9/13/2017 - Ukraine Language Law: AHF submits letter to US Secretary of State Tillerson regarding the inexplicable decision by Ukraine prohibiting Hungarian children of western Ukraine to study in their mother tongue (as well as in Ukrainian) beyond the 4th grade. That discriminatory law threatens the Hungarian minority’s culture and infringes on fundamental freedoms insofar as the survival of any national minority is to a large extent dependent on its ability to preserve and cultivate its culture, especially its language.
September 13, 2017
The Honorable Rex W. Tillerson
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We write to express our deep concern regarding a discriminatory law passed by Ukraine’s parliament stripping the ability of Hungarian children of western Ukraine* to study in their mother tongue (as well as in Ukrainian) beyond the 4th grade. That discriminatory law threatens the Hungarian minority’s culture and infringes on fundamental freedoms insofar as the survival of any national minority is to a large extent dependent on its ability to preserve and cultivate its culture, especially its language. The law not only violates commitments made by Ukraine, it has unnecessarily resulted in tensions between Hungary and Ukraine.
The American Hungarian Federation (“AHF”), founded in 1906, represents a broad cross-section of Americans who trace their heritage to Central Europe. Throughout its 110 year old existence, AHF has supported democracy, minority rights in Central and Eastern Europe, a strong NATO and an open door policy toward NATO enlargement to include countries which seek and qualify for membership.
AHF believes a cornerstone of U.S. security interests in a region that has not always been tolerant of its Hungarian (and other) minorities is the protection of minority rights in accordance with Western standards and bilateral agreements.**
As a member of the Central East European Coalition (“CEEC”) representing 18 national, membership-based organizations, AHF has supported and supports measures against Russia for its occupation of Ukraine. AHF also believes, however, that a democratic and tolerant Ukraine would build on the most effective measures devised by the West to strengthen the country. A weak, corrupt and intolerant Ukraine, on the other hand, would enable Russia to continue to fish in muddy waters and continue its aggressive policies.
With these considerations in mind, we are writing to respectfully urge you to publicly and unambiguously express your concern relative to Ukraine’s discriminatory education law.
**Hungary was the first country to recognize Ukraine's independence in 1991. The two countries entered into an agreement that, among other things, provided for the preservation of the ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious identities of the members of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine and guaranteed that they could be educated at all levels in their mother tongue.
A thousand years of nation building successfully delineated groups based on culture, religion, geography, and other attributes to create the countries with which we are so familiar. While some Western European nations would continue power struggles and princely battles and civil wars, Hungary, founded in 896, was a peaceful multi-ethnic state for over a 1000 years and her borders were virtually unchanged.... Until 1920.
"The greatest catastrophe to have befallen Hungary since the battle of Mohacs in 1526," the Treaty of Trianon in 1920, was extremely harsh on Hungary and unjustifiably one-sided. The resulting "treaty" lost Hungary an unprecedented 2/3 of her territory, and 1/2 of her total population or 1/3 of her ethnic-Hungarian population. Add to this the loss of all her seaports, up to 90% of her vast natural resources, industry, railways, and other infrastructure. Millions of Hungarians saw borders arbitrarily redrawn around them, without plebiscites, ignoring President Wilson's lofty goal of national self-determination. The affects of this dictat are felt strongly today throughout the region. Two of the three newly created countries carved out of Hungarian territory no longer exist. "Slovakia" (Upper Hungary) split with the Czech Republic while "Yugoslavia" suffered from civil war and the ravages of ethnic cleansing. This should never have happened. Hungarian populations continue to decline significantly after forced removals such as the Benes Decrees and other pograms, and continued pressure and discriminative policies such as the 2009 Slovak Language Law, the Slovak Citizenship Act which is being used to strip Hungarians of their citizenship and status, and gerrymandering and other practices in Romania and Serbia.
The United States never ratified this treaty. At the time President Wilson said: “The proposal to dismember Hungary is absurd” and later Sir Winston Churchill said: “Ancient poets and theologians could not imagine such suffering, which Trianon brought to the innocent.” We are sad to report that they were right.
[read more] about the Treaty of Trianon
Hungarian populations declined significantly after forced removals such as the Benes Decrees and other pograms, the effects of WWI, and Trianon in 1920. With continued pressure and discriminative policies such as the 2009 Slovak Language Law, the Slovak Citizenship Law, discriminatory practices in Rumania and Serbia, this trend has continued over the past 90 years.
