|Intolerance in Slovakia: The Opressive "Language Law"|
9/29/2011 - Federation again raises minority rights. In a letter to Knut Vollebaek, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, the Federation again raises anti-Hungarian measures in Slovakia and Serbia and requests the High Commissioner's clarification of reports in the electronic media asserting that he had labeled Hungary's support for Slovakia's Hungarian minority "malicious and foolish."
The letter appears below and it availaible for [download]
September 28, 2011
His Excellency Knut Vollebaek
Dear High Commissioner:
In our February 15, 2010 letter, we turned to you to express our concern about the continuing intolerance in Slovakia toward its Hungarian minority as manifested by the discriminatory language law. I reiterated that concern to you personally on March 11 during your trip to Washington, D.C. and then in my March 22 follow-up letter. Both letters are attached hereto for easy reference.
We appealed to you directly because your office has jurisdiction to address matters relating to anti-minority policies and practices and because Western, including European, responses to Slovakia's anti-Hungarian measures had been tepid at best.
You can imagine our surprise when we read reports in the electronic media asserting that you had allegedly labeled Hungary's support for Slovakia's Hungarian minority "malicious and foolish," even though it was Slovakia that enacted an ill-advised, discriminatory and provocative law -- a law that violates both the spirit and letter of Western norms as well as Slovakia's express promises to respect minority rights. We doubt that you would consider the party -- Hungary -- "malicious" and "foolish" for championing the rights of Hungarians when it was unilateral Slovak violations of human and minority rights that precipitated incredulity and restrained protest by Hungary.
We respectfully urge that in order to clear up the confusion caused by the media reports, you issue a clarification of your views and a statement of unequivocal support for the rights of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia. Unfortunately, Slovakia once again has given cause for such admonition.
The President of Slovakia recently falsely labeled Janos Esterhazy, the only member of Slovakia’s parliament to vote against the deportation of Jews in 1942, a follower of Hitler and fascism and opposed the unveiling of a sculpture in Esterhazy’s memory in Kosice (Kassa). Esterhazy died in a Czechoslovak prison in 1957. Although Russia has done so, Slovakia still refuses to exonerate him, despite the efforts of Simon Wiesenthal and others.
It has been reported that Slovakia has deprived more than 100 Slovak Hungarians of their citizenship for applying for dual citizenship. Extending dual citizenship is a practice widely accepted in Europe, including Central and Eastern Europe.
Slovakia's unduly restrictive citizenship law is the most recent and inexplicable expression of intolerance toward its Hungarian minority. As such, it must not be ignored, and it would be
An emerging issue involving another Hungarian community is the discriminatory compensation law just passed by Serbia that appears to exclude ethnic Hungarians of Vojvodina from compensation on the objectionable principle of collective guilt – a violation of the rule of law.
As these practices should not be ignored, we appreciate your attention to them and look forward to your efforts to further democracy, including tolerance and minority rights, in this region.
Levélben szólította fel álláspontjának tisztázására Knut Vollebaeket, az EBESZ kisebbségügyi főbiztosát a szlovákiai magyar kisebbség helyzetével és az annak nyújtott magyarországi támogatással kapcsolatban az Amerikai Magyar Szövetség, amiről csütörtökön értesítette az MTI washingtoni irodáját.
Az AMSZ a Koszorús Ferenc elnök által jegyzett levelében meglepetésének adott hangot azokkal a (a WikiLeaks-kiszivárogtatás alapján megjelent) sajtójelentésekkel kapcsolatban, amelyek szerint Kurt Vollebaek "rosszindulatúnak" és "ostobának" minősítette Magyarországnak a szlovákiai magyar kisebbségnek nyújtott támogatását. Annak ellenére, hogy Pozsony egy olyan "meggondolatlan, diszkriminatív és provokatív" nyelvtörvényt léptetett életbe, amely megsérti a nyugati normákat, csakúgy, mint Szlovákiának a kisebbségi jogok betartására tett nyilvános ígéreteit.
