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Kálmán Tisza

Kálmán Tisza
Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Hungary
In office
October 20, 1875 – March 13, 1890
Monarch Francis Joseph I
Preceded by Béla Wenckheim
Succeeded by Gyula Szapáry
Personal details
Born (1830-12-16)December 16, 1830
Nagyvárad, Kingdom of Hungary
Died March 23, 1902(1902-03-23) (aged 71)
Budapest, Hungary
Nationality Hungarian
Political party Left Centre
Liberal Party
Spouse(s) Ilona Degenfeld-Schomburg
Relations István Tisza

Kálmán Tisza de Borosjenő (archaically English: Coloman Tisza, or Koloman Tisza; December 16, 1830 – March 23, 1902) was the Hungarian prime minister between 1875 and 1890. He is credited for the formation of a consolidated Magyar government, the foundation of the new Liberal Party (1875) and major economic reforms that would both save and eventually lead to a government with popular support. He is the longest-serving head of government in the history of Hungary.


  • Political career 1
    • Reform of the House of Magnates in Hungary 1.1
    • Economic Reform 1.2
  • Legacy 2

Political career

At the age of 18, Kálmán Tisza witnessed one of the greatest reformations of the political arena in Hungarian history. Hungary changed from being a feudalistic government into a newly establish constitutional government that had many of the components of modern day governments. Legislation such as Public Law III abolished the Royal Chancellery and the Residential Council and replacing them with a bicameral parliament (House of Lords and House of Representatives). Democratic seeds were also sown with Public Law V that allowed 6.5% of the population to vote (Janos 85). And finally the union of traditional Magyar lands under Public Law VI and VII allowed for a united Hungary. These powerful reforms led to a nationalist revolt that led to the overthrow of the Habsburg monarchs during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

Kálmán Tisza 1865

With the defeat of the Hungarians during the rebellion, much, if not all, of the reforms were revoked and replaced with a military administration under Haynau. Though the counterrevolution ended the parliamentary style government of Hungary, it did not destroy the seeds that were planted by those reforms. During 1859 and 1860, after seeing the Hungarian popular support for the Italians during the Austro-Italian wars, Austria began to try new constitutional experiments in Hungary. During this period Kálmán Tisza was first elected into the newly formed government. Then, in 1867, Tisza took part, with Parliament, in negotiations with Emperor Franz Joseph I that led to the Ausgleich or the Compromise of 1867. The importance of this document is that it restored the "Constitutional integrity of Hungary" (Janos 90), with the exception over the powers of defense and foreign relations. These minor concessions by the Emperor soon collated and restored the powers, concerning internal affairs, back to the Hungarians. These concessions soon laid the path that allowed Tisza to rise to the position of Prime Minister. In 1875. he established the Liberal Party and was elected to the position of Prime Minister of Hungary. The efficiency of the government was quite weak and his actions during his 15-year reign mainly consisted of reforms of the government and the economy.

The newly born government bureaucracy of Hungary was inefficient and lacked a centralized government. One of the first acts performed under the premiership of Kálmán Tisza was the consolidation of power and transforming the bureaucracy into a single powerful machine: “The bureaucracy was in charge of the elections and perpetuating the liberal majority, while parliament and the party would lend an aura of legitimacy to bureaucratic policies and provide a forum to articulate bureaucratic interests” (Janos 97). Kálmán Tisza achieved consolidation of power within the government while Parliament simply acted to legitimize those actions. Consolidation of power also consisted of the reform of an incumbent parliament where members came to hold their seats regularly without challenge.

Reform of the House of Magnates in Hungary

469 members were removed under the provisions of the Parliament Act. The number of Members set to 369 members: 205 hereditary peers, 83 church dignitaries, and a new feature, 81 life members. Aristocratic titles were still given by the imperial power but hereditary and life peerages were to be awarded upon the advice of the Prime Minister who, in case of emergency, could seek the appointment of new members to secure the passage of a particular piece of legislation (Janos 99). These reforms allowed the position of the Prime Minister to be the single most important actor in the Hungarian political arena. These reforms by Tisza allowed him to consolidate power within the Hungarian government and also remove much of the influence extended by the Austrians. He helped to finally set in stone the shift of Hungarian political dependence away from the Austrians.

Economic Reform

In the period between 1869 and 1875, with the founding of the new Hungarian political system, the Hungarians chose to style their economic system under a French model. The problem they encountered was that their current political system was more advanced in comparison to their archaic economic system. For example, taxation of the people came in the form of quasi-military campaigns that only raised taxes by 11% (Janos 106), while it embittered the rural population. Thus, these 6 years were known as a period of poor management of the economy by a failing government. When Tisza came to power in 1875, he consolidated the economy in many ways similar to his power consolidation of the government. He initiated taxation reforms that saved the state from bankruptcy. In 1887, Sándor Wekerle became the Minister of Finance. He worked with Tisza to develop a new tax system that focused on the taxation of land. The successes of these reforms were tremendous, even though the land tax increased by 30%, the revenues of the government increased by 330% (Janos 108). Between 1880 and 1895, public revenue doubled due to the successful tax reforms. Though the Tisza-Wekerle system saved the government from bankruptcy, the tax system proved to be too harsh and eventually prevented the rise of a domestic market for the products produced by Hungary.


The contributions made by Kálmán Tisza during his 15-year reign were quite tremendous. Although he was born during the midst of a failing Austrian Imperial government in Hungary and he had inherited a failing Hungarian Constitutional government, he managed to turn Hungary into a modern state. He saved his country from going completely bankrupt and consolidated and created an efficient centralized

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