The term “Hungarians living across the border” is used primarily for the Hungarian population living in the territories detached from the country after the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, in what is now Austria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine.
Most of the Hungarians living in the territories annexed since the Treaty of Trianon after 1920 live in Romania (around 1.5 million people), followed by Slovakia (about 500,000 people), Serbia (approximately 300,000 people), Ukraine (around 170,000 people), Austria (around 70,000 people), Croatia (around 14,000 people) and finally Slovenia (around 10.000 people).
Although there have been many projects and initiatives to help the minorities abroad, there are still problems that have been going on for decades, which may even complicate the daily lives of minorities in a given country.
Ukraine (Transcarpathia) and the problem of education
Transcarpathia in geopolitical terms is a continuation of the Highlands (Northeast Highlands). The name of the area (Transcarpathia) was developed at the end of World War I.
In 2017, with the appearance of a new educational law, the Hungarian language teaching got endangered.
The law on general secondary education is not in force today, and the part governing the language of schooling is uncertain. Still, based on what has been said so far, the legislature can divide the citizens of Ukraine into four groups based on ethnolinguistics: in the first group there are the Ukrainians, the second group includes representatives of indigenous peoples (currently Crimean Tatars) and the third category: Hungarians, Romanians, Poles, Bulgarians.
The people in this group are entitled to study in their own language in the elementary school, i.e. 1-4. classes, but from fifth grade the language of education is changed. In fifth grade, a minimum of 20 per cent of the annual number of courses will already be taught in the state language, and in ninth grade, that proportion must reach a minimum of 40 per cent. From the tenth till the twelfth grades they have to study at least 60 per cent of the annual courses in Ukrainian.
There is also a fourth case: the non-EU-speaking national minorities, Russians and Belarusians. From the 5th grade onwards, they study at least 80 per cent of the annual courses in the state language.
This significant change in education can greatly influence and hinder the learning results of young people who do not speak the state language perfectly. It can also contribute to linguistic assimilation.
Slovakia and the problem of citizenship
The history of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia began with the formation of the first Czechoslovak Republic on October 28, 1918.
In May 2010, the Slovak government passed a legislation which will result in the loss of the Slovakian citizenship for those who acquire citizenship in another country.
In 2020, Prime Minister Igor Matovič, winner of the February parliamentary elections, has already responded that “the government will allow long-term residents of other countries to acquire its citizenship without losing the Slovakian.”
The problem starts with the obligation of having a residence permit or a registered residence in the country’s territory for at least three years. The interesting thing is that those with Czechoslovakian ascendants can apply for Slovakian citizenship immediately after registering their residence in Slovakia, while, for example, a Slovakian from Békéscsaba has to have a registered residence for at least three years to be able to apply. Thus, the amendment does not help those who became Hungarian citizens by living in Slovakia at all.
Romanians vs Hungarians
The General Assembly of Gyulafehérvár in 1918 declared the unification of Transylvania with the Kingdom of Romania. According to the Treaty of Trianon, in addition to Transylvania, a significant part of the Eastern Great Plain (the territory of the former Partium and Eastern-Bánát) was also annexed to Romania. This marked the beginning of the Romanian policy of assimilating the Hungarian minority by force.
During World War II, as a result of the Second Vienna Decision, Hungary regained most of the Hungarian-inhabited areas of Transylvania. The area belonged to the Hungarian state for four years, but after the war, it returned to Romania again. During the period of retaliation, the Romanian chauvinists killed many Hungarians; to hear someone speaking Hungarian was enough to murder them.
But the hardships of the Hungarians in Romania did not end here: in 1965, power was taken over by Nicolae Ceaușescu, who built a personal cult, intensified political repression, and was openly anti-Hungarian.
Nowadays, the state of Hungarians living in Romania is not desperate, as the use of the mother tongue, the education in Hungarian language and the application for Hungarian citizenship are all allowed. But there is another, hidden problem: the Romanian-Hungarian hostility.
Perhaps the issue of hostility, which has now been identified in several studies, can be traced back to its historical background. There are several examples of Romanian-Hungarian conflicts, which caused national outrage. For example, the case of the military cemetery in Valea Uzului (Úzvölgye) in 2019 (read more HERE).
The aspiration for the autonomy of Szeklerland or the independence of Transylvania from Romania may also indicate conflicts between the two communities, but this could also be the signs of the endeavours of the freedom of the Hungarian minority. It has to be mentioned as well that newer generations are more open to living together peacefully. There can be found many examples of Romanian-Hungarian cooperation and joint projects all over the area.
Source: Daily News Hungary