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Second Vienna Award
Hungarian Foreign Minister István Csáky signing the agreement
Signed 30 August 1940
Location Vienna
Signatories Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Kingdom of Italy Italy
Kingdom of Hungary (1920–46) Hungary
Romania Romania

Romania in 1940, with Northern Transylvania highlighted in yellow

The Second Vienna Award was the second of two Vienna Awards arbitrated by the Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Rendered on 30 August 1940, it re-assigned the territory of Northern Transylvania (including all of Maramureş and part of Crişana) from Romania to Hungary.

Prelude and historical background[]

After World War I, the multi-ethnic Kingdom of Hungary was split apart by the Treaty of Trianon to form several new nation-states, but Hungarians claimed that the new state borders did not follow the real ethnic borders. The new Magyar nation-state of Hungary was approximately 1/3 the size of the former Kingdom, and millions of ethnic Magyars now lived outside the borders of Hungary. Many historically important areas of Hungary were assigned to other countries, and the distribution of natural resources came out unevenly as well. Thus, while the various non-Magyar populations of the old Kingdom generally saw the treaty as justice for the historically-marginalized nationalities, from the point of view of the Hungarians, the Treaty had been unjust and even a national humiliation.

The Treaty and its consequences dominated Hungarian public life and political culture in the inter-war period. In addition, the government of Hungary swung more and more to the right in those years; eventually, under Regent Miklós Horthy, Hungary established close relations with Benito Mussolini's Italy and Adolf Hitler's Germany. The alliance with Nazi Germany made possible Hungary's regaining of southern Czechoslovakia in the First Vienna Award of 1938 and Subcarpathia in 1939. But that and the subsequent military conquest of Carpathian Ruthenia in 1939 still did not satisfy Hungarian political ambitions. These awards allocated only a fraction of the territories lost by the Treaty of Trianon, and in any event, the loss that the Hungarians resented the most was that of Transylvania.

At the end of June 1940, as relations between Romania and all her neighboring countries were seriously strained, the Romanian government gave in to a Soviet ultimatum, and allowed Moscow to retake Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, which had been incorporated into Romania after World War I. Although the territorial loss was undesirable from the Romanian perspective, the government viewed it as preferable to the conflict which could have arisen had Romania resisted Soviet advances, given Finland's bloody defeat the previous winter over it's border with the Soviets. However, the Hungarian government interpreted the fact that Romania gave up some of its territories as an admission that Romania no longer insisted on keeping its territory intact.

So the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina inspired Budapest to escalate its efforts to resolve the question of Transylvania. However, Berlin persuaded Budapest to take no military action against Romania, who was, along with the Soviet Union at the time, Germany's main source of oil. Peace in the Balkans was very much in the interest of the Axis Powers, both for strategic and material reasons, and so they suggested to the parties concerned that they solve their problems by direct negotiations. The negotiations started on 16 August 1940 in Turnu Severin. The Hungarian delegation hoped to gain as much of Transylvania as possible, but the Romanians would have none of that and submitted only a small region for consideration. Eventually, the Hungarian-Romanian negotiations fell through entirely. After this, the Romanian government asked Italy and Germany to arbitrate.

Meanwhile, the Romanian government had acceded to Italy's request for territorial cessions to Bulgaria, another German-aligned neighbor. On 7 September, under the Treaty of Craiova, the "Cadrilater" (southern Dobrudja) was ceded by Romania to Bulgaria.


Territorial gains by Hungary (1938-1941)

The ministers of foreign affairs of the Axis, Joachim von Ribbentrop of Germany and Galeazzo Ciano of Italy, announced the award on 30 August 1940 at the Belvedere Palace in Vienna. As a result of the award, Hungary regained 43,104 km² of its territories lost to Romania after the First World War. The new border was guaranteed by both Germany and Italy.

The population statistics in Northern Transylvania and the changes following the award are presented in detail in the next section. The rest of Transylvania, known as Southern Transylvania, with 2,274,600 Romanians and 363,200 Hungarians remained Romanian.


The territory in question covered an area of 43,104 km². The 1930 Romanian census registered for this region a population of 2,393,300. In 1941 the Hungarian authorities conducted a new census which registered a total population of 2,578,100. Both censuses asked separately about language and nationality. The results of the two censuses are summarized in the following table.

1930 Romanian census 1941 Hungarian census 1940 Romanian
Nationality Language Nationality Language
Hungarian 912,500 1,007,200 1,380,500 1,344,000 968,371
Romanian 1,176,900 1,165,800 1,029,000 1,068,700 1,304,898
German 68,300 59,700 44,600 47,300 N/A
Jewish/Yiddish 138,800 99,600 47,400 48,500 200,000
Other 96,800 61,000 76,600 69,600 N/A

As Árpád E. Varga writes, "the census conducted in 1930 met international statistical requirements in every respect. In order to establish nationality, the compilers devised a complex criterion system, unique at the time, which covered citizenship, nationality, native language (i.e. the language spoken in the family) and religion." Apart from the natural population growth, the differences between the two censuses are due to some other complex reasons, like migration and assimilation of Jews or bilingual speakers. According to Hungarian registrations, 100 thousand Hungarian refugees had arrived in Hungary from South Transylvania by January 1941. Most of them sought refuge in the north, and almost as many persons arrived from Hungary in the re-annexed territory as moved to the Trianon Hungary territory from South Transylvania. As a result of these migrations, North Transylvanian Hungarians increased by almost 100 thousand. In order to compensate for this, a great number of Romanians were obliged to leave North Transylvania. Some 100 thousand had left by February 1941 according to the incomplete registration of North Transylvanian refugees carried out by the Romanian government. Besides this, a fall in the total population suggests that a further 40 to 50 thousand Romanians moved from North to South Transylvania (including refugees who were omitted from the official registration for various reasons). The Hungarian assimilation gain is made up of losses on the part of other groups of native speakers, such as the Jewish people. The changing of language was most typical among bilingual Romanians and Hungarians. On the other hand, in Maramureş (Hungarian language: Máramaros) and Satu Mare (Hungarian language: Szatmár) counties, in dozens of settlements many of those who had declared themselves as Romanian now identified themselves as Hungarian, even though they did not speak Hungarian at all (nor did they in 1910).


