Jeffrey Pennington, ‘End of the Line? Border Changes and Railroad Geography between the Alföld and Carpathians'.


Focused on border changes and railroad geography (between the Alföld and the Carpathians), Jeffrey Pennington's article deals with the connection between political change, territorial redefinition and the efforts of creating an infrastructure for communication, from the second half of the nineteenth century to the present day. The essay examines the consequences of borders being drawn over existing railroads, dissecting trunk lines, impeding communication and ultimately curtailing commercial links. Structured chronologically and rich in detail, the article highlights the shift from economic (for example, the desire to turn Pest, and later Budapest, into the economic center of Hungary) and strategic considerations (for example, awareness of the political strategic importance of connecting the western portion of the empire with its eastern provinces with Moldavia and the Black Sea.) to political change as the incentive for building railway infrastructures. For instance, it was political change that led to Hungary taking responsibility for commercial and transportation matters within its borders and made the construction of the railroad in Hungary a state-sponsored enterprise. Moreover, between 1919 and 1945 borders in the region were frequently redefined with important consequences for the railway network. For example, the border between the new Czechoslovak and Romanian states, delineated at the Paris Peace Conference was drawn for the most part on ethnic and geographic basis. However, portions of the new border between Romania and Hungary can lead one to believe that the geostrategic exigency of a railroad could trump the ethnic argument. The Little Entente attempted to create direct rail links between Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia, thus creating a cordon sanitaire along Hungary's northern, eastern and southern borders. These new border situations required transit treaties to be worked out between the new states. The positive consequences were direct passenger services between Bucharest and Prague and the expansion of trade. The cession of Košice, southern Slovakia and southern Subcarpathia to Hungary severed direct rail connections between Prague and Subcarpathia and severely hindered Romanian traffic between Sighet and the rest of Romania. When the Hungarian army occupied the remainder of Subcarpathia and reclaimed the entire region for Hungary a new transit treaty with Romania was required. After on 30 August 1940 Hungary was awarded the northern half of Transylvania by the second Vienna Arbitration the Debrecen-Körösmező/Jaszinya route was used to help convey units of the Hungarian army to the Soviet border to take part in the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union. By early autumn of 1944, the Soviet Red army had occupied all of Subcarpathia and. together with the Romanian army, northern Transylvania. Thus, the railroad, where still operational and after being reconstructed, was used to continue the war effort against the German and Hungarian armies in Hungary and Slovakia. In June 1945 Czechoslovakia signed a treaty with the Soviet Union whereby it ceded Subcarpathia to USSR. As for Hungary and Romania the 1946 Paris Peace Conference re-established their borders with each other.  The article further explores some of the technical implications of these changes, the need to build new section of track, like a rail link to Sighet entirely on Romanian territory, and the decline in cross-border passenger rail traffic between Romania and the Ukraine and between Romania and Hungary. Ultimately, the article is an interesting exploration of the effects borders can have on railroad geography. New borders meant new border crossings and requisite interstate agreements to work trains over these border crossings. The article ends on an optimistic note stating that further European integration will be the key to any hope of revitalizing severed railroad linkages.