Europe – Hungary And Her Neighbors

Southeastern Europe is out of the line of travel and little known to us, if I can measure the knowledge of others by my own. In order to learn something of this section we came northwest from Constantinople through Bulgaria, Servia and Hungary. We passed through European Turkey in the night, and morning found us in Bulgaria, where nothing but an occasional minaret remained to remind us of the Orient. Strange that so great a difference exists between two populations separated for centuries by nothing but an imaginary line. No more the Turk with his wealth of leisure, his baggy trousers and his gay headgear, but the sturdy peasant working in the field with his unveiled wife or trudging along the road carrying his produce to market; no more begging, for baksheesh by lame and halt and blind, but a busy, industrious throng, each laboring apparently with a purpose and a hope. All day long we rode past well cultivated fields and tidy villages. The Bulgarians, judged by appearance, might be thought a mixture of German and Italian, but they are really Slavic in their origin. I had the good fortune to meet a former minister, a very intelligent man with a good command of English, and learned from him that there is a strong democratic sentiment in that country and that the people are making constant progress in the matter of education and political intelligence.

He said that during his ministry he had introduced into Bulgaria the American homestead law and that it had resulted in an increase in the number of peasant proprietors. It was gratifying to know that American example had been helpful to people so remote from us. He also spoke of the establishment in his country of state insurance against hail, that being one of the greatest perils the farmer has to meet. He said that the system had worked well. The railroads and telegraph lines are also owned by the state in Bulgaria and are operated very successfully.

The capital, Sofia, is a prosperous looking city, viewed from the rail-road, and has an elevation of some fifteen hundred feet.

We crossed the Balkan mountains and the second morning reached Belgrade, the capital of Servia. The city has a fine location on a bluff at the junction of the Save with the Danube. A day’s visit here gave an opportunity to see something of the population, as it was Sunday and the streets and parks were filled with well-dressed, well-behaved and intelligent looking people. The Servians, who are also Slavic in origin, are members of the Greek Church, and at the principal church of this denomination there was that day a large congregation and an impressive service. King Peter, it will be remembered, is the present ruler, having been called to the throne three years ago when his predecessor was assassinated. The brutalities attending the murder of King Alexander and his wife were widely discussed at the time, the bodies of the king and queen being thrown from the window of the palace into the park. While the new sovereign was recognized by most of the powers of Europe, England refused to send a representative to his court because the king retained some high officials who participated in the assassination. As Servia has a parliament which controls the ministry, and as this parliament was hostile to the former king, King Peter was powerless to comply with the conditions imposed by England—at least this was the explanation given to me. I heard next day at Budapest, however, that some satisfactory settlement had been reached and that England would soon be represented at Belgrade. King Peter is not of humble ancestry, as I had supposed, but is a grandson of a former king who was conspicuous in the war for independence. Peter himself was in exile in Switzerland at the time of his elevation to the throne, and having during his residence there imbibed something of the spirit of constitutional liberty, is much more popular than was his predecessor. There is quite a close connection between Servia, Roumania, Bulgaria and European Turkey, and it will not be surprising if the last remnant of Turkish territory in Europe is, before many years, released from the sultan’s rule and a federation of Balkan states created. A majority of the sultan’s European subjects belong to different branches of the Christian Church, and but for their quarrels among themselves they would long before this have been able to imitate Servia and Bulgaria in emancipating themselves.

The ride up the Danube valley from Belgrade to Budapest and from Budapest to the Austrian boundary gives one a view of one of the richest sections of Hungary. While the Danube hardly justifies the poetic praise that has described its waters as blue, it is a majestic stream, and its broad valley supports a large agricultural population.

No American can visit Hungary without having his sympathies enlisted in behalf of its people, for theirs is a fascinating history. Their country is one of the most favored in Europe so far as nature’s blessings go. The Carpathian mountains which form a wall around it on the north and east, shut out the cold winds and by turning back the warmer winds from the south, give to Hungary a more temperate climate than other European countries in the same latitude, and in few countries has agriculture been more fostered by the state.

The present minister of agriculture, Dr. Ignatius Daramyi, has been at the head of this department for ten years, and being an enthusiast on the subject, he has introduced many new features and brought his department into close contact with the people. During his administration the annual appropriations for agriculture have increased from about eight million dollars to about thirteen millions, and the income from his department has risen from six million dollars to nine millions, leaving the net cost to the state at present some four million dollars per year.

