Friday, August 21, 2009

Slovakia vs Hungary: Sólyom banned

The president of Hungary was just banned from Slovakia and I understand the extraordinary decision.

Ms Jana Kirschner, "Pokoj v duši" (Peace in the Soul).

Fourty-one years ago, the armies of five Warsaw Pact countries - Soviet, Hungarian, East German, Polish, and Bulgarian troops - invaded Czechoslovakia in order to suppress the Prague Spring, a short period of relative democracy and freedom led by Slovak reform communist politician Alexander Dubček [Doob-Czech]. Romania rejected to participate and so did Albania that left the pact because of the invasion.

In this act of "brotherly assistance", our comrades sent us 500,000 troops or so. We may guess that about 400,000 were Soviet troops, less than 0.2% of the Soviet population. Hungary sent approximately 30,000 troops, or 0.3% of the Hungarian population.

I think that the opinion that only Russia was responsible for the invasion is completely dishonest. Relatively speaking, the other four countries were equally responsible. The Soviet Army was bigger, but the guilt is also divided among many more citizens. In the case of Hungary, the invasion had a special dimension because Hungary used to control Slovakia in the past.

In the late 1980s, Hungary became the first country in the list of 5+1 countries that gradually abandoned the totalitarian communist system. Not too surprisingly, it also became the first country to apologize for the invasion. László Sólyom, the current president of Hungary, has apologized, too. At least one year ago, he did.

But Slovakia is seeing something very different today.

It just happened that August 21st was chosen for a private visit of the Hungarian president to Slovakia. He was going to celebrate a new statue of St Stephen I, the founding king of the Kingdom of Hungary that used to include the bulk of Slovakia, Romania, and Serbia, among other regions. Stephen I of Hungary died on August 15, 1038, and was canonized on August 20th, 1083: August 20th is the St Stephen's Day, their national holiday.

The current population of Slovakia is close to 5.4 million. About 10% of the population is Hungarian. The center of their ethnic life is the city of Komárno which is divided by the border along the Danube river, established in 1920 (between Czechoslovakia and Hungary). About 40,000 people live on the Slovak side (Komárno) while approximately 20,000 people live on the Hungarian side (Komárom). About 60% of the Slovak town is Hungarian which makes it the largest Slovak town that is predominantly ethnic Hungarian. But Komárno is also the center of a regular Slovak district.

The municipal officials decided to open a new statue of Stephen I of Hungary: previous proposals to have the statue of Cyril and Methodius on the same spot have failed. The mayor of Komárno in Slovakia invited the president of Hungary but he did not invite many top politicians of Slovakia such as the president. On the other hand, Sólyom didn't want to meet Slovak politicians during the visit, apparently expressing the opinion that Hungarian king Stephen I, and not Mr Ivan Gašparovič, is the relevant kind of a leader in Komárno, Slovakia. ;-)

Language bill

Two months ago or so, Slovakia approved a new language bill whose goal is to protect the Slovak language at public places - and prevent, for example, a possible new wave of Hungarization of the territory in the future. All public texts (i.e. at monuments, and teachers' documentation about students) must have Slovak equivalents.

One may pay up to EUR 5,000 for the exclusive use of Hungarian or other languages in "public" circumstances, a class of situations that is not quite well-defined. Hungarian nation is unfortunately among the European nations that like to penetrate and take over surrounding territories - a possible development that may be a legitimate concern for the Slovaks, Romanians, Serbs, and others. You can guess that a new wave of the cold war in between the two nations began after the bill was approved.

I think it was unfortunate that some top Slovak politicians - especially the president - were not invited to the St Stephen event in Komárno and it is very painful that the president of Hungary is showing his nostalgia associated with the "Great Hungary" by visiting (or attempts to visit) the territories that used to belong to their kingdom. If he wants to celebrate the Hungarian statehood, he shouldn't be doing it on foreign territories that Budapest used to control.

Great Hungary ended in 1918...

In my opinion, the kingdom wasn't a terribly advanced one, the leaders weren't terribly cultural (they were not so hugely different from the Tatars), and they don't have too much to be proud about. For example, when it comes to the industry, culture, and other things, it was a great improvement for Slovakia to join the Czechs in Czechoslovakia. And of course, I understand that many of them still wanted an even more independent arrangement which finally became a reality since 1993.

At any rate, the Hungarians should finally get used to the fact that their and Austrian obsolete feudal empire collapsed when it lost the World War I and their renewed Nazi-sponsored influence on the surrounding nations evaporated when they lost the World War II, too. ;-)

Stephen I is no big authority in Slovakia - even though he technically used to be the king of Slovaks, too. And what is much more visible for people in Slovakia (and Czechia) is that a guest who is "unwelcome", according to all top Slovak politicians, chooses the anniversary of the Soviet, Hungarian et al. occupation of Czechoslovakia to make a visit that is only sponsored by a "fifth column" in the new "cold war" between Slovakia and Hungary. Regardless of Stephen I, August 21st is a day when all Hungarians should feel ashamed for their history - at least in Czechia and Slovakia, they should - and when they should display a special kind of sensitivity to their neighbors. If they wanted to avoid this rule, they should have stopped their communists from occupying a neighboring country 41 years ago.

In fact, Sólyom also chose the very same bridge in Komárno for his trip as the Hungarian troops in 1968 who had to cross the border somewhere.

The relationships between the two nations are somewhat explosive and the Hungarian president clearly wanted to realize an act of provocation. His memories about the Great Hungary don't seem to be quite fictitious: he has even argued that Slovakia should add Hungarian as an official language. I am not surprised that this is viewed unacceptable by all the coalition and opposition non-Hungarian political parties in Slovakia. That would return Slovakia centuries into the past.

Well, I have many other objections against the current president of Hungary, including his opinion that "egalitarianism" should be more powerful than the Hungarian constitution. His uncritical opinions about the organized gays are bad, too. At any rate, I think that in this explosive situation, the Slovak politicians made a sensible decision to deny him access to the Slovak territory. We will see quickly whether he will ignore the ban. In that case, the Slovak authorities wouldn't act but they would emphasize that Sólyom would have violated the Slovak and international law.

