2015 | 2 | 85-101
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The History of the Slovak-Hungarian “Little War” and Its Interpretations in National Histories

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The events of the Slovak-Hungarian “Little War” are closely connected to the circumstances of Hungary’s re-annexation of Sub-Carpathia in March 1939, which took place under the motto of re-establishing a common Hungarian-Polish border. Corps belonging to the Carpathian section of the Hungarian army advanced into Sub-Carpathia and then proceeded to attack Slovak territories. Hungaryʼs official explanation for its occupation of Sub-Carpathia ran as follows: since Slovakia has become an independent state and thus Czechoslovakia no longer exists as a state, the Viennese arbitration is no longer valid. Hungary has won the right to exercise its claim to Sub-Carpathia. The military conflict between Slovakia and Hungary came to an end when Germany intervened and ordered the two parties to conduct bilateral negotiations with a view to reaching an agreement. At the negotiations on March 28, 1939, the parties agreed to end hostilities and to establish a neutral zone between the two armies. They also agreed that Hungarian troops might remain at their occupied positions. On March 28 the Slovak delegation announced claims on Hungarian territory by way of compensation, but the Hungarian government rejected these claims. Germany offered no support to the Slovaks on the border issue; indeed, on April 7 Slovak troops were even required to withdraw from various settlements on the Slovak side of the demarcation line. On April 3, 1939, the German Ambassador to Budapest, Otto von Erdmannsdorff, paid a visit to the Hungarian foreign minister, István Csáky; in the course of their discussions, the two men touched upon the issue of the border established with Slovakia. The Ambassador informed Csáky that the Slovak government had turned to Germany for support, but that it had been told that under the circumstances any attempt at the full restoration of the old border, which was Slovakia’s wish, would be futile. The German Ambassador then asked Csáky whether the Hungarian government would be willing to make certain territorial concessions. Csáky responded that this would be inconceivable — “where Hungarian soldiers have trodden, they will stay”. Hungary could keep the 60-kilometre long and 20-kilometre wide strip of land that it had taken from Slovakia. The Hungarian authorities attached the area of land Sub-Carpathia, of which it remained a part until 1944. In 1945 the newly re-established Czechoslovakia was obliged to surrender the railway line between Csap and Ungvár as well as the Ung line: the Czechoslovak-Soviet border — today’s frontier between Slovakia and Ukraine — was drawn ten to fifteen kilometres further west. During its engagements with the Slovak armed forces from March 23–28, 1939, the Hungarian army suffered 25 fatal and 56 non-fatal casualties; it captured 360 Slovak and 211 Czech/Moravian soldiers.
  • Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Úri u. 53, 1014, Budapest, Hungary,
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