Findings about the Demographic-Ethnic Geography
of Hungarian National Minorities in the Carpathian Basin
According to census data based on self-reporting in the 1990s, out of 14 million Hungarians in the world 72.6 per cent (10.1 million people) live in the Hungarian republic and 19.3 per cent (2.7 million) inhabit neighbouring countries as national minorities. The Hungarians living in their autochthonous area, the Carpathian Basin but outside today's borders of the parent country place second in Europe after 15.1 million Russians as national minorities. Out of the 2.7 million living outside the frontiers, the majority live in Romania (1.6 million), the rest sharing Slovakia (567,000), Voivodina in Serbia (339,000) and Transcarpathia in Ukraine (155,000). The demographic mass of Hungarians in minority surpass the relevant national minorities in Hungary - at times a hundred-fold: Romanians are 10,700, Slovaks 10,400, Serbs 2,900 and Ukrainian-Ruthenians 657 in Hungary. In Croatia (22,000), along the Mura in Slovenia (7,600) and in Burgenland, Austria (6,700) the Hungarian nationals number about the same amount as the respective nationals living in Hungary. The small size of the Hungarian, Croatian, Slovenian and Austro-German minorities - the real "ethnic reciprocity" between Hungary and Croatia, Slovenia and Austria - is also reflected in the good foreign relations between these countries.
At the time of the censuses around 1990, 2,703,176 persons reported to be Hungarian by nationality outside Hungary in the Carpathian Basin, while those who reported to speak Hungarian as their mother tongue numbered 2,773,944. In Hungary, the Hungarian-speaking population was 80,500, in Slovakia 40,900, In Transylvania 15,800, in Transcarpathia 11,600, in Voivodina 5,200 in excess of the number of Hungarian nationals. Owing chiefly to the linguistically Magyarised Gypsies and Germans with reviving national consciousness, the speakers of the Hungarian languages exceed in number the Hungarian nationals in areas with majority Hungarian population, too. This excess may come as high as 12-48 per cent in towns along the Hungarian border, e.g. Pozsony, Kassa, Ungvár, Munkács and Szatmár in Romania. By contrast, the accelerated linguistic assimilation of Hungarians in majority Slovakian, Ruthenian, Romanian, Serbian and Croatian areas resulted in a lower number of Hungarian speakers than self-reported Hungarians by nationality (e.g. along the Ruthenian edge of Bereg and Máramaros the difference is 14-27 per cent, in Croatia 12 per cent, in Szeben, Hunyad, Krassó-Szörény and Beszterce-Naszód counties in Transylvania 5-10 per cent).
In the 80s, which determined the current demographic trends, the overall number of Hungarian nationals in the Carpathian Basin decreased by 4.67 per cent inside the Hungarian borders and by 4.57 per cent outside them. In East-Central Europe, the number of Hungarians only increased in Burgenland (by 63.1 per cent owing to the Hungarian immigration after the demolition of the "iron curtain"), in the Székely country (2.1 per cent) and in Slovakia (1.39 per cent) in spite of the unfavourable natural migratory trends. The increasingly detrimental natural reproduction and distorted demographic structure of the Hungarians, the incessant assimilation of their diasporas, the reviving identity of formerly Magyarised Gypsies and Germans resulted in a drop in the number of self-reported Hungarians by 7.6 per cent in Transylvania without the Székely country, and by 11-12 per cent in Voivodina, Croatia and the Mura region. The shift in macro-regional ethnic proportions affecting the Hungarians more and more unfavourably is also obvious from the fact that in the same period, the population of neighbouring countries increased by 3.2-5.2 per cent (e.g. in Slovakia by 5.2 per cent, in Yugoslavia 5 per cent. )
The worrying natural and mechanical demographic trends of the Hungarian minorities (e.g. decreasing birth-rate, increasing mortality, negative migratory balance owing to political-economic causes) has caused that one must estimate the total number of Hungarians outside the borders in the Carpathian Basin presumably down at 2.6 million. Possibly owing to the many Hungarian immigrants coming from neighbouring countries, the Hungarians inside Hungary "only" dropped to 10 million. At the end of 1995, the self-reported Hungarians are estimated at 572,000 in Slovakia, 154,000 in Transcarpathia, 1,565,000 in Transylvania, 280,000 in Voivodina, 15,000 in Croatia, 7,000 in the Mura region, and 7,000 in Burgenland. Specially disastrous losses in Hungarian populations were found in Croatia (-33 per cent) and Voivodina (-17 per cent), attributable to flight for direct and indirect war causes.
