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The Trianon Trauma


or "Interesting, you can write poetry even though you live in Cluj!"


The October panel discussion took place in the Czech Centre in Budapest with seven leading Hungarian intellectuals. The topic? Trianon trauma, its past and future. What do we not know about our close neighbors? Would we have acted differently, if we knew more? Or—did we really not know? Coincidentally, short time after our leaving Budapest, massive demonstrations started for resignation of the Prime Minister Guyrcsány, and a little while before that a Hungarian activist from 64 districts movement was expelled from Slovakia...


SZÉKY: I'll start with my personal experience. In my childhood, in the sixties, one of my favorite books was an atlas of the world published by the Hungarian Royal Cartography Institute, which had for the first part a text, in which in the list of countries were separately enlisted "Hungary" and "Castrated Hungary". I very diligently read this book and I was terribly outraged by the injustice and injury that affected my country. I drew arrows into the map which meant to signify the possible direction of military campaigns, which could win back this or that town. That book was published in 1936 or 7, and what it contained was in a weird contrast with the political mythology of that time, which we were taught in school. Another of my subjective experiences, though much later, was the diary of Géza Csátha.

In his writing he describes his life of a spa doctor in different, distinctly "Trianon" sounding places like Stubnya and Herkulesfürdö, and how he's enjoying life there. He describes in great detail his love life, his addiction on morphine, and philosophizes about whether he's in a mood for a blue carpet; maybe he will eventually not buy it; anyway, he behaves like a contemporary of English aesthete of the Edwardian period. And at that time I thought about—we know his life ended with suicide—what would Hungarian literature be like, if there were no Trianon. More precisely, if there was no damn Trianon. I've started with personal experience, because the Trianon experience can be personal for a long time. Paris Peace Treaty from 1947 finished the period in Hungarian history, when it was still possible to theoretically or practically possible to revise the territorial catastrophe of Trianon. This topic then became for decades a taboo, and it retains this taboo character till today. We could read that the rightist politics is a "captives of Trianon". However, there's been no mention of the fact that leftist and liberals are also captives of Trianon, because they don't even dare to talk about it. We're supposed to talk about a historic wrong without any possibility of correction. I feel a mechanism of suppression here. I also feel that the topic of Trianon does very rarely get to the level of serious parliamentary discussion with the right-wing politicians. We don't hear much about whether the Trianon peace treaty has had any consequences lasting till today. Which are these consequences? Trianon is of course present in our political thinking not only subjectively, but also through the problems of Hungarians living abroad. It is a very interesting question to what extent we might connect Trianon with contemporary events. We know that recently a marginal organization called 64 districts—it's name referring to Trianon—protested in front of the Slovak embassy with banners saying "Away with Trianon!" or "No, no, never!". But from high politics we know to what extent does the present situation originate from Trianon, and how Hungarians living abroad perceive this, or if you like their various organizations. The generation, which experienced Trianon as adults, is not alive. Everybody encounters Trianon only through political debates, reading—you can say that we encounter it as a part of cultural education. Can such an indirect experience become the centre of political thought? Is it necessary, or possible, to get rid of the Trianon complex? I would like to discuss these issues with you.

JESZENSZKY: As a historian, I've thoroughly studied everything that preceded Trianon, its causes—you can say that I've become a historian precisely because I was searching for and answer to the question of what caused Trianon and the tragedy that resulted from it for Hungarians. I've studied not only the change of borders, but also with World War Two, communism... My political position in the period of the change of regimes has partially led me into a situation, when I had the opportunity to attempt to overcome the Trianon problem. However, I've found out how insufficient for overcoming this trauma just good will is. It's not only the trauma caused to Hungarians; our neighbors are also traumatized by Trianon, though in a different way. I assume that it's not our task to sum up why Trianon happened. Ethnical proportions have been changing throughout history, that doesn't necessarily need to be discussed; however, the ultimate reason of Trianon for Hungarians was the population decline, which was the result of Turkish aggression, especially in the southern and eastern part of Hungary or in present Transylvania. Already before World War One many national problems existed in Central Europe, in Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is necessary to say that Hungarian ethnic policies were not as bad as it is described by many foreign publicists and historians, not only from Central Europe; in many respects we are also to blame. In reality there was no cruel Hungarization process that is spoken about. However, in 1848 and 1867–1868 and the following period, instead of serious attempts to win the non-Hungarian nations, there was effort made not only for everyone to speak Hungarian, but to make everyone Hungarian in language and consciousness in a very short period. Let's suppose with our present knowledge that it would've been better to choose a more tolerant, federal policy and that the break up of Hungary was inevitable (which is questionable, nonetheless). Then we can say that Trianon, if it happened, would have constituted different borders, with real ethnic borders—especially in the case of Slovakia. In my opinion, the source of present problems is not the fact that Hungary was cut up, but the fact that the borders were unjust. It's clear that there are no perfect borders and the introduction of ethnic borders was impossible in some places, like Transylvania. However, especially the Slovak-Hungarian ethnic border clearly existed, and was agreed upon in 1918 by Hodža (former Hungarian Member of Parliament and later Czechoslovak Prime Minister) and the Hungarian Minister of Defense Bartha. If this border still existed, Slovak-Hungarian relationship would be very different. Trianon has basically thrown Eris's apple into Central Europe between Hungary and its neighbors. The loss of ethnically wholly or partially Hungarian territories was the cause of the trauma of Hungarian society, and resulted in many, you can say forced, wrong decisions in foreign policies. At the same time, it was also, as István Bibó (ed. note: István Bibó (1911–1979), lawyer, political studies scholar, and minister in the revolutionary government of Imre Nagy in 1956, the most important thinker of the non-communist left wing politics in Hungary. His series of political essays published during the short period of democracy after 1945 served as a starting point for dissidents during the last decade of communist totalitarian rule.) pregnantly formulates it in his studies, it has also become the apple of discord for our neighbors; very freely marked borders and the presence of three and a half million Hungarians annexed against their will in a way forced our neighbors to choose between two policies. One option would have been to choose a tolerant policy, the policy that Hungarians didn't exercise, although we would have liked to retrospectively—with territorial autonomy and strong ethnic minorities rights. Everybody promised this at the peace conference, Czechs and Romanians most strongly asserting it. They chose a different policy eventually—the policy of attempting to remake the ethnically disturbed borders into real ethnical borders. In other words, discreetly or quite openly discriminate against Hungarians and thus force them to leave their motherland and through resettling of population achieve the regions to be ethnically Slovak, Romanian, Serbian... Besides, we could have observed similar efforts throughout Central Europe after World War One. All countries were multinational and every country tried to change its ethnic proportions. After World War Two Czechoslovakia openly attempted to do this, unfortunately it seems with the consent of most of the Slovak society. Often in this respect Gyulla Illyés (Gyulla Illyés (1902-1983), one of the most important personalities in Hungarian literature of 20th century, leader of the "folk writers", advocating emancipation of Hungarian peasantry. His huge popularity enabled him to write and publish about the situation of the Hungarian minorities in the neighboring countries even during communist times.) is quoted with his "who conceals the problem, makes it only worse". Because in the communist era this topic was in the name of declared brotherhood taboo, it still was a wound, which was bandaged, but still inflamed and poisoning the atmosphere.

