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The Struggle of a Southern Hungarian Town for Self-determination

Hungary Today 2022.08.23.

The article was first published on our sister site, Ungarn Heute.

The period of Serbian occupation of Pécs between 1918 and 1921 is commemorated in photos, advertisements, press material and posters, as well as through accompanying texts written by experts in a panel exhibition in the local Csontváry Museum open to the public from Tuesday.

The exhibition, entitled “The Serbian Occupation of Pécs 1918-1921,” will be on display until the end of the year. Visitors will be able to learn about the period and the most important historical events with the help of the panels.

Seven panels will allow visitors to learn about the history of the occupation, while five further panels will provide information on related topics such as emergency funds, goods shortages and unemployment, or the press in Pécs during the occupation.

According to the Belgrade Armistice Agreement of November 13, 1918, the southern part of Hungary up to the Barcs – Szigetvár – Pécs – Baja – Kisszállás line was occupied by the Serbs. Baranya County, inhabited 85% by ethnic Hungarians and Germans, was for the most part below this demarcation line.

In accordance with the Belgrade Agreement, civil administration in the occupied areas remained in the hands of the Hungarian authorities, but the occupying forces soon wanted to take control of civil life as well. They violated the armistice agreement by steeling supplies from public warehouses and private property, restricting railroad traffic, obstructing the distribution of coal reserves and violating the demarcation line.

On November 25, a popular assembly convened by the Serbian National Council in Neusatz (Novi Sad) in order to hear the complaints of the people of Baranya, Bácska and Bánát counties declared that these areas “are to be separated from Hungary in terms of state law as well as in political and economic terms.”

On December 3, the Pécs City Council held an extraordinary plenary session, at which the mayor presented the “counter-declaration” drafted by the Hungarian National Council.  In the following days, parallel to the movement in Pécs, similar declarations were issued in 309 municipalities in Baranya County. Instead of a written response, the Serbian town commander has sent in the military police. In his opinion, this document was likely to upset the population and indirectly harm the interests of the Entente troops, which is why he had the initiators of the movement arrested, including Emmerich Hamerli, a glove manufacturer, Julius Fürst Jr, a transport entrepreneur, and Anton Oberhammer, the head land-bailiff.

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As a conclusion to this escalation, the Serbian government of the occupied southern Hungarian territories appointed its own government commissioner. In the course of the tug-of-war between the Hungarian municipal administration and the Serbian occupation forces, there were several attacks against the civilian population.

Although the local national councils could not achieve anything with their popular decision, they paved the way for the next big protest movement against the Serbian occupation in February and March 1919, which went down in history as the “Great Strike”.

The occupation, which lasted almost three years, ended on August 22, 1921, when the Hungarian National Army managed to recapture Pécs.

The exhibition is complemented by an online database at szerbmegszallas.hu, which presents the history of the Serbian occupation using source material from three public collections.

Featured Image: JPM Facebook

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