This article has been published online by the Magyar Nemzet on August 26, 2020.
Hungarians in the Transcarpathian region have suffered a string of harassment from anonymous letters threatening persecution and destruction, bomb threats, and to top it off, a counter-terrorism drill. Even the Governor of Transcarpathia suggested these attacks were aimed at provoking the Hungarian minority. The attacks from Ukrainian extremist nationalists may also have something to do with municipal elections in Ukraine that will be held soon, if the pandemic allows it.
An anonymous letter addressed to „Hungarian dogs” was sent to various Transcarpathian (Kárpátalja) churches and organizations, including the Hungarian theaters, teachers’ associations, and charities—reported the Hungarian-language news forum, Kárpátalja.ma, which was also a recipient of one of these messages. The email was sent from an address dubbed „ukranianwolf” which demanded Hungarians „take their values and relatives and leave to their historical family.”
„Ukraine does not need your enclaves and communities!”—stated the letter. The nameless writer, shielded by anonymity, threatened the Hungarians with collective retaliation in order to „teach the minority to respect the Ukrainians.” A one-week deadline was set for the completion of the ultimatum.
The headquarters of the Hungarian Cultural Federation in Transcarpathia (KMKSZ) in the downtown of Uzhhorod (Ungvár) that was set on fire in the early hours on February 27,2018. This wasn’t the first incident of its kind in recent days. On August 20, the Hungarian State Foundation Day, another anonymous letter was sent from a self-professed Ukrainian nationalist, threatening the Kárpátalja.ma editors