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Research Report


George Schöpflin
Copyright Date: May. 1, 1993
Pages: 32
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. None)

    The problem of the relationships between Hungary, its neighbours and the ethnic Hungarian minorities in those countries, although largely neglected in Western writing during the Soviet period, is clearly the second most sensitive security issue in Central and Eastern Europe after the war of Yugoslav succession; through this war, Hungary might indeed become involved. Unless all participants and the West understand the factors at play and pursue policies designed to minimise conflict, tension could easily rise with far-reaching consequences. Ethno-national disputes - and these are already entangled with other issues which are not strictly anything to do with ethnicity, for...

  2. (pp. None)

    By the terms of the Treaty of Trianon of 1920, Hungary lost about two-thirds of its territory to its successor states.(¹) This constituted a twofold loss. Territory, meaning prestige, status and power, had to be ceded, but so also were large numbers of ethnic Hungarians, in flagrant violation of the Wilsonian principle of national self-determination. In Hungary, the Treaty of Trianon is still regarded as a major catastrophe for which France is held responsible as the patron of the Little Entente, and as the dominant element arising from the occupation of 1919. Many Hungarians are reluctant to accept that peacemaking...

  3. (pp. None)

    In 1990 the newly elected Hungarian government was completely inexperienced and made a fair number of errors in handling the problem of Hungarian minorities in the successor states. It started from the assumption that the communists had shamefully neglected the national question and that Hungarian opinion was determined that historic wounds should be healed. In this context, the task of the new nationally-minded government was to act as protector of the Hungarian nation, regardless of where its members lived, both morally and politically. As a matter of fact, neither assumption was correct. The communist government had, in fact, taken an...

  4. (pp. None)

    The most serious situation was to the south, where the war in Croatia in 1991 and the disintegration of Yugoslavia brought Hungary a host of new problems, notably the presence of an unofficially estimated 100,000 refugees. While the Hungarian government was unequivocally more friendly towards Croatia (and Slovenia) than towards Serbia, the bulk of the Hungarian minority lived in the last of the post-Yugoslav states. Serbian policy towards its Hungarian minority was one of impatience, but repression was sporadic and in early 1993 many of the institutions established by the minority still remained in being.

    Budapest was deeply concerned at...

  5. (pp. None)

    With respect to Slovakia, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that until the very end of 1992 the Hungarian government completely failed to take the Slovaks seriously as a political factor and relied on its good relationship with the Czechoslovak government as its chief instrument of policy. The fiasco over the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Barrage (GNB) shows this most clearly. Some background to this increasingly complex issue would be useful at this point. In 1977, the Hungarian and Czechoslovak governments signed a treaty to harness the Danube as a source of hydroelectric power by building a system of barrages between Bratislava...

  6. (pp. None)

    The relationship between Hungary and Romania, though less tense in 1993 than before, was a troubled one. Hungarian opinion had welcomed the fall of Ceausescu and expected a marked improvement in relations and in the treatment of the Hungarian minority. These hopes were, however, dashed with the attack on Hungarians in Tirgu Mures in March 1990. Since then, there has been an uneasy dialogue between the two governments, frequently punctuated by official and press polemics. On the other hand, in both countries the military establishments have been careful to offer assurances that disputes would not be resolved by force.


  7. (pp. None)

    There is a marked instability in the central Danubian area because of the unsettled relationship between Hungary and its neighbours, between the successor states and the Hungarian minorities and between those minorities and Hungary. This instability is structural and will undoubtedly persist until genuine democracy takes root in all the countries concerned and a civil society, ready to engage in dialogue with the minority, has been established throughout the area. In the interim, given the existence of politically unsophisticated populations, many of them ready to accept simple, demagogic solutions, together with politicians ready to exploit nationalism, tension will continue.