[read more] about the Treaty of Trianon
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3/10/2014 - Ukraine: AHF Releases another Statement on the Plight of the Hungarian Minority in Transcarpathia. "Minority rights is a dimension to the complexity of Ukraine and the region that perhaps is laden with less immediate strategic significance but one that calls out for immediate attention to dispel the fear of perpetual conflict and to promote a democratic Ukraine. What is too often overlooked relates to the treatment of national minorities generally and specifically to Ukraine’s close to 200,000 ethnic Hungarians who live in western Sub-Carpathia, an area which was part of Hungary." [read more]
2/28/2014 - AHF Releases Statement in Connection with Recent Events in Ukraine calling attention to the plight of the Hungarian minority in Transcarpathia Ukraine. AHF urges the transitional government in Ukraine to fulfill the spirit of democracy as government for the people, by the people, and respect pluralism, the rule of law, and the rights of the Hungarian minority, including their democratically asserted right to autonomy. [read more]
02/08/2017 - AHF continues its outreach to the new administration, submits letter to Secretary of State Tillerson urging the United States to adopt a new approach to bilateral relations with Hungary. The letter urges the administration to "advance U.S. strategic interests and goals in the region as well as promote American values and hold out its accomplishments in a manner that will inspire positive reforms, including the treatment of Hungarian minorities in Hungary’s neighboring countries.
3/27/2014 - "Strengthen Ukraine by Strengthening Minority Rights:" As Russia completes the annexation of Crimea, creating a fait accompli probably impossible to reverse, the situation in Ukraine proper remains fraught with uncertainty. For the Hungarian minority in Ukraine the situation is especially precarious, particularly in light of a proposed ban on minority languages currently being pushed by nationalists in the Ukrainian parliament. While the legislation is currently stalled, it is essential that the United States and the European Union remind those Ukrainians hostile towards ethnic minorities that, as noted by World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, “one of the basic tenets of liberal democracy is that minority rights are protected.” This is especially important because the backlash to the loss of Crimea could fuel ultra-nationalism and intolerance. [read more]
2011 - Hungarian Minority Communities Targets of Intimidation, Incitement and Vandalism throughout Central Europe - Hungarian Human Rights Foundation [more]
6/11/2008 - Sen. Schumer suggests return of Russia's hegemony in Central and East Europe... AHF (and Central and East European Coalition) sends letter and calls on community to express its concern. On June 3, 2008, Senator Schumer (D-NY) published an article in The Wall Street Journal entitled "Russia Can Be Part of the Answer on Iran." In this article, Sen. Schumer suggests that stronger economic sanctions would help deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The effectiveness of the sanctions, according to Sen. Schumer, will require Russia's cooperation. [read more]
UPDATE: 7/25/2008 - American Hungarian Federation Participates in CEEC Meeting with Senator Schumer: Discusses Russia "Hegemony" statement.
1/11/2013 - AHF again responds to Senator Ben Cardin, Co-Chair of the US Helsinki Commission. In his December 20, 2012 statement, the Senator was unfairly critical of Hungary. "...we are concerned that (1) your assertions concerning Hungary omit relevant facts; and (2) your statement fails to raise the discrimination and intolerant policies toward ethnic Hungarians in some of the countries bordering Hungary. The statement therefore leaves the impression... of bias, which could result in cynicism toward the Helsinki Commission and its valuable and necessary work." [read more]
7/22/2010 - AHF reacts to The Washington Post Editorial: "...the editorial, 'Hungary's Strongest Leader Targets the Media,' [July 19], seems to equate the prevailing sentiment in Hungary in support for minority rights and the new passport law with extremism. Nothing is farther from the truth." AHF letters reminded editors about the current extremism [see Slovak Language Law] in neighboring countries and explained that the legacy of Trianon continues to affect the lives of millions of ethnic Hungarians today. The letters also pointed out the fact that dual citizenship is a common and globally accepted practice even in those same countries that would discriminate against an ethnic Hungarian exercising his rights. AHF feels The Post missed the point and mixed unrelated issues. However, we appreciate the fact the The Post's editorial included a link to AHF's page on the Treaty of Trianon.
Letters included those from members Frank Koszorus, Jr., AHF President; Bryan Dawson, AHF Executive Chairman; and Geza Cseri, former Science and Technology Advisor to the Allied Supreme Commanders of NATO. The Post published a Letter to Editor from Geza Jeszenszky, former Ambassador to the United States and Foreign Minister.
All four letters appear in that order below:
Based on erroneous assumptions and a casual understanding of the challenges confronting Hungarians, the editorial, "Hungary's strongest leader targets the media," [July 19], seems to equate the prevailing sentiment in Hungary in support for minority rights and the new passport law with extremism. Nothing is farther from the truth. Consequently, the editorial appears biased and falls short of the high standard The Post sets for itself.
Remembering the Treaty of Trianon, which transferred over three million ethnic Hungarians to foreign rule, is neither polarizing nor a concern of only the right, as the editorial also suggests. Rather it is an issue today because some of Hungary's neighbors discriminate against their Hungarian minorities. Slovakia, which adopted a language law prohibiting the use of Hungarian in public, or Romania, which refuses to re-establish a former Hungarian university, are examples. If these countries respected minority rights, Trianon would be relegated to the history books.
