László Szarka

Typological Arrangement of the Central European Minorities

In the seven Central European countries east of Germany (Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia) and in the three historical regions associated with this area on historical-religious and cultural grounds (Sub-Carpathia, Transylvania and Voivodina) there are a total of 107 national and ethnic minorities with a population exceeding 1,000 each, according to the latest official census.

If we were to take those communities whose population exceeds 10,000 as our cut-off point, then the number of such communities would be 61, and if increased the same number to 100,000, then we would end up with only 16 minorities. And as to the one million category, there are only the Hungarian and Romany populations of Transylvania and the Moravians of the Czech Republic. Therefore, the multi-coloured character of the region's linguistic/cultural composition becomes somewhat relative, since the Central-European minorities of a few thousand members at best add some colour to the ethnic structure of a few settlements, and they are unlikely to survive in the 21st century.

1.1 The total population of the 107 minorities slightly exceeded 7 million, which amounts to 8.6 per cent of the region's overall population of 81 million.

A glance at the list of minorities would reveal that, in addition to the Romany communities present in every country of the region, the bigger part of the sixty minorities are formed by the Hungarian minorities, present in all seven neighbouring countries plus in the Czech Republic, the Slovakian minority groups, present in seven states of the region, and the German minorities, present in six countries. According to the official figures, the largest Central-European minority is formed by the 2.75 million Hungarians, although some more realistic estimates put the Central European Romany community anywhere between 4.5 and 5 millions, thus making this minority the largest by a long way. Taking this later estimate as our starting point, the percentage of minorities within the total population of the region would be around 12 or 13.

Having said that, the twentieth-century history of Central-European minorities has generally been characterised by population decrease, enforced assimilation, ethnocide and genocide, ethnic cleansing, forcible population exchanges. From the twentieth-century ethnic map of Central Europe, the German and Jewish communities have all but disappeared; the minorities in Hungary have been reduced to half their original size; and the Hungarian minorities in all the neighbouring countries to less than half. This radical decrease is evident from the maps and the statistical tables of nationalities in the twentieth century; the last-minute syndrome, the fear of total assimilation and disappearance characterises the intellectual/political discourses in most of the region's minorities.

Therefore, unlike at the beginning of the twentieth century when the region's minorities could be classified as enforced minorities created by the border changes, today they can all be characterised as some kind of remnant communities. We have good reason to skip the analytical fussing and to indicate already here that between the categories defined along these two subjective criteria-enforced minorities and remnant minorities-very close interconnections can be found (mostly in consequence of the nationalist clamouring of nation-states, which were extremely virulent all through the century). Admittedly it is also true that the historical minorities fared no better, so much so that in most of the countries the Jewish communities practically all perished, while the German and the Slovakian communities exist only in fragments. The main cause of all this can undoubtedly traced back to the historical fact that, save for a few, very short periods, the nation-states of Central Europe all tried to terminate, assimilate or perfectly abolish the minority groups, instead of recognising them and integrating them as equal partners.

In view of the large number of small communities, in the following we shall limit ourselves to groups of over ten thousand people in our attempt to arrange, on the basis of six criteria, the typological characteristics and similarities into a homogeneous system.

The formation of the region's minorities can fundamentally be traced back to four great historical periods and three historical factors: the region's tradition historical minorities emerged in the 12th to 17th centuries in the course of the Mediaeval processes of colonisation and migration, which led to the merge of the region's national kingdoms into the Habsburg, the Russian and the Ottoman empires, finding their place within the framework of these.

The second great historical period consisted of the re-population of the desolate areas after the Ottoman rule, and of the partition of Poland, when the ethnic map of Central Europe attained its mosaic-like structure. That was the time when the multi-ethnic islands emerged, such as the German/Slavic/Hungarian regions of Baranya-Tolna, the German/Slavic/Hungarian regions of Bácska or the German/Slavic/Hungarian/Romanian regions of Bánság.

The growing inter-regional, international and intercontinental migratory waves and assimilatory tendencies accompanying the 13th-century processes of urbanisation and industrialisation constituted the third great period, the time when the nation-state aspirations first emerged in the relations of the region's historically formed ethnic force fields.

The 20th-century changes in state law made the overtures of the fourth period, when a whole list of German, Hungarian and Muslim national communities who had been dominant found themselves in minority in the small nation-states emerging in the wake of the disintegrating multi-national empires.

In view of the historical circumstances of the formation of minorities we can, therefore, distinguish between the historical minorities of Mediaeval origin, coming about more or less voluntarily in the wake of the internal resettlement and migration and the enforced minorities produced by 20th-century political decisions.