27.3 per cent (772,000 people) of the 2.7 million minority Hungarians of the Carpathian Basin lived in ethnic blocks adjacent to the borders of the parent country (South Slovakia, Ung-Bereg-Ugocsa in Transcarpathia, Szatmár-northern Bihar in Romania, along the Tisza in Voivodina), and 26.8 per cent (723,000) lived in the block of the Sézkely country, as censuses around 1990 found. At the same time, only 13 per cent lived in the ethnic "contact zone" , a chain of towns in the semicircle outlined by Pozsony, Ungvár and Szabadka bounding the Hungarian language territory, an area of abslute Hungarian majority until some fifty years ago, while in enclaves and diasporas of various size 32.9 per cent (858,000) lived. Besides a 2.1 per cent increase in the number of Hungarians in the Székely block, an increase of 4.7 per cent can be demonstrated in the towns of the "contact zone" resulting from the 4.3 per cent and 23.3 per cent decrease of the border blocks and scattered groups, respectively, that is, from inner migration caused by urbanization. The highest rate of decrease in ethnic blocks was registered in Voivodina, along the Tisza (-8.2 per cent) mainly due to low reproduction rate and mass emigration, the lowest in southern Slovakia (-1.3 per cent). Nevertheless, it was in the towns of the southern Slovakian contact zone that the largest increment in Hungarians could be found (+17.8 per cent). That is the outcome of migration headed for the mentioned towns no longer having absolute Hungarian majority. The Hungarians in enclaves decreasing rapidly due to ageing, migration and intensified assimilating pressures dropped by 8-9 per cent in Slovakia, Transcarpathia and the Partium and by 16.1 per cent in Voivodina in the '80s.
In view of preserving their identity, the most favourable is the position of Hungarians living in absolute majority (over 50 per cent). This means 1.6 million (61.5 per cent) in 1,410 settlements. The greater part of the Hungarian ethnic group in Slovakia, Transcarpathia and the Mura region (77.1 per cent, 71.8 per cent, 71.9 per cent) and slightly more than half the Hungarians in Transylvania and Voivodina (56.9 per cent, 56.1 per cent) live like that. By contrast, the Hungarians in Croatia and Burgenland try to maintain and pass down their national identity in areas where they are less than 10 per cent - an increasingly hopeless venture. Owing to the above reasons, as well as in consequence of the specific nature of the settlement structures and ethnic geography of areas populated by Hungarians, the following distribution of majority Hungarian settlements could be recorded around 1990: 786 in Transylvania, 432 in Slovakia, 80 in Voivodina, 78 in Transcarpathia, 23 in Slovenia, 9 in Croatia, 2 in Burgenland. Naturally, the demographic weight of a single Hungarian majority town in a sparsely populated flatland equals dozens of Hungarian villages in a hilly area studded with small settlements.
Thus, there are great differences in the settlement structure of areas peopled by Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin. The rate of those living in towns with a population of 5,000 or above in the Hungarian population of the given region is highest in Voivodina predominated by small and medium-size towns and large villages (72.9 per cent) and in Transylvania (57.2 per cent) which has otherwise extremely varied settlement geographical endowments. It is also the Transylvanians who prefer large settlements with more than 100,000 inhabitants (25.5 per cent). Among Slovakian, Transcarpathian and Voivodinan Hungarians, the respective rate is only 5.6-4.6 per cent. The small settlements below 1000 inhabitants posing most infrastructural problems hence offering the worst living conditions and inspiring the largest exodus rate, leaving only ageing communities behind are at the highest rate in the Mura region, in Croatia, Burgenland and Slovakia (73.6 per cent, 33.9 per cent, 29 per cent, 22.8 per cent, respectively.).