Update: Sólyom won't cross the border, as he announced on his special press conference in Komárom. The Hungarian guys are going to whine about their leader's inability to celebrate their statehood on the territory of Great Hungary in front of the European Union bureaucrats. That's remotely similar to the Sudetenland German Nazis' complaining to their big comrade Hitler in 1938.


  1. ????

    Welcome in the EU!!! Talking about country borders, and great nationalism!!! Where are we going? To the mid-age??

    1. Sólyom is not dreaming about big Hungary. (There are some guys they do, but the president is very liberal and tolerant in this question)

    2. The history of 68' is very-very sad. Unfortunately after 1956- we had no choices. After this bloody revolution (what the nation lost against the communists and the Soviets) we had no free decisions any more (think this over).

    3. I think in current times, in the European Union, the worst thing is when politicians start using the "nation card". If people are happy to stop the neighbor's president in the border and happy to see the cultural communication is not exist any more- well I think it is a big problem. It leads nowhere.

    4. It is very interesting to read the official communication of the president's office (have you read it?) They say there was 2 meetings and official announcement of this trip in JUNE! The Slovak ambassador was in the president's office in Budapest and they had negotiations. So what Mr. Fico says it is not true, the trip was officially announced, Slovakia knew about the intention, and the Slovak's president confirmed officially - he won't be able to meet with Sólyom because of HIS agenda!!!!

    JT from Budapest

  2. Dear JT,

    borders between the European nations existed in the Middle Ages and they also exist at the beginning of the 21st century.

    While the Schengen zone allows people to travel under most circumstances, there still exist legal tools to use the borders to trace criminals, and/or to protect existential needs of individual countries. The latter was the case on Friday.

    Both Czechia and Slovakia entered an EU which is (or at least was) an international organization. We didn't surrender our national sovereignties and we never promised anyone that the German or Hungarian language, culture, or history would be treated on par with their Czech or Slovak counterparts on our territory. We didn't promise any far-reaching changes to the very character of the sovereignty above our territories. Maybe the Hungarians did but we did not.

    Such an idea is downright ludicrous, especially after all the not-quite-perfect shared history with the Austrians and Hungarians that we still remember pretty well, and I am pretty sure that if there were indications that this is what the EU is trying to push once again, we would almost certainly try to leave the EU.

    1. I don't understand how he's not dreaming about a Great Hungary if he systematically does these things during the Stephen I holidays. He caused the very same scandal in Serbia and Romania one year ago. He has no business to celebrate the Stephen I holiday on other territories. The empire of Stephen may be a great source of pride for Hungarians but it's not such a great source for Slovaks, Serbs, or Romanians, and it's just downright arrogant as well as silly if Solyom or you suggest that you don't understand why.

    He may put a lot of politically correct words into his sentences but the goal is the same, anyway. He wants people like him to decide what should happen or be believed on the territory of Slovakia. This is just unacceptable.

    What does it mean that the Hungarian president is "liberal"? This adjective is currently used in the sense of being left-wing or politically correct, at least in the U.S. and international affairs, and be sure that this makes things worse for him in my optics, not better. ;-)

    2. August 21st is a very sad day in the history of Central Europe, and it is a day when the Hungarians should be quietly ashamed. It's already bad that they're not, but if they even want to celebrate this days loudly, and even on the territory of a country that was affected by that bad August 21st, it's just outrageous.

    The very fact that the Hungarian president finds August 21st a day worth celebrating is just bad, and if he's trying to impose this attitude upon the citizens of Slovakia, it simply can't be surprising that he's unwelcome in Slovakia and the Slovak institutions must do sensible peaceful legal steps to prevent him from doing so.

    As I have already emphasized, it's just pathetic for you to blame everything bad on the Soviets. The Hungarians did a lot of bad things in the past, too. They had a kingdom that was preventing any other nations from participating on the power. Those nations couldn't have any power to control their affairs - at no territory in the world.

    In 1919, Hungarians also established one of a few "Soviet Republics" in Central Europe, and later, they became a pretty full-fledged fascist state that was fighting on Hitler's side. They were always victims, weren't they? Give me a break.

    It's very convenient for you to pretend that you're saints and that everything bad was done by someone else, except that it is a complete lie. You know, not even Slovaks were innocent. They had a Nazi state, too. And even most Czechs collaborated with the German occupation forces. But there are still different levels of guilt, and the Hungarian one is surely higher than the Czech one but also than the Slovak one - the Slovaks at least staged an uprising against the Nazi system.

  3. 3. This "nation card" is "played" by the politicians because it is a genuine political issue that will determine the direction of the future macroscopic evolution of our region. So it's no game, it's reality. It's played by politicians because politics is the politicians' job.

    There simply do exist tendencies for the Hungarians to dictate what happens or doesn't happen in Slovakia, and various political groups in Hungary - and minority groups in Slovakia - are trying to push in this direction by different intensities. But these things are just unacceptable and they have to be dealt with by the Slovak government.

    The very idea that the Slovaks should think that August 21st is a good day to celebrate - because of a king who lived 1,000 years ago - is an attempt to impose the Hungarian way of thinking and power on the Slovaks. A balanced analysis of the history shows that August 21st is surely not a day to happily celebrate and everyone in Central Europe who suggests otherwise must understand why he's unwelcome in Slovakia.

    You may argue with minority rights and all this bullshit - Henlein in the Sudetenland was doing the same thing and Hitler happily agreed and exploited this card all the time - but the arrangement of the current Europe simply contains the assumption that every nation (in the ethnic sense) has a territory in Europe where its national interests are protected, even if it is against the interests of other cultures etc. Attempts to change this balance are attempts to push Europe towards new conflicts because such things simply can't be changed peacefully, without millions of people - politicians as well as non-politicians - getting really upset.

    This balance is an inherent part of the status quo, and a paramount condition for the post-war peace. Regardless of the likability or political correctness of your explanations, if your ultimate goal - or expected result of your policies - is that Slovakia is gonna be a double-ethnic country with two languages (de iure or de facto, it doesn't matter), while, of course, Hungary stays Hungarian, it's just completely unacceptable.