In 1990, when our geopolitical space gained freedom, there were two options: either starting again with the rivalry from the end of World War One; shouting the mutual wrongs out loud, which were even worse than forty years before. After Hungary was given back some of the territories as a result of the Vienna Arbitrations, our neighbors started to feel that the Trianon borders are not too definite. Thus they felt they need to secure them definitively—that's why Czechoslovakia wanted to get rid of Hungarians. On the other hand, a strong notion of pressing Hungarians into "minority status" strengthened in the neighboring countries. Communism perfectly enabled this: absence of free press, artificial acceleration of industrialization. Forced urbanization (at least in towns, especially the ones close to the border, which were the most sensitive points) succeeded in "minoritizing" Hungarians. If we made a survey today in the territory concerned by the Vienna Arbitrations, we wouldn't find the majority to be Hungarians, not even in the bordering parts; simply because ethnical majority doesn't exist any longer, and if it exists, it's very narrow.

In 1990, in the new democracy, Antall's government (ed. note: Antall's government—elected in the first free parliamentary elections after the communist era in 1990, created by József Antall, leader of the Hungarian Democratic Forum, in coalition with Independent agrarian party and Christian democratic people's part—Mr. Jeszenszky was the minister for foreign affairs in this government) in good faith, and partially naively, acknowledged the Trianon borders. To use the words of István Bibó, they've reconciled with them. Bibó used to be the advocate of revision of the borders. However, in 1946–47 considering the new circumstances and peace conditions, he said that Hungary has to accept them, except for one condition he never gave up—solidarity to Hungarian communities across the borders and their protection. It was clear to us that neighboring countries have suffered through a lot during the communist era—democrats in Slovakia backed Miklós Duray; some Romanians, like Doina Corneo, protested against demolition of villages and violent persecution of Hungarians during Ceauşescu's era. Antall's government thus naively hoped that after the lessons from communism have been learned, and Hungary freely declares that it doesn't endeavor to change the borders, just protection of minorities, that our neighbors will accept it, and they'll feel secure from any change of their borders. Other peace treaties, Helsinki agreement and the attitude of the international community were a guarantee to it. That's why I think the bilateral agreements containing territorial clauses were not necessary. At every forum I say that if other countries consider it necessary, we are willing to grant such agreements; not only to Ukraine, but also to other countries; however, there must be a guarantee that the local Hungarian communities require not the Hungarian government or Hungarian society. It can be summed up into saying that ethnic Hungarians living across the borders want to keep their identity, their national existence; they want a guarantee that resettling and expulsion won't be repeated—the best guarantee for this is autonomy on the level of villages, towns, even larger regions. If the neighboring states acknowledge this, there will be nothing in the way of harmony in Central Europe, comparable to the harmony in Scandinavia. It is sad that our neighbors without exception refuse this really tolerant and generous national policy, which shows a lot of good will. They've ceased to use drastic means that would provoke protests of the international community; they still slowly use certain policies in hope of diminishing the numbers of Hungarians to the extent that they won't have to fear them. Hungarian governments don't agree with this and the Hungarians abroad as well; it's the neighboring states to make their move now. If they acknowledge those humble, but relevant demands that are in concordance with European norms, which are formulated by the Hungarians abroad. Then we'll be able to really forget Trianon and it will become pure history.

BÉNDEK: We shouldn't forget that the period of Trianon, 1900–1950, has brought about the collapse of traditional history philosophies. It is a period of European history, when everything gets turned upside down and the ongoing processes were no longer describable using the language of traditional rational philosophies. When we consider Trianon in the context of this process, then we clearly see that when compared with bolshevism, Nazism or other European traumas Trianon is just a provincial experience. It stayed provincial especially in the sense that Hungarian historical and social thought didn't bother to consider this crisis in the context of the European crisis. Thus, Trianon was quite tragically left out from it, and that is the reason I attribute to Trianon being still left out from European attention; its incapability to gain access to serious political European discussions. Imre Kertész said that Auschwitz is a value. Trianon is a value as well; it is a value for us, or at least it should be; and this resonates throughout in the thoughts of István Bibó, who was mentioned by Géza Jeszenszky. Why can't we find a relevant and positive way to answer the unquestionably traumatizing experience? Why can't we take the best from it, the best for the remaining ninety three thousand square kilometers? Trianon has not been processed in this sense. I have to say that the mythical power of Trianon actually hinders the creation of a national identity. The fact that there is no Hungarian national identity shows in the incapability of the current political scene cannot conceptualize these problems and are not capable of in any area to reach an agreement. Anyway, I always put nationalism and civilization into contrast. In my opinion, nationalism always strengthens in the countries where some civilization defect exists. That concerns Hungary as well. In advanced countries, which belong to the front line of civilization—I mean especially English speaking countries—nationalism in the form it occurs in Central Europe is practically unknown. Furthermore, nationalism is in utter contrast to the term civilization hungarus—in contrast with this term, which held Hungary and the lands of Holy Crown together, theoretically until Trianon. Holy Crown is a very broad term. However, the historical and legal conception of the Lands of the Holy Crown is in contrast with the interests of nationalism. A big problem of Hungary was that Lands of the Holy Crown and civilization hungarus existed until 1918; till this year nobody gave a damn about them; but when they disappeared, everybody started talking about them, but in a nationalist tone and with nationalist interests. I, as a conservative and romantic person, am very much support this message of the Holy Crown against the nationalist notions. We didn't mention whether Trianon trauma means the trauma from the loss of the nation or the territory. Trauma from the loss of nationality consists in comminution of language and culture, in terms of the parts of the nation living in diasporas it's the impossibility of life in a culture and language; trauma from the loss of territory then evidently results from our low spirits towards our homeland, or over our homeland, or even over the land as a legal unit. It's necessary to mention the concept of homeland here. Why has the Hungarian state never supported Hungarians to move back from abroad to their homeland? The reason is simple—Hungarians living abroad don't want to leave their homeland. Homeland means not only a national and cultural term, but it is also connected with the mentioned legal loss of territory. To provide a clearer formulation: What is more important for Hungarians living in diasporas—language or birthplace? These two things can come into conflict in this case, and we've never answered this question; the solution or tendency to which I incline in this question is that, after all, birthplace is more important for them than homeland, language and culture. Most certainly this will never change. The importance of the loss of nation was caused by the poor protection of minorities. The question is, if the countries instead of their provincial and very poor minority policies introduced functioning minority policies, would the Trianon trauma still be so important for us? Would it still influence the public opinion? I don't think so. If there was real protection of minorities on the European level, which by the way is not among Brussels concerns, Trianon trauma could have vanished without even our understanding it.

MÉSZÁROS: I understood that the topic of this discussion are "Trianon traumas" in plural, thus I'll express myself to it in this way. Before I start with developing such gloomy and theoretical reflections, I'll tell you one anecdote. Once, a very interesting and educated antiquarian came to our publishing house Kaligram. He told one of our colleagues, who is from Dunajská Streda, how angry he is with Bugár and Party of Hungarian Coalition because of one thing—the president and prime minister have been for two days out of Slovakia, and that's enough time to easily manage rejoining the Slovak territory to Hungary. I don't want to laugh at this person, but I mention this anecdote to provide a rough idea about the state of the contemporary revisionist thinking. I repeat that he was an excellent person, very educated. Concerning the literary and cultural institutions, the problem does not consist in how the traumas affect a country, but how they are processed. We have not been inventive enough in this respect. I'll provide concrete examples—I live in Subotica and it still takes me half a day to get to Pécs. With Trianon we lost the railway perimeter, we know that, but after sixty eight years not a single railway track has been built to provide transportation for Hungarians living across the borders. I went into a bookshop in Subotica and I've almost never seen any Hungarian books there. Hungarian books get to Subotica only because I bring them there—they don't get to Subotica, a town that used to be very important in Hungarian literary history. There are only books published before 1990 in libraries, and the situation is probably very similar in other towns in the border zone. I only wanted to point out that there is a lack of cultural communication of this kind, and it's our fault; there's no apology for it. There is a former minister of foreign affairs sitting here with us; not that I'd want to blame anybody personally, but there's been eaten five tons of salmon during receptions, whilst the train still stops for an hour and a half at the borders, because the border control needs to be done on both the Serbian and Hungarian side and the train has to stop; it is not done during transport as everywhere else. There's been one change, which we owe to Antall's government, and which is spoken about among the minorities with appreciation: during this government it was possible to gain Hungarian citizenship. I'm not a political or historical expert in this question, but the truth is that the following governments have cancelled this "privilege" on a false presupposition—that if they'll grant citizenship to the minority Hungarians, they'll lose their homeland, thus they'll move away from it. Nothing like that is happening.