Closely correlated with the settlement structure is the level of urbanisation in Hungarian minorities. It is then not surprising that Hungarian town-dwellers have the highest rate in Voivodina and Transylvania (58.7, 56.1 per cent), exceeding the rate of urban population in the respective countries (Yugoslavia: 45.7 per cent, Romania: 54.3 per cent). Although the number of urban Hungarians have grown in every country concerned, it lags way behind that of the majority population which is naturally also enhanced by the accelerated assimilation (e.g. in Transylvania towns +4.2 per cent Hungarians and +33.9 per cent Romanians in 1977-92, in Transcarpathian towns +0.2 per cent Hungarians and +24 per cent Ukrainians in 1979-89). Consequently, the dwindling of Hungarians in the overwhelming majority of towns in neighbouring countries has been continuous to this day. This demotion is especially conspicuous in towns where the largest communities of Hungarian minorities live (Marosvásáhely, Kolozsvár, Nagyvárad, Szatmárnémeti). Out of the 344 towns in the Carpathian Basin outside Hungary, only in 24 could the Hungarian nationalities increase slightly. They are mostly small and medium-size towns with a radius of attraction in Hungarian-populated areas, where the members of the state-forming ethnicity withdrew gradually and Hungarians moved in at an above average rate. In 14 Slovakian and 7 Transylvanian towns did the rate of Hungarians change advantageously. The adherence to villages offering worse living conditions but avoided by other ethnic groups, so better suited for the preservation of the original Hungarian ethnic structure is more typical of the Mura region, Croatia, Transcarpathia and Slovakia (86.1 per cent, 64.2 per cent, 62.3 per cent, 60.5 per cent).
Apart from migrations caused by the suddenly changed political situation (e.g. Croatia, Austria), the given demographic structure of Hungarian minorities is determined by natural demographic indices (birth rate, mortality, natural growth and decrease). Since the annexation of territories, the demographic indices relevant to the Hungarian minorities have been in close correlation with the given country's socio-economic factors and demographic policy. At the same time, some geographical differences can also be observed in the behavioural patterns of natural reproduction among various, historically different groups. Although there is no representative statistics for the ethnic demographic tendencies of the eight countries in the Carpathian basin for the past few decades, the partial information suffices to conclude that the slight increase or stagnation of natural reproduction and slight increase or stagnation of mortality is an overall tendency that applied to all ethnic groups. It is unfortunately also a fact that the respective indices are ostensibly the most unfavourable for the Hungarians. As a result, in the early '90s it was only in southern Slovakia and in Transcarpathia that the decreasing annual births still slightly exceeded deaths, ensuring for their communities for a few more years their natural growth, which is an unparalleled fact among Hungarian communities.
On the basis of the natural demographic figures of Hungarians in Slovakia, Transcarpathia, Transylvania and Voivodina, the birth rate of Hungarian minorities (10.2 per cent) in the Carpathian basin must be estimated even lower than the corresponding rate in the parent country (12.2 per cent). Compared to the traditionally relatively high reproductive rate of Transcarpathian Hungarians in excess of the respective rates of every neighbouring country (15.4 per cent) and the birth rate of Slovakian Hungarians almost on par with that of the parent country (12.6 per cent) the birth rates of Transylvanian and Voivodinian Hungarians are frighteningly low (9-9.9 per cent). The mortality rate of Hungarian minorities (14.3 per cent) is similar to that of the parent country (14.1 per cent) which is ominously high compared to the neighbouring countries, far below the overall rate of Slovakia (10.1 per cent), Transcarpathia (9.4 per cent) and Transylvania (12 per cent). Mortality least hit the least aged Slovakian and Transcarpathian Hungarian groups (11.1 per cent, 10.9 per cent) and affected most adversely the Hungarians in Voivodina (19.3 per cent) which has been left by most young people.
