Hungarians and Europe

Today, when the challenge of European integration determines the political mainstream in Hungary, it is probably worth reminding ourselves that, in addition to commemorating the full anniversary of Christ's birth, the year 2000, now proclaimed a holy year, also marks the millennium of Hungary's first Christian king, St. Stephen's crowing and, therefore, the 1000th anniversary of Hungarian statehood. Our integration with Europe, spiritual, cultural and material alike, had been completed precisely one thousand years ago with the country's admission to the western fold of Christianity. This second admission of ours (this time to the European Union) not only offers advantages but also poses dilemmas with Schengen looming large over the horizon: dilemmas about the system of relations between Hungarians in Hungary and those living in the neighbouring countries, in other words, in Hungarian-Hungarian relations. The present, 2nd volume of Minority Research, a selection of essays on the subject of minority research, addresses this complex issue, which itself epitomises the dichotomy of state and nation, while also examining the root of the problem, the circumstances of the Trianon peace treaty, signed 80 years ago.

In the chapter The Condition of the Minorities the reader will find two studies in a theoretical vein and two essays of a rather more empirical approach. The Csepeli-Örkény-Székely triad have conducted a comparative study of the Hungarians of Transylvania and South Slovakia and the Slovaks of Hungary, so as to find an answer to the question whether or not the acceptance of minority identity has any bearing on the social status of the people concerned. The results of their research show that in the first two groups the Hungarians' acceptance of their minority identity significantly influences (lowers) their position in the social hierarchy, while in the case of Hungary's Slovakian minority no such correlation could be found between ethnic identity and social prestige. In his analysis Doncsev Toso, who is the head of the minority office and himself a member of the Bulgarian minority, focuses on the formative influence of the majority nation's minority politics. The same chapter features the sociologist Ferenc Gereben's study of ethnic Hungarians living in four different regions of Croatia, in which the author finds that in those regions where members of the Hungarian minority experience discrimination in the areas of human rights, the political life and the economy, they tend to respond with the defensive strategy of raising their self-evaluation.

In the chapter Minority Culture the present selection contains two essays in commemoration of the Petőfi anniversary, by István Fried and Gyula Dávid, respectively. The analyses of both the Slovak and the Romanian reception show that our neighbours' attitude towards Petőfi, and towards Hungarian culture in general, is determined by the actual state of overall political relations. Gyula Borbándi reports on the gradual retrogression of Hungarian cultural institutions in the West, which has sadly been taking place for the past decade or so, typically at a rate that is inversely proportional to the individual countries' geographical distance from Hungary. János Péntek, a professor of linguistics at Kolozsvár, describes the absurdity of the situation of the two million Hungarians in Transylvania, who are denied of a university, made even more absurd by the fact that the main antagonist of the idea of a Hungarian university is none other than the forum of Romanian universities. The linguists Mária Erb and Erzsébet Kuipt report on the mother language skills of Hungary's German minority, concluding that while in the functional sense this group speaks Hungarian as their first language, the role of the various dialects is gradually taken over by a version that is remarkably close to the standard German.

The chapter Minority Politics and Minority Rights contains the exposition of the problem mentioned in the introduction, in which the international law expert Péter Kovács examines the possible effects of the Schengen Agreement through the prism of Hungarian-Hungarian relations. He arrives at the conclusion that the overall Hungarian interests would be best served by the protraction of this type of co-operation. The same chapter contains the demographer Pál Péter Tóth's essay, who takes a critical look at Hungary's migration policies, again, from the viewpoint of Hungarian-Hungarian relations. The literary historian Béla Pomogáts reacts to a new proposal by a Romanian (!) author by publishing a fascinating review of Transylvania's autonomy based on the similarities between the geographical and ethnic characteristics of Transylvania and Switzerland.

The most important essay in the chapter Minority History is entitled "Unprotected Protector (Hungarian Minorities in Hungary's Peace Politics 1919-1920)" by László Szarka, who examines the origin of the anomalies in the current Hungarian-Hungarian relations. Going beyond the usual interpretation of the topic at several points, the author is trying to find an answer to the question of Hungary's almost complete failure to afford protection to Hungarians left behind the new borders. Finally, the Transylvanian historian Ákos Egyed convincingly refutes the assumption whereby the bloody conflicts of 1848/49 in Transylvania would have been germinated by the union between Hungary and Transylvania.

Budapest, January 7, 2000.                                     Győző Cholnoky
                                                                        Editor in Chief and
                                                                                    Managing Director of the Publisher