A Southern Hungarian Town’s Struggle for Self-Determination

The article was first published on our sister site, Ungarn Heute.

The period of Serbian occupation of Pécs between 1918 and 1921 is commemorated by photos, advertisements, press material and posters, as well as accompanying texts written by experts in a panel exhibition at the local museum in Csontváry open to the public from Tuesday.

The exhibition, entitled “The Serbian occupation of Pécs 1918-1921”, will be presented until the end of the year. Visitors will be able to learn about the period and the most important historical events with the help of panels.

Seven panels will allow visitors to learn about the history of the occupation, while five other panels will provide information on related topics such as emergency funds, shortages of goods and unemployment, or the press in Pécs during the ‘occupation.

According to the Belgrade Armistice Agreement of November 13, 1918, the southern part of Hungary up to the line Barcs – Szigetvár – Pécs – Baja – Kisszállás was occupied by Serbs. Baranya County, 85% inhabited by ethnic Hungarians and Germans, lay mostly below this dividing line.

In accordance with the Belgrade agreement, the civil administration in the occupied areas remained in the hands of the Hungarian authorities, but the occupying forces soon wanted to take control of civilian life as well. They violated the armistice agreement by cornering supplies from public warehouses and private properties, limiting rail traffic, blocking the distribution of coal reserves and violating the demarcation line.

On November 25, a popular assembly convened by the Serbian National Council in Neusatz (Novi Sad) to hear the complaints of the inhabitants of the counties of Baranya, Bácska and Bánát declared that these areas “must be separated from Hungary in terms of ‘State “. law as well as in political and economic terms.

On December 3, the city council of Pécs held an extraordinary plenary session, during which the mayor presented the “counter-declaration” drafted by the Hungarian National Council. In the following days, parallel to the movement in Pécs, similar declarations were issued in 309 municipalities of the county of Baranya. Instead of a written response, the Serbian town commander sent the military police. According to him, this document was likely to upset the population and indirectly harm the interests of the Entente troops, which is why he arrested the initiators of the movement, including Emmerich Hamerli, a glove manufacturer, Julius Fürst Jr, a transport contractor, and Anton Oberhammer, the chief bailiff.

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As a conclusion to this escalation, the Serbian government of the occupied territories in southern Hungary appointed its own government commissioner. During the standoff between the Hungarian municipal administration and the occupying Serbian forces, there were several attacks against the civilian population.

Although the local national councils could not achieve anything with their popular decision, they paved the way for the next great protest movement against the Serbian occupation in February and March 1919, which went down in history as the “Great Strike”.

The occupation, which lasted almost three years, ended on August 22, 1921, when the Hungarian National Army managed to retake Pécs.

The exhibition is complemented by an online database at szerbmegszallas.hu, which presents the history of the Serbian occupation using sources from three public collections.

Featured Image: JPM Facebook

Laura T. Thrasher