In Hungary minority problems were more acute. The Slovaks, the Romanians, and the Serbs and Croats living in Hungary were the worst victims of a deliberate policy of Magyarization. The Magyar aim was to destroy the national identity of the minorities and to transform them into Magyars; the weapon used was language.
The Magyars, who made up only 55 percent of the population of their own country (exclusive of Croatia), had an intense devotion to their own language—an Asian tongue quite unrelated to the German, Slavic, or Romanian languages of the minorities. They tried to force it upon the subject peoples, particularly in education. All state-supported schools, from kindergartens to universities, wherever located, had to give instruction in Magyar, and the state postal, telegraph, and railroad services used only Magyar.
The Slovaks, numbering about 11 percent of the population of Hungary, were perhaps the most Magyarized. Poor peasants for the most part, the more ambitious of them often became Magyars simply by adopting the Magyar language as their own. As time passed, a few Slovaks came to feel a sense of unity with the closely related Czechs across the border in Austria. The pro- Czechs among the Slovaks were usually liberals and Protestants, while Catholic and conservative Slovaks advocated Slovak autonomy.
The Romanians, who lived in Transylvania, amounted in 1910 to about 17 percent of the population of Hungary and were a majority in Transylvania itself. For centuries they had fought constantly to achieve recognition of their Greek Orthodox religion. Despite laws designed to eliminate the use of the Romanian language, the Romanians fiercely resisted assimilation.
Some hoped that Transylvania might again be made autonomous, as it had been in the past. Many pressed for the enforcement of the liberal Hungarian nationalities law of 1868. But when in 1892 they petitioned Vienna on these points, their petition was returned unopened and unread, and when they circulated the petition widely abroad, their leaders were tried and jailed.
Under Magyar rule, some Serbs and Croats lived in Hungary proper and others in Croatia; in 1910 those in Hungary totaled about 600,000, of whom two thirds were Serbs living in a compact mass in the southern and western frontier regions. They had been transferred to Magyar rule in 1869, and they disliked Hungarian administration, hoping to be united with the independent kingdom of Serbia to the south.
A greater menace to Hungarian unity was provided by the existence of Croatia itself. The Croats, though connected since the eleventh century with the Crown of Hungary, had become strongly nationalistic under the impact of the Napoleonic occupation and had fought on the side of the monarchy against the Magyar revolutionaries of 1848. Nonetheless, Francis Joseph, as part of the Ausgleich settlement, handed them back to the Magyars.
Croatian nationalists were deeply disappointed. Led by a Roman Catholic bishop, Josef Strossmayer (18151905), they had hoped for an autonomous Croatia and Dalmatia (the coastal strip along the Adriatic inhabited largely by Croats but governed by Vienna), which would serve as a nucleus to attract all southern Slays. Instead, the Magyar moderates, led by Deik, worked out in 1868 an Ausgleich of their own between Hungary and Croatia. All military and economic affairs were to be handled in Budapest by a special cabinet minister for Croatian affairs.
Representatives from the Croatian parliaments at the Croatian capital of Zagreb would sit in Budapest whenever Croatian affairs were under discussion. Croatian delegates would be part of the Hungarian “delegation” to the dual monarchy. The Croatian language would be spoken by Croat representatives at the sessions of any body they attended, and the language of command in the Croatian territorial army would be Croatian. The Croats would control their own educational system, their church, their courts, and police; however, taxes would be voted and collected by Budapest.
The Croat Party of the Right wanted a completely autonomous Croatia and scorned as inferior the Serbs and other non-Catholic south Slays, whom Strossmayer had hoped to attract. Further problems were created in Catholic Croatia by the existence of a Serb Orthodox minority (more than a quarter of the population), which spoke the same language as the Croats. But the Serbs worshiped in different churches and were therefore subject to religious discrimination. The Hungarian-appointed governor received the support only of those Croats who had become Magyar speaking, usually great landowners or government officials.
In 1907 the hopes of moderate leaders on all sides were dashed by an unpopular Railway Servants Act, which forced all railroad workers to speak Magyar. Croats began to boycott Hungarian-made goods; the Croatian Diet refused to collaborate with the new governor, who in 1909 arrested fifty-odd Croats and Serbs and charged them with plotting to unite Croatia and Bosnia with Serbia.
The evidence was inadequate, and the defendants, though condemned, obtained a reversal of the sentences on appeal to a higher court. But these Zagreb trials gave the Slavic press a splendid opportunity to denounce the policy of the dual monarchy. Nationalism soon found expression in terrorism, and in 1912, 1913, and again in 1914, Bosnian students tried to assassinate the Hungarian governor of Croatia.
The region of Bosnia-Herzegovina had a special status in the dual monarchy. By the 1870s these two provinces had been part of the Ottoman Empire for about four centuries. Although solidly south Slavic, the population in 1879 included about half a million Muslims, half a million members of the Orthodox church, and perhaps 150,000 Catholics. Most of the Orthodox Christians were peasants, working on the estates of Muslim landlords. In 1875 a Herzegovinian uprising against the Turks precipitated a general Balkan Slavic attack on the Turks. Russia, too, went to war against the Ottoman Empire. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, the Habsburgs obtained the right to occupy the provinces, but not to annex them. Until 1908 the dual monarchy occupied both.
These provinces perpetually threatened to create an explosion. Many observers in Vienna pressed for some sort of all-south-Slav solution that would join Dalmatia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina into one kingdom under Francis Joseph, with the same status as Hungary— a triple rather than a dual monarchy. However, the advocates of this solution, known as “Trialists,” met with violent Magyar opposition.
Then in 1908 a revolution in Turkey led by young army officers gave the Austrian foreign minister a chance to act. Fortified by a prior secret agreement with Russia, he annexed the two provinces in October and announced that they would be given a diet of their own.
This move precipitated a major European crisis, which threatened world war but which eventually subsided, leaving the Serbs bitterly resentful and the Balkan peoples in turmoil.