Consequently, the natural decrease of Hungarians outside the borders is larger than inside (-4.1 per cent, -1.9 per cent). The decline in Transylvania (-5.8 per cent) and Voivodina (-9.4 per cent) cannot be offset by the positive balance of Transcarpathia (4.5 per cent) and Slovakia (+1.5 per cent) still preserving some of their earlier demographic dynamism. In our days, one of the gravest problems of Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin is the startling change in 1992 from the earlier natural growth of Transylvanian Hungarians (c.+4 per cent) similar to Slovakian and Transcarpathian Hungarians in the 1980s to an alarming decrease (-5.8 per cent) owing to a drastic drop in birth rate and similar increase in mortality. Of course, the Transylvanian Hungarians are not homogeneous as to demographic behaviour. Among Hungarians in the Székely country the demographic indices are more favourable than among Romanian Hungarians and in the entire population of the country in general (e.g. natural decrease in 1992: Székely country -0.2 per cent, Transylvania -0.7 per cent). It must be noted, however, that in 1992 not only the Hungarian minorities (-4.1 per cent) and Hungary (-1.9 per cent), but also the populations of Voivodina (-1.8 per cent), Burgenland in Austria (-.18 per cent), Croatia (-1.1 per cent) and Transylvania (-0.7 per cent) in general are struggling against decline, while the natural growth of the population of Slovenia dropped to a mere 0.3 per cent. Among our neighbouring countries in Slovakia and Transcarpathia there was still considerable growth in 1992 (+6.6 per cent and 4 per cent). However, in Slovakia the difference between the national average growth rate and the rate of Hungarian births echoes the regional differences already emerging in the last century. Traditionally low fertility and a high rate of ageing results in decrease as the predominant tendency in various southern Slovakian microregions populated by Hungarians such as the vicinity of Párkány, Zseliz, Léva, Ipolyság, Nagykürtös and Losonc.
The distribution of the population by gender is also influenced by several factors. The ageing, emigration and war losses mostly cut back the male populace, while higher productivity increases the rate of this gender. Censuses around 1990 show that 100 women are against about the same number of men (93.,1 and 92.5) among Hungarians outside the borders in the Basin and inside them. This rate is lower than in neighbouring countries owing to the adverse demographic factors cutting back the number of men, with the particular exception of Ukrainians who were decimated by the war (85.7). While in our neighbourhood, the gender proportions are most balanced of Slovakian (93.5) and Transylvanian Hungarians (93.4) less hit by war losses, ageing or emigration, in Croatia and the Mura region, where these factors acted massively (83.4 and 87.3, resp.) this proportion is rather lopsided. In Transylvania it is a rarity that in Hargita county in the Székely country, even in 1992 males outnumbered females (100 women/100.1 men), attributable mainly to favourable productivity.
The age composition, the degree of ageing in Hungarian minorities is increasingly disadvantageous because of alarming natural and mechanical demographic and assimilatory causes (low natural reproduction, productivity, increasing emigration of young generations, loss of original ethnic identity and mother tongue). The rate of Hungarian children under 14 years of age numbered 19.1-20.5 per cent in Transylvania, Hungary and Slovakia, yet this rate is still way in excess of the disastrously low rate of children in Austria, Croatia and Slovenia (9.5 per cent, 11.1 per cent, 12.1 per cent). The opposite applied to Hungarians above 60. The average rate of elderly among Hungarian minorities in general and in Hungary (19.7 per cent and 18.9 per cent) is ostensibly exceeded by the rate of old people in Burgenland, Croatia, the Mura region and Voivodina (44.7 per cent, 29.8 per cent, 26.3 per cent, 24.1 per cent), as a sign of the irrevesible disintegration of local Hungarian communities. Thus, the ageing idex (100 children/x old people) is average 103.1 for Hungarian minorities. Some other average values: Mura region: 99.9, Voivodina 95.1, Hungary 92.2. Compared to them, the populations of Transcarpathia (47.9) and Slovakia (59.6) appear young, while that of Burgenland (496.6!) is badly aged. Compared to the average ageing index of the Carpathian Hungarians (94.4) the corresponding figure for Yugoslavia (68.7), Romania (72.2), Slovenia (79) and Ukraine (83.3) reveal far more favourable age structures.