    (And be sure that Hungary will remain Hungarian, and Solyom is oh so sad that the Slovak minority on the Hungarian territory is shrinking. It's so sad, right, and the Hungarians and their culture & laws are sooo innocent in this once again, aren't they? The very fact that the Hungarian minority in Slovakia is thriving more than the Slovak minority in Hungary pretty much proves that the Hungarians enjoy better life and environment for their ethnic life in Slovakia than Slovaks do in Hungary - everything else is propaganda. The Hungarians in Slovakia are also more loud and more supported in their problem-creation for Slovakia from the Hungarian side of the Danube than the Slovak minority is supported in its "rebellion" by anyone else.)

    Of course, we were warning against such new, Great Hungarian tendencies from the Hungarian side when Czechoslovakia was being split. Slovak emotions may be sensitive but be sure that they would still prefer a co-existence with the Czechs over a new wave of direct or indirect Hungarian dominion. I just happen to think that regardless what is most sensible, they still have the moral right for their own nation state if this is what they (wisely or unwisely) choose.

    They did a dangerous thing by separating from Czechoslovakia (we're more safe because the Germans have been gone for 60+ years) but that doesn't mean that the originators of this threat should be given free space for macroscopic political maneuvers now.

  4. Would-be likable comments about "cultural communication" are just painful. This is not about any genuine cultural communication: it's about attempts to impose one nation's culture and predominant way of thinking onto another, foreign country. You're doing it in your comment all the time, too. It's about attempts to return some bad pages of the history, and to rewrite others so that it is convenient for one side - that's also what you're doing when you claim that the Hungarians have always been innocent. If these are the things you call "cultural communication", then cultural communication is a very bad thing.

    I personally prefer the truth without such kinds of "communication" (i.e. contamination by lies). The truth is that the most important event in Central Europe linked to August 21st is the 1968 occupation by five Warsaw Pact members including Hungary, with Hungary being more represented by troops (per its own population) than the Soviet Union.

    The actual history contains sad pages and they can't be forgotten. Many of the sad pages are linked with bad intentions of the Hungarians from the past, and - unfortunatley - from the present.

    4. I haven't noticed that the Slovak politicians would complain about the "high speed" of the visit. They have complained about the very visit, its timing, and its purpose. Whether they knew about it (or even its precise purpose and timing) before the visit itself can't change the question whether the visit was acceptable, can it? It's completely conceivable that they knew about the plans, but they just hoped that the plans would be cancelled.

    They were making it gradually clear that the planned visit was tactless and uncomfortable, giving the Hungarian president a room to smoothly cancel it. You can't complain that he wasn't told in advance that this planned visit was a huge problem. But he just didn't care what the leaders of the country he was trying to visit told him. He has no respect to the Slovaks' sovereignty over their territory, so he said "Screw you, Slovaks", and tried to cross the border, anyway. Well, it didn't work.

    Best wishes

  5. Forgive me if my comment won't be that long.

    I agree with you in many points and I've never said Hungarians in the past (or presently) are innocents.
    (If we go back 1000 years, or at least 100, we won't find any innocent nation)


    You are young as I am- so I hope you understand my point somehow. I really don't care who had any kind of pain in the past. I don't care what was happened 1000 years ago or in the 20th century. What I care is (what the average intelligent people care) how could we live peacefully beside each other (?).

    Unfortunately both country politicians are world champions in stupidity. All steps in both side which lead nowhere, lead to the mid-age.

    I understand your side have painful remembering due to many historical reason. But imagine that we are angry to the Soviets, to the Austrians, to the Turks, to the Mongols, to the Romans, to the Germans.......

    (we had 150 years Turkish, app. 100 years Austrian 50 years Russian oppression)

    What can we do? Let's start to hate the Austrians or the Russians?

    Simultaneously we have every-day-real problems which effect our life like globalization, GMO things, environment protection problems...

    Small countries like Slovakia or Hungary should act together in the EU against the western countries dominance. While we spend our time with the actual political shit- they and their multinational companies obtain our markets, our companies, the production quotas (like agricultural production quotas).

    So, they are laughing while we are arguing on King Stephen.

    Sorry if you don't agree with me, but my life and my children's life wont be better in this way.

    "History always repeats itself"

    I think it is time to stop for a moment and start learning from our historical mistakes. I hope our nations won't step into the same type of shit again and again (this is the nation card what is an internal political "tactical" issue in both side).

    I hope the young generation would be able to do this and they can change our future.



  6. Dear JT,

    I am not *that* young, but whatever the age is, I don't "fully" agree with your proclamation that we should forget the history.

    It's good that the people forget the bad feelings and lose the bias - and be sure that I don't have any anti-German or anti-Hungarian historically derived bias. In fact, I think that e.g. the Austria-Hungary was pretty good on many fronts.

    On the other hand, who forgets the history is destined to repeat its mistakes. It's not a good idea to forget.

    There were OK things about the monarchy and there were bad things - at least for us - that were clearly improved by the creation of the independent state. You know, de iure feudalism was really replaced by capitalism, democracy.

    But also, the Czech and/or Slovak language could become the official, unsuppressed, unquestioned language of the territory for the first time. This was a clear progress. You can't believe that Czechs or Slovaks would subscribe to the concept of a European Union meant to restore some old feudal German, Austrian, or Hungarian hegemony.

    Just like this idea could be attractive for the Germans, Austrians, and Hungarians, it is unattractive for the Czech, Slovaks, Romanians, and others. Don't pretend that you don't understand it. This game won't work. Forget about the EU as a gadget to increase the influence of the Hungarian language in Slovakia - this is only a path to a new confrontation, not a path to progress.

    Some of your (and not only your, of course) arguments seem to be carbon copies of what the Czechoslovaks would hear in the late 1930s. I just won't allow the history to be repeated.

    Again, this story is not "just" about the history. Indeed, the Russians, Germans, Austrians, Turks, and others have done many bad things to us in the past. But they don't seem to be willing to repeat them now which is why this portion of adrenaline can keep on sleeping.

    (For the sake of simplicity, let me ignore the Austrian green anti-nuclear nutcases and the Sudetendeutschenlandsmanschaft - both of which may be approximated by the concept of irrelevant fringe groups so far.)

    If you don't want the confrontations of the past to be repeated, why don't you follow the most obvious recipe to avoid this trap, namely not to repeat the same provocations that led to the past conflicts?

    Visits to the neighbor countries despite the desire of all its leaders, and requests to have menus in Hungarians are surely such provocations that are destined to escalate whenever the "war psychology" is getting started. And when it comes to the Hungarian-Slovak relations, it is damn close to this tipping point. So please respect that Slovakia is an independent country and your persona opinions - or the opinions of your president - mean nothing on their territory.

