Slovak and Hungarian nationalism

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.

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on the start i was also idealistic,but now i am not.i just look at the key elements ,and it’s all.the key element is that hungarian orszaghaz don’t have far-right parties,but in the naigbor parliaments sistuation is not so nice. look around yourself slovakia (smer,sns,maciar.),romania(greater romania party),serbia(srs,dss,ds,spo….)almost every party is extreme right (except ldp). so you in hungary can live in peace and be happy,i would be. because the most important think is that extreme right is out of institutions,that they are on margine of society. you also have reasons to be happy because you are secular,here in serbia all fascist groups have direct support from church(spc) ,goverment also give them financial support from budget for their activities on the universities(look “obraz”,”dveri”,1389)they all regrutate from the partizan,zvezda,rad,and other football clubs. and state,goverment give support for that,here we have bilbord “serbia spool up”. on that way we have message you will be part of nationalist scum,or you will be out of society. there is fear in every day life,people are beaten ,and they have no protection from policy,which is in the hand of the ruling party. do you know that there is a law which give cetniks (version of magyar garda) a… Read more »
Tavolsagi latogato
The irony (if not contradiction) of your post, is that you begin with a subtle mockery of those “blessed with an optimistic nature” who had great hope that “globalization” would be the cure for nationalism, and yet you end by expressing your own hope: “that one day rationality will prevail.” The real legerdemain, however, is the implied connection between “rationality” and your own claim (dare I say, expressing your own “blessed” and “optimistic nature”!) that that “the best and only solution is a United Europe.” Granted, this is but a blog posting, and one can only expected limited analysis in such a forum, but it is far from self-evident that justice for Hungary (and for Slovakia, and for all other European nation-states for that matter) is ONLY found in a “Unified Europe”–whatever that might really mean. Furthermore, how about carrying further some of your own distinctions, to wit, between hooligans and radical fringe groups on the one hand, and political parties with legitimate (and legal) representation on the other (and maybe a wee bit less conspicuously partisan selection of spokesmen…)? One can also wonder whether is it so naive (as you seem to suggest, by collapsing nationalism and the nation-state… Read more »

I am Hungarian..and first of all I am not a nationalist…I love my culture and tongue..and I resent the fact that you implied that our mother tongue is less useful..ones native language cannot be judged as more or less useful…it is our mother tongue and we are proud of it…we have a unique language unlike any other..and also I agree with someone else that said in their comment that you have to separate nationalism from patriotism…those are 2 different things…

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so you in hungary can live in peace and be happy,i would be.
because the most important think is that extreme right is out of institutions,that they are on margine of society.

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