During the four decades of socialism laden with anti-religion and anti-church measures, the attitude to church and religion, the religious identity of the populations, especially of young people grown up under radically changed political circumstances, has changed among Hungarian minorities, too, though at regionally varying degrees. Secularisation, however, affected the Hungarians beyond the borders of the parent country far less than the majority nations, since in minority position, they stick more persistently to their religion and church as the main pillars of their ethnic identity. This is borne out by the fact that the censuses (and estimates) around 1990 only put at 5.2 per cent that part of the Hungarian minorities who were atheists or refused to answer the question about their religion. This rate is far lower than the corresponding figure for the total of the populations of Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and Austria (27.2 per cent, 23.5 per cent, 14.9 per cent, 12.1 per cent). The average for the minority Hungarians (5.2 per cent without denominational affinities) however covers a wide scatter, ranging from 0.3 per cent of Transylvanian Hungarians fighting for survival among Romanians of the G reek orthodox faith to 19,5 per cent of Slovakian Hungarians whose religious structure is the same as that of the majority population.
In the past fifty years, the religious composition of Hungarian nationals has been modified upon the influence of objective and subjective factors (natural, mechanical demographic trends, socio-political climate, assimilation, etc.). Today, 57.6 per cent of Hungarian in the Carpathian basin (7.4 million) are Roman Catholic, 22.8 per cent (2.9 million) Calvinist, 3.6 per cent (470,000) Lutheran, 2.2 per cent (290,000) Greek Catholic. About 13 per cent (1.7 million) have no (known) religious affiliation. Compared to these average values, inside Hungary the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches, outside the border the Calvinists and Unitarians have the greater weight. In the early 1990s, 51.8 per cent of minority Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin were Roman Catholic, 34.2 per cent Calvinist, 2.7 per cent unitarian, 2.1 per cent Greek Catholic. The Hungarians in Voivodina, the Mura region, Burgenland, Croatia and Slovakia are roman Catholic. The relative majority (47.1 per cent and 46.9 per cent) of Hungarians in Transylvania and Transcarpathia belong to Reformed churches. Communities of Calvinist majority in the Hungarian minorities are in southern Slovakia scattered around Nagymegyer, Komárom and Zseliz, in Gömör they are mixed with Roman Catholics, and in the Gömör-Torna karst region they form a smaller denominational block. In the rest of the areas adjacent to the Hungarian borders from Nagykapos through Beregszász in Transcarpathia and Szatmárnémeti, Érmihályfalva to Nagyszalonta in Romania the Calvinist is the predominant church of the Hungarians, despite the large number of Roman Catholic Hungarians in Ung and Szatmár counties and Greek Catholic Hungarians in Bereg and Ugocsa. An even more decisive role is played by the Reformed church among Hungarians in Szilágyság, Kalotaszeg, Mezõség and southern Székely country. In the latter Székely area, in the western and southern part of Udvarhelyszék, the Hungarians are Calvinists and Unitarians. The centre of Roman Catholic Hungarians in Transylvania is at the same time in the north-eastern third of Udvarhelyszék, Gyergyó, Csik, Kászon and Kézdi districts, as well as diasporas in Bánság and around Arad. The predominantly Roman Catholic Hungarians in Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia are only enlivened by 3 or 4 Hungarian villages with majorities adhering to the Reformed church.
Studying the structure of Hungarian families outside the borders - on the basis of the meagre and defective data available - one may draw inferences as to the productivity, natural demographic trend and assimilation chances of Hungarians. The percentage of incomplete families caused by death or divorce is somewhat lower among Slovakian and Transylvanian Hungarians (12.7 per cent, 13 per cent) than inside Hungary (15.5 per cent), which is hit more gravely by widowing and broken marriages. Ageing, low fertility, later childbirth increase the rate of dependants in Hungarian minority families not only against the respective figures of the nation they live in but also against Hungary, which has detrimental demographic indices: Slovakian Hungarians 43.6 per cent, Transylvanian 35.6 per cent, Voivodinan 42.35, against 39.6 per cent in Slovakia, 32.3 per cent in Transylvania, 34.3 per cent in Hungary. Many Hungarians live in ethnically mixed families of similar religion, culture and mentality. Among Slovakian and Burgenlandian Hungarians the rate of those living with persons of other ethnicity and mother tongue is 30.3 per cent and 42 per cent, respectively. This, owing to the offspring already speaking the other language and adopting the other ethnic identity, may lead to the demographic atrophy of the minority communities and demise in the long run.