Let me say a few thoughts about the fact that it came to a "rupture in the cultural world". The same thing I mentioned about the railway happened to the cultural institutions. What could have been the Hungarian literature like, "if there was no damn Trianon"? It wouldn't be much different, because in reality Cluj, Braşov, or Novi Sad were not so vastly important cultural centers. The truth is that in the period of dualism (ed. note: Dualism—in Hungary a short term for the political system of Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1867–1918), and also later after Trianon, they were from this perspective much more important. Generally, there is an illusion among people that across the borders could have live and live many great authors, but for the contemporary situation is more characteristic the lack of important cultural institution and centers more than yesterday, or the day before yesterday. After 1989, there were no important innovations. When we look at the publishing houses, we see the decline of Forum in Novi Sad, provincialization of Kriterion and other Transylvanian publishing houses, decay of the book distribution network, lack of cultural communication... The parallel matter with this is that until 1989 it was a party mission, although in the name of false internationalism that Hungarians across the borders should somehow communicate with the majority culture the direction of communication up to today has narrowed extremely. During a book exhibition in Târg-Mureş, Ottó Tolnai rightly asked: "Where are any Romanians here? Anyway, do you read Romanians?" "Why would we read them?" was the reply. It not so typical of people in Vojvodina or Slovak Hungarians, because the communication was more intense there, but the fact is that to publish a Serbian book in Hungary is a totally hopeless effort. That's why I say that while we got rid of false taboos, we didn't manage to form a new approach, instead of the old apologetic rhetoric and political thought.

SZÉKY: One note—before Trianon the country had several centers; Géza Csáth was from Subotica, Oradea was a well-known spiritual centre; from Košice to Subotica there was a series of wealthy business center with a strong middle class. After Trianon we are left with a Budapest-centered country, where most of the thought energy of the major part of middle class was bound by nationalist questions indivisibly relating to the Trianon trauma, which meant it was a daily matter.

KARDOS: I would like to approach this question from another direction—I want to discuss the Trianon's effect on Hungarian international legal thinking. The effect is of two kinds. A good attorney always goes to court having two things in mind—for the innocent accused to be acquitted, or if he's sentenced anyway from him to get the least possible punishment. Hungarian international legal thinking between the world wars more or less managed to stick to this logic. The cultural and political public opinion of that time was definitely in favor of revision. The question was always only how to do it. One of the ways was preparing arguments that could support the Hungarian diplomacy in the moment, when it would see a possibility to achieve at least partial revision. What were the arguments? No matter how important the question of ethnic borders was, from the formally legal point of view it was not the basis for arguments. The reason was that during Apponyi's negotiations in Paris, he used the argument of ethnical borders, but received almost no reaction from other delegates. After that three legal arguments were formulated. After Apponyi returned from the negotiations in Paris, a crisis came, because the government was undecided whether they would sign the treaty. At this moment the French Prime Minister Millerand wrote a letter, where he said that in the current European situation peace is necessary; Hungary should sign any treaty no matter how much of a harsh bargain it will be; he added that according to his own personal opinion the question of Carpathian Ruthenia (or Carpathian Ukraine) is not closed, but that it will be later decided by a referendum. As we know, it never came to it, so that is the reason why Hungarian lawyers appealed to the fact that Millerand's letter was misleading for Hungary, so we signed the Trianon peace treaty under the influence of this error. Another argument was that the agreement about cease-fire that was signed by Mihály Károlyi in 1918 was broken by other lands of the Little Entente. There is always a problem with the peace treaties in international law, because theoretically they're based on an agreement about the will of individual countries; however, you can hardly say that the losing side could be considered to be signing something it would like agree with. Theory has been helpful here because it distinguished legal violence and illegal violence. Armed conflicts, which took place during wars, was considered legal violence, thus it was considered a valid foundation for a peace agreement. However, it was not considered legal, after the cease-fire was signed that was supposed to finish the war, that Allied armies continued in their war operations, entered the Hungarian territory and crossed the line set in Belgrade. The third argument proposed by the scientists was the Pact of United Nations. In one of its paragraphs stood that if an international contract becomes unusable, it can be revised under the condition that both sides agree on this. It's easy to see that this was probably the weakest argument. It was not probable that the countries, which gained the territory, would give it up just on the basis of an invalid peace agreement. These were the arguments of revision—that is a peaceful revision. Now it's time to mention plan B, if I may call it that. Plan B meant that if the revision didn't succeed (or at least until the time it succeeds), at least the protection of minorities' rights and their international guarantee should be fought for. In this respect, the situation was much better, because within United Nations there emerged a system for protection of minorities, which bound every state ("winners and losers as well") to protect minorities; the problem was that it only gave some basic guarantees, among them prevention of expulsion, religious freedom, the right to start primary schools with minority instruction language... In other words some kind of fair share on the public property meant for cultural, religious and charity purposes and non-discriminatory treatment. A system was created to control this, so there was a possibility of, let's say, Transylvanian Hungarian side to find a protector in some of the superpowers, and when this superpower was willing to accept this position, an issue might have gotten to the United Nations Council, which would start a "semi-official and patient" dialogue, which basically meant that the Council tried to settle the issue with recommendations. Some of the cases got even to the International Court, which not only provided the solution to a legal conflict, but also formulated certain theoretical theses. After World War Two, the international community turned its back upon the idea of protection ethnical minorities. The aim of Hungarian international legal efforts should have been the exact opposite of this approach; there was a proposal of international guarantees prepared, but Hungarian diplomacy failed to realize this proposal. Then a cut, for a long time nothing happened, and at the end of eighties this topic was brought up again, but it could only be studied out of strictly scientific interest and strictly apolitically. After the revolution good communication between the legal scientists and diplomats started; some theoretical international lawyers even entered into diplomatic services, which helped Hungarian participation in the creation of two contracts of Council of Europe that are important for national minorities. Two more things: Entrance into EU from this point of view doesn't mean salvation; the possibilities are too limited in this question, except for fight against discrimination. Luxembourg court has made some verdicts concerning language rights; there are some rules on the level of recommendations. We have to realize that European law does in fact deal with European institutions, which are greatly scared of language expansion. Even now, EU can hardly manage to finance its translational and interpreting needs. They're even anxious about larger minority languages like Catalan, not to speak about the rest; the official status of Catalan in Spain is that it's a regional language. Another thing is that international law is not able to fully guarantee compactness of minority rights, especially in the case of larger minorities. International law can generate guarantee regulations, such as a rule about a basic principle that in a country it is restricted to make a territorial reorganization of public administration to the disadvantage of minorities, which basically means that you cannot transform the county system in a way that would eliminate the local majority. It can roughly regulate, which minority rights constitute a minimal guarantee; these regulations though have to be realized on national level. As far as autonomy is concerned, an authoritative international agreement—which was created by Council of Europe—speaks about autonomy of local administration, not about autonomy of ethnic minorities. It can be said that the inner political development within countries may lead to autonomy of ethnic minorities, not the international legal obligations.

