[Previous] [Next] [Index] [HMK Home] Karoly Kocsis and Eszter Kocsis-Hodosi :
Hungarian Minorities in the Carpathian Basin


Since the 17th and 18th centuries, the Carpathian Basin[1] has become one of the most diverse and conflict-ridden macroregions of Europe from both an ethnic and religious perspective. So far, during the last century no social or ideological system has succeeded in easing the tensions arising from both the intricate intermingling of different ethnic groups and the existence of the new and rigid state borders that fail to accommodate the ethnic, cultural and historic traditions, economic conditions, and centuries-old production and commercial relations. Not even the communist internationalist ideology dominant from 1948 to 1989 was able to solve this problem. On the contrary, the ethnic tensions that had been concealed or denied for forty years have surfaced with an elemental force.

As a result, in the years since the collapse of communism, nationalist governments sensitive only to the interests of the "state-forming nations" gained power. National minorities reacted in self-defense by reorganizing and esTab.lishing their cultural and political organizations and parties. Following the collapse of the former socialist economic system and the increase of the related nationalism and chauvinism, minorities have once again become the source of both interethnic tensions and inter-state conflicts. This is especially so regarding the many million Hungarian minority in the Carpathian Basin, which the majority of countries that gained Hungarian territories in 1920 continue to consider as the main supporters, reference of Hungarian irredentism and revanchism.

The need for geographical research regarding the Hungarian national minorities of the Carpathian Basin is accounted for not only by the enormous thirst for informat-ion from scientific, governmental, and general public circles, but also because of the political events of the recent past. Geography, ever since its formation, has played and continues to play an important role in the education and formation of national self-consciousness both in Hungary and abroad. Right up to the end of World War I, when the Hungarian Kingdom that had extended through the entire Carpathian Basin for almost one thousand years was partitioned, geographic research and education of the nation corresponded to that of the country. After the 1920s, however, the relationship of Hungarian geography to the Hungarian nation and state consisted of two main eras.

The first era lasted from 1920 until 1945. With one sudden blow, the Peace Treaty of Trianon (1920) caused one third of the Hungarian nation to live in minority as foreigners. In this era, ethnic, political and economic geography became the main scientific support for revisionist and irredentist demands. As a result, the study of the geography of the detached territories and their Hungarian populations played an exceptionally important role in scientific research and education.

During the four decades following the 1940s, in order to avoid conflicts with the neighboring Communist ally countries and in accordance with the proletarian internationalist ideology dominant in the region, the relationship of Hungarian national minorities and geography was characterized by the exact opposite. Study of the nation was equal to the study of the Hungarian state. Fear of accusations of nationalism, chauvinism or irredentism led to considering the Hungarians of the Carpathian Basin living outside the borders of Hungary to be almost non-existent. The centuries old Hungarian names of the regions and settlements inhabited by them were also omitted, intentionally or by ignorance, in press and in school-books. Unfortunately, this fact contributed to the increasing of national despair in the society as well as to a considerable curtailment of literature written in Hungarian. From this point of view, the situation has improved considerably nowadays, but the school books still hardly mention our national minorities of several millions of people living on the other side of the border. Due to this, several generations grew up in the last decades, for whom Hungarian geographical names like Csallóköz, Gömör, Párkány, Beregszász, Nagykároly, Sepsiszentgyörgy, Zenta sound just as exotic as Buenos Aires, Capetown, Teheran or Peking. During their trips to the neighboring countries people are sincerely surprised by the local population's knowledge of Hungarian and by the presence of the several hundreds of thousands of Hungarians.

This, of course, only increased the thirst for information regarding the Hungarians living outside the borders. In recent years, a decisive majority of representatives of geography and society have voiced an increasing demand that after having experienced seven decades of extremist attitude, the millions of Hungarian minorities living in our neighborhood should finally receive their deserved place within Hungarian science and education.

The first chapter outlines the place of the Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin among the European minorities, the interactions between the changes of population and the political events of the 20th century. The maps show the present regional distribution of the Hungarian minorities.

In the remaining chapters, according to the neighboring territories (Slovakia, etc.), the natural environment and the ethnic changes in the Hungarian settlement territory is explored further. This includes a list of the most important Hungarian region, relief, hydrographic and settlement names with their equivalents in Slovakian, Rumanian, etc.

[1] Carpathian Basin is a synonym for the territory of historical Hungary in the everyday language of Hungary. In geographical point of view it includes at least three great basins: Little Hungarian Plain (Kisalföld), Great Hungarian Plain (Alföld) and the Transylvanian Basin

 [Previous] [Next] [Index] [HMK Home] Karoly Kocsis and Eszter Kocsis-Hodosi :
Hungarian Minorities in the Carpathian Basin