This rather lengthy article is the result of my curiosity while planning my first trip to Budapest. I discovered I knew very little of the geography and history of Central Europe, and set out to learn more. My definition of Central Europe embraces the Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia. I later added Poland and the Baltic republics, Albania and Macedonia, but Greece is not included, except incidentally. This article is, of course, not a complete treatise, since there is much more material than can be treated in such a limited compass, but investigates the topics that I found interesting. It is assembled from the secondary sources mentioned in the References at the end of the article. It is meant primarily for my own enjoyment, but others may find one or another story interesting. I have tried to be fair, but it is necessary to take positions based on the information I have. There is a great deal of conflict, blood and hate in this history, from the migrations of the first millennium of this era to the Shoah of 1941-45. It is depressing that people have not been better to each other. One also finds pernicious national myths that deserve to be exposed. I am dependent on my sources for information. In controversial cases, I have tried to examine both sides, which the Internet facilitates. In many cases, only one faction has truth on its side. Numerical statistics are always suspect, particularly if there appears to be no rational source of them. We begin with some geography.
The geography of Central Europe is dominated by the Carpathian Mountains. This range extends in a 1500-km arc from the Porta Hungarica where they are divided from the Alps by the Danube to the Iron Gate where the Danube separates them from the Balkans. Their arc contains the Hungarian Plain, drained by the Danube, the Tisza and their tributaries. In the east, they curve around the Transylvanian plateau, a hilly region contained by mountains. The Carpathians consist of several independent ranges and form a broad mountainous belt. The White Carpathians are the westernmost range. Then come the West Beskids and the East Beskids, separated by the High Tatra, which is a little south of the main summit line. The eastern, or wooded, Carpathians curve around Transylvania and then join the est-west Southern Carpathians that extend to the Iron Gate near Orsova.
These mountains are the outer limits of the Alpine orogeny of early Tertiary age. The western parts are composed of typical Alpine flysch, while the eastern sections are mainly sandstone. The High Tatra are granite. They are not high mountains with Alpine scenery. The highest peak, in the High Tatra of the Slovak Republic, reaches 2655 m (8705 ft.). It was named after Franz Josef, then Gerlachova by the Czechs, who later thought Stalin Peak was a better name. It is back to Gerlachova now. There are many passes through the range. The Breslau-Budapest railway uses the Jablunka Pass, at the northwest corner of the Slovak Republic, the lowest at 1970 ft. Vereczke Pass, in the eastern Carpathians, is famous as the route of the magyars in 896 into the Hungarian plain. The Predeal Pass is at the junction of the eastern and southern Carpathians, just south of Brasov. To the north, towards Poland, is the Galician plain, once a Hapsburg possession. Beyond that, plains extend to the Baltic. To the east is the Ukranian plain, extending into Central Asia. To the south of the Southern Carpathians lies the Wallachian Plain, bounded by the Danube.
In the northwest the Carpathians collide with earlier mountains of the Hercynian or Variscian (Carboniferous) orogeny. the Sudeten range (the name means "boar's mountains") runs northwest to the Erzgebirge, which trends southwest to meet the Böhmerwald. These ranges enclose the plateau of Bohemia. The Harz mountains to the west are part of this assembly. All of these mountains are strongly mineralized. The Erzgebirge was an early source of tin and copper, and, therefore, bronze. Its name, in fact, comes from an earlier meaning of "erz" as bronze. Silver and lead were, however, the principal products of all these mountains. Gold is also found in important amounts. Although much ore still remains, the richer deposits are exhausted and there are many cheaper sources at present, so mining is chiefly historical.
This region is drained by the Danube, which rises in the Black Forest in southwestern Germany not far from the Rhine, flowing northeastward to its northernmost stretch in Bavaria, near Regensburg, then generally eastward through Austria to its right-angled bend to the south through Budapest and Beograd. The river then turns eastward to the gorge of the Iron Gate where it crosses the hard rocks of the Carpathians at Orshova. The Iron Gate is 3.2 km long, and 170 m wide. It was cleared of rocks in the 19th century to permit some navigation, but was bypassed by a ship canal in 1896. There is now a dam and a hydroelectric plant at the gorge. From the Iron Gate the Danube flows eastward toward the Black Sea, but turns north and flows parallel to the shore through extensive swamps for about 100 miles before turning east and building a large delta with three distributaries as it flows into the sea.
The Tisza meanders to the north from near Beograd, reaching the foothills of the Carpathians and then making a hairpin bend and draining northern Transylvania through its tributary the Szamos. The principal southern tributary of the Danube is the Save, rising in Austria and entering the Danube near Beograd. A little further north, the Drau flows parallel to the Save. The Dinaric Alps separate these drainages from the Adriatic. To the east of the Carpathians, the Prut joins the Danube where it turns eastward to its delta. The next large river is the Dneister, which enters the Black Sea at Odessa. Further east are the Bug and the Dneper (Dnieper), entering the Black Sea near Kherson, not far east of Odessa. These rivers drain the Ukrainaian Plain as far as the Pripet Marshes. The Don enters the Black Sea via the Sea of Azov at Rostov, and is the last large river flowing into the Black Sea. East of the Don is the Volga, which flows into the Caspian Sea at Astrakhan. The Volga and the Don drain the vast Russian Plain, the home of many peoples.
We should also notice the southern extension of central Europe, the Balkan Peninsula. This is bounded on the north by the Danube, on the west by the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, on the south by the Aegean, and on the east by the Black Sea. Most of this area is mountainous or hilly, with few good internal routes and many isolated hiding places. The Balkan Mountains themselves are an east-west range dividing Bulgaria into halves. The upper half was ancient Moesia, the lower half Thrace. To the west was Illyria.
After the Ice Age, Europe was repopulated by migration from more southerly regions. Since then, some peoples have been in constant motion, either driven from their previous homes by climatic conditions or competition with other groups, or attracted to richer lands where they hope to make better lives or escape persecution. These migrations are of intrinsic interest and historic importance, but knowledge of them is very imperfect until written records become available. Often the only informtion on movements and original homes is oral legend. Archaeology is of very little help, since relics are not only scarce, but difficult to interpret. This, of course, does not prevent archaeologists from weaving intricate tales of little reliability. One important clue is preserved in the people themselves: their language.
It is remarkable that, in spite of common language properties among all humans, different languages are almost completely mutually incomprehensible. Human groups classify people by language: we who speak it, and all those others who don't. In addition, language is very conservative, changing only slowly with time and often only superficially. The creation of new languages requires special conditions and happens only rarely. The main languages of Europe--Latin, Greek, Welsh, English, German, French, and the Baltic, Slavic and Scandinavian languages--are all classified as Indo-European and are assumed to have a common root language. Sanskrit is also Indo-European, which gives the "Indo-" part of the name. Linguists establish these identifications by isolating word roots, and consistent patterns of change. The eastern class of Indo-European languages use the root "satem" for a hundred, while the western class uses "centum". This is all explained by some as the result of a migration of people from the Caucasian region northwards and westwards into Europe, carrying their language with them. These people were once called Caucasian, now Proto Indo-European. The actual home country may be the Dneister and Don steppes in present-day Ukraine. This may be much too simple, and Indo-European is only a convenient classification of languages that could have a common source.
Not all the people of Europe are Indo-European. There are, for example, the older populations of Great Britain and Ireland who were absorbed by Celtic peoples and whose languages have disappeared, but whose physical types probably still remain. These people must also have migrated to Europe, perhaps from Africa via the straits of Gibraltar. These may include the Basques. Hungarians speak a Finno-Ugric language orginating in the Urals, as of course, do the Finns. The arrival of the Hungarians is noted in history. Turkic people speak an Altaic language, supposed to orginate near that central Asian mountain range. Magyar is a Finno-Ugric language of unknown source, with similarities in form to Altaic languages. All languages acquire loan-words from neighbouring peoples, so such borrowing does not indicate that the languages are themselves related.
Language is more persistent than race or culture. A majority language ovewhelms a minority language when constant interaction is necessary between the groups. Sometimes, a new language arises as a compromise, necessary in forming a lingua franca, which was the case with English and other Western European languages. I have not heard of a European analogy to the sign languages of American Indians, where there were a great number of mutually incomprehensible languages. Bulgaria speaks a Slavic language, not the Turkic language of the minority ruling Bulgars, which has been completely absorbed. Vlachs speak their Latin-based dialects, not the Slavic of the many absorbed Slavs in their community.
Standardized national literary languages are a recent development. In the middle ages and earlier, Latin and Greek (Koine) were standardized written languages of Europe that could be used for official purposes and literature. The vernacular languages were spoken only, and differed widely from location to location, though with close similarities within the same group. Local populations could identify themselves easily after hearing only a few words, and could often not easily understand related populations from only a short distance away. This still is evident today, when people recognize even small variations in accent, as between British and American English, though mutual understanding is nearly complete. Standard languages, such as English and Castilian Spanish, were created as vehicles of communication in extended communities. German, Hungarian and Italian were not standardized until late, since Latin was the literary language in these countries. In the case of German, this happened when Luther translated the bible into the vernacular, and had to establish certain prescriptions. In the Western Christian church, the sacred writings were translated into the vernacular Latin, which the people could then understand, from the original Greek, which they could not. Later, though the church clung to Latin as a lingua franca, it gradually diverged from the vernacular. Priests hardly knew what to do, other than to repeat the Latin loudly. Only at the Reformation were services again presented in the new vernaculars that had arisen.
With the birth of the concept of national identity in the 19th century, this identity was invariably expressed as a national language, which usually had to be created by scholars. For example, the Serbs and Croats, for all their cultural differences, spoke various closely-related dialects of Slavic. One was chosen as the basis of the new South Slav identity, and Serbo-Croat arose, to be the language of Yugoslavia. When Croats and Slavs later separated in anger, small differences in dialect began to identify separate Croatian and Serbian dialects. The case of Czech is similar, since the Slavic languages of Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia each consisted of a collection of similar local dialects, out of which standard Czech and Slovak arose. Romanian was constructed from Wallachian dialects in the 19th century, with considerable borrowing from French. Language follows politics in most cases, not the other way around. Languages are standardized only when they become used for writing, and a literature is created. In Welsh, this happened when the spoken traditions of the bards were first written down, something the bards themselves deprecated.
Naive conclusions drawn from superficial comparisons of languages may be completely erroneous. The similarity of Romanian and Italian does not imply that Romanian was the language of the ancient Dacians. The actual connection will be explained later. Hungarian and Turkish have a typological similarity, and there are many similar words, but the two languages are not related. Turkish is Altaic, and Hungarian is Ugric. No possible common ancestor can be imagined by linguists. The similar words are only borrowings, because of the close contact of the Magyars with Turkic people from Khazar days to the present. Attempts to relate Magyar with Sumerian or Hunnic also fail, though proposed by enthusiasts to support various theories.
The original Indo-Europeans seem to have differentiated in Europe, in the second or third millennia BCE, after the neolithic revolution brought agriculture. Germans inhabited the area around present-day Denmark and southern Scandinavia. South of them were the Celts, occupying all of western and central Europe, and pressing into the Iberian peninsula, displacing the original inhabitants. The Celts knew how to work copper and iron. To the northeast of the Celts were the Slavs and Balts, who pressed the Finns northwards. Italic tribes moved to the south ahead of the Celts, and differentiated into Illyrian, Thracian, Greek and Latin peoples. In Italy, they came into contact with the Etruscans, probably of western African origin like the Basques, as well as with Phoenician colonists, here and in Iberia. Some Celts were herdsmen, but most were farmers, living in fortified villages (oppidi) and governed by strongmen. The name Celt has nothing to do with the palaeolithic tool of the same name, which was due to a misreading anyway.
The Germans began to press southwards in the late first millennium BCE. The migration of the Goths and Vandals was a major stage in these events. Central European Celts, such as the Insubres and Boii, moved southwards into Italy, and were replaced by Germans. The Cimbri and Teutones (despite the neme, Celts) followed, even penetrating as far as Anatolia, where they founded Galatia. Marcomanni and Quadi occupied the lands of the Boii, and were surrounded by more German tribes, such as Jutes, Angles, Frisians, Saxons, Franks, Lombards and Alemanni, as population increased. In modern terms, none of these tribes would be considered large. The Finns moved westwards from the Urals, as well as southwards into the steppes as Magyars. Iranian peoples, such as Cimmerians, Scyths, Sarmatians, Sakas, Roxolani and Alans occupied the steppes vacated by the other Indo-Europeans. In the first millennium CE the Iranians were overcome by Turkic peoples, such as the Huns. On the steppes, the population was even thinner than further west in Europe.
Also influencing Europe were the Semitic people who occupied Mesopotamia, Arabia and Egypt. There is no tradition of their coming from elsewhere. Their creation legends imply that they originated where they then lived, or from not far away to the East. The originators of Mesopotamian civilization, the Sumerians, were not Semitic, but invaders from the East. They passed on their cunieform writing to their successors, the Babylonians and Assyrians. Egyptians developed writing and civilization at about the same time independently of Mesopotamia. The sea-going Phoenicians attacked their fellow Semites and founded colonies around the Mediterranean, notably in Iberia and at Carthage in North Africa. Apparently, they sailed as far as Britain for tin. Aside from this, and the later diaspora of the Jews, Semites have never migrated far from their homelands. We have written records from the Semitic lands, so we know much more about their history than about that of Europe and the steppes.
Invasions by military elites should be distinguished from mass movements of peoples. DNA analysis is showing this more and more clearly in recent studies. The Anglo-Saxon invasion of England in the 5th century had very little effect on the genetic makeup of the people. Latin probably survived much later in common speech than was previously assumed. The Norman invasion of 1066 had a similarly minor effect. The population of England is racially pretty much the same as it was in Roman times. We'll see another good example later in Bulgaria, in which very few Bulgars can be found among the Slavic population. The "barbarian invasions" of the Roman Empire are another case in point. Politics and culture change much more readily than genetics. Language can differentiate people much more distinctly than genetics.
The Roman Empire was founded by a city-state that made allies and associates rather than conquered subjects. The powers of its government originated from its people, not from monarchs. The Roman state would come to the aid of any people struggling to remove a king. This was the origin of the wars against Carthage and in Greece, where democratic states were protected from kings like Philip of Macedon and their allies. This led to the creation of a more or less universal Graeco-Roman state in which government was mainly local, controlled by senates rather than tyrants. The Roman army was originally composed of citizens of property, and was unpaid. The plebeians won payment for military duty, which allowed poorer citizens to participate. Eventually, the army became mercenary, and an important way of attaining Roman citizenship. Citizenship was eventually universally granted, founding the idea of the state as a commonwealth. Eventually, the army was composed almost entirely of non-citizens, mainly Germans, who gave good and faithful service in most instances. The army was stationed on the borders--along the Rhine and the Danube, along Hadrian's wall in Britain, in Syria and Mesopotamia--with only small detachments in the interior, mainly for recruiting duty. Compare this with modern empires, which are held down by military force and vanish when the force is removed. The central bureaucracy, which handled the circulation of money and regulation of trade, pressed very lightly on the average inhabitant. When, due to economic reasons, Rome withdrew troops from Britain in 410 CE, the province begged for this order to be countermanded. At the time of Augustus, it was decided only to extend the empire to people who lived in permanent towns and cities; that is, to civilized people. Those who were nomadic and ruled by chiefs formed an outer halo. This established the boundary on the Rhine and Danube. Cologne ("Colonia") was founded for Germanic veterans who desired to live within the boundary. The boundary was not pushed forward to the Elbe, which was the original plan, and the Franks ("Free") were permitted to retain their tribal organization.
The Senate at Rome was the effective governmental authority, in addition to the Imperial civil service under the control of the Princeps, the Emperor in later terms. This terminology was never used at the time; "imperator" was simply a military term of respect, just "commander". The Princeps became, in fact, an autocrat, the only way that could be seen to protect the rights of the commonality against the aristocrat. A good way of composing the Senate to be more widely representative was never found. The Roman aristocrats who dominated the Senate decayed in quality, especially after the adoption of Christianity as the state religion. When the Senate failed, the Western Empire fell apart.
The army was, however, found in the interior when it followed some pretender to power. This was especially easy to do when the army was composed of German mercenaries and was far from Rome. The legitimate emperor, acclaimed by the electoral assemblies of the people and accepted by the Senate, needed to dispose of sufficient military power to meet the threat effectively. Indeed, this was another reason why the Princeps had to be commander-in-chief. For administrative efficiency, the Empire was divided into Eastern and Western parts in 395, governed from Constantinople and Rome, respectively. The western part did not fall with barbarian hordes sweeping across the countryside and burning the cities, but from the settling of independent Germanic tribes within the Empire to protect them from the Huns. This period is called the Vökerwanderung in German. Not all German tribes wandered, however. Those already tributary to the Empire and safe from eastern marauders, such as the Franks, largely remained in place and later formed part of Charlemagne's Empire.
The Roman Empire changed over time. The princeps, first among equals, became dominus, lord. The army chose the dominus, not popular assemblies. Indeed, before the field armies of mercenary soldiers that arose in the fourth century, the army was an assembly of citizens. Later, it was the source of political power and controlled by the aristocracy. The role of the Senate steadily declined. Christianity was adopted as the state religion and became intolerant. Christianity killed people because of what they thought, or were believed to think. Denying the trinity or baptizing adults was punished by death. The centre of gravity of the Empire moved steadily eastward, especially after Constantine established an eastern capital in 322, and established a gold coinage that could not be debased, with gold from the treasures of the temples of the old religions. The west was slowly abandoned to Germanic kingdoms, as tribes became foederati and their leaders were called patricii. There was little change in the nature of the population, however. The capital was moved from Rome to Milan and then Ravenna. Greek had always been the common and cultured language of the Roman Empire, except in the west and the Balkans, and it eventually replaced Latin. However, Justinian still wrote law in Latin in the 5th century. Intellectual life vanished in the illiterate west, but did not in Constantinople. Indeed, the years 800-1000 were the apex of the Empire, when both the Persians and the Arabs had been overcome. Constantinople may have been the largest and most prosperous city in the world for a thousand years, whether the Empire was weak or strong. The victory of the Seljuk Turk Alp Alslan at Lake Van in 1071, and the disaster of the Crusades, began the decline. However, Constantinople did not fall until 1453.
The disintegration of responsible central authority led to the disappearance of money. Not that money lost its value: it was probably more valuable than ever, but now it was hoarded for security, not used as a means of exchange. Every locality had to depend on its own resources, and rely on barter. Towns shrunk to fit the territory that they served. No longer could Britons eat fresh oysters off fine pottery: both depended on trade over considerable distances and payments in money. Now they ate venison and rabbit off wooden trenchers, and drunk the mead they fermented instead of wines from Gaul. Rulers had a more insistent problem: they could no longer pay mercenary soldiers with taxes exacted from the peasantry. A new method of organization was developed, in accordance with local conditions, but with certain general characteristics. This was the feudal system. The word comes from the Latin for its central feature, the fief or feud. We'll be satisfied with only a typical example of feudalism, and not enter into the great controversy over what it means.
The three essential elements of a feudal system are the lord, the vassal, and the fief. The fief is land, part of that which the lord disposes of. The lord grants the vassal the enjoyment of the fief, in return for a pledge of aid and counsel. Aid means the provision of military service, and counsel means the attendance of the vassal at councils to advise the lord. This pledge is made by homage or oath of fealty. Homage is rendered to a liege or supreme lord, while an oath is taken to any lord. Homage, a promise to fight for the lord, can be rendered to only one lord, of course. This covers a great complexity of dependence, when vassals themselves become lords, and may have granted fiefs to one another. The Norwegian lord Rollo (Hrolf Ganger) rendered homage to King Charles III ("The Simple") of France for Normandy in 911. He had one of his henchmen perform the act of fealty, which was kissing the king's foot. The henchman raised the foot so high, refusing to bend over, that the king fell on his bum. Later, a sword might be tapped on the vassal's shoulders.
Fiefs were measured in units of the knight's fee, the amount of land that would support a knight, his horse, his armour, and his weapons, and, of course, those who would actually do the work. This was about £20 per annum around 1200 CE. A free peasant would earn about 3d per day, or £3-4 per annum. The knight might have to render 40 day's service a year for his fief. A duke would own thousands of knight's fees, which he would subinfeudate to his chief supporters, who would in turn receive fealty from their subordinates, down to the individual knight. Thus the problem of paying for an army was solved. In these years, what mattered were heavy-armoured horsemen. Infantry had lost their importance in the fourth century, and gunpowder artillery only arrived after 1300. The appearance of small arms in the 16th century turned the rule back to the infantry, who could then usually defeat cavalry without trouble. It was easier to feed 500 horsemen and their horses than 5000 infantry.
Manorialism accompanied feudalism, but was not part of it. The manor was a self-sufficient community that evolved from the late Roman estate. These estates tended to be more and more independent, producing all they needed, and were less and less worked by slaves, what the Romans called the familia. Most of the inhabitants of a manor were legally free, but owed fealty to their lords. The lowest class of peasants came more and more to be tied to the land as serfs. On their majority, they swore fealty like any other vassal. Everyone paid the tithe to the church. The manor might be royal, lay or ecclesiastical. The manor was divided into demesne, the lands used directly for the lord, the villein land, worked by serfs tied to the manor, and lands of the free peasants, or ceorls. Characteristic was farming in strip fields, so that good and poor lands would be equally distributed. The serfs paid in produce, as a modern sharecropper does, and were subject to to corvée, compulsory labor, on roads or buildings. The amount of land that would support a family was called a hide in England (rents were often paid in hides). The hundred was an area of 100 hides. What trade there was, was performed on navigable streams, or with pack animals.
Many ingenious perversions of the manor and feudal system could be conceived, and constant legislation was necessary to keep the system going. The act of infeudation removed a fief from the control of the superior lord; in particular, he could no longer tax it. In England in 1290, Edward I's proclamation of quia emptores prohibited subinfeudation.
The feudal-manorial system was very unlike the organization of the nomadic barbarian kingdoms, but the concept of fealty was easily understood, and so the system took hold in what had been the Roman empire. In other regions, it was adopted in different ways, which has given rise to the controversy over the definition of feudalism. What the barbarians added was the concept of an elective kingdom, which was very attractive to military magnates. The elective principle struggles with the hereditary principle, and the nobles struggle with the central, royal power, throughout the middle ages. The struggle between the aristocracy and the plebeians died with the Roman empire, and was not resurrected until the 18th century.
