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Kossuth's revolution resulted in the relative emancipation of Hungary's serfs, and the unrest it engendered helped to bring about, some 20 years later, the establishment of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, which, in principle at least, restored the territorial integrity of the Hungarian nation, but rifts within the nation's borders still endured.

Hungary's "magnates" (the aristocratic heads of the great families) were Europe's most lavish hosts and its gayest dogs. Theirs was a world of beautiful women, schmalzy music, dashing guardsmen and fox hunts. But Hungary's peasants, whose ranks were filled with the Magyarized descendants of conquered peoples, were more downtrodden than any in Europe.

Fighting on the wrong side in World War I, Hungary emerged from the peace shorn of most of its ancient conquests. The new states of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were created out of what had once been St. Stephen's realm. Rumania got a large slice, and the Hungarian nation was reduced to a puny third of the Carpathian basin where Arpad had made his home a millennium earlier. Its predominantly Magyar population of 8,354,400 was 75% Roman Catholic, 20% Calvinist, and the balance Greek Orthodox, Uniate, Lutheran and Jewish. In 1919, amid the anarchy of defeat and humiliation, a disciple of Lenin named Bela Kun, freed from a Russian prison camp and sent back to Hungary on a false passport, was put at the head of a reign of Red Terror that lasted almost four months.

The fanatic Kun nationalized all estates of more than 100 acres, abolished servants, ordered all jewelry seized, and decreed that a man could own no more than two suits, four shirts and four pairs of socks. Kun's strong-arm methods and inflationary money found no favor with the peasants, who boycotted the markets. Meanwhile, Hungary's military and aristocracy were rallying to another banner, that of Admiral Nicholas Horthy, a former naval aide to the Emperor Franz Josef and a naval hero in World War I. Horthy organized a counterrevolution to oust Kun, and Kun was forced to flee to Vienna (he later turned up in Russia, where Stalin executed him in 1938).

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