Outbreak of the war
End of the war

Élyen a Magyar – long live the Magyars! Hungarian Magyarization policy

One of the fundamental differences between the two states in the Dual Monarchy after the Compromise of 1867 was that Hungary, unlike the Austrian half of the Empire, did not see itself as a multinational entity but rather as a Magyar nation state.

Despite the mixed ethnic composition of the country – Hungary had not only Magyars but also a large number of Slovaks, Ruthenians, Romanians, Germans, Serbs and Croats – Budapest decreed that all citizens of the Kingdom were equal members of the Hungary nation regardless of the language group they belonged to. The other ethnic groups were treated merely as linguistic minorities with limited national rights. They were required officially to acknowledge political Magyardom.

Magyar nationalism was antagonistic to the demands of other nationalities and had strong chauvinistic undertones. The authorities reacted with bureaucratic devices and also the brutal repression of nationalist agitation among the ethnic minorities and repeatedly banned minority organizations. Under the leadership of the Hungarian Minister President Kálmán Tisza the Magyarization policy was perfected in the years 1875 to 1890 and the national emancipation of smaller language groups systematically repressed.

The dominant Magyar elite was further consolidated by the election law. The most important aim was to neutralize non-Magyars by linking the right to vote with the payment of taxes, thereby denying the economically disadvantaged their democratic voice. The gerrymandering of constituency boundaries so that minorities rarely predominated was also clearly to the detriment of other nationalities.

The highpoint of the Magyarization policy came under the government of Minister President Dezső Bánffy between 1895 and 1899, when place names and surnames were Magyarized and repressive education laws became part of the official government programme.

The Magyarizing nationalism developed in Hungary more than elsewhere as a way of bridging different political ideologies. In critical situations the impression was created of a small Magyar island surrounded by a mass of Slav peoples. There was a diffuse fear in nationalist circles of the demise of Magyardom, which could be averted only by the ‘resistance’ of the combined force of a ‘national community’ (Volksgemeinschaft). At the ‘millennial celebrations’ in 1896 commemorating the legendary Magyar land conquest in the early Middle Ages the mythical roots were confirmed in an ecstasy of nationalist feeling.

Translation: Nick Somers


Hanák, Péter: Die Geschichte Ungarns. Von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart, Essen 1988

Gogolák, Ludwig: Ungarns Nationalitätengesetze und das Problem des magyarischen National- und Zentralstaates, in: Wandruszka, Adam/Urbanitsch, Peter (Hrsg.): Die Habsburgermonarchie 1848–1918, Band III: Die Völker des Reiches, Wien 1980, Teilband 2, 1207–1303

Hoensch, Jörg K.: Geschichte Ungarns 1867–1983, Stuttgart 1984

Lukacs, John: Ungarn in Europa. Budapest um die Jahrhundertwende, Berlin 1990

Markus, Adam: Die Geschichte des ungarischen Nationalismus, Frankfurt/Main u. a. 2013

Rumpler, Helmut: Eine Chance für Mitteleuropa. Bürgerliche Emanzipation und Staatsverfall in der Habsburgermonarchie [Österreichische Geschichte 1804–1914, hrsg. von Herwig Wolfram], Wien 2005

Tóth, István György (Hrsg.): Geschichte Ungarns, Budapest 2005

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    “Viribus unitis” or prison of nations?

    The multi-ethnic Austria-Hungary formed a relatively stable environment for the co-existence of the many ethnic communities. The much-vaunted “unity in diversity” was in fact overshadowed by numerous inequalities. This was illustrated above all in the differing weight of the various language groups involved in political and economic rule. These inequalities were increasingly challenged by the disadvantaged nationalities. As a result, the nationality issue dominated political affairs, leading to destabilisation of the Monarchy.

Persons, Objects & Events

  • Development

    The Dual Monarchy – Cisleithania and Transleithania

    The Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy was created through the Compromise of 1867. The Habsburg Monarchy now had two capitals, Vienna and Budapest. The two halves of the empire were united by their common army and foreign policy. The strongest linking factor was the monarch, who personified the unity of the empire.


  • Development

    Nation-building – national programmes and positions

    Nation-building was part of the emancipation by large sections of the population from feudal dependence. In line with the ideals of the Enlightenment and French Revolution, the nation – understood as a community of free citizens – was to become the sovereign in place of feudal potentates.