ABLONCZY: A reflection, which connects the Trianon problem with the question of ethnic Hungarians is legitimate, and I understand it, but when solution of the problem is concerned, I think it's very harmful. To be more precise, I think it's not as harmful as counterproductive. I mean the argumentation of the neighboring countries that they use against us—it appeared recently in connection with the events in Nitra—namely that Hungary should apologize for once oppressing its ethnic minorities. This dispute has to be brought to an end somehow. Otherwise we don't have to particularly agree with the Slovak standpoint, but we need to recognize that during the last two decades of dualism Slovaks were in serious danger of becoming an ethnic regional minority. This means that Slovak intelligentsia will speak Hungarian, the ordinary people will speak Slovak—a similar situation was with intelligentsia in Bretagne or Provence, which as soon as it ceased to use the local language became French. The level of Hungarian debate about Trianon is not really characterized by the sympathetic antiquarian; it is much more characterized by the youth organization 64 districts, whose leader was expelled for five years from Slovakia. The problem is that after the definitive reform of state administration in 1872–1873 Hungary had 63 districts, not 64. Fiume (present Rijeka) was not a district, but a separate body, with its own local administration. So much about the level. Someone said here that the left wing politicians and liberals doesn't speak about Trianon, but I have to say that the majority of these politicians doesn't speak about it, because they feel that their voters are not concerned with this issue. In principle, it is only of concern among intellectuals, and for the right wing parties it's a comparative point, with all the nonsense that they create. László Szarka says about this, that there exist metahistorical debates: and I think such are Bibó's discussions, but it comes from Ady. Ady in one of his essays mentions that not even a Romania attorney from Cluj wanted to go to a trial in Bucharest; of course he wanted to. It was hard to bear for the Transylvanian regional elite, Maniu, and Transylvanian Romanian national party that people from Bucharest took their places in administration. However, if they had to choose between Iuliu Maniu or Alexander Vaida Voivod should become prime minister in Bucharest or a member of parliament in Budapest, their choice would be quite clear. It is possible that it meant a tragedy to them as well, but they managed to cope with it. A similar debate is going on in Western Europe, where it is put forward mainly by the French social school (though it's been fading lately)—it is about the theory of the refrigerator; according to it, communism was positive in freezing the nationalist opinions, and when communism vanished, they surfaced again. But I don't want to speak about that now.

Into the category of false debates in connection with Hungarian literature goes surely "the flute with five whistles" (ed. note: Flute with five whistles—metaphor from Gyula Illyése for Hungarian literature seen as "unity in diversity". Five whistles symbolize the Hungarian literature in Hungary, Transylvania /Romania/, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, and in western exile.) and similar metaphors, which are not particularly nice, but otherwise very correctly grab certain problems; however, they don't answer questions like why does the Korona express after Püspökladány stop in Mezöpeterd, Sáránd, and who knows where else, so it takes six and a half hours to pass the 360 kilometers. The only result of a meeting of Hungarian and Romanian government meeting, which was announced with great glory, was that the passport control will be carried out in cooperation and crossing the borders will take twenty minutes. I went by train to Cluj just a few days after the meeting, and the ride between the two border crossings took a good hour and a half. So there are a lot of false debates here; the questions of Trianon and national minorities should be separated from the question of staying in one's birthplace, as it was mentioned by Péter Béndek. This principle was brought up by the right wing politicians, but without problems it was taken up by the left wing politicians as well. I consider this one of the most harmful and cynic slogans of contemporary Hungarians politics, because it says: "so, you need to endure, because it is a thousand years old guard post of the Hungarian culture, and in exchange for it you must bear, for example, that hot water flows only two hours a day, or that you can buy only one shoe from your pay. Despite this, you need to stay there!" The task of the Hungarian state should be to compensate these people, because it has responsibility for their situation. It entered World War One, then the second as well, and lost both. The state compensated, or at least attempted to morally compensate the Jewish, which it killed and sent to death; it also attempted to compensate the Hungarian Swabians, whom it expelled and destroyed. Hungarians, who "got stuck" across the borders, should also be offered a choice between staying in the place of their birth, or to leave for Hungary, where they shouldn't be abased at the Immigration Office by being forced to return six times and being called Romanians and having to show all sorts of absurd certificates. I say (and it grieves me, because I come from an environment, where it was important, and also because for me as a historian the Trianon experience is most crucial) that it would be better, if the parliament rather didn't talk about Trianon at all, because of the load of nonsense that has been said there. Hungarians living across the borders need something different than being reminded of Trianon; they need autonomy, houses, coops, and tractors—very basic things...

ANDRÁS: Nietzsche says that resentiment causes the ones who are weak and cannot solve their problems to call themselves good, whereas the strong ones are bad. This is the reason why we somehow have to change the whole way of thinking, and this can be achieved only by one activity, which is definitely not military invasion into Transylvania or Slovakia. What is it then? I can only say that until we have some really active policy or idea of what we can do—it doesn't matter if in our country or abroad—we will be "boiled in our own juices". And it is also true that until we'll be boiled in it, Slovaks will boil in their own juices too, and so on... Except for knowing our own mental and emotional condition, there is one practical thing: we need to draw attention of the people, not only politicians, of the neighboring countries to the fact that Hungary, which committed Hungarization and similar things was completely dependent on Austria. Now I especially mean the government crisis in 1905 (ed. note: Government Crisis in 1905: end of the conservative Liberal party's governing, which lasted from 1867, because liberals lost the elections in January 1905, but the opposing parties led by the nationalist Independent Party were not able to form a government, because Franz Joseph refused their demand concerning the Austro-Hungarian army, which included introduction of Hungarian as one of the two languages for orders together with Austrian.), which started because of the "language of command" in the army. A constitutional crisis followed this, and many things that followed could be traced back to this. A wonderful essay has been written about this by László Péter. It deals with, among other things, the reception of this whole process by Scotus Viator, who is not too well-known in our country. Not even the educated people would have probably heard about the massacre in Černová. László Péter credibly describes that until 1903–1904 the perception of Hungary was rather positive, but after that it radically changed. Hungary took an interesting position in the monarchy, which was very important for foreign countries, especially Germany and England. I understand that the politicians of that time didn't really consider this important, but we have to admit that it was a big mistake. Another thing is that Hungarization took place, but it was not carried out by an independent country. The country was dependent, even in language issues...

JESZENSZKY: I don't agree with you, because during the dualism period Hungary was independent in respect to inner policies. It had an influence on foreign policies as well, we formulated it together, but as far as national politics is concerned, it was totally in Hungarian hands. The national politics was much more tolerant in the Austrian part, because there existed no Hungarian idea of the state, provinces like Galicia and Bosanska Krajina had their own parliaments, a kind of regional home-rule existed there. I defend the Hungarian national policies against unjust attacks, but we cannot blame it on the Austrians...

MÉSZÁROS: Allow me to interfere, because Balász Ablonczy said one important thing a while ago. I consider it important to rid ourselves of the burden of history as it is called. I wanted only to point out the formulation of Sándor Makkai that we need to revise ourselves. It is necessary to change somehow our "hurt attitude" reflecting our feeling of being victims. This doesn't of course mean forgetting. The principle of false endurance needs to be reformulated—"stay there, because it's your motherland, endure heroically there, where you should endure heroically"; people will stay naturally, because they just don't leave their homes in droves. Another thing is that in debates, which have been going on since the sixties between the cultures of successive countries, regularly appeared a determined intensive requirement of consensus; an effort to show that we can overcome these traumas, wounds and other common problems. However, I think our starting point should rather be dissent. We don't understand each other too well and never will, but we can at least tolerably talk about misunderstandings, myths, and follies. We should be pursue a more modest aim—while there is a certain amount of understanding and misapprehension, we should endeavor to remove those false myths, which overly historical thinking has burdened our minds with; the approach of the antiquarian to history in Nietzschean sense. We can answer every wrong with another one. Was it like that? Of course! This has always been inside us. However, we should be more concrete; nobody thinks about publishing houses across the borders in decline, because they've become too self-absorbed. Why should the country where they operate support them? And so all of them disappeared, except for one—in 1995 László Szigeti understood that if he won't run a Slovak-Hungarian publishing house, then this publishing house of minority culture will not survive. And he's been running his publishing house Kaligram successfully until today.

