homeland and stress their patriotic duties: why cannot the love for the common homeland unite with the love for a particular nation and language? And if one has to choose: which would one love more, homeland or nation? Homeland could be found easily everywhere, nation and language are nowhere to be found. The former is cold, dead land, objectively existing and a rather distant mixture; the latter is our own blood, life, soul, subjectivity—that is, what we are. It is hard to understand how it is possible to forbid speaking in a certain language. Language means the communication of thoughts. It exists, therefore, between individuals and people who need or love each other; once they no longer want each other, each goes his own way and speaks to himself. The human soul cannot communicate with another human soul directly, but only indirectly, that is, through language. […]

15This is true for the sphere of everyday, common, technical and commercial life, in correspondence, friendship, industry, business and so on, everywhere where several nations are living in one state. In general, careful ac-count must be taken of the fact that in a country which is composed of numerous nations, all the institutions must be run differently than in the case of a nation which lives in more than one state (Germany) or in the case of one nation forming one state. It can be proven that the last option is, from numerous perspectives, the most desirable. It would be the worthiest and most appropriate if states were formed in such a way as to cover the territory of a single nation. States should be divided not according to mountains, valleys, rivers or lakes, but according to language, which is both the tool and essence of the spiritual integrity of a nation. One nation should form one state, and one state should be formed by one nation. But this is merely an astute (rather than wise) principle of statecraft, which could be valid only for an area where there are no other obstacles, while still showing respect for the rational ideal of the eternal rights of nations. In those countries where historical necessity led to such a state of affairs and conditions that a number of nations must live next to each other under one power, a legal relationship must be established which is just to all parties, there must be tolerance for the aspirations in the educational sphere of each nation. The Hungarians must be left to continue their impressively started progress towards a cultivated language; the Slavs in Hungary must be allowed to use their language and unite in their literary language with the Czechs, Poles, Serbs and others; the Germans must be allowed to keep alive their mother tongue and to connect in literature with their fathers and brothers in Teutonia. In this way, they would all live peacefully, remembering their political homeland; they themselves would learn Hungarian, or at least those who aspire to be educated. Certainly, this will be naturally resolved. […]

16Hungary, in the narrow sense of the word, is composed of Carpato-Slavia, Ruthenia, Magyaria [Maďaria], Wallachia, Serbia [Rácka], Croatia, Prekmurje [Vendsko] and Teutonia [Teutónsko]. Magyaria [Maďarsko] lies in the lowland; it is virtually surrounded by Slavonic nations. In no legal and in no possible way can it demand that the other nations of Hungary forget their old, natural ethnic homeland and sacrifice their nationality to the political aims of reason of state; those goals are reachable if well thought over and properly proposed even in a multinational state. What would happen if the Slavs were to say: “This country has been for more than a thousand years, and still is inhabited predominantly by the Slavs, so, you non-Slavs who are in the minority should speak Slavonic. It is as much our country as it is yours.”—“But we conquered the country!”—“Then enter into a legal relationship with us, as you are no longer soldiers but statesmen, lawyers and so on. For the sake of justice you should constitute such a community (state, res publica), which would satisfy a group of nations, people of different origin. Establish a union or something of similar nature; or if that seems impossible, cry: “Fall down, the favorite idol of our thoughts, turn into dust and ashes, the strange plan proposed in spheres of fantasies! There is nothing more beautiful than a justly governed state and nothing more dishonest than an unjust coercive state machinery that disrespects international law! And you, the nations of Pannonia, go to the east, go to the west, we have no advice for you, we have no idea how to build a just state composed of a plurality of nations! Go there where they respect international law more than artificial co-habitation; go away, as the treacherous Danube has always been an ill guardian of nationality.” In this country, where every gift of nature finds root, grows, flowers and matures, here, the most precious fruit, law, does not seem to find a fertile soil.


Petr Roubal (Traducteur)
Gordon MacLean (Traducteur)

© Central European University Press, 2007

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