|News from Slovakia: AHF Letter to Jan Kubis on Intolerance|
11/23/08 - AHF Submits Letter Regarding Intolerance in Slovakia -- On November 21, 2008, the American Hungarian Federation submitted a letter to Slovak Foreign Minister Jan Kubis who was visiting Washington, D.C. The Federation's letter raised concern over the intolerant and discriminatory policies and practices aimed at Slovakia's Hungarian minority.
After identifying several concerns, the Federation's letter highlighted "two steps that would be highly symbolic and help to begin to remove the stain of intolerance," namely "the: (1) repeal of those provisions of the Benes decrees that imposed collective guilt on Hungarians after the Second World War and still adversely affect Hungarians; and (2) rehabilitation of Janos Esterhazy who as leader of the Hungarian Party in Tiso's Fascist Slovakia was the only Member of Parliament to vote against the deportation of Jews in 1942, yet who died in a Czechoslovak prison.
November 21, 2008
Dear Mr. Minister:
The American Hungarian Federation, founded in 1906, supports democracy, the respect for the rule of law and minority rights in Central and Eastern Europe. We congratulate you for working with the Victims of Communism Foundation in Washington, D.C. to preserve the history of a scourge of the 20th century - Communism.
Among the many inhuman manifestations of that “ism” was the intolerance toward national, linguistic and religious minorities living behind the Iron Curtain, including the members of the Hungarian historical community in Czechoslovakia. The road toward democracy since the fall of the Berlin Wall has not been smooth; old impulses unfortunately have not disappeared and are evident in Slovakia insofar as the Hungarian minority is still subjected both to discriminatory policies and to an intolerance that is neither addressed nor condemned by Slovak officials.
For example, Slovakia incomprehensibly denies Hungarians the right to effectively participate in public affairs, particularly in matters affecting them, or in other words the right to autonomy. Restrictions on the right of that minority to be educated in the mother tongue are indefensible. Slovak National Party chairman Jan Slota’s xenophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-Hungarian outbursts, e.g., “Hungarians are the cancer of the Slovak nation, without delay we need to remove them from the body of the nation,” and why such vituperative statements are tolerated by the government are simply beyond comprehension. This hate mongering, especially by a government coalition party, has had a pernicious influence on Slovak society, as evidenced by a poll taken by the Open Society Foundation and the Center for Research of Ethnics and Culture in which 63.3% of the student respondents said that Hungarians should speak only Slovak in public places. Even more disturbing are incidents such as the “Death to Hungarians” graffiti that appeared in Nyitracsehi (Cechynce) this month. In sum, these shocking policies and practices are unacceptable to Americans and are inconsistent with the principles of democracy and Western values. Moreover, they cause inter and intra-state tensions that undermine stability in the region.
In addition to the resolution of the issues noted above (and others), two steps that would be highly symbolic and help to begin to remove the stain of intolerance would be the: (1) repeal of those provisions of the Benes decrees that imposed collective guilt on Hungarians after the Second World War and still adversely affect Hungarians; and (2) rehabilitation of Janos Esterhazy who as leader of the Hungarian Party in Tiso’s Fascist Slovakia was the only Member of Parliament to vote against the deportation of Jews in 1942, yet who died in a Czechoslovak prison.
Frank Koszorus, Jr.
A szervezet szerint Szlovákiának hatályon kívül kell helyeznie a Beneš-dekrétumok azon cikkelyeit, amelyek kollektív bűnösséggel vádolták a magyarokat a második világháború után és még mindig hátrányosan érintik a magyarokat. Ezenkívül rehabilitálni kell Esterházy Jánost, aki a Magyar Párt vezetőjeként Tiso fasiszta Szlovákiájában a parlament egyetlen olyan tagja volt, aki a zsidók deportálása ellen szavazott 1942-ben, ennek ellenére egy csehszlovák börtönben halt meg.
Az Amerikai Magyar Szövetség a levélben úgy foglalt állást, hogy a magyar kisebbséggel szemben még mindig diszkriminatív politika és intolerancia érvényesül. Az AHF kifejtette: "Szlovákia érthetetlen módon megtagadja a magyaroktól azt a jogot, hogy ténylegesen részt vegyenek a közügyekben, különösen az őket érintő kérdésekben, vagyis más szavakkal az autonómia jogát". A levélben az is olvasható: "védhetetlenek a kisebbség anyanyelvén történő oktatáshoz való jogának korlátozásai".
Az AHF leszögezte: az amerikaiak számára elfogadhatatlan a Szlovákiában tapasztalt megdöbbentő politika és gyakorlat, amely nem egyeztethető össze a demokrácia elveivel és a nyugati értékekkel. Sőt, államon belüli és államok közötti feszültségeket okoz, amelyek aláaknázzák a régió stabilitását. A szövetség példaként említette Ján Slotának, a koalíciós Szlovák Nemzeti Párt elnökének idegengyűlölő, antiszemita és magyarellenes kitöréseit. Az AHF szerint teljességgel érthetetlen, hogy a kormány miért tűri el Slota gyalázkodó kijelentéseit. Az amerikai szervezet különösen riasztónak ítéli az olyan eseteket, mint a "Halál a magyarokra" graffiti, amelyet e hónapban Nyitracsehiben (Cechynce) fújtak egy táblára. Az AHF Ján Kubisnak küldött levelét Frank Koszorús, a szervezet társelnöke írta alá. (MTI) [Leltoltes]
12/5/2011 - American-Hungarian Federation turns to US Congress over widening Slovak citizenship row. The American-Hungarian Federation has turned to the US Congress Helsinki Commission with an appeal for it to take action in the case of a Slovak of Hungarian origin who has been stripped of his citizenship on the ground that he took up Hungarian citizenship, the alliance’s chairman told MTI. [read more]
[ 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]
<< The use of Hungarian in official communication is now punishable: Read about the Slovak Language Law
<< Slovakia stripping citizenship of ethnic Hungarians: Read about the anti-Hungarian Citizenship Act
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.
Help us help the community! Donate securely online.[back to all AHF news]