There is a real chance that the proxy war between Ukraine and Russia will turn into one of the world’s military hot spots in the next few days. President Putin’s decision to recognise the statehood of the two separatist republics is a clear threat to Ukraine’s territorial integrity. A possible war between Russia and Ukraine would affect every part of our northeastern neighbour, including Transcarpathia. That is the only region in Ukraine where a considerable Hungarian minority live.
Based on the latest estimates, their number still reaches 120,000 people. Hungarians living in the region neither have positive experiences from the Soviet nor the Ukrainian era.
The leadership of Ukraine spent the last few years after the Maidan revolution (2013) with nation-building.
Trying to separate the Ukrainian nation, language, culture, economy as far as possible from Russia; however, they harmed almost all other ethnic minorities living in the country.
For example, they banned their language use in everyday life or schools, constantly threatened their leaders and inhibited the economic support programs trying to help them.
According to index.hu, the biggest question is whether the Russian “peacekeeping” troops would like to retrieve the whole territories of the Donetsk National Republic and the Luhansk National Republic Russia. If so, a war between the two armies is inevitable. That is because the two former Ukrainian counties leaving Kyiv’s rule in 2014 were much bigger than the areas the separatists control today.
Putin’s Monday announcement was followed by uncertainty among Hungarians living in Transcarpathia, a former territory of the Kingdom of Hungary today belonging to Ukraine. Sándor Seremet, a fellow expert of the Institute of Foreign Affairs and Trade and general secretary of the Transcarpathian Alliance, called attention that the constitutions of the two republics clearly state that they demand all territories of former Donetsk and Luhansk counties. The agreements on friendship and mutual assistance between Russia and the republics
do not mention conquests beyond the current borders.
Svetlana Zhurova, the deputy leader of the Russian State Duma’s international committee, confirmed that standpoint yesterday.
There is no panic among the Hungarians living in Transcarpathia. There has been a conflict since 2014, but that remained on a local level. Even so, Hungarians were brought to the Eastern front back then. However, it is not likely that the conflict will escalate to territories inhabited by Hungarians. However, all other impacts will concern them. Currently, there is no military mobilisation, but that can change provided an invasion begins from the republics.
However, it seems that Moscow’s goal is to reduce the impacts of the economic sanctions. It is not yet clear whether Russia would like to integrate the republics or not. The Ukrainian president made it clear that he was not interested in escalating the conflict. Nevertheless, the loss of the Eastern territories will significantly harm his popularity.
The only similarity between Donetsk and Transcarpathia is the ethnic minorities living there. Mr Seremet said that Kyiv uses the “Hungarian card” only if they have nothing else. Therefore, it is imaginable that the rights of the minorities including Hungarians will be reduced after the loss of the two eastern regions.
Transcarpathian Hungarians can become a hostage of this situation since they are an easy target. They have all the attributes to be charged with separatism if Kyiv wants to. However, Seremet added that Hungary is not Russia, so only a few consider the “Hungarian threat” feasible. They only use that to reach domestic political goals.
Kyiv can make the Hungarian community living in Transcarpathia a problem they can easily “solve” by, for example, cutting back their language rights. However, such scenarios are yet theoretic, and Mr Seremet hopes that will not change.
Of course, some voices constantly suggest the Russian rule would be better for the Hungarians living in Ukraine than Kyiv’s. András Rácz, a senior fellow of the German Council on Foreign Relations, shared a long post in his Facebook account in the issue. He argues that “in case of Ukraine’s military defeat, there is no guarantee at all, that a new, pro-Russian (puppet)government in Kyiv would be any more tolerant towards the non-Russian national minorities than Ukraine’s current, democratically elected leadership. This includes not only Hungarians but all minorities connected to EU and NATO member countries: Poles, Romanians, Bulgarians, Greeks, etc. Instead of any tolerance, quite the opposite is likely, namely the dominance of the same securitised logic that we have seen in the Crimea.
All in all: in case of Ukraine’s military defeat, most probably hell would await the Hungarians in Transcarpathia, concerning both economic-infrastructural and political aspects. So, be careful, what you wish for.“
Source: index.hu, Facebook, DNH