ANDRÁS: I think that the question of motherland and culture is very essential, because nobody would think of saying "if you want to speak Hungarian, go to Hungary". People across the border, as well as people here, don't think that. The source of problems is somewhere here, because we don't think that way for a simple reason—in hope of growth of the Hungarian minorities across the borders, or just simply because the question is why should they leave... If somebody said "OK, let's move the Transylvanian Hungarians to Hungary", there would be a revolution... And not only because we wouldn't know what to do with so many Hungarians, or because we gave up parts of that land some time ago, but for more complicated reasons. In my opinion it's true that motherland as territory is not only the place of birth, but a tradition. It is a part of our motherland in the broader sense of the word. Now it is about giving it up. Even if not by autonomy, this question should be answered somehow. When there are no international legal instruments, then the solution maybe brought by negotiations and meetings. When I came to England in 1956, the English didn't have the Welsh problem solved. Wales didn't even have a radio, which it was struggling to get. When I was hitchhiking to Wales, I met older people, who didn't speak English at all. Almost every western European country has its small national problems, and if there's a neuralgic point, they don't know how to solve it. Let's take Scotland. One never thinks about the Scots, even though they have their own ministry of culture (though not for a long time). One doesn't think about the "Englishman" Robert Seton-Watson came to Hungary actually as a Scot, and as Scot he was bewildered by what he found here. I knew his son well. He once said to Zoltán Szabó: "You now, Zoltán, you Hungarians, you are a nation, we Scots, we are a nation, now the English, they are not a nation." The thing is that the blissful multilingual country of King Stephen, world hungarus, was destroyed. And what is the solution?

ZAHORÁN: I've recently had the chance to follow a discussion in the Czech Lidové noviny newspaper, where Mr. Jeszenszky contributed among others. This discussion nicely shows all the communication confusion, which is between Hungarians and their neighbors. Even in a large part of specialized literature we are accused of cruel Hungarization and oppression; the general public opinion then of course thinks about Hungary in the period of dualism as a half-barbarous, oppressive, half-Asian country brutally attempting to "hungarize" and centralizer, while Hungarians are play down these opinions and present these attempts as spontaneous assimilation and modernization. I've exaggerated a bit on purpose; the situation is not that bad, but still works of historians that go against these myths, like the works of Sorin Mitu or Lucian Boia in Romania or Czech works of Eva Irmanová, haven't yet really reached the public. Many blame Hungarians for not being capable of critical self-reflection; a critical self-reflection has taken place in Hungary, they just don't see or want to believe it. As far as politics and public opinion are concerned, Hungarian state and public are still accused of being in the bounds of irredentism, that they still daily discuss the minority question, because they still have ulterior intentions. The same goes for autonomy. Everyone in this country knows that majority of Hungarians and Hungarians abroad don't think about any revision; similarly as the Hungarian state considers the issue of foreign Hungarians as a minority issue and occupy themselves with questions of human rights. I think that in this matter it's our neighbors who should make their move; they should approach this issue in some correct compromise way. Hungarian state has unfortunately missed this opportunity in 1918 and in 1938–1945. I see the solution in communication between Hungarians and their neighbors; in mutual discussion and listening to each other, because above all this is a problem of communication. One last thing: I don't understand why minority Hungarians or any other minority should have to choose between language and territory; why doesn't it work the way that a person can stay a Hungarian in Romania or a Georgian in Russia. Why is it not possible for minority members to live a full-fledged, national life where they were born, and where they want to stay.

JESZENSZKY: That's exactly it; Hungarian historiography, independent of political demands, during the seventies and eighties did the "homework", which basic purpose was not to become likeable to our neighbors and pay our debt to them, but pay the debt to us. That's what makes it a critical, but not didactic approach to history—if necessary, even towards unjustified judgments of our neighbors. After the revolution, though all these achievements haven't been forgotten, freedom enabled much nonsense appeared and even some harmful opinions. Thus, a Hungarian intellectual, Hungarian historian or literary historian must pick up these notions which constitute well meant opinions, but by all means harmful (above all for Hungarians living across the borders). There's this Koltay's movie, which when watched by foreign Hungarians with tears in their eyes; however, when Romanians or Slovaks watch this movie, it only confirms their view that Hungary is to be feared. Hungary, this small country which is surrounded by a huge majority. Some say that since 1990 there was a chance for revision, but the Hungarian governments messed up. When you ask how it should have been done, the reply is that with weapons, and that someone would've helped us for sure. We have to fight against these notions, because we owe it to us, and we owe it to the Hungarian national interests. It is not true that everyone has to solve this on their own, because then it will never be solved. We should give a new impulse for unifying the history books. We'll have to struggle with this issue over and over again, and we must not give up, because if we don't succeed, we won't get rid of our own nonsense, and the neighboring countries won't get rid of their even bigger nonsense; new conflicts will appear again, and historians will vainly write about them, that they're unfounded. There is one Slovak myth: in post-Trianon Hungary there was four hundred thousand Slovaks, which the Hungarians assimilated... I've been thinking a lot about where this came from, and I think it was Beneš, who used this number at the peace conference when he was told that in Czechoslovakia will a bit too many Hungarians, to which his reply was, that it won't be that much, just five hundred thousand—in fact it was one million—but four hundred thousand Slovaks will stay in Hungary. In fact, there were just some two hundred thousand Slovak speaking people left in Hungary after Trianon. Those were not only Slovaks or people claiming Slovak nationality, some 70–80 thousand of them was resettled or "exchanged". Zoltán Dávid, a great statistician, already during the eighties wrote in one of his works that so far the ratio of Hungarians in the Carpathian basin has never been so high, because it rose to 54 percent (the data from the 1910 population survey were not realistic). Now the ration of Hungarians in the Carpathian basin is 39 percent. A million of Hungarians were in Czechoslovakia including Carpathian Ruthenia, eight hundred thousand in Slovakia. The rest is five hundred thousand, which constituted thirty percent of the Slovak population, today it's ten percent; which means that the ratio of Hungarians has sank by two thirds. And finally I would like to say that such steps, as this Visegrád initiative, may not only be a source of pride for individuals, but for whole countries; it is also important to realize that if there was no Visegrád, it could have easily happened that our relationships with neighbors might have been much worse. If the Hungarian governments didn't use reserved, patient and friendly policies to Romania, our relationships would have been much worse, and it could have even come to a Romanian-Hungarian conflict. That's why Hungarian foreign policies play an important role in relationships with our neighbors; the ones who shouted warnings at the outbreak of Yugoslavian war, that everybody would make war to everyone now. We were lucky, and the situation developed differently; and we, Hungarians, played our part in as well.

