Hungary was also a province of the Austrian Empire. The institutions of this province were thoroughly medieval. The political rights were possessed by the nobles and the lords only and they also enjoyed special privileges.
They were entirely exempted from taxation. The common people of Hungary were deprived of the political rights and social and economic privileges. Meanwhile, a nationalistic and reformist movement had been in progress for several years.
A liberal and democratic party had come up in Hungary which was led by Louis Kossuth and Francis Deak. In the words of C.D. Hazen, the demand of this party was:
“The taxation of the nobles, the control by the Diet of all national expenditures, larger liberty for the press and a complete right of public meeting and association.
It also demanded that Hungary should not be subordinate to Austrian policy and to the Austrian provinces.”
Such was the political situation of Hungary when the wave of revolutions swept over Europe in 1848. Hearing of the downfall of Louis Philippe in France and Metternich in Austria, the patriots of Hungary were greatly enthused.
They revolted against Austria. The Democratic Party under the leadership of Kossuth put the demand before the king of Austria for declaring the autonomy of Hungary. The king gladly accepted the provincial autonomy of this state.
National enthusiasm and refonnis 1 zeal permeated the Hungarian Diet which passed some legislation’s called the March Laws. According to these laws:
(i) The process of reforming, and modernising Hungary was given finishing touches.
(ii) The old aristocratic political machinery of Hungary was swept away and a modern democratic constitution was framed to replace it.
(iii) Feudalism was abolished.
(iv) The nobles and lords were deprived of their special privileges.
(v) The liberty of the press and religion was established.
(vi) The national flag of Hungary was recognised.
(vii) The principle of social and religious equality was accepted.
But the people of other races living in Hungary were not benefited by the March Laws. Being dissatisfied with the new political system, the non-Hungarian races revolted against the new government. The king of Austria encouraged these revolts.
The patriots of Hungary decided to break off all relations with Austria. They declared Hungary an independent republic state on April 14, 1849, and Kossuth was made the President of that republic.
The king of Austria was resolved on suppressing the democratic Revolution of Hungary. He sent his army for this purpose but it was defeated by the patriots of Hungary. The king of Austria asked Russia for military help.
The establishment of the republican form of government in Hungary sounded an alarm of danger for Russia, for Hungary bordered Russia. Keeping this in view, Russia sent about 1, 50,000 soldiers to help Austria in the suppression of the Revolution of Hungary. The patriots of Hungary were badly defeated.
They were killed in a large number. Kossuth fled to Turkey and from there; he went to England and America. He requested these nations to help him but he failed to get any help. At last, he was greatly disappointed and died.
In this way, the Revolution of 1848 was suppressed in Hungary also and the king of Austria re-established autocratic rule over this province.
It may be concluded from the above that the revolution of 1848, which broke out in France; greatly affected the entire Austrian Empire. But the revolutionaries’ triumph was only short-lived.
The Revolutions of Austria, Bohemia and Hungary were mercilessly crushed by the king of Austria. The patriots of these states finally failed in their attempts because:
(i) The Austrian empire was called a melting pot in which blended different races, cultures and nationalities. Their religion, occupation, system of education, culture was quite different from one another.
When revolution broke out against the existing government, these races could not be united. The government took advantage of their disunity and easily suppressed the revolution.
(ii) The success of any revolution depends on the role of the army of the particular state. The army of Austria remained loyal to the king up to the last moment. The soldiers were always with him at the time of distress.
Thus, owing to the loyalty of the army, the King of Austria felt no difficulty in crushing the revolutions in his empire.
(iii) The role of Russia was also a factor contributing to the failure of the revolution in the Austrian empire. The Czar of Russia believed in reactions and autocracy. He was alarmed at the growing tide of revolution on the border of this empire.
He knew well that the reverberations from the revolution in Austria would definitely reach Russia. So he decided to check the wave of revolution.
When Austria asked him for military help, he gladly came to its help, playing an active role in the suppression of the revolutionary activities in the Austrian empire.
It strengthened the position of Austria and the autocracy of the king of Austria was successfully re-established.