Speaking at the opening event of the program series “170 years of the Hungarian Defence Forces” held in Budapest on Wednesday, Minister of Defence Dr. István Simicskó stated that an eternal truth is that Hungary cannot be a sovereign state without combat-worthy Hungarian Defence Forces.
István Simicskó – the 70th defence minister of Hungary, and the 7th since the 1989 change of regime – said in his speech that acting in his capacity as minister, while they were working to defend Hungary’s borders, he had reviewed the activity of all his predecessors. He said that the launch of the program series celebrating the 170th anniversary of the Hungarian Defence Forces was scheduled for this period in honor of the first Minister of War Lázár Mészáros, who was born on 20 February 1796.
He explained that Lázár Mészáros – who was appointed minister on 7 April 1848 – said the following about the organization of the Hungarian nation on 16 August the same year: “we must keep whatever we can from the old military system, but we need time to raise the Hungarian Army.” “Due to historical events, Lázár Mészáros was pressed for time”, István Simicskó noted.
He pointed out that there are only a few nations that could have set up, in such a short time, a force comparable to the Hungarian army, which was raised in 1848 under the control of the first Minister of War Lázár Mészáros and was able to engage the Austrian military, one of the strongest forces in the world at the time.
According to the minister, in the period of the birth of the nation, it was “unwavering patriotism, faith and spirit” that gave Hungarian soldiers strength to stand their ground in many glorious battles.
István Simicskó added that patriotism is important in preserving Hungary’s independence, and the Hungarian Defence Forces and their soldiers must set an example of it.
“In order to be able to preserve our Hungarian identity and Hungary, we must build the Hungarian Defence Forces with active care, attention and constructive creativity”, he pointed out, adding that the period of development has started in the Hungarian Defence Forces as result of the recently launched Zrínyi 2026 national defence and armed forces development program.
In his welcome speech, Deputy Commander of the MoD Institute and Museum of Military History Róbert Hermann pointed out that the Hungarians had not had their own army before 1848.
In the spring of 1848, within a couple of weeks, the Hungarian Defence Forces were established from scratch, and were already fighting on the battlefield from late June and early July onwards.
At the event, Parliamentary State Secretary of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) Tamás Vargha presented the anniversary design and the appearance of the event on the internet. At the same time, he announced the drawing contest “170 years of the Hungarian Defence Forces” and the online call “Upload a military photo!”
At the event held at the MoD Institute and Museum of Military History (IMMH) in Buda Castle – attended by former Prime Minister Péter Boross, Chief of Defence Gen. Dr. Tibor Benkő and representatives of military units – a number of uniforms and weapons were introduced from the 1848-49 War of Independence, the age of Monarchy, World War I and II, the 1956 Revolution and the present age. Lázár Mészáros’ personal belongings were on display separately, and a travelling exhibition organized for the anniversary was also opened, which will be brought to several settlements of Hungary in 2018.
According to the backgrounder handed out at the event, the modern Hungarian army was established at the end of May 1848, when, on the order of Prime Minister Lajos Batthyány, ten regular infantry battalions were equipped, which were already mentioned as “honvédség” (Defence Forces) in official papers. Due to the threat of foreign aggression against the Hungarian state and the danger posed by domestic armed movements of nationalities, at the request of Lajos Kossuth, on 11 July 1848, the members of parliament in Pest authorized the raising of 200,000 recruits and a war credit of 42 million forint to immediate effect, thereby officially establishing the regular defence force of the nation, the Hungarian Defence Forces.
featured image: MTI