Hungarians in Slovakia
Hungarians in Slovakia are the largest ethnic minority of the country. According to the 2011 Slovak census, 458,467 people (or 8.5% of the population) declared themselves Hungarians, while 508,714 (9,4% of the population) stated that Hungarian was their mother tongue.
Hungarians in Slovakia are concentrated mostly in the southern part of the country, near the border with Hungary. Averaged on district level, they form the majority in two districts: Komárno and Dunajská Streda.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Origins of the Hungarian minority in Czechoslovakia
- 1.2 Population statistics before and immediately after the end of World War I
- 1.3 The aftermath of World War II
- 1.4 Population statistics after World War II
- 1.5 The Velvet Revolution and the independence of Slovakia
- 2 The situation of the Hungarian minority today
- 3 Culture
- 4 Education
- 5 Hungarian political parties
- 6 Towns with large Hungarian populations (2001 and 2011 census)
- 7 Famous Hungarians born in the area of present-day Slovakia
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Origins of the Hungarian minority in Czechoslovakia
After the defeat of the Central Powers in the Western Front in 1918, the Treaty of Trianon was signed between the winning Entente powers and Hungary in 1920, at the Paris Peace Conference. The treaty greatly reduced the Kingdom of Hungary's borders, including ceding all of Upper Hungary, where Slovaks made up the dominant ethnicity, to Czechoslovakia. In consideration of the strategic and economic interests of their new ally Czechoslovakia, however, the victorious allies set the Czechoslovak-Hungarian border further south than the Slovak-Hungarian language border. Consequently, the newly created state annexed areas that were overwhelmingly ethnic Hungarian.[unreliable source?]
When Czechoslovakia was established, many Slovak-language schools were established in Slovak lands, while some Hungarian-language schools in chiefly Hungarian regions remained Hungarian and some German schools in largely German regions remained German. The Hungarians, for example, had 31 kindergartens, 806 elementary schools, 46 secondary schools, and 576 Hungarian libraries at schools in the 1930s. A Department of Hungarian literature was created at the Charles University of Prague. The number of Hungarian elementary schools increased from 720 in 1923/1924 to the above number 806. The Hungarian University in Bratislava was closed after the Czechoslovak occupation of the town. In 2004, University of Selye János was opened in Komarno, the first Hungarian language university in Slovakia since 1919.
Population statistics before and immediately after the end of World War I
According to the 1910 census conducted in Austria–Hungary, there were 884,309 ethnic Hungarians, constituting 30.2% of the population, in what is now Slovakia and Carpatho-Ukraine. The Czechoslovak census of 1930 recorded 571,952 Hungarians. (In the 2001 census, by contrast, the percentage of ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia was 9.7%, a decrease of two thirds in percentage but not in absolute number, which remained roughly the same.)
All censuses from the period are disputed, and some give conflicting data. For example, according to the Czechoslovak censuses, 15-20% of the population in Košice was Hungarian. During the parliamentary elections, however, the ethnic Hungarian parties received 35-45% of the total votes (excluding those Hungarians who voted for the Communists or the Social Democrats). The fact that a high percentage of bilingual, mixed "Slovak-Hungarian" persons could claim both Slovak and Hungarian ethnicity complicated matters.
Some authors interpreted the difference between the 1910 census and the 1930 census as follows: the decrease between 1918 and 1924 of 106,000 people was due to those who were expelled from Czechoslovakia or fled to Hungary after World War I, when the state authorities refused to grant Czechoslovak citizenship to a disproportionate number of Hungarians. Later, when they added 'Jewish' as a separate ethnicity, there was an apparent decrease in the number and percentage of Hungarians (some of whom were Jews and self-identified as such.) Slovak sources acknowledge that many Hungarian teachers and civil clerks were forced to leave Czechoslovakia or left for Hungary voluntarily. The numbers are confusing but the censuses do show a rapid decline in the number of Hungarians. Two famous examples of people forced to leave were the families of Béla Hamvas and Albert Szent-Györgyi. The numerous refugees (including even more from the newly created Romania) necessitated the construction of new housing projects in Budapest (Mária-Valéria telep, Pongrácz-telep), which gave shelter to refugees numbering at least in the tens of thousands.
