2015 | 7 | 1 | 66-114
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Heroes or Thieves? Nepotism, Clientage and Paramilitary Violence in Hungary, 1919–1921

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This article has examined the motives of the leaders and rank-and-file of the two most important paramilitary groups in Hungary during the counterrevolution. It has shown that the atrocities committed against middleclass Jews were primarily motivated by greed, rather than ethnic and religious hatred or anti-Communist sentiments. Paramilitary violence was conditioned by economic collapse and the “retreat of the state” and its loss of monopoly on violence. Many individuals and social groups also used the militias to achieve their long-term goals: to put pressure on law makers to pass anti-Semitic legislation, which would limit the number of Jewish students admitted to universities and control their share in the various professions. Paramilitary violence can thus be perceived as not only as a product of economic collapse, social chaos, and the “retreat of the state”: it was also part and parcel of a social strategy aimed at the redistribution of wealth, life-chances, power and influence. Finally, article has argued that the defeat of the militia movement in Hungary was due to its leaders’ lack of political talent and the slow restoration of law and order under the conservative government of István Bethlen in the early 1920s.
  • Střed. Časopis pro mezioborová studia střední Evropy 19. a 20. století, Masarykův ústav a Archiv Akademie věd ČR, v. v. i., Gabčíkova 2632/10, Praha 8, 182 00
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