The standard Roman gold coin, introduced around the time of Julius Caesar, was the aureus. By the fourth century, it had been reduced in weight and fineness, so Constantine I introduced a new coin, the solidus. The solidus was about 4.5 g of .955-.985 fine gold, 20 mm in diameter, larger and thinner than the aureus. It remained a constant standard until the 11th century, known in the west as a bezant (from Byzantium). Its Islamic counterpart was the dinar, introduced by Abd el-Malik in 693. The dinar was slightly lighter, 4.25 g, and instead of portraits had decorative Arabic script. The dinar was cast, while the solidus was struck the usual way. Roger II of Sicily, Duke of Apulia, issued the first western gold coin, the ducat, in 1140 to compete with the dinar and the declining solidus. Florence minted a similar coin, the florin, in 1252, and Venice its ducat, which became the western standard, under doge Giovanni Dandolo in 1284. The ducat was around 3.5 g (54 grains troy) in weight, of .986 fine gold. It was a bit smaller than the U.S. quarter eagle ($2.50) coin, and would be worth today about $50. A doubloon was a double ducat, about 7 g of gold.
A gold coin can be tested for purity using a touchstone, which was one reason gold was used for important payments. The word "soldier" comes from the payment of mercenaries in solidi. Everyday accounts were settled in copper or silver coins. The acceptance of debased coins at face value was encouraged, but not always practiced. An impure silver alloy, billon, or a thin silver coating (wash) were frequently used to suggest value. The usual small copper coin of the later empire was the nummus. Coins were minted in multiples of 5, 20 and 40 nummi. The 20 nummi denomination was popular; it was called a follis after a silver wash coin of a similar size used earlier. The denomination was expressed on the reverse by a Greek alphabetic letter: E - 5, K - 20 and M - 40. The fine gold coins would not have held up under use, but the copper coins were usually a harder alloy (often called bronze, whatever the hardening agent) that would resist wear. Small coins of any type were rare in the west, as we have mentioned, because of the tendency toward hoarding and the lack of any central authority to maintain their value, especially since they had come to be accepted on face value, not their actual worth, and this trust was difficult to maintain.
Until the end of the middle ages and the arrival of a flood of silver from the New World, gold was worth about nine times an equal weight of silver. The ratio in modern times was closer to 16:1, but is now much larger. In western Europe, silver coinage had become popular, in the form of the English penny or the large silver dollar, for example. Silver was discovered in the Harz, the Erzgebirge and the Carpathians around the 12th century, and was plentiful enough to lubricate commerce. The name dollar comes from Joachimstaler, a coin first struck in 1518 after the discovery of silver in Joachimstal in Bohemia. The large size was probably an attempt to make them equal in value to a ducat, but the decreasing price of silver made this impractical.
Kings and counterfeiters cannot resist issuing debased coins, hoping that they will be accepted as if they represented full value, and that the difference can be pocketed. The result is to drive good coins out of circulation (Gresham's Law) so they can be melted down or exported at full value. Issuing heavy coins in an attempt to strengthen the reputation of a currency fails for the same reason. The United States originally tried this with its silver coins, which simply vanished into vaults and strongboxes when issued. "Bits" of Spanish 8 reales silver dollars were long the usual small change in the United States for this reason.
The Goths, a Germanic people whose original home was southern Sweden, in the region still known as Göthaland, crossed the Baltic in 300 BCE to 100 CE and settled in the Vistula estuary, displacing the Slavs. They decided about 200 CE to move from their territory on the Vistula, to warmer lands on the north shore of the Black Sea, recently vacated by the Gepids, who themselves had supplanted the Daci or Getae. All these tribes, noted by classical authors, soon vanished from history. Initially, the Goths did some raiding in the Balkans, plundering Athens in 262 CE. Ulfilas (310-383), a Goth, was converted to Christianity in Constantinople. He was named a bishop, and dispatched as a missionary to the Goths. He invented a Gothic alphabet and translated the Bible into Gothic. Through his efforts, the Goths became Christians. Ulfilas was an Arian, a belief that was condemned as a heresy by the Trinitarians by 381. This created a conflict when the Goths later came into much closer contact with the West.
Arius was an elder of Alexandria in the early 4th century. He taught that God was supreme and eternal, and created the Logos, who created the Holy Spirit. Trinitarians believed that the three members of the Trinity were eternal and co-equal. Arius was denounced by Athanasius in 321. Constantine called the Council of Nicaea in 325 to establish the principles of the faith, where 300 bishops met. The council was dominated by Trinitarians, who promulgated a Creed supporting their beliefs. The controversy did not subside, however, and a second Council was called at Constantinople in 381. This council established a definitive Creed, called the Nicene Creed, making Trintiarian beliefs paramount. Arianism was declared a heresy, and Emperor Theodosius expelled the Arians. God, apparently, remained silent, and did not express a preference. Arianism is now extinct, but some sects, such as Unitarians and Latter-Day Saints, hold similar beliefs.
In 370 CE, the Goths divided into two groups. The Visigothic kingdom inhabited the territory from the Danube to the Dneister. Visigoth means "noble Goth"; the Gothic name was Tervingi, and we often call them West Goths. The Ostrogothic or East Gothic, kingdom stretched from the Dneister to the Don. Ostrogoth means "splendid Goth". They called themselves Greutungi. Apparently, Goths were attractive people, tall and blond. Shortly thereafter, the Avars, a Hunnic people, attacked from the east, and Emperor Valens allowed the Visigoths to settle in Moesia, south of the Danube, where they entered the army. Roman aristocrats were probably responsible for mistreatment of the Goths, who revolted in anger. Valens was killed in a battle at Adrianople, and the Goths threatened Constantinople. Emperor Theodosius I made peace with the Visigoths and integrated their army into the Roman army. On his death, dissention again broke out, and the Visigoths declared their independence. The Visigoths captured Rome in 410.
On 31 December 406, the Suebi, Vandals and Alans crossed the Rhine at Mainz and invaded Gaul. The Suebi were an East German tribe that migrated to the Rhineland in the 1st century BCE. The Gallic Aedui invited them into Gaul to take part in the incessant feuds in that region. With their king, Ariovistus, they were defeated by Caesar in 58 BCE who had come to the aid of the Aedui when oppressed by the Suebi. The three allies ravaged through Gaul, then descended on Iberia, which they divided into three kingdoms in 411. In 412, the Visigoths, Roman foederati, were assigned the task of recovering Iberia. The Vandal and Alan kingdoms were defeated by 416, and the Vandals escaped to Africa. The Suebi were made foederati, and ruled the first sub-Roman kingdom in Gallaecia (Galicia) in the northwest, which survived 410-584, until the Visigoth Leovigild annexed it.
Meanwhile, the Ostrogoths had not been so fortunate. They were mauled by the Huns, and forced to serve in Attila's army. The Visigoths still formed part of the Roman army, commanded by Flavius Aëtius, and fought at the battle of Châlons in 451, where Attila was decisively defeated, and thousands of his Ostrogothic allies fell. When the Huns finally retreated, the Ostrogoths asked for asylum within the Empire, and were assigned to Pannonia, west and south of the Danube in what is now Hungary. The Ostrogoths, too, became Christian. The Ostrogothic king Theodoric, coming to the throne in 474, warred with Emperor Zeno, and was assigned rich territory to rule. An Ostrogothic chief, Odoacer, had captured Rome and deposed the last western emperor, Romulus Augustulus (a contemptuous nickname), in 476. The power of Rome, however, had long since vanished. In 488, with the aid of the Emperor, Theodoric overthrew Odoacer and became the effective ruler of Italy, though a Roman consul held the actual title. When Theodoric died in 526, the resulting chaos stimulated Emperor Justinian to send an army under the great admiral Belisarius in 535. The war lasted for twenty years, but the Ostrogoths were utterly overthrown, and thereafter Italy was ruled by the Exarch of Ravenna. The Gothic language became a written language, with an alphabet adapted from Greek with the addition of two runes. Most knowledge of it comes from a fragmentary translation of the Bible. The Goths were a small minority in Italy, and were assimilated into the general population, their language lost.
The Visigoths were also a distinct minority in Spain (no more than 1 in 5), and their Arian creed clashed with the local orthodoxy. The loss of effective power in Rome meant that they were on their own. The Visigothic kingdom was extended into southern France, where it competed with the Franks, Germans from the middle Rhine who had taken over in a similar manner. Clovis I defeated the Visigoths in 507 at Vouillé, after which the Visigothic kingdom was restricted to Spain. Punctuted by conflicts with the local populations, the Visigothic kingdom steadily deteriorated. King Reccared converted to orthodoxy in 587, after which relations with the natives were better. The Visigoths were thorougly latinized, and life went on much as under the Empire. King Roderick was defeated by the Islamic Moors in 711, and by 713 the Visigothic kingdom had disappeared. The memory of the Goths is preserved in Spain only by some speech habits and physical traits. The reconquista began immediately in the north, and the Moors were finally expelled in 1492, along with the Jews.
The Vandals were a third Germanic tribe, who also originated in Sweden or Jutland, later settling along the Oder. They invaded Gaul in 406, and Spain in 409, where they fought both the Romans and the Visigoths. They crossed over into Africa, where they were overlords by 435, and conquered Carthage in 439. Genseric, who despised the Roman authorities because of their treacherous conduct, became king in 428. He came under the influence of Attila and accompanied him with his army to the fatal battle of Châons in 451, discussed below. He escaped from this battle, later collecting his forces to sack Rome in 477, the year of his death, when it was in the power of Odoacer. The last of the Vandals were defeated by Belisarius.
Stilicho, a Vandal, was western emperor Honorius's magister militum, and deeply devoted to the Roman cause. Nevertheless, Honorius, fearing his popularity, had him murdered in 407. Contemporaries said that Honorius had cut off his own right hand by this act.
The geatest devastation at the fall of the Empire was probably in Gaul, later France, where armies fought almost continually for centuries, and trade was completely disrupted. In England, Spain and Italy, some urban life persisted, though trade languished because of the lack of money and the uncertainty of travel. The real Goths who played roles in Spain and Italy were long gone before Gothic architecture, which they had nothing to do with, or Gothic novels, or other applications of the term.
The Huns were a vigorous Asiatic people of Central Asia, equestrian nomads, who spoke Turkic languages. Some tribes called themselves Huns who were not, and the Huns were racially mixed. Controversy surrounds most beliefs about the Huns. Their language is all but unknown. They interacted with China and Europe both, earlier with China, where they were known as the Hsiung-nu, or "ferocious slaves". A treaty between China and the Huns was adopted in 318 BCE. Shih Huang Ti, the first Ch'in emperor of a united China, built the Great Wall, 1200 miles long, as a defence against the Huns in 228-204 BCE. A Hun empire stretched across central Asia from 204 BCE to 216 CE, including many subject peoples. The Alans, a Sarmatian people speaking an Iranian language, also called Western Huns or White Huns, occupied the region between the Caucasus and the Volga by 370 CE, and were pushing westward. Remarkably, they appear to have populated the region north of the Caucasus and between the Black and Caspian Seas until overcome much later by the Khazars and Mongols. The Alans were part of the Hunnic empire. They still exist in Russia and Georgia as the Ossetes.
The colourful terms used in describing many peoples and regions are the Chinese expressions for geographic directions. Yellow, in the centre, is China itself, the centre of the earth. North, the land of winter darkness, is black. South, the region of heat, is red. The east, where the Pacific Ocean lies, is blue. Finally, the west is denoted by white. The White Huns are, therefore, the western huns. The westernmost range of the Carpathians is the White Carpathians. White Russians are the westernmost Russians, now Belarus, which simply means that in their language. The Mongol Empire became the White, Blue, Red and Black Hordes, with the Golden Horde in the centre. "Horde" is from Turkic ordu, and just means "army".The Navajo Indians of America have a similar colour code for directions. Here, white, yellow, blue and black are also used, but white represents east and blue west, and yellow replaces red.
The Huns were mainly a Turkic people, but perhaps with some Altaic and Mongol influence. They apparently had a somewhat mongoloid appearance which led people to confuse them with Mongols. One source claims they introduced trousers to Europe, but trousers seem to have been known much earlier, especially among horsemen. Riding a horse while wearing a tunic is not comfortable. The Huns have no connection with Hungarians, though the early Magyars may not have escaped some Hunnic influence. The Magyar chief Árpád claimed descent from Attila, but this is surely an embellishment of his warrior's pedigree. There is a website that traces the descent of Queen Elizabeth II from Genghis Khan.
The European Hunnic Empire was present from about 275 to 454. The Roman Empire invited the Huns under their chief Balamir into Pannonia to fight the Alans in 361 and 372. They subjugated most of the peoples north of the Danube, and turned their attention to the decaying Roman Empire. The most famous Hun is certainly Attila (406-453), who became king in 433. He murdered his brother Bleda, who had shared the throne with him since the death of their uncle King Rua. He devastated Moesia and Illyria, then attacked Theodosius II in Constantinople, but his army did not possess the expertise to beseige the city. With his Vandal ally Genseric, and his subject Ostrogothic troops, Attila was cornered at Châlons in 451 by the Roman and Visigothic army of Flavius Aëtius. After a great slaughter (some say; others that it was only just won), the Huns were allowed to retreat to the Rhine, but their power was broken. In 452, Attila again devastated northern Italy but Rome was saved by the mediation of Pope Leo I, and Attila withdrew. In 453 Attila died of a drunken nosebleed while on a renewed campaign against Rome. Hunnic hegemony in Europe ended in 454, and the remnants of the Huns withdrew into Asia. In 483, the Alans defeated the Sassanid Persian King Firuz II and exacted tribute.
The earliest people known in history who occupied the steppes north of the Black Sea and the Caucasus were the Cimmerians (Kimmerioi), equestrian nomads speaking an Iranian language. In the 8th century BCE, the similar Scythians, perhaps from the Altai region in Central Asia, invaded and split them into two groups. The eastern group was reported in what is now Azerbaijan in 714 by the Assyrians. These people raided Anatolia in the next century until they were subdued. There they settled, and the last historical mention of them is in 500 BCE. The western group settled on both sides of the Danube, and were known as Thracians. The northern part included the Getae and Dacians. The Dacian tribes were the Apuli in Transylvania, Carpi on the eastern slopes of the Carpathians, the Costoboci in what is now southern Ukraine, and the Suci in Oltenia (East Wallachia). Those south of the Danube settled Moesia and Thrace. The Thracians were thoroughly Hellenized in Thrace, less thoroughly Romanized in the other places. Spartacus, who led the Servile Revolts in 73-71 BCE, was a Thracian captive. Some claim the Thracians even penetrated as far as Albania.
The Cimmerians, like the Huns, have been claimed as glorious ancestors. The Welsh name for Wales, Cymru, has been derived by folk etymology from Cimmeria, for example. Some Germans also claim Cimmerian ancestry. However, the proto-Celts and proto-Germans arrived in Western Europe in the Bronze Age, well before 800 BCE, and could not have had Cimmerian antecedents dating from the Scythian invasion. Cimmeria, the lands north of the Black Sea and the Caucasus, could have been the original home of the Indo-Europeans, before the first millennium BCE.
The Scythians, settling west of the Tanaïs (Don), probably came from the Altai regions in 800-600 BCE, speaking an Iranian language. They were nomad horsemen and archers. Some Scythian women were warriors, as has been verified by modern archaeology, which identified them with the Amazons. In fact, they seem to have been the first to tame horses and use them in battle. They may have invented saddles and stirrups, but one source says they used only blankets. The fact that they were mounted archers, famous for barbed arrowheads, would seem to indicate that they knew the stirrup. They invented trousers for riding, much more comfortable than a tunic. They were in contact with the classical Greeks, whose craftsmen made the beautiful gold ornaments associated with Scythians for them. They had no writing. Around 300 BCE, they were displaced from the Balkans by Celts, and around 200 BCE from Southern Russia by the Sarmatians. They disappear from history in the 1st century BCE. The Sarmatians, related Iranian tribes from east of the River Don, were also mounted bowmen, who invented metal armour. They replaced the Scythians, until driven out by the Goths. These people are all described as blond, stout and suntanned. A legend of the Polish nobles, the szlachta, was that they were descendants of the Sarmatians, which is not credible.
Consideration of the events on the north shore of the Black Sea from the Bronze Age and after shows that migrations from the east were a regular event, not something that began to occur in the Dark Ages. We have not included the events that occurred on the other routes to the West, through Persia and Afghanistan, which, after all, was Alexander the Great's path in the reverse direction. The steppes of southern Russia were successively dominated by Indo-Europeans, Persians, Huns, Turks and Mongols.
The Gepids were a pagan Germanic tribe that accompanied the Goths in their conquest of Dacia in the 260's. They settled east of the Tisza in the Hungarian Plain. They were subjugated first by the Ostrogoths, whom they heartily disliked, and then by the Huns in 375. They fought beside Attila and Genseric at Châlons, where they formed the right wing of the Hunnic army as the largest of the allied contingents. Their chieftain at that time was Ardaric. However, they later turned against the Huns, defeating them at the Battle of the Medao in 454 and ending Hunnic power in Europe, becoming Roman allies thereafter.
The Lombards were a German tribe, Arian Christians, that had settled on the upper Elbe and Oder east of the Bavarians. They were encouraged by Justinian to eliminate the revolted Gepids, which they did under their king Ardois at the Battle of Asfeld in 552. The remnants of the Gepids were annihilated by the Avars in 567. After doing this, the Avars went on to conquer north and central Italy in 568-572, sharing rule of the peninsula with Constantinople. They were converted to Catholicism from Arianism in the 7th century and assimilated rapidly. It should be remembered that such tribes were fairly small and easily assimilated. Their name remained attached to northern Italy, known as Lombardy.
The Avars were a Mongolian people who, migrating westward, conquered the Turkic Uighurs and formed a confederation with them on the Volga steppes around 461 CE, just as the Huns were leaving Europe. After a defeat by the Turks, the remnants, consisting mainly of Uighurs with Avar leaders, called themselves the Avars. A vigorous faction separated from the rest, and set out to recover their fortunes by warfare. This group migrated to the Hungarian Plain and what had previously been Dacia, which had just had its population reduced by the Lombards. By the year 558, the date of foundation of the Avar Empire, they were a predominant power in Europe, and exacted a large tribute from Constantinople. Their threat hastened the migration of the Slavs to the Balkans. The Slavs fought back, weakening the Avar power. Finally, in 795-796, they were crushed during a campaign by Charlemagne. So sudden and complete was their fall in 805, after another campaign, that the phrase "Vanished like the Avars" became proverbial. There was probably a collapse of the population that opened wide areas of the Hungarian Plain and Transylvania to settlement at this time. The Avars introduced the stirrup to Europe, which permits discharging missiles in any direction while on horseback, and gives a much more secure seat.
A signal event was the arrival of the Magyars in the Hungarian Plain in 896 CE. Language relates the Magyars to the Finns, Estonians and Ugrians. They are not Mongol or Turkish, though they spent many years in close contact with Turkic peoples. Their origin is unknown, but some assume a region near the Urals. When they enter history, they are vassals of the Khazar Empire that flourished from 602 to 1016 from the Crimea to the Caspian Sea, and north to the middle Volga; the capital was at Astrakhan. In the 7th century, the Khazar chief, the Khakhan, adopted Judaism and most of the population followed. By 889, the Magyars had settled in the territory known as Etelkoz, south of Kiev between the Carpathians and the Donetz. Here they learned animal husbandry from the Turkic people, raising horses as well as cattle.
One group of Magyars at an unknown date followed the usual route around the Carpathians and into the eastern parts of Transylvania, probably accompanying the Avars. These White Magyars later constituted the people known as széklers, a name arising from their form of government ("seat people"). These facts are not well established, but seem reasonable.
The Turkic Patzinaks (Pechenegs) had been allies of the Empire against the Magyars and Kievan Varangians before these two peoples became allies of the Empire. In 892, the Patzinaks had already pushed the Magyars west of the Dnepr. The Magyars took part in the Bulgar War of 894 against Tsar Simeon I as allies of Constantinople, invited by Emperor Leo VI Grammaticus. Under a chief Lorente, they invaded the Bulgar territory north of the Danube, while the Byzantine army pushed up from the south. The effort was not successful. Simeon quickly took his revenge in alliance with the Patzinaks, raiding the EtelKoz. Harrassed by the Patzinaks, the Magyar chief Arpad decided to migrate beyond the Carpathians for safety. They had become familiar with this region when allied with Arnulf, king of the East Franks against Sviatopluk of Great Moravia in 892. The departure of the Magyars left the Patzinaks in sole possession of the region south and east of the Carpathians. The Cumans, a Turkic people of similar origin to the Seljuk Turks, later submerged the Patzinaks.
The Magyars determined to escape the turmoil of the steppes, and assembled east of the Carpathians for their invasion of the Hungarian Plain, which they had determined was very thinly populated with the remnants of Avars and Gepids. Seven tribes of Magyars and three allied Ugrian tribes, commanded by the chief Árpád, took part in the invasion. As many as 250,000 people could have accompanied him. These were the "Ten Arrows" or "Onogundur" in Bulgar. Onoghur is also the name of an Avar dynasty ruling 580-685. This designation was apparently the root of the name of Hungary for the region and nation, not any connection with the Huns of 400 years earlier. These forces crossed the Vereczke Pass in the Western Carpathians and descended into the valley of the Tisza. The Magyars established their nation on the Danube and Tisza, and soon possessed the Hungarian Plain, both the Pannonian and the Dacian regions. They have inhabited this region ever since. Very few Slavs, if any, were absorbed by the Magyars, but a few Slavic words entered their language. They were originally herdsmen, with their wealth in horses and cattle. Homes on rivers were occupied in the winter, homes on upland pastures in the summer. The richness of the soil soon attracted them to agriculture. Hungarian durum (hard) wheat, which makes superior bread, was a famous product.