Az ÁMSZ kételyét fejezte ki azzal kapcsolatban, hogy a főbiztos ezeket a jelzőket használta volna Magyarországgal kapcsolatban, miközben éppen Szlovákia volt az, amely egyoldalúan megsértette az emberi és a kisebbségi jogokat, ami hitetlenséget és visszafogott tiltakozást váltott ki Magyarországon.
"Tisztelettel sürgetjük, hogy a sajtójelentések által keltett zavar eloszlatása érdekében bocsásson ki felvilágosítást nézeteiről, és egy nyilatkozatot, amelyben egyértelműen támogatja a magyar kisebbség jogait Szlovákiában" - hangzott a levél, amely szerint Szlovákia ismét okot adott az ilyen figyelmeztetésre.
Koszorús Ferenc felhívta Knut Vollebaek figyelmét arra, hogy a szlovák köztársasági elnök hamisan hitleristának és fasisztának bélyegezte Esterházy Jánost, és ellenezte, hogy Kassán szobrot avassanak a tiszteletére, noha ő volt a szlovák parlament egyetlen olyan képviselője, aki 1942-ben a zsidók deportálása ellen szavazatott. A levél felhívta a főbiztos figyelmét, hogy bár már Oroszország is felmentette Esterházyt, Szlovákia ezt még nem tette meg.
Az AMSZ levele szerint eddig több mint 100, kettős állampolgárságért folyamodó szlovákiai magyart fosztottak meg a szlovák állampolgárságától, noha ez egy széles körben elterjedt európai intézmény. A levél azt is Knut Vollebaek tudomására kívánta hozni, hogy Szerbiában olyan kárpótlási törvényt fogadtak el, amely a kollektív bűnösség elve alapján a kedvezményezettek köréből a jelek szerint kizárta a vajdasági magyarságot.
[ MTI cikk magyarul] "Álláspontjának Tisztázására Szólította Fel az EBESZ Kisebbségügyi Főbiztosát az Amerikai Magyar Szövetség" - MTI 2011. szeptember 30., péntek 1:14
LANGUAGE laws may protect minority rights or infringe them. Slovakia’s new law, which comes into force on September 1st, is under fire for its harshness. It imposes fines of up to €5,000 ($7,000) on those who break rules promoting the use of Slovak in public. [read more]
Why So Many Hungarians Across the Border?
One thousand years of nation building successfully delineated groups based on culture, religion, geography, and other attributes to create the countries with which we are so familiar. While some Western European nations would continue power struggles and princely battles and civil wars, Hungary, founded in 896, was a peaceful multi-ethnic state for a 1000 years and her borders were virtually unchanged. Until 1920...
The Treaty of Trianon in 1920... in the aftermath of WWI, was extremely harsh on Hungary and unjustifiably one-sided. The resulting "treaty" lost Hungary an unprecedented 2/3 of her territory, and 1/2 of her total population or 1/3 of her Hungarian-speaking population. Add to this the loss of up to 90% of vast natural resources, industry, railways, and other infrastructure.
In the newly created Slovakia, the tragedy of 1920 that befell the historic Hungarian communities was only the beginning. The Benes Decrees sent millions of people, who had lived in the region for many centuries, off in sealed wagons, away from their homes, their families - not to mention the odd ones who died on the trip. Tens of thousands of these were Hungarian. More recently, the Slovak Language Law makes the use of the minority language in official communication punishable in towns and villages where the ethnic community makes up less than 20 percent of the total population. The amendment requires that all documentation of minority schools should be duplicated in the state language. The law stipulates that the names of streets and buildings anywhere in Slovakia must be stated in the Slovak language [despite 1100-year-old tradition] and it also introduces sanctions of 100 to 5000 euros for municipalities and public offices for not using the Slovak language "properly."
The following graphic shows ethnic distribution in Slovakia and population decline from 1910 - 1991:
Ethnic Distribution in the Kingdom of Hungary in 1910 (Hungarians shown in red)
Hungarian populations declined significantly after forced removals such as the Benes Decrees and other pograms, the effects of WWI, and Trianon in 1920. With continued pressure and discriminative policies such as the 2009 Slovak Language Law, this trend continued over the past 90 years.
