Dmytro Bondarenko: The Dissolution of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires, Bolshevism, and the Monarchist Counter-Revolution in Central and Eastern Europe, 1917-1919

The First World War led to radical geopolitical transformation in Central and Eastern Europe, a historical region of Russo-German rivalries. The Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires collapsed and both Russian and German influences in the region were reduced. The downfalls of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires were accompanied by the social revolutions and self-determination of nations.

Unfortunately, the belligerent parties of the First World War ignored the emergence of Bolshevism in Russia as a new challenge to the world order. This political current incorporated the ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’ as one of the main phases in continuation of class struggle, and triggered processes of export of revolution. The spread of Bolshevism could have been stopped either by a national counter-revolution in the newly independent states that emerged in the territories of the former Empires or by foreign intervention.

It should be noted that national counter-revolution was a response to the Bolshevik ideology and political practice. According to ideological principle, the counter-revolution as a historic phenomenon could be classified into two types: the monarchist and the republican. For instance, in the Russian case, both types existed simultaneously. However, in Finland and Hungary, the monarchist type prevailed.

The main factors of the monarchist counter-revolution were the following: (1) the dominance of monarchical traditions in political culture (as in the cases of Russia, Finland and Hungary); (2) the charismatic political and military leaders who expressed monarchical views (such as General Baron Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, Admiral Miklós Horthy, etc.); (3) foreign intervention or other international military support from neighboring monarchies, for instance, Germany and Sweden intervened Finland; Germany and Austria-Hungary liquidated the Bolshevik power and transformed the political regime in Ukraine. Germany supported the Russian monarchist forces under the conditions of their recognition of the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty. It should also be stated that Soviet power in Hungary was eliminated due to Romanian intervention.

 If the Bolsheviks usually seized power in the capitals (Petrograd and Moscow in Russia, Helsinki in Finland, Budapest in Hungary), the headquarters of the counter-revolution emerged in the periphery, for instance, in Vaasa in Finland, and Szeged in Hungary. As for the Russian monarchist counter-revolution in Eastern Europe, such bases were the newly independent states: the Ukrainian State, the Almighty Don Host, the Grand Baltic Duchy, and the Republic of Estonia. This phenomenon should be defined as an export-counter-revolution because the military and political leaders of the newly independent states (General Baron Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, General Pavlo Skoropadsky, General Pyotr Krasnov, Colonel Johan Laidoner) believed that the liquidation of Soviet power and the restoration of the monarchy in Russia would have become the basis for the friendly relations with Russia and consequently ensured the security and independence of their states.

Certainly, foreign intervention was accompanied by some territorial aspirations of the supporting parties according to strategic aims. For instance, the Kingdom of Sweden tried to incorporate the Aland Islands; the Kingdom of Finland – Karelia; the Kingdom of Romania – Bessarabia and the Hungarian territory as much as possible; and so did the Ukrainian State and the Almighty Don Host towards Russia. The role of the foreign intervention was decisive in Russia, Ukraine, and Hungary, and insignificant in Finland and the Almighty Don Host.

The political and military potential of the monarchist counter-revolution was high only in Finland, but in Russia and Hungary, it was weak and demanded foreign support.

The peak of the monarchist counter-revolution in the territory of the former Russian Empire took place during the Brest-Litovsk system of international relations under the dominance of the German Empire, while the Entente, Allied and Associated Powers supported the republican Anti-Bolshevik movements. Moreover, it was pressure from the Allies that forced the two Kingdoms (Finland and Hungary) to exist without their kings.

Dmytro Bondarenko graduated from the History Faculty of Odessa Mechnikov State University, Ukraine, in 1996, specialized in Contemporary History and International Relations. He obtained the Diploma of Specialist, and then, 2008, an MA in Sociology at the University of Manchester and the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences (Theodor Shanin Russian-British University, Moscow, Russia). Since 2018, he is a PhD student at the Department of Contemporary History of the University of Szeged, Hungary. His research engages in a comparative analysis of the processes of the counter-revolution and restoration in Finland (the Kingdom of Finland), Hungary (the Kingdom of Hungary), Ukraine (the Ukrainian State), and Don (the Almighty Don Host) and he is the author of more than 20 research publications on the topic of his doctoral dissertation “The Monarchist Counter-Revolution in Central and Eastern Europe, 1918-1920: A Comparative Analysis.”

Research interests: World War I, the disintegration of the Russian and the Austro-Hungarian Empires, the counter-revolution and Anti-Bolshevik wars in the newly independent states of Central and Eastern Europe, 1918-1920.


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