National and Ethnic Minorities in Hungary, 1920-2001


With the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the multinational imperial structure was replaced by the nation-state structure in East Central Europe. In the region of established nation states a great number of minorities continued to live. The peace treaties concluding World War I included minority protection clauses and provided international overseeing of the peace treaties. They were created in the hope that they would serve as efficient tools for minority protection. However, these hopes were not made good by practice. Furthermore, in this region a reassuring settlement of relationships among states, nations and nationalities has not yet taken place, and the nationality issue has remained a source of tension and conflicts.

Hungary has been doubly affected by this problem. Due to the Trianon Peace Treaty a great number of Hungarians have ended up in minority status, and with national minorities living in its area Hungary has not become an absolutely pure nation state following the territorial losses. The twentieth-century history of national minorities in Hungary – like the history of any minority – is inseparable from processes taking place in the majority society, and is obviously part of the whole country’s history. Yet minority com¬munities have their own histories and trends of development, which in many instances might differ from or be downright contradictory to the processes taking place in the majority society. Responding to and being responsive to the majority behavior is often a crucial and potentially decisive element of minority history.

The essays published in this book set out to discuss the most important questions affecting the history of Hungary’s national minorities between 1920 and 2000. It is our intention to offer an informative view of the most recent research results and to touch upon questions that facilitate the study of the period and the topic. In certain instances the time limits were not rigidly observed, since discussing the antecedents is necessary, in order to gain an overview of the process.

This is what happens in the case of the study discussing demographic trends, when nationality ratios and certain statistically meaningful characteristics of the nationalities can be traced back to the first Hungarian census.

The selection of laws also reaches back further into the past than the establishment of post-Trianon Hungary in 1920. Starting from 1868, this chapter contains parts of and references to the most important legal texts that have provided the foundation of the nationality policy. It is not possible to include the full texts of certain laws, due to length limitations, and therefore attached explanations are especially important for interpretation and for placing the relevant law into a wider context.

Three studies discuss the topical area of state, nation and nationality. The detailed discussion of the post-1990 period – which also entailed the political transformation of the minority policy – follows the historical review of the period between 1920 and 1990. The chapter that discusses the basic principles and elements of minority policy administration also describes the internal political debates preceding the Minority Law of 1993. One of the most important elements of the Minority Law is the establishment of self-governance, which is also analyzed in this chapter.

After World War II, relocations declared as possible solutions for the minority issue – whether being driven out of the country, internal deportation, forced emigration or resettlement within the country – weighed heavily on the German, Slovakian and Southern Slav population of Hungary. These actions did not bring about any solutions, and in fact generated further conflicts and suffering, which are effectively described by the chapters based on thorough archival research.

One of the crucial basic conditions of maintaining a national identity is access to education in the native language. Essays concluding the volume elaborate on this and other modes of identity preservation. The essays published in this volume do not claim to address the period or the topic in its entirety, yet they aspire to expand the reader's scope of information.

The Editor



Table of Contents

Preface to the Series and Acknowledgments


János Vékás
Spectra: National and Ethnic Minorities of Hungary as Reflected by the Census

Ágnes Tóth
The Hungarian State and the Nationalities

Orsolya Szabó
Regulations Concerning National and Ethnic Minorities in Hungary. The Minority Law and the Process of Its Modification

Ferenc Eiler
The Minority Self-Governance and Its Experiences: Results with Question Marks

Ágnes Tóth
The Relocation of the Germans and the Slovakian-Hungarian Population Exchange

István Orgoványi
Buffer Zone at the Southern Border: The Southern Border Zone between 1948 and 1956

Ágnes Tóth
Nationality Education in Hungary: 1920-1980

Anna Imre
The State of Nationality Education in the 1990s

Györgyi Bindorffer
Possibilities of Preserving Ethnic Identities. The Double Identity of the Germans of Hungary

Balázs Dobos
Major Laws Pertaining to the Situation of the National and Ethnic Minorities of Hungary: 1868-2001

Kincsõ Tamás
Selected Bibliography


Biographies of Key Personalities


Name Index

Place Index

Volumes Published in 'Atlantic Studies on Society in Change'