Surgically Precise ... and Oh So Vague: the borders established by the Trianon Dictate

Erika Papp Faber

Surgically Precise ... and Oh So Vague: the borders established by the Trianon Dictate

Four and a half pages of the dictated Trianon ”Treaty” described, with surgical precision,  where the new borders of Hungary were to be drawn.  At the same time, the vague terms ”approximately”, ”a point to be selected”, and ”a line to be fixed on the ground” were used in every item. 

And who was to apply these terms?  ”Boundary Commissions, whose composition is or will be fixed in the present Treaty or in any other Treaty between the Principal Allied and Associated Powers and the, or any, interested States, will have to trace these frontiers on the ground.” (Article 29)

These Boundary Commissions – one for each of the new countries tearing off parts of Hungary – were to consist of 7 members: 5 nominated by the Principal Allied and Associated Powers, one by the new country, and one by Hungary. 

The same Article 29 continues: ”They shall have the power, not only of fixing those portions which are defined as ’a line to be fixed on the ground’, but also, where a request to that effect is made by one of the States concerned, and the Commission is satisfied that it is desirable to do so, of revising portions defined by administrative boundaries; ...They shall endeavor ...  to follow as nearly as possible the descriptions given in the Treaties, taking into account as far as possible administrative boundaries and local economic interests.

”The decisions of the Commissions will be taken by a majority, and shall be binding on the parties concerned.”

”The expenses of the Boundary Commissions will be borne in equal shares by the two States concerned.”

So Hungary had to submit not only to the tearing apart of the country, it would also have to pay for the pleasure!!!

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Let us now look at a sample of the wording in this infamous Dictate, keeping the original spelling and punctuation, and leaving off the diacritical marks as in the document.  In Part II, Article 27, 3, the beginning of the section delineating the new border with Roumania (sic!) reads thus:

”From the point defined above (dealing with the border with the Serb-Croat-Slovene State. Ed.)  east-northeast-eastwards to a point to be selected on the Maros (River) about 3 ½ kilometres upstream from the railway bridge between Mako and Szeged, a line to be fixed on the ground; 

thence south-eastwards, and then north-eastwards to a point to be selected about 1 kilometre south of Nagylak Station,

the course of the river Maros upstream;

thence north-eastward to the salient of the administrative boundary between the comitats (sic!) of Csanad and Arad north-north-west of Nemetpereg,

a line to be fixed on the ground passing between Nagylak and the railroad station; (see story of Nagylak at end of this article. Ed.)

thence east-north-eastwards to a point to be selected on the ground between Battonya and Tornya,

this administrative boundary, passing north of Nemetpereg and Kispereg;

thence to point 123 (about 1.2 kilometres east of Magosliget), the point common to the three frontiers of Hungary, Roumania and Czecho-Slovakia (Ruthenian territory),

a line to be fixed on the ground passing west of Nagyvarjas, Kisvarjas and Nagyiratos, east of Dombegyhaz, Kevermes and Elek, west of Ottlaka, Negy-Pel, Gyula-Varsand and  Ant and Illye, east of Gyula, Gyula-Vari and Kotegyan, cutting the Nagysza-lonta-Gyula railway about 12 kilometres south-west of Nagysza-lonta (sic!)  and between the two bifurcations formed by the crossing of this line and the Szeghalom-Erdogyarak railway; passing east of Mehkerek, west of Nagyszalonta and Marczihaza, east of Geszt, west of Atyas, Olah-Szt-Miklos and Rojt...”

Mind you, these were not major cities, but small settlements for the most part.

The sections delineating the border with Austria, the Serb-Croat-Slovene State and Czecho-Slovakia had similar verbiage.

There were further articles that clarified a few terms, and detailed the documentation that would be required.    

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Nagylak

Let us see how all this played out in the small town named Nagylak:

In its present form, Nagylak did not come into being through natural development, but as a result of the Trianon Dictate’s border mandates, which allocated to Romania its entire downtown section, leaving only a small area on the outskirts under Hungarian jurisdiction.

The new border cut through the middle of the hemp and flax retting plant’s yard, giving the plant itself to Romania in 1920.  The workers had to have a border crossing pass to enter.  

Actually, Nagylak was fortunate. It was one of those rare occasions when the ridiculous state of affairs brought about by the Dictate was actually remedied to a degree.  In 1922, the Border Commission revised the originally established border, allocating the entire retting plant and its related arable land  to Hungary. Thus the western part of Nagylak’s border area – including the main railroad line, the railway station, the hemp plant and some of the farmland – were returned to Hungary.

With the border adjustment, an area of similar size, near MezĹ‘hegyes, was turned over to Romania in exchange.    

But wait!  That surgical knife was not finished yet with Nagylak:  the new border cut off all churches – Protestant and Catholic – from the town, and placed them in Romania!  The residents could SEE their church, but it was now in a different country!  Only with Hungarian government help were the people of Nagylak able to erect a new Catholic church in 2014 – 94 years after the Trianon Dictate!

We don’t know how many other settlements were left without their churches on account of that nefarious piece of paper which dissected the country with surgical precision in 1920... 

Today, Nagylak’s size, in a North-South direction,  is about 4 miles in length, while its East-West width is about one mile. On this approximately 809 acres, an independent settlement consisting of Kendergyár (hemp plant) and Újtelep – population at the time being all of 512 – was organized, centered around the railroad station.  Administratively, Balatán settlement on the outskirts, with a population of 42, was also included.

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Tarpa and Beregszász

Most of the other places, where the new border was established by foreigners, were not as fortunate as Nagylak to have some adjustments made.  Industrial centers were cut off from their sources of raw material, markets from the farms that supplied their produce.  Typical is one area described by French journalist Henri Beraud, as reported in the book Trianon by Yves de Daruvar, pp. 220-221:

“Somewhere in the northern part of the Great Plain, at the end of wheat fields, there is a small village: Tarpa.  In this tiny village there are 100 farmers who have no wood with which to heat during the winter or to repair their houses, but they harvest the wheat by the bushelful.  Fortunately Providence, knowing people’s needs, placed a market town with forests called Beregszász, where only woodcutters are to be found, within a two-hour ox-cart ride.  For over a thousand years, the harvesters of Tarpa brought their sacks of wheat to Beregszász, returning from there with their carts full of logs of wood and bundles of brushwood.  When a hundredweight of wheat or a cord of wood rolled along the road, the state treasury demanded its own share and everyone was satisfied.

“One summer day in 1919, gentlemen arrived there and, pointing to a stone at the foot of a Calvary Cross, told the peasants: ‘You people from Tarpa, you are Hungarian and you people from Beregszász are Slovak.  This stone that you see here is the boundary, and here are two gendarmes who will tell you all the rest.’  The peasants raised their caps and from then on, neither wheat nor wood is transported along the road.  Since then, the people of Beregszász are hungry, while the people of Tarpa are cold.”  (What was that about “taking into account local economic interests”???)

Beraud ended with “This is the full story.” 

Yet this was not the end of the story.  While in 1919, Beregszász became part of Czechoslovakia, the First Vienna Award of 1938 returned it to Hungary. 

In 1945, the Red Army overran Hungary, and 343 men from Beregszász were rounded up and driven off for forced labor – malenkij robot (as were so many thousands from all of Hungary) – and most of them never came back. 

By an agreement between the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia in that year, Beregszász once again was made part of Czechoslovakia.  Since 1991, it is part of the Ukraine. 

So much for President Wilson’s “Self-Determination of Peoples”!