Historian Keith Hitchins summarizes the situation created by the award in his book "Rumania: 1866-1947 (Oxford History of Modern Europe), Oxford University Press, 1994":

Far from settling matters, the Vienna Award had exacerbated relations between Romania and Hungary. It did not solve the nationality problem by separating all Magyars from all Romanians. Some 1,150,000 to 1,300,000 Romanians, or 48 per cent to over 50 per cent of the population of the ceded territory, depending upon whose statistics are used, remained north of the new frontier, while about 500,000 Magyars (other Hungarian estimates go as high as 800,000, Romanian as low as 363,000) continued to reside in the south.

Romania had 14 days to evacuate concerned territories and assign them to Hungary. The Hungarian troops stepped across the Trianon borders on 5 September. The Regent of Hungary, Miklós Horthy, also attended in the entry. They reached the pre-Trianon border, completing the re-annexation process, on 13 September.

Generally, the ethnic Hungarian population welcomed the troops and regarded separation from Romania as liberation. The large ethnic Romanian community that found themselves under Hungarian Horthyist occupation had nothing to celebrate though, as for them the Second Vienna Award represented the return to the times of the long Hungarian rule. Upon entering the awarded territory the Hungarian Army committed massacres against the Romanian population. Among the massacres:

  • On 9 September in the village of Treznea (Hungarian language: Ördögkút), some Hungarian troops made a 4 km detour from the ZalăuCluj route of the Hungarian Army and started firing at will on locals of all ages, killing many of them and partially destroying the Orthodox church. The official Hungarian sources of the time recorded that 87 Romanians and 6 Jews were killed, including the local Orthodox priest and the Romanian local teacher with his wife, while some Romanian sources give as many as 263 locals who were killed. Some Hungarian historians claim that the killings came in retaliation after the Hungarian troops were fired upon by inhabitants, allegedly incited by the local Romanian Orthodox priest, but this claims are not supported by the accounts of several witnesses. The motivation of the 4 km detour of the Hungarian troops from the rest of the Hungarian Army is still a point of contention, but most evidence points towards the local noble Ferenc Bay, who lost a large part of his estates to peasants in the 1920s, as most of the violence was directed towards the peasants living on his former estate.
  • Similarly, 159 local villagers were killed on 13 –14 September 1940 by the Hungarian troops in the village of Ip (Hungarian: Szilágyipp). Again, some Hungarian historians suggests that this was the result of a retaliation to the killing of 4 Hungarian soldiers by a grenade.

The exact number of casualties is disputed between some historians, but the existence of such events cannot be disputed.

The retreat of the Romanian army was also not free from incidents, mostly consisting of damaging the infrastructure and destroying public documents.


The Second Vienna Award was voided by the Allied Commission through the Armistice Agreement with Romania (12 September 1944) whose Article 19 stipulated the following: "The Allied Governments regard the decision of the Vienna award regarding Transylvania as void and are agreed that Transylvania (the greater part thereof) should be returned to Romania, subject to confirmation at the peace settlement, and the Soviet Government agrees that Soviet forces shall take part for this purpose in joint military operations with Romania against Germany and Hungary."

This came after King Michael's Coup following which Romania changed sides and joined the Allies. Thus, the Romanian army fought Nazi Germany and its allies in Romania, regaining Northern Transylvania, and further on, in German occupied Hungary and Czechoslovakia (e.g. Budapest Offensive & Siege of Budapest and Prague Offensive).

The 1947 Treaty of Paris reaffirmed the borders between Romania and Hungary, as originally defined in Treaty of Trianon, 27 years earlier.

See also[]

  • First Vienna Award
  • Vienna Awards


  1. Keith Hitchins, Rumania: 1866-1947, Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 486 [1]
  • Árpád E. Varga. Erdély magyar népessége 1870-1995 között. Magyar Kisebbség 3-4, 1998, pp. 331-407.
  • P. Ţurlea. Ip şi Trăznea: Atrocităţi maghiare şi acţiune diplomaticā, Ed. Enciclopedică, Bucureşti 1996.
  • Gh.I. Bodea, V.T. Suciu, I. Puşcaş. Administraţia militară horthystă în nord-vestul României, Ed. Dacia, 1988.
  • Maria Bucur. Treznea. Trauma, nationalism and the memory of World War II in Romania, Rethinking History, Volume 6, Number 1, April 1, 2002, pp. 35-55. doi:10.1080/13642520110112100
  • Alessandro Vagnini. German-Italian Commissions in Transylvania 1940-1943. A crucial key Study for Italian Diplomacy, Studia Universitatis Petru Maior, Historia Volume 9, 2009, pp. 165–187.

External links[]

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