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Chivalry of the Turks

Although, Hungarian remember the Ottoman Turks as savage people who occupied south and central Hungary for some 150 years, historian Tamás Katona's piece for Diplomacy & Trade brings up two positive examples.

 

In September 1686, Prince Charles of Lorraine recaptured the fortress and city of Buda from the Turks and, in September 1697, Prince Eugene of Savoy crushed the army of the Grand Vizier at Zenta. After one and a half century, Hungary was freed from Turkish occupation, only Temesvar and its surroundings in the southern part of the country remained in Turkish hands. After being a battlefield for such a long time, Hungary was devastated, the cities in ruins, rural districts uninhabited. In addition, the victorious Christian troops considered Hungary an occupied and not a liberated country. Emperor Leopold could not understand why Hungarians remained loyal to their constitution and parliament, since they had neither of them.

No extradition

The situation led to a Hungarian freedom fight lasting from 1703 to 1711. Its leader was Prince Ferenc Rakoczi, Duke of the Confederate Estates of Hungary and Prince of Transylvania. Alas, the economic strength of the country made it impossible to continue the freedom fight after 1711. Just 300 years ago, the Peace Treaty of Szatmar nevertheless re-established the constitutional system in Hungary. Rakoczi went to exile. He was the guest of the French king, Louis XIV, but after the death of the monarch, he decided to go to Turkey, in an effort to restore at least Transylvania under his rule with the help of Turkey, Russia, Poland, France and Spain. This hope (as is usual in emigrational politics) was unrealistic. Prince Eugene of Savoy, the “Noble Knight”, was once again victorious against the Turkish Army. During the peace talks in Passarowitz, the envoys of the emperor, Virmont and Talmann, demanded the extradition of Rakoczi and his supporters “in iron fetters”. The Turkish Grand Vizier answered that Rakoczi was the guest of the Sultan, so he and his supporters would not be extradited – neither in fetters, nor without. The Hungarian refugees ended their lives on the European shore of the Marble Sea, in the town of Tekirdag.

Greeted in the name of Allah

On the 17th August 1849, another Hungarian statesman arrived at the tiny frontier bridge near Orsova. He was slender, middle-aged, of medium height, freshly shaven, getting bald. He had two passports, an English one with the name Thomas Bloomfield on it and a Hungarian one issued for Tamas Udvardi. But the Turkish officer commanding the frontier guard knew the real name of the newly arrived gentleman: Lajos Kossuth, Governor of the Kingdom of Hungary. He asked for the saber of the governor and said politely: “I know who you are. Destiny had been against you. Under the protection of the Padishah, you will enjoy safe repose here. I greet you in the name of Allah.”

'No' to the Russians and the Austrians

This freedom fight of Hungary lasted from March 1848 to October 1849. Once again, it was a fight for the constitutional rights of the country. The Austrians could overcome the Hungarians only with the help of Russia. The last battles were fought near the Turkish border, so, once again, thousands of Hungarian, Polish and Italian refugees sought asylum in Turkey. (Whenever there is a Hungarian revolution, Russians seem to step in. They did it in 1956, as well.) This time, ambassadors of two emperors pressed the Turks for extradition not only of the leaders, but all refugees. Titow, the Russian ambassador wanted to get the Poles, Sturmer, the Austrians, the Hungarians and Italians. Some Hungarians thought that their safety could be secured only by converting to the Muslim faith. Kossuth was against this solution. Once again, the Turks refused to hand over anybody. The Russians said openly that they would declare war. The Turkish Minister of Defense, Pasha Aali was ready to yield to the Russian demands, but the Grand Vizier, Pasha Rashid and Sultan Abdul Medjid were strictly against it. The British ambassador, Stratford Canning, backed them, and suddenly, British and later French warships began to arrive in Constantinople. Russians and Austrians had to defer. Kossuth was interned in Anatolia, but in 1851, he was freed again.

 

Tamás Katona

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