Arad (rendered as Арад in Serbian) is currently the 12th largest city in Romania and capital city of Arad County, historically situated in the Crişana region of western Romania. An important industrial center and transportation hub on the Mureș River, Arad is also the seat of a Romanian Orthodox archbishop and features two universities, a Romanian Orthodox theological seminary and a training school for teachers. It had one of the first music conservatories in Europe. The town was first mentioned in documents in the 11th century. The Mongol invasion of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1241 showed the importance of the fortifications on this place. The Ottoman Empire conquered the region from Hungary in 1551 and kept it until the Peace of Karlowitz of 1699. Arad became an eyalet center, which comprised the sanjaks of Arad, Lugoj, Kacaș, Beşlek and Yanova from 1660 till 1697, when it was captured by Austrians during Ottoman-Habsburg wars (1683–1699). After 1699, the city was ruled by the Habsburg Monarchy.
The new fortress was built between 1763 and 1783. Although it was small, it proved formidable having played a great role in the Hungarian struggle for independence in 1849. Courageously defended by the Austrian general Berger until the end of July 1849, it was captured by the Hungarian rebels, who made it their headquarters during the latter part of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. It was from Arad that Lajos Kossuth issued his famous proclamation (11 August 1849), and where he handed over the supreme military and civil power to Artúr Görgey. The fortress was recaptured shortly after the surrender at Világos (now Şiria, Romania), with the surrender of general Artúr Görgey to the Russians. Arad enjoyed great economic development in the 19th century. In 1834 it was declared a “free royal town” by Emperor Francis I of Austria. By 1910, the town had 63,166 inhabitants: 46,085 (73%) Hungarians, 10,279 (16.2%) Romanians, 4,365 (7%) Germans.
At the end of 1918, the final year of World War I, the collapse of Austria-Hungary led to the declaration of Union of Transylvania with Romania. The Romanians wanted to ensure the success of their territorial demands in the coming Peace Conference and to help the national aspirations of the Transylvanian Romanians. The crown council in Bucharest decided in favor of an attack and in April 1919 the Romanians launched a powerful offensive along the entire Hungarian-Romanian demarcation line which was set according to the Belgrade Armistice of 1918.
The town of Arad was occupied by the French from December 30, 1918, but with the Hungarian civilian administration preserved. Post offices were supplied with Hungarian stamps from Budapest until the end of March 1919. A Social Democrat and Communist “coalition” government was formed on March 21, and proclaimed the Hungarian Soviet Republic on the same day. Some days later the communists purged the social democrats from the government. The Hungarian Soviet Government proposed that Hungary be restructured as a federation. The proposal was intended to appeal to both domestic and foreign opinion.
The government had popular support, especially from the army. Most of the officers of the Hungarian army originated from areas that had been forcibly occupied by states bordering Hungary and this circumstance heightened its patriotic mood. The Communists, or “Reds”, came to power largely thanks to being the only group with an organized fighting force, and to their promising that Hungary would defend its territory without conscription (possibly with the help of the Soviet Red Army). Initially, most soldiers of Hungary’s Red Army were armed factory workers from Budapest. Later the Hungarian Red Army became a truly national army, the ranks of which were motivated by patriotism rather than ideology.
Romania had reentered World War I on November 10, 1918, King Ferdinand called for the mobilization of the Romanian Army and ordered it to attack over the Carpathian mountains into Transylvania. The end of World War I that followed very soon did not bring the end of fighting for the Romanian Army. The fighting continued later that year and into 1919 during the Hungarian–Romanian war. Between November 1918 and March 1919, the Romanian Army advanced up to the Western Carpathian Mountains. After the communists took power in Hungary, the Romanian Army overcame the Hungarian Red Army to reach the Tisza river. That August, the Romanian Army destroyed the Hungarian Army and occupied Budapest, ousting the communist regime of Béla Kun.
On May 5, 1919, a Hungarian counter-revolutionery government was formed in Arad and the Treaty of Trianon allocated it to Romania. The Romanian Army entered only half the city of Arad on May 17, 1919, when a Romanian censoring office was installed near the French one. The city was taken over entirely by the Romanians only on July 12, 1919.
During the French occupation, some forty general issue overprinted stamps were issued for Arad, plus three semi-postals, nine for postage due, and single special delivery and newspaper stamps. The Hungarian-supplied stamps were overprinted in Arad. However, these have been extensively forged to the extent that even the inexpensive values are difficult to find with genuine overprints. Although it wasn’t sold as such, I have to presume that my copy of Scott #1N6 pictured today is, in fact, a forgery. Characteristics of genuine overprints are that letters are separate and most letters have well-defined serifs. The crossbar of the ‘f’ is usually squared off. The ‘ç’ (cedilla) is simply an inverted ‘5’ with no upward recurve on genuine copies. The 15 franc violet stamp is overprinted in red on the Hungarian “Harvesting Wheat” issue of 1916 (Scott #114), lithographed and perforated 15 with the watermark showing a double cross.