The aftermath of World War II
In 1945, at the end of World War II, Czechoslovakia was recreated. Some politicians intended to completely remove the ethnic German and Hungarian minorities from the territory of Czechoslovakia via expulsion or ethnic cleansing. Many citizens considered both minorities collectively to be "war criminals", because representatives from those two minorities had supported redrawing the borders of Czechoslovakia before World War II, via the Munich Agreement and the first Vienna Award. In addition, Czechs were suspicious of ethnic German political activity before the war. They also believed that the presence of so many ethnic Germans had encouraged Nazi Germany in its pan-German visions. In 1945, President Edvard Beneš revoked the citizenship of ethnic Germans and Hungarians by decree #33, except for those with an active anti-fascist past (see Beneš Decrees).
Immediately at the end of World War II, some 30,000 Hungarians left the formerly Hungarian re-annexed territories of southern Slovakia (see Vienna Awards). While Czechoslovakia expelled ethnic Germans, the Allies prevented a unilateral expulsion of Hungarians. They did agree to a forced population exchange between Czechoslovakia and Hungary, one which was initially rejected by Hungary. This population exchange proceeded by an agreement whereby 55,487; 74,407; 76,604 or 89,660 Hungarians from Slovakia were exchanged for 60,000; 71,787; or 73,200 Slovaks from Hungary (the exact number depends on the source.) Slovaks leaving Hungary moved voluntarily, but Czechoslovakia forced Hungarians out of their nation.
After expulsion of the Germans, Czechoslovakia found it had a labor shortage, especially of farmers in the Sudetenland. As a result, the Czechoslovak government deported more than 44,129 Hungarians from Slovakia to the Sudetenland for forced labor between 1945 and 1948. Some 2,489 were resettled voluntarily and received houses, good pay and citizenship in return. Later on, from November 19, 1946 to September 30, 1946, the government resettled the remaining 41,666 by force, with the Police and Army transporting them like "livestock" in rail cars. The Hungarians were required to work as indentured laborers, often offered in village markets to the new Czech settlers of the Sudetenland.
These conditions eased slowly. After a few years, the resettled Hungarians started to return to their homes in Slovakia. By 1948 some 18,536 had returned, causing conflicts over the ownership of their original houses, since Slovak colonists had often taken them over. By 1950 the majority of indentured Hungarians had returned to Slovakia. The status of Hungarians in Czechoslovakia was resolved, and the government again gave citizenship to ethnic Hungarians.
Materials from Russian archives prove how insistent the Czechoslovak government was on destroying the Hungarian minority in Slovakia. Hungary gave the Slovaks equal rights and demanded that Czechoslovakia offer equivalent rights to Hungarians within its borders.
In the spring and summer of 1945, the Czech government in exile approved a series of decrees that stripped Hungarians of property and all civil rights. In 1946 in Czechoslovakia, the process of "Reslovakization" was implemented with the objective of eliminating the Magyar nationality. It basically required the acceptance of Slovak nationality. Ethnic Hungarians were pressured to have their nationality officially changed to Slovak, otherwise they were dropped from the pension, social and healthcare system. Since Hungarians in Slovakia were temporarily deprived of many rights at that time (see Beneš decrees), as many as some 400,000 (sources differ) Hungarians applied for, and 344,609 Hungarians received, a re-Slovakization certificate and thereby Czechoslovak citizenship.