With regard to the typologically relevant characteristics, what mattered in the historical formation of minorities was not so much the motif of voluntariness or coercion, but the actual stage of development in which the most important carriers of modern national identity-the unified literary language, a political program adopted by the nation or the state, unified national culture, economy, market, etc.-were at the moment of separation from their original community. From this angle the minority groups formed before the midd;e of the 19th century and geographically separated from the original national community had links to the linguistic/cultural and political/economic development of their original community only through a small number of intellectuals, and in this way the national identity under formation could exert an influence only indirectly.

The greater part of the minorities formed in our region, or within the territory of Hungary after the Trianon Peace Treaty, emerged in this latter fashion, and the above mentioned indirect and mediated national identity is reconfirmed in the local surveys. So, for example, the Slovaks of Pilis, the Poles of Istvánmajor, or the Germans in the counties of Pest and Veszprém have shown, along with the identity studies carried out among the German diaspora of Bánság, Szatmár and Szepesség, that these minorities have only indirect and uncertain knowledge of the linguistic/cultural and political development of their original national community after the separation. In the historical identity of these regional historical minorities the identification with the history of the minority community and the host country and geographical locality that provided them with new homes play the dominant part. However, in the last decade of the 20th century, partly due to the state foundations of the mother nations, and partly as a result of the dynamically developing new methods of communication and maintaining relationships, one of the possibilities of the minorities' resuscitation could come precisely from establishing links with the cultural/scientific, economic and partly political life of the mother nations. The initial successes of this process can be evidenced in the case of the region's German, Slovene, Croatian, Slovakian, Ukrainian and Czech minorities. As outstanding examples, we could mention the Germans of Poland and Hungary, the Slovenes of Carinthia and Hungary, the Croatians of Burgenland, but the Hungarian-Hungarian relations with the ethnic Hungarians of Transylvania, Slovakia and Sub-Carpathia are also flourishing, with the emergence of a new cultural, integrative model in front of our eyes.

3. In addition to the historical factors, the development and cohesion of minority communities are fundamentally influenced by the group's geographical location, and structure of settlement. Most of the minority settlements in the region, precisely through the specific features of their development and in consequence to the 20th-century historical processes (migration, urbanisation, enforced resettlements), have now been existing in diaspora, in minority position within the ethnic regions that they had formerly dominated.

The ethnic blocs of Hungarians in Felvidék (Southern Slovakia), Sub-Carpathia, Transylvania (Szeklers) and Bácska, of Silesian Poles in the Czech Republic have now become the exceptions, and the survival of compact Hungarian settlement structures is mostly due to their relatively brief existence, as well as to the circumstances of their formation and proximity to the border. This proximity to the borders at the same time means a possibility of direct contact for the minority and a continuous sustenance of the phobias of the majority nation, generating their unyielding opposition to the Hungarian minority's aspirations for self-government.

In the majority of the cases, the spatial structure of Central-European minorities are characterised by the formation of diaspora conditions, linguistic isolation and small urban communities within the earlier ethnic region.

The other important criteria complex of the Central-European minorities' typological features are determined by linguistic characteristics. We can note in advance that in the course of the 20th century the fact that the overall majority of the ethnic communities have, by the end of the century, become bilingual (or multilingual), as opposed to the majority nations' extremely widespread monolingualism, should be regarded as a fundamental ethnic mark between majorities and minorities.

On considerations regarding the degree of bilingualism and the relative rank of mother tongue the following minorities belong to the group with mother-tongue dominance: the Hungarians of Slovakia, Transylvania, Voivodina, Carpatho-Ukraine, the Slovaks of Transylvania and Voivodina, the Ruthens of Carpatho-Ukraine and Voivodina, the Poles of the Czech Republic, the Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Belorussians of Poland, the Serbs of Croatia and Romania and the Russians of Carpatho-Ukraine. However, even among the ethnic groups listed, the dominance of the mother tongue is becoming less and less conspicuous, as social mobility and urban environment, the diaspora condition, the growing number of mixed marriages, the social prestige of the mother tongue and the legal and communicational obstacles to its use, all work against the widespread use of the mother tongue amongst the minorities.

The bilingual minorities where the second language is used predominantly belong to the second group. In their case the majority or state language used as second or intermediary language is predominant in everyday life and, to an ever increasing extent, within the family also. To various degrees, almost all the minorities in Hungary belong to this group, along with the Slovene, German, Slovak, Czech and Gypsy minorities living in the other countries of the region, as well as the ethnic Hungarians of Slovenia and Croatia and the ethnic Slovaks of the Czech Republic. Despite the dominance of the second language, these minorities, or a large population within them, specify the original language of the minority as their mother tongue at the censuses.

In the short term, only those German minorities where children are taught the standard German in school can successfully battle with the predominance of the second language, although the prestige and the economic successes of the mother nations have already made their influence felt in the case of the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, with Romania, Ukraine and Serbia probably following suit sooner or later.

