Nationalism is on the rise. Not just in Hungary but also in Slovakia. People blessed with an optimistic nature were certain that with globalization and the growing importance of the European Union nationalistic impulses would subside. Eastern European nationalism has been always virulent, but the Pollyannas were convinced that once these countries joined the European Union the problem would be solved. The Hungarians were especially hopeful that the heavy burden of the Treaty of Trianon would be lifted: the borders that divide Hungarians of Hungary from Hungarians in Romania and Slovakia would simply melt away. People would freely drive through former border crossings, dirt roads leading through fields from village to village and abandoned ninety years ago would be restored, villages split between two countries would grow together again.
Well, easy access is a reality. Thousands of Slovaks work in Hungarian factories. Hungarian tourists go to Slovakia with great frequency. Hungarians in the underdeveloped southeastern region went and found work in Arad, Romania. Romanians are buying up houses in villages on the Hungarian side close to larger Romanian cities, for example close to Oradea (Nagyvárad). It takes only a few minutes to drive "home" to houses that are much larger and cheaper in the Hungarian countryside than in the fairly large Romanian cities nearby. The situation is the same in Hungarian villages close to Bratislava. I just heard about a village called Rajka where by now half of the houses are owned by Slovaks from Bratislava. Bratislava is only 15 minutes by car. Hungarian children from the areas close to the Austro-Hungarian border attend school on the Austrian side and thus can easily learn an important foreign language in addition to their less useful mother tongue.
All this sounds idyllic, but with the same ease that people of goodwill can cross these borders so can people whose intentions are not always pure. Surely the Hungarian extremists parading as soccer fans went to Dunajská Streda (Dunaszerdahely) to provoke. The paramilitary organization, the illegally functioning Nemzeti Őrsereg, went to Král'ovsky Chlmec (Királyhelmec) to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the First Vienna Award without even the pretense of a soccer game. They went there to stir up trouble. The Hungarian government can repeat endlessly that they condemn the activities of these extremists, but the Slovaks will not be appeased. It may seem ridiculous to Hungarians, but Slovaks are afraid of Hungary and their Hungarian minority and incidents like these only fuel their suspicions. They are convinced that Hungarians haven't given up their claims to Slovakia. Every time they hear Hungarians refer to their country as "Felvidék" they feel justified in their suspicions and understandably become antagonistic. Let's face it, Hungarian nationalism and irredentism is thriving. According to a fairly recent poll forty percent of Hungarian adults would like to see borders changed and seventeen percent wouldn't even mind using force. These are frightening figures.
Predictably, Hungarian politicians are not of one mind on the recent incidents in Slovakia. To give only one example. A Fidesz member of parliament, Béla Túri-Kovács, is demanding the resignation of a colleague, Mátyás Eörsi of SZDSZ, who is the chairman of the parliamentary committee on European affairs. Eörsi went to Slovakia for a meeting with his Slovak counterparts. He said that both sides should accept some blame for the incidents and did a mea culpa on behalf of Hungary. Well, Túri-Kovács sure didn't like this admission of guilt. In typical nationalistic fashion (and it doesn't matter whose nationalism we are talking about), the blame is always on the other side. Túri-Kovács, by the way, sounds as if he could belong to the forty percent who would like to change the borders. Obviously for him the European Union is not enough. No answer to Trianon. For these nationalistic people the European Union is actually a threat. There are some people who are worried about the future of the Hungarian nation. In a few years it will be gone. The last Hungarian will disappear from the face of the earth.
Of course, this is nonsense, but nationalism is rooted in fear. The Slovaks are scared that Hungary will gobble them up, the Hungarians fear the death of their very being. One can only hope that one day rationality will prevail and both Hungarians and Slovaks will realize that in this part of the world no "just" borders can be drawn and the best and only solution is a United Europe.