Film encyclopedia and chronology for the 100 year old Aster (Chrysanthemum) Revolution

Barkóczi Janka – Torma Galina

EST news series reached the point for which these reels were actually preserved and became the most detailed material evidence of the first revolutionary event after 1919.

As we mentioned several times since we launched the 100 year old news series, reels of the EST and Vörös Riport Film became the most important and irrefutable criminal evidences after the 1918/19 revolution was defeated, and several people were sentenced because of them. Early news editors were incapable of preserving the often accidentally recorded scenes and events of the Revolution in a way it would be understandable for future generations, so we had to put the pieces together by going through a great deal of newspapers, written accounts and memoirs from about that period. The video below is the result of the constantly rolling cameras that made possible to show us what happened a 100 years ago in chronological order. The voice-over, chronology and description of ideas and politicians meant to help viewers navigate through the often chaotic and rapid times of the Aster Revolution.

By the end of October 1918 it was obvious that the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy lost the war and will eventually fall apart. King Charles IV declared on October 16 that his empire will be divided into federal states and asked communities to start the required preparations. On October 24 Sándor Wekerle's cabinet resigned, and with Mihály Károlyi's leadership the Hungarian National Council was formed by antiwar parties who sided with Wilson. They intended to become the opposition in a country on the edge of falling apart.

On the night of October 29, 1918 officers, detectives and guards of the Hungarian royal state police joined the National Council. They made their decision in the light of current events, especially the bloody battle at the Chain bridge where they had to fight protesters on command. They believed that the only way to keep the city safe was to join the National Council. However, Police Chief László Sándor stated that he has no desire to violate his oath of office, so he would not be joining their movement.

Negotiations between the National Council and the police delegation continued on the morning of October 30, where parties agreed to do everything in their power to keep the city safe. The National Council asked workers of railways, post offices and call centers to follow the police's example and join them for a better future. They asked the same from all officers.

At noon, factory workers of the capital gathered at impromptu meetings to discuss the political situation and decided to form a worker's council. More and more people started gathering on the streets who sympathized with Mihály Károlyi's National Council.

The capital police held a meeting at 16:00. Although the Police Chief was against it, they joined the National Council and marched to Hotel Astoria, the Council's headquarters. The Council took over the first floor, where they held meetings and welcomed politicians, journalists and soldiers, accepted reports and gave orders, and talked to the crowd from the balcony. Mihály Károlyi temporarily moved to room no. 14 on the 4th floor with his wife Katinka Andrássy, so he would not have to leave the center of the Revolution. The police left after a while, but protesters stayed at Astoria despite the rain, and asked the leader of the Revolution numerous times to talk to them from the balcony. Meanwhile, news about new members were constantly pouring in: postmen, telegraphers, sailors and officers were all offering their services to the National Council.

After 21:00 large groups of demobilized soldiers started marching from Chain bridge to Astoria in the National Council's and Károlyi's name. They tore down their imperial cap buttons and replaced them with either a ribbon with the colors of the national flag or a chrysanthemum - which inspired the name of the Revolution. Almost 15 thousand civilians and soldiers gathered at the hotel. The first lieutenant appeared on the balcony to pledge their allegiance to the National Council and a free, independent and democratic Hungary. After listening to the National Anthem, Márton Lovászy thanked the newly joined soldiers, while Károlyi asked them to stay calm and avoid bloodshed. Sadly, we have no footage of these crucial events as it was impossible to shoot at nighttime just yet. Around midnight a group of armed soldiers marched down Kossuth Lajos and Városház utca to barricade the Central Post Office building, a strategically important part of the city. Footages from next day reveal images of the barricaded entry of Central Post Office, which was built in 1872 and still stands on the corner of Petőfi Sándor utca, Párizsi utca and Városház utca, and was operating until 2006.

At the same time another group marched down Irányi utca to the Platzkommando's headquarters (the military's Budapest headquarters) on the corner of Irányi and Veres Pálné utca, next to the Klotild Palace.  

Now headquarters to one of the local banks  

The building still stands in its original form, now serving as bank headquarters. When the soldiers arrived they fired alarm shots, the gates immediately opened and they occupied the building. They took all the guns they could find and caught the military commander of Budapest, Maj. Gen. Albert Várkonyi, who they called to surrender then brought to Hotel Astoria to the National Council, where he surrendered and gave up his commandership. The soldiers placed the acquired weapons on front of the Astoria and dug trenches to protect the building.

Around 02:30 a truck appeared on Károly körút with policemen holding bayonets. Soldiers surrounded them and after some audible dispute, shots were fired. The noise was coming from the corner of Rákóczi út and Múzeum körút, where the National Theater and an apartment building were standing. The theater mainly used the apartment building as a warehouse, but some actors also used to live there, for example Mari Jászai and the famous writer and director Ede Paulay. The building was torn down due to its dangerous condition in 1913, but the first floor was left intact which we can see on the footage from next morning. It later turned out that the police were shooting at soldiers from there. The shootout only lasted 5 minutes though, as soldiers quickly managed to disarm the policemen, who then also pledged their allegiance to the National Council.