After Eduard Beneš was out of office, the next Czechoslovak government issued decree No. 76/1948 on April 13, 1948, allowing those Hungarians still living in Czechoslovakia, to reinstate Czechoslovak citizenship. A year later, Hungarians were allowed to send their children to Hungarian-language schools, which reopened for the first time since 1945. Most re-Slovakized Hungarians gradually readopted their Hungarian nationality. As a result, the re-Slovakization commission ceased operations in December 1948.
Despite promises to settle the issue of the Hungarians in Slovakia, in 1948 Czech and Slovak ruling circles still maintained the hope that they could deport the Hungarians from Slovakia. According to a 1948 poll conducted among the Slovak population, 55% were for resettlement (deportation) of the Hungarians, 24% said "don't know", and 21% were against. Under slogans related to the struggle with "class enemies", the process of dispersing dense Hungarian settlements continued in 1948 and 1949. By October 1949, the government prepared to deport 600 Hungarian families. Those Hungarians remaining in Slovakia were subjected to heavy pressure to assimilate, including the forced enrollment of Hungarian children in Slovak schools.
Population statistics after World War II
In the 1950 census the number of Hungarians in Slovakia decreased by 240,000 in comparison to 1930. By 1961 census it increased by 164,244 to 518,776. The low number in the 1950 census is likely due to the re-Slovakization; the higher number in the 1961 census is due to the fact that the re-Slovakization was cancelled..
The number of Hungarians in Slovakia increased from 518,782 in 1961 to 567,296 in 1991. The number of self-identified Hungarians in Slovakia decreased between 1991 and 2001, due in part to low birth rates, emigration and introduction of new ethnic categories, such as the Roma. Also, between 1961 and 1991 Hungarians had a significantly lower birth rate than the Slovak majority (which in the meantime had increased from about 3.5 million to 4.5 million), contributing to the drop in the Hungarian percentage of the population.
The Velvet Revolution and the independence of Slovakia
After the Velvet Revolution of 1989, Czechia and Slovakia separated peacefully in the Velvet Divorce of 1993. Following the independence of Slovakia, the situation of the Hungarian minority worsened, especially under the reign of Slovak Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar (1993-March 1994 and December 1994 – 1998).
An official language law required the use of the Slovak language not only in official communications but also in everyday commerce, in the administration of religious bodies, and even in the realm of what is normally considered private interaction, for example, communications between patient and physician. On January 23, 2007, the local broadcasting committee shut down BBC's radio broadcasting for using English, and cited the language law as the reason.
Especially in Slovakia's ethnic Hungarian areas, critics have attacked the administrative division of Slovakia as a case of gerrymandering, designed so that in all eight regions, Hungarians are in the minority. Under the 1996 law of reorganization, only two districts (Dunajská Streda and Komárno) have a Hungarian-majority population. While also done to maximize the success of the party HZDS, the gerrymandering in ethnic Hungarian areas worked to minimize the Hungarians' voting power. In all eight regions, Hungarians are in the minority, though five regions have Hungarian populations within the 10 to 30 per cent range. The Slovak government established new territorial districts from north to south, dividing the Hungarian community into five administrative units, where they became a minority in each administrative unit. The Hungarian community saw a substantial loss of political influence in this gerrymandering.
On March 12, 1997, the Undersecretary of Education sent a circular to the heads of the school districts, ordering that in Hungarian-language schools, the Slovak language should be taught exclusively by native speakers. The same requirement for native Slovak-language speakers applied to teaching of geography and history in non-Slovak schools. In 1998 this measure was repealed by the Mikuláš Dzurinda government.
On April 10, 2008 the Hungarian Coalition Party (MKP) voted with the governing Smer and SNS supporting the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon. This is the result of an alleged political bargain: Robert Fico promised to change the Slovak education law that would have drastically limited the Hungarian minority's usage of their native language in education facilities. The two Slovak opposition parties saw this as a betrayal, because originally the whole Slovak opposition had planned to boycott the vote to protest a new press code that limited the freedom of the press in Slovakia.