Initially, the Magyars were a terror, raiding as far as Rome and Constantinople, westward into the Holy Roman Empire, and eastward into Bulgaria. They were hired by one magnate or another to make these raids, as mercenaries, and did not simply raid for pleasure. The alliance with Arnulf had been an example of this. Henry I defeated the Magyars at Riade in 933, ending a nine-year truce and administering their first major defeat. Otto I, the Holy Roman Emperor, annihilated the Magyar army at Lechfeld (Augsburg) in Bavaria on 10 August 955, and this caused the Magyars to reconsider their aggressive policy. They adopted Chrisitianity under Grand Prince Géza (972-997), who craftily received envoys from Rome, which appeared less threatening than Constantinople. The Magyars became Roman Catholic, and Steven I, Saint Steven, founded the Hungarian kingdom in 1007, receiving his crown from the Pope, with its capital at Esztergom (Gran). He established the counties (megyek), replacing tribal organization. The Magyars were often allies of the Eastern Empire, fighting Bulgars and later Cumans and Patzinaks. Archbishops were enthroned at Esztergom (Gran), the original capital, and at Kalocsa.
The Hungarian kingdom gradually came to include all the lands bounded by the Carpathians, east of Austria and north of the Slavic lands. Most of the peripheral lands were only thinly settled, and there was constant encouragement to colonize them. The people making this colonization were, of course, not Magyar, and this led to difficulties much later. The Széklers in Transylvania were joined by the Saxons in the 11th-13th centuries, who were settlers from the Mosel valley, Nuremberg and other places, bringing their language and customs with them. The Saxons built the Siebenbürgen, the "Seven Castles", to protect the area from invasions by the Cumans and Patzinaks, who pressed from the east. Added to these groups were the Magyars from the middle of the country. Transylvania is discussed at greater length below.
The Hungarian Carpathians were rich in metals, notably in copper, but also in silver and gold. Some of these mines were worked by the Fuggers of Augsburg, and made them rich. The quality of Hungarian coins was famous throughout Europe. The flood of precious metals coming into Europe after the discovery of the New World gradually made this mining less and less profitable, and the best lodes were exhausted. The first mining academy in the world was established at Selmecbánya in 1721, before the more famous Bergakademie at Freiberg in Saxony (1765).
Béla IV (1235-70) rebuilt the country after the Mongol invasion of 1240-42, beginning the fortification of Buda. The last king of the Arpad dynasty was Andrew III (1290-1301). The Golden Bull of 1222 established liberties for the peasants as well as the nobles. The Diet, consisting of bishops, barons and county representatives was established in Andrew's reign. Charles I of Anjou (1301-42) succeeded. Sigismund (1387-1437) of Luxemburg, born in 1368, became king by marrying Queen Maria. He was also King of Croatia, King of Bohemia, Margrave of Brandenburg, and Holy Roman Emperor, who fought the unsuccessful last crusade against the Turks, and was defeated at the battle of Nikopolis in 1396. During his reign, many Slavs and Vlachs fled the Balkans, fleeing the Turks, into southern Hungary and the plains of Wallachia. Perhaps the greatest Hungarian king was Matthias I Corvinus (1458-1490), not only a capable administrator and military leader, but also a patron of learning, founding a great library. Matthias' father was Janós Hunyadi, the hero of the battle of Nándofehérvar (Belgrade) in 1456.
After Matthias' death, the barons made Ulászló II (1490-1516), a Jagellonian, a puppet king. In 1514, a peasant revolt under Gyorgy Dósza was brutally put down. The Golden Bull was revised to make peasants serfs, and to deny military service to them. In view of the Turkish threat, this demonstrated the Hungarian genius for making the worst of any bad situation. His young son, Laszlo II (1516-26) perished escaping from the disaster of Mohacs in 1526 when Suleiman the Magnificent annihilated the poorly organized Hungarian army. Instead of assuming a defensive position at a river, they milled about on a broad plain and were annihilated by Turkish artillery. Most of the dead, except for the Hungarian magnates and bishops, were foreign mercenaries. In 1541, Buda was occupied. Hungary was divided into the Kingdom of Hungary, a thin strip around the western and northern borders ruled by Austria, Turkish Hungary, and Transylvania, which became a Turkish satellite. This was the end of Hungarian independence.
The Hungarian language, Magyar, is an unusual agglutinative language surrounded by inflected Indo-European languages. Linguistic analysis shows that it is related to Finnish and Estonian, in a family called Uralic. It is morpholgically similar to the languages of the much larger Altaic family, which includes Turkish, Japanese and Korean. However, it is not genetically related to any of these languages. Magyar does, however, contain many loan words from Indo-European Slavic and German, as well as from Turkish. The home region of the Altaic languages is supposed to be the mountains of Central Asia, while the Uralic languages arose along the Urals, Finnish languages on the western slopes and Ugric languages on the eastern slopes, between the mountains and the marshes of Siberia. The Finns moved westwards, pushing the Balts before them, while the Magyars moved southwestwards on the steppes populated by Altaic peoples, where they enter history.
Nationalists and romanticists often make assertions about language to support their views. This lends colour and drama to history, but is often the result of bias and poor scholarship. Some Hungarians imagine a descent from Attila the Hun (as indeed many warriors have). It is doubtful if Attila ever could have left Hungarian descendants, but it is not impossible. However, the Magyar language gives no support to this claim at all. Although the Szeklers were excellent soldiers, this probably was not due to Hunnic ancestors. Magyars are a very mixed people, but primarily a Western European one, not invaders from Central Asia, however romantic this might be. Today's Hungarians are genetically more closely similar to the Germans and Slavs that surround them than to any exotic Asiatic people. Over the past few centuries, Magyars have been more characterized by intelligence and culture than by military success.
Hungary's bad luck has been ascribed by the superstitious to a curse, the Turáni áok (Turan curse). Turan is an imagined central Asian territory, including the Russian steppes, Mongolia and the Caucasus. It was conceived as the homeland of Uralic and Altaic languages in a now discredited linguistic theory that classified the languages of Europe and West Asia into Indo-European, Semitic and Turanian. The name Turanian was originally Persian, mentioned in the Zoroastrian Gathas as the name of a nomadic Iranian tribe, but Persian is Indo-European. Turkic, Hunnic and Mongolian languages were certainly included, as well as the morphologically similar Uralic languages, such as Hungarian (Magyar). It is now believed that there is no genetic relation between Uralic and Altaic languages, so Turanian really does not include Hungarian, to the disappointment of those who support an Asian origin of the Magyars, or explain their troubles on an Asian curse.
A Dominican monk, Julianus, set out in 1235 to search for Magna Hungarica, the original home of the Magyars. Just across the Volga, at a place now called Bashkvina, he found people whose language he could understand. He discovered from them that the Mongols were on the warpath, and hurried back to Hungary to warn the kingdom. The Mongols sent a warning with him that they were coming, and demanded submission. The people he found on the steppes were Magyars who had not accompanied Árpád in the 9th century, and remained where they were. Unfortunately, they were swept away by the Mongols.
The cavalrymen known as Hussars (Magyar: huszar) originated with the Serbian refugees from the Battle of Kosovo Polje with the Turks in 1389. The name comes from the Serbian gusar, "highwayman". Heavy hussars were armoured and carried long lances, as well a a variey of other weapons. Surrounding powers adopted them, notably Poland-Lithuania, with its husaria decked out with large feathered wings on their backs. The husaria earned lasting fame at the Battle of Kircholm, near Riga, on 27 September 1605, when they defeated a superior Swedish force in a short but violent fight, led by Jan Carol Chodkiewicz. Their armour could stop Swedish musket balls. Husaria losses were small, compared to thousands of Swedish dead, but the loss of horses was crippling. These elite troops played a primary role at the Battle of Vienna, 1683, when Jan III Sobieski stopped the Turkish advance. The later light hussars, without armour and armed with pistols, were very useful utility cavalry.
The Slavs of Novgorod, the most important trading centre on the Amber route, invited Swedish adventurers under their chief Rurik, called the Varangians, to rule their city and strengthen it militarily, in the 8th century. The Varangians brought the surrounding territory under their control, even as far as Kiev on the Dnepr, where they expelled the Khazars. In 880, they formed a state with its capital at Kiev, which controlled the important trade route from the Baltic to Constantinople. This route went from eastern Sweden through the Gulf of Finland to Lake Ladoga via the Neva, then down the Volchov to Novgorod. The route crossed the swamps and joined the Dnepr at Smolensk, which it followed past Kiev to the Black Sea near Odessa. The route followed the shore of the Black Sea south past the mouth of the Danube to Constantinople. The rapids on the middle Dnepr were an obstacle, and some sources say the route deviated eastward to the Donetz and Sea of Azov. This involves a much more difficult portage than the one around the Dnepr rapids, so I doubt this.
The crack troops of the Eastern Roman Empire were the Varangian Guard, formed by Basil II in 988. The Princes of Kiev at is height were Vladimir (ruled 980-1015) and Yaroslav (ruled 1019-1054). Vladimir married a daughter of Basil and led the conversion of his country to Christianity in 988. The Principality became an an ally of Constantinople. After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, many English and Danes joined the Varangian Guard; one party of 5000 arrived in 235 ships. They willingly fought Norman Robert Guiscard in the Balkans.
The territory of Kievan Rus was inhabited entirely by Slavs, who soon completely assimilated the Swedish nobles. The western name for these people was Ruthenians. There were three distinct groups, however: a northwestern people called Little Russians (from their stature) or White Rus, now Belarusians; Black Rus south of them, in the west; and a southern group called Red Rus. The term Ruthenian later referred to these people alone, whose capital was at Lvov. The small part of these who fell within the Hungarian kingdom in the Carpathians, some of whom migrated to Vojvodina, were later called Ruthenians, or more properly Carpatho-Ruthenians. They now call themselves Rusyns, defined as Ruthenians who did not become Ukrainians. The White Rus were mainly Greek Orthodox, while the Red Rus were mainly Catholic.
When Poland was partitioned in the 18th century, the Austrian share was named Galicia (see under Czechoslovakia), which combined Malopolska (Little Poland) with its capital at Cracow, and Ruthenia with its capital at Lemberg (Lvov). Russia absorbed the eastern part of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and called it Ukraine, with its capital at Kiev. After the First World War, western Galica went to the resurrected Poland, while eastern Galicia, Ruthenia, went to Russia. The transfer was fully effective, including carpatho-Ruthenia, only after the Second World War. On the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the newly independent Ukraine now included Ruthenia.
The sudden rise of the Mongols under Temujin, Genghis Khan ("Great King") in 1206, and their conquest of China, taking Beijing in 1215, is a story of great interest. Here we'll only mention the effect on Europe. The Mongol conquests largely eliminated Persian speakers from central Asia, replacing them with Turkic peoples. The great Islamic Khwarizm kingdom was all but eradicated, with its cities of Bukhara, Samarkand and Balkh. On the death of Genghis Khan in 1227, his empire was divided among his surviving sons. These were the Yuan Dynasty of China to Ogodai, the Ilkhan horde in Persia, Chagatai's horde in central Asia, the Blue horde led by Batu, and the White horde led by Orda. The word "horde" comes from the Mongol for army, "ordu". Batu conquered the Volga Bulgarians in 1236, and the next year invaded Rus. Mstislav the Bold of Halych (Ruthenia) and Mstislav III of Kiev met him and were defeated at the Battle of the Kalka River, where Mstislav III fell. Kiev was taken in 1240, and Ruthenia was made tributary. This was the end of Kievan Rus. Poland and Hungary were invaded in 1241, Hungary via the Verecke Pass on Árpád's route, and Mongol troops reached the Adriatic and the Vistula. The death of Ogodai that year in China pulled Batu away from his victories to take part in the ceremonies of succession. The Mongols left no traces in Hungary or Poland. In 1242, Sarai on the Volga was made the capital of the Blue horde. The Blue horde accepted Islam, and became a settled community, no longer nomads. With the rise of Lithuania in the early 14th century, the White horde backed its vassal state of Moscow. Khan Jani Beg was assassinated in 1357, setting off a civil war. In 1378, Tokhtamysh, Khan of the White Horde, invaded and united the Blue and White hordes into the Golden (central) horde. Moscow was sacked in 1382 when it tried to shake off the Mongols. The Lithuanians recaptured Kiev in 1321, and became Kings of Ruthenia.
In the 1440's a civil war split the Golden horde, and the Khanates of Siberia, Kazan, Astrakhan and Crimea seceded. Now none of the new khanates was indvidually stronger than Muscovy. By 1480, Moscow was free. In the 1550's Ivan IV ("The Terrible", 1530-1584) annexed Kazan and Astrakhan and proclaimed the formation of Russia. Ivan IV was the last of the line of Rurik. Crimea became an Ottoman vassal in 1475, followed by the remnants of the Golden horde in 1502. This territory was annexed by Catherine the Great in 1783.
The Mongols speak an Altaic language, but are racially different from the Turkic peoples. They were very few compared to the numbers of the conquered peoples, and so have left little trace. Most of the Russian Tatars are actually Volga Bulgarians and similar peoples, who preserved Mongol customs. The Mongols were superior mounted archers, light cavalry, organized in tumens of 10,000. Foes who submitted were placed under tribute; those who resisted were annihilated. The Mongol empire was transitory, soon falling apart into smaller and smaller states, and leaving no cultural heritage.
These peoples influenced European history by their assaults on the Eastern Roman Empire. In Persia, Ardashir I founded the Sassanian dynasty in 226 CE, overthrowing Parthian domination and reinvigorating the Persian state. He invaded India and conquered Armenia, a gateway to Asia Minor. He began wars with the Roman Empire, which were continued by his successors. These wars raged back and forth through Mesopotamia, Syria and Asia Minor. A Persian army was routed in 297 and the Persian boundary was moved back to the Tigris from the Euphrates. At first tolerant to Christians, Zoroastrian Persia later persecuted them mercilessly. Bahram V was decisively defeated in 422 and mutual toleration of Christians and Zoroastrians was agreed. The Alans attacked and overcame Persia in 483, exacting heavy tribute. Khosrau II (reigned 590-628) brought Persian power to its peak, warring successfully against Emperor Justinian. By 616, he had conquered even Egypt. However, soon after Emperor Heraclius decisively defeated the Persians and drove them back to their original territory. The Arabs defeated the last Sassanian, Yazdegerd III (reigned 632-641), replaced Zoroastrianism with Islam, and added Persia to the Caliphate.
At about this time, an astounding event took place in Arabia. Muhammad (570-632), a native of Medina, began preaching a new religion, derived from Judaism, that electrified Arabia. In 622 he escaped persecution in Medina by flight to Mecca, the Hegira, from which dates are reckoned in Islam. In Mecca he prepared the Qur'an, and soon dominated Arabia. Just after his death, Islamic armies began an unprecedented series of victories. Between 633 and 642, Persia, Iraq, Syria and Egypt were overcome. In 649, Cyprus was taken. All of North Africa followed in 670-698. Spain was invaded in 711, but the Islamic advance was stopped at Tours in 732 by Charles Martel. The Arabs besieged Constantinople in 717-718, but a vigorous defense repulsed them. All of the Near East and Africa was lost to the Empire, which then consisted of Asia Minor, the Balkan peninsula, Sardinia and Sicily. Islamic armies also penetrated deep into Asia. After this remarkable period, Arab power subsided, and the Arabs turned to fighting among themselves.
The homeland of the Turkic people is the broad region of Asia between the Caspian Sea and the Gobi Desert, generally called Turkestan. China on the east, and Persia on the west, usually dominated this area. Alexander's Greek armies invaded this region, and founded states there. There are many different Turkic people, but they share a common language family. Arabs brought Islam to Western Turkestan in the 7th century. In the 11th century, a tribe known as the Seljuks invaded Western Turkestan and were there converted to Islam. Their name comes from a 10th century chief, Seljuk. His grandson, Togrul Beg, conquered Persia and invaded Asia Minor, which was overcome to the very gates of Constantinople. The critical battle was fought at Manzikert in Armenia in 1071. Alp Arslan defeated the Emperor Diogenes Romanus here, one of the msot significant events of the time. Syria was also lost to the Seljuks. Western Asia minor became the Sultante of Roum. This was the heart of the Empire, and its destruction was an irrecoverable loss. A rich province was turned into a virtual desert by the Turks, which persists to this day. The Seljuk Empire did not last long. It fragmented, and then was destroyed in 1157 by the Shah of Khorezm. The Empire then did temporarily recover most of western Asia Minor in the 12th century, leaving an eastern region called the Sultanate of Iconium.
In the 13th century, a small band of Turks under Ertogrul, driven by the Mongols, were granted land in the Sultanate of Iconium. Osman, the son of Ertogrul, extended the power of his tribe, which afterward was called the Osmanli, or Ottomans. Osman's son Orkhan (1279-1359) overcame the Gallipoli peninsula in 1354. He initiated the practice of a tribute of young Christian boys, who were raised in Islam and received rigorous military training, becoming the famous Janissaries, the Sultan's Guard. Orkhan's successor Murad I conquered Adrianople in 1361 and made it his capital. Murad I defeated the Serbs in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, but was killed there, along with the Serbian prince. Murad was succeeded by his son Bajazet, who overpowered Bulgaria, fought in Wallachia, and inflicted a crushing defeat on the allied armies of Sigismund, King of Hungary with French, Hungarian and Polish forces at Nikopolis in 1396. Tamerlane put an end to Bajazet at Ankara in 1402. After a struggle for the succession, Muhammad I (1387-1451) became Sultan in 1413. He conquered part of Greece but was unsuccessful in Albania. He defeated the Hungarians under Wladyslaw III and Janós Hunyadi at Varna in 1444. Muhammad II (Sultan 1451-81) captured Constantinople on 29 May 1453, and the Ottoman capital was moved from Adrianople. He was repelled at Belgrade by Já:os Hunyadi in 1456. Hunyadi died there of cholera later that year. Serbia and Bosnia, and the remainder of Greece, were added to the Ottoman domains soon afterwards, however, and the empire of Trebizond fell in 1461, Wallachia in 1462 and Albania in 1486, after a long and hard war. Moldavia (1513), parts of Persia (1515), then Syria (1516) and Egypt (1517) followed under Selim I.
The inexorable advance of the Ottomans was due to their unity and careful organization, far superior to the miscellaneous armies assembled by European powers. Even the fall of Constantinople failed to unite the western leaders into an effective combination. Suleiman I, The Magnificent, took Belgrade in 1521 and disastrously defeated Laszlo II at Mohacs in 1526. This opened the way for Ottoman conquest of Hungary, which proceeded slowly and deliberately. The Kingdom of Hungary became only a narrow strip around the western and northern borders, with its capital at Poszony, and completely under the influence of the Hapsburgs. Transylvania became a Turkish subject state, but ruled by its own voivode. This was the high-water mark of the Ottoman Empire. In 1571, the Turks were defeated in a huge naval battle at Lepanto. The Persians captured Baghdad, but were expelled by Murad IV. Maladministration and internal disorders began to appear. The Albanian noblemen Muhammad Kuprili and his son Fazil Ahmed Kuprili held the influential post of Grand vizier under Muhammad IV (1641-91) and held off the decay for a while. Muhammad IV sent an army under Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa, brother-in-law of Fazil Kuprili, to capture Vienna from the Habsburgs in 1683. This army included Imre Thököly, a Transylvanian Hungarian nationalist opposed to the Habsburgs. A two-month siege was broken by John III Sobieski of Poland and Prince Eugen of Savoy. The world acquired the croissant, invented in Vienna in honour of the victory. This was the high point of Turkish power. They were driven out of Buda in 1686, out of Hungary by 1699, strong point by strong point. John III Sobieski liberated Wallachia and Moldavia. In 1695 Tsar Peter I began the long series of Russo-Turkish wars that eventually drove Turkey out of Europe altogether.
The famed janissaries were elite infantry that formed the Sultan's bodyguard and the van of his army. They served the same function as the Emperor's Varangian Guard, but were organized in a wholly Turkish way. The janissaries were formed by Murat I in 1330 from prisoners of war, who were offered attractive benefits to serve as infantry. Turkish nobles were horsemen who shunned infantry service, which the Sultan needed. The name is from Turkish "yeni cheri", meaning "new soldier". After 1380, Selim I exacted a tribute in boys, the devshirme, from his Christian subjects. Most janissaries were originally Albanian, Serbian or Bulgarian. These boys were trained in special schools to become janissaries in their early twenties. They were encouraged, but not required, to adopt Islam, and most did. Their discipline was monastic, but later they were allowed to marry. A janissary regiment was called an "ojak", or hearth, as if it were a kitchen, from which the names of its ranks and duties were taken. The commander was aga, master cook. Every ojak had a kazan, a large kettle holding soup or pilaf, symbolizing the Sultan's duty to feed them. When they revolted, the kazan was overturned. Beards were forbidden, but not moustaches. They were ostensibly slaves of the Sultan, but became very influential and by the 18th century dominated the government. The hated devshirme was abolished in 1683, when voluntary enlistments proved sufficient. They had firearms from about 1440. By revolting, or threatening to revolt, they could demand higher pay and other privileges. In 1807-1808 the conservative janissaries revolted against the reforming Sultan Selim III and deposed him. Mahmud II had had enough of them in 1826 when they revolted in Istanbul. Loyal cavalry drove them into their barracks, and then he destroyed the barracks in an artillery bombardment. The survivors were hunted down and executed, or fled abroad. The only survival today is the military Mehter Band, which performs at ceremonies.
In 1095 Emperor Alexius I Comnenus appealed to Pope Urban II for troops to strengthen his armies against the Seljuks. In the 24 years since Manzikert, they had swept across Asia Minor. This request came at an opportune moment. The Fatimid Mad Caliph, al-Hakam, came to power in Jerusalem in 996 and forbade the access of Christians to the Holy Sites. Many Christians wanted to greet the Second Coming on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem at the millennium, and were greatly angered. The Seljuks captured Jerusalem in 1071 and renewed persecution of Christians, which had been relaxed since al-Hakam. Also, the Pope desired to patch up relations with the Patriarch of Constantinople. Seeing an excellent opportunity to do this, Urban eloquently preached Holy War against the Arabs and Turks in the East. A campaign against the infidel would be equivalent to a pilgrimage. Sins would be forgiven, glory won. Especially attractive to many western nobles was the forgiveness of debt that was offered. His call was enthusiastically supported.