Several military groups joined the party that night. Members of the Council called Prince Joseph - who represented the king and spent the night at the Castle in the Prince's Palace - and asked him to keep the undecided soldiers in their barracks, which allowed the Aster Revolution to remain a rather peaceful movement with only minor incidents.

By October 31 morning, Budapest's police forces and guards joined the marching crowd with public institutions like the post office, the telephone- and telegraph company and the railway, which meant that the real power was in Károlyi's and the party's hands by morning. Prince Joseph then called the king to suggest Mihály Károlyi's nomination for PM.  

Early morning, Count János Hadik who was appointed as Prime Minister of Hungary two days earlier, handed in his resignation to the Prince in the light of past days' events.

At 08:00 the Prince invited Mihály Károlyi to his palace and appointed him as the new PM of Hungary, which the king confirmed on the phone.

At 09:30 a counselor from the PM's office brought the news to the National Council that Károlyi became Prime Minister. The Council was having a meeting at the time at Hotel Astoria and Márton Lovászy immediately ran to the balcony to share the news with their supporters.

At 10:00 the Budapest Council had a special meeting led by Mayor Tivadar Bódy and decided in unanimity that the capital will join the National Council and hand over City Hall. Shortly after, the party started moving in and installed the required office spaces. Károlyi left the Castle with Zsigmond Kunfi and István Nagyatádi Szabó and headed to their new headquarters to form government. His car was accompanied by a massive cheering crowd throwing flowers on front of the vehicle. The news was present when party leaders János Hock, Ferenc Nagy, Mihály Károlyi, Lajos Bíró, Lajos Magyar, Dénes Berinkey and Ödönné Groák entered City Hall. The Central Post Office's Városház utca entrance appears in the background.

Meanwhile, in the Chamber of the old House of Representatives (Italian Cultural Institute today) on Főherceg Sándor utca (Bródy Sándor utca today), hundreds of soldiers had a meeting to discuss law enforcement. The Soldier's Council, which was formed last night, occupied that building alongside Hotel Astoria after the National Council moved out. After the meeting they went down Rákóczi út and Kossuth Lajos utca to the headquarters on Kígyó tér (now Ferenciek tere). On the footage we see a car with an early version of Jenő Pais Goebel's famous poster "Long Live the Republic!" without the initial „Kossuth Lajos azt üzente” words, and the name of the „Hungarian Students Council” which also appears on the final design. At the Headquarters' court they were arming the vehicle patrol unit and other military corps who sided with the National Council. The truck which brought brand new boots for soldiers probably arrived minutes before the crew started rolling. The footage reveals two soldiers discussing their boots, and a vehicle full of soldiers on which one of the passengers holds brand new shoes in his hands.

At noon, the minister's list of names were finalized on the first floor of City Hall at Deputy Mayor Ferenc Déri's parlor. Tivadar Batthyány became Interior Minister for PM Count Mihály Károlyi. Social democratic leader Ernő Garami was Minister of Commerce, editor in chief of newspaper Magyarország Márton Lovászy was Minister of Education and Religious Affairs and Barna Buza became Minister of Agriculture. Zsigmond Kunfi was the Labor and Welfare Minister without portfolio, Ferenc Nagy was Minister of Public Utility without portfolio, Oszkár Jászi, Minister of Nationalities without portfolio and Béla Linder became Minister of Defense. Barna Buza and Károlyi also temporarily became Minister of Justice and Finance Minister. The party's program included peace with negotiations on armistice, a bill on secret voting rights for all, a radical property- and tax reform, freedom of assembly, amnesty for political prisoners, complete freedom of press and bills on Hungary's independence with solutions for all nationalities. Károlyi appointed Dr. Károly Dietz Police Chief to replace László Sándor and asked him and his deputies, Béla Szentkirályi and György Páll to use all their manpower to keep the city safe. They cut all the military buildings' telephone lines to prevent any counter-measures. The telephone exchange did not welcome calls from private parties; even newspapers had to use an hourly changing secret password to contact the National Council's branches. The most urgent issue was to feed the soldiers and students who supported them. The Council was only allowed to order 4500 lunches which they handed out at 8 different spots.  

An early version of Jenő Pais Goebel's famous „Long Live the Republic” poster  

While the new government was established, thousands gathered at the General Court in Alkotmány utca, demanding the release of István Tisza's third assassin János Lékai (Leitner). The crowd already broke into several prisons last night to free those who were charged with political crimes. Lékai joined Ottó Korvin's revolutionary socialist antimilitary group in 1917, called Galilei Kör. Ervin Szabó, library scientist was also part of the group which planned the assassination of the former PM, who they believed was the reason behind all the suffering the war caused. Lékai got arrested after his failed attempt on October 16, and was held at the Alkotmány utca prison, which is where the revolutionaries freed him from on October 31 around noon. After the Republic fell, Lékai worked in Vienna and Berlin, and in 1922 he moved to the United States, where he worked as a writer and newspaper editor until his 1925 death.