Two sub-divisions should be distinguished in the group of the linguistically assimilated minorities: in one case the original language or dialect of the minority is preserved by the older generations, with the younger generations learning the educated or standard version of it in school. This is the case with the ethnic Hungarians of Burgerland and those part of the minorities in Hungary, who sometimes give Hungarian as their first language at the censuses. A substantial part of the regional Gypsy population also belong to this category.

The second sub-division is reserved for the minorities which have gone through a change of language, or those communities of various sizes within the minorities who have only blurred linguistic memories and a respect and sympathy for the earlier language and culture of the community. With regard to the region's minorities, perhaps only the decline of the Armanian and the Yiddish language can be brought up as examples.

We hardly need to emphasise the various grades of change of language, as the change of language and change of identity are very closely related in each community's case.

In the typological arrangement of Central-European minorities the historical, regional and linguistic criteria might provide objective reference points for the determination and classification of the various communities. We could further enlarge upon the list of these objective criteria either by studying the legal status of the communities (enjoying equal status, possessing cultural autonomy as a group, entitled to the use of their mother tongue as a group, personal rights, losing out on their acquired rights, suffering from permanent restrictions, and suffering from discrimination) or by classifying the political program of minority parties (separatist, autonomist, believing in integration, favouring assimilation, etc.)

In addition to the relatively simple objective or seemingly objective criteria, the group identity of the community members is influenced by a whole list of subjective factors, and these cannot be ignored in our survey of the typological marks and similarities. Beside the community of mother tongue, the bonds of local communities and the continuation of the family lineage, apparent within one or two generations, there are other, subjective factors binding the individuals to the minority community. On the basis of identification with a minority's historical past, its customs and value system, and through moral solidarity, complete or partial identification is also possible.

The ethnic self-identity of minority members and their group identity formed of a large number of complex factors is an important yet very uncertain criterion in the theoretical classification of minorities. Here we only undertake to make distinction between four fundamentally different identity forms based on the region's minorities' self-definition and also on scientific definitions.

The communal identity of linguistic, cultural national communities attaining mother nation status in the course of their original and minority development, in other words the primacy of national identity is one of the most important shared characteristics of the communities that can be described as national minorities. The socio-cultural and socio-psychological surveys conducted among Hungarian minorities, for example, reveal that the four largest of the seven Hungarian minorities in the neighbouring countries are characterised by the acceptance of Hungarian national identity: the large majority of the Hungarians in Slovakia, Carpatho-Ukraine, Transylvania and Voivodina confessed to belonging to the overall Hungarian nation. Signs of a similar unequivocalness can be observed only in the case of the South Slav communities living in each other's country and of the Poles in the Czech Republic. In the case of the region's remnant German minorities it is the economic and political successes of unified Germany and the prestige of the German language, while in the case of the newly formed Central-European small states it is the interest towards the minorities of the sovereign nation-state that generated reactions primarily amongst the intelligentsia and the middle classes.

In the case of the historical minorities formed several centuries ago, the marks of ethnic identity characteristically vary in intensity: ethnic identity defined by respect for the mother tongue or dialects, the preservation of the small community's own ethnic traditions and the presence of a strong sense of origin primarily differ from national identity in that the group identity is applied to real communities of the minority, while the bonds to the mother nation only complement this identity form. The non-intellectual groups and persons within the minorities in Hungary are usually characterised by this type of identity, which is also the most frequently observed by the region's other minorities, such as the Bulgarian, Armenian, Slovak, Czech, and Slovene communities.

The regional (local) identity is present in the Central-European minorities' self-identity as an important auxiliary element of the ethnic and national group identity. According to the Hungarian ethnographer, József Liszka of Slovakia, the national identity of ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia is complemented with a unified group identity described not as Slovakia's Hungarian minority but as the Hungarian minority of Csallóköz, Palócföld, Hont, Nógrád, Bodrogköz, Ungvidék, etc., by way of the second dominant element in their regional attachment. The same phenomenon can clearly be observed in the case of the Hungarian communities summarily described as Transylvanian or Voivodinean. In the case of Hungary's minorities, the same regional attachment have been loosening as a result of their acquiring a Hungarian majority, but in connection with the Slovene and to some extent with the Romanian, the Slovak and the Croatian minorities as well as with the German community of Baranya these attachments to their locality have proven an important auxiliary factor in their identification to this day. The rush of Moravian and Silesian minorities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, registered during the census of 1990, should probably be regarded as a one-off phenomenon, since Prague has since been able to neutralise the political content of regional autonomy, while the Moravian regional national movement has lost its popular support in recent years.

The double identity is an ethnic/national group identity characteristic of the historical minorities and of the minorities which predominantly use their second language, in this way trying to reconcile their ethnic self-identity with their assimilative and integrative bond to the citizens of the host state and to the majority nation. Within double identity, usually there is a very delicate balance between the ethnic factors and the factors of citizenly loyalty and integrative/assimilative tendencies, which can be shifted in one way or the other within a very brief period by some negative impulse.