The situation of the Hungarian minority today
The 1992 Slovak constitution is derived from the concept of the Slovak nation state. The preamble of the Constitution, however, cites Slovaks and ethnic minorities as the constituency. Moreover, the rights of the diverse minorities are protected by the Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights, and various other legally binding documents. The Party of the Hungarian Coalition is represented in Parliament and was part of the government coalition from 1998 to 2006.
The Constitution also declares that Slovak is the state language on the territory of the Slovak Republic. Make this rules concrete, the 1995 Language Law declares that the State language has a priority over other languages applied on the whole territory of the Slovak Republic. The 2009 amendment of the language law restricts the use of minority languages, and extend the obligatory use of the state language, e.g. in communities where the number of minority speaker is less than 20% of the population. Under the 2009 amendment a fine up to 5000 euros may be imposed on those committing a misdemeanour in relation to the use of the state language.
In 1995, a so-called Basic Treaty was signed between Hungary and Slovakia, regarded by the US and leading European powers as a pre-condition for these countries to join NATO and the EU. In the basic treaty the Hungary and Slovakia undertook a wide range of legal obligations among others the acceptance of recommendation 1201 of the European Council which in its article 11 states that 'in the regions where they are in a majority the persons belonging to a national minority shall have the right to have at their disposal appropriate local or autonomous authorities or to have a special status, matching the specific historical and territorial situation and in accordance with the domestic legislation of the state.'
After the regions of Slovakia became autonomous in 2002, the MKP was able to take power in the Nitra Region. It became part of the ruling coalition in several other regions. Since the new administrative system was put in place in 1996, the MKP has asked for the creation of a Hungarian-majority Komárno county. Although a territorial unit of the same name existed before 1918, the borders proposed by the MKP are significantly different. The proposed region would encompass a long slice of southern Slovakia, with the explicit aim to create an administrative unit with an ethnic Hungarian majority. Hungarian minority politicians and intellectuals are convinced that such an administrative unit is essential for the long-term survival of the Hungarian minority. The Slovak government has so far refused to change the boundaries of the administrative units, and ethnic Hungarians continue as minorities in each.
According to Sabrina P. Ramet, professor of international studies at the University of Washington, who refers to situation under Vladimír Mečiar's administration between 1994 and 1998:
The coalition formed after the parliamentary elections in 2006 saw the Slovak National Party headed by Ján Slota (frequently described as ultra-nationalist, right-wing extremist) become a member of the ruling coalition, led by the allegedly social-democratic Smer party. After its signing of a coalition treaty with far-right extremist party SNS, the Smer's Social-Democratic self-identification was questioned.
In August 2006, a few incidents motivated by ethnic hatred caused diplomatic tensions between Slovakia and Hungary. Mainstream Hungarian and Slovak media blamed Slota's anti-Hungarian statements from the early summer for the worsening ethnic relations. The Party of European Socialists, with which the Smer is affiliated, regards SNS as a party of the racist far-right. It reacted to news of the coalition by expressing grave concern. The PES suspended Smer's membership on 12 October 2006 and decided to review the situation in June 2007. The decision was then extended until February 2008, when Smer's candidacy was readmitted by PES. On 27 September 2007, the Slovak parliament reconfirmed the Beneš decrees, appearing to legitimize the historic accusation of collective guilt and deportation of Hungarians and Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II.
In May 2010, the newly appointed second Viktor Orbán's cabinet in Hungary initiated a bill on dual citizenship, granting Hungarian passports to members of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia, purportedly aimed at offsetting the harmful effects of the Treaty of Trianon, and raising a huge controversy between Hungary and Slovakia. Though János Martonyi, the new foreign minister, visited his Slovak colleague to discuss the dual citizenship, Robert Fico however stated that since Fidesz and the new government did not want to negotiate on the issue, this would be a question of national security. Ján Slota Slovak government member for the Slovak National Party, fears that Hungary wants to attack Slovakia and considered the situation as a "beginning of a war conflict". The designate Prime Minister Viktor Orbán laid down firmly that he considers Slovak hysteria as part of the campaign. As a response to change in Hungarian citizenship law, the National Council of the Slovak Republic approved on May 26, 2010 a law stating that if a Slovak citizen applies for citizenship of another country then he/she will lose his/her Slovak one.
