The war with the Ottoman Turks was hardly underway, when concerns arose of an increasingly dictatorial government in Vienna. The situation in Slovakia deteriorated in the days following the ultimatum, with the results of the plebiscite in dispute, the Slovak Provisional Assembly was announced in Bratislava, but was outlawed by the Hungarian Parliament before it could ever meet. A General Arrest Warrant was declared across the Federation by the Viennese Metropolitan Police (which became the basis of the last act to be signed into law by President Codrinaru as it became the Federal and Metropolitan Police, with expanded powers outside the city limits).

The case of Councillor Sykora, who represented the state of Hungary but was a Slovak patriot at heart, became the prime example of the repression instituted by an increasingly reactionary Hungarian Parliament. Sykora was eventually pardoned by Codrinaru himself following the secession and released. He immediately travelled to Bratislava (which had stayed loyal to the Federation) to establish the Provisional Council of Slovakia legally. Its first meeting is still a bank holiday in Slovakia. Later examples, like the execution of four men whose only crime was to have been nominated to sit on the Assembly, were overshadowed in the eyes of many in Vienna who saw the persecution of their fellow politician as far more threatening to their way of life. Mob action, both in Budapest and Bratislava underlined the problem, but Codrinaru’s response of martial law only served to inflame an already tense situation.

The execution of Mlynár, Bača, Bača and Mečiar

The direct result was twofold; the first was predicted long before it actually happened, the Hungarian Parliament, under the almost monarchical figure of Count Bethlen, declared its independence from the Federation by a vote of 234 to 65. The second was totally unexpected, as General Masaryk of the 2nd Southern Army raised his flag in rebellion against the President. The irony of the situation was not missed in Vienna, as Masaryk’s demotion from the rank of General which had precluded his rebellion was sparked a comment taken as insubordination that effectively said he would not fire on his own people.

This coup proved to be literally fatal for the President. The defection the Republican National Guard, lead by General Eckhel, coming just two days after the coup began, proved to be the beginning of the end for Codrinaru. News reports to Vienna told of near daily defections, and with the Ministry of War in a state of utter confusion (Domenico Mocenigo, the Minister of War originally appointed by Codrinaru, had resigned amid fears that he was interfering in politics too much, before dying, reportedly of heart failure. A series of short-lived and ineffectual ministries in his wake proved incapable of asserting any control over the department and, with little or no information as to what was actually going on on the front, the Generals were effectively (and to that administrations eternal detriment) left to organise themselves. This irony, too, was not
Having Their Fling

A Cartoon which appeared in the Federation’s only English language journal, the (Liberal) Times of Vienna, satirising the inaction of the political classes in the face of the threat of the coup.

missed in the years after Codrinaru’s fall), the limited scope of the defections didn’t become clear. Panic erupted in the halls of government and it collapsed, essentially under the dead weight of its own hysteria. Codrinaru was found dead within just a week of Masaryk’s declaration. The toxicologist’s report attributed it to cyanide, but with proof coming in the 1980s of the fraudulent nature of his ‘suicide note’, questions have been raised about the reliability of a report commissioned by the Generals that succeeded him. A more likely explanation would be a political murder, but as yet no historian has been able to pin point the group responsible.

Codrinaru’s sudden absence was filled by Victor Kraus (Kraus was tried for treason after his capture, but ultimately acquitted as the crimes he claimed responsibility for were almost entirely the work of others), but with the legitimacy of his government in question, little resistance was put up to the Generals as they approached Vienna. Indeed, Kraus’s administration lasted just one week before he was imprisoned by Eckhel; within two Masaryk had forced through an constitutional amendment to make himself the official head of state.

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