Károlyi, Mihály Count

Károlyi, Mihály Count
   Hungarian liberal statesman and landed aristocrat, Count Károlyi was best known for presiding over aspects of the liquidation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with the end of World War I. Descending from a noble family and owning more than 70,000 acres himself, he seemed an unlikely candidate to challenge the feudal vestiges of the old Austro-Hungarian social and political order. Although lacking reliable political allies, Károlyi’s pre-World War I career was by no means obscure. He led the agricultural association of the nobility, then the Hungarian Independence Party, pressed the abandonment of foreign policy in Germany’s orbit in favor a of a French and Russian orientation, and also came to advocate the enfranchisement of women, land reform, and limited concessions to ethnic minorities.
   A combination of a leftward drifting reform program, Hungarian nationalism, marriage ties with the influential Andrássy family, and open support for an early Wilsonian peace propelled him to leadership in Hungary after a decade-long activity in opposition. A short-lived Hungarian People’s Republic emerged under his premiership and presidency, prepared by the nearly bloodless revolution of October 28, 1918, formally proclaimed after the abdication of Charles IV on November 16, and ending with his controversial transfer of power to a coalition of communists and social democrats on March 21, 1919. In addressing the legacy of Magyar subimperialism and belated modernization in the eastern half of the dual monarchy, Károlyi’s policies and their ineffective execution satisfied neither left nor right, and his significant armistice concessions at Belgrade met a cold Allied reception. Fallen from favor at home and abandoned by the Great Powers in Paris, he eventually lost his fortune, was branded a traitor, and lived most of the remainder of his life in exile. Having become the scapegoat for the harsh terms of the peace treaty of Trianon that detached two-thirds of the Hungarian Crown’s former lands, Károlyi only managed to return to Hungarian public life briefly with the end of World War II as a socialist representative in Parliament and then ambassador to France.
   See also <>; <>; <>; <>.
    Glatz, Ferenc, ed. Hungarians and Their Neighbors in Modern Times, 1867–1950. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995;
    Károlyi, Mihály. Faith without Illusion: Memoirs of Mihály Károlyi. London: Jonathan Cape, 1956.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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