BÉNDEK: There is some truth to what Sándor András said: Hungarian politics during dualism period was influenced by the fact, that we were connected to Austria; the integrity, and importance of the Hungarian kingdom could only be strengthened in the frame of this monarchy; and the opinion of that time was that the correct way to do this was to integrate different nationalities. This brings us to the thought, that after all it's a question of state. Nationalisms wouldn't exist, if there were no states; the solution of these things depends on the sensitivity, wisdom and culture of the politic elites, thus on things which we contemporarily and also in long term lack. We're not here to criticize Géza Jeszenszky for his former function, but the crucial aspect of this question was missed even by Antall's government. I agree with what Géza Jeszensky said that we need a well-considered, middle to long term state policies, which should contain among other things that we start teaching an alternative version of history in primary schools; for example, what our neighbors think of us. We need the history lessons not to be Hungarian national indoctrination as it is nowadays. We need to create a discussion from, let's say, third grade about the Carpathian basin. Our public school system is responsible for what the people will be like in twenty years, and what they'll think about Slovaks; that in case of impending conflict, Hungarian prime minister won't enjoy his holiday, but he will immediately call his Slovak counterpart and they'll meet in Komárno. Politics is highly impotent in this issue. In 1990 the change of regime happened and it was carried out by people, who had no idea in what land they were changing the regime; in other words, they knew not what problems it will bring about, and how to project the efforts and complications, which will appear again. Hungarian history teaching has stayed the same as during communism. Today you can choose from twenty three textbooks, but all these twenty three textbooks were written by authors with the same point of view. Their interest is basically monologic history; they continue in the same manner, and it seems that this won't end until we realize, what harm this might do to the thinking of children and the nation as a whole.

MÉSZÁROS: I think this is more a question for historic sciences, and that the changes as you described them wouldn't bring much change. We would "disperse" a lot of false concepts, but create even more of them. This is the way it has been going on for the last hundred and fifty years. Simply because Slovak national elite is now going through their own year 1850; in other words, they're in a different phase. Forming of an independent nation happened much earlier with the Hungarian nation; from historical point of view, we are in a different period of progress. It is possible, that many misunderstandings come from this as well. On the other hand, I think that this situation has a lot to do with the set-back of an attitude that can be characterized as believing that you can remove the mutual conflicts, misunderstanding and hatred by a certain enlightenment: "It's enough, if we mutually understand our standpoints, but the main thing is that you have to understand ours—and learn a big lesson from it." However, the situation is different in everyday life. Let's return to the though of Balász Ablonczy—we are not capable of getting rid of various elements bound to the period, for example the Illyés metaphor about the "flute with five whistles". It was a very important defensive metaphor in the seventies and eighties. Nobody actually understood it, but roughly it meant that across the borders there are more Hungarian cultures that we ignore. And it was true. We still ignore them. All activity in this respect came down to publishing three Transylvanian poets in a magazine, all neatly in one block, and thus we have locked the culture inside a minority ghetto. On the other hand, it meant new reflections about the role of poets, according to which they are the "shepherds of the nation". By the way, many of important minority poets stayed trapped in this idea of poetry. In the seventies and eighties it was valued quite highly, because it was a kind of opposition to the false communist international ideology. But twenty years have passed since that time. Deconstruction of this approach doesn't mean that we destroy this approach, but it needs to be adjusted to the present. About historical thinking: it's important that historians are having this debate; that, for example, a book about Trianon by Ignác Romsicse has been published in Slovak. Another question is the question of school education and instruction—it would be an important task for the ministry of culture or foreign affairs to manage to remove a law, that bans exporting three Hungarian textbooks to Yugoslavia; such a ban is still in effect in Serbia because of Albanians. Secondly, it is important to study history and understand it, and at the same time to be able to keep a distance from it; it is important to be able to liberate oneself from history. I think that the endless debates about history are just a result of "hurtful thinking", and their result has more than often been the absence of simple acts and solutions. We like to use history often as alibi in Central Europe. We only talk about the heavy burdens we carry, only because we want to avoid completing fundamental tasks, though today we have the chance to do so today.

ABLONCZY: I absolutely agree with Sándor Mészáros. Many people, especially in the liberal circles, are logically nervous about the never ending debates about "being hurt" in Central Europe. While French society is concerned in its discussions about philosophical and moral issues, the only "language" understood in our part of Europe is history, but unfortunately everyone is willing to understand only their "language". Here is the point where education comes in; in Hungary we cannot offer students in high schools the possibility to learn Slovak or Romanian; Hungarian education system does not enable this. However, the Slovak worries can be answered by stopping Hungarian irredentism by waiters bringing the beer quickly; by ski lifts working properly and the hotel changing the towels daily. The reason is that most Hungarians don't go to Slovakia to fight with skinheads there. Furthermore, if they don't spit into your beer because you're Hungarian—which unfortunately happened to one of my friends—and they'll bring it with a smile on their face, and even say a few Hungarian words—which happened to us in a couple of places in High Tatras—these "cramps" might after some time cease. And what concerns the label "Great Hungary", I can only say that it's a very unfortunate message to the Slovaks, also for the Romanians; and who goes there with this label, risks that in areas with lower concentration of Hungarians might get his wind shield broken with a brick... would like to emphasize the notion of memory here. I don't believe that Viktor Orbán would want to occupy this territory. We cannot command people how to remember certain things. I've seen a German car with stickers depicting East Prussia and Pomerania. It is not a particularly fitting gesture, especially if this sticker is on car of a leader of a party, which has the chance to get into government; it is probably not possible to forbid these things, not possible to normatively forbid them.

ANDRÁS: This goes with the fact that we should change our attitude, according to which we are a "small country", a "small nation". There were no such assertions before Trianon. Though as for the proportion to the others, we have been most probably in a very similar situation. Zoltán Szabó (ed. note: Zoltán Szabó (1912–1984), an important writer, journalist and political thinker, originally belonging to the "folk writers". He lived in exile since 1949.) notes that twenty two European nations are smaller than Hungarians, and some seven or eight are bigger. Another thing that is usually no mentioned is the fact that among Finno-Ugric nations we are the big brother. Ask anybody Finnish, not to mention others. Who knows here in Hungary that we are the biggest member of a group of nations? So that there exists this mentality full of resentment and hurt feelings, according to which we are "the small and treaded upon". However, we are not small. And we sometimes tread upon others, and we are not small. While Slovaks, and interestingly enough the Romanians as well, view as some kind of a bugaboo, which wants to get its former territory back.

ABLONCZY: I would like to return to Hungarian nationalism from the period before Trianon. Even Apponyi's legislation (ed. note: Apponyi's legislation /Lex Apponyi/: a law formulated in 1907 by the national minister of education Albert Apponyi, concerning the non-state schools in regions inhabited by (non-Hungarian) nationalities, focusing on introducing Hungarian in schools and resulting in closing down of many schools and reducing their state support.) wasn't all that horrible—let's give an example (the numbers may be inaccurate, but the proportions are)—in 1881 Slovaks in Upper Hungary had 1900 state schools with the instruction language Slovak. Their number was 563 in 1913 and this process continued during the war. The head notary of Sáros district, which had 58% of Slovak population, proudly proclaimed that there is not a single school instructing in Slovak in the district. There might have been some church schools, but that doesn't change the situation. However, this is of not much significance for the present.