By Any Other Name: Hungary, Apartheid,
and the Benes Decrees
These decrees sent millions of people, who had lived in the region for many centuries, off in sealed wagons, away from their homes, their families - not to mention the odd ones who died on the trip.
WHAT THE BENES DECREES SAY
One may be forgiven for suspecting, by the casual way the Benes Decrees are often disparaged by commentators, that many of those who write about the Decrees have never taken the trouble to [read them].
Living as I have for over 20 years in South Africa, I know this language well. It is the language of Apartheid.
There is no moral difference, to my mind, in withdrawing civil rights, confiscating private property and deporting people, whether they be Black South Africans sent to some "Homeland/Bantustan," or Armenians, or deported Chechens, or Germans and Hungarians.
The Hungarians who lived in what is now Slovakia and Trans-Carpathian Ukraine (which was given to Stalin by a grateful Benes in 1945) were more than one million strong in 1910. By 1930, thanks to the above-mentioned "administrative" cleansing, their numbers had been reduced to 585,434. After Hungary reclaimed its lands in 1939, people began moving back to their homes. In 1941-45, there were about 761,000 in what is today Slovakia alone. [read more]
The "Benes Decrees" began in the mind of Czech statesman Edvard Benes sometime in 1940. He made some quite clear statements about his plans by 1941. The plans? To kill and/or expel all people of German or Hungarian ethnicity/language from a reunited Czechoslovakia, which had fallen apart at the start of the war. This is the sort of thing you would expect from a Himmler or a Beria, not a guy who is lionised in Western history books, and generally books about Central Europe, as the only true "democrat" in the region. But Czechoslovakia was never a complete democracy. Just as interwar Hungary, or Poland, or Yugoslavia, were not. Not quite. In Czechoslovakia, designed as a "national homeland" for Slavs, the Slavic Rusyns had to have two votes to equal one Czech vote! Democracy? [read more]
THE PRESIDENTIAL DECREES
OF EDWARD BENES
The first Czechoslovak Republic (1918-1938) was recreated in 1945 at the end of World War II and existed until the end of 1992. In both cases, Czechoslovakia utterly failed to form a governmental structure that secured freedom, prosperity, peace, and equal rights for all citizens of the state.
In 1918, the newly founded Czechoslovak Republic was entirely carved out of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy by a unilateral decision of the victorious entente powers. The dictated peace treaties of Versailles, Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Trianon were not an outcome of a true peace conference at which the defeated would also have been given the opportunity to enunciate the limits of acceptable conditions for peace. Such a peace conference was never assembled.
The Versailles peace treaty with Germany was condemned by non-interested parties. In fact, the US Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, had declared that "the Versailles treaty menaces the existence of civilization," and two popes had stigmatized the instrument. Benedict XV condemned it for "the lack of an elevated sense of justice, the absence of dignity, morality or Christian nobility," and Pius XI, in his 1922 encyclical "Ubi arcam Dei," deplored an artificial peace set down on paper "which instead of arousing noble sentiments increases and legitimizes the spirit of vengeance and rancour."
The peace treaty of Trianon (1920) with Hungary resulted in the dismemberment of the thousand- year- old Hungarian Kingdom, as a result of an unbelievably inimical attitude of the allied representatives toward the Magyars. The consequence to Hungary was a loss of 71.5% of its territory and 63.6% of its population. The extreme tragedy of Hungary can be illustrated by comparing the smaller losses in 1871 of France to Germany, in which France gave up 2.6% of its territory and 4.1% of its population to Germany. The Trianon treaty forced three and a half million Magyars to live, without their consent, in Czechoslovakia, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenians and Rumania, with the stroke of a pen. The right of self-determination of nations, solemnly promised in the 14 points of US President Woodrow Wilson, was apparently forgotten. [more]
The Hungarian Problem
Newly Elected Prime Minister Viktor Orban said it well: "The borders of the Hungarian nation and the Hungarian State do not coincide." This is true, as witness the fact that fully one-third of all Hungarians are minorities in neighbouring countries, most just on the far side of the border.
This is, naturally, a problem for Hungarians. It is also a problem for all the states who got Hungarian lands. Many in neighbouring countries, and politicians in many more, have said in the past, and no doubt will say in the future: "Why don't they just go home?!!" But they are home!
