Martin Declaration : A Document By Which Slovaks Said Goodbye To Hungary 100 Years Ago

Martin Declaration : A Document By Which Slovaks Said Goodbye To Hungary 100 Years Ago

The Declaration of the Slovak Nation of October 30, 1918, commonly called the Martin Declaration, is a document that is much written and discussed. Not only historians but also politicians and journalists comment on it. October 30 is a memorable day in the Slovak Republic, there are also suggestions that it should be a national holiday. Finally, Parliament approved the proposal that the date of adoption of the Declaration should not be a public holiday every year, but at least once every hundred years. In the common memory of Slovaks, it is a document by which the Slovak nation subscribed to a common Czech-Slovak state.

The Martin Declaration is well known. It was published several times in the form in which it was published by Národné noviny on October 31, 1918. However, the historical document must be read “historically”, ie it must be included in the time in which it was created. It is necessary to understand all the contexts that accompanied it at the time of its creation. In this respect, our knowledge and, unfortunately, the knowledge of some historians, have gaps.

Domestic political passivity or waiting?

So what process led to the adoption of the Martin Declaration at the end of World War I? After the outbreak of the conflict, the leadership of the Slovak National Party declared political passivity for the duration of the war. This statement gave the representatives of the Slovak political camp a pretext not to make any public political statements.

They used this mainly at the end of May 1917, when the Hungarian government demanded that Slovak officials publicly reject the statement of Czech deputies at the newly convened Imperial Council in Vienna, which demanded the unification of the Czech lands and Slovakia into one whole.

Otherwise, of course, Národné noviny and other Slovak press were also published during the war, and it was impossible to completely avoid any political opinion appearing there. The main idea, which appeared systematically in the Slovak press and also in public speeches since the beginning of the war, was the demand for equality of Slovaks with other nations in the country. The others, of course, were thought of by the Hungarians. “If we fight together for our king and our homeland in the war, then we must also have the same national rights.” All Slovak speeches were therefore oriented towards Hungary.

Somewhere in the minds of Slovak representatives, however, the ideas of the last third of the 19th century persisted: Slovaks can achieve their national rights, including in the Memorandum of the Slovak Nation of 1861 declared Slovak autonomy in Hungary, only when the international situation changes.

However, such a change could only be caused by the European war, in which Russia will also be involved, to which the leadership of the Slovak National Party in Turčianske Sv. Martine relied as the protector of the Slavs. From the end of the 19th century, cooperation with the Czech nation, which had far more favorable conditions for development in the Predlitavsko region than Slovaks in Hungary, also played a role in Slovak political and cultural life. Since 1908, this cooperation has also received its institutional background in regular Czech-Slovak meetings in Luhačovice.

In Luhačovice, there was talk of culture, education, reciprocity. It was also, in a broader sense, a politician. But some political program of unification of the Czech lands and Slovakia was so unrealistic at that time that it was not discussed at these meetings, even though the Hungarian government feared it and sent its spies to Luhačovice. At the beginning of the war, therefore, no program of unification of the Czech lands and Slovakia appeared among Slovak politicians.

Foreign action

However, the mentioned political program appeared abroad, right at the beginning of the war. If we consider the episode with the reception of the Czechs and Slovaks by the Russian Tsar, which had no concrete results, in October 1914 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk met with British historian and journalist Robert William Seton-Watson and from that meeting Seton-Watson made a memorandum for the British government. .

The memorandum was actually a plan to create a Czech-Slovak state. This was the beginning of the Czech-Slovak resistance against Austria-Hungary, ie the struggle for state independence of the declared Czechoslovak nation, which was to form a nation state. In the first years of the war, the representatives of the Agreement rejected such a plan. They were not interested in breaking Austria-Hungary. One of the arguments that Masaryk and his colleagues had to face was the question: Who do you actually represent? Are people at home behind your plan?

For foreign resistance, it was therefore necessary to establish and maintain contacts with politicians at home – in the Czech lands, but also in Slovakia. For this purpose, the Czech organization Maffia was established. Contacts with Czech representatives worked relatively well, contacts with Slovaks were more complicated, but gradually an information network was gradually built here as well.

Information on the progress and success of the foreign resistance penetrated the Slovak representatives through three channels: first through the Maffia and then through informed Czech people, then through compatriots abroad, especially compatriots in the USA, and then through Vienna, where Milan Hodža and Ivan worked at the military censorship office. Dérer et al. In Vienna, this group had the opportunity to meet with Czech politicians without the control of the Hungarian authorities.

Thus, Slovak representatives, but rarely also an ordinary Slovak man, gradually learned about how a plan for the Czech-Slovak state was being prepared abroad. On the fronts of the First World War, Slovak soldiers fought for their king and for their Hungarian homeland. However, compatriots abroad, legionnaires and representatives of the resistance abroad, as well as domestic politicians, began to consider the alternative of leaving Hungary. However, it depended on the outcome of the war.

When will Slovaks speak?

The turning point was the declaration of Czech deputies at the pre-Lithuanian parliament. The demand that the Czech lands and Slovakia unite into one whole, even if it was to be within the Habsburg monarchy – it was a real bomb that exploded. It caused a stir especially in Budapest.

The secession of the Slovak regions from Hungary was such an outrageous demand for Hungarian politicians that it shook the press and Hungarian politicians asked the representatives of the Slovak National Party to distance themselves from the statement. The party leadership refused to do so, explaining that they had declared political passivity during the war and had not accepted Prime Minister István Tisza’s invitation to an audience.