    Best wishes

  7. There are quite a few statements in your post that are not true. Just a few:

    1: "Sólyom didn't want to meet Slovak politicians during the visit"

    This is incorrect: when Sólyom announced his desire to visit Komárom in June (an announcement that was not criticised for about wo months, until 19 August), the possibility was discussed, but the Slovak ambassador to Hungary stated that the Slovak president was on holiday on that day.

    2: "he [Sólyom] has even argued that Slovakia should add Hungarian as an official language"

    Can you please provide a reference to this? I am not aware of any such statement made by him and knowing his various statements I am quite sure that he has not said such thing. (Not that it would be such an evil thing: Finland has about 5% Swedish population and Swedish is an official language there. But that's my opinion, not necessarily Sólyom's.)

    3: "his opinion that "egalitarianism" should be more powerful than the Hungarian constitution"

    Again, a reference please!

    4: Finally, a remark on the way you "twist" facts: "In fact, Sólyom also chose the very same bridge in Komárno for his trip as the Hungarian troops in 1968 who had to cross the border somewhere."

    Well, that is the only bridge across the Danube in Komarom, so I wonder what alternative he had. Implying that it was "chosen" to refer to that shameful day is just poor demagogy.

    Not the only example in your post...

  8. Dear Jozsef,

    I will happily provide you with all the references you want. But first:

    1. Do you have some reference about his plans to meet Gašparovič? Whether there were plans or no plans, it's just a fact that the Slovak president was available, despite the assumption in your statement, and the Hungarian president didn't have plans to meet his counterpart right before the visit on August 21st even though all these things could still have been arranged.

    2. Solyom has argued that Hungarian should be added as an official language. See, for example, this Czech report.

    It says that Solyom "today" - 8/19 - said that Hungarian should become the official language in regions where Hungarians live (Slovakia and others):

    "Sólyom dnes prohlásil, že úkolem státu je pomoci zajistit Maďarům v zahraničí, aby byla maďarština uznána jako úřední jazyk v regionech, kde žijí."

    I don't have time to search it in Hungarian or English but it surely does exist at least in Hungarian and Slovak, too. Whether it was both interesting and convenient for English media and others is a different question.

    3. Google search for "invisible constitution" and "activism" in the context of the constitutional law - something he's been promoting. Or start with the Wikipedia where these positions are explained.

    4. Because the bridge is the only bridge in Komárno, it simply means that he shouldn't have used any bridge in Komárno to get to the city, especially not on August 21st.

    But you just can't be shocked that if a Hungarian leader chooses the same bridge to his visit to Slovakia that is as unwanted by the Slovak political elite as the Hungarian occupation forces in 1968 who used the same bridge, it will simply and rightfully make many people upset because the analogy is obvious.

    He shouldn't have used any bridge and any date to celebrate the Great Hungarian king in Slovakia because the king is no symbol of statehood in Slovakia these days and such a celebration of statehood on a different territory badly looks like a preparation for territorial claims.

    But the combination of the date, bridge, timing as far as the mood goes, and many other details simply mean that his goal had to be to make many people really angry, and if it wasn't his goal and all these things were just coincidences, he must be a real imbecile.

  9. Dear Lubos,

    1) Well, in this piece ( of official statement (by the president's office) says "szlovák nagykövet csupán annyit közölt: a jelzett időpontban Ivan Gašparovič köztársasági elnök szabadságon van, így nem tud találkozni Sólyom Lászlóval, illetve nem tud részt venni az ünnepségen", which -roughly - means that "the Slovak ambassador to Hungary stated that the Slovak president was on holiday on that day, so he cannot meet the president, neither take part on the event."

    Considering that actually Gasparovich was very active politically in those days (definitely did not seem to be on holiday), I tend to think that it was Gasparovics, who did not want to meet Sólyom.

    Of course I cannot be sure of that. I do not know the details you are asking, but neither do you. You can choose not to believe this statement, of course, but in that case you should not be surprised that others will choose not to believe your statement, which is - I believe - based on the Fico interview on the eveneing of 21 August.

    2) Thanks for the reference. Yes, I was mistaken, he indeed said such thing. In this speech (, the last paragraph) he says that he supports Hungarian minorities in their wish to use their language as an official language LOCALLY or REGIONALLY, i.e. where they live.

    Still, I would like to point out that your first statement was not precise (in your reply it was already corrected). Being an official language in the whole country, or being an official language in selected regions is quite different.

    3: I do not think the "egalitarianism" is the motivation behind the invisible constitution concept. I think you simply misunderstand that. Using of the word in this context is clearly misleading, especially, if we consider the special (and rightfully unpopular) meaning of the word "egalitarianism" in post-Communist countries...

    4: I already touched that topic in a quick comment, you can take that as a reply to this issue.

    BR József

  10. Dear Jozsef,

    maybe one was annoyed, maybe the other was annoyed.

    1) This is really an irrelevant question because both of us know that both of these presidents are demonstrably annoyed and sensitive about the other one, and they don't spontaneously want to meet.

    But given these circumstances, it's just a provocation for one of them to visit the other guy's country on the invitation of not-quite-loyal group of citizens which actually seems closer to Hungary than to Slovakia.

    2) There was nothing inaccurate about my statement because according to all existing laws, national or international ones, there exists nothing such as a "Hungarian region of the Slovak republic". This is a completely ill-defined concept - a new kind of "Sudetenland" that you are trying to construct. But no borders of this construct are known or relevant legally.

    Slovakia is composed out of 8 regions with centers in Bratislava, Trnava, Trenčín, Nitra, Žilina, Banská Bystrica, Prešov, and Košice. None of them is a "Hungarian region of Slovakia".

    So the claim that the Hungarian language should be the second official language either means that it should be the official language in all of Slovakia, or it means that Solyom wants to separate Slovakia as a country to new pieces that completely disagree with the whole current territorial legal system of Slovakia.

    You're playing a very dangerous game, indeed.

    3) We in the post-socialist world know what egalitarianism means, and indeed, it is the same thing that its new champions want to restore.


  11. Well, talking about 1), perhaps it is the Slovakian government that sees provocation in something that is not meant as such, and they are doing so in order to take away public attention from their own wrongdoings.