On September 1, 2009 more than ten thousand Hungarians held demonstrations to protest against the so-called language law that limits the use of minority languages in Slovakia. The law calls for fines of up to £4,380 for institution "misusing the Slovak language". There were demonstrations in Dunajská Streda (Hungarian: Dunaszerdahely), Slovakia, in Budapest, Hungary and in Brussels, Belgium.
- Új Szó, a Hungarian-language daily newspaper published in Bratislava 
- Madách - former Hungarian publishing house in Bratislava
- Kalligram - Hungarian publishing house in Bratislava 
Some 585 schools in Slovakia, kindergartens inclusive, use the Hungarian language as the main language of education. Nearly 200 schools use both Slovak and Hungarian. In 2004, the J. Selye University of Komárno was the first state-financed Hungarian-language university to be opened outside Hungary.
Hungarian political parties
- under the First Republic of Czechoslovakia: Provincial Christian-Socialist Party, Hungarian-German Social Democratic Party, Hungarian National Party
- Party of the Hungarian Coalition (Strana maďarskej koalície - Magyar Koalíció Pártja) (MKP), in the government between 1998-2006.
Towns with large Hungarian populations (2001 and 2011 census)
Note: only towns are listed here, villages and rural municipalities are not.
Towns with a Hungarian majority
- Veľký Meder (Nagymegyer) - 9,113 inhabitants, of whom 84.6% (75.58%) are Hungarian
- Kolárovo (Gúta) - 10,756 inhabitants, of whom 82.6% (76.67%) are Hungarian
- Dunajská Streda (Dunaszerdahely) - 23,562 inhabitants, of whom 79.75% (74.53%) are Hungarian
- Kráľovský Chlmec (Királyhelmec) - 7,966 inhabitants, of whom 76.94% (73.66%) are Hungarian
- Štúrovo (Párkány) - 11,708 inhabitants, of whom 68.7% (60.66%) are Hungarian
- Šamorín (Somorja) - 12,339 inhabitants, of whom 66.63% (57.43%) are Hungarian
- Fiľakovo (Fülek) - 10,198 inhabitants, of whom 64.40% (53.54%) are Hungarian
- Šahy (Ipolyság) - 7,971 inhabitants, of whom 62.21% (57.84%) are Hungarian
- Tornaľa (Tornalja) - 8,016 inhabitants, of whom 62.14% (57.68%) are Hungarian
- Komárno (Komárom) - 37,366 inhabitants, of whom 60.09% (53.88%) are Hungarian
- Čierna nad Tisou (Tiszacsernyő) - 4,390 inhabitants, of whom 60% (62.27%) are Hungarian
- Veľké Kapušany (Nagykapos) - 9,536 inhabitants of whom 56.98% (59.58%) are Hungarian
- Želiezovce (Zselíz) - 7,522 inhabitants, of whom 51.24% (48.72%) are Hungarian
- Hurbanovo (Ógyalla) - 8,041 inhabitants, of whom 50.19% (41.23%) are Hungarian
Towns with a Hungarian population of between 25% and 50%
- Moldava nad Bodvou (Szepsi) - 9,525 inhabitants of whom 43.6% (29.63%) are Hungarian
- Sládkovičovo (Diószeg) - 6,078 inhabitants of whom 38.5% (31.70%) are Hungarian
- Galanta (Galánta) - 16,000 inhabitants of whom 36.80% (30.54%) are Hungarian
- Rimavská Sobota (Rimaszombat) - 24,520 inhabitants of whom 35.26% (29.62%) are Hungarian
- Nové Zámky (Érsekújvár) - 42,300 inhabitants of whom 27.52% (22.36%) are Hungarian
Towns with a Hungarian population of between 10% and 25%
- Rožňava (Rozsnyó) - 19,120 inhabitants of whom 26.8% (19.84%) are Hungarian
- Senec (Szenc) - 15,193 inhabitants of whom 22% (14.47%) are Hungarian
- Šaľa (Vágsellye) - 24,506 inhabitants of whom 17.9% (14.15%) are Hungarian