Peter the Hermit and Walter the Penniless assembled a horde of peasants and set out in the spring of 1096 for Constantinople. Of course, they lived off the country and their passage enraged the inhabitants along their route. They took time for some enjoyable persecution of Jews in addition to pillage. Many were killed along the march, and the Turks made short work of those who reached Asia Minor. Western magnates made much better preparations, leaving as considerable armies from Ratisbon (Regensburg) and Rome in the summer and fall of 1096. They travelled overland to Constantinople and united there for the attack on the Turks. Godfrey of Bouillon led his army from the Holy Roman Empire, while the forces coming from Rome, under Bohemond, Tancred and Raymond were mainly Normans, then in the process of creating the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in southern Italy. Since they had fought the Roman Empire there, they were not on good terms with Alexius.
Alexius was appalled by the response to his call. Instead of men to fight the Turk in his armies, he had received a useless mass of peasants and large, uncontrollable armies mainly captained by his enemies. He tried to control them by oaths and promises, most of which were later violated. The large army, perhaps 100,000 men, was sent into Asia Minor, where they first took Nicaea, drove the Turks across Asia Minor as part of the Imperial army, and seized Antioch in June 1098. The Normans, violating their oath to return liberated territory to Alexius, formed a principality under Bohemund. Meanwhile, Baldwin had conquered Edessa, deep in southern Asia Minor, and created the independent County of Edessa. Cooperation with Alexius ceased at this point. The Crusaders drove south, through Homs and then along the sea from Tripoli to Jaffa, whence they turned inland to Jerusalem, meanwhile creating the County of Tripoli.
An army of about 20,000 Crusaders beseiged Jerusalem, soon overcame it, and like true Christians slaughtered all the inhabitants indiscriminately. The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem was created, with Godfrey of Bouillon as king. This kingdom covered roughly the area of present-day Israel. Jerusalem was lost in 1187 to Salah-ad-Din, all of the kingdom in 1291. Jerusalem was in Christian hands 1229-39 and 1240-44. In 614,the Persians had conquered Jerusalem and had slaughtered the Christians there. The Turkish conquest by the Ottomans did not occur until 1517. Through the Crusading period it was under the control of one or another Arabic Caliphate, generally that of Cairo. The military success of this campaign, called the First Crusade (1096-99) was almost miraculous, but the Arabs and Turks were disunited at this time and could not make a coherent answer.
At the capture of Jerusalem, three important orders of knighthood were formed, who influenced later European history to a considerable degree. One was the Knights Hospitallers of St. John, founded by Gerard, superior of a hospital established in Jerusalem by some merchants of Amalfi in 1048. The St. John was not clearly identified, and different ones were associated with the order at different times. The brothers assisted the Crusaders, and were richly rewarded, probably by booty. The order was established in 1070 under the monastic rule of Augustine. Thier garb was a long black robe with an 8-pointed white cross on the left breast. In 1187 they were forced from Jerusalem and wandered from place to place. In 1310 they conquered Rhodes, which they eventually lost to Suleiman the Magnificent in 1523. In 1530 Holy Roman Emperor Charles V granted them Malta, sorry that he had not aided them against Suleiman, which they ruled for many years. Their 8-pointed white cross is known as the Maltese cross for this reason. Their flag was a red flag bearing the Maltese cross. The Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in Clerkenwell, London, was established in 1110.
A second order was the Order of the Knights of the Hospital of St. Mary of the Teutons In Jerusalem, called the Teutonic Knights for short. The order was formed in Acre around 1189. Their garb was a white surcoat with a black cross. The first Grand Master was Heinrich I Walpot von Bessenheim. They were not known as hospitallers, in spite of their name. They were primarily a military order. Forced from Palestine, they entered the service of Venice for a while. Then, they were invited to Transylvania by the King András of Hungary in 1211 to repel the Cumans. In 1224 they petitioned Honorius III to be directly under the Pope, not the King of Hungary. This made them unpopular, and fortunately they answered the call of Duke Conrad of Poland in 1226 to fight the Prussians, pagan Balts who were blocking access to the Baltic. This was not an easy war; in fact, it lasted 50 years, but the Teutonic Knights eventually prevailed, founding Königsberg in 1255 on the way. The name Prussian was transferred to the Germans under the rule of the Teutonic Knights, who created an actual state. Their first headquarters was at Marienburg. They fought pagan Lithuania as a Crusade, but Lithuania was converted in 1386. Grand Duke Jogaila of Lithuania married Queen Jadwiga of Poland and became Ladislas II of Poland. In 1410, he defeated the Teutonic Order at Tannenberg, but could not take Marienburg. When Marienburg was finally lost, their capital was moved to Königsberg, and their state became East Prussia. In 1525 Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg became protestant and was invested with the Duchy of Prussia by Sigismund I of Poland. This was the effective end of the order. The remnants of the Teutonic Knights were dissolved by Napoleon in 1809.
The third order was the Poor Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem, usually called the Templars. They were organized around 1118 by Hugh de Payens, devoting themselves to the protection of access to Jerusalem from the sea. They were identified by a red cross on a black surcoat, and their flag was the same. They placed their headquarters on Mount Moriah, the location of the old Temple and al-Aqsa, the Dome of the Rock (the first mosque with a dome). They excavated the site they presumed was that of Solomon's temple in a search for relics. This gave rise to the legend that they had found the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, and other articles. However, there are no remains of Solomon's temple at all, and what they were digging in was much more recent, perhaps the ruins of Herod's temple. The Templars became the bankers of the Crusades. Money paid in back in Europe was repaid in the East, avoiding carrying money on the dangerous journey. In this way, they became very rich, and established chapters in many places. Their wealth attracted the avarice of the French King Philip IV, who arrested all Templars in France on 13 October 1307, the first "Friday the 13th". They were accused of heresy (gnosticism), and excommunicated by the Pope. In 1314, Grand Master Jacques de Molay was burned before Notre Dame in Paris.
Some Templars fled to Scotland when they were placed under Papal interdiction, since Scotland was then under excommunication because of Robert Bruce's revolt against the English. They helped Bruce at Bannockburn in 1314, say some, but their participation was obscured. The Perceptory of Balantrodach in Midlothian is claimed to be a Templar foundation of 1129. In 1330 Sir James Douglas, a Templar, carried the heart of Bruce for burial in Jerusalem, but only got as far as Spain before the Arabs killed him. All this has given rise to legends of buried Templar relics in Scotland, as well as a close connection between the Templars and Scottish Rite Masons. The Masons preserve a great deal of Templar symbolism. The Great Seal of the United States, adopted on 20 June 1782, has been on the reverse of the $1 bill since 1935. It has the Masonic symbols of the All-Seeing Eye in a triangle, and an incomplete pyramid with MDCCLXXVI on its lowest course, with the legends Annuit Coeptis (He approves our beginnings) and Novum Ordo Seclorum (A new era). The religious right has claimed that this is an attempt by Masons, including George Washington, to destroy Christianity.
Later Crusades were not nearly as successful as the first. There was really a continual futile assault by Crusaders, but the times of greatest activity have been numbered. The Second Crusade (1147-49) was to redress the conquest of Edessa, which had been captured in 1144. A huge army of 140,000 under Conrad III and Louis VII started in April 1147. The Germans were annihilated by the Turks in Asia Minor. while the French were routed at Damascus in 1148. The survivors returned to Europe in 1149. There was a lot of Crusading in Europe at this time, largely against Christians, marked by great cruelty. The capture of Jerusalem by Salah-ad-Din in 1187 led to the Third Crusade (1189-1192). It was promoted by Pope Gregory VIII, and led by Frederick I of the Holy Roman Empire, Richard I of England, and Philip II of France. It resulted only in the recapture of Acre, and the conclusion of a treaty with Salah-ad-Din that allowed access to the Holy Sepulchre. The Fourth Crusade (1202-1204) was simply a pillaging expedition. Innocent III promoted it to drive the infidel from the Holy Land, and to mend relations with Constantinople. It did neither. On leaving Venice in debt to the Doge, they sacked the Christian city of Zara on the Adriatic as a service to him. They were temporarily excommunicated. The next year, they went on to Constantinople, where they restored Isaac II Angelus, who had been deposed by the people. A new revolt in 1204 drove Isaac from power, and Baldwin seized the opportunity to establish the Latin Empire with himself as emperor, and to cruelly sack and ravage the city. This atrocity horrified everyone, West and East, and lowered regard for the Pope and Church. The Latin Empire did not last long, but it fatally wounded the Eastern Empire, which was really Christendom's protection against Islam. The Crusades accomplished precisely the opposite of what was intended. They strengthened the Islamic power, and drove a wedge between the eastern and western churches. They had no beneficial effects.
Four more numbered Crusades occurred in the 13th century: Fifth (1218-21), Sixth (1228-29), Seventh (1248-54) and Eighth (1270). In 1217, King András II of Hungary led a disastrous expedition to Palestine. The Fifth Crusade seized Damietta in Egypt, but it was lost in 1221. The Sixth Crusade was led by Frederick II, who won a 10-year truce and access to the Holy sites. He was crowned King of Jerusalem, but had to return to Europe, and the truce was violated. After Jerusalem fell again in 1244, Louis IX (St. Louis) again captured Damietta in 1249, but surrendered to the Egyptians in 1250. Louis was ransomed, spent some time in Syria waiting for troops, then returned home. Louis joined Edward II of England on the Eighth Crusade, during which Louis died. Edward was victorious at Acre and Haifa. After concluding a 10-year truce, he returned to England. In the next century, the Ottomans became so strong that nothing further was ever accomplished.
The Baltic is the Mediterranean of the North, but is much less well-known. It is a recent sea, formed after the last Ice Age about 10,000 BCE by the rise of sea level, drowning a river valley. The lands in the northern regions are still rising, rebounding from the weight of the ice, at a rate of up to a metre a year. It is connected to the North Sea by the channels of the Skagerrak and the Kattegat around Denmark, dividing into the Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland in the east. It is shallow, with an average depth of 57 m (deepest 459 m). Its water is brackish, and tides are negligible. It possesses a unique fauna and flora, including the Baltic herring, that are adapted to the low salinity. It freezes in the winter, and the October storms can be violent. There are large islands in the Baltic, such as Gotland.
The source of its name, Baltic, is not definitely known. In German, it is the Ostsee, while in Estonia it is Läänemen, the West Sea. It gave its name to the people who occupied its southern shores, the Balts. Germans settled west of the Balts, and penetrated to the north, in Scandinavia. Scandinavians prefer to use the term to refer only to Danes, Norwegians and Swedes, who speak related languages. One wit said that Norwegian is Danish spoken with a Swedish accent. Finns arrived from the east, settling in Finland and Estonia, north of the Balts. All of these people are Indo-European, except for the Finns and Estonians, who speak Uralic. West Slavs occupied the interior regions, from the Oder and Vistula to the east. They were the latest comers, reaching Pomerania about 500 CE. Genetically, most Finns are actually Swedish.
Travel and trade were almost exclusively water-borne, down the great rivers and across the Baltic. All these peoples, but especially the Scandinavians, were excellent navigators and shipbuilders. Their raids to Ireland, England and France are well-known, and they settled in the Scottish islands, northeast England, and Normandy. The Vikings raided in the Baltic as well as in the Atlantic. Canute the Great conquered England, as did William the Conqueror in 1066. Normans played an important part in the Mediterranean as we have already mentioned, even to hostilities to the Empire in the Balkans. The trade goods were fish, amber, pine tar, flax, hemp, furs and, of course, salt, essential for the fish trade.
From the 13th to the 17th century, Baltic trade was dominated by the Hanseatic League, die Hanse. It originated in Lübeck, on the Baltic northeast of Hamburg, in 1158, which was for many years its capital city, until Danzig later assumed this position. Lübeck was named an Imperial City in 1227. Visby on Gotland, Novgorod, Tallinn, Riga, Danzig and Dorpat were early members. Hamburg, near Lübeck, supplied salt from Lüneburg. Eventually the league numbered 70-170 cities. In London, the Hanseatic Kontor, called the "Steelyard", was founded in 1320, on the site of the present Cannon Street Station. National states became jealous of the privileges enjoyed by the Hanse, and began to restrict them. Novgorod lost its independence to Ivan III in 1478. The Steelyard was closed by Elizabeth I in 1598. The last formal meeting of the Hanse was in 1669. The final members were Lübeck, Hamburg and Bremen when the Hanse was finally dissolved in 1862.
The Baltic herring, salted in barrels or smoked (red herring), was a primary Hanse cargo from the 12th to the early 15th century. This oily fish was present in huge shoals, and was caught mainly by Danish net fishermen. Sometime between 1416 and 1425 the fish disappeared abruptly, and the Baltic industry collapsed. The herring fishery moved to the North Sea, where it was dominated by the Dutch. They began the season off Shetland in June, moving steadily southward until by Christmas they were off the Thames, after which they returned to Holland to prepare for the next season. It was presumed that the herring migrated from the Baltic to the North Sea, but the real reason was overfishing that led to the collapse of the ecosystem. A simllar thing happened in the 1960's to the Icelandic herring industry. The herring, Clupea harengus, is a fatty pelagic fish that consumes zooplankton, such as copepods, and is itself prey to the carnivorous cod. The Swedish relish a canned fermented herring of unpleasant odour called surströmming. Baltic herring are still there, but not in the vast medieval numbers. Recently, dioxin pollution has been claimed.
Roman Catholicism was introduced from the west, via the Holy Roman Empire. The Swedes converted the Finns in the 12th century. The Livonian Brothers of the Sword converted Estonia and Latvia in the 13th century, forming the state known as Livonia or Livland. Riga, a German town, was founded in 1201 by the Lübeck Hanse. Albert of Buxtehoeve, bishop of Riga, founded the Livonian Brothers of the Sword in 1202. Although nearly annihilated by the Lithuanians and Semigallians in 1236, the survivors amalgamated with the Teutonic Knights in 1237. They subjugated the Baltic coast from the Gulf of Finland to Prussia, forming the state of Livonia. Poland became a Christian kingdom under the traditional King Piast in 962, who united a number of tribes along the Vistula. The captial of the kingdom was at Cracow, in Malopolska (Little Poland). Polish kings were crowned in Wawel Cathedral there. In 1138 the Piast dynasty ended, and the kingdom was divided into principalities. Wars continued with the Balt tribes, especially the Prussians along the coast, who were pagan. Konrad of Masovia took the fatal step of inviting the Teutonic Knights, then in Transylvania, to help with the Prussians. Masovia was the region of Poland that included Warsaw. Joint efforts soon eliminated the Prussians. Afterwards, the Teutonic Knights began to carve out a principality for themselves, at the cost of Poles as well as of pagan Balts. Poland was reunited under the Piasts in 1306. In 1370, the Angevin Laszlo I of Hungary was invited to become king. He ruled well, and was succeeded by his daughter Jadwiga in 1384.
An alliance with Balt Lithuania was desired by both countries, to help in struggles with the Teutonic Knights and Sweden. Lithuania had formed a persistent wedge between Prussia and Livonia. Although Lithuania was pagan, its king Jagiello had been baptized, and promised to convert his people if the states were united by his marriage with Jadwiga. This took place in 1386, and until 1569 the two countries had a common monarch, but were not administratively united. Lithuania had a traditional organization in local armies commanded by hetmans, with one hetman chosen as Grand Hetman. The hetmans now became dukes, and a Grand Duke ruled the country. Now, the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania were one and the same. This union succeeded in overcoming the Teutonic Knights in 1410 at Grünwald (Tannenberg), and reducing them to vassalage in their Prussian principality. The western part of Prussia became Royal Prussia, a territory of the Polish King, while the eastern part became Ducal (later Electoral) Prussia, held feudally from Poland. Not only that, but the lands of the earlier Kievan Rus' were acquired from the Mongol Khan, and Poland-Lithuania extended from the Baltic almost to the Black Sea, and eastwards to the Donetz. The overwhelming majority of the population was Slavic; Lithuanians were a majority only in their homeland on the Baltic. Incidentally, the -ll- in Jagiello are actually the Polish slashed l's, pronounced as w, though the usual English pronunciation sounds better to us. The Livonian Knights appeared briefly again after 1513, until Poland repulsed the attmept of Ivan IV to conquer Estonia and aquired this region themselves.
The Lublin Union of 1569 formed a new, unified country, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. After the last Jagellonian, who died in 1572, the kings were elected by the nobility. The rule of the country was in the hands of the Sejm or Diet and the Senat, which had been created in 1505. At that time, the votes of towns were abolished, and peasants were tied to the lands of their masters, becoming serfs. The Commonwealth represented the complete victory of the nobles over the powers of the kings. It was, indeed, a democracy, but only about 10% of the population was enfranchised. All the nobles, the szlachta, were equals, truly peers, and rank was abolished. The new principle was nihil novi nisi commune consensus: nothing new unless agreed by all. Only the Sejm could legislate. Another principle, liberum veto, allowed any noble to veto an action of the Sejm, and to dissolve it. The new state was tolerant, not distinguishing between religions and welcoming Jews. The Jews, in fact, played an important role in the finances, generally farming the taxes and even collecting the revenues of the church. The Commonwealth made a strong impression on the Polish character, and any modification of it was strongly resisted. The Commonwealth survived until the disappearance of Poland in the partition of 1795. The last Polish king was Stanislaw August Poniatowski.
Since the elective kingship was not constrained by dynastic requirements, the best candidate could be selected. This happened, for example, with Stephen Báthory (reigned 1575-1586), a Hungarian Prince of Transylvania, and Jan III Sobieski (reigned 1674-1696), from the Polish szlachta. King Stefan defeated Ivan IV and recovered Livonia from the Russians. Other choices were not so fortunate. The Swedish house of Vasa provided three successive kings, Sigismund III (1587-1632), Vladyslaw IV (1632-1648) and Jan Casimir (1648-1668). The decline of Poland begins in these reigns, through involvement with Sweden, and the Cossack rebellion of Chmielniki in 1648-1654. The election was also subject to foreign influence, mainly that of Russia, which conspired with great magnates and the Cossacks of the south. This brought the unfortunate reign of Augustus II Wettin, Elector of Saxony (1697-1706, 1709-1733), and his son August III (1733-1763), which immediately preceded the partitions of Poland among Russia, Prussia and Austria.
The nobles, although equal in principle, were certainly not equal in fact. The great magnates gradually increased their influence, gathering client nobles around them. They had private armies, in the Lithuanian fashion, which were commanded by the King for national purposes. They were jealous of one another, and often sacrificed the national interest to their private interests.
Cossacks evolved from landless Ruthenians of the Dnepr who formed armed bands to live by raiding. There were also Don Cossacks, vassals of the Turks. The name is from Turkic quzzaq, adventurer. They formed a military class, led by hetmans, that was granted privileges and exemptions by the government in return for military service. Cossacks often formed the local police, and were used as border guards. By the 17th century, they controlled an area in the far southeast, in Zaporoje, on the border with the Khanate of Crimea. A fortress was built at Kodak on the Dnepr in 1635 against them. In 1648, one of their hetmans, Chmielniki, raised the Zaporojian Cossacks against the Commonwealth, and stirred up the Ruthenian peasantry against their Polish lords. The Tatars were brought in as allies. After several Cossack victories, including the fall of Kodak, the slaughter became general, and practically all Ruthenia, as far as Lvov, was ravaged. Jews, as hated tax farmers, were a particular target. The szlachta argued among themselves, unwilling to let rivals earn distinction by victories, and put up an ineffective resistance. In 1654, the rebellion was settled by compromise and concessions to the Cossacks, a fateful result. Russia conspired with the disaffected Cossacks, eventually absorbing the region as Ukraine. The Cossacks, Greek Orthodox, looked to the Tsar rather than to the Catholic King of Poland for support. Once Russia had made use of them, the Cossacks were brutally suppressed. Kodak itself was pulled down in 1711 by the Russians.
Of all the enemies of Poland, the Russians were the most dangerous. Prussia and Sweden were more equal matches, while Austria was not an enemy at all. Germany, of course, did not exist until 1871. Russia considered all Slavs brothers, and that they should all be part of Imperial Russia. In 1772, Russia seized a large part of eastern Poland. Opportunistically, Prussia absorbed a smaller, but richer, part in the west. Austria received the most populous region, later including the ancient capital of Cracow, and named it Galicia. Russia and Prussia rigorously suppressed Polish culture, but it was encouraged in Galicia. The 1791 Constitution promoted by Joseph Poniatowski and Tadeusz Kosciusko prompted another Russian attack, joined by Prussia. The second partition took place in 1793. In 1794, the Cracow rising led by Kosciusko abolished serfdom and asserted Polish nationality. In response, the third partition in 1795 erased Poland as a nation, and the King was exiled to Petrograd, where he died in 1798. Polish legions joined Napoleon to fight the Czar in the succeeding wars. Napoleon established the short-lived Duchy of Warsaw in 1807, but it was partitioned in 1815 after his fall. There were many insurrections in the 19th century, in 1830, 1846, 1848 and 1863. Austria allowed Polish nationalists like Pilsudski to form "sportsmen's clubs" that were really Polish partisans after 1906. Pilsudski, with Haller and Sikorski, defeated the Red Army in 1920 and forced it into an armistice at Riga, and a peace treaty in 1921.
Remarkably, not only does Poland exist today, somewhat westwards of its traditional location, but also Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Estonia is the Finnic, Latvia the Baltic, part of old Livonia. The survival of national consciousness is not surprising in Poland, since it lived on even when Poland did not exist. There is still a Russian enclave where East Prussia used to be, a reminder of Russian imperialism. All the Germans, however, have been removed. Poland has been made completely Polish in the same brutal way. There is still a remarkable amount of dissention and hate within these states, largely a result of the Second World War, when hate of Russian domination struggled with hate of the Nazis. Most of the Jews have vanished, mostly a result of nationalists trying to impress the Nazis when they invaded.