JESZENSZKY: The Hungarian coalition at that time applied really stupid politics, because it worsened our relationships with the neighboring countries. On the other hand, István Tisza (István Tisza (1861–1918): a typical conservative politician of the beginning of the 20th century in Hungary, in opposition to extreme nationalism and social democracy. He was murdered after the Hungarian defeat in World War One.) attempted much more tolerant and prospective policies, but he said the following about negotiations with Romanians: he himself would agree with certain things, but "the Hungarian stomach wouldn't digest it". And today it's the Slovak, Romanian and Serbian stomach that cannot digest otherwise justified, rational and modest claims, but we need to get over it. While Mr. Čarnogurský was Slovak prime minister, even before separation of Czechoslovakia, I've thoroughly discussed this issue with him, among other opportunities even during our climb to Gerlachovský Peak, and there was a plan that Hungarian Democratic Forum and Slovak Christian Democratic Movement would issue a declaration, which would contain an apology. I asked him how he imagines it. A material was prepared where three pages were filled with Slovak wrongs and one paragraph, where they apologized. And we should apologize for everything, from Horthy's white horse, on which he arrived in Košice after the Munich agreement was signed, to Svatopluk... and this was a disparity that again wouldn't be digested by the Hungarian stomach. I think that here we should return back to education, because with people, who sucked enmity to Hungarians and the feeling of injustice with their breast milk, or with Hungarians who approach Trianon with the attitude of "we want everything back", it will be hard to unite the textbooks. However, a generation that acquires mutually more acceptable opinions in school it might be possible to achieve. And after experience from World War Two there were many impulses supporting this approach coming from Western Europe. The year 1990 might have been such an impulse, but unfortunately it didn't happen.

MÉSZÁROS: There may have been similar attempts on the level of high politics. But I would like to mention three things about the perception of this issue by common people or intellectuals. It is very sad that once multilingual towns are no longer multilingual. If Cluj, Subotica or Novi Sad stayed multilingual, it would naturally mean a much higher chance for a dialogue. For example, in Subotica I can quite easily talk with Serbian intellectuals, because they still speak Hungarian. This is probably not true about Cluj or Bratislava. Cities like Subotica are in decline, these cultures close in on themselves; that's an unquestionable fact, but I don't think that it's an irreversible process. It is a primary issue to talk somehow about possible solutions, or, if you prefer, to know our wrongs and pains. The other thing is rather amusing, but important: the same trauma can be studied in Serbia. They above all didn't realize that they have some Trianon, and also they exhibit the same hurt feelings that are typical for us; nowadays, they proudly proclaim that they wouldn't go for holidays to Montenegro. Croatia is out of play too, so they've got Romanian and Bulgarian coast left. And a third thing—I asked Hungarians from Vojvodina what was most painful for them during the war. They said: "The fact that you didn't come here." In 1990–1999 very few intellectuals visited us, there were two years, when not even books came, which was the worst. It goes without saying that there are no ready solutions, but it would definitely help, if the meetings of Hungarians living across the borders and with them were not only "into the show room", but if really honest communication went on. What can be labeled as a cultural ghetto, works on the other side as positive discrimination, something like "Oh, interesting, you can write poetry, even though you live in Cluj!" How horribly snobbish! And we label every other poet the biggest Hungarian poet only because he lives in an ethnic minority across the borders. Although we are well aware that he is not the first league. Furthermore, and let's really say this, Hungarians from Slovakia don't almost know those Transylvanian or Yugoslavian Hungarians. I suppose that opening up and initiating sincere and "real" communication between us would provide a more authentic picture; it would also be more beneficial than what is going on in high politics.

ZAHORÁN: Only one sentence concerning the multilingual towns. In South Tyrol everybody has to learn German and Italian. On the other hand, across our borders Hungarian is taught nowhere, not even in towns with a majority of Hungarian population. So in Cluj or Oradej in schools, in Romanian schools, no Hungarian is taught; not even if there was enough interest for that, at the same time the official language is compulsory for Hungarians. There is no mutuality, as one might expect, but that's a matter of state policies and the countries.

ABLONCZY: In my opinion, Europe has for the last two centuries followed two major trends. One is towards sovereignty; in other words, two hundred years ago there were a few large empires, whereas now we have some three dozens of countries, and this process hasn't finished yet: Montenegro became independent recently, then there is Kosovo, and so on... The other trend is some kind of homogenization. That means that from the "civilization dividing line" in the western direction, there are only two minorities with more than million people left—Germans were expelled and Jews exterminated—and those are Hungarians and Romanis. However, it's probable that this process may and should be influenced, but it is not clear whether we have all the necessary means.

SZÉKY: One more question before we finish this debate. Let's attempt to speak about Trianon from a positive perspective, even after considering all the things mentioned here. At least in the sense, that comes from evaluations of historians, namely that the Treaty of Trianon meant a definitive return of Hungarian sovereign statehood. It is exactly in concord with the notions towards sovereignty and homogenization as Balász Ablonczy mentioned them. This way an ethnically relatively homogeneous state was formed, where no further decline of Hungarian ethnic population was going on. Another thing, which Sándor Medzáros mentioned in connection with a highly positive example from Slovakia: certain groups of Hungarians living abroad emerged, or, in other words, certain "contact surface" between the Hungarian ethnic and neighboring nations. In this sense, I would like to ask why should Hungarians from Hungary in any way be more authentic than a Hungarian from Slovakia, who runs a publishing house and buys Slovak dairy produce in the shop?

JESZENSZKY: Trianon of course has also this interpretation. György Szabad, who was a history professor before entering politics, always emphasized—for example in the discussion about the ten-volume "History of Hungary"—that we should accentuate more the huge importance of recreation of a sovereign Hungarian state. Some people object that it was not such a great thing, but it can be accepted that once there is a Hungarian state, it has the responsibility for its politics and cannot blame it on Vienna or Moscow. Nonetheless, Trianon has another positive message—that Hungarians have been beneficial for the neighboring countries. One thing is that in many cases these countries gained in Hungarians a more educated—and immediately after Trianon also wealthier—class of people including Hungarian Jews. These people appreciated and pursued culture, but there's one thing of an even more lasting character (as we can see since 1990)—Hungarian political parties have always presented and advocated the so-called European values. When Hungarian parties got into government, even the fiercest adversaries of Hungarians admitted that they governed well, or that they were at least better than some of the corrupt representatives of their own nation. It has been often emphasized in Slovakia and Romania. These parties executed a partially regional politics, but the important thing is that they always had moderate, patient policies according to the rule of law; they never resorted to terrorism, and in many aspects served as an example to the political parties of the majority nation. Secondly, even though it's a trite argument, there's a lot truth to it—the fact that these Hungarians, though maybe forcibly, learned Slovak, Romanian, or Serbian, they became suitable for the role of bridging the nations, which they've always fulfilled. Unfortunately, in the cultural sphere, in the domain of translated literature, there are no major writers or poets in the neighboring countries, which would translate Hungarian literature into Slovak, Romanian or Serbian, because of as heritage of the period before Trianon, they spoke Hungarian. Today there are only Hungarians living in the neighboring countries, who can reciprocally mediate culture; in this sense, if it were no Trianon, it would be much harder to maintain Slovak-Hungarian cultural contacts. But Czech-Hungarian cultural contacts would be much harder to maintain as well.

ZAHORÁN: It can also be positively regarded that Hungary got rid of a serious problem with the loss of territories inhabited by minorities—the problem of ethnic minorities. It's been always difficult to advocate bad ethnic policies, but Hungarians got rid of it. I would like to argue about our neighbors' positive perception of the joining of territories with Hungarian population; why, the Czechs in a way got rid of their minorities, the Sudeten Germans, and the Transylvanian Romanians in Romania were not particularly happy about Hungarians. And Czechoslovakia attempted to destroy or discredit them... Thus, it is possible that these countries benefited from this "gift", but they were definitely not pleased by it. I see a wasted chance in Hungary though: the fact of the existence of a homogenous nation enabled us to create Hungarian-centered state, in other words, a conception of a Hungarian state. We haven't arrived at it for the last sixteen years, and I doubt that the cause is the contemporary events. I assume that it was possible to create a more pluralist and civic state, especially if we consider that there's been no priority, which would give reason for and make sustainable the kind of centralism, which we've witnessed. The only reason for keeping it up was the fact that the country continuously devastates possibilities of economic autonomy of the society, and thus continuously justifies its existence. We lost the possibility of multiculturalism as well; more precisely, this opportunity didn't even come about in the Carpathian basin, although it might have been beneficial to all the nations here, if there was at least such a multicultural approach as there is in Quebec, or the whole of Canada. There the English-French bilingualism was enforced by the state.

