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The defence system of the Hungarian Royal Army in the Eastern Carpathians
The defence system of the Hungarian Royal Army in the Eastern Carpathians : The author’s foreword to the English edition.

The author’s foreword to the English edition.

  2008.01.07. 16:46

Since 1993 I have been researching the Hungarian fortification system constructed in the Eastern Carpathian Mountains. Those territories where this fortification system was set up belonged to the Hungarian Kingdom, and later to the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy up to the end of the 1st World War.

The Versailles peace accord did not bring peace for the countries ripped away from the territories of the former Hungarian Kingdom.  The Hungarian national minority lived on their territories in significant numbers and these minorities were regarded as the enemy by the governments of the newly established countries. This perverted conditioning creates suspicion even nowadays against Hungarian tourists, or against researchers of history visiting those countries. It is believed there that any Hungarian historical relics damage their national sovereignty.  In spite of these difficulties, I succeeded in collecting material on the scenes of our defensive combats and from the memoirs of the participants in the events and also in the Hungarian Military Archives in Budapest.  I published the results of my researches in the Hungarian edition of this book, “Árpád-vonal”, in 2002.

Nor was it an easy task to translate this book into English. The territories where the Hungarian fortifications were set up in the Eastern Carpathians belong nowadays to Roumania  and Ukraine.  The population of these mountainous regions always contained different nationality groups.  For example, the localities are usually named in three languages even today: in Roumanian, Hungarian, German in Transylvania (now: part of Roumania). The tourist maps are also published in three languages.  As the first edition of this book was written for the Hungarian public, I used the Hungarian names of those localities, defiles, passes, streams, mountains, etc. which belonged to Hungary and were defended mainly by Hungarian troops in the Second World War.  So as not to increase the pages of this book by putting down all geographic names in two or three languages, we have published the Hungarian name of those places in the English edition too.  There is no English nomenclature for the Székelys, this Hungarian-speaking folk in Transylvania.  We used the name “Székely” in the English variation of my book, as is used in the Hungarian-English dictionary.  It was not easy to find the English equivalent of the special Hungarian military and military engineering jargon of the Hungarian documents written between the two World Wars, nor of the names of the different Hungarian, German, Soviet military units of those times. There were military ranks in the Hungarian Royal Army in the 1930’s – 40’s which do not exist any longer and it is quite complicated to circumscribe them into English.  Some Eastern European historical events of those times are well known to the public of Hungary and in the neighbouring countries but they might be hardly known at all to Western readers.  In these cases we extended the original text with one or two words or expressions.  We did our best to make this book enjoyable for the English-speaking  reader.

Permanent fortification systems built deep in the frontier zones were the basic lines of the state fortifications in Europe between the two World Wars.  Such permanent fortification systems were the Maginot-line (France), the Albert-line (Belgium), the Siegfried-line (Germany), the Stalin-line (Soviet Union), or the Mannerheim-line (Finland), the Metaxas-line (Greece), the Czechoslovakian, the Roumanian and the Yugoslavian fortification systems. In spite of the enormous costs spent on them, these lines were all broken through or seized without a struggle by the other warring party in the course of the of the Second World War.

Hungary began to build its own fortification system in 1940, when the majority of the large European permanent defensive systems were already captured. The Hungarian military leadership learned from the bitter experiences of its European predecessors and did its best to construct a new type of defensive line in the right places. Later, in 1944, the blockades on the passes, and the valley blocks set into the valleys running into the interior of the almost impenetrable Eastern Carpathian Mountains, were defended by smaller combined arms units: by the so-called fort companies ready for all round defence. Both the mettle and the soul of the soldiers were strong: they did their duty well.

The Árpád-line was not constructed to defend against the large Soviet offensive first launched in 1944.  It was a part of the Hungarian country defence, built inside the country. Between August and October of 1944 the First Ukrainian front, followed by the Fourth Ukrainian Front which was established just for this purpose, tried without success to break through the East-Carpathian defence system by means of three large military operations They only made headway after the Roumanians joined the Soviet side (23rd August 1944) when  the Second Ukrainian Front got behind the Carpathians and also behind the Hungarian defensive lines. The First Hungarian Army and the other defenders of the Carpathian Mountains began to withdraw for no other reason than because of the danger of being surrounded.

We are a small European nation, but our history has been part of the history of Europe for more than 1100 years. After the Second World War we were allowed to talk neither about the successful nor the unsuccessful battles of the Hungarian Army in the Second World War. These battles were all considered to be shameful. Hungary finished the Second World War on the losing side, but this fact does not mean that we had no victorious battles.  My book introduces an honourable episode from the history of combats of the Hungarian Royal Army on the frontiers of our homeland in the Second World War, in order that it might be a part of the European – and universal – History of Wars.

 

 
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