The famous old names of Livonia (Livland) and Courland (Kurland) do not appear on a modern map. The Livs and Couronians were Baltic tribes. Today, only 10 fluent speakers of Livonian are alive, and efforts are being made to preserve the language. The Couronians and their language are long extinct. Livonia was the state created by the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Knights after 1237, with Riga as its capital. Riga was a German city, a member of the Hanse. The great landowners were German, while the peasants were of various ethnicity, mostly Latvian, Estonian, Slavic and Lithuanian. In 1560 the Teutonic order was secularized and became Lutheran, losing its military predominance. Livonia was then partitioned, beginning in 1561. The northernmost part, along the Gulf of Finland, was seized by Sweden. Most of the country passed under the control of the Commonwealth. The rich part south and west of the River Düna, which flows through Riga, remained under German control as the Duchy of Courland. The southern border of the Duchy was the same as that of present-day Latvia. Its population was 79% Latvian. Courland was important enough to have a colony in the Caribbean (Tobago), as well as one in West Africa. Its ruler was often styled Prince of Courland. All these territories went to Russia in the partition of 1795. East Courland was also known as Semigallia, referring to yet another Baltic tribe.
Romania is a recent state, founded in the latter half of the 19th century. However, its territory has a long and interesting history. Romania has been known as Rumania and Roumania as well, names that mean exactly the same thing and do not imply that Romanians are any less Roman. In English, Rumanian was the style until quite recently. Romania is, however, the name in the Romanian language, and probably should be preferred, though there is no pressure to call Finland Suomi or Wales Cymry. The name Romania was first applied to the Latin Empire at Constantinople that was the result of the Fourth Crusade. Sultanate of Roum was the Turkish name for the Roman territory overrun in Asia Minor. The Greeks at Constantinople never called themselves Greeks, always Romans.
Romania was founded by the people called by their Slavic neighbors Vlachs or Wlachs. This term is cognate with the German Waliser or Welsch, which referred to Romans, usually indigenous peasants. These Vlachs were Illyrian Romans who preserved their identity and language in spite of the fall of the Roman Empire and Slavic invasions. There are still Vlach minorities in Macedonia, Greece and Albania. The plains between the Danube and the Southern Carpathians were occupied for a while by the Goths, who moved on. They were replaced by the Patzinaks or Pechenegs, who had been expelled from their homeland between the Volga, Don and Urals by the Uzes and Khazars. In the 11th century, they were defeated by the Empire, Cumans and the Kievan Rus', and the Cumans or Polovtsy, another Turkic tribe, took their place. The Mongol invasion of 1240-41 swept back and forth between the Danube and the Southern Carpathians, largely annihilating the Cumans who had settled there. This opened up a homeland for the refugee Vlachs, who migrated to the north of the Danube to escape the Bulgarian and Turkish conquests. Wallachia was created by a Cuman lord, Thocomerius, 1298-1310, succeeded by Ioan Bassarab (1310-1352) or Basarab I, in the early 14th century. Basarb means "Father King" in Cuman. Basarab I became voivode, the Slavic name for "Leader of Soldiers", corresponding to a County Palatine elsewhere, or even to a Duke, which means the same thing. There are several spellings, such as the Polish wojwode, or vojvoide, or voivoda, all pronounced the same way. Voivodes could be created by Kings or Tsars, or elected by boyars. They were usually appointed for life terms, but the title could become hereditary. Wallachia had voivodes until 1716, after which they were called hospodars. Voivodships are still Polish political divisions. The Basarabs conquered the land between the rivers Prut and Dneister, which thereafter was called Bessarabia. The Vlachs were peasants and herdsmen in this area, but soon absorbed the Cuman nobles. Around 1265, there was even a Principality of Wallachian Thessaly in northern Greece. There are still Wallachian minorities in Greece and Bulgaria, though these governments deny their existence, and Romania ignores them. The Cuman nobility was absorbed by the Wallachian peasantry.
A later member of this dynasty was Vlad II Dracul (1436-42 and 1443-46). He was awarded the Order of the Dragon by the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary, Sigismund, from which his epithet Dracul ("The Dragon") comes, for his services against the Turks. His son was Vlad III Tepes ("Silver"), or Dracula, "Son of the Dragon" (1448, 1456-62, 1476). He was born in Schässburg (now Sighisoara) in Transylvania, founded by Saxons in 1280. Vlad III wed Ilona Szilá:gi, a cousin of Hungarian King Mátyás. He is currently famous from Bram Stoker's 1897 novel as Dracula the Vampire. Bran Castle, 16 miles southwest of Brashov, is popularly promoted as Dracula's Castle, but Dracula had very little to do with it, only visiting for a short time during the war with the Turks. Bran Castle was a frontier fortress between Wallachia and Transylvania, constructed between 1377 and 1382 under the orders of Laszlo IV, Angevin king of Hungary. It is now a well-preserved, picturesque whitewashed castle with a red terrocotta roof. Some sources say it was built by the Teutonic Knights in 1212. Teutonic Knights did indeed come this way in 1211, invited by András II to come from Venice after the Crusades to guard Hungary against the Cumans. They left in 1225 to fight the pagan Prussians in return for the offer from Conrad of Poland of territory. They may have constructed some fortification at this critical pass, but not Bran Castle. About 1150, German settlers from the Mosel had founded Kronstadt, now Brashov, to guard this important southeastern gate to Transylvania.
Vlad Tepes acquired the reputation of extreme cruelty, and was called "The Impaler" after his death. Many websites give the details, but there is little hard evidence. He fought the Turks persistently. His actual castle was about 60 miles southwest of Kronstadt (now Brashov), on the River Arges, near the small town of Curtea. The castle is mostly ruined, and difficult of access. When Sultan Mohammed II was campaigning in 1461, he was so repelled by a mass impalement perpetrated by Tepes that he lost his stomach to continue the invasion, and turned it over to a subordinate. A few years earlier, in 1459, Tepes is supposed to have impaled 30,000 inhabitants of Kronstadt and had a banquet in the midst of the horror. At any rate, Wallachia fell to the Turks in 1462, deposing Tepes. He seems to have come back in 1476, but then he was captured and his head sent to the Sultan in Constantinople in a perfumed box.
Bram Stoker's celebrated Dracula (1897) is a good read. Only the first four chapters describe Jonathan Harker's stay in Castle Dracula. The final chapter returns to Transylvania. Count Dracula is called a Szekler, but the real Dracula was a Vlach, however, and Dracula was not a family name, but an epithet. Count Dracula is the Un-Dead original Dracula, apparently Tepes, who buys a house in England and gets there in an interesting way. The fictional Castle Dracula is more like the actual castle of Tepes in the Southern Carpathians, but is located in far northern Transylvania, north of Bistritz, in the Borgo pass on the road to Bukovina. There is an amazing amount of vampire information on the Internet. Stoker's Dracula has been the object of literary study recently, though neglected for many years. There are Marxist, psychological, Freudian, gender and other analyses, mostly quite meaningless formal exercises.
Stoker's fantasy was by no means the beginning of the vampire. Vampires were a characteristic Slavonic superstition; the word "wampir" is Slavonic. In Romanian, vampire is nosferatu. There was a vampire excitement in Hungary in 1730-35. Wallachians were notoriously superstitious, which probably indicates a significant Slavic background among the peasants. Vampire legends also exist in Albania and Greece, probably for a similar reason. Transylvania was never particularly associated with vampires; it was simply the birthplace of Dracula. The name was transferred to bats when it was thought that many drank blood; actually, only a few species do this. They almost all eat either insects or fruit, and are distinctly beneficial.
While searching the web for Bran Castle, you will find another one, Castell Dinas Bran in Wales. Bran means "raven" in Welsh, and Bran was the Celtic god of regeneration, or a giant appearing in the Mabinogion. After a battle with the Irish, his severed head was buried in London, at the Tower, where it protected England from invasion from across the Channel. King Arthur confirmed the truth of the legend when he dug up Bran's head and disaster followed, until it was reburied. The Tower ravens are Bran's. Dinas Bran was built around 1220, and was once capital of the Welsh principality of Powys. There is also a Strath Bran in Scotland, through which the railway runs to Kyle of Lochalsh. The origin of the name is probably the same.
The whole region between the Eastern Carpathians and the Dneister was called Moldavia. The population changes from Vlach to Ukrainian from west to east. It was established as a principality (voivodeship) in 1367, and was governed by voivodes until 1658. The Romanian-speaking Vlachs, both here and in Wallachia, naturally absorbed a great number of Slavs, who were thoroughly naturalized. Language separated them from the Slavonic Ukranians: Red Rus' or Ruthenians. Red here means, of course, Southern. To the north of Moldavia is Bukovina, which was Ruthenian. The southern boundary is the Black Sea.
The Turkish conquest reached Bessarabia in 1513. Moldavia and Wallachia were Turkish provinces from then until the 19th century. When native voivodes began showing an affinity for Russia, the Turks replaced them with loyal Greek Phanariots, after 1711 in Moldavia, 1716 in Wallachia. Phanariots were Orthodox Greeks from the Phanar quarter of Constantinople, in the northwest of the city by the Golden Horn, where the Orthodox Patriarchate was located. A Muslim taboo against speaking non-Muslim languages made the Phanariots quite valuable in positions such as these. There was some Turkish settlement, mainly close to the Black Sea. The Turks, as was their custom, did not interfere with the local societies, or attempt to Islamize or Turkicize them. After overcoming the Tatars in their own country during the 18th century, Russia turned to the driving of the Turks from Europe, freeing the subjugated Slavic populations. Russia defeated Turkey in the Russo-Turkish war of 1812, and the subsequent Treaty of Bucharest awarded Bessarabia to Russia. This was by no means the first Russo-Turkish war; another had been fought in 1715-1718. The Treaty of Adrianople following the successful Greek War of Independence in 1821 against Turkey awarded Russia a protectorate over Wallachia and Moldavia. In the Crimean War of 1853, Russian aims were thwarted by England and France, who feared the rising Russian power. The Treaty of Paris in 1856 restored the lower Danube to Turkey, and ended the Russian protectorate, so that Wallachia and Moldavia became almost independent.
Romanian nationalism was already active in the revolutionary year of 1848. The Romanian tricolour dates from then. The symbolism was: Red for Moldavia, Blue for East Wallachia or Oltenia, and Yellow for West Wallachia or Muntenia. East and West Wallachia are separated by the river Aluta. Turkey was disastrously defeated in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, in which Russian and Romanian armies threatened Constantinople. The Treaty of San Stefano in 1878 drove Turkey completely out of Europe, except for Constantinople and a nearby patch of Thrace. The Western Powers, alarmed by the Russian success, called the Congress of Berlin in 1878 to dictate different terms. Romania, and Serbia and Montenegro, were declared independent. Russia was awarded southern Bessarabia, for which Romania was compensated by the grant of Dobrudja. This is the land east of the Danube where it turns northward on its way to its delta. This was the choicest part of Roman Moesia, and had a very mixed population in 1878, including Romanians, Bulgarians and Turks. Northern Dobrudja, however, is predominantly Romanian.
Karl Eitel Friedrich of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was elected Prince of Rumania in 1866. He took part in the War of 1877, and proclaimed Romanian independence, which was recognized by the Treaty of Berlin. In 1881, he was crowned as Carol I, and Romania became a constitutional monarchy. It was the custom of the time to appoint unemployed German royalty to new countries whether they had any connection or not. Romanian nationalists created a national myth that they were the heirs of the Dacians, brought into the Roman Empire by Trajan in 107 CE. By 275, pressure from the Goths made this province impossible to control, and the boundary was withdrawn to the Danube. The Daci, or Getae, lived mainly in what was later Wallachia, and perhaps in Transylvania, though there are very few archaeological relics of that time. Any reasonable consideration of the events in this region from 275 to 1298 suggest that there could be no continuity of people or language. This theory originated with G. Sincai and S. M. Klein, theologians who, when studying in Rome in 1791, noticed the similarity of their Romanian language to Italian. As we have noted above, the Vlachs migrated to the region after the Mongol scourge, a thousand years after the Getae. Romanian does preserve the Latin language, of course, and the Romanians are culturally descended from Romans, just not from Dacians. Romanians are a vigorous and intelligent people who can stand on their own merits.
The main purpose of the legend is to support the Romanian claim to Transylvania, which had for a thousand years been closely associated with Hungary. Under Turkish rule, it had a degree of autonomy and was ruled by its own voivodes. After the expulsion of the Turks in 1699, it became the home of Hungarian nationalism and opposition to the Hapsburgs. The great Hungarian hero, János Hunyadi, was Transylvanian (and had some Vlach ancestry). The original three primary cultural groups were the Szeklers, Hungarians and Saxons (the Unio Trium Nationum). Natually Vlachs filtered up from Wallachia into the thinly-populated Transylvania, so that a fourth racial element was added that predominated in western Transylvania, and eventually comprised about 60% of the total population. The Wallachians were mainly serfs. They were freed in 1848 after supporting Austria in the Hungarian Revolution, and given many benefits. The other three groups had supported Hungarian independence, and were punished.
The Szeklers (Hungarian székelyek), who had accompanied the Avars, occupied eastern Transylvania, while the Saxons (so called) clustered about their seven castles, the "Siebenbürgen", which were: Kronstadt (Brashov), Hermannstadt (Sibiu), Bistritz (Bistrita), Klausenburg (Cluj), Mediasch (Medias), Mülbach (Sebes), and Schässburg (Sighisoara). The origin of the Széklers is disputed. The best information seems to be that they were a first phase of Magyar migration within the Carpathians, around 670-680. Folk stories make them out as descended from Attila's Huns; some say they were Avars or Turks that learned Magyar; some that they were settled there by Laszlo I to guard the border in the 12th century (these were Saxons, not Szeklers). The last is probably another Romanian invention, and the other two are probably equally false. Their distinctly pure Magyar language is evidence of a Magyar origin. They were also known as White Magyars. The approximately 670,000 Szeklers now live mainly in the counties of Harghita, Covasna and Muresh, and have preserved their customs. "Szék" is Magyar for "seat"; the Szeklers organized themselves into districts called seats (like county seats). They still petition even today for the creation of an autonomous region for themselves.
Romania was born as an L-shaped country with an unnatural eastern boundary, the River Prut. Romanians lived to the east of the Prut, in Bessarabia, as well as in Transylvania and the Banat, parts of Hungary. Romanian nationalists desired a rounder country. Since the Central Powers attacked Russia in the First World War, Romania joined them to acquire Bessarabia. When it appeared that the Central Powers were losing the war, Romania changed sides and attacked Austria-Hungary. The settlements after the war were extraordinarily favorable to Romania, which gained not only Bessarabia, but Transylvania and the Banat as well. This, like so many of the settlements at the time, created new minorities who were then treated even worse than the minorities before the war. Ethnically mixed Transylvania should be part of a multinational state in which minorities are protected (as was the case in Austria-Hungary), not part of a unitary state with an oppressive majority.
In the Second World War, the Romanian dictator Ion Antonescu, called the Conducator, and the unruly fascist Green Shirts, the Legion of the Archangel St. Michael or Iron Guard, enthusiastically supported Hitler. With no help from the Germans, they exterminated 250,000 Jews in Romania and 150,000 in North Transylvania, according to some sources. The founder of the Iron Guard, Cornelius Codreanu, was arrested in March 1934 by order of King Carol. On 30 November 1938, Codreanu and 13 associates were liquidated. In response, on 3 December 1938 the Iron Guard assassinated prime minister Ducas. Antonescu came to power in 1940, when King Carol abdicated in favor of his son Michael and left the country. The USSR seized Bessarabia on 28 June 1940, but Romania reconquered it with German help in 1941. On 23 October 1941, Antonescu burned 19,000 to 25,000 Jews in Odessa alive. This was surely in the spirit of Vlad III Tepes! When it was clear that Germany was losing the war, Romania again switched sides and treacherously attacked Hungary, a rather reluctant ally of Hitler's. Although Hungary had gained a strip of northern Transylvania in 1938, this was restored to Romania in 1946. All Romania lost in the war was Bessarabia, which Stalin insisted on recovering. King Michael removed Antonescu in 1944, but within a year Antonescu's successors were replaced by P. Groza, the Soviet candidate.
The Soviets respelled Romanian in Cyrillic characters to make the inhabitants feel more Russian, and encouraged settlement of Russians and Ukrainians, mainly on the east bank of the Dneister, and added this region to the Moldavian SSR to integrate it better. Upon the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Moldavian SSR became the republic of Moldova, with its capital at Chisenau, which had been Kishinev. Ukraine retained the seacoast region, which was principally Ukrainian and Turkish. The Russians to the east of the Dneister seceded at once from Moldova as Transnistria, and their status is still in question. Remarkably, Kishinev had been as much as 50% Jewish in the 19th century. There had been pogroms in 1903 and 1905, killing 49 and 19, respectively, but Soviet Russia was much more tolerant. The Romanians in the Second World War, however, barbarously slaughtered the Jewish population of Kishinev, but it still remains on a modest scale. Moldova wanted nothing to do with Romania, remembering the fascist horrors, and observing the corruption of the post-communist state. A referendum of 7 March 1994 rejected union with Romania. Moldova is, however, the poorest country in Europe (or so it is said. Albania is another candidate). Ethnically, it is about 50% Romanian.
Romania established a communist state in 1947, with more enthusiasm than was usual in central Europe. The state was thoroughly collectivist, and encouraged industrial expansion, though Romania had been predominantly agricultural. Nicolae Ceausescu became president in 1968. He was relatively anti-Soviet, taking Romania out of the Warsaw Pact and COMECON. However, he was soon effectively autocratic, regarding the country as practically his own property. His regime became corrupt and brutal, and economic progress was minimal. Romanian minorities, especially Hungarians, were persecuted. It was a Hungarian Calvinist minister, Laszo Tökes, who initiated demonstrations in the southwestern city of Timisoara (once Temesvár) against the Ceausescu regime on 17 November 1989. This movement took fire, angered by Ceausescu's brutal repression. By the end of the year, Ceausescu and his wife and cohort Elena had been summarily tried and executed. However, the corruption of the communist state has carried over into the post-communist state, and Romania has made little progress since.
The region of the Balkans extends from the Alps and the Adriatic Sea east to the Black Sea, and from the Danube south to the Ionic and Aegean Seas. The land is mountainous, with intermountain plains of limited extent. The southernmost part was classic Greece, to the north of which was Macedonia, and then Thrace, which is mostly a plain. Between Thrace and the Danube was Moesia. To the west of Moesia was the large province of Illyria. South of Illyria, adjoining Greece, was Epirus. Thrace became part of the Roman Empire in 45 CE, followed by Illyria and Moesia. Illyria and Moesia were thoroughly Romanized, speaking Latin instead of the Greek that was common elsewhere. On the separation of the Eastern and Western Empires, the Balkans fell to Constantinople, and remained one of the core regions of the Eastern Empire as long as it lasted.
The Slavs were people of the plains of Eastern Europe, between the Oder and the Urals. They were pressed westward by the expanding Turkic peoples from about the 4th century onwards, and southwards by the Finns and Balts, occupying land abandoned by the Germans. The migrations separated the Slavs into three groups. The Western Slavs were the Bohemians (Czechs), Moravians, and Slovaks. The southern Slavs were the Slavonians, Croats, Serbs and Bulgarians. The remainder, the largest group, were Poles, Lithuanians and Russians. All these peoples speak very similar languages. Slavs began to trickle into the Balkans through the subesequent centuries, but the trickle became a flood around 600. Slavs invaded all the internal regions of the Balkans, even deep into Greece. Slavs settled in Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia after 488, replacing the Ostrogoths. Emperor Heraclius invited the Slavic Serbs of the Elbe (Lusatia) and the Croats of Galicia into the Balkans in 620 to expel the Avars. This provided leaders for the agricultural and pastoral Slavs who had already quietly spread across the region.
The Bulgars were a large Turkic tribe that accompanied the Huns. They did not follow them into western Europe, but settled on the middle Volga, near the confluence with the Kama. The majority of the Bulgars remained here, and later became the Russian Tatars of the Volga, after conquest by the Mongols in the 13th century. The name "Bulgar" is said to have come from the name of the river. A small party of Bulgar adventurers under Asparouch invaded the Danube delta in 679. Asparouch, like many other warriors, claimed descent from Attila. The Empire noticed his troublesome presence, but Constantine IV could not dislodge him. In 681, Asparouch moved south of the Danube, and concluded peace with Constantinople. His Bulgar horsemen assumed the rule of the local Slavic tribes, who greatly outnumbered them. The Bulgars were quickly assimilated by the Slavs, but their name remained in the name of the new kingdom. Its capital was first at Pliska, then permanently at Preslav, in eastern Moesia. The First Bulgarian Kingdom was generally a client of the Empire in its early centuries. Later, however, it asserted its independence and expanded its borders. It is good to remember that Bulgaria contains no Bulgars.
Khan Boris I (852-889) adopted Orthodox Christianity in 864, and later became St. Boris. After this, the rulers of Bulgaria should be styled Tsar instead of Khan. His name came from Turkic through Bulgarian Slavonic, not from the Slavic name Borislav. It was a rare name that became common after it reached Kievan Rus. In 893, Bulgarian became the liturgical language of the autocephalic Bulgarian church, later known as Old Church Slavonic as it spread widely, particulary to Russia, where it may still be in use. It was adopted so the people could understand the services, which had been in Greek, but later became just as incomprehensible, as happened to Latin as well. The Patriarch of Constantinople always encouraged the use of Greek. St. John of Rila (876-946), the first Bulgarian hermit, founded the Rila monastery 120 km south of Sofia, in the 10th century.
The Cyrillic alphabet, used in most Slavic countries, was invented in this area. Brothers Cyril (originally Constantine, 827-869) and Methodius (815-885) were born in Salonika. In 863, they were sent by Emperor Michael III to convert the western Slavs in Bohemia and Moravia. In 855, St. Kliment had devised an alphabet for Bulgarian based on the Greek alphabet, and named it in honour of Cyril. Cyril and Methodius took this alphabet with them on their mission to write religious works for their converts. It replaced the earlier Glagolitic alphabet devised for Slavonic. German influence eventually caused the dominance of Latin and the western church in this area.
Emperor John Tzimisces thought he had dealt Bulgaria a death blow when he captured Boris II and castrated his brother Roman, with the aid of Sviatoslav, Prince of Kiev, in 971. However, four Macedonian brothers--David, Moses, Aaron and Samuel--carried on the war and recaptured much territory. The capital at this time was Ohrid, on the lake of the same name in western Macedonia. Samuel eventually donned the red boots and purple chlamys of the Tsar and fought Basil II, but was finally defeated at Strumnitsa in 1014. Basil blinded 15,000 Bulgarian soldiers and sent them home to Ohrid in hundreds, each guided by a one-eyed man. The shock killed Samuel. Bulgarian independence ended in 1018. Basil II earned the epithet Bulgaroctonus, killer of Bulgars.