In the afternoon the Radical Party held an impromptu meeting at their headquarters on Andrássy út 48, where they announced the formation of the public party and presented their agenda. Russian war prisoners kept in Hungary held a protest at the same place in the afternoon. A temporary commission was appointed to handle their issue.

Shortly after 17:00 István Tisza was fatally shot after 3 failed attempts, on the same day his previous assassin was freed from prison. Tisza was at his summer house on Hermina út with his wife and niece, and although they were guarded by the gendarme, 8 armed soldiers managed to sneak into their apartment from the courtyard. After they unarmed the gendarme, one of them, who remains unknown to this day, shot Tisza with a revolver. Mihály Károlyi expressed his condolences about the tragic death of his biggest political opponent.

At 20:00 the Prime Minister and his cabinet pledged their allegiance with Prince Joseph then held a meeting until late night to discuss the most urging governmental and safety issues.

At night the entire city was illuminated to celebrate the victorious Revolution. Theaters, cinemas and nightclubs received permission to reopen after they were forced to stay closed because of the Spanish Flu, but as trams and telephones were out of service, most of these institutes had to schedule their opening night for the next day. Cafés and restaurants, which were under serious prohibition at the time, were allowed to stay open until midnight.  

Béla Linder (1876-1962)  

The soldiers celebrate Béla Linder  

The decorated artillery commander became the Károlyi cabinet's Defense Minister on October 31, 1918. He was offered the position based on his qualities and connections and not so much his political ambitions. One of his first tasks included solving the new veterans' situation, which was quite problematic. He gave a famous speech for the officers giving oath at the Parliament on November 2, which was recorded by the news crew. He said, „I never want to see another soldier again!” Unfortunately, he failed to deliver and a week later on November 9 he stepped down to be replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Albert. He later became a Minister without portfolio supervising the peace talks, and signed the Belgrade Armistice in Mihály Károlyi's name on November 13. He also managed to build a career in the Republic. He was military commissary in Vienna, and when the Republic collapsed he became Mayor of Pécs, which was occupied by Serbians. He was leader of the Baranya-Baja Serbian-Hungarian Republic, which was founded on August 14, 1921 and although it only lasted 8 days, he still travelled to Belgrade as their representative. After that he never lived in Hungary again, and died in Tito's Yugoslavia at an old age. He worked for the government as a Yugoslav agent for which he was highly respected and was buried in an honorary tomb.  

The Hentzi statue

Maj. Gen. Heinrich Hentzi (1785-1849) of the empire and Commander of the Castle during the 1848 Revolution enjoyed shooting at Pest from the Castle hill to intimidate people. He was defending the Castle after Artúr Görgei's siege, during which he got fatally shot in the stomach at Szent György tér. A 20 meter statue was erected in his memory in 1852 on Franz Joseph's personal request, engraved with the following lines „General Hentzi, Colonel Allnoch and 418 other heroes died here for the Emperor and the homeland.” The memorial was designed by court architect Sprenger, the main statue was designed by Professor Bauer and Hans Gasser was responsible for the additional figures. For Hungarians, glamorizing the anti-Hungarian Hentzi was a shameless provocation, therefore the statue was regularly desecrated. There were several attempts to tear it down, but it was only moved in 1899 to the military foster home on Hűvösvölgyi út, to be replaced by a statue of Queen Elizabeth who was also murdered on this square. Even Franz Joseph could not argue that decision. As we can see in the news, the memorial was dismantled and destroyed during the Aster Revolution, and the remaining parts were offered for a charity auction in 1920. Some of the figures and parts are owned by the Budapest History Museum today.  

Danube Flotilla

The Danube Flotilla was owned by the Imperial and Royal Navy. It was the most successful elite ground military unit of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The Danube has significant geographical, economical and military values, and required serious professionalism and equipment to protect it. That was the flotilla's role, which was established after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867. The ships were moved to the Serbian border after the assassination in Sarajevo and the Temes monitor's first shot signed the beginning of the war in July 24, 1914. The ships' crew assisted in bombings, river- and artillery exploration, destroying military bridges, supporting and transporting ground forces and picking mines. At the end of the war they were covering Monarchy troops and the remaining ships on the Lower Danube. Seven monitors and 5 pinnaces reunited at the Novi Sad port on October 1918. Although the flotilla had a multinational crew they ended up with the Hungarians and were brought to the Óbuda winter ports in November 6, 1918, where they finally got rid of the imperial navy flags. To this day both civilians and members of the navy commemorate the flotilla, fallen warship crewmembers and sailors each year in Óbuda at Laktanya u. 33, where a plaque honors their memory.