In Hungary, fencing, especially saber fencing is considered a national sport and an inherent part of Hungarian national identity. Although Hungary, following France and Italy, was one of the pioneers in developing the fencing sport in the second half of the nineteenth century, only in the course of the irst half of the twentieth century did Hungary take the lead in developing new techniques, tactics and training methods for saber fencing. As a result, between 1908 and 1964 Hungarian saber fencers dominated the international individual and team competitions. Almost all the gold medals at the Olympic Games in saber fencing in that period were won by Hungarian athletes. In this paper, it will be argued that saber fencing was of major importance in the remaking of the Hungarian State which collapsed at the end of the First World War as part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (K. und k.) and had to be rebuilt as an independent, sovereign nation. The conditions for peace concluding the First World War for Hungary were laid down in the Treaty of Trianon (1920) that was perceived as a ‘dictate’ by the Hungarians. The state institutionalization of fencing, at that time in the form of sport fencing growing out of war and duel fencing, took place in the framework of the Hungarian Army, was supported by the highest Hungarian authorities and succeeded to counterbalance the impact of the Treaty of Trianon. Major driving forces for the remaking of the Hungarian state and the reconstruction of Hungarian identity were influenced by internal and external factors. The internal factors include on the one hand, the establishment of institutes for military fencing and gymnastics education by the Hungarian authorities in the second and the third decade of the twentieth century and, on the other hand, the efforts of outstanding fencing masters educated in the K. und k. Army, like László Borsody in the supervision of these institutes. One of the external factors was the active sports diplomacy of the Netherlands, a neutral country during the First World War, aimed at bringing back the Hungarian fencing federation into the international fencing networks after Hungary was excluded from international sports competitions after the First World War because it sided with the Central Powers.

Keywords: Hungary; saber fencing; Treaty of Trianon; László Borsody; sports diplomacy

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