They are home in the sense that they, as communities, haven't moved anywhere. They just woke up one morning to be told: "You are now a Czechoslovak, you are a Romanian, you are a Yugoslav." This first happened in 1918-20, when Hungary was partitioned by the infamous Trianon Treaty, which was not a treaty at all, but a diktat enforced by occupying Entente Armies. In the late 1930's, Hungary got some portions of its territories back, but after losing yet another war, the borders were tightened even more in 1947.
The key weakness of these treaties was that neither ever asked - or cared - what the local population wanted. Did they want to join a new state (e.g., Czechoslovakia) did they want to stay with Hungary, or did they want independence or autonomy or what?
The fact that these questions have never even been asked, let alone answered, in a supposedly democratic age, remains the central problem of the Hungarian minorities in the countries immediately surrounding Hungary. [more] [back to all AHF news]
..."the American government accepts, against its better judgment, the decision not to announce a plebiscite in the matter of the final drafting of frontiers. He believes that in many respects the frontiers do not correspond to the ethnic requisite, nor to economic necessity, and that significant modifications would be in order, particularly in the Ruthenian area." Later on Wallace submitted for the consideration of the Great Powers proposals with regard to a restoration of the economic unity of the Danubian states. The American initiative, however, came too late ... The only thing left was the Millerand cover letter, which did not oblige anyone to do anything!
The Hungarian peace delegation signed the peace treaty consisting of 14 points at the so-called Great Trianon palace, near Paris, on June 4, 1920. Hungary's fate was determined for an unforeseeable future by the second part of the treaty which defined the new borders. According to this section Hungary's area (without Croatia) would be reduced from 282,000 km2 to 93,000 km2, whereas its population decreased from 18 million to 7.6 million. This meant that Hungary lost two thirds of its territory, whereas Germany lost but 10 percent and Bulgaria but 8 percent to the benefit of their victorious neighbors.
As regards population, Hungary lost more than 60 percent of its inhabitants as opposed to the 10 percent lost by Germany. In the lands taken away from Hungary there lived approximately 10 million persons. Persons of Hungarian nationality constituted 3,424,000 in the areas taken away from Hungary. Of these 1,084,000 were attached to Czechoslovakia, 1,705,000 to Romania, 564,000 to Yugoslavia, and 65,000 to Austria. Thus 33.5 percent of all Hungarians came under foreign rule, i.e., every third Hungarian. For the sake of comparison. while the treaties of Versailles and Neuilly placed only one German or one Bulgarian out of every twenty under foreign rule, the Trianon treaty placed seven out of twenty Hungarians in the same position.
Furthermore about one half of the Hungarian minority attached to the neighboring states was ethnically directly next to the main body of Hungarians on the other side of the borders. Had the peace treaties signed in the Paris suburbs really tried to bring about, however incidentally, nation-states, then it would have had to leave at least 11/4 to 2 million more Hungarians inside Hungary. In contrast the 42 million inhabitants of the successor states there were about 16 million minorities, as a consequence of which Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia became multinational states much like the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy had been. What is more, according to the census of 1910 the percentage of Hungarians in Hungary had reached 54.4 percent, whereas in the nations that came about as a result of the peace treaties, in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, the leading Czech and Serbian elements constituted but a minority as compared to the other ethnic groups.
The Treaty of Trianon was a great blow to Hungary in economic terms as well. Hungary was deprived of 62.2 percent of its railroad network, 73.8 percent of its public roads, 64.6 percent of its canals, 88 percent of its forests, 83 percent of its iron ore mines and of all its salt mines.
At the Peace Conference the Entente powers, in order to satisfy the imperialist greed of their allies in central Europe, cut across roads, canals, railroad lines, split cities and villages in two, deprived mines of their entrances, etc.
There was but one modification of the frontier: thanks to Italian intercession
and the stand taken by patriotic forces in Western Hungary, a plebiscite
was obtained in Sopron and its environs. At the plebiscite of December
4, 1921, 65 percent of the population opted for Hungary.
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