    About 2): the fact that there are some administrative territorial entities in a country does not mean that there cannot be other territorial entities in the very same country (smaller ones, or overlapping ones) with certain limited functions. Treating such proposals as "dangerous", or "as territorial claims" is just demagogy.

    3) Well, feel free saying such sentences instead of admitting that you were simply wrong...

    BR József

  12. Dear Jozsef,

    let me begin with a linguistic detail. Please learn how to properly write the adjective "Slovak" in English: misspelling the basic adjective in this debate is just disrespectful.

    1) For Slovak politicians, these things may be a distraction but it is really none of your business.

    2) Whether it would be dangerous to create a Second Hungaryland within Slovakia will be decided by the citizens of Slovakia and their representatives. Guess whether they're going to agree with me or you.

    You may say that the threat from such a separate entity is a "demagogy" but it won't change anything about the fact that it is viewed as a threat by virtually all the people who matter in this decision.

    3) I was not wrong, and the ideas of current left-wing intellectuals are qualitatively isomorphic to the communist ideals, and they would also lead to similar results if implemented. It's just a marketing trick - a lie - for them to pretend that they're really "different" even though they believe pretty much the same things and values.

    Best wishes

  13. About Slovak and Slovakian. I think both adjectives exist in English. The meaning is slightly different, as with Slovak the emphasis is more on the nation and with Slovakian it is more on the country, although I guess the everyday usage of the two terms for a native speaker is more or less interchangeable.

    Therefore I do not think that using the term "Slovakian goverment" shows any disrespect.

    About 1: well, it is none of your business either, you still dedicated a blog post to the topic.

    2: I was not talking about a "second Hungaryland", using this expressions is just one fine example of your demagogy.

    Yes, I agree that it is up to Slovakia to decide whether such rights are granted. No one said otherwise. It is still not forbidden to express opinions or proposals, even for foreigners, even for politicians.

    And yes, I am aware that many Slovaks treat Hungarians as a threat and therefore they are afraid of giving rights to the Hungarian minority, thinking that there would be a "next step".

    They are wrong, and so are you. I do not care much about you, but I wish the Slovaks changed their mind and try the alternative path.

    3: Sólyom is not a left-wing intellectual and his ideas are not "qualitatively isomorphic to the communist ideals". If you fail to understand that, you must be very simple-minded...

    BR József

  14. Dear Jozsef,

    the word "Slovakian" is a common mistake but once again, the right adjective - both for the culture/language/ethnicity and the territory - is "Slovak". At least according to the British English which is really the only source of rules in this context. It's Slovak Republic and it's Slovak language, too. See e.g. these pages that explicitly say "Slovak, not Slovakian".

    1. I didn't dedicate any posting to hypotheses about foreign politicians trying to distract their electorate. I think that this is up to the electorate in their countries to decide.

    Other people may be interested but this is clearly an internal issue of those countries that doesn't influence foreigners like me much, and I shouldn't (and you shouldn't) try to influence it much.

    My posting was about international relations.

    2. Of course you were. So try to invent a better name for the Second Hungaryland in Slovakia. There can't be any better, qualitatively different, yet short name because the actual content of this idea is exactly what my term indicates, and it would be a demagogy to claim that you want something else.

    3. He is a left-wing intellectual. And by the way, he is an eco-bigot, too. He's been also one of the main forces that escalated the row over the Gabčíkovo-Nagymarosz dam, too.

    Best wishes

  15. About Slovakian vs. Slovak:

    Don't look for disrespect where there isn't any!

  16. Dear Lumo and all other readers,

    Let me add a few words to this debate. I hope that many Slovaks will read this.

    First of all, perhaps many Slovaks don't know that King Stephen was a defendant of all minorities of historical Hungary, not a suppressor of them. He was an enlightened Christian figure well ahead of his time. He wrote admonitions to his son Imre about how to rule Hungary, which includes the following (my translation): "Any monolingual and mono-habitual country is weak and fallible. Therefore I order you, my son, to to support and cherish all incomers with good will so that they stay in the country rather than live anywhere else." Later he says the following: "I ask you, I order you, to depend on love and be kind towards not only your relatives, to the noblemen, to the rich, to your neighbour, or to people living here, but also to the foreigners, to everyone who comes to you." His vision about the Kingdom of Hungary was clearly a multi-ethnic one in which all cultures and minorities were fully respected and sustained. He was ready to fight for his ideal of a multi-ethnic Christian kingdom against his own brother who believed in ancient tribal existence based on robbery of existing settlers in Europe! King Stephen was in fact a saviour of many Slavs and others living on the land already. He managed to achieve a U-turn compared to what Hungarians were like 100 years earlier. The unveiling of a statue of King Stephen anywhere in the former territory where he used to rule is in fact a message of good will, acceptance and tolerance to all nationalities.

    Second, King Stephen's accepting attitude towards all ethnic groups was kept all along in medieval Hungary. In fact, after the Mongols destroyed most of Hungary in the 13th century King Bela (the 4th) actively invited Kuns (which had no relations to Hungarians at all) to come and settle in the middle of the country. There was not a single Slovak nationalist uprising in Hungary before the 19th century, very much unlike several Hungarian uprisings against the Austrian rule. If Slovaks felt suppressed, they would have tried to break away at least once in 900 years. But they did not. The artificial magyarization of Slovaks in what is Slovakia now began only in the late 19th century due to a rising Hungarian nationalist movement, and lasted only about half a century (compared to 900 years of letting Slovaks and all nations of Hungary to remain who they wanted to be beforehand).

    Third, if the territory of Slovakia would not have become part of Hungary, it would have probably become part of Poland due to expansionist wars Polish rulers waged in the Middle Ages against their neighbours. If King Stephen did not win against his pagan brother and establish the Hungarian Kingdom, Hungarians would have been gradually exterminated by united Christian forces of neighbouring kingdoms and Hungary would have been occupied by them. Slovaks would have had no chance at all to establish their own country and sustain it in the long run next to a huge and strong Poland. They were probably a lot better off under the protection of Hungary which was exceptionally tolerant to all nationalities in those times.