Hungary believes in furnishing technical training to those who intend to farm; she had twenty-two industrial schools, with about six hundred pupils, and these schools are so distributed as to make them convenient for the small farmers. She has four secondary schools of agriculture, with a total attendance of over five hundred, and to complete her system she has -an agricultural academy with a student body of one hundred and fifty. In order to accommodate adults who have not had the advantage of these schools, she has short winter terms and traveling instructors. By systematic effort the agricultural department is not only increasing the efficiency of the Hungarian as a tiller of the soil, but it is increasing his general intelligence and raising the standard of citizenship.

The experiment station is also a prominent feature of the work of the department of agriculture. All new agricultural implements are tested- and reports are furnished upon their merits ; there are several seed-testing stations where farmers can secure at cost price, not only selected seeds, but seed shown by experiment to be suited to the climate and soil of their locality. Then there are a number of model farms located at convenient points, which are intended to be object lessons to the neighborhoods in which they are situated. At these model farms and at other centers breeding establishments are conducted where horses, cattle, hogs and sheep of the best breeds are kept and loaned to the farmers about. These breeding farms have resulted in a marked improvement in the quality and value of the stock.

Nor- does the agricultural department confine its attention to stock raising and ordinary farming; it is equally interested in horticulture, vine dressing, forestry, and even bee culture. Government nurseries furnish the hardiest varieties of young trees and vines and train those who desire to give special attention to these branches of industry. Instruction in the pruning of trees and the training of vines has an artistic as well us a utilitarian side, and taste is developed in the ornamentation of the arbors and gardens. Here, as elsewhere in Europe, much attention is given to forestry, and under the direction of the department of agriculture the work of preserving the old forests and of planting new groves is being intelligently and systematically done.

In addition to the work above outlined, the agricultural department has taken in hand the matter of furnishing general information to the farmers and farm laborers. It encourages the formation of workingmen’s clubs, co-operative societies and parochial relief funds. It has established more than one thousand free libraries and publishes a weekly paper with a circulation of about sixty thousand.. More than half of the copies are published in the Hungarian language, the rest being divided between five other languages, the Slavic coming next to the Hungarian and the German following, although less than ten per cent are printed in the latter language. To strengthen the ties between employers and employés, harvest feasts have been inaugurated and the attendance at these feasts is yearly increasing.

I have gone into detail somewhat in describing the scope of the work undertaken by the agricultural, department of Hungary because I think that we might, with advantage, adopt some of its features. Our national appropriation for agricultural purposes bears a small proportion, not only to the amount of taxes paid by the farmer, but to the appropriations made for other departments.

Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is one of the most attractive cities in Europe. In 1893 I received a cablegram of congratulation from a farmers’ congress which was at that time in session in that city. I remembered this because it was the only cablegram received from any body of Europeans during the campaign.

Originally there were two cities, Buda on the south bank and Pesth on the north bank, but they were united under one municipal govern-ment some years ago, the names of the old towns being preserved in the new. The foothills of the Alps extend to the very bank of the Danube and furnish magnificent sites for villas, forts, public buildings and the royal palace, while on the opposite bank there is a broad plain, which affords ample room for the rapidly extending limits of the commercial and manufacturing sections of the city. Several bridges connect Buda and Pesth so that the river, while a great thoroughfare, no longer divides the business and the official sections. The streets of Budapest are wide, well paved, clean and lined with buildings quite uniform in height, one of the avenues rivaling the Champs-Elysees in Paris and Unter den Linden in Berlin; the parks are large and near the city; the business blocks are imposing and the public buildings models in design and construction. The parliament building, only recently completed, is one of the handsomest in the world.

The Hungarian people are distinct in language and history from all their neighbors. In fact, the Hungarians differ in many respects from all the other people of Europe, the inhabitants of Finland being their nearest kinspeople. Their early history is unknown, but they came from western Asia where the Mongolians, the Turks and the Finn-Ugrians struggled for mastery about the beginning of the Christian era. They were first known as Huns and claim Attila as one of their race. They have more often, however, used the word Magyars to describe their people, that name being a popular one at present.

Their occupation of the present territory dates from about the ninth century, since which time they have figured prominently in the history of Europe. About the beginning of the eleventh century Hungary, under the leadership of King Stephen (later known as St. Stephen) became ‘a Christian nation, and since that time she has been conspicuous in all the religious wars of Europe. In the fifteenth century she furnished the leader of the Christian army in the person of John Hunyadi, one of the greatest military geniuses of that period. His prominence in war brought his son Matthias to the throne of Hungary, a king who, when warned of a plot against his life, exclaimed : “Let no king, ruling justly and lawfully, fear the poison and assassin’s dagger of his subjects.”