It was important that the knowledge about the possibility of contact with the Czech lands was published in this way, and everyone who watched the war could not have been unaware of it. An avalanche of events has begun since the beginning of 1918, although at that time no one knew it was the last year of the war. Germany and Austria-Hungary achieved victory on the Eastern Front through the Brestlite Peace and prepared a spring offensive on the Western Front (more in HR 06/2018).

There was still the danger that the Central Powers would succeed, if not victory, then at least compromise peace with the Agreement. And that would be the end of Czech and Slovak hopes. However, the spring offensive failed. The treaty powers gradually began to recognize foreign resistance – the Czechoslovak National Council as an allied country and the Czechoslovak army as an allied army.

At this moment, the Czechoslovak National Council urgently needed to receive official support from the Slovaks. The statement that Slovaks want to leave Hungary and unite with the Czechs in one independent state. Without that statement, the whole event could look like Czech aggression.

In this sense, Hungarian politicians sought to operate in the countries of the Agreement through their channels. It was very necessary for such a declaration on the part of Slovak representatives to come. Masaryk and Štefánik were waiting for such a statement. Requests from the Czech side came to Slovakia for Slovaks to speak. The leadership of the Slovak National Party (SNS) in Turčianske Sv. However, Martine waited, hesitated.

The public certificate violated the declaration of political passivity. This could have serious consequences. At that time, it was still treason in Hungary, and while in the pre-Lithuanian part of the monarchy, conditions were liberalized at that time, the Hungarian government tightened the regime. The dilemma in which Matúš Dula and the SNS leadership found themselves can be understood. However, the need to inform that the Slovaks were in favor of a connection with the Czechs was urgent. In this sense, we must also understand Šrobár’s May Day Declaration in Liptovský Sv. Nicholas.

Waiting for day D
Matúš Dula finally called on Turčianske Sv. Martin’s secret meeting of Slovak representatives. The participating 25 leading personalities of Slovak political life decided here that the Slovak political program is fundamentally changing. The Slovaks parted ways with Hungary and are in favor of Slovakia’s connection with the Czech lands. However, there was still a lack of public certification, public confirmation of the program that the Czechoslovak National Council in Paris urgently needed.

Letters multiplied in Matúš Dula’s office, and the Slovak press from various directions, from the People’s Party to the Social Democrats, called for activity. Many of these letters and articles were prompted by the need to send a signal abroad that Slovaks support Masaryk’s action. In the summer he came to Turčianske Sv. Martin, chairman of the Czechoslovak Unity Josef Rotnágl, and finally in mid-October, M. Dula left for Prague.

In Prague, preparations for the declaration of the Czech-Slovak state were already in full swing. A “D” day was generally agreed for tactical reasons. This was supposed to happen when Austria-Hungary capitulated. Both Hodža and Šrobár knew about this and it is probable that they informed Dulu in this sense in Prague as well.

Events have been rolling rapidly since mid-1918. Matúš Dula also realized that it is no longer possible to wait and it is necessary to send a signal abroad that the Slovaks support the connection with the Czechs. For this purpose, Dula applied for permission to hold a “committee meeting of the Slovak National Party in Turčianske Sv. Martine ”. To the surprise of many, the party received this consent and the planned meeting took place. Thus, on October 30, 1918, they began to meet in Turčianske Sv. Martina Slovak representatives from all corners of Slovakia.

“The National Council declares”

The course of the first pre-meeting on the evening of 29 October, the secret pre-meeting on the morning of 30 October and finally the public meeting on the afternoon of 30 October are relatively well known, although the hectic of the time has meant that not everything that has been discussed is notation. There are even two records from the assembly itself that are sometimes inconsistent. It is important, however, that, after minor modifications, the proposal drawn up by Samuel Zoch was finally adopted.

The most difficult problem was to express in the resolution that the representatives of the Slovaks were in favor of a connection with the Czechs, ie to give a clear supportive position in the declaration to the foreign Czechoslovak National Council. That was the main purpose of the whole assembly. That was the reason why we read in the declaration: ” The National Council declares that on behalf of the Czech-Slovak nation, living within the borders of Hungary, only it is entitled to speak and act.”

Subsequently, in the first requirement of the Declaration, we read: “The Slovak nation is the amount of both the speech and the culturally and historically unified Czech-Slovak nation. The Slovak branch also took part in all the cultural struggles waged by the Czech nation, which made it famous all over the world. ”

Even in the literature that looks professional, we encounter the wonder how the declarants were able to accept (and even with enthusiasm and enthusiasm) the wording that Slovaks are part of the Czech-Slovak nation. If we realize why the assembly to Turčianske Sv. Martin exclaimed that there was a demand to support the efforts to create a Czech-Slovak state, which the Czechoslovak National Council was striving for, then this formulation is self-evident.

It hides a fact that the declarants have not yet dared to state publicly, namely that they are leaving Hungary. On the other hand, the wording on the connection of the Slovak branch of the Czech-Slovak nation with everything that the Czech nation has done is unambiguous and so they had and could understand it abroad as well.

If we stop at the end of the afternoon public assembly, then it is clear what happened at this moment: the representatives of the Slovaks did not declare any state. They simply did what was necessary: ​​they subscribed to the idea of ​​Czech-Slovak state unity and supported the struggle for an independent Czech-Slovak state.


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