History of Pannonia

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Ancient Times

Pannonia was originally the name of a Roman province. It corresponds roughly to the western part of Hungary, plus parts of Austria, Slovenia and Serbia. The area is named after the Pannonii, an Illyrian people. The Pannonii mingled with the Celts. The Romans occupied the Pannonian plain until the river Tisza and the Banat Lake, so Roman influence reached until the edge of contemporary Pannonia.

The area was constantly threatened by nomadic invasions. Around the year 375 A.D., the Visigoths invaded Pannonia. They were chased by the Huns around 450. After the Huns came the Avars, a nomadic tribe originating from Ukraine. The Avars established a relatively stable state in and around the Pannonian Plain and in Transylvania. The Avars ruled a diverse population consisting of Celts and Germanic people. Around the year 800 A.D. the Avars were driven away by the Bulgarians, a Tatar-Slavic nomadic tribe from western Russia.

Hungarian Rule

At the end of the ninth century the Hungarians (Magyars) made their entry into Europe. The Hungarians were a nomadic people from the southern Urals. When they entered Pannonia over the Carpathian Mountains, the Bulgarians retreated to the south, to current-day Bulgaria. For a century, the Hungarians were feared throughout Europe. However, in the Battle of Lechfeld in 955 A.D. the Hungarians suffered such a great defeat, that they decided to adapt to their Christian neighbors. The coronation of Stephan I in the year 1000 became a symbol for that. He was the first king of Hungary.

The Pannonian Plain and Transylvania formed the core of the Hungarian kingdom and had to be protected. The Carpathian Mountains formed a natural barrier against nomadic incursions from the east. King Stephan I asked the Magyar tribe of the Szekler, a nation of warriors, to become border guards of the Hungarian Empire. They were stationed at the borders of the empire in the Carpathian Mountains.


Around the twelfth century, the so-called Transylvanian Saxons (Siebenbürger Sachsen) migrated in large numbers to the Hungarian empire. They were immigrants from the German lands who were asked to cultivate the border lands and set up an administration. In 1224, King Andrew gave large areas of land to these Saxons, called "Königsboden", which meant they were given some autonomy over their lands. In return, they had to pay substantial taxes. The Transylvanian Saxons were scattered along the borders of the empire, from present-day Slovakia until deep into Transylvania, and also in Pannonia. The word "Saxons" should not be taken literally here. Unlike the name suggests, the Transylvanian Saxons were not from Saxony. The name is derived from the Latin "Saxones", which was the name for all German-speaking people in the Middle Ages. The Transylvanian Saxons came mainly from Lorraine, the Moselle area and the Meuse-Rhine area. Some place names in Pannonia memorize this, like Oche (Aachen), Lympurch (Duchy of Limburg), Nanciacum (Nancy) and possibly Mesz (Metz). Siebenbürgen is also the German name for Transylvania and probably refers to seven fortified towns founded by the "Saxons" in Transylvania. Although much of this Transylvanian Saxons settled in Transylvania, they were scattered anywhere along the edges of the Hungarian Empire, with a large part in Pannonia. Therefore one could speak as well of Pannonian Saxons or Slovak Saxons.

During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries many Serbs, Hungarians and especially Dacians (the later Romanians) migrated to the Pannonian lands. They were fleeing the Ottomans, who were conquering large parts of southeast Europe.

In the fifteenth century, Pannonia, Transylvania and the region Temeswar (Timisoara) became autonomous provinces within the Kingdom of Hungary. Pannonia was given the name the Duchy of Doraste, named after the capital of the province.

Ottoman Empire

In 1526 the battle of Mohács took place, where the Hungarian army was defeated by the Ottomans. Between 1526 and 1541 the Hungarian Kingdom was conquered and divided. The southern part of the kingdom was occupied by the Ottomans. The northern part was occupied by the Habsburgs. The Duchy of Doraste and Transylvania became vassal states of the Ottoman Empire. Pannonia was transformed into an Ottoman province, a "eyalet". However, Pannonia could retain much of its autonomy, while the occupied territories of Hungary were dismantled. Most of these occupied territories impoverished and depopulated. Again, many of their inhabitants moved to Pannonia.

The Pannonia autonomy also allowed freedom of religion. The high Hungarian nobility (Szekler) remained Roman Catholic. Most of the Saxons switched to Lutheranism, while the lower Hungarian nobility chose for Calvinism. Most Dacians remained Catholic. All of these groups supported the Ottoman authority on the condition of religious freedom, which had previously been denied by the Hungarian kings. This multi-religious character was the beginning of a Pannonian consciousness.

Rise for Independence

In 1699 the Peace of Karlowitz was signed. This brought an end to the expansion of the Ottoman empire in Southeast Europe. The whole of Hungary was ceded to the victorious Habsburgs, except the Ottoman provinces Doraste (Pannonia) and Temeswar. The Pannonians saw their opportunity and rebelled against the weakened Ottoman Empire. Mainly due to the isolated location and the mountainous nature of Pannonia the uprising succeeded. Besides, the city Doraste was an easily defensible stronghold. On May 15, 1700, Pannonia proclaimed itself an independent kingdom. King Julian became the first and only king of this short-lived kingdom that was never internationally recognized. Moreover, the Ottomans kept the lowlands surrounding the Banat Lake and the important city Stola occupied.