The Bogomils, "Lovers of God", arose around 950. Their beliefs were probably formed by contact with the Paulicians, and resembled those of Mani, the Persian mystic. There was a good God, who created everything spiritual, and a bad God, Satanael, who created the material universe. They opposed procreative sex, for example, because it merely put good spirits in a bad material body. They appeared in the west as Cathars or Albigenses, and Innocent III preached crusades against them. They were also persecuted in Constantinople. There has always been dualism in popular belief, involving the Devil and witches. The Bogomils were also called Bougres, or Buggers, and stories concerning them were used to frighten children.
The Second Bulgarian kingdom, arising in a period of crisis in Constantinople, existed 1185-1396, until its conquest by the Ottomans. Its capital was at Turnovo, north of the Balkans, where the boyar insurrection that won independence took place. Tsar Kaloyan (1197-1207) fought the Fourth Crusaders at Odvin near Adrianople in 1205, on their way back west, and defeated them. Baldwin, the Latin Emperor, was captured and died in captivity. Kaloyan had offered the Bulgarian church to Innocent III, but Innocent would not recognize him as tsar, only king, so he withdrew the offer and afterwards fought both Latins and Greeks. By 1355, the Eastern Roman Empire had been reduced to Thrace, with the Kingdom of Bulgaria north of it (very much like modern Bulgaria in size). Serbia occupied most of the western Balkans, from Greece to Hungary, including Epirus. Before this, Bulgaria had generally been the larger country, often extending to the Adriatic, and was in constant competition with Serbia. In 1393, Bulgaria was overcome by the Ottomans, and became Roumelia in the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottomans conquered Macedonia in 1389, after a victory over Serbian Prince Lazar at the Field of Blackbirds, Kosovo Polje. Janós Hunyadi was captured there, but later ransomed. Serbia fell in 1459, Bosnia in 1463. Albania succumbed in 1479, and then the Balkans were completely Turkish. The Albanians were a Thraco-Illyrian people who had preserved their ancient language. They lived in the wild areas of northern Epirus and Montenegro. Under Turkish occupation, most converted to Islam, and many Albanians had careers in Constantinople. Bogomils who had settled in Kosovo were also accused of mass conversion to Islam. This imputation of traitorous behaviour has persisted to the present day. Christians and Jews were not persecuted in the Ottoman Empire. The Jews expelled by Spain in 1492 were settled in Macedonia, at Salonika. However, no church could be as tall as the local mosque, and taxes were heavier on Christians. Conversion to Islam was also necessary for careers in government and the army.
Bulgarian nationalism revived in 1835-1836, after Serbia became independent in 1817. In May 1876 there was a major rising in Plovdiv against the Turks. Bashibazouks, volunteer terror troops, were sent in, and they cruelly murdered 15,000 Bulgarians in suppressing the revolt. This attracted international attention, especially in Britain. In June 1876, Serbia declared war on Turkey. Disraeli sent warships to the Dardanelles in 1878, which anchored in sight of Constantinople. The Russians had come to the aid of Serbia, and had pushed through Thrace to within 6 miles of Constantinople, at San Stefano. A treaty was concluded there that all but eliminated Turkey from Europe. The Russian success shocked the Great Powers, so a Congress was called at Berlin to dictate more acceptable conditions. Bulgaria, Serbia and Rumania were to be independent. Bosnia and Herzegovina went to Austria. The Bulgarians chose Alexander of Battenburg, a relative of Alexander II, as king. There was a struggle between pro-Russian and anti-Russian factions. Alexander was deposed in August 1886. The Bulgarians rejected the next Russian offer, and chose Ferdinand I of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The capital was now placed at Sofia. The rift was healed in 1896 when Ferdinand had his eldest son baptized in the Orthodox religion, with Tsar Nicholas II as his godfather.
In 1908, Ferdinand I declared Bulgaria and East Rumelia independent, and Austria annexed Bosnia-Hercegovina. In 1911, Italy fought a war against Turkey in which they annexed Libya. In 1912, an Albanian uprising was very successful, their troops reaching Skopje. Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria all had designs on Albania and Macedonia. In October 1912, the three allies declared war on Turkey. Albania took the opportunity to declare independence. When Turkey said "uncle", Greek and Serbian troops were in possession of Macedonia, which Bulgaria coveted. On 28 June 1913, Serbia turned on their former allies. In response, Rumania invaded across the Danube, and Turkey pushed into Thrace. Bulgaria did not come out well. At the treaty of Bucharest, Rumania acquired Dobrudja (all of it, not just the Rumanian part), Turkey retained some of Thrace, and Greece and Serbia were confirmed in their possession of Macedonia, which they divided.
When World War I broke out in 1914, Bulgaria was still exhausted by the Balkan Wars of 1812-13, and declared neutrality. The Entente and the Central Powers both cynically courted Bulgaria with promises of territory if Bulgaria came in on their side. The Entente offered the Enos-Midia line and Macedonia as far as Vardar. Bulgaria wanted the part of Drobrudja lost to Rumania in 1913, as well as Macedonia, where large Bulgarian populations existed. The Central Powers outbid the Entente, however, promising Macedonia, Dobrudja (if Rumania joined the Entente) and the Karalla area in eastern Macedonia if Greece was hostile. On 6 september 1914, accordingly, Bulgaria joined the Central Powers. Austria attacked Serbia on 6 October, and Belgrade fell on the 9th. On the 11th, Bulgaria invaded Serbia, and by 23 November had taken Prishtina. The remnants of the Serbian army was evacuated to Corfu, and then to Salonika, the mustering-place of the Entente forces. A Bulgarian-German force took Seres, Drama and Kavalla in eastern Macedonia, where a Greek corps surrendered. The Entente's drive from Salonika reached lake Ohrid in the west, but made no advance on the Bulgarian front. Meanwhile, Rumania declared war on Austria on 27 August 1916, but was rapidly defeated, and the Austrians took Bucharest on 6 December. On 27 June 1917, Greece finally ended its wavering and joined the Entente. A vigorous campaign 15-24 September 1918 by united Entente armies ended in the collapse of the Bulgarians, and an armistice was signed on 30 September. During the excitement, Italy captured Albania. Ferdinand I abdicated, and Boris III succeeded as tsar. It was not a good war for Bulgaria, who lost access to the Aegean, as well as some small bits of territory to Serbia. Bulgarian refugees from the surrounding countries fled into Bulgaria, and angry Macedonians continued guerrilla attacks.
After the war, Bulgaria faced the intractable problems of refugees flooding into the country, Macedonian revolutionary bands, and reparation payments. Yugoslavia and Greece severely persecuted their Bulgarian minorities. The refugees were fertile ground for Communist agitation. Alexander Stambolski of the Peasant Party came to power in the 1919 elections. He hated the government that had joined the Central Powers, and imprisoned their survivors. He hated intellectuals and the middle class. He confiscated land, raised the income tax on all but the peasants, closed the University and abolished the free press. He broke up IMRO, the Macedonian revolutionary organization. There was a rising of the Macedonians in 1922, and on 9 June 1923 Stambolski was overthrown by a junta of the army, Macedonians and others. Alexander Zankov, a National Socialist, came to power. Stambolski was killed under suspicious circumstances on 14 June, and a Communist insurrection of 26-28 September was violently repressed. On 16 April 1925, the Communists set off a bomb in Sophia Cathedral that killed 123 persons. This was not a wise move, since Communists were outlawed on 4 May. The IMRO split, and the factions fought one another, as well as raiding into Greece and Yugoslavia, which brought reprisals. The military seized power on several occasions, and political parties were abolished. Boris III struggled to master the situation, and was eventually successful by 1936. Zankov and his National Legion were still in the background, but was kept under control. Boris III strove for friendship with Yugoslavia and Greece.
Bogdan Philov formed a new cabinet 15 February 1940. Bulgaria joined the Axis on 1 Mar 1941, again hoping for territory, and realizing that any other choice would result in immediate German occupation. Bulgaria passed anti-Jewish laws in 1941-42. Jews had to wear the Star of David, they were barred from certain businesses and professions, their property was confiscated, and they were drafted for labour service instead of serving in the army. Earlier, Jews from the part of Slovakia returned to Hungary passed through Hungary to Bulgaria, where Boris saw that they had transit visas for Palestine. 12,000 Jews from occupied Thrace and Macedonia passed through Bulgaria on the way to Germany. Bulgaria was the staging point for the invasions of Greece and Yugoslavia in the spring of 1941. The SS never reached Bulgaria to repeat their actions in Hungary, and none of the about 50,000 Bulgarian Jews was killed. After the war, the Communists claimed this was due to their actions, but this was a complete lie. The Jews were saved because of the actions of Boris III and the Orthodox Church. Boris was neither a fascist nor an anti-Semite. Bulgarian troops found action against Greece and Yugoslavia. In 1943, Boris enraged Hitler during a visit of the tsar. When Boris returned to Sofia, he was mysteriously murdered.
The Red Army arrived in 1944. The Second World War did finally result in the recovery of Southern Dobrudja, moving the boundary from just north of Varna to General Toshev. In 1946 Dimitrov formed a Communist government, abolishing the monarchy, and in 1947 the Agrarian Party's Petkov was executed, during the usual Red Terror. Bulgarian troops helped the Russians to suppress the Czech rebellion in 1968. T. Zhivkov became president in 1971. In 1984, the Turkish minority was forced to assume Bulgarian names, causing a mass Turkish exodus in 1989. In the confusion, Zhivkov was ousted by P. Mladenov and a multi-party government was formed. The Union of Democratic Forces, UDF, won the 1991 election. Zhivkov was sentenced to 7 year's imprisonment for corruption. Mass privatization in 1993 was followed by financial turmoil in 1996. Unsuccessful demolition attempts on the marble mausoleum of Dimitrov became a national joke. In 2001, the deposed king Simeon II won the parliamentary elections and became prime minister. Bulgaria was admitted to NATO in 2004, and is scheduled to join the European Community in 2007.
In 1918, after the First World War, two new countries were created as a result of cynical French policy, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, on the ruins of Austria-Hungary. Both were predominantly Slavic, but in each two nations that hated each other were superimposed. Instead of decreasing the oppression of minorities, minorities were more severely oppressed. The countries had an unpleasant, fractious existence until they were finally dissolved as a result of internal forces in the 1990's, in the case of Yugoslavia setting off a brutal war. In World War II, they were Nazi sympathizers, and took their own initiatives in persecuting Jews, though there was an active resistance by a minority of their citizens. The people deserved better, but this is what they got. First, let's look at Yugoslavia.
Yugoslavia, or Jugoslavija, "Land of the South Slavs" was one of the unnatural states created after the First World War, existing 1918-2003. It occupied the western Balkans between Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Greece. We'll discuss its parts first, beginning in the northwest with Slovenia. This small and relatively prosperous state was a Hapsburg possession, created as a military buffer zone against the Turk. It is today a successful independent state. Slavs occupied the western Balkans in the 7th century. Although they penetrated well into Greece, Greece denies their existence and has rigorously Hellenized them. Illyrians survived in Albania and Macedonia, some as Latinized Vlachs, which still constitute a small minority. North of that, the main Slav states are Croatia (Hrvatska) and Serbia. Croatia is a very old country, once tributary to Charlemagne's Empire. In 1102, Croatia was absorbed in the Kingdom of Hungary, providing access to the Adriatic. Croatia fell to the Turks in the 16th century along with Hungary, but was the first Balkan area liberated, before 1740. In 1868, Croatia became an autonomous state in Austria-Hungary. It seems to have been fairly satisfied by this status. Croatia seems to be the place of origin of the necktie.
Serbia and Croatia speak the same language, usually called Serbo-Croat, but this term is not liked by the Croats. In Croatia, it is written in Roman letters, while in Serbia it is written in Cyrillic characters. The Croats are Roman Catholic, while the Serbs are Orthodox. At least they drive on the same side of the road, which may be the only thing that they have in common. It seems that the two peoples hate one another cordially, and this hate has only grown since they were married in Yugoslavia. Nevertheless, they cooperated in creating Yugoslavia, though Croatia wanted a federal state, while the Serbs wanted a state dominated by Belgrade. Yugoslavia was only 34% Serbian.
Through the middle ages, Serbia and Bulgaria contested for territory, though Bulgaria was usually the larger. They both coveted territory in the southern Balkans, in Epirus, Macedonia and Greece. The Serb Prince Lazar Hrbeljanovic was defeated and killed by the Turks on the Field of Blackbirds, Kosovo Polje, on St. Vitus' Day (28 June) in 1389, but became a national hero and martyr. The Sultan also died in this famous battle. Serbia was under Turkish rule for many years, but became independent in 1878. The Balkan wars of 1912-1913 were fought by Serbia with Greek and Bulgarian allies against Turkey, then with Greece against Bulgaria, during which Serbia aquired northern Macedonia. The fierce Albanians, 70% Islamicized, succeeded in winning independence in 1912, however. A Croatian member of the Serbian secret Black Hand society assassinated Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, setting off the First World War. Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia, Russia attacked Austria-Hungary, Germany attacked Russia, and France attacked Germany, aided by Britain. Austria possessed Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Vojvodina at the time.
Vojvodina is so-called because it was the region of Hungary that accepted Serbian refugees from the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century and allowed them to elect their own vojvodes, or counts. They prospered in this region, which extended north from Belgrade between the Danube and Tisza rivers. Vojvodina was awarded to Yugoslavia in 1920. Montenegro had a Serbian population. It was distinguished by successful resistance to Turkish domination, and was never completely subject to the Ottoman Empire. It provides Serbia's access to the Adriatic. Serbs are a minority in Kosovo and Macedonia.
Serbia already possessed Montenegro, Kosovo and northern Macedonia as a result of the Balkan wars, none of which was an independent country. Vojvodina was the Hungarian principality to the north of Serbia, which also had a considerable German minority. After the war, Serbia was given Vojvodina as well. On 1 December 1918, the Kindom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was formed, which became Yugoslavia in 1929. In 1928 Punisa Racic, a Montenegran, shot and killed Stepjan Radic, leader of the Peasant Party, in Parliament, creating turmoil. On 6 January 1929, King Alexander suspended the constitution, dissolved the parliament, and declared a royal dictatorship. This was upopular with non-Serbs, since it meant Serbian domination of the country. Slovenia, with a German minority, Vojvodina, with its Hungarian majority in the north, and especially Kosovo, with its Muslim Albanian majority, were trouble spots. The Serbs wished to include all Serbs in Serbia, and exclude all others. Macedonians feuded with the Albanians. Persecution by Serbs created a Turkish flight after 1918. In November 1934, King Alexander was assassinated by the Ustashe in Marseille, together with the French foreign minister Barthouwas.
On 25 March 1941, Prince Paul, regent for the minor King Peter II, signed the Tripartite Pact, becoming an ally of Germany and Italy. This was unpopular with the military, who overthrew Prince Paul in a coup d'état soon afterwards. Meanwhile, Mussolini, who had seized Albania, used it as a staging area for his invasion of Greece, which was singularly unsuccessful, and the Greeks drove him back. Hitler responded by attacking Yugoslavia on 6 April. The troops were mainly Italian, Bulgarian and Hungarian, since German troops were needed for the upcoming Operation Barbarossa (22 June). Yugoslavia collapsed, signing an armistice at Sarajevo on 17 April. Hitler went on to defeat the Greeks and their British allies in short order.
An independent Croatian state was then formed, controlled by the Ustashe, a Croatian separatist movement, founded in 1929, and supported by Mussolini. Its badge was a U with prominent serifs, surrounding the Croatian red and white chequerboard, or a cross. It became a typical fascist movement, and was a strong German ally, persecuting Serbs, Jews and Roma. Its leader was Ante Pavelic (1889-1959). The concentration and extermination camp at Jasenovac, 62 miles southeast of Zagreb on the Sava, rivalled Nazi equivalents in Germany and Poland. It was operated with unparalleled cruelty and barbarism. One source says 750,000 Serbs, 60,000 Jews and 26,000 Roma perished. Whatever were the true figures, there were many victims. It was the home of the srbosjek, the "Serb-cutter", a knife for slitting Serb throats. The figures for Serbs were probably greatly inflated by Titoists; 75,000 seems more realistic. After the war, the Communists used it for their own exterminations. The Croats, unlike Serbs, welcomed Muslims, regarding them all as Croats. A legend was established that Croats were actually descended from Goths, not the Slavic untermenschen, to make them more acceptable to the Germans. Like many national myths, it was pure rubbish. The Croatian government of May 1941, led by M. Budak, M. Puk and M. Zhanic, declared Orthodox Christians their greatest enemy, and as their aim to catholicize 1/3 of the Serbs in Croatia, expel 1/3, and murder the remaining third. Such hate is almost unbelievable. After the war, the Catholic Church helped Ustashe members, such as Pavelic, to escape Tito's wrath.
Meanwhile, General Milan Nedic led the puppet Serbian state. He proudly proclaimed Belgrade the first Judenfrei city in Europe. The Chetniks, Serbian national royalists, were led by Draza Mihajlovic. They initially opposed the Germans, but discovered that they hated the Communists more, so moved to the other side. Several Waffen SS Divisions were organized in the Yugoslav region. The 7th SS Prinz Eugen Division contained mainly ethnic Germans, the 21st Waffen SS Division was Albanian, and the 13th Waffen SS Division, "Handschar", was predominantly Muslim. These units served mainly in Yugoslavia, where they earned a name for cruelty, though at least one served in France. Clearly, with parts of the population on both sides, Yugoslavia suffered a vicious guerilla war. The enmities formed during those times are still keenly held.
Josip Broz (1892-1980) led the Communist resistance. He was born a blacksmith's son in Croatia, and was a stabfeldwebel, an NCO, in the Austro-Hungarian army, captured in Russia in the First World War. He served with distinction in the Red Army 1918-20 during the Civil War. Returning to Yugoslavia, he was imprisoned as an agitator 1929-1934. In 1937 the Comintern assigned him to reorganize the Yugoslav Communist Party. Rising to leader of the Communist resistance, he adopted the surname Tito. In 1945 his forces drove out the Germans. He deposed Peter II and formed a Communist state. He executed Mihajlovic and many others, but only after the Chetniks had been given free rein in reprisals against the Croats, as at Bleiberg and Maribor. In Tito's state, Vojvodina (Hungarian) and Kosovo (Albanian) were made autonomous provinces. He created the Macedonian republic to add to his federation, which had the unintended effect of creating a Macedonian consciousness. In 1963, he was named leader for life. He fell out with the Comintern in 1948, mainly for not nationalizing agriculture rigorously enough, and followed an independent path. While he was in power, the Croats and the minorities did not feel oppressed, but the ill feeling was still bubbling underneath. On his death, Serbian nationalism again rose to the surface, led by Slobodan Milosevic after 1989.
Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia seceded in 1991, followed by Bosnia-Hercegovina in 1992. Slovenia and Croatia got away with only a little unpleasantness. Slovenia, the most prosperous fragment of Yugoslavia, was admitted to the European Community in 2004. Milosevic then turned his attention to Kosovo. The Albanians claim to occupy Kosovo as successors of the ancient Illyrians. The Serbs maintain that they came only in the middle ages, driving out Serbs. Clearly, both have some justice, since Albanians and Macedonians have contested in Kosovo for many centuries. The Serbs, however, remember Prince Lazar and wanted everyone but Serbs out of Kosovo. Especially, they wanted the Islamic Albanians out of Kosovo. The events of the recent wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Sarajevo) and Kosovo (Prishtina) are still generally remembered, and their effects are not yet over.
Eventually, Yugoslavia consisted of only Serbia (Srbija) and Montenegro (Crna Gora). In 2003, even this pretense was abandoned, and the state became known as Serbia and Montenegro. Again we have a collection of small feuding states: Yugoslavia has been "Balkanized".
The second unnatural state created by the victors in the First World War was Czechoslovakia, the state of the West Slavs. It was created on the ruins of Austria-Hungary, and consisted of Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia and Ruthenia. The first three states were mostly populated by races that foreigners could not easily distinguish from each other, but they themselves can tell Czechs from Slovaks, though they speak almost the same language, and have the same religion. They are probably more alike than Croats and Serbs. Czechs inhabit Bohemia and Moravia, while Slovaks are found in Slovakia. The Ruthenians, or more properly Carpatho-Ruthenians are completely different. They are Orthodox Ukrainians, only distinguishable because they were Hungarians before the war. Rather than assign them to Soviet Russia, or give them back to Hungary (since there was a sizable Hungarian minority there), the cynical meddlers of the Entente tacked them on to Czechoslovakia. This country was by no means entirely Slav. Bohemia had a very large German minority, about a third of the population, which were mainly mountain farmers. Indeed, Germans and Czechs had shared Bohemia for many centuries, and did not get along badly at all. That now came to an end. Czechosovakia was assigned the Sudeten Mountains, the Erzgebirge and the Böhmerwald, which surrounded Bohemia on three sides, for the ostensible reason of "a defensible frontier". This principle was not applied to the other countries who suffered boundary changes after the War, only to Czechoslovakia. It was, indeed, a thorny problem, since this mountain boundary had always been a part of Bohemia. This error was to bring the country to grief in a few years. Czechoslovakia has a fat belly beneath Slovakia that is easily noticeable on the map. This fat belly is the left bank of the Danube, which had a practically completely Hungarian population. Nevertheless, Slovakia wished to border on the Danube (which it effectively did as a part of Hungary), and so this wish was granted. This removed the main railway line between Vienna and Budapest from Hungarian territory.
