Hungarians across borders - summary


Hungarians across borders - summary

Republikon Intézet

Republikon Institute held a conference titled Hungarians at home and abroad” 

The introduction was given by historian Bárdi Nándor, who presented the demography of Hungarians living outside of Hungary in the neighbouring countries. He discussed issues of migration, ageing, assimilation, ruralisation, and the loss of the middle class. Another focal point of the presentation was the effect of dual citizenship on the identity and opportunities of minority Hungarians. Bárdi Nándor highlighted that the financial support of Hungarians in the neighbouring countries from the Hungarian state budget has been increasing since 2010. This support targets economic and sports objectives, rather than cultural and educational ones, as before 2010. 

Debate: “One nation, several countries – the directions of national politics” between  Semjén Zsolt, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister with portfolio for National Politics, Church Politics and Church Diplomacy and Hiller István, former Minister for Education and Culture (2006-2010) 

According to Semjén Zsolt, the state with national politics aims to ensure the survival of the Hungarian nation. He compared the nation to a three-legged chair, whose legs are comprised of Hungary, the Carpathian basin, and all other places inhabited by Hungarians. In his opinion, people should be provided opportunities and inspiration to keep their Hungarian identity, rather than being forced to do so. Semjén Zsolt believes that granting Hungarian citizenship to the minority Hungarians in the neighbouring countries was an act of historical justice because they suffered a "spiritual Trianon" in the past by not being allowed to have citizenship. He thinks everyone should have as many citizenships as nations that they identify with. He thinks that funding to Hungarian communities abroad is used well. 

Hiller István believes that it is something of a miracle that the Hungarian nation exists, from a historical perspective. He does not believe that the nation is comprised of only those who speak or think in Hungarian, as there are historical examples of for instance German-speaking people who nonetheless identify as Hungarians. Currently, there are more Hungarians living in Germany than in Serbia, which is why he believes “Hungarians outside of Hungary” as a term should be used for these people too, not only those who live in the areas taken away from Hungary at the Peace of Trianon after World War I. Hiller István thinks that the atmosphere in the country is a factor influencing many people’s decision to emigrate. Besides economic indices, the happiness index and freedom of critical debate may also factor into this choice. EU membership in his opinion did not negatively affect nation-building, and he does not think that it is a good idea to weaken ties with the EU for this reason. 

In the panel discussion entitled "Crossing the border - where is the best place to be Hungarian?", Hungarian public figures from across the border presented their views on the situation of Hungarian communities abroad.

According to Szerbhorváth György, a writer, critic and sociologist from Vojvodina, the situation of Hungarians living in Vojvodina is absurd. As a result of the established one-party system, only a narrow elite class/oligarchs receive support. Contrary to Semjén Zsolt's claims, he believes that Hungarian subsidies are not spent the right way, corruption is rampant and there are hardly any contacts between Serbs and Hungarians. These factors lead to emigration. Szerbhorváth says there were also problems with the policies of previous governments, the whole system is flawed, and Vojvodina leaders are falling over the edge, with plans such as the creation of theatres or universities for which there is not enough demand.

György Dupka, a writer and NGO leader from Transcarpathia, spoke about the situation of Hungarians in Ukraine. He can come over from Ukraine because he is over the age of conscription, but men aged between 18 and 60 may be afraid of being conscripted. People are scared, many have been taken to join the army, and others are in hiding. NGOs and cultural organisations are trying to keep people's spirits up by organising cultural events and gatherings. They expect the government of Hungary to stand by them. They know that the language laws in Ukraine are not against Hungarians, but against Russians, yet that's still a problem - there is a Ukrainian class to be afraid of, but there are also those to work with.

Kerekes Vica, an actress from the Upper Hungary region in Slovakia, moves between Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. She speaks both languages and did not want to become a Hungarian citizen, partly because she is not very proud of being Hungarian due to the current political situation. She has been able to assert herself as a Hungarian in Slovakia, in a language-centric industry like theatre. In her opinion, the situation of minorities in Slovakia is favourable compared to other places, because Hungarians have opportunities to get into leading positions, for example, the current Slovak Prime Minister is of Hungarian origin. According to Kerekes Vica, the Hungarian government sends a lot of support to Slovakia, which makes Fidesz popular, but she believes that Hungarians in Slovakia should not only think about themselves but also about whether this government is leading Hungary in the right direction.

Ábel Ravasz is a sociologist and politician from the Upper Hungary region as well. He is a former government commissioner for Roma affairs in Slovakia and considers inter-ethnic politics to be very important. He believes that national politics is a balancing act between the nation-state, the minority and the motherland. He believes that the Slovakian Hungarians do not want to be a kind of "skanzen" and that the Hungarian government's goal is economic expansion under the “Matyó” banner. According to Ravasz Ábel, there is an important misunderstanding in these communities: they take subsidies from the Slovak government for granted and the money from Hungary as a gift, even though these subsidies come with political/ideological expectations.

Tompa Andrea is a Transylvanian writer and critic. Born and raised in Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca), she considers both Budapest and Kolozsvár as her home, although she had an experience of foreignness when she first moved to Budapest. In her opinion, the "resentful minority status" contributes to the fact that Hungarians living in Romania are not connected to the majority, they live almost in a separate world. Everybody wants to ask Hungary for support, they do not take advantage of the opportunities Romania offers, while Hungary, in her opinion, invests more than it is capable of in supporting minorities. This is poisoning the relationship between Hungarians in Transylvania and Hungarians in Hungary, according to her. As in Vojvodina, political colonisation exists in Transylvania, where the RMDSZ, the Hungarian party, has seized political power as an ally of Fidesz.

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