|Stephen Borsody: The Hungarians: A Divided Nation|
Statistically, the results of this "decade of deterioriation" have been registered on two fronts: in the census of 1980 and in the field of education. In addition to Slovakization pressures, Hungarian losses on both fronts are explainable by fear spreading among the
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Hungarians. In 1980, based on population growth estimates, a 6.4 percent increase of the Hungarian population was expected; it was only 1.5 percent. Many Hungarians did not dare to declare their nationality. The drop in the number of Hungarian children attending Hungarian primary schools is due partly to fear, too. That figure dropped from 71,000 in 1970 to 50,000 in 1980. Besides fear there are several other factors that account for these statistical losses. School reforms of the 1970s reduced, in many cases, the geographic accessibility of Hungarian schools. Partly due to lack of facilities, 35 percent of Hungarian minority children of kindergarten age start their education in a Slovak environment.
In the long run, the most serious factor seems to be the growing conviction among parents that it is in the interests of the children to be educated in the language of the majority. Relentless persuasion to this effect is going on under the auspices of the well organized Slovakization campaign. But the higher quality of the Slovak institutions, alone, is an effective temptation in convincing the parents to shun even the available Hungarian schools. This lowering of standards of Hungarian culture in general is no doubt the most alarming phenomenon from the point of view of Hungarian survival.
Historian Zvara declared not long ago: "Under socialism the nationality problem is being solved not by assimilation but through evolution and rapprochement between nations and nationalities."16 This sounds very much like the Sindelka thesis of the 1960s, but Sindelka at least admitted that what he was talking about was the ultimate merger of the minority into the majority. Zvara scolds the Hungarians for opposing the trend of "rapprochement": "They [the Hungarian minority] would - if we would allow them - make use of nationalism in the battle against socialism."17 Attaching labels of "anti-Leninism," "anti-socialism" - as well as the greatest of anti-Marxist crimes, that of "nationalism" - is old hat. This is the usual way the majority nations in Communist countries denigrate the minority nationalities' struggle for survival.
In conclusion, let's face the charge of minority nationalism. Undoubtedly, past persecution and continuing discrimination have provided the psychological breeding ground for defensive nationalism among Slovakia's Hungarians. But they harbor no nationalism which would hurt the interests or rights of the Slovak majority. Apart from
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current grievances, interpretations of the past also contribute to pitting Hungarian and Slovak nationalist feelings against each other. Common Hungarian-Slovak historical experiences are interpreted differently and create competing, even hostile, systems of thinking. The Hungarians have often been made to appear by the Slovaks as history's culprits. Slovak historians have overemphasized past oppression of the Slovaks under Hungarian rule, whereas Hungarian contributions in the past millenium for the common good have been totally ignored. All this antagonizes the Hungarians and stokes the fires of separatist nationalism on the one hand but, on the other, also adds to Hungarian feelings of inferiority, of minority helplessness and isolation.
Inferiority feelings have crept into the Hungarian minority consciousness in Slovakia and are increasing because minority problems have been relegated to limbo and suspended there. Socialist literature is forbidden to discuss minority problems in concrete terms. At best, it does so only in the nature of philosophical or ideological abstractions. There are no mutually agreed pragmatic guidelines to govern the behavior of either the minority or the majority. Should a minority possess special constitutional privileges? If so, what criteria should be used? Should all minorities have similar rights, regardless of numbers or distribution patterns, whether they live scattered throughout the country or in compact ethnic blocs? Should minorities be permitted to organize along ethnic lines? Are they a corporate body, or merely a collection of individual citizens speaking a different tongue? It has caused great harm that all these grave issues, which were raised in 1968, have since then been suppressed as nonexistent. The assumption today seems to be that national minorities are mere relics from the bourgeois past, which industrialization and urbanization will ultimately extinguish and thereby eliminate as a point of friction.
Indeed, it is chimerical to suppose that any force might eradicate so many centuries of ethnic and national traditions within mere decades. On the contrary, the scientific-technological revolution, which many have hoped would eliminate minorities, has certain characteristics which actually help preserve their peculiarities. For example, radio and television broadcasts from Hungary play a significant role in preserving the language and cultural traditions of the Hungarian minorities in the Danube region. Assimilation may win battles, but the minorities' struggle for national survival goes on.
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1. Demograficka prirucka (Prague, 1966), 46.
