In the territories occupied by the Turks a new form of life was being formed. Abandoned the numerous villages, once flourishing, the peasant population concentrated in large municipalities. Much of the land, no longer cultivated, became barren. Horrible were the losses suffered by the Hungarian blood in the territories devastated by the Turks and the Tatars; real deserts were formed, on which the eastern masters favored the establishment of Balkan populations. In the seventeenth century there were many immigrants of Serbs in the southern districts or of Romanians in the Transtibiscan districts of the kingdom. As the Croats retreated towards the north, in the districts located between the Drava and Sava rivers (medieval Slavonia) and in the Transdanubian territories, the “Vlachi” of the Balkans expanded as far as northern Hungary, reinforcing the Slovenian race, and occupied the territory abandoned by the Croats. With the latter group of Vlachi, the Viennese government began to organize military borders against the Turks, especially military fiefdoms, maintained until the second half of the nineteenth century.
In Hungary, the seventeenth-century evolution was characterized on the one hand by the religious struggle, provoked by the Counter-Reformation, and on the other hand by the strengthening of the absolutist orientation, an address which in Transylvania became the basis of a considerable concentration of forces, while in the Hungarian kingdom instead, dominated by a foreign dynasty, it was the cause of repeated movements in defense of the constitution. The Magyar nobility was able to take advantage of the election of Matthias of Habsburg as well as that of his successors, to broaden their rights, without however being able to be represented in the central government of the monarchy. This had the fatal consequence for Hungary, that Ferdinand II (1619-37), as did his successor Ferdinand III (1637-57), and their foreign advisers, mainly Germans, they concentrated all their attention on the solution of the great Western problems (Thirty Years’ War), neglecting the system of border fortresses, the only means of defense against the Turkish danger. Under these conditions, the political leader of the Magyar race became Transylvania (v.).
In the anti-Hapsburg campaigns of the Transylvanian princes the question of the Protestants of Hungary played an important part. At the beginning of the century. XVII, thanks to the action of the Jesuits, the Counter-Reformation, led by Cardinal Pietro Pázmány, began in the Hungarian kingdom with an overwhelming force. The process of reconversion to Catholicism could not be prevented either by the campaigns of the Transylvanian princes or by the constitutional guarantees granted to Protestantism. The recattolicised Magyars continued the Turkophobic policy of their ancestors, but were only lukewarmly supported by the Habsburg dynasty. In the second half of the century there was a growing Magyrophobia within the governmental organs of Vienna, reciprocated by the Hungarians with equal hostility. L’ The Magyars’ exasperation against the government reached its peak when it dropped Transylvania and when, after the victory of Montecuccoli at Szentgotthard (1664), it concluded a humiliating peace with the decadent Mohammedan power. The most faithful and most Catholic of the Magyars, discontented, began to negotiate those with the French, those with the Turks and their desperation led to the conspiracy that was named after the same Count Palatine F. Wesselényi. Leopoldo I (1658-1705) then inaugurated his absolutist regime. This first attempt at Vienna’s absolutism consisted only in the abolition of the Hungarian constitution, in the persecution of Protestants, as well as in the extortion of excessive sums, while instead it lacked any idea of reform. The Magyars – mostly Protestants – persecuted, they fled under the protection of Transylvania and the Turks and led at first by the most intimate adviser of Prince Ápafi, Michele Teleki, later by the young and brilliant Emeric Thököly, they waged a cruel struggle against the oppressors. Thököly and his people kuruc fought successfully, to such an extent that the government was obliged to return the constitution to the country.
The event of capital importance at the end of the seventeenth century in Hungary was the expulsion of the Turks. The holy league, supported in a very energetic way by Pope Innocent XI and by almost all Christian peoples (Germans, Italians, French, Spaniards), attacked the Turks with irresistible force: in 1686 Budapest was reconquered and after long years of struggle. by Eugenio di Savoia, whose great victory in Zenta (1697) made the Turkish defeat complete, the peace of Karlowitz was concluded in 1699. In this peace the Turks renounced almost all of the Hungarian territory.
The government was not slow to reap the rewards of its vigorous action. The Hungarian diet of 1687 was forced to renounce the right of free election of the government, recognizing the succession of the male branch of the Habsburg dynasty. The principality of Transylvania, while remaining independent from the Hungarian kingdom, returned under the domination of the Hungarian crown and therefore of the Habsburgs. The Magyrophobic policy of the Viennese government, not satisfied with these results, was manifested in refusing the restitution of the reconquered lands to the ancient owners (neo-aquatic commission) and in the protection of the Serbian masses (about 200,000 souls) well usable against the Magyars. The misery and despair of the Hungarians broke out in the revolution of Francesco Rákóczi II (1703-11) who was elected prince of Transylvania and commanding prince of Hungary by the insurgents. The kuruc of Rákóczi, lukewarmly supported by Louis XIV, fought with heroism and tenacity against the Habsburg dynasty, engaged in the war for the Spanish succession and in 1707, the diet of Onod, with the intention of facilitating the formal alliance with the king of France, declared the dynasty fallen. Rákóczi’s struggle could not have a definitive military success; yet the peace of Szatmár (Satu Mare, 1711), which put an end to it, marked the beginning of a new political direction of the Viennese government. The court preferred to renounce attempts at absolutism and come to a compromise with the Magyar nobility, recognizing its privileges and the constitutional rights of the kingdom.