AHF Statement: Upheaval in Ukraine -
Protecting the Forgotten and Repressed Hungarian Minority
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, respect pluralism, the rule of law, and the rights of the Hungarian minority, including their democratically asserted right to autonomy.
The statement appears in full below and available for [download].
AHF Statement for Immediate Release
The American Hungarian Federation (Federation), representing a cross-section of the Hungarian American community, strongly supports cultural diversity, democratic development and human and minority rights for all people. Recent events in Ukraine, home to a sizeable Hungarian minority, illustrate the continuing need for a broader discussion on human and minority rights to include the right for the ethnic Hungarian minority to preserve their language and cultural identity.
The vast majority of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine live in the Zakarpattia Oblast (Province of Transcarpathia), an area that was an integral part of Hungary for 1000 years until it was annexed first to the newly formed Czechoslovakia after WWI and later by Stalin to the Soviet Union in 1945. Today, it forms the Northeastern border with Hungary and is still home nearly 200,000 Hungarians and is one of the poorest regions of Europe.
While there has been a great deal of attention given to issues related to the conflict between ethnic Ukrainian and Russian communities in Ukraine and debate over laws designed to permit or limit the use of the Russian language in official parlance, the needs of the Hungarian minority have been largely ignored. The pro-Western Hungarian community find themselves inadvertent participants in the middle of a growing ethnic and East-West conflict.
Recently released former Prime Minister, Julia Tymoshenko, a key figure in the Orange Revolution of 2004, campaigned aggressively to restrict the use of languages other than Ukrainian in public life and education. Although the main targets were ethnic Russians, Hungarian speakers suffered under the new rules. Ironically, the ethnic Hungarian community benefited when pro-Russian Yanukovich, in support of his Russian-speaking base, eased the language rules. While no fans of Yanukovich and a pro-Russian stance, Hungarians continue to fear Ukrainian nationalists who have shown a penchant for vandalizing Hungarian monuments and intimidating citizens based on their ethnicity.
The Federation sincerely hopes that Ukraine will respect pluralism, the rule of law, and the rights of the Hungarian minority, including their democratically asserted right to autonomy.
AHF's Tako Geza Award winner, Dr. Stephen Szilagyi, founded SARA, "Sharing America's Resources Abroad." SARA is a Christian ministry offering medical assistance to improve lives around the world. From humble beginnings, SARA has distributed millions of dollars in medical supplies, services, and medical care, establishing a network of doctors and suppliers ready to assist the needy, many in Transcarpathia Ukraine. [read more]
Healing a Most Painful Division... Although brother and sister have lived in the same village all their lives, Maria Ivan and her brother, Arpad, have been able to hug each other only twice in the past 53 years. As a result of a post-World War II treaty, a barbed wire fence marking borders has divided them.Szelmenc (called Solontsi in Ukrainian and Velke Slemence in Slovak) is found near where the Ukrainian, Slovakian and Hungarian borders meet. After WWII, the Soviets took this part along with half of the village for themselves. The other half was given to Czechslovakia. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Soviet part became part of Ukraine. [read more]
Why so many Hungarians
Across the Border?
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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