Meanwhile, the struggle between the Habsburg and Ottoman empires continued, and in Central Europe the Ottomans were forced to give up more and more areas. Temeswar, which was assigned to the Ottomans in 1699, was conquered by the Habsburg Austrians in 1717. The lowlands around Stola, which was claimed by Pannonia, was conquered by the Austrians as well. In 1718 the Treaty of Passarowitz was signed, where large areas of the Ottomans went to the Habsburgs. As a result of this treaty, the Banat of Temeswar was constructed, bordering Pannonia. This banat was a vassal state of the Habsburg Austrians headed by a ban, a kind of governor. However, the status of Pannonia was not discussed in the treaty.

Pannonia therefore continued to struggle for independence, this time against the Austrians. The problem was that the Austrians had little interest in the mountainous country, but it was a prestige issue. Pannonia was surrounded by Austrian territories, and an independent state within the empire could not be tolerated. However, the Austrians could not hold Pannonia, although initially the lowlands around Stola and the Banat Lake were occupied. After a fierce battle Stola was recaptured in 1720 by the Pannonians.

Habsburg Rule

On August 3rd, 1721 the Treaty of Sillein was signed, realized by the mediation of England and the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. This day is celebrated as the birthday of the state Pannonia, although the formal independence had to wait until 1811. Pannonia became semi-independent, but it was a difficult choice: either a constant struggle against the powerful Habsburg Empire, or independence under certain conditions. This resulted in an internal struggle between the Pannonian supporters of King Julian, the so-called Julians, who opted for war and imperial expansion (they also claimed the neighbouring Banat of Temeswar), and the reformers who chose a more pragmatic solution. This battle was won by the latter. On May 15th, 1721, King Julian died a mysterious death which was never clarified. The general opinion is that it was a plot by the reformers against the king. Even today there are Julians who still maintain a bitterness for the murder of King Julian. They still strive for a Great Pannonia.

In 1721, as a result of the Treaty of Sillein, Pannonia became a principality headed by the Habsburg princess Maria Sophia (1696-1751). In accordance with the Treaty she (and her Habsburg successors) played only a ceremonial role. Effectively Pannonia was headed by a Council of Wise, a council of seven noblemen, a body that still exists. The price paid for this was that the Principality of Pannonia now formally became part of the Habsburg monarchy. In practice however, Pannonia could go its own way.


In 1804 the Habsburg monarchy ceased to exist and was replaced by the Austrian Empire. The result was that many individual states from the Habsburg monarchy, became part of a personal union within the new empire. Formally Pannonia had to hand over some of its autonomy, and thus Pannonia became a crown land within the Austrian empire. Unfortunately for the Austrians, their empire was born at the wrong time. The Austrian state was weakened by several wars. The war with France even brought the country to a bankruptcy in 1811. On October 24, 1811 the Habsburg prince Ottokar of Pannonia died. Pannonia did not hesitate and a successor from among their own ranks was appointed, prince Carol. The Austrian Empire protested and threatened, but was too weak to intervene. Besides, the southern neighbor of Pannonia, the Banat of Temeswar, revolted against Hungary (which was part of the Austrian Empire). The southern borders of the empire fell apart, although the Banat was too much divided to achieve independence. After 1860 the Banat came completely under Hungarian control again.

Pannonia remained a principality, but outside the Austrian influence. The Pannonian silver mines and the growing importance of Stola as a commercial centre, made Pannonia a prosperous nation. A large part of the earned money was spent to create a strong defensive army. Neighbouring countries took the military power of Pannonia seriously, and the existence of an independent Pannonia was no longer disputed. In 1861, rapidly growing Stola became the new capital op Pannonia. Until that time, the fortified mountain-city Doraste in the Pannonian Carpathians had been the capital. Stola was a vivid city full of grandeur and was internationally known as "small-Vienna". Characteristic were the many churches and palaces in Baroque style. At the end of the nineteenth century, many new buildings were constructed in the Art Nouveau style. Since the 1870s the steel industry emerged into a prosperous business. Through a new process it was possible to purify the phosphorus-rich iron ore, and produce first quality steel. By the end of the nineteenth century Pannonia was also the main arms manufacturer in Central Europe and exported weapons to many countries.

Pannonia tried to maintain its relative prosperity compared to neighboring countries. Therefore, the country became more and more isolated. It hardly interfered with the outside world. During the First World War Pannonia declared itself neutral. However, the lowlands south of Lake Banat were claimed and attacked by Hungary. The efficient and well-armed military force of Pannonia caused the Hungarians great losses, and they retreated soon.

Between the World Wars

  After the First World War on November 1, 1918, the Banat Republic (Banatia) was proclaimed in Timişoara. The Julian opposition in Pannonia demanded that Pannonia would recognize the new state. But the international community saw little in the new republic and no country recognized Banatia. The Julians were furious and demanded that the Pannonian army had to annex Banatia in case the independence did not last. Again, they were trying to achieve their ultimate goal of a Greater Pannonia. Indeed, the Banat Republic didn't last for long: after two weeks, Serbian troops overran the new republic.