In recent Central-European history, the large-scale identification with the complex categories of state nation and political nation was demonstrated in former Yugoslavia, where in 1981 the number of people declaring themselves Yugoslavs in the entire land of the country exceeded 1.2 million, of whom 200,000 lived in Voivodina and 400,000 in Croatia. By contrast, the number of people confessing to Czechoslovakian identity after 1968 never reached 10,000. At the same time, minorities reaching the stage of changing their language, with the possible retention of their sense of origin following the relinquishing of their double identity, and regarding the citizen community their target community, mostly arrive at the acceptance of the majority nation's identity through the identification of citizenship and nationality.

It is worth studying the impact of dominant identity forms on group identity from the aspect of the minorities' internal cohesion. In the case of the minority communities characterised by growing uncertainty as a result of their diminishing population and change of identity and language it would be hardly possible to assume a uniform and strong group awareness. Even in the case of a compact settlement structure and dominant national awareness, a strong group identity is likely to form and to acquire permanence only in conditions of a prolonged crisis. The internal cohesion of the groups in the case of the Central-European minorities is usually achieved by the political representation of the minorities, by their intelligentsia, mostly engendered by the negative political moves of the majority. The extension of the minority rights can increase the internal cohesion only in the case of the self-government model, while the partial extension of minority rights, in such areas as the use of mother tongue, education or cultural rights, usually result in the weakening of group solidarity.

What typological schemes can be sketched out on the basis of the above? On the basis of the historical, regional, linguistic and psychological characteristics, Central-European minorities can be divided into three, not strictly separated groups:

the group of national minorities which possess an awareness of their original national community, regarding it as the crucial element in their group identity;

the group of ethnic minorities which are permanently separated from their original community or mother nation in their development, and are primarily bound to it through descent and the spoken language;

the group of regional minorities formed in certain regions of the countries studied, which define their identity through their attachment to that region.

In my opinion the view whereby today only the Romany population can be regarded as an ethnic minority among the Central-European minorities is strongly arguable. The proximity of the mother nation in one of the neighbouring countries and the mutual interaction of varying intensity between the two are, of course, important yet not essential elements in a comparison with the Gypsy communities living in the region's countries.

As to the other minorities, which are organised on the basis of the ethnic characteristics (language, origin, tradition, etc.) and have links to the mother nation at the level of a shared national awareness only vaguely, or not at all, these can be classified as national minorities only in part, as they can much more readily be categorised as ethnic or regional minorities. The minorities in Hungary are, almost without exception, characterised by this intermediate state. And just as the ethnic and regional minority groups cannot be regarded as some a priori given and immutable categories, the motifs pointing to a separate course of development are also present and effective in the realm of national minorities.

The possibility of moving from one group to another is continuously open for all three groups; there are groups which could, with minor limitations, be classified in any of the three categories. Within a given national minority group the signs of linguistic/cultural and identity change (the Hungarians of Burgenland and Slovenia) from the national community are already visible, while other communities of ethnic group identity seem to have discovered the possibilities of gravitating towards the national community only recently (Slovak, Slovene, Croatian groups, etc.).

As to the minority politicians responsible for the self-organisation of the various types of minorities, for their good relations with the majority and for ensuring their rights, their job is to survey the given minority's situation, their specific features and similarities to other minorities. This cannot be in any other way, since, no matter how imposing and well-prepared program they might have, it can only be carried into operation, if it takes wholly into account the targeted community's qualities, skills and abilities.

It is quite clear that the renaissance and the culmination of minority research, as experienced in the early 1990s, has by now been over, with the tide possibly even turning. This is shown by the opinion of minority members who often claim that they see very little use in all these researches; at best they attach some importance to the self-examination by the minority's own intelligentsia from the viewpoint of the community's self-knowledge and self-organisation. Also, many of the politicians involved in the minority issue feel that the success of the various proposed alternatives or their political ideas is not dependent on the scholarly surveys; rather, the bargaining process between political parties and ministries, the allocated budgetary resources or balance of power in the local self-governments are more important in this respect.

The question has arisen and has even been expressed: Do we need to address the subject of minorities in the various scholarly workshops in Hungary in the following years at all, and if so why and how should we do it? Why should it be important for majority nations and minorities alike, despite all reservations, in Central Europe populated by small nations and national and ethnic minorities to clarify the fundamental concepts of the minority issue, taking into account the methods of responding to problems, conflicts, their prevention and alternatives for their solution?

In my paper I have made a (probably far too audacious and therefore somewhat crude) attempt to arrange, on the basis of typological considerations, the most important specifics and similarities of the minorities living in Central Europe east of Germany, in the context of their historical development in the 20th century.