    (To be continued)

    Peter from Budapest

  17. (continued)

    Fourth, let me have a comparison of Ireland and Slovakia. Ireland was under Norman-English rule for less than 800 years (from the 12th century to 1921). Still, only 1.5 million of 6 million people in Ireland can now speak and understand their original (Celtic) Irish language, and only one-fourth of that 1.5 million use it regularly. If you go to Dublin, you cannot hear or see anything in Irish (I've been there). The official languages are both English and Irish. Now that is what can be called an outcome of a real suppression, unlike the Hungarian one over Slovakia. Slovaks did not even have to drop their blood to break free, unlike the Irish. Compared to many other smaller nations having been ruled by a large country, Slovaks were relatively lucky with Hungary.

    Finally, I have a message to all Slovaks: do not let Slovak or Hungarian nationalists who can easily hit the headlines by saying something that sounds threatening to Slovaks fool you. Their selfish interest is to get attention even at the price of whipping up tension. Our long common history has taught us to get on very well. In my opinion, the Slovak soul is very similar to the Hungarian one. (Actually I have a Slovak among my 8 grand-grandparents.) In mixed-ethnic villages Slovaks can get on with Hungarians very well. Opinion polls show that Anti-Hungarian attitudes are highest in parts of Slovakia where no ethnic Hungarians live. Clearly that is because they are all informed about Hungarians by a sensation-seeking press and politicians who wish to gain popularity, not by their neighbour who waves them smiling every day over the fence in the garden. Nobody can really believe seriously that Hungarians on either side of the border threaten Slovakia's integrity. I believe that a Hungarian or Slovakian politician who suggests otherwise is either detached from reality or (which is worse) wishes to deceive people for his own personal advantage and to divert public attention from the current economic crisis. Hungary has signed a treaty which declares no territorial claims at all. The same way as Germans in the Lorraine region of France do not seriously wish to re-join Germany and the German government do not wish to change the border now, most Hungarians do not seriously think that the borders could be or should be changed any more. We Hungarians and Slovaks all suffered a lot in the recent past in all kinds of brutal dictatorships; and as old people gradually die out who could remember that, at least we should keep the main message: peace is worth more than anything else. It is both nations' interest to have friendship and mutual understanding between us instead of artificial hatred. We have every chance of achieving that having hundreds of years of experience in getting on well with each other. Do not let politicians spoil it.

    Best wishes to all Slovaks,

    Peter from Budapest

  18. By the way: what the hell is wrong with Hungarian being an official language?! It is in Romania, actually in county Harghita and Covasna Romanian is teached as a foreign language. Perhaps that's why I was in Romania 4th time this year and whenver I met romanians they acted very kindly and when I needed help they always tried to speak a little in Hungarian to give me directions. However when any friend of mine tells me stories about a Slovakia it always ends with: never ever go there, becouse they treat you like shit. Have you ever wondered why no Hungarians travel to ski in Slovakia anymore?

    Anyhow, if any minorities in Hungary would ask, that becouse a part of the country is mostly populated by them they want their language to be official, I would say of course yes. And would take there my kids to show them how colorful our country is, and to show them, that we're a civilized country.
    Actually that is what our country did in the last 1000 years. There were never any oppression against the language of minorities, that is the reason Slovaks still speak their language so as Romanians, Rusins, Serbs, and so on and so on.

    We are not innocent, and there are of course many cases which we can bring up to show that we're guilty. Well, you guys are not innocent too. I can bring up, that at the peace treaty after the world war one, you've claimed such territories which were 100 percent Hungarian, like what you call South-Slovakia nowadays, or Kosice.

    We can continue this blaming and date finding and president banning game till the end of the times or we can simply choose to acknowledge that it is 2009, we're in the EU, and perhaps we could act like nice neighbors and help each other, and be kind to each other.
    Your choice.

  19. Dear zoli,

    so what's the problem? You can visit Romania instead of Slovakia, if they want to return to those old times when they spoke Hungarian, and if you care about such things. Maybe, the Romanians prefer if they're controlled by someone else. And you apparently like that they like it, too.

    As you can see, this is manifestly not the case of Slovakia, so if someone wants the Slovaks to learn Hungarian to be "in" or "European" or whatever big words you absurdly associate with the expansion of Hungary and its culture, he's simply not welcome. And you're not welcome, either. Why are you so surprised about it? Are you really surprised, or are you just pretending to be?

    I don't want to learn that language, either. It looks and sounds horrible and out-of-place in Europe, by the way. I don't think that there is anything "uncivilized" about speaking Slovak in a whole country, whose name is moreover Slovakia, relatively to speaking Hungarian. In fact, my opinions about being civilized are closer to the opposite conclusion, but that's a different matter.

    Those territories went to Czechoslovakia after WWI because the allied forces including the Czechoslovak Legions defeated the Central Forces including Hungary. Moreover, Hungary was responsible for much of the suffering in the war.

    The fact that these territories became Czechoslovak was no mistake, no error, no unjustice, no crime, and no accident. It was a legitimate and inevitable conclusion of the previous history including the war, and indeed, it meant that these territories would be transformed according to the will of the people of Czechoslovakia, not the people of Hungary. That's a part of the sovereignty over the territory which is a damn important issue in the international politics. Get used to it. These territories are just not yours, OK?

    And the people who live there are only living an OK life as long as it is consistent with the laws democratically codified by the citizens of Slovakia and their representatives, OK? The opinions and big mouths of the citizens of Hungary are not relevant for any of these questions.

    Slovakia has an unquestionable right to establish a law that protects their national language in the public sphere.

    Best wishes

  20. First of all, you have not understood a word of what i have said.

    I did not say that i want any territories back neither that i want you guys to speak Hungarian. Neither. I want you guys to act like a normal human being and stop harrassing others, becouse ou think it's for your country.

    The sad thing that you've not just failed to understand what I have tried to say, you and your country have also failed to understand the meaning of Europe.

  21. Dear zoli,

    in your hysteria and your blinded and completely idiotic promotion of little Hungarian irredentism as the core European value, you failed to notice that I am no Slovak but an impartial observer from another country. ;-)

    "Setřels" as we say in Czech - or "you have wiped it off". :-))


  22. Hi,

    I often see advocates of Slovak interest trying to diminish the role and importance of the Kingdom of Hungary. You don’t need to be a historian to realize that it is a gross distortion to say that the Hungarian kingdom was ”not a terribly advanced one, not a terribly cultural one”

    Just look at any history atlas, and old maps to see this kingdom’s size and solid existance for centuries. And when you visit Slovakia, you cannot help noticing all the wonderful medieval castles, churches and other buildings that are reminders of the Hungarian Kingdom. Not really proofs of being undeveloped and uncultured, are these ?