KARDOS: I'm quite surprised to hear how much positive has been brought by the Treaty of Trianon. It is all acceptable, but I see only one thing—in 1990 a really positive minority law was created that enabled Hungary to become the one who sets demands, and political representations have often appealed to this law. I mean the Hungarian system of ethnic self-administration. At the same time, this system of minority protection doesn't work all that well in terms of guaranteeing language rights. The fact is—as it's been already mentioned—that a regular Slovak or Romanian child in Hungary can learn Slovak or Romanian as a second language, if its parents wish so. Germans, the Hungarian Germans have fought for their rights more intensely and have achieved a bit more, but in the area of development of a bilingual school system very little has been done. We cannot proud about this.

MÉSZÁROS: I've just recalled how we walked along Andrássy boulevard with the Cluj writer István Szilágyi and he said: when they see this, these buildings, even the most nationalist of Romanians will hold his breath. I don't really agree with this, but the truth is that if Hungary manages to recover from the economic misery, which dominates over this region, it will in a certain sense become more interesting. Slovak Hungarians, and Slovaks as well, don't commute to the region of Györ, because they would be so passionate about Hungary, but because they'll find better living than in the place of their residence, where the unemployment rate is ten or fifteen percent. Secondly, when they come here—be it Slovaks or Hungarians—they get rid of prejudices. When a MOL gas station (MOL is a Hungarian company—translator's note) was opened in Subotica, its only employee didn't speak Hungarian, and the fact that they don't employ Hungarians started a scandal. Since that time, there are probably partially Hungarian employees, and Serbian employees have learned Hungarian. My wife works in the town council in Subotica, where there's a majority of Hungarians in this sense...

ANDRÁS: I've been a visiting professor in Quebec in 1984. If you could see and English sign in a shop from the street, the shop would be fined. They just take it really vehemently. But I didn't have any problems, because I don't have British pronunciation and they like Americans there very much. And the Québécois always went for holidays to United States. But they hate the English. I would only like to add that I cannot say anything positive about Trianon. We should consider not only the significance of Trianon for us, but the fact that Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were formed—and both fell apart. And Slovaks are concerned that this might lead to revision. However, it won't, because Hungary doesn't endeavor to do so. The positive thing is that in fact we were the most peaceful in this whole region. But there's nothing left of the arrangement of which Trianon was part. We must not forget it. One more thing: these issues were not talked about for forty years in the name of Marx-Leninist national policies and internationalism. This issue was concealed for forty years in all the countries, bag and baggage. So it's rather natural that it all burst out after 1990.

SZÉKY: Thank you for your time. I feel that if those present here were responsible for this segment of Hungarian foreign and ethnic policies, we might have been much better of. I hope that this discussion will continue, because I believe such debates to be meaningful and beneficial.

(The roundtable debate took place on 18 October 2006 in Budapest as part of a project organized by Revue RozRazil and funded by the International Visegrad Fund.)


Profiles of the participants:

Csaba ZAHORÁN (1977). Studied history and Czech language on Budapest University (ELTE), works as a translator and editor of Central Europe Watch for the internet magazine Találjuk ki Közép-Európát (literally translated—"Let's invent Central Europe") www.talaljuk-ki.hu, studies nationalism and history of Central and Eastern Europe of the 20th century and present and history of Romania. He writes articles for Találjuk ki, sometimes reviews for Regio, Limes, or Pro Minoritate magazines, cooperates on the collection of documents about solving the "Transylvanian question" in the period between the wars. He published articles also in Czech—about Hungarian nationalism in Konec konců magazine (2006/1, Resurrection of Hungary? Nay) and together with Miklós Komoróczy an article in Souvislosti magazine (2004/3) about runic alphabets.

János SZÉKY (1954). He finished studies of English and Hungarian at ELTE, also journalism at the school of Association of Hungarian Journalists (MÚOSZ). He wrote his dissertation on the Department of American studies at ELTE. He worked as a journalist, literary and media critic, and in 1978-1994 was an editor of Élet és Irodalom (a literary and political weekly). Since 1194 he's been the "leading editor" and (since 1996) editor in chief of Britannica Hungarica Világenciklopédia—an eighteen-volume Hungarian version of Encyclopaedia Britannica, until the termination of this project in 2001. In 2002 he returned to work as an editor in Élet és Irodalom, where he publishes weekly reviews of media events. He translated many works of English prose (including works of Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Pynchon, Djun Barnes, Mary Renault, Nick Cave, and Tibor Fischer) and non-fiction. He leads a translation workshop at the Department of American Studies on ELTE University.

Sándor MÉSZÁROSZ (1959). Literary critic and editor. In 1983, he finished studies at the faculty of arts of Lajos Kossuth University in Debrecen, where he teaches. Presently he is the main editor of the publishing house Pesti Kalligram; he lives in Budapest and Subotica, Serbia. Works: A kék hegyeken túl (Behind the blue hills, 1987), Szövegkijáratok (Enter texts—in cooperation with Tibor Keresztury, 1992).

Gábor KARDOS Ph.D. and Dr. of international law at the Institute of International Law of the Faculty of Law of ELTE University in Budapest. He conducts researches in areas of international minority rights protection, peaceful settlement of international conflicts, and legal protection against terrorism. He is also a member of European commission for regional and minority languages.

Géza JESZENSZKY (1941). A history professor at Corvinus University in Budapest, former minister for foreign affairs. He studied history, English and library sciences at the Eötvös University in Budapest, where he obtained an M. A. in 1966 and a Ph. D. in 1970. In 1968-1976 he was an employee of Hungarian National Library. Founder of the Hungarian Democratic Forum (tranls. note: political party), minister for foreign affairs in the government of J. Antalla (1990-1994). Ambassador in United States of America, 1998-2002. In September 2002 he returned to Corvinus University in Budapest.

Péter BÉNDEK (1968). Philosopher, defended successfully his dissertation at the Faculty of Arts of ELTE University in Budapest. Until 2000, he was giving lectures at various universities in Hungary and Canada. He recently changed domains and runs a consulting company.

Sándor ANDRÁS (1934). In 1956 he finished his studies of Hungarian language and literature at the university in Szeged. In 1961-1962 he lectured German literature at Princeton. In 1963 he worked as an editor for Hungarian section of BBC. 163-1964 he was granted a scholarship by German Academic Exchange (DAAD) and spent his Exchange study at the Munich University studying philosophy. 1964-1965 he taught German at south Californian university in Los Angeles, where he obtained a Ph. D. in 1967. 1965-1969 he lectured Hungarian language and literature at UCLA in Berkeley. 1969-1996 he was a professor of German literature at Howard University, Washington DC. 1984-1985 a visiting professor at Concordia University in Montreal. 1981-1996 he worked as an editor of ARKÁNUM magazine. He published several scholarly works in Hungarian and English.

Balázs ABLONCZY (1974). Studies: 1988-1990 Ányos Jedlik High School in Budapest, 1990-1993 Lycée International des Pontonniers (Strasbourg), 1993-1998 Faculty of Arts of Loránd Eötvös University, history and French language, 1998-1999 Université Paris 1, Sorbonne, DEA, History of international relations (Hungarian-Romanian relations and French diplomacy 1920-1940.) Since 2002 he's been working for László Teleki Institute and from the same year he's been the editor in chief of the Pro Minoritate magazine. He published a monography Pál Teleki.


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