Not all the west Slavs were included in Czechoslovakia. The area known as Lusatia, Lausitz or Sorbia lies in south eastern Germany on both sides of the River Spree, east of Dresden, and extends into Poland. Slavic peoples in this region, known as Sorbs or Wends, are a remarkable survival of the Slavs that settled the broad expanse between the Elbe and the Oder. These people were the Serbs invited by Emperor Heraclius to the Balkans in 620. Germans began to arrive around 928 CE, and gradually became a majority. Today, around 150,000 Sorbs remain and are a protected culture. Cottbus (Kottbus) is the major town in Lower Lusatia, while Bautzen is the capital of Upper Lusatia. Lower Lusatia became Lutheran, Upper Lusatia remained Catholic, in the Reformation. Lower Lusatia had extensive reserves of lignite, which was extracted in open-cast mines. The German name for the Sorbs is Wends, which is used by the Sorbs as well. The Wends were notable Baltic pirates in the 11th century before their conversion to Christianity in the 12th century. Crusades were preached against them, which many nobles preferred to take up in place of going all the way to the Holy Land. Wends emigrated to the United States as a body, 500 arriving in Galveston in 1854 to join their countrymen who had come to Austin in 1849. They were very unenthusiastic Confederates, like their German neighbours. There were also Wends in Nebraska. Lusatia was never an independent country; it was always dominated by Bohemia, Poland, Prussia or Germany. The west Slavic languages, Czech, Slovak, Sorb and Polish, and the extinct Pomeranian, are all very similar to each other.
Czechoslovakia was created by committees meeting in Paris, London and the United States. The Czech National Council in Paris was led by T. G. Masaryk (1850-1937) and M. R. Stefanik, a French citizen and general. On 14 October 1918 they declared an independent Czech state consisting of Bohemia and Moravia. Masaryk was premier, E. Beneš foreign secretary, of the new government. The Slovak National Council, in which the clergymen Andry Hlinka (1864-1938) and Josef Tiso (1887-1947) were prominent, joined the Czechs on 30 October. As early as 1896, Czech-Slovak mutuality had been promoted in Prague. Now a new joint state, Czecho-Slovakia, was created. During the War, the Czech Legion had been formed by Masaryk to fight for the Tsar. When this was joined by Czech prisoners-of-war, it amounted to about 100,000 men. When Trotsky ordered them disarmed, they revolted and began to fight the Reds. Unable to escape westward, they went eastward instead, taking over the Trans-Siberian Railway and eventually reaching Vladivostok. On 3 August 1918, British, United States, French and Japanese forces arrived to meet them. This episode warmed the hearts of anti-communists everywhere. the Legion was actually the first Czech body officially recognized.
On 14 August 1920, a mutual defense treaty was signed with Yugoslavia, later joined by Rumania on 24 March 1921, that created the Little Entente, dedicated to preserving the territorial settlements after the War, whether just or unjust. Indeed, Czechoslovakia had already struggled with Poland over the Teschen question in 1919-1920. Instead of a federal state, Czechoslovakia turned out to be a Greater Bohemia ruled from Prague by Czechs. The Germans, under Konrad Henlein, demanded autonomy, and the protection of their customs and language. Slovaks and Ruthenians were restive, though granted increased self-government in 1927. In December 1928, V. Tuka, a Slovak in favour of Hungary and Slovak secession, was arrested and convicted of treason. The rise of Hitler in 1933 made the German question paramount. Hitler specifically stated his aim of returning all Germans to the Reich, which gave Henlein added bargaining power. The Munich agreement of September 1938 dismembered Czechoslovakia. Bohemia and Moravia, stripped of German territory, became a German protectorate on 15 March 1939.
Foreign minister Beneš had cooperated with Reinhard Heydrich, of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, by passing documents forged by him to his contacts in Moscow, representing them as true, and filched from the Germans. These documents were the basis of Stalin's Red Army purge of 1938, in which Marshal Tukachevsky and many others were executed. 3 of 5 marshals, 8 of 9 admirals, 13 of 15 generals, 50 of 57 lieutenant generals and 154 of 186 major generals were liquidated, all unjustly. This severe weakening of the Red Army encouraged Hitler to launch Operation Barbarossa.
On 6 October 1938, Slovakia became autonomous. Communists were outlawed on 20 October, and persecution of the Jews soon followed. On 8 October, Ruthenia became autonomous, and in March 1939 was returned to Hungary. On 14 March 1939, an independent Slovak state was formed under Msgr. Josef Tiso. The Hlinka Guards were formed under Alexander Mach; they looked precisely like Hitler's SA, and were equally brutal. Vojtech Tuka was released from prison. In September 1941, a Jewish Code was passed that was stricter even than the Nuremberg Code. In 1942, 68,000 Jews were sent to Germany. In all, there were about 130,000 Jews in Slovakia, but many were needed in critical positions. The Jews, who were ethnically German, had no friends in Czechoslovakia. The Roma and Protestants also suffered in Slovakia.
Reinhard Heydrich (1904-1942) arrived in September 1941 as Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, and organized the suppression of the Jews. During October 1941, many Czech Jews were sent to Lodz and to Terezin, a camp in north Bohemia. Heydrich was assassinated by Czech paratroopers dispatched from London on 27 May 1942 ("Operation Anthropoid"). Heydrich was mortally wounded and died of septicemia on 4 June, a victim of his practice of riding about in open cars. The assassins committed suicide when cornered in Prague. In the savage reprisal ordered by Himmler, the villages of Lidice and Lezhaky were burned, and their men killed. After the war, Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia. Of 3,500,000 before the war, less than 250,000 remained. This was an atrocity worthy of the Nazis themselves, for which Vlaclav Havel later apologized. Msgr. Tiso, who had been an enthusiastic Nazi, and supported by the Vatican, was hanged in 1947. The Soviet Union justly acquired Ruthenia.
In February 1948, a communist government was formed after an election with only communist candidates standing. Klement Gottwald and Gustav Hušak were leading communists, and the latter became premier. The usual dreary collectivization and repression followed. Hungarians were compelled to have Slavic names, which gives an idea how minorities were treated. In January 1968 Alexander Dubček tried to introduce "communism with a human face" but troops from Russia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and East Germany crushed this movement 20-21 August 1968 and exiled Dubček. by April 1969, Husak was back. Czechoslovakia had the lowest rate of economic growth in the entire region. In 1989, free multiparty government was restored. Slovakia became autonomous in 1992. The next year, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic became independent countries. In Slovakia, Hungarians were allowed to resume their Magyar names.
The Czech Republic, consisting of Bohemia and Moravia, was industrially advanced, and had a traditional capital at Prague. Slovakia was happy finally to have an independent Slovak nation, for the first time. However, Slovakia was a small, weak agricultural country without good prospects. The Slovaks oppressed their minorities, especially Hungarians, which were annoying because of their large number and earlier domination. An appropriate capital would probably have been Nitra, but instead of this small, isolated city, Poszony or Pressburg was chosen, and renamed Bratislava (as it had been in Czechoslovakia). Finally, a treaty of friendship was signed in 1995 with Hungary, in which minorities on both sides were promised toleration, and the current borders were accepted. There has been disagreement over the Gabcikova Dam on the Danube. Slovakia wants the dam built to provide hydroelectric power, but Hungary maintains that environmental damage would be too great.
Let's now turn to pleasanter matters, the history of the West Slavs. The hilly plateau of Bohemia, ringed with mountains and drained by the Elbe and rivers radiating from its centre, was the home of the Celtic tribe Boii, from which it derives its name. The Boii moved south into northern Italy. About 15-10 BCE they were replaced by the Germanic Marcomanni, and the Quadi moved into what would later become Moravia and Slovakia. When the Hunnic Empire was formed north of the Danube around 450 CE, these Arian Christian tribes retreated into the Empire and became the Bavarians. When the Huns retreated into the East, the country was left empty. The people known to the classical world as the Venedae, from the territory between the Vistula and the upper Dneiper, moved into this region and occupied the territory between Bohemia and the Carpathians. They called themselves Sloveni, from which the name of Slav comes. There is no connection between the words Slav and slave.
This happened rather early, perhaps in the 6th century. A Slavic Principality of Balaton, known as Greater Moravia, is reported to have been established in Pannonia, but this would have been destroyed by the Avars. Moravia was also overcome by the Avars, but was partly freed by the Frank Samo (622-658). In the 9th century, Charlemagne drove out the rest of the Avars. The Moimir dynasty then ruled in Greater Moravia, as vassals of the Holy Roman Empire. With the help of Magyars, king Ratislav gained independence in 862. Arnulf restored Greater Moravia to the German Empire in 892, again with Magyar aid. The West Slavs had already divided themselves into Czechs, in Bohemia, and Moravians, to the east of Bohemia. The kings of Bohemia and Moravia were baptized at Ratisbon. The Moravian king, Ratislav I, asked the Pope to send him a bishop for the conversion of his people in 861. The Pope sent only missionaries who knew no Slavic, and could not communicate with the people. In 862, he made the same request of Emperor Michael III, who sent Cyril and Methodius, who did know Slavic. They introduced glagolitic (the first Slav alphabet), Church Slavonic, and Christianized Greater Moravia. This annoyed the Eastern Franks who resented the interference from Constantinople. In 880, John VIII Sviatopluk placed his kingdom under Rome. The Czech Duke of Bohemia left Sviatopluk's empire in 895 and appealed to the Holy Roman Empire for support against his fellow Slavs. This followed the mission of Cyril and Methodius that had Christianized Moravia, and caused the conversion of the west Slavs from Orthodoxy to Catholicism, and the replacement of Church Slavonic by Latin.
Slavs have exhibited two opposite tendencies that have facilitated their survival. The first is the ability to convert a small ruling class to their language and culture, as happened in Bulgaria. The only thing left of the Bulgars is their name. It also happened in Belarus (White Rus), Ukraine (Red Rus), and Russia, where the name Rus is that of Swedish Teutonic rulers, now utterly vanished. Where they are themselves the minority, they can blend easily into their surroundings without conflict, enriching the culture that receives them. This happened with the Vlachs in forming Rumania, with Germans in Pomerania, and with the Greeks. In fact, in these three regions they may actually have been a numerical majority, but one utterly without power.
In 902-906 there were Magyar attacks in eastern Moravia, the region that was to become Slovakia. There were no Slav armies at the Magyar-Bavarian battle on 4 July 907, however. This region became the "Tertia Pars Regnae" with its captial at Nitra. It was granted significant autonomy; it could even mint its own coins. After the Turkish conquest, it became part of the Hapsburg rump kingdom of Hungary. The Premysl dynasty ruled Bohemia and Moravia until the 14th century. The first Premysl was Wenceslas (Vaclav), who became St. Wenceslas. The Crown of St. Wenceslas became the Bohemian royal crown. Church Slavonic was abolished in 1097, after which services were in Latin, which the people could not understand. Bohemia became one of the very few kingdoms in the Holy Roman Empire (most large states were duchies). Moravia became a Margravate in the 15th century, and was ever after closely associated with Bohemia. From the 13th century, German settlement was strongly encouraged in the wake of the Mongol depopulation. Germans were concentrated in the hills and mountains, as well as in the cities. In 1278, Ottakar II was defeated by Rudolf of Hapsburg, and lost most of his empire, which had extended into Austria. The Premysl dynasty came to an end in 1306.
Prague was the imperial capital of Charles IV, and often the capital thereafter. The Reformation began in the early 15th century. The movement begun by the reformers Jan Hus (1369-1415), a follower of John Wycliffe, and Jerome of Prague split into two factions. The moderate Ultraquists asked for communion in both kinds, bread and wine. The radical Taborites (so called because their headquarters were in the town of Tabor) wanted extensive reform. Hus was defrocked in 1408 for preaching out of church, and excommunicated in 1410 for translating the Bible into Czech. In 1412, Prague was placed under interdict by Anti-Pope Alexander. Sigismund of Luxemburg, son of Charles IV, became Holy Roman Emperor in 1410. He organized the Council of Constance, 1414-1418, to counter the Reformation. When Hus was summoned to Constance in 1414, Emperor Sigismund promised him safety, but abandoned him there. Hus and Jerome were burned by the Pope at Constance in 1415. Hussites threw the Mayor and Councillors of Prague from the windows of the New Town Hall in 1519, the first "Defenestration of Prague", setting off the Hussite Wars (1419-1436).
Sigismund's brother, King Wenceslas IV, died in 1419 and Sigismund became King of Bohemia as well as Emperor. The Hussite army, commanded by John Zhizhka (1376-1424) and supported by Bohemian nobles, routed an imperial force in 1420 and took Prague. Crusades instigated by Pope Martin V were repeatedly defeated, and the Hussites controlled Bohemia by 1421. Zhizhka was one of the first commanders to use portable field artillery, which he did to excellent effect. On his death, the Hussite army was then commanded by Andrew Procop (1380-1434), who defeated further crusades. The Ultraquists were reconciled with the Catholics, and a unified army defeated and killed Procop at Lipany. The Compactata of 1436 granted the Hussites many of their demands, and established peace. Sigismund was then crowned King of Bohemia.
Sigismund died in 1437. In 1471, the Jagellonian Vladislav II became king. He was more interested in Hungary, of which he was also king, and moved to Buda. His incompetent son Louis, who had succeeded him, was drowned in the marshes at Mohacs after the great victory of the Turks. The kingship passed to Ferdinand I of Habsburg. Bohemia and Moravia were then Habsburg possessions until 1918. Rudolf II, son of Maximilian II (reigned 1576-1612), moved his imperial court to Prague. In 1612 he was succeeded by Ferdinand II, a fervent Catholic. The protestants of Bohemia, who had become a majoriy, were persecuted by the Catholics and appealed to Ferdinand for aid. Ferdinand refused. On 23 May 1618 two of his ministers were thrown out of a window of Prague Castle, the second (and more famous) defenestration of Prague. The ministers were not seriously injured (they fell into a thick manure heap), but this set off the Thirty Years' War, an excellent example of Christian hate. The Protestants deposed Ferdinand and elevated Frederick V, Elector of the Palatinate, a Calvinist, to the throne of Bohemia. The Evangelical Union, the Protestant alliance, split over this into Lutheran and Calvinist factions. Lutheran Saxony decared war on Bohemia. In August 1619, Ferdinand II became Holy Roman Emperor and led the Catholic League against the Protestants. Frederick V was defeated at White Mountain on 8 November 1620. There was then a bloody reprisal against the Protestants.
The war spread to Germany, where it raged until 1648. The Imperial or Habsburg armies of the Catholic League were commanded by Count Tilly, the Protestant armies of the Evangelical Union by King Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, a dedicated Protestant. The War was promoted by France, ruled by Lous XIII and his minister Richelieu, who wanted to remove the Habsburg challenge to their dominance. They could not openly support the Protestants, so they secretly enlisted Gustaf Adolf against the Catholics. Neither side gained a clear-cut victory. The Protestants maintained their existence in northern countries, while the Catholics re-established themselves in Poland, Bavaria, Carinthia and Carniola, Hungary, and a few areas in western Germany. Bohemia, Moravia and Austria remained mixed. Both Tilly and Gustaf Adolf were killed in battle during the war. In this terrible war, about half of the population of Germany was killed, and the country ruined. As an example of the behavior of the armies, Count Tilly captured Magdeburg on 20 May 1631. The city was pillaged, sacked and burned, and the Protestants were slaughtered. The Catholic armies were by far the more brutal, egged on by the Pope as Crusaders. These horrors were all perpetrated in the name of Christ. The Peace of Westphalia, signed at Münster 24 October 1648, recognized the independence of Switzerland (permanent) and the Netherlands (temporary). It established France as the predominant power in Europe, and retarded the unification of Germany.
In 1909, Moravia was an Austrian Crown Land, with its capital and governor at Brünn. Of its population of 2,591,980 Czechs were 1,727,270 (67%) and Germans 695,492 (27%). In 1782, Joseph II united it with Silesia for administrative purposes. In his decrees of 1781, Joseph II proclaimed the freedom of serfs, and toleration of Protestants. The Czech language and culture were promoted, and became equal to German. The Czechs were prominent in the Parliament at Vienna after further liberal reforms. In spite of the benefits of being a leading element in a powerful country, they chose instead to lead the destruction of Austria-Hungary, in cooperation with their French allies.
Silesia, as well as Moravia, were united with the Hungarian crown by Matthias I Corvinus (reigned 1477-1490). In this way they eventually became Habsburg lands, but not part of Hungary. Silesia, stretching from the Sudeten Mountains to beyond the Oder, was a German territory with Breslau as its chief city. It passed to Prussia after the war of the Austrian succession, in 1742. It is now part of Poland, quite unfairly, and the populations have probably been cruelly exchanged.
In 1740, Poland was a large country, extending from the Baltic to the Turkish dominions in Moldavia, and from Brandenburg to Kiev. (See the section on the Baltic, Poland and Lithuania for more details.) It was mainly the union of Poland with Old Lithuania, containing the enclave of the Kingdom of Prussia with its capital at Königsberg. It was suppressed and partitioned by Prussia and Russia in 1772, 1793 and 1795. Galicia went to the Habsburgs in the first partition. Originally, it did not include Cracow, but this centre of Polis culture was added in 1846. The Germans and Russians strove to eliminate Polish culture, but it was fostered in Galicia, as the part included in Habsburg domains was called. It has the same name as the better-known region in northwestern Spain, which in Roman times was inhabited by Celts. The name of polish Galicia comes from its local name Halychyna, which somehow became Galicija, Galizien and Galicia. Its original capital was at Halicz, later moved to Lemberg (Lvov). Western Galicia was Polish, eastern Galicia was Ukrainian. Galicia was beyond the Carpathians opposite Slovakia, but was part of Hungary only briefly, 1189-1199, under Béla III. Poland was soon re-established as the Duchy of Warsaw by 1812, and then as the Kingdom of Poland. The Kingdom was again partitioned between Russia and Germany by 1871, and an independent Poland again disappeared. Poland was re-established after World War I including a good deal of German (Danzig corridor) and Russian territory. After World War II, the Soviet Union reclaimed its territory in eastern Poland and eastern Galicia, and compensated Poland with a great swath of German territory. Again, we had a cruel forced migration of population, of Poles out of east Galicia, Ukrainians out of west Galicia. There is still considerable bad blood over these matters.
The thriving Jewish culture in Galicia prospered under Austria-Hungary, where Jews were emancipated in 1867. Poland oppressed the Jews after it obtained Galicia in 1918, but the Germans wiped out the Jewish community in World War II. The famous death camp of Oswiecim (Auschwitz) was a short distance west of Cracow, near the Galician border. 16,000 alien Jews sent to Galicia by Hungary in July and August 1941 were murdered by the Germans at Kamenec-Podolskij. Of 3.3 million Jews in Poland in 1939, only 8,000 now remain after the emigration of those who managed to survive the war. An approximately equal number of gentile Poles also perished. Poles did not collaborate with the Germans; that was forbidden by the Germans.
If the world had not changed greatly since then, the territorial settlements after the Second World War would by now have caused World War III. The European Community, however, has renouced irredentism and enforces the fair treatment of minorities. The First World War was, essentially, the War to Suppress Germany, fueled by French territorial claims, not by the desire of the Kaiser to rule the world. The post-war settlement guaranteed the Second World War and the hideous Shoah. It is clear that Austria-Hungary could not survive as a multi-national state under existing condtions. However, with more good will and toleration it could have shown the way, and would have been much better than the sorry careers of its successor states with their histories of human misery. Modern federal states, like Germany and the United States, are not by any means multinational states. The purpose of the federalism is solely to provide local control. The Soviet Union was a federal state, with no local control, and could not survive as a multi-national state. The European Community is not a state, and is dominated by bureaucrats and swamped by petty regulations, but may still enable people to get along with one another.
An Illyrian tribe called the Albanoi are mentioned in Ptolemy's Geography of the 2nd century. Illyrians were spread all over the western Balkans, roughly on the territory that was to become Yugoslavia. The lowlands, seacoasts and towns were thoroughly Latinized, but the traditional speech and habits persisted in the uplands. The language of these people was Indo-European. Today, Albanian (Shqip) is the only survivor of this family. The Latinized people were known as Vlachs to the Slavs that arrived in the 6th century, and they likewise still survive. Indeed, Romania speaks the Vlach language, in which many words have resemblances to Albanian words. The name of the country in Shqip is Shqiperia, "Land of Eagles", but this name appears only since the Turkish conquest. Albania was governed from Constantinople when the Empire was divided in 395 CE, but religious matters were contested between Rome and Constantinople. The Vatican backed a Norman invasion in 1081, but this was soon suppressed. In 1204, much of Albania became part of the Despotate of Epirus after Emperor Michael Comnenus drove out the Venetians who had taken advantage of the Fourth Crusade, which sacked Constantinople the same year. In 1272, Charles I of Anjou founded an Albanian kingdom that lasted about a century, until the struggle with the Turk.
Albanians were not overwhelmed by the Slavs, when they appeared after the 5th century, as was the rest of the Balkans, but finally succumbed to the Ottomans in 1478. The Ottomans had driven into the Balkans by 1385, and in 1389 conquered the Serbs, as mentioned above. It is notable that nearly 90 years were required to subjugate the Albanians. Prominent in this struggle was Gjorj Kastrioti, called Skenderbeu, who fought the Turks from 1443 to 1478. About 70% of the Albanians were converted to Islam, and many played important roles in the Ottoman Empire, rising as high as Grand Vizier, and regularizing its finances. The attachment to the Ottoman Empire was so strong that Albania was the last part of the Balkans in which a national consciousness arose. Independence was achieved on 28 November 1912. However, it meant little, since Serbia (later Yugoslavia) and Italy struggled for hegemony, and this was the time of the Balkan Wars.
Ahmed Bey Zogu emerged as a leader around 1924, and turned to Mussolini for support. In 1928 a kingdom was declared, with Zog as its king. He was overthrown by Mussolini in 1939, and Albania was occupied by Italy. Albania was the springboard for Mussolini's invasion of Greece in October 1940. His failure necessitated the German attack on Yugoslavia and Greece. Between 1941 and 1944, communist partisans and nationalist guerrillas fought each other and the Italians. No Jews were deported, despite German control (there were not many Jews in Albania, anyway). The partisans, lead by Enver Hoxha (1908-1985), prevailed after Italy's surrender in 1943, and a one-party, Stalinist government was instituted. The Red Army did not have to invade Albania.