    As many other realms, this one too came and went. Slovakia has become an independent state since then and the fact that the same territory had been ruled by Magyar kings and lords for has no meaning any longer.

    As for the present situation, what you and others often like to skip is that the Trianon arrangement advanced more territories of the defunct Austro-Hungarian Monarchy to newly created Czechoslovakia than justified by the etchnic structure: Merely to make this new state stronger and Hungary weaker, not only the lands inhabited by Slovaks became part of the new state, but further fertile lands with access to the Danube – with homogenous or clearly overwhelming Hungarian populations - were handed on a silver platter by the Entente powers to this country, not to mention even further claims and unsuccesful attempts that Czechoslovakia made to acquire even more of Hungary. (Little Entente sure had a big appetite and would have loved to slice up all of Hungary !)

    Wanted or not, together with these lands, massive Hungarian populations were also part of the deal. This is what Hungary understandably still has problems digesting and what Slovakia still has problems handling – thus the continuous tension between the two countries often topped by hysterical antics by the hungarophobe Slovakian authorities.

    Worthwhile to add, that this issue has become an acute problem only since 2006, when Smer decided to coalate with ultra rightist SNS. Their other option would have been to form government with KMP (SMK) the Hungarian party of Slovakia, which was maybe a bit too big of a task for such an election winning party in such a young state that Slovakia is. Hardly had they crawled out from under the shadow of the Czechs, it is not their aim to run back and embrace Hungarians, whom they bore the yoke of for years.

    The conscience of the ruling powers of Slovakia doesn’t seem to be clear, they are dead scared, that the under the cloak of EU integration and free travel the big bad Hungarian wolf will huff and puff and blow their house down, but at least that the cunning Hungarian fox will talk the tasty cheese out of their beak.

    Hungary has no intention to attempt to get back those lost lands and people, but will continue to support overborder Hungarians in sharing and developing the mutual culture, whether the Slovak gov’t likes it or not. Worthwhile to add, that a contented minority will be an asset for any modern country, only a discontented one will be a weak link.

    The timing of Sólyom’s visit was certainly ill-chosen. A diplomatic blunder, obviously countered by yet another most unfriendly reaction on behalf of Slovakia.

    I don’t think ethnic Hungarians have problems with life and integration in the modern Slovak state, but rest assured they will be persistant in keeping and nurturing their heritage, ethnic identity, culture and language, as it is their undeniable right to do so.


    billy pilgrim

  23. Dear Billy,

    I didn't write that the Kingdom of Hungary wasn't territorially large. Indeed, it was pretty large and included many countries it shouldn't have included.

    What I wrote is that the Kingdom Hungary was a technologically and culturally underdeveloped - largely agricultural - area, relatively e.g. to the Western portions of Austria-Hungary such as Czechia and Austria.

    Be sure that I've visited quite a few Slovak castles but the idea that the Kingdom of Hungary should be credited with all of them is ludicrous. For example, the Bratislava Castle existed from the Roman Empire. It was stolen by the Hungarians and the most important renovations were done by emperors who were primarily non-Hungarian monarchs.

    I could continue with other castles. But this wasn't the real focus of my comment. The real focus were the most recent 3-4 centuries. You won't find too many modern counterparts of the castles. The kingdom simply wasn't helpful for progress for quite some time.

    Once again, the Trianon peace has indeed given Czechoslovakia territories with Hungarian majorities. I have never denied this fact. I have always confirmed this fact and I have always explained why it was such a good, logical, and inevitable thing, too.

    People who want to question the results of the Trianon peace are on par with Adolf Hitler who also wanted to question the German losses in the World War I. These fascist-like attitudes are known as "irredentism".

    Again, the Hungarian territorial losses were legal, just, inevitable, and final, and whoever questions this fact is de facto a fascist. Indeed, the ethnic Hungarians at the territory were - and still are - supposed to become loyal to Czecho/Slovakia and its policies, including the cultural ones - that was the very point of this territory's being given to Czechoslovakia.

    By the way, this decision to make Czechoslovakia stronger and Hungary weaker was also very sensible - prophetic - from the viewpoint of the following history. From the 1930s, Hungary would become a very clear part of the fascist cancer spreading through Europe, while Czechoslovakia would remain the only beacon of true and prosperous democracy in Central Europe.

    You may show your muscles and boast by your obnoxious plans to create new problems in the future with the Hungarian minority abused as a tool, but be sure that if you're gonna repeat some of these irredentist and similar tendencies, we will happily burn your f*cking fascist asses again, in a third war.

