News from Transcarpathia (Ukraine):
The Forgotten and Repressed Hungarian Minority
AHF Statements on Ukraine:
3/27/2014 - Paprika Politik published article by AHF President entitled, "Strengthen Ukraine by Strengthening Minority Rights:" As Russia completes the annexation of Crimea, creating a fait accompli probably impossible to reverse, the situation in Ukraine proper remains fraught with uncertainty. For the Hungarian minority in Ukraine the situation is especially precarious, particularly in light of a proposed ban on minority languages currently being pushed by nationalists in the Ukrainian parliament. While the legislation is currently stalled, it is essential that the United States and the European Union remind those Ukrainians hostile towards ethnic minorities that, as noted by World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, “one of the basic tenets of liberal democracy is that minority rights are protected.” This is especially important because the backlash to the loss of Crimea could fuel ultra-nationalism and intolerance. [read more]
3/10/2014 - Ukraine: AHF Releases another Statement on the Plight of the Hungarian Minority in Transcarpathia. "Minority rights is a dimension to the complexity of Ukraine and the region that perhaps is laden with less immediate strategic significance but one that calls out for immediate attention to dispel the fear of perpetual conflict and to promote a democratic Ukraine. What is too often overlooked relates to the treatment of national minorities generally and specifically to Ukraine’s close to 200,000 ethnic Hungarians who live in western Sub-Carpathia, an area which was part of Hungary." [read more]
2/28/2014 - AHF Releases Statement in Connection with Recent Events in Ukraine calling attention to the plight of the Hungarian minority in Transcarpathia Ukraine. AHF urges the transitional government in Ukraine to fulfill the spirit of democracy as government for the people, by the people, and respect pluralism, the rule of law, and the rights of the Hungarian minority, including their democratically asserted right to autonomy. [read more]
A coherent analysis and strategy vis-à-vis Ukraine and Transcarpathia requires a deeper understanding of multiple dimensions - political, historical and cultural. This is especially true of Transcarpathia (sub-Carpathia, Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia, Zakarpattia Oblast), home to a sizeable indigenous Hungarian community. AHF cautions against a simplistic view vis-a-vis Ukraine.
Multi-ethnic Ukraine is often divided beyond just East vs West to include significant historical and cultural differences and differing national identities. For example, many commentators miss an important nuance when they claim that Transcarpathia was an area of Ukraine merely dominated by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The region was never part of Ukraine until Stalin annexed it to the Soviet Union after World War II.
Transcarpathia (Zakarpattia Oblast) as it is known today, was part of Hungary for over 1100 years (since 896) and was the site of the Chieftan Arpad’s and his troops first crossing into the Carpathian Basin. Many centuries later, the region, while still an integral part of Hungary, would ALSO become part of Austria-Hungary. It is still home to a sizeable Hungarian community and was always a peaceful multi-ethnic region. The Treaty of Trianon cost Hungary 2/3 of her historic territory and 1/3 of her ethnic Hungarian population. Without plebiscite, the allies first gave the Transcarpathian region and all of Upper Hungary to a newly formed Czechoslovakia. Under Red Army occupation, Stalin claimed Transcarpathia and made it part of the Soviet Union (and part of Ukraine). The demographics began to change. Some Hungarian villages were literally divided on Main Street dividing families for decades. Radical Ukrainian nationalists have attacked Hungarians and repeatedly vandalized the Hungarian Millenium Memorial in Verecke (Veretzky).
The Hungarian government has voiced its strong support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine and was first to announce reverse gas to mitigate Russian influence over vital energy resources. AHF also support stronger US “energy diplomacy” and encourage the export of LNG to the region. The American Hungarian Federation, founded in 1906, represents a cross-section of the Hungarian American community and strongly supports historical accuracy, completeness and integrity. The various ethnic groups in Transcarpathia lived side-by-side in peace for centuries. We feel that such historical accuracy and an honest and unbiased, open debate and a true commitment to human and minority rights are essential to reconciliation and a strong, unified Central and East Europe. - Bryan Dawson, Executive Chairman
AHF's Tako Geza Award winner, Dr. Stephen Szilagyi, founded SARA, "Sharing America's Resources Abroad." SARA is a Christian ministry offering medical assistance to improve lives around the world. From humble beginnings, SARA has distributed millions of dollars in medical supplies, services, and medical care, establishing a network of doctors and suppliers ready to assist the needy, many in Transcarpathia Ukraine. [read more]
Healing a Most Painful Division... Although brother and sister have lived in the same village all their lives, Maria Ivan and her brother, Arpad, have been able to hug each other only twice in the past 53 years. As a result of a post-World War II treaty, a barbed wire fence marking borders has divided them.Szelmenc (called Solontsi in Ukrainian and Velke Slemence in Slovak) is found near where the Ukrainian, Slovakian and Hungarian borders meet. After WWII, the Soviets took this part along with half of the village for themselves. The other half was given to Czechslovakia. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Soviet part became part of Ukraine. [read more]
A 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 over a 1000 years and her borders were virtually unchanged.... Until 1920.
"The greatest catastrophe to have befallen Hungary since the battle of Mohacs in 1526," the Treaty of Trianon in 1920, 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 ethnic-Hungarian population. Add to this the loss of all her seaports, up to 90% of her vast natural resources, industry, railways, and other infrastructure. Millions of Hungarians saw borders arbitrarily redrawn around them, without plebiscites, ignoring President Wilson's lofty goal of national self-determination. The affects of this dictat are felt strongly today throughout the region. Two of the three newly created countries carved out of Hungarian territory no longer exist. "Slovakia" (Upper Hungary) split with the Czech Republic while "Yugoslavia" suffered from civil war and the ravages of ethnic cleansing. This should never have happened. Hungarian populations continue to decline significantly after forced removals such as the Benes Decrees and other pograms, and continued pressure and discriminative policies such as the 2009 Slovak Language Law, the Slovak Citizenship Act which is being used to strip Hungarians of their citizenship and status, and gerrymandering and other practices in Romania and Serbia.
The United States never ratified this treaty. At the time President Wilson said: “The proposal to dismember Hungary is absurd” and later Sir Winston Churchill said: “Ancient poets and theologians could not imagine such suffering, which Trianon brought to the innocent.” We are sad to report that they were right.
[read more] about the Treaty of Trianon
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, the Slovak Citizenship Law, discriminatory practices in Rumania and Serbia, this trend has continued over the past 90 years.
[read more] about the Treaty of Trianon
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