- Lučenec (Losonc) - 28,221 inhabitants of whom 13.11% (9.34%) are Hungarian
- Levice (Léva) - 35,980 inhabitants of whom 12.23% (9.19%) are Hungarian
Famous Hungarians born in the area of present-day Slovakia
Born before 1918 in the Kingdom of Hungary
- Gyula Andrássy (politician)
- Gyula Andrássy the Younger (politician)
- Bálint Balassi (poet)
- Lajos Batthyány (politician)
- Miklós Bercsényi (politician, military leader)
- Lujza Blaha (actress, "the nightingale of the nation")
- Ernő Dohnányi (conductor, composer, pianist)
- Elizabeth of Hungary
- Béla Gerster (engineer, canal architect)
- Artúr Görgey (military leader)
- András Hadik
- Béla Hamvas (philosopher)
- Mór Jókai (writer)
- Lajos Kassák (poet, painter, typographer, graphic artist)
- Domokos Kosáry (historian, president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences)
- Peter Lorre (Hollywood actor)
- Imre Madách (poet)
- Pál Maléter (military leader of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution)
- Sándor Márai (writer)
- Kálmán Mikszáth (writer)
- Francis II Rákóczi (prince, military leader, freedom fighter)
- József Révay (philosopher, Olympic champion)
- Gyula Reviczky (poet)
- Franz Schmidt (composer)
- Mihály Tompa (poet)
- Imre Thököly (prince, military leader)
- János Zsámboky (16th-century humanist)
Born after 1918 in Czechoslovakia
- Balázs Borbély (sportsman)
- Imrich Bugár Imre Bugár (sportsman)
- George Feher György Fehér (biophysicist)
- Koloman Gögh Kálmán Gögh (sportsman)
- László Mécs (Družstevná pri Hornáde, Slovakia; poet)
- Szilárd Németh (sportsman)
- Alexander Pituk Sándor Pituk (sportsman)
- Tamás Priskin (sportsman)
- Richard Réti (sportsman)
Born in Czechoslovakia, career in Hungary
Hungarian politicians in Slovakia
- József Berényi - chairman of Party of the Hungarian Coalition
- Béla Bugár - former chairman of Party of the Hungarian Coalition
- Edit Bauer - member of Member of the European Parliament
- Pál Csáky - former chairman of Party of the Hungarian Coalition
- Miklós Duray
- Count János Esterházy - World War II politician
- László Gyurovszky
- László Nagy
- Károly Tóth - Leader of the Forum institute, which compiles statistics on minorities in Slovakia.
- The Slovak Spectator: Census: Fewer Hungarians, Catholics – and Slovaks, 5 Mar 2012 
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- Largest Hungarian portal's article about re-Slovakization
- Rieber, p. 92
- Rieber, p. 93
- "BBC's radio license yanked for use of English". The Slovak Spectator.
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- Hungarian Nation in Slovakia|Slovakia
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- New Slovak Government Embraces Ultra-Nationalists, Excludes Hungarian Coalition Party HRF Alert: "Hungarians are the cancer of the Slovak nation, without delay we need to remove them from the body of the nation." (Új Szó, April 15, 2005)
- International Herald Tribune's article about Hungarian-Slovak relations
- The Steven Roth Institute: Country reports. Antisemitism and racism in Slovakia
- "The Beneš-Decrees Are Untouchable" (PDF). mkp. 2007. Retrieved October 2008.
- Protests over Slovak language law
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