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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Resurrecting the Nation: Felvidék and the Hungarian Territorial Revisionist Project, 1938-1945

  • Author(s): Waters, Leslie
  • Advisor(s): Berend, Ivan T
  • et al.

This dissertation investigates the link between contested territories, border changes, and nationalizing practices in twentieth century East-Central Europe through the case study of southern Slovakia (Felvidék) as it shifted between Czechoslovak and Hungarian sovereignty from the years 1938 to 1945. The region, claimed by Czechoslovak, Slovak, and Hungarian nationalists, had belonged to Hungary prior to the First World War, was awarded to Czechoslovakia by the Treaty of Trianon in 1920, returned to Hungary by the First Vienna Arbitration in 1938, and restored to Czechoslovakia after World War II.

This project integrates political and social history, focusing on both state and local actors in order to ascertain the everyday effects of nationalizing policy on the residents of Felvidék. Utilizing a variety of first-hand accounts from Hungary, Slovakia, and abroad, it chronicles the transfer of Felvidék to Hungary in November 1938 amid grandiose nationalist celebrations. Through Hungarian foreign ministry documents and local reports, it also examines the burgeoning propaganda rivalry between Hungarian and Slovak irredentists for physical and ideological control of the territory. Hungarian educational policy in the region is explored with the help of textbooks and yearbooks. Court cases and interior ministry documents speak to the issues of loyalty and suspicion that became central to Felvidék's return to Hungarian sovereignty. The dissertation probes the difficulties of reintegrating Felvidék back into the Hungarian state, focusing on questions of education, minority policy, and identity politics, revealing a multiplicity of complex national identities and loyalties in the region that confounded state officials.

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