As early as the thirteenth century, Hungary began to inaugurate political reforms, and in 1222 her nobility ended a struggle of a hundred years by securing a concession which is regarded by her people as equal in importance to England’s Magna Charta of 1215. It was in the form of a royal letter, issued by Andrew II. and called the Golden Bull, owing to the fact that the seal attached to it by a silk string rests in a box of gold. This document contained certain promises to the nobles and admitted the binding force of certain restrictions upon the king. The Golden Bull was the beginning of constitutional government in Hungary, and while it has not always been strictly observed by her rulers, it has served as. a basis for subsequent negotiations. For several centuries they elected their kings.

During the nearly seven hundred years which have elapsed since 1222 Hungary has had a checkered career. Rival aspirants for the throne have fought over the succession and been aided in their ambition by neighboring nations; kings and nobles have fought over their respective authority; the nobility and the peasants have fought over their rights; different branches of the Christian Church have been at war with each other, for Hungary has .been the eastern outpost of Protestantism as well as a champion of Christianity; and more recently Hungary has been fighting for her political independence. Hers has been a long drawn-out struggle in which her people, time and again, have almost been exterminated, but she emerges from it all a strong, vigorous and militant nation. She is now a part of the Austro-Hun garian empire, and her people form the largest homogeneous group in the empire. When we consider the numerous wars between Austria and Hungary, the difference in race, history and language, and the dissimilarity in political training, it is not strange that there should be lack of harmony between the empire as a whole and its largest single member,

When Hungary turned to Austria for help against the Turks and came under the Hapsburg line, she insisted upon a recognition of her national rights and secured a promise that her people should have control of their own affairs. While this alliance did not save her from the Mohammedans, it united her destiny to that of Austria, but she has never surrendered her independence. The crown of Hungary has always been distinct from that of Austria, and the emperor of Austro-Hungary must visit Budapest and receive with the crown of St. Stephen the title of king of Hungary. Joseph II., son of the beloved Maria Theresa, was the first king to refuse to receive the crown and swear fidelity to the Hungarian constitution, and the Hungarians would never call him their “crowned king” until, on his deathbed, he retracted his arbitrary measures and permitted the restoration of the constitution.

In her struggle for liberty Hungary has developed many patriots, among whom Louis Kossuth is the best known. He and Francis Deak were the leaders of the revolution of 1848 which resulted in the constitution of that year. The constitution of 1867 was not quite so liberal, and these two constitutions form the basis of the present political division in Hungary; all Hungarians are jealous of the rights of their nation but the majority of the members of parliament insist upon the recognition of the constitution of 1848.

The elder Kossuth lived in exile after the revolution of 1867 and was during his exile enthusiastically received in the United States by congress and by the people in general. Kossuth’s son is now a member of the coalition ministry, and at a banquet to which I-had the good fortune to be invited, spoke feelingly of the treatment which his father received in the United States and of the high regard felt by Hungarians for America and Americans. Count Apponyi, the foremost orator of Hungary, also paid his respects to the United States and likened our country to the forwarding station in wireless telegraphy, saying that the political current was so strong in our country that its messages were carried to all the world.

I happened to be in Budapest at the opening of parliament and heard the speech of the new premier, Dr. Wekerle. The independence party has a large majority in the parliament, having shown increasing strength at each successive election. The emperor, Francis Joseph, is resisting one of the demands made by the Hungarians, viz., that the army shall use the Hungarian language instead of the German language. Some years ago the fight was made and won for the use of the Hungarian language in schools, in the courts and in parliament, and the Hungarians feel that their nationality is endangered by the fact that their army is taught only the German words of command. The emperor takes the position that the use of the Hungarian language would destroy the unity of the imperial army. To prevent a rupture he proposed the formation of a coalition cabinet, to hold until the suffrage could be extended and the question again submitted to the people. There is no doubt that the people are practically unanimous in favor of their own language and that an extension of the suffrage will not change the complexion of parliament. The relations between the emperor and Hungary have become very much strained, and the aversion to the German language is so pronounced that Hungarians who can speak the German language will often refuse to answer a question addressed to them in German.

For Francis Joseph himself the Hungarians have a strong affection, and they would be glad to contribute to the happiness of his closing days, but they feel that the interests of their nation are vitally concerned and they are anxious to have the point at issue settled before a new sovereign ascends the throne. If the emperor were left to himself, he would probably conclude that a Hungarian fighting force, attached to the empire and grateful for consideration shown their country, would form a more effective part of a joint army, even though the Hungarians spoke their own language, than troops compelled to learn a language hateful to them. History furnishes many examples of successful armies made of corps, divisions and regiments speaking different languages, but less numerous are the instances of nations successfully held together by force when one part of the empire was made subservient to. the interests of another part. Hungary is being alienated by insistence upon requirements which do not in reality strengthen the empire, while she might be drawn closer to the throne by a more liberal policy. The end is not yet.