Two summer months in 1919: the Slovak Soviet Republic

The Slovak Soviet Republic was an extremely short lived communist state on the territory of present-day southeast Slovakia, that existed from 16 June to 7 July 1919. In the aftermath of World War I Czechoslovakia had begun to annex the territories as outlined in preliminary peace agreements. However, Hungarian Soviet Republic’s Red Guards occupied the Slovakian region until then known as Upper Hungary. The Slovak Soviet Republic was proclaimed, making it the third socialist state in Europe, since the October Revolution in 1917.In October 1918 the first Czechoslovak Republic was created from the ashes of the former Kingdom of Bohemia, which had been a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The Danube Monarchy’s loss resulted in the dissolution of the Hasburg Empire. The Treaty of Saint-Germain, which was sigend by Allies or World War I and the Republic of German-Austria (a rump state consisting of the German speaking regions of the empire). The treaty provided the territorial changes to be made in Central-Europe. Among others, the re-establshid Polish Republic received the region of Galicia, Bukovina was passed on to Romania and the Yugoslav Kingdom gained Dalmatia.

The newborn Czechoslovakia received the Lands of the Bohemian Crown, i.e. Bohemia and Moravia as well as the region of Austria Silesia, which was split with Poland as a result of a short war in January of 1919. These regions that had been under Austrian control comprised roughly half of the Czechoslovak claims. The other regions, Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia had been included the empire’s Hungarian part.

The preliminary agreements for the Treaty of Trianon, which in 1920 would resolve the redrawing of Hungary’s borders drove the Masaryk led Czechoslovak government to advance the military to the Slovak regions as soon as 1918. By May 20th of 1919, some parts of Slovakia were however already invaded by troops of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, which had come to existence in March of that year. Instead of incorporating the lands into the Hungarian state, aided by the communist government of Hungary an independent Slovak Soviet Republic (SSR) was proclaimed on June 16th of 1919.

The Czechoslovak journalist Antonín Janoušek was ‘charman of the revolutionary committee’ and served as the country’s de facto leader. Janoušek had represented the Czech and Slovak parts of the Hungarian Communist Party’s central committee.

Unlike its Hungarian counterpart, the SSR had a multi-ethnic nationalities policy, featuring trilingual institutions in Slovak, Hungarian and Ukrainian. The capital was located in Prešov, known in Hungarian as Eperjes and Priashiv in Ukranian.

At this time the French, who partook in the diplomatic resolving of the tensions proposed inviting the Hungarians to the peace talks considering the upcoming Trianon treaty (Brecher: 2000). The invitation was never issued, but as the Hungarian’s leader Béla Kun failed to negotiate support from the Russians, war broke out between Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Romania and the Yugoslav Kingdom, both backed by France had already been engaged in war with Hungary since a couple of months.

The Romanian forces attacked from the east, quickly defeating the diminuished Hungary army and penetrating the country further westwards. This forced the Hungarians to retreat from Slovakia, in an attempt to defend Budapest. On the 7th of July, the Czechoslovakian army military intervened in Slovakia, effectively regaining the territories into the Czechoslovakian state.

The ousting of the Hungarians was considered a large success for T. G. Masaryk’s government. After the Romanians took Budapest in August of 1919 Hungary capitalized. The end of war in the aftermath made way for the Trianon Treaty, which finalized the border division between the countries in Central-Europe. Czechoslovakia gained entire present-day Slovakia and consolidated its position within Europe. Only the region of Carpathian Ruthenia, which was also assigned to Czechoslovakia, the country lost to the Soviet Union after the Second World War.

Michael Brecher, Jonathan Wilkenfeld (2000). Hungarian War. A Study of Crisis. University of Michigan Press. p. 575.

Miklos Lojko, Meddling in Middle Europe: Britain and the ‘Lands Between‘, 1919-1925, Central European University Press, 2006

Joe C. Dixon, Defeat and Disarmament, Allied Diplomacy and Politics of Military Affairs in Austria, 1918-1922, Associated University Presses, 1986, p. 34

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