VERITAS Research Institute for History and Archives

As social and political tensions rose, Charles IV committed himself to a well-meaning but fatal course of action: the restructuring of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. On October 16th, 1918, the Emperor issued a manifesto declaring the transformation of Austria into a federalist state and the recognition of the right to autonomy for the various néptörzsek (ethnic tribes) therein.

Charles’ intention had been to prevent ethnic separatism but the release of the document had the opposite effect of speeding up the unfolding catastrophe. The manifesto spurred the Hungarians to think in terms of change as well, inasmuch as the Pragmatica Sanctio (Pragmatic Sanction) of 1723, the treaty providing the basis of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise, had also been modified. The Compromise turned out to have lain on so fragile a foundation as to be too weak to withstand such a change. On October 17th, the Diet of Hungary took up the question in what is considered one of the most significant days in the history of Hungarian parliamentary proceedings. Count István Tisza, former prime minister, recognized that Hungary had lost the war. Upon this admission by the ruling party, a heated debate broke out during which Márton Lovászy, an opposition politician affiliated with Mihály Károlyi, infamously declared that Hungary was a “friend of the Entente”. The national unity that had so characterized the basis of dualism fractured in the most critical of moments. Public sentiment changed and the tension was palpable. The first confrontation occurred on October 28th, when the Chain Bridge was the site of minor clashes as protestors sought to traverse to the Buda side of the city to express their resentment towards the King. The events of the following few days are known as the “Aster Revolution” in Hungarian history books, which is so called because of the soldiers who detached their cap buttons (adorned with the Emperor’s initials) and replaced them with asters. The soldiers refused to take orders while the protests took on a life of their own. In the end the Aster Revolution can be most simply summarized as the proponents of the principles behind the 1848 Hungarian Revolution triumphing over the pro-Compromise camp. On October 31st, Charles thus named Count Mihály Károlyi, the leader of the opposition, as the new prime minister, who, when asked by Charles if he wanted a republic, contrarily answered nay.

by Dávid Ligeti