2. Jozsef Sebestyen, Hodza Mildn utja (Bratislava, 1938), 170
3. Edgar Balogh, Hetproba (Budapest, 1975), 158, 234.
4. Imre Forbath's reminiscences in Irodalmi Szemle (September 1967): 835.
5. A detailed account of these four years of lawlessness can be found in my book: Kalman Janics, A hontalansag evei, with an introduction by Gyula Illyes, published by the European Protestant Hungarian Free University in Bern (Munich, 1979). An English version adapted from the Hungarian by Stephen Borsody was published by Brooklyn College Studies on Society in Change: Czechoslovak Policy and the Hungarian Minority, 1945-1948 (New York, 1982). On President Benes's diplomatic moves to expel the Hungarians, see the Editor's Note at the end of Chapter 5, above.
6. Cf. Juraj Zvara, A magyar nemzetisegi kerdes megoldasa Szlovakiaban (Bratislava, 1965).
7. Cf. Zdenka Holotikova, "Niektore problemy slovenskej politiky v rokoch 1921-1925," Historicky Casopis (1966): 3.
8. Jan Sindelka, Narodnostni otazka a socializmus (Prague, 1966). See Juraj Zvara's ideas on this subject below; also see Annex I in Chapter 9, below, for a Yugoslav-Hunganan Marxist intelpretation by Laszlo Rehak.
9. Sindelka, Narodnostni otazka, 287.
10. Samuel Cambel, Slovenska agrarna otazka 1944-1948 (Bratislava, 1972).
11. Figures from the official publication, Demografia (1971): 4.
12. Kalman Janics, "A romlas Evtizede," Uj Latohatar 34/3 (1983): 33041.
13. Quoted from the English translation of the Action Program as published in Robin Alison Remington, ed., Winter in Prague: Documents on Czechoslovak Communism in Crisis (Cambridge, Mass., 1969), 108-9.
14. Uj Szo, April 19, 1970.
15. Endre Arato in Kortars 11 (1970): 1810.
16. Sociologia 5 (1981): 513.
17. Sociologia 3 (1976): 227.
The Duray Affair
Deteriorating conditions in the 1970s convinced a handful of concerned Hungarian intellectuals that public defense of
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Hungarian minority rights in Slovakia by legal means had become impossible. In 1978, they agreed to act anonymously as an informal group under the name of "Committee for the Defense of the Rights of the Hungarian Minority in Czechoslovakia." The aim of the committee was to collect data on the violations of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the Hungarian minority. At home, they established contact with the Czech Charter 77 civil rights movement, while abroad they tried to get international publicity for their cause.
The committee's first memorandum, addressed to top government and party officials in the fall of 1978, protested against recent Slovak school reforms which were undermining the very structure of Hungarian education. The next memorandum, in the spring of 1979, summed up the violations of Hungarian minority rights in light of the Czechoslovak Constitution and demanded redress of grievances in all areas of minority life. Truly, it was a "Petition of Rights," an outstanding document of the Hungarian struggle for survival under Slovak rule. (See Annex III, below.) This document, with a cover letter stressing the committee's conviction that "nationality oppression is a violation of human rights," was sent to the spokesmen of Charter 77, the Czech civil rights movement. Later that year, another communication was sent to Charter 77, a general statement on minority problems in the framework of Hungarian-Czechoslovak relations (Annex II). In 1980, a study by the Committee discussed Slovakia's minority oppression in light of the provisions of the United Nations human rights resolutions and the Helsinki agreements. Also, the committee's letter of protest concerning Hungarian-language education was sent to Hungarian schoolteachers and parents throughout Slovakia. Two of the committee's statements (Annex II and III, below) were circulated among participants of the Helsinki follow-up conference in Madrid (1980-83). Finally, in 1980-81, a comprehensive memorandum on the situation of the Hungarian minority was prepared for the Minority Rights Group in London (Annex IV).
The moving spirit behind the committee's activities was Miklos Duray, a geologist and writer, who is one of the leading Hungarian intellectuals of the postwar generation in Slovakia. Born in 1944 into a working class family, Duray's first public appearance dates back to the Prague Spring of 1968, as a leader of the Hungarian minority youth movement. Since then, he has written several studies on minority problems, and one of his writings appeared in an important
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Budapest underground publication, In Memoriam Istvan Bibo. He has also authored most of the memoranda issued in the name of the Committee for the Defense of the Rights of the Hungarian Minority in Czechoslovakia.
