July 25, 2015
By Oleg Nazarov
Translated from Russian by J.Hawk
In connection with the events in Transcarpathia, it might be useful to remind about the 160-thousand strong Hungarian minority that lives there. We often mention the Rusyns, about the chicaneries they suffer at the hands of Kiev, but don’t mention the Hungarians who also suffer from the savagery of the Ukrainian authorities and their radical minions.
On more than on occasion, unidentified supporters of “unified Ukraine” used black paint to cover Hungarian-language names of towns with Hungarian population. Naturally, Hungarian culture was not being respected. Rather to the contrary–the Hungarians were depicted as enemies of Ukraine.
There is such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy. So the Transcarpathia Hungarians stopped viewing Ukraine as their second motherland. What kind of a motherland spends decades trying to stamp out its ethnic minorities? It got to the point that Hungarian politicians were receiving death threats from Ukrainian nationalists should they think of supporting Hungarians and Rusyns in Transcarpathia.
Kiev’s thoughtless nationalities policy led its falling out with nearly all national minorities. Crimean Tatars cast the majority of their votes in favor of Crimea joining Russia. Transcarpathian Rusyns are calling on Kiev to recognize the results of the 1991 regional referendum in which 80% of Transcarpathians voted in favor of an autonomy. Transcarpathian Hungarians are reminding Kiev with increasing frequency that Transcarpathia became Ukrainian only in 1944, and Ukrainian nationalist only in 1991 after USSR’s break-up.
In contrast to USSR, Transcarpathia was part of Hungary for ten centuries. Hungarians and Rusyns established a relationship based on equality during that historical epoch. Madyar’s cruelty toward pro-Russian Rusyns is a thing of the past. These days the Rusyns are fleeing mobilization nowhere else but to Hungary.
It’s easier for a Transcarpathian to receive a Hungarian passport than for a Ukrainian from another region. It’s sufficient to speak Hungarian to receive Hungarian citizenship, and there is no shortage of Transcarpathians who speak that language. In other words, Hungarians and Rusyns there view each other as allies.
Budapest is not happy with Kiev’s attempt to turn Rusyns into Ukrainians, and not merely Ukrainians but Galicians who hate everything and everyone, including Hungary, because “they love Ukraine so much.” Budapest can’t come to terms with that, therefore it is trying to support Rusyn identity.
Unfortunately not always with success. Some of the Rusyns assimilated over the last 25 years, adopting Ukrainian identity and abandoning Rusyn one.
However: Transcarpathia has become more nationalistic, a factor that’s not promoting calm. The events in Mukachevo are a confirmation. If it weren’t for Hungary, there would be nothing left of the Rusyn identity. Hungary has active Rusyn schools, is publishing Rusyn books, and is organizing summer camps for Rusyn children. Nothing like that is taking place in Ukraine, which is why the Rusyns don’t view Ukraine as their home. Therefore the alliance of mutual understanding between Rusyns and Hungarians is entirely logical. These two nations are supporting one another in their defense against forced Ukrainianization.
Ukrainian authorities are afraid Hungarians will establish their self-defense units. That opinion was advanced, for example, by Anatoliy Tkachuk, the Science and Development Director at the Civil Society Institute. Hungarians are an impetuous nation which means that scenario cannot be ruled out. They’ve managed to preserve their faith, language, and culture in spite of forced Ukrainianization and are not about to give up their accomplishments. Hungarians don’t want to die in a war against Novorossia for the sake of Ukrainian oligarchs. Transcarpathia remembers the 19-year-old Roland Popovich, an ethnic Hungarian who died during the ATO. Hungary held a number of pickets against Kiev mobilizing Hungarians from Transcarpathia into the UAF. The picketeers held the portrait of Popovich.
Hungarians and Rusyns shouldn’t tolerate the Right Sector’s anarchy. Mukachevo events showed the Right Sector understands only the language of force. Kiev wants to transform Transcarpathia into a second Galicia by imposing the OUN-UPA cult on the Hungarians and Rusyns. But neither of these groups will accept that. And if they take up arms, it will be Kiev’s fault.
J.Hawk’s Comment: It is definitely true that Hungary is handing out its passports and citizenship hand over fist to Ukrainian nationals living outside Hungary’s current borders. This policy has to be of considerable attractiveness to ethnic Hungarians and any Hungarian-speaking Rusyns because that’s about the only way they can achieve visa-free travel into the EU in the foreseeable future.
In part it’s Orban’s recipe for electoral success–these expatriates unsurprisingly vote for his Fidesz party in droves, since that’s the one party that really and truly defends the interests of Hungarian minorities abroad. However, intentionally or unintentionally, that policy might lead to some pretty serious Hungarian irredentism, and the fact that Romania’s government (which has a much bigger Hungarian minority than Ukraine) is staunchly pro-Ukraine (and pro-US) is not an accident. Bucharest and Kiev have a common enemy, and that enemy isn’t even Russia but rather Hungary.