The stratification of the Hungarian minorities by economic activity (active earning, occupational distribution, households, etc.) is correlated with several other factors (e.g. gender, age, education, social distribution of the given population, natural-social endowments of settlement, historical precedents, traditions). Nearly half (44-49 per cent) of minority Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin are active earners. The rate of the inactive population, however, will massively increase soon to the detriment of earners because of the alarming decline in natural reproduction, increasing ageing, emigration, forced cut-back in female labour in the currently bad economic situation, early pensioning off to avoid unemployment.
The geographic endowments and economic characteristics of the territory the Hungarians live in outside the parent country are reflected in the distribution of earners by occupation and economic branch. Occupational restructuring is similar to the international tendencies, though lagging somewhat behind, it leads from primary branches (e.g. agriculture) to secondary (e.g. industry, construction, mining), from secondary to tertiary (trade, communication, culture, other non-productive sectors). Owing to the natural setting of their residential area, the settlement structure and the economic and land use policy of the state they live in, agriculture still plays a great role. This branch has a particularly high share among Hungarians in Croatia, the Mura region, southern Slovakia and the larder of Yugoslavia, Voivodina (41.8 per cent, 32.1 per cent, 23.8 per cent, 26.7 per cent). Closest to the average agrarian employment among earners in Hungarian minority (14-26 per cent) is the corresponding index for Transylvania. This resulted in the uniquely high share of earners in the secondary branches (52.7 per cent) well above the Romanian average (44.7 per cent) due partly to forced industrialisation in the past decades and partly to the geographical endowments of the region. Over-represented among active Transylvanian workers - mainly thanks to the Székely area - are employees in some light industries (e.g. wood, furniture, leather, textile) and construction. The building industry has been traditionally over-represented by active Hungarian earners, mostly commuters in peripheral areas with few job possibilities outside agriculture (e.g. in southern Slovakia, Transcarpathia). The share of Hungarian earners outside the border of Hungary in the tertiary sector is way below the corresponding indices of the active population of their respective countries (32-59 per cent) and of Hungary (46.5 per cent). Partly for demographic (e.g. emigration and assimilation of younger generations) and partly for education political reasons (destruction of all-round educational network in the mother tongue best unfolding an individual's abilities) Hungarians are represented way below average in some occupational groups of teaching, culture, science, administration: e.g. the rate of Slovakian Hungarians in science and research is 0.5 per cent as against 1.5 per cent Slovaks, that of Romanian Hungarians is 1.5 per cent and Romanian Romanians is 2.4 per cent.
Closely related, often causally, is the level of education of Hungarian minorities. As regards indices of vocational training, schooling influencing fundamentally the market possibilities of a labour force, the Hungarians outside our borders struggle with grave handicaps compared to the majority nations, especially in tertiary education. Hurled into increasingly detrimental position, the system of education of Hungarian minorities in the Carpathian Basin will be less and less able to offer up-to-date alternatives in education for young minority Hungarians at a time when there is a global promotion of the knowledge industry producing human resources. In some neighbouring countries overtly or covertly aiming at deranging the educational system of the Hungarian minority, the rate of Hungarians with tertiary education is at most half of the respective country's average: Slovakian, Transylvanian Hungarians 4.7-4.7 per cent, Hungarians in Voivodina 5.9 per cent, Hungary 10.1 per cent, Slovakia 9.8 per cent,. Romania 6.9 per cent, Yugoslavia 10.8 per cent. apart from the mentioned reasons, the unfavourable figures for minority Hungarians living around Hungary are attributable to historical reasons in the case of Slovakia (deportation of Hungarian intellectuals between 1945 and 1949, eradication after 1945 of the Hungarian educational system and partial restoration in the 1950s only, etc.), while in Transcarpathia, Transylvania and Voivodina to the alarming acceleration of emigration of Hungarian intellectuals, the possessors of the "human capital" in the past decade. The unfavourable picture of the level of education of Hungarian minorities is somewhat alleviated by the fact that Hungarians are represented below average at the bottom of the "education pyramid" of their respective societies as well. The rate of illiterates, for example, is far below that of the majority nationality, e.g. Hungarians in Romania and Voivodina: 1.0 per cent and 2.4 per cent, Romanians and Serbs in the same regions: 3 per cent and 4.9 per cent.