Suspecting him of involvement in the committee's activities, the Slovak police interrogated and warned Duray against such activities several times since 1979. In June 1982, the Slovak political police searched his apartment in Bratislava and confiscated some of his papers, notes, and books, as well as his mimeographing machine, which is an illegal possession in Czechoslovakia. On November 10, 1982, he was arrested.
On December 28, 1982, the State Prosecutor in Bratislava charged Duray with "bourgeois nationalist" activities undermining the socialist social order and slandering the republic at home and abroad. He was charged with disseminating documents which "deliberately distort the facts, are anti-socialist, prone to arouse nationalist sentiments, and play into the hands of institutions abroad because they create the impression as if Czechoslovakia had not solved its nationality problem." Duray's arrest has aroused considerable attention abroad. Protests against his prosecution have been voiced in both Westem Europe and in the United States. In an open letter, addressed to the prime minister of Hungary, the American writers Irving Howe, Susan Sontag, and Kurt Vonnegut have urged intervention on Duray's behalf.
The Duray trial began on January 31, 1983. Among western observers who attended the trial was a representative of Amnesty International. But most conspicuous was the presence of a three member delegation from Hungary's Writers' Union. Duray, in his defense, reminded the court that thirty years ago President Husak himself was tried under the same charges of "bourgeois nationalism." Duray admitted authorship of the memoranda issued in the name of the Committee for the Defense of the Rights of the Hungarian Minority in Czechoslovakia but insisted that the threats to Hungarian survival as described in those documents correspond to facts.
The verdict in the trial was to be pronounced on February 11, but was postponed. Unexpectedly, on February 24, 1983, Duray was set free without a verdict, but under the condition that he refrain from any future seditious activities. Rumor had it that, behind the scenes, the Hungarian govemment intervened.
Undaunted, Duray led successful public protest against a draft bill aimed at liquidating, for all practical purposes, education in the
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mother tongues of national minorities in Slovakia. Under pressure of a massive Hungarian protest, the Slovak government was forced to withdraw the most objectionable (in fact, unconstitutional) passages of the proposed legislation. However, in reprisal for his role in the campaign against the draft bill, Duray was rearrested in May 1984 and faced old and new charges of "activities contrary to the interests of the state" and "distributing inciting material." In May 1985, after a year in detention without a trial, Duray was set free with all charges dropped under the provisions of a general amnesty issued on the fortieth anniversary of VE-day.
Shortly before Duray's release, Bela Kopeczi, Hungary's minister of culture, had paid an official visit to Czechoslovakia. His negotiations in Prague and Bratislava, he said, have been held "in a creative atmosphere of mutual search for new avenues in cultural ties and with a decisive resolve to strengthen results already achieved." S.B.
Petition of Rights
In May 1979, the Committee for the Defense of Rights of the Hungarian Minority in Czechoslovakia sent a petition to top government and party leaders. Listing in detail instances of discrimination against the Hungarian nationality, the petition proposed measures to stop violations of constitutional rights. This petition was among the memoranda which were brought to the attention of the participants of the Helsinki follow-up conference in Madrid. In addition to the full text of proposed measures, the excerpts that follow are from a summary which introduces the petition.
The full text of the petition was published in Hungarian by Irodalmi Ujsag, (Paris), September-October 1979.
Ten years ago Constitutional Law 143/1968 amending Constitutional Law 100/1960 of the CSSR [Czechoslovak Socialist Republic] took effect. This law pertains to the federal structure of the state [consisting of two Socialist Republics, those of the Czech and Slovak nations]. Simultaneously, Constitutional Law 144/1968, pertaining to
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nationality [i.e., national minority] affairs, was also passed. It should be noted, however, that the implementation of Constitutional Law 144/1968 did not fulfill the expectations of the nationalities for the following reasons:
1. It failed to secure the social, economic, and cultural development of the nationalities aiming at the reduction of differences that developed since 1945 in their relationship to the two [Czech and Slovak] nations.
2. It failed to secure collective participation of the nationalities in the political life of the state.
3. It failed to secure for the nationalities proportionate development on all levels of education.
4. It failed to stop the forcible assimilation of the nationalities.
The above failures are the results of nonimplementation [of the constitutional law] by supportive legislation either by the National Assembly or by the Slovak National Council.
