The disgrace called the peace treaty

On February 10, 1947 - seventy-five years ago, Foreign Minister János Gyöngyösi signed the peace treaty ending the Second World War in the Luxembourg Palace in Paris,which enforced the political, economic and material interests of the Soviet Union against the "guilty nation", and imposed even more severe conditions on Hungary, a country that had fallen into the Soviet sphere of interest, than the Trianon Peace Dictate. 

To this day, this peace treaty defines our room for manoeuvre in the Carpathian Basin. The United Nations and the former German allies - Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Finland - signed the Treaty of Paris on 10 February 1947. The peace treaty was enacted by the Hungarian Parliament through the adoption of Act XVIII of 1947, which entered into force on 17 September 1947, and included the Atlantic Charter and the text of the Soviet-Hungarian armistice of 20 January 1945 in an appendix. Hungary was obliged to undertake to guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms for all Hungarian citizens, to abolish the provisions against racial discrimination and anti-fascist activities, and to refrain from any such provisions in the future. Although the peace treaty provided for the prosecution of war criminals and the banning of fascist, nationalist organisations and the payment of war reparations, Hungary, under the shadow of the Soviet bayonets, already began to pay reparations and prosecute criminals as early as 1945 and banned far-right and revisionist organisations.

Until the peace treaty was formally drafted, many people were confident that Hungary would be treated more fairly during the demarcation of its borders than it had been after the First World War. This illusion was shattered after the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers, and the situation regarding the borders reverted to the status quo before 1 January 1938. However, that was not the whole story, because the Czechoslovaks also gained three villages that had belonged to Hungary before 1938. Thus, Horvátjárfalu, Oroszvár and Dunacsún fell under Czechoslovak rule, on the grounds that they would improve the defensibility of the Bratislava bridgehead. In Trianon, the territory of Hungary shrank to 93 073 square kilometres, and in Paris, twenty-seven years later, to 93 011 square kilometres. The peace treaty that ended the Second World War was more unfavourable than the Trianon Treaty not only in terms of territory but also in terms of minority protection. While the peace treaty of 4 June 1920 contained provisions for the protection of minorities, the Paris Peace Treaty made no mention of them.

The millions of Hungarians stranded outside the truncated homeland were granted only basic human rights and left to the goodwill of the neighbouring states, which treated them as second-class citizens.

For the more sober-minded, it was clear even before the peace treaty was signed that the victors would not treat us with kid gloves.  István Bibó also had no illusions when he wrote: " We now know that this peace treaty will not be greeted in Hungary with cheers of joy, or even with the silent sigh of relief that usually accompanies the end of uncertainty even in the case of a less favourable peace treaty (...) ) we have to face the psychological impact of the fact that the victors of a war, conducted largely in the name of moral and democratic objectives, can do no better than to further deteriorate - at the expense of Hungarian democracy, which is struggling with all the difficulties of the start - a border line whose unjustified wrongness and fatal effect on the political and European position of the Hungarian people is now well-known throughout the world."  The country, devastated by the war, had to pay huge reparation amounting to $300 million at the 1938 purchasing power of the dollar. Of this, two hundred million went to the Soviet Union and one hundred million was shared, paradoxically, by Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The Soviet Union, as the victor even managed to get its hands on interests and assets previously owned by Germany. The peace treaty also contained a provision on prisoners of war, stipulating that 'Hungarian prisoners of war shall be repatriated as soon as possible'. The Soviets, however, were in no hurry to repatriate the hundreds of thousands of Hungarian soldiers and civilians who they had forced into slave labour for the reconstruction of the Soviet Union, moreover, the Muscovite communists saw the issue of repatriating their compatriots as an effective means of gaining power.

Map of Northwest Hungary in 1940. Source: Wikipedia

The peace treaty of 1947, interestingly, proved to be the most lenient in terms of the army, as it set its strength at 70,000 and allowed for the maintenance of heavy weapons and the establishment of an air force of fighter and transport aircraft. However, it strictly forbade the use of nuclear weapons, missiles, bombers, torpedoes, sea mines and submarines (!). With the signing of the peace treaty, the Allied Control Commission in Hungary ceased to exist. The peace treaty also stipulated that the Soviet Union should withdraw its troops from Hungarian territory and station only such contingents in Hungary as were necessary to interconnect the Soviet occupying forces in Austria. Although our country regained its sovereignty under international law, in reality this was the beginning of the decades-long 'legal' Soviet occupation of Hungary.

Hungary - which suffered extreme war damage in 1944-1945, and was systematically looted and stripped of its remaining assets by the Soviet troops - rightly expected that the peace treaty ending the Second World War would be fairer to the country than the Trianon peace dictate after the Great War.

Yet, the peace-making powers learned nothing from their earlier mistakes: they imposed another Trianon on Hungary, and even stigmatised it as the "last henchman" of the Third Reich. Our country even lost the opportunity to retain the Hungarian-majority parts of the country that were returned between 1938 and 1941 and to represent the interests of the Hungarian regions stranded outside the borders.

At that time, the process of Sovietisation was in full swing and acceleration in Central and Eastern Europe, the Iron Curtain had fallen and the peace treaty offered no protection against the Soviet expansion; the articles on human rights and national sovereignty remained empty phrases. The Paris Peace Treaty only meant that Central Europe remained an area of conflicting national interests and conflicts, which until 1989 were prevented from surfacing by the Soviet military occupation and the ruling communist regime.