Perhaps next time The Post will examine the facts a little more closely.
Frank Koszorus, Jr.
I was confused by the editorial, "Hungary's strongest leader targets the media," [July 19]. The merits (or lack thereof) of government media controls has little or nothing to do with passports or citizenship which are matters of national identity, not nationalism. Dual-citizenship is a common practice throughout the world as is autonomy and respect for local, historic communities. Is the U.S. nationalist for allowing Americans to live abroad and keep their passports? Is the US extreme for accepting dual citizenship with Britain, France or Mexico? Is Hungary extreme for accepting dual citizenship for ethnic Slovaks living in Hungary? Slovakia accepts dual citizenship for some, but will not extend the same rights to ethnic Hungarians who have lived in their own communities for over 1,100 years. As such, it is clearly discriminatory. Unfortunately, the law to rescind Slovak citizenship for ethnic Hungarians who exercise their right to apply for Hungarian citizenship on Saturday, July 17, 2010.
Is the concern for the basic human rights of an ethnic minority an extremist, extreme right-wing position? Are Catalonians extreme for wanting to speak Catalan with the postman in Catalonia? How about speaking French in Quebec? Spanish in Miami? Italian in Switzerland? Slovakia, under a truly nationalist government that include Jan Slota who called Hungarians, “the cancer of the Slovak nation,” passed a law making it illegal to converse in Hungarian with a Hungarian postman in a post office in an 1100-year old Hungarian village.
For the 40 years of communist rule, it was taboo to discuss topics such as Trianon and asserting rights for ethnic minorities as to not disturb the “socialist brotherhood of nations.” Does the Post long for the brotherhood’s return? As the link you provided explained so well, any objective observer would see Trianon as a huge miscarriage of justice that continues to affect the lives of millions today. It is not a right-wing, extremist issue, it is an issue of human and minority rights that should transcend the political spectrum. The firm re-establishment of democracy in Hungary allows for a full examination of these topics, however uncomfortable for the West who bears the responsibility for creating these minorities and ethnic strife in the first place.
When it comes to the Treaty of Trianon, you are telling to the Hungarians to forget it. How can you forget that your arms and legs are cut off, and millions of your brothers are under foreign rule, because that is what happened at Trianon. The Treaty unjustly, with malice, deprived Hungary of 65% of her inhabitants and 72% of her territory, an area as large as Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio or Kentucky combined. The dismemberment also created 16 million ethnic minorities, including millions of Hungarians. This treaty totally altered the political balance of Central Europe which then led to the Balkanization of the area and created the political and economy hardships and turmoil to the country and the area. There are no extremists on this issue since practically the whole nation laments the injustice of Trianon.
If there is revisionalism in Hungary, it is fueled by Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine and Serbia because of their oppressive and discriminatory policies. Slovakia, by the Benes Decrees and its language law prohibiting the use of Hungarian in public, or Romania, which refuses to re-establish a Hungarian university, or the continuous physical beatings of ethnic Hungarians by the Serbs in Voivodina are examples.
I hope that in the future, The Post will be more mindful of the facts and reality.
An unfair portrayal of Hungarian politics - 7/24/2010
The July 19 editorial "Hungary's rightward lunge" was as inaccurate as it was unfair. It also revealed a superficial understanding of Hungary and Fidesz, the party that just won a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections this spring. A few examples:
In 2002, Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orbán, did not cater to "Hungary's extreme right," as the editorial stated, but successfully opposed it and helped oust its representatives from parliament by defeating them during the elections.
Although Washington did not welcome Hungary's decision to purchase fourth-generation Swedish-British Gripen fighter planes rather than used American F-16s, it did not make Mr. Orbán persona non grata and a pariah, as the editorial suggested. In March 2002, President George W. Bush telephoned Mr. Orbán and invited him to visit the United States following the elections, which looked like an almost certain victory for Mr. Orbán's Fidesz Party.
As a staunch friend of the United States and an appreciative reader of The Post, I hope that the editorial policy relating to Hungary will be more balanced and factual in the future.
Géza Jeszenszky, Budapest
Key Dates in Hungarian-American Diplomatic Relations: Diplomatic relations between Hungary and the United States were formally established in 1922, although unofficial contacts have been present ever since the War of Independence. Colonel Commandant Michael Kováts, a Hungarian nobleman is regarded as the founder of the American Cavalry, and was one of the first heroes to lay down his life for American independence near Charleston, South Carolina. Friendly relations between the two nations were further enhanced through Lajos Kossuth’s visit to the United States in 1851 – whose bust is one of the few foreign nationals present in the Capitol Rotunda. Kossuth was the second foreign national – after the Marquis de LaFayette – ever to be given the honor of speaking before a joint session of Congress.