May 20-26, 1919. „Miskolc is ours!”

Torma Galina

On May 21, 1919 the workers-reinforced Red Army successfully recaptured Miskolc from the Czechs, which they occupied for almost three weeks.

The Miskolc battle – from a journalist's perspective, who accompanied the General Staff

Since Czech troops crossed the Northern demarcation line in the end of April 1919, everyone was anxiously watching the Czechs as they were pushing forward. The Red Army chose to retreat from several locations when coming face to face with the overpowering enemy troops. On May 1st, during the government crisis, two important strategic bases were in danger: Salgótarján alongside the essential mining areas, and Miskolc. Hungarian News Agency, MTI's May 2nd official report on the Red Army seemed to confirm those concerns: „Our weaker units near Sajószentpéter retreated when the Czechs started charging from two sides. We evacuated Miskolc and the troops are now in shooting position on the South.” Next day's report was short: „The Czechs took Miskolc.” The Governing Council decided to organize another recruitment day for May 3rd, and the armed workers' reserve of 15 thousand soldiers headed to the front to join the fight. The reorganized Red Army carried out its first successful mission in Fülek on May 12: while protecting Salgótarján they pushed the Czechs back to Rimaszombat. The Hungarian General Staff started preparing to take back Miskolc, Vilmos Böhm Commander-in-Chief signed the order on May 15. A couple days later the Czech army repeated their Salgótarján attack, and the Hungarians asked for the workers' help again. With them, the Red Army successfully pushed through the blockade. They were knee-deep in battle when the Czech leadership received some news which diverted their attention from Salgótarján: on May 20 early morning Hungarian troops began a counterattack to take back Miskolc.  

Jenő Landler Corps Commander and Vilmos Böhm Commander-in-Chief  

Vilmos Böhm left the Gödöllő HQ at night. He was accompanied by a Hungarian reporter from Népszava and other journalists from abroad. Journalist Oddino Morgari, an Italian Socialist politician who negotiated with Lenin about the 3rd Internationale was staying in our country to report on the Proletarian Revolution. There were so many news about the Hungarian Soviet Republic in the international media that he wanted to personally experience the Red Army's success on the front. He was accompanied by the Swiss I. M. Schweide and Valerin Marcu Romanian Socialist journalist. Jenő Landler, Commander of the 3rd Corp who led the Tuesday attack, Ferenc Jancsik, Lieutenant-General of the Red Guard and Rezső Fiedler military commissar joined the Commander-in-Chief in Mezőkövesd. From Emőd they left to Harsány and Aranyos by car. When they arrived early morning to the Military HQ, which was set up in the csárda of Aranyos, they only found reservists. The artillery unit started preparing earlier that morning, so they could hear no cannon-fire by then. The attack started at 07:00, and by 10:00 reports were coming in about the army pushing out the Czech army and forcing them to escape. The officials and the journalists went to the frontline around noon. They quickly caught up to the artillery unit on the highway, where a red soldier shouted at the Landler Corps Commander: „We are working them so hard, they'll never want to taste that Miskolc aspic again!” After passing the artillery unit they spread up for safety reasons. They reached an observation station where they could check out the Miskolc chimneys and church towers rising above the valley with a mounted telescope. Then the group left to get closer to the frontline. Regardless of how dangerous it may be, Vilmos Böhm Commander-in-Chief wanted to find a spot high enough from where Miskolc is visible to the naked eye. Commissioner Préger brought them up a mountain from where they could watch the battle. Forgetting how dangerous that position was, they stood there for a moment watching the red soldiers, who were moving around the valley bushes. Then they ducked to continue the observation behind cover. The foreign journalists joined them a little later after carefully creeping up the mountain. At one point they realized that the Czech's artillery unit was firing at only one target on the train tracks. They soon realized what a short, fast-moving black substance they saw forced the Czech into a desperate counter-attack: it was the Red Army's armored train, gunning them with a rapid fire cannon. It was late afternoon, when the group left the scene and hopped on a train heading back to HQ. The next day, Commander-in-Chief Böhm sent the following telegram to the chairmen of the Central Workers and Soldiers' Council in Budapest: "Although the Czech troops were desperately trying to defend the territory, the Landler corps' magnificent red soldiers successfully took Miskolc. Our proletarian brothers of Debrecen defeated the enemy with a surprise counterstrike at Pétervására, took 300 prisoners, 35 machine guns and managed to capture an entire battalion. The Budapest proletariat should be proud of our great soldiers. At the Miskolc attack, factory workers from the North, MÁV, Istvántelek and the Ganz factory, ironworkers, mailmen, painters, the M.É.M.O.Sz' guard, people from Diósgyőr, the 32s, waiters, armored trains, airplanes and the Red Army's wonderful artillery unit fought bravely for our dear Soviet Republic. The Miskolc victory was refreshing for the Red Army. We have only one thought in mind: Fight for the Soviet Republic! Hail the Soviet Republic! Hail the Dictatorship of the Proletariat! Hail the Red Army!"  

The newly recruited mailmen's regiment fought with the Red Army at the Miskolc battle  

The reoccupied Miskolc and Diósgyőr

The Red Army's vanguards marched into the city on May 20, Tuesday at 20:00. The Hungarian's attack was so powerful that the last Czech units did not even have time to escape. Some street fights also broke out at the Forgó bridge afterwards, and the last Czech soldiers were trying to defend one of their units when red soldiers captured them. An artillery unit wanted to get in front of the escaping soldiers with a locomotive to cut their way, but their commanders called off the risky mission. The Landler Corps took the entire city by next morning. The Czechs probably knew they were on the losing side, as one day before the battle they were working on dismantling/collecting/taking everything they found valuable from the city. When Commander-in-Chief Vilmos Böhm returned with his company to the Miskolc battlefield on May 22, he also visited the now liberated Diósgyőr's iron factory. Although Miskolc was occupied on the 2nd of May, Diósgyőr was only taken on the 8th as the Czech troops were afraid of the local workers, even though they did not have enough weapons or ammunition to defend the place. But they experienced their resistance the next day. When the Czech leadership issued a recruitment order on May 9, ordering all men older than 16 to join them, 7000 of the 8900 factory workers escaped to an unoccupied territory to join the Red Army instead. Prior to that, they already smuggled 400 weapons and two machine guns to the Emőd military HQ. While talking to the workers of Diósgyőr, Commander-in-Chief Böhm gratefully remembered the comrades' heroism they attested while liberating Miskolc and Diósgyőr.   

People flooded the streets after Miskolc was reoccupied