Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung February 1849

Croats and Slovaks in Hungary

Source: MECW Volume 8, p. 409;
Written: by Engels on February 18, 1849;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 226, February 19, 1849.

Cologne, February 18. Whilst for some days now the Austrian papers have been spinning yarns about Ottinger having been victorious over Dembinski — at Debreczin!! — the storm clouds are gathering with increasing density in the Slav provinces of Hungary, threatening the royal imperial united monarchy. For some time now — since the storming of Vienna [after 1 November 1848], in fact — we have been drawing people’s attention to the inevitability of a split between the Austrian Government and the Slavs. That split is now an open one.

Let us begin with the Serbs The Grazer Zeitung received from Temesvár the following report supporting the Austrian view:

“Serbian encroachments are beginning in the Banat, and, if the signs are not deceptive, this will eventually require armed intervention especially since some of the Serbs are being more presumptuous than even the Magyarisers [338] in their attempts totally to suppress the other nationalities in the voivodeship, and the Rumanians and the Germans there are therefore arming for open resistance. The split between the senior military authorities and the voivodeship is already almost an open one, and I can assure you that we must prepare ourselves for a struggle with the Serbs. At any event we have now come to set that the sympathy that was supposed to exist for the Austrian cause is not of the same purity as that of the Croats. Matters will shortly come to a head.”

It is well known that Karlowitz, the seat of the Banat Government, e. of the Serbian chief committee, the vice-president of which is the “rebel” Stratimirovich,[339] has been declared in a state of siege.

But just what is one to make of the “purity” of the Croats’ “sympathy”? This is what we hear:

Prague, February 13. The events in Croatia are causing a great stir in Czech circles. Now, they say, the question of whether Jellachich will stick by his country or by the dynasty will have to be resolved. The officers are already saying quite openly that, when we have finished with Hungary, it will be a case of marching to Croatia. “

This is what the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung says, and the Slav Constitutionelles Blatt aus Böhmen is just as clear:

It has received information dated February 11 from Kremsier to the effect that written reports of dissatisfaction among the Slovaks and Croats were becoming daily more numerous. There were none but Magyars among the newly appointed commissioners of the Austrian Government in the Slovak comitats, their decrees were issued in Magyar, and they “threatened people with death” if they refused to accept their official communications. It is further reported that Jellachich was highly dissatisfied that his troops were to be split up and some of them employed on garrison-duty, whilst other troops were to be placed under his command. The ruse is a good one. Jellachich, who has been under suspicion for six to eight weeks anyway, and has been kept under surveillance by Windischgrätz’s agents, is being thus rendered harmless. And at this point the Constitutionelles Blatt aus Böhmen adds:

“What is Jellachich likely to say about the state of siege at Karlowitz? Might his reaction not be to think: It could be your turn next? — For now there is only Agram, the Croats, who have not had the principle of equality amongst the various nationalities applied to them — for the Germans, the Hungarians, the Poles, the Italians and the Czechs in particular have already become familiar with that equality of status that a state of siege creates.”

Furthermore, it is already known that Windischgrätz has appointed a new Hungarian government commission in Pest, which, to the great consternation of the Croats, is laying claim to all the rights which the old Hungarian Government possessed, thus reducing to naught the intended kingdom of the Southern Slavs. The Croats were already dreaming of being independent of Hungary and suddenly a decree arrives from Pest addressed to the Croatian authorities demanding submission — and on top of it all the decree is written in Magyar, without a Croat translation!! The Slavenski jug immediately publishes it in the original and cannot contain its indignation.[340] The Croats are foaming; they are being treated just as they were under Kossuth! And that is the reward they get for their faithful efforts to save the united monarchy!

Anyone wanting to know how all this fits together should read the Vienna Presse. In that paper there is an article in which Prince Windischgrätz is openly reproached for having allowed himself already to become too closely involved with the Hungarian aristocracy. He is accused of allowing a great number of Magyar magnates, some of whom had been captured, others having changed their allegiance, to walk about Pest as they please; he is even said to have conferred distinctions on them and so on.

It is obvious that the aristocrat Windischgrätz knows full well that he can only achieve his goal of maintaining the power of the nobility in Hungary by maintaining the Magyar nobility in power. That is why he is granting the Magyar magnates protection and giving them preferential treatment. He is indifferent to any suffering this may cause to the Croats and the Slovaks: having finished the business of subduing Hungary and restoring the rule of the aristocracy there, he will manage to deal with the Slavs, who are in disarray and powerless without Austrian leadership — just think of Prague![341]

And the great Schwanbeck seeks the nobility not in Windischgrätz’s camp but in Kossuth’s! Voilà ce que c'est que d'être un savant sérieux! [That is what it means to be a serious savant]