Greece punished Albania for the Italian invasion by a mass deportation of people called Cham after the war, complete with atrocities. When Tito broke with Stalin in 1948, Hoxha became even more strongly Stalinist. When Stalin died and Russia was de-Stalinized, Hoxha turned to China for friendship. Albania became more and more xenophobic and isolationist during these years. In 1967, all mosques and churches were closed and demolished. Possession of a Quran or Bible was punished by imprisonment. Albania is today a predominantly atheist state, so figures on religious affiliation should be taken with a grain of salt.
Hoxha died in 1985, and was succeeded by Ramiz Alia, who proved a weak leader. The one-party system was abandoned in 1990, and in 1992 the Democratic Party won 62% of the votes. Private worship was permitted after 1990, but public worship was not restored. As usual, the communist government was followed by corruption and organized crime, which is still prevalent, though politicians strive for reform. Albania is very poor, with many Albanians working abroad. The money they remit helps to even the balance of payments, since Albania exports very little. The population is about 3,500,000, 95% Albanian, and the total area a little less than that of Maryland. There are only 447 km of railways, two lines radiating from Durrës (ancient Dyrrachium). The country is all mountains and hills, with only 20% arable.
Hoxha is pronounced something as if it were spelled Hodzha. Albanian is really not difficult or strange to pronounce, but the orthography is unfamiliar. The letter q is pronounced as if it were ty, y is a French u, and so forth. There are two dialects of Shqip, gheg in the north and tosk (the official dialect) in the south. It was first written in the 15th century, in Greek, Cyrillic or Turkish Arab characters, but the Latin alphabet has been used since 1908.
Macedonia was a mountainous country north of classical Greece, that extended from Illyria on the west to the Aegean Sea on the east. The name probably describes the people, as tall. Although racially the same as the Dorian Greeks, they spoke a different language and were considered "barbarians" by the Greeks. However, they adopted Greek culture and were eventually even admitted to the Olympic Games. Instead of city-states, as in Hellas, they were ruled by kings. Alexander the Great was the son of Philip II, who threw off Illyrian domination, and his tutor was Aristotle. Philip V (reigned 221-179 BCE) strove to subjugate Greek city-states, who appealed to Rome for aid. Rome had thrown off its kings centuries earlier, and were eager to do the same for other states and form alliances with them. Philip called in the western Mediterranean power of Carthage as an ally. The Punic Wars began in this way. After severe setbacks, Rome was eventually victorious. There were three Macedonian wars. The third (171-168) overthrew the Macedonian kingdom, replacing it with four republics. Macedonia became the first senatorial province in 146 BCE.
When the Empire was administratively separated into western and eastern parts in 395, Macedonia fell under Constantinople. Around 600, Slavs began to migrate into Macedonia from the northeast. They were herders and farmers, and settled mainly in the hills. The coastal regions, and especially the important city of Salonika or Thessaloniki, on the Gulf of Thermae, remained mostly Greek (i.e. Roman). The Slavs were called Sklavines by the Greeks, and were probably welcome in the depopulated areas. Their petty states were called sklavinias. In 837, the First Bulgarian Empire arose under Tsar Boris. The Macedonian Skalavinias were incorporated in his empire, and Christianized after 846. This was the era of Saints Clement (d. 916) and Naum (d. 910) of Ohrid. On the death of Tsar Peter, in 969, Macedonia became independent of Bulgaria and established its capital at Ohrid. An Orthodox Patriarchate was established at this location by Tsar Samuel, but in 995 it was reduced to an archbishopric. In 1018, after Samuel's death in 1014, this state again became a theme of the Empire, which it remained until 1204. Much of the modern Macedonian identity was established in these times. The Macedonian people were now Slavs, not Dorian Greeks.
The centre of Macedonian identity is the small city of Ohrid in far southwestern Macedonia. Lake Ohrid (pronounced Okhreed) is a tectonic lake, like Lake Baikal, formed in the Tertiary Alpine orogeny. Its surface elevation is 695 m, and its maximum depth 289 m. It is surrounded by limestone mountains, the highest Mount Galichica (2255 m) on the east. Beyond Galichica is Lake Prespa, elevation 853 m and maximum depth 54 m. Water flows from Lake Prespa through the Karst topography to appear as springs feeding Lake Ohrid. Ohrid is shared with Albania, Prespa with Albania and Greece.
The ancient town on the site of Ohrid was Lychnidos, on the Via Egnatia from the Adriatic port of Dyrrachium to Salonika, the shortest road from Rome to Constantinople. Most travellers would have made the journey by sea, however. Lychnidos was an episcopate from the 4th century. It was ruined by earthquakes on 29-20 May 526. The Slavs of the Berzites tribe reconstructed it after 600 and renamed it Ohrid. It was heavily fortified as the capital of Tsar Samuel's empire, but the fortifications were largely destroyed by Emperor Basil II after 1018. There was a Norman invasion in 1081-1085, and later domination by the Latin Kingdom of Thessalonika in 1204. These threats were overcome, but in 1334 Serbian King Dushan overran Macedonia. In 1395, Chandarli Hairudin Pasha, vizier of Sultan Bayazit I, conquered Macedonia. The Macedonian archepiscopate was continued under the Turks. The Phanar Greek Patriarch was jealous of an independent Macedonian church, however, so the Ohrid archepiscopate was abolished in 1767, and its affairs translated to Constantinople. Ohrid was renamed Lychnidos at this time.
Medieval Slavic Macedonia was the cradle of Slavic literature, with the invention of the Glagolitic alphabet of 38 letters in 863, devised by Cyril and Methodius, who were Greek natives of Salonika. The language of Macedonia was the model for Old Church Slavonic, that was supposedly understandable by all Slavs. "Glagolati" means "to speak" in Old Church Slavonic. Macedonian national consciousness is largely centred on the language, which was revived in the 19th century, and on the old capital of Tsar Samuel's at Ohrid. The Bogomil heresy also arose here in the 10th century. The name of Macedonia disappeared after the Turkish conquest, and Macedonia became part of the province of Rumelia. The Sultan settled some of the Jews expelled by Spain in 1492 in Salonika. There they remained until 60,000 were turned over by the Greeks to the Germans in 1942 for deportation to Poland.
The Ottoman Empire was fraying at the edges in the 18th century, with many peripheral beys and pashas acting independently. Gheladin Bey, who ruled at Ohrid, was one of these. When the Sultan attacked and defeated him, he fled to Egypt in 1832. The whole region was infested with robbers and bandits in these years. A hopeless Macedonian rising against the Turks occurred on 2 August 1903, the religious festival of Ilinden, after which the rising is named. There were some 2100 Macedonians against 46,000 Turks. The rising was defeated at Rosanec, and the survivors committed suicide rather than fall into Turkish hands. Nijazi-Beg, the military commander at Resen, one of the Young Turks, himself rebelled on 3 July 1908 against the Sultan.
The Turks were driven out of Macedonia by the allied Serbs, Bulgars and Greeks in the First Balkan War in 1912. The allies soon fell out over the spoils, and Bulgaria fought Serbia and Greece in the Second Balkan War, in 1913. Macedonia was then partitioned. Aegean Macedonia, with Salonika, went to Greece. The large area in the northwest, Vardar, was acquired by Serbia. The remaining area, Pirin, became Bulgarian. The Greeks and Serbs maintained that there were no Serbs south of the new borders, no Greeks north of it, and no Macedonians anywhere. In Greece, use of the Macedonian language was forbidden. The Bulgarians regarded Macedonians as simply Bulgarians, for historical reasons, despite the cultural differences that had arisen over the preceding 1000 years.
In the 1941 Vienna Agreement on the disposition of Yugoslavia, 4/5 of Vardar was given to the Bulgarians, and 1/5 to Italy. After the war, Yugoslavia was restored to the status quo ante. Tito created a Macedonian Republic in Vardar, with its capital at Skopje, which became part of the Yugoslav federation. He did this to dilute Serbian influence, as well as to forestall any action by Bulgaria to recover what they considered Bulgarian. This was the essential step to the recognition of a Macedonian identity. Macedonia seceded from the crumbling Yugoslav federation in September 1991. Its flag was a red banner bearing a golden Star of Vergina. This Sun with 16 rays of two lengths had been found by archaeologists in Macedonia, and associated with Philip II, though its actual use was unknown.
Greece objected strongly to the use of the name Macedonia, and to the Star of Vergina. The flag of their own Macedonian province was a Star of Vergina on a blue background. Macedonia changed its flag in 1995, replacing the Star of Vergina by a Sun with 8 triangular rays, but would not give up their name. Greece strongly denies any Slavic heritage, even changing Slavic place names to Greek names wherever they can be found. However, Slavs penetrated even into the Peleponnesus. So far as Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria are concerned, there are no Macedonians at all (just as there are no Vlachs at all). Greek Macedonia extends beyond the River Strymon, the traditional boundary, to the River Euros, which is well into Thrace. In 1922, Greece and Turkey engaged in population transfers between Macedonia and Anatolia.
The population of the present Republic of Macedonia in 1991 was 2,033,964, 66% Macedonian, 23% Albanian and 4% Turkish, with the remainder composed of Vlachs (8571) and Serbs. The Macedonian language retains many archaic elements that have disappeared in other Slavic languages, such as the imperfect and aorist tenses. It also is more analytic, eliminating many case endings, and has a post-positive article. A special Cyrillic alphabet of 31 characters is perfectly phonetic. There is little chance of reunion with Bulgarian and Greek Macedonians. The Pirin Macedonians claim they are 250,000, but the Bulgarians claim there are only 3000 (not long ago, the Bulgarians claimed there were 0, so this is an improvement).
The failure of communism at the end of the 20th century was a remarkable development. Communism proved that it was about power, not about helping the economic underclass. Many authors now assume that democracy and communism are absolutely incompatible. Why else would it forbid the association of workers in their own unions, abolish any semblance of a free press, and drench itself in blood? Stalin, they say, murdered as many people as Hitler. Everyone should know a little of the fascinating story of communism.
Karl Marx (1818-1883) was born into a Jewish family in Trier, and received a PhD from the University of Jena. In 1843 he moved to Paris, where he formed a lasting friendship with Friedrich Engels. After the tumult of 1848, he went to Brussels, where his Communist Manifesto was published. In 1849 he emigrated to London, where he remained the rest of his life. In 1849, his primary work, Das Kapital, was published there. He is buried in Highgate cemetery, One wonders what he would have made of Lenin and Stalin. Marxism has become an important philosophical movement, though it is now discredited as a political movement. It is mostly cultivated by intellectuals, not actual workers, and seems accessible to weaker intellects. One of the chief tenets of Marxism is that value is added only as a result of labour.
Attempts to create communist governments in Europe were made after the Russian Revolution of 1917, but without success. After the Second World War, occupation by the Red Army generally ensured the creation of single-party Stalinist governments. In other places, such as Albania and YUgoslavia, victorious communist partisans accomplished this without the aid of the Red Army. Regimes so established tended to be idiosyncratic, such as those of Tito's and Hoxha's. Every country from Poland to Bulgaria had a Stalinist government after 1948. Greece was almost communist as well, but the communist partisans were defeated in a civil war by monarchist forces. Communism was nowhere a popular success, even in the German Democratic Republic (which, of course, was anything but democratic) where it worked better than elsewhere. There were attempts to liberalize the Stalinist regimes, as in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, but they were brutally repressed. The Hungarian revolt was a rejection of communism, but the Prague Spring from 5 January to 20-21 August, when the Warsaw Pact armies arrived, was only a reform backed by the party. Imre Nagy was executed, but Alexander Dubček remained in office. De-Staliniztion proceeded in 1963-68 under Brezhnev. The end of European communism began in Poland in 1989 with the Solidarnosc movement, which rapidly spread to other countries in various forms.
Defeat of the Tsar's army by Germany and Austria led to unrest in Russia at the beginning of 1917. The February revolution deposed the Tsar and established a provisional government under Alexander Kerensky (1881-1970). In July, V. I. Lenin (1870-1924) fled to Finland and then to Switzerland. The Germans, hoping to destabilize the new government, brought Lenin and his associates back to St. Petersburg by special train from Switzerland on 16 April. Lenin had been named leader of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) in its 1903 conference. At that conference, the party had split into two parts, the Mensheviks (minority) who advocated cooperation with other Socialist parties, and the Bolsheviks (majority), who proposed domination of the government by their party. Lenin and his aide Grigory Zinoviev (1883-1936), both Bolsheviks, engineered the October Revolution, in which the Bolsheviks triumphed. An election did not give the Bolsheviks a majority, so Lenin dissolved the Constituent Assembly and created a new body in which the Bolsheviks dominated. This was the beginning of one-party rule in Russia and the end of Social Democracy. Lenin also established the Chekha, the dreaded secret police, at this time. The RSDLP became the All Russian Communist Party.
Peace with Germany and Austria was concluded by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918. This treaty was very disadvantageous to Russia, which lost Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. It did give Lenin breathing room, however. On 30 August 1918 Lenin was assassinated by Fanya Kaplan; two bullets struck him, but he survived. The Polish-Soviet War of 1919 was inconclusive. The Communist International (Comintern) was founded in 1919 to export the revolution. The Russian Civil War then broke out between the communists (Red) and the royalists (White). Leon Trotsky was named Commissar of the Red Army, and prosecuted the war vigorously, with eventual victory around 1922. Poland was saved by Pilsudski, so communism was limited to Russia.
Communist theory was centred around a worker proletariat, which did not exist to any great extent in predominantly agricultural Russia. Bolshevik theory demanded that land be brought under state ownership, and this doctrine was implemented, with disastrous results. There were no farmers among the Bolsheviks. Agriculture soon collapsed, with even seed corn being consumed. Famine led to the embarrassing acceptance of aid from capitalist nations. Lenin met this crisis with the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1921, restoring some private agriculture, which seems to have been ineffective.
Lenin was born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov in Simbirsk (Ulyanov after 1924) on the Volga, which was also Kerensky's birthplace. He adopted the revolutionary alias Lenin in 1901 to commemmorate the massacre of 270 striking gold miners on the River Lena by Tsarist troops. He died on 21 January 1924, either from syphilis (which was then common in Russia) or as a delayed consequence of Lena Kaplan's bullets. Leon Trotsky (1879-1940), born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein to a Jewish family, was originally a Menshevik, but became a Bolshevik in August 1917, returning with Lenin on the train from Switzerland. After 1922, Trotsky was pushed out by the triumvirate of Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin who had assumed control of the party. The 13th party conference, on January 1924 after Lenin's death, denounced the heresy of "Trotskyism" without defining it very accurately. Trotsky deplored the loss of social democracy and the rise of a central bureaucracy. He warned that it was necessary to spread the revolution to other countries, or the capitalists would unite to crush communism. Stalin championed "socialism in one country". Under Stalinism, the worker's soviets, apparently local democratic bodies, became merely rubber stamps for the bureaucracy. Any objections were referred to the Chekha.
Grigory Zinoviev (1883-1936) was a Jewish intellectual and associate of Lenin's, also aboard the train from Switzerland. Josef Stalin (1879-1953), originally Iosif Vissarionivich Dzhugashvili, was not a Russian, but a Georgian from the Caucasus. He became General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1922. His earthy character appealed to the party rank-and-file, whose support is responsible for his rise. After Lenin's death, he began to implement his ideas, blaming any opposition on "Trotskyism". Stalin replaced the NEP with forced collectivization and five-year plans. Originally allied with the intellectuals Zinoviev and Kamensky, who had helped him eliminate Trotsky, he separated from them in 1926, and they were expelled from the party in November. Confessing their mistakes, they were readmitted six months later, but their fates were sealed. They were expelled again in 1932, readmitted in 1933. The murder of Stalin's ally (earlier a rival) Kirov (1886-1934) on 1 December 1934 ignited a party purge of Trotskyites. Zinoviev, Kamenev and 14 others were expelled, arrested, tried and executed on 25 August 1936. They were exonerated in 1988 after Stalin's death. Trotsky escaped to exile in Mexico, where he was murdered in 1940 by Ramón Mercador, a servant, on Stalin's orders.
In the Great Purges of 1936-1938, practically all the original Bolsheviks of the October revolution were eliminated, except for Stalin, the sole survivor of the original Politburo. The Red Army purges ended this era. They were set off by forged documents prepared by the Reich's Reinhard Heydrich of the SD and forwarded by foreign minister Beneš of Czechoslovakia, purporting to show disloyal comments by high officers. 3 of 5 marshals, including Marshal Tukachevsky, 8 of 9 admirals, 13 of 15 full generals, 50 of 57 lieutenant generals, and 154 of 186 major generals, were liquidated. Heydrich's plan, to weaken the Red Army, was fully effective. The purges fell on many others, including kulaks (wealthy peasants). The total numbers killed are not known, but a figure of 681,692 for 1937-1938 alone is quoted.
Communism created powerful enemies between the Wars, such as Mussolini, Franco, Antonescu, J. Edgar Hoover, and Hitler. Franco was not interested in what happened outside of Spain. Mussolini and Antonescu were not powerful enough to take on Russia, and Hoover was restrained by the U. S. government. Hitler attacked Soviet Russia in hopes of a quick victory, but was disappointed. In fact, Soviet Russia was his downfall, and the Soviet victory, with the help of the United States and Britain, spread communism in Europe. The USSR was dissolved in 1991.
Stalinism was characterized by a strong, autocratic ruler ("personality cult"), bureaucratic government under central control, repression under a powerful secret police, and absence of any democratic processes, though the states were called "People's Republics". Soviets were mere rubber stamps. Communism in practice was the triumph of unbounded bureaucracy. We can perceive the tendency toward it in American government at all levels, and especially in Labour town councils in Britain. It was the model for all communist governments in central Europe in 1945-1990, with leaders like Ulbricht, Honecker, Ceausescu, Kádár, Tito, Hoxha, Gomulka, and others. After the fall of single-party governments, communism did not survive in any European country. The corruption and crime that accompanied the new liberal governments brought to light what must have existed crawling under the rocks of the Stalinist regimes.
There are many interesting stories of communist agitation between the World Wars, many of which can be found on the Internet. Perhaps it would be useful to tell the story of one "typical" communist. Béla Kohn was born in Szilágy-Cseh, Transylvania, in 1886. His father was a non-practicing Jew, and his mother a Protestant. He was educated in a Calvinist grammar school in Kolosvár, where he was a good student. He married Iren Gal. In 1906 he Magyarized his name to Kun. As Béla Kun he served in the Austro-Hungarian army in the First World War, and became a prisoner of war in 1916. When freed by the Red Army, he passionately adopted communism and rose rapidly in the party. With Soviet support, he returned to Hungary in 1919. He was a charismatic speaker, urging the formation of a communist government. In the post-war chaos, his group made life impossible for the provisional government, which abdicated in his favor. On 21 March 1919, the Hungarian Soviet Republic was declared. An army was formed that defeated the Slovaks in the north in short order. All land was nationalized, and collective farms organized, a move that enraged the agricultural sector and set it firmly against him. After a failed anti-communist coup, the Red Terror in reprisal claimed from 370 to 587 victims.
The Red Army, marching to Kun's support, suffered severe reverses in Ukraine and could not help him. A Romanian army met only feeble resistance, and took Budapest. On 1 August, Kun fled to Vienna. The communist government, the only one to exist outside of Russia, had lasted only 133 days. The White Terror instigated by the Romanians claimed from 1500 to 5000 lives, among them many Jews. Admiral Horthy, who had been with the French army in Szeged, then arrived in Budapest, and was named regent of a kingdom without a king, and formed a right-wing government. The Romanians left Budapest on 14 November 1919, and Hungary on 25 February 1920. Kun returned to the Soviet Union, where he handled defeated Whites in the Crimea by murdering them all in November 1920. The Russians did not approve of a Hungarian Jew's murdering Russians, even monarchists. However, Kun became an ally of Zinoviev's. After Zinoviev's execution in 1936, Kun became a supporter of Stalin's. This did him no good, for he was accused of Trotskyism and arrested in May 1937. He was sent to a gulag in Siberia, where he was executed in 1938 or 1939. His associate, Mátyás Rákissi, who was exiled with him, survived to return to Hungary after the war to take part in the communist government.
This page is still under construction, and may contain infelicities, mistyping and errors. I have used a few Unicode characters in names, which may not render correctly in some browsers.
Much of this page reflects information available on the Internet. Instead of quoting sources, which would be very time-consuming, I ask the reader to use a good search engine. I myself use the BBC search engine, which is free of ads and pop-ups, and have had good results with it. I do not claim authority in this subject, just interest, and have done the best that I can.
W. L. Langer, ed., An Encyclopedia of World History (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1952).
W. R.Shepherd, Historical Atlas, 8th ed. (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1956).
C. McEvedy, The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History, 2nd ed. (London: Penguin Books, 2002). The second in a series of four Penguin historical atlases. This volume covers 400-1500 CE, with a map for every 40 years, approximately, on which the migrations can easily be followed. There is a good commentary, treating the Islamic world in detail. Trade routes are treated, but not completely satisfactorily. The amber trade on the Variangian amber route is not mentioned, nor is trade in salted fish in the Baltic. The word "devolve" is misused, and it is not clear what is meant. There are better estimates of population in these atlases than are usually encountered.
A valuable online encyclopedia is Wikipedia. It is noncommercial and free. The articles are edited by readers, and controversial subjects are flagged. Links appear in the BBC search results. Add "wiki" to your search string to increase the probability of a link to wikipedia.
The website of the Corvinus Library, Corvinus has many interesting articles on Central European history, such as Lazar's History of Hungary, and J. F. Montgomery's account of his ambassadorship to Hungary in 1933-1941.
L. R. Johnson, Central Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996) is a good recent text on the subject of this article that treats certain subjects more completely, such as religious aspects and the relation to current events. Germany is included, but not Romania or the Balkans. Some anachronisms appear, such as "Romanian Wallachia" in the 15th century, more than 400 years before there was a Romania. Just Wallachia would have been sufficient. Also found is "Romanian Transylvania" long before it was Romanian at all. It is stated that Budapest was liberated from the Turks in 1686, but Budapest did not exist until 1873: in 1686 it was just Buda, with another town across the river. The editors should have questioned some spellings (breech for breach, San Souci for Sans Souci, proletariate, and the participle sieged, for example). "The dye was cast" got through as well. The book was not competently proofread by the editor before publication, just "spellchecked", which is typical of modern books.
Composed by J. B. Calvert
Created 25 September 2005
Last revised 9 November 2005