The Banatia-crisis almost turned Pannonia, that closed its eyes for the Serbian annexation, into a civil war. About twenty percent of the population sympathized with the Julians, about 40 percent wanted to risk a war with Serbia. The Julians were ideologically closely related to fascism. Prince Franz II saw no other choice than radical intervention. Most leaders of the Julians were arrested and executed. The movement was banned and the army was given far-reaching powers.

As a result of the Treaty of Trianon in 1920 Hungary had to give up two-thirds of its territory because of his role in the First World War. Pannonia got a small part as reparation, Trizemlje, a swampy and almost uninhabited area where the river Murech flows into the Tisza. Trizemlje has since developed into an important nature reserve and is now a national park.

In 1919 Prince Franz II conducted a number of state reforms, in which he was willing to hand in part on his power. In 1920 the first free elections took place. The prince got on a more ceremonial function, and the daily management was transferred to a unicameral parliament with 100 seats, headed by a prime minister. However, the prince had the right of veto. The prince wanted a modern western-style democracy, and the 1920 elections were for both men and women. The Conservative People's Party won 40 percent of the vote. Approximately 20% of the votes went to the King's Party, the successor to the previously forbidden Julian movement.

Between the two world wars Pannonia an increasingly capitalist economy under the leadership of conservative "laissez-faire" governments. Prince Stephan, who was a lot more conservative than his predecessor, had a great influence on this policy. The result was that the workers were increasingly exploited and the rich were getting richer. Also the army took part in this enrichment. Discontent grew among the population. The increasing support from both the extreme left (the Communist Party) and the extreme right (the King's Party) was a consequence of that. After the stock market crash of 1929, supporters of the King's Party organized themselves into a variety of militant movements. The King's Party sympathized with Hitler and Mussolini. Secret offshoots of the party aimed at undermining the state. This move was supported by the German Nazis but was fiercely contested before and during World War II. Nevertheless, a large number of small and larger attacks were committed, including a failed assassination attempt on Prince Stephan in 1939. With these bloody attacks, the King's Party lost a lot of goodwill from its sympathizers, even though the party officially distanced itself from the attacks.

Second World War

During the 1930s, the already strong Pannonian army fortified itself for fear of Nazi Germany and expansionist Hungary. During the outbreak of the Second World War Pannonia retained its neutrality but warned potential attackers that it would strike back if necessary. In 1939 the government decided to complete mobilization.

Hungary fought with the Germans out of frustration over the humiliation of the Treaty of Trianon. Pannonia, however, was not threatened by the Hungarians, nor the Germans and Italians. This was partly due to the conservative government led by Prime Minister Roman Zettler. Fearing the Germans he tried to control freedom of the press to prevent anti-Nazi messages. Moreover, he wanted to close the borders for refugees. His government was overthrown in early 1941. In its place came an authoritarian interim government that was directly under the leadership of Prince Stephan. The conservative prince was very anti-German, but officially Pannonia remained neutral as always.

In the summer of 1941 German warplanes repeatedly violated Pannonian airspace. Some of these planes were shot down by the Pannonian army, much to the fury of Hitler. Germany demanded apologies, but Pannonia continued to defend its sovereignty. The result was that Pannonia was sealed off from the outside world. However, since Germany was in urgent need of Pannonian steel this blockade was lifted. Pannonia just kept trading with Germany, thereby hiding behind its neutrality. In 1943 prince Stephan died, and was succeeded by his inexperienced son Stephan II.


In June 1944 the communists seized power. The nephew of Prince Stephan II, the socially committed Stanislas, staged a coup, aided by part of the armed forces and the Communist Party. Stephan II was deposed, and Prince Stanislas became his successor. Initially he had absolute power, but a year later he handed it over in favor of the parliament. The monarch now had a largely ceremonial function, although still rather influential. Democracy, already a farce under the authoritarian rule of Prince Stephan, was suspended. In fact a right-wing authoritarian regime was now replaced by left-wing authoritarian rule.

Since then, Pannonia, although a principality, was de facto a communist state. All the neighboring countries of Pannonia were under Soviet control, with the exception of Yugoslavia that followed its own socialist course. In 1950 the first free elections since 1920 took place, but now under conditions such as compliance with the socialist constitution. The unicameral parliament was restored and the prime minister was the actual leader of the country. The Council of Wise and the monarch controlled the government to some extent, although not officially. Despite some undemocratic measures, over the years, more and more freedoms were regained, including full press freedom.

In the 1960s Pannonia chose for intensive cooperation with Tito's Yugoslavia. Like its big neighbor, Pannonia followed an independent communist course, apart from the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Both countries were also members of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Since the mid-1980s Pannonia initiated a more modern, pragmatic socialism in which small businesses were allowed and encouraged. Pannonia has now developed into a socialist-oriented market economy. Since the mid-1990s it is experiencing rapid growth.