    Best wishes

  24. Dear Lumo,
    I believe that your fear of a fascist and revisionist dangers coming from Hungary is somewhat exaggerated. A few years ago (in 2004) there was a referendum about granting Hungarian citizenships to Hungarians living in neigboring countries or not. Only about 1.5 million people (19% of all eligible voters) voted with yes, which made the referendum unsuccessful for its initiators. I cannot believe that supporters of territorial revisionism would not have taken this chance to express their opinion this way. The same is true about fascism. There is one party "Jobbik" whose views could be considered my many as fascist and revisionist. In the last election for the European Parliament they got only 15% of all votes. Both elections were secret, therefore no-one can claim that people feared of expressing their opinion in the polling booth. Since Hungary is a democratic country, there is no way that such a small portion of the society could force its view on the rest. In many European countries radical far-right parties (e.g. in Austria) had similar results, yet nobody really fears of fascism as a real threat there. If we consider the future, any possible rise of fascism or revisionism in Hungary or anywhere else in Europe would be harshly intolerated by NATO and the EU, and therefore it is totally unlikely.
    As for the historical castles and fortresses of the former territory of Hungary (including those in Slovakia), almost all of them were destroyed to ruins by the Austrians in the early 18th century after the fall of the Rakoczi uprising against the Austrian rule over Hungary in 1711 so that anti-Austrian rebels could not use them in another uprising. Only a small portion of them were saved or allowed to be restored by the Austrians later. Therefore most of the castles of Slovakia which are in good condition now had to be restored in the Czhechoslovak era. Before the Rakoczi uprising most of the castles and fortresses of Medieval Hungary were designed, built and regularly altered (extended or fortified) by Italian architects, who were ordered and paid by the Hungarian kings and their noblemen after the Mongol invasion was over in the 13th century. In most cases there is simply no data whether there were any fortresses built on those places before the Hungarians had arrived to the area. If there were, invading Hungarians (who were nomads and therefore not used to use castles for defence) probably destroyed them all in the 10th century.
    Medieval Hungary was pretty well developed compared to other European kingdoms. Hungarian kings married the daughters of the strongest monarchs of Europe which would not have happened if Hungary was despised by them. But as you know, Hungary lost its independence in the 17th century and from then it was ruled by Austrian monarchs, whose interest was to keep territories of former Hungary (including that of Slovakia) less developed than Austrian areas so that they could keep control of it more easily. They were always afraid of uprisings, not without reason. The size of Hungary was larger than the size of Austria, so this was the only way Hungary could be controlled in the long run. As a result, the Slovak as well as the Hungarian regions were artificially held back in development for two centuries until 1867 when Hungary received a limited independence and could have its own parliament. (If you come to Budapest you will see that most of its historical part was built at the end of the 19th century. Before that Pest was a deprived town.) But the former territories of Hungary could never ever had a real chance to catch up with Austria or Western Europe after two centuries of setback. We Slovaks, Hungarians, Croatians, Romanians etc. were all held back for the same reason by Austrian emperors and there is no point blaming each other for being less developed. I think it is wiser to concentrate on not causing setbacks to each other for the benefit of all of us instead.
    Best wishes,
    Peter from Budapest

  25. Peter, I am not sure whether you're being serious.

    1.5 million people (19%) supporting first steps for border revisions, or 15% behind the nationalist party should not be a source of concerns for Hungary's neighbors?

    For a comparison, NSDAP got 18% in 1930, 33% in 1932, and 43% in 1933. The final figure was "enough" for anything. That's how things often happen in three years.

    The numbers you quote are scary, especially because I don't view even the other, "peaceful" parties in Hungary to be quite compatible with the regional peace in the long run.

    We don't have anything like that in the Czech Republic. The last parliamentary far-right party were Sládek so-called "Republicans" (primarily anti-gypsy, brutal humor etc.) who were always just around 5 percent, and they're gone off the parliament for a decade.

    15-20% is just scary. The figure 15% is what is being approached by the communists in Czechia, and they have had a damn big impact on millions of people - which unsurprisingly many people view as a positive one, for convenient reasons. But having a rather powerful communist party is just our problem. Having a powerful far-right party is a bigger problem for the neighbors.

    The statement that Hungary's underdevelopment was the Austrians' fault is another piece of victimist crap. Why didn't Austria keep the Czech lands deindustrialized, too?

    Austria was a source of progress for Hungary, just not a sufficient one.



    good job slovaks, good job.

    the hungarains never learn, and like their mongoloid ancestors, they do not like to live in harmony by the laws and customs of the territories they live in.

    i can just hope our government will do the same thing in the very near future.

  27. Very good article. To Peter from Budapest: When you said, that Slovaks had no anti-hungarian uprise until 19 century, you are wrong. After Stephen`s death in 1038 was in the area of contemporary Slovak republic a great uprise so - called Vata`s uprise, when not only Slovaks, but also other Slavs and Romanians uprised against terror of Hungarians.

  28. With all due respect, it seems that the basic premise here is that Hungarians are evil en bloc, and all other discussions are built on this axiom. Any argument against this is dismissed automatically. The word is "chauvinism". It is not, of course, a Slovak speciality, there is more than enough of this stuff in Hungary, too. Arguments do not work against this attitude, as these are emotions. You want to hate Hungarians so you do that and even if all Hungarians personally assured you that they do not want your country, you would still found some reason to accuse them of insincerity.

    I just want to make two small comments. First, there was a comment here on how better off were Hungarians in Slovakia than the (supposedly oppressed) Slovaks in Hungary. Well, I happen to live in a small town in SE Hungary with a sizable Slovak minority settled here in the 18th century. They are fine, thank you. They still keep their language and traditions. They have a Slovak self-government, Slovak kindergarten, Slovak school. There are inscriptions in Slovak. There is even a statue of your Gen. Stefánik, who studied in the school here. You can see Slovak pieces in the theater in Slovak language. No Hungarian seems to be afraid here that the Slovaks are planning to take over the town. What's more, many Hungarian parents send their children to the Slovak school thinking that knowing one language (and one culture) more will only make their life richer. Or maybe you think that Hungarians want their children to know your language in case they can take over Slovakia? :)

    About the Vata revolt. Pavol, could you kindly provide the sources? The sources that I know (Chronicon pictum, etc.) speak of Vata as a Hungarian lord, who revolted against the king Peter Orseolo who was backed by the Germans, and against Christianity. He and his followers wanted to return to the previous Hungarian pagan beliefs. No source that I know claims that the revolt was against Hungarians. The rebels killed priests (including St. Gerard) and foreigners and wanted to return the sons of Vaszoly (the exiled cousin of St. Stephen) to the throne. Andrew, the son of Vaszoly, in fact, returned from his Russian exile and became a king, but he did not abolish Christianity as expected. Well, this is the version that I know. Could you kindly tell me where your version comes from? You can send Czech or Slovak sources, I understand them. (Btw., the Slovak Wikipedia also speaks about a Hungarian pagan revolt, and not a word about a Slovak uprising, see:

  29. REAL
    it's no suprising that Hungary stil thinks and wants 2 regain the territories she wants have when she was part of Astro-Hungaryan Empire, but they are very sneaky, by bullshiting all the time about equality for the minorities and stuff like that, so the Real truth is that they are considerin themsleves superior ( same as the Nazy ) and little by little try to obtain more and more.
    i salute the Slovaky goverment and send my regards to Slovaky people who has suffered also , along the history.
    Hungary if they were so superior and fighting for equality, in '68 they should have dissaprove the intervention of Russian army like Romania did through the voice of her pressident at that time Nicolae Ceausescu who strongly refused to participate to the intervention.

    best regards to our Slovaks brothers from Romania