VERITAS Research Institute for History and Archives

As per the German-Italian arbitration agreement announced at the Belvedere Palace in Vienna on November 2nd, 1938, Czechoslovakia was obligated to hand over 11,927 km² (12,012 km² after final adjustments) of its territory to Hungary. If we consider the cessation of hostilities in Hungary in April 1945 as the end of an era, then among the territories reannexed by Hungary as part of the revisionary successes of 1938–1941, this geographic region remained in Hungarian hands for the longest duration, i.e., it was under the administrative authority of the Hungarian state for more than six years. Since the Great Powers assigned Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union’s sphere of interest following World War II, the historical perspectives on Hungary’s first territorial expansion would be determined by the Kremlin’s doctrine of authority. In other words, the “supreme judge” on the territorial dispute between Hungary and Czechoslovakia would be the preeminent Bolshevik state. Therefore, we will briefly show what the Soviet Union’s attitude in 1938 was to the action taken in Vienna, one in which it played no role despite its status as one of the great powers of the time.

The so-called “Sudeten or Czechoslovak Crisis”, which came to a head in the European political arena in spring 1938, laid the groundwork for the Soviet Union’s foreign policy change of direction. Antagonism between People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Maxim Litvinov, who promulgated the “policy of collective security”, and party leader Joseph Stalin, who defined capitalist environments as homogeneous and hostile mediums, became more and more pronounced. The 4-party Munich Agreement, signed on September 30th, 1938; Poland’s military seizure of Czechoslovak territories, in the wake of the signing, on October 2nd; and finally the Vienna Award decision on November 2nd clearly underscored the inadequacies of the dogma of collective security as a foreign policy course as manifested by the failures of the Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance and the Czechoslovak–Soviet Treaty of Alliance, signed on May 2nd and May 16th, 1935, respectively. Stalin was convinced that the real threat to the Soviet Union was not Nazi Germany but rather the intentions of the Anglo-Franco tandem, which wished to encroach in an easterly direction. Litvinov’s removal on May 3rd, 1939, was an indication of things to come, which culminated in the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (more commonly known as the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact), signed on August 23rd, 1939.

by Attila Seres

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