During the past ten years the degrading of constitutionally guaranteed rights of the nationalities to institutional independence affected most seriously the Hungarian nationality [living in the Slovak Socialist Republic].
This unconstitutional discrimination clearly manifests itself . . . [in the field of education, culture, economic life, political life, and legal rights].
[To end discrimination and violations of law,] . . . we urge enactment of the following measures in accordance with the constitutional principle of national equality.
In accordance with Constitutional Law 100/1960, Chapter II, Art. 19,. Par. 2, Art. 20, Par. 2, Art. 24, Par. 3, and Art. 26, as well as Constitutional Law 144/1968, Art. 3, Par. 1/a:
- The education of Hungarian youth in its native language should be unconditionally guaranteed, beginning with establishment of Hungarian nursery schools and expansion of the network of Hungarian kindergartens, continuing to all levels of primary and secondary schooling, including gymnasia, specialized technical high schools, as well as secondary vocational schools for apprentices, to satisfy the needs of all regions inhabited by citizens of Hungarian nationality.
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- Concrete steps should be taken to increase the total number of Hungarian students (by approximately 250%) in colleges and universities: in medicine (by approximately 500%), law (approximately 400%) and economics (approximately 500%), to a level proportionate to the number of citizens of Hungarian nationality living in the country.
- Hungarian-language instruction should be guaranteed at the College of Agriculture of Nitra (Nyitra) and the College of Veterinary Medicine of Kosice (Kassa) by increasing the Hungarian student enrollment at these institutions by 300%.
- The right to Hungarian-language practicum and the right to exarninations in the native tongue should be guaranteed at the Komensky University of Bratislava (Pozsony), at the department of chemical technology of the J. P. Safarik University of Kosice (Kassa), at the departments of chemical, mechanical, architectural/structural, and electrical engineering of the Slovak College of Technology of Bratislava (Pozsony), as well as at the department of mechanical engineering of the College of Technology of Kosice (Kassa).
- The department of Hungarian language at the philosophical faculty of the Bratislava (Pozsony) Komensky University should be expanded into a full-fledged department of Hungarian Studies.
- A Hungarian College of Education should be created in Bratislava (Pozsony) to train Hungarian educators for primary and secondary schools.
- We are asking for guarantees against all attempts to change the language of instruction in Hungarian schools from Hungarian to Slovak.
- Study opportunities at colleges and universities in the People's Republic of Hungary for [Czechoslovak] citizens of Hungarian nationality should be expanded, especially in the social sciences, and disciplines of special relevance to the needs of Hungarian-inhabited regions [in Czechoslovakia].
In accordance with Constitutional Law 100/1960, Chapter II, Art. 24, Par. 2, and Art. 28, as well as Constitutional Law 144/1968, Art. 3, Par. 1/b/c.
- The cultural offerings for citizens of Hungarian nationality
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should neither be reduced to belles lettres, nor degraded to amateurism, but kept on high level of competence and professionalism.
- By creating a permanent Hungarian theater in Bratislava (Pozsony) Hungarian stage culture should be further developed.
- Professionalism in Hungarian mass culture should be developed to ensure a progressive evolution of Hungarian popular culture. Within the framework of the Institute of Popular Culture in Bratislava (Pozsony) the nationalities section should be strengthened, and nationality sections should be created at district houses of culture.
- A central Hungarian library should be established with regional branches.
- A Hungarian cultural center should be established to assist professional regional development of the arts in fields of folk and local art.
- The print and paper capacity of Hungarian publishing should be increased. At the Madach Publishing House, the scope of publications should be expanded and the professionalism of the editorial staff improved.
- In addition to the [existing] literary periodicals, professionally staffed periodicals in the fields of natural and social sciences should be founded to ensure wide dissemination of scientific/technical knowledge.
- An independently edited Hungarian weekly devoted primarily to social problems should be established.
- Instead of the scattered and sporadically appearing local papers of low standards, regional bi-weeklies should be published. Western Slovakia needs two such bi-weeklies, while the central and eastern Slovak regions need one each.
- Hungarian-language programs should be introduced at Channel One of the Bratislava (Pozsony) television.
