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In the Spring of 1968 the peoples of Czechoslovakia succeeded in freeing themselves from the domestic Stalinist leadership and established a new regime under Alexander Dubczek. Among the numerous changes which began to take place, there was one affecting the Hungarian minority. The American daily paper, The Christian Science Monitor, reported in its June 20, 1968, issue the following:

"The New Czechoslovakia is openly airing a topic which for years has been kept quietly under the rug - its national minorities. Some 650,000 Hungarians, 110,000 Germans, and smaller numbers of Poles and Ukrainians live within Czechoslovakia's borders.

As long as the Communists were running things, they gave the impression that this problem of national minorities, which had vexed Eastern and Southeastern Europe before World War II, had virtually vanished under their regime.

Now the "Cultural Association of Hungarian Workers in Czechoslovakia" has presented to the government a series of demands. Its members want full equality and limited national self-government.

President Svobodaand the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak party both acknowledge the validity of these claims. And they have indicated that other minorities also will be made to feel at home in Czechoslovakia."

Already on March 15, 1968, the Slovak National Council (Slovenska Narodna Rada) came out strongly for the concept of federalism, the right of self-determination, and sovereignty in relation to the two state-forming nations, the Czechs and the Slovaks. The Council's declaration also promised to create legal and political conditions insuring the economic and cultural development of Hungarian and Ukrainian nationalities in Slovakia.

Moving toward the transformation of Czechoslovakia into a federal political system, the reform movement took several constructive steps by promising to re-establish the rights of nationalities and putting emphasis on the question of political representation of national minorities.

Unfortunately, before these plans could be implemented, Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia, adding one more instance to the long list of Great Power interventions in East Central Europe.


In the end, the impending law on federalization was passed by the non-democratic, dogmatic Communist party leadership which came to power by the grace of the Soviet Union. According to Chapter I, Article 1, Paragraph 4 of Constitutional Law No. 143 (October 27, 1968) the Socialist Republic of Czechoslovakia consists of two components: the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic. Lip service has been paid in the Preamble to the idea of recognizing the nationalities as constituting elements, but the implementation of the idea is totally missing. Nationalities as collective entities have no rights whatsoever, only individuals do.

Less than three years after the constitutional changes eleven members of the U.S. Congress - including the later President Gerald Ford - saw it fit to voice their concern on the floor of the House of Representatives about the worsening situation of the Hungarian minority in Czechoslovakia under the neo-Stalinist leadership imposed on the country. Together, the American Hungarian Federation (Washington, D.C.) and the National Committee of Hungarians in Czechoslovakia (Cleveland, Ohio), in a Resolution inserted in the Congressional Record on July 20, 1971, by Congressman Patten of New Jersey, expressed their concern that "the continuing deterioration of the cultural and political rights of the Hungarians in Czechoslovakia may be a consequence of Soviet policy to rekindle some support in Slovakia by giving free reign to Slovak antagonisms toward Hungarians as a concession for forcing upon the Slovaks the occupation of their country."

There is evidence, indeed, that the Soviet Union - like other Great Powers beforeis using the "divide and rule" tactics to maintain its domination in the East Central European area. The persecution of Hungarians in Transylvania under the Ceausescuregime in Romania has recently reached such proportions that the Hungarian government deemed it necessary to lodge an official protest. Reports from Czechoslovakia indicate that discrimination against nationalities has been extended to include even Slovaks, who belong to one of the "constituting nations." In a memorandum dated February 2, 1978, and addressed to the governments participating in the Belgrade Conference (a follow-up to the Helsinki Conference on European Security), the Slovak World Congress complained that the Slovak minority in the Czech Socialist Republic has been left without Slovak schools, except for a few elementary schools, without cultural associations and institutions, without newspapers and has no means to face the assimilation policy of the Prague government.


The above complaint, datelined from Toronto, Ontario (Canada), makes it easier to understand the concern voiced earlier by the National Committee of Hungarians in Czechoslovakia about the changes that occurred in the Cultural Association of Hungarian Workers in Czechoslovakia, known by its acronym as CSEMADOK. Referring to the developments which followed the replacement of Dubcekby Gustav Husak, the N.C.H.C. reported that "the only nationwide organization of the Hungarians, in Slovakia, the CSEMADOK, was taken over by the representatives of the Czechoslovak Communist Party. The liberal-minded young Hungarians who were elected to the leadership of CSEMADOK during the Dubcekera were purged by the newly "co-opted" members imposed upon them by the Party. "This change removed the only organization of Hungarians in Slovakia as a political and cultural force." In the same statement, inserted in the U.S. Congressional Record by Representative Ashbrook on July 20, 1971, the N.C.H.C. issued a call:

"We call the attention of the Free World to discern and learn from the bitter expenence of neo Stalinism which the almost one million Hungarians of Slovakia are undergoing and the Free World should recognize, too, the necessity for a new settlement in Central Europe.

Has the time come for a new settlement, or at least a reassessment of the question of nationalities in East Central Europe?

Without doubt, the contention of the Soviet-inspired communist parties, namely that the problem of national minorities can be solved by adherence to "socialist internationalism," has turned out to be completely unfounded. Historians in the Soviet-dominated countries, who accepted the party directives in the 1950's on how to write history, are beginning to discover that the problem of national minorities can no longer be "kept quietly under the rug." As a result, some of them are re-evaluating the approach, as well as the problem itself. To believe in "automatism," the idea that once socialism has been consolidated the problem of national minorities would solve itself, is now considered outmoded. Instead, emphasis is put on non-economic and non-political factors, such as "trust" between nations and nationalities.

Lamentably, this "trust" in Czechoslovakia between the Slovaks and the Hungarians is absent, if it ever has been there.

Not even the actual number of Hungarians may be known for sure. The 1970 census recorded 621,588 persons who declared Hungarian as their mother tongue. Of these 21,339 lived in the Czech Socialist Republic, the remaining 600,249 in the Slovak


Socialist Republic. Of the total number 570,478 claimed Hungarian as their nationality. By the end of 1974 this number had risen to 583,000.

However, the reliability of these figures remains doubtful in the light of what happened earlier. The 1950 census recorded only 354,532 persons of Hungarian nationality. By 1961 the number had risen to 518,782, a feat that could be explained only by assumingas a Slovak politician put it with wry humor - that Hungarian mothers in Slovakia must have given birth three times a year between these two dates. What is more likely is that the 1950 records were, for one reason or other (there are several possible explanations), a distortion of reality.

The 1977 edition of the Hungarian Encyclopedia of Ethnography (Budapest) estimates the number of Hungarians in Czechoslovakia - cautiously - at 700,000 to 730,000. Adding to this the estimated 500,000 Hungarians in Yugoslavia, and 2,500,000 or so in Rumania, one may indeed conclude that the nationality problem, created by the Paris Peace Treaties, still exists, and that the time may be near when a redefinition of the right of self-determination and a rethinking of the problem of national minorities will become absolutely necessary.


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