The meaning of a Hungarian National Day - 15 March
For Hungarians, 15th March is the day to remember the outbreak of the 1848 Hungarian Revolution which later on grew into a war for independence from the Austrian Empire. Several historical and social causes led to the 15th March uprise. In the 19th century, Hungarian nobles (who supported the Austrian Emperor) still retained their privileges of paying no taxes and not allowing the masses to participate in votes and elections. Count István Széchenyi stood out of the group of passive aristocrats and recognized the need to make some changes in Hungarian finance, economy and culture. He offered his income of a whole year to build up the Hungarianacademy of Science (which to this day stands in the city centre), and he supported the introduction of horse racing, silkworm breeding and the casino to Hungarian society. It was his idea to join the two sides of the capital city (Buda and Pest) by constructing a bridge over the River Danube. His own bad experience led him to do so: due to bad weather conditions to cross the river on a ferry, he missed his own father's funeral on the Buda side. The day of the revolution, 15th March, was strategically prepared and organised by law students and journalists. Secret meetings were held all over the capital in popular coffee houses, where enthusiastic young university students planned their action. A list of Twelve Demands was composed which was to be submitted to the local Imperial governor's office. The list included various fundamental ideas of democracy, such as free press or an independent Hungarian ministry in the capital. The demonstrators also formed a new government of Hungary, forcing the Habsburg Emperor's local representatives to accept it. The newly established government's intention was to make the Habsburg Empire spend all taxes they received from Hungary in support of Hungary, and they meant to assure that the Parliament would have authority over the Hungarian regiments of the Habsburg Army.a bloodless demonstration took place with crowds of people constantly joining in, as the protestors marched to Buda, where they demanded that the political prisoners (such as the famous poet and linguist, Mihály Táncsics) be released, and to Pest, where an even larger multitude gathered in front of the Hungarian National Museum, and a new poem written by Sándor Petőfi, a legendary young poet was recited. Sándor Petőfi, who then was only 23 years old, had grown to be a celebrated literary figure. His poems were very popular in patriotic circles, and on the countryside his poems were sung as folkmusic compositions. The young poet was obsessed with the idea of freedom for his country, and itwas his deep desire to fight for it on the battlefield, but his health condition did not allow that. As the revolution turned into a war of independence and extended to all parts of the Austro-hungarian Monarchy, he served as a messenger for the Hungarian Army. His death became a legend. Apparently he wasmurdered on one of his routes as he was attempting to deliver a letter, but since no proof has been shown for his death and it was not possible to present his corpse to his close friends or relatives, scholars are still debating whether or not he really died on that route in the forest. Some assume that he was taken a captive and was transported to Siberia, where he lived a long and peaceful life. Groups of scholars still travel to Siberia with the intention to explore his grave. According to a stronger theory, however, a poet with such dedication to his country would have escaped and never would have come to terms wih the fact to have to live so far from his beloved motherland. The Hungarian War of Independence (together with the revolution it grew out of) was a part of an on-going process in the whole European continent, where various other nations initiated a revolution. A storm was passing over Europe, as Sándor Petőfi noted in one of his poems. Even in the capital of the Austrian Monarchy, Vienna, a revolution broke out, which alone caused enough trouble to the Emperor. The Austrian monarchy skillfully manipulated the Croatians, Serbians and Romanians, making promises to the Hungarians (Magyars) one day and making conflicting promises to the Serbs and other groups the next. This led to many conflicts between Hungarians and the nationalities surrounding them. However, in 1848 and 1849, the Hungarians were supported by most Slovaks, Germans, Rusyns and Hungarian Slovenes, the Hungarian Jews, and many Polish, Austrian and Italian volunteers. On 28 July 1849, the Hungarian Revolutionary Parliament proclaimed and enacted the laws on ethnic and minority rights. The day of March 15 is still a celebration of national pride. In the darker times of Communist dictatorship it was a day which brought people together in a secret agreement and a strong feeling of national identity. Presently, in schools students celebrate by reciting poems of Sándor Petőfi, reading out the Twelve Demands and recalling the events of this legendary day, using the personal diary of some of the active participants of the revolution. Soldier songs from the time of the war are sung and the celebration is framed by the national anthem of Hungary and another, equally significant composition, Szózat (“Acall to Hungarians”). * Thewriter isahungarianfictionwriter/musical performer.