- An independent research institute with a social studies division for the study of the development of the Hungarian nationality should be established. The majority of the professional staff should be of Hungarian nationality.
- To stop "brain drain" through emigration under duress, appropriate employment opportunities for Hungarian individuals with higher education should be secured
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- The deliberate oppression of Hungarian culture by depriving it of financial resources should be stopped.
C. Economic Life
In accordance with Constitutional Law 143/1968, Chapter I, Art. 5, Par. 2 and Par. 5:
- The continuing economic decline of Hungarian-inhabited areas must be stopped. The industrialization of the areas should proceed in conformity with given social and natural conditions. Emphasis should be placed on agriculturally based and food processing industries. Lingering unemployment caused by reduced labor power following agricultural modernization should be corrected by the creation of new job opportunities in processing, light, and heavy industry. This will cut down the undesirable outmigration from the most seriously affected Hungarian-populated areas.
- The professional staff and technical experts of new industries should be recruited mainly from the ranks of the local inhabitants.
- Prior to industrialization the youth should be steered by adequate means of information into the appropriate Hungarian technical schools. The capacity of regional secondary technical and vocational schools should be adjusted to the industrial needs of the region.
- The development of agricultural and industrial production should take human and social factors into consideration. Specifically:
(a) The forced unification of agricultural collectives and villages in Hungarian-Slovak border areas should be discontinued.
(b) Reckless intensification of large-scale agricultural production, causing chemical pollution of the environment especially in the [Hungarian populated] Csallokoz and the East Slovak basin should be stopped.
(c) The massive chemical pollution in general of southern Slovakia [in the mostly Hungarian-populated regions] should be stopped.
- [In these regions] . . . small enterprises and light industry should be developed to tie down the inhabitants and to prevent outmigration and a demographic catastrophe due to deteriorating living conditions.
- Industrialization, urbanization, or economic development should not serve as pretexts for forced assimilation of Hungarians.
- The hydraulic and hydroelectric works being constructed on the
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Czechoslovak section of the Danube should not be to the economic and ethnic detriment of the inhabitants of those regions whose majority is Hungarian.
D. Political Life
In accordance with Constitutional Law 100/1960, Chapter I, Art. 6, as well as Constitutional Law 143/1968, Chapter II, Art. 37, Par. 3: - The participation of CSEMADOK [cultural association of the Hungarian minority] in the National Front should be renewed.
- The ministerial functions in charge of nationality affairs in the government of the SSR [Slovak Socialist Republic] should be renewed. The minister and deputy minister heading such department should be selected from the ranks of the nationalities.
- From the ranks of the nationalities deputy ministers and state secretaries should be appointed to the departments concerned with education, culture, public health, agriculture, food processing, development and technology, industry and construction. These officials should be concerned with nationality problems and their solutions in regions populated by nationalities.
- The practice of nominating Hungarian delegates to elective organs only to improve the proportionate representation of lower social strata should be discontinued.
- Interventions of nationality delegates on behalf of their own nationalities should not be regarded as seditious acts.
- Nationality representatives should be allowed to unite in nationality clubs.
- Nationality representatives should be allowed to consult independent experts in matters pertaining to nationality affairs.
- Nationality councils on district levels composed of nationality experts (Hungarian and Ukrainian) should be created.
- In districts with mixed populations, nationality councils, attached to the national district committees, should be created for overseeing of nationality affairs especially in education, culture, labor, social and health matters.
- In districts with mixed populations, nationality sections should be created in the local and municipal committees, charged mainly with matters of education, culture, and public health.
- Citizens of nationality origin should be able to use their native
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tongue effectively in written and oral official communications, including in districts with mixed population, and with the regional and central organs of state and party. In the Slovak Socialist Republic this means the use of Hungarian and Ukrainian.
-In areas of mixed population, on local as well as on the district level, bilingualism should be made obligatory in affairs of administration, telecommunication, and transportation.
In accordance with Constitutional Law 143/1968, Chapter V, Art. 76, Par. 2, as well as Chapter VI, Art. 87tb, Art. 89, Par. 9, and Art. 93:
-The non-implementation and neglect of the provisions of Constitutional Law 144/1968, Articles 1, 3, 4 and 5 should be investigated.
We submit this memorandum in accordance with Constitutional Law 100/1960, Chapter II, Article 29.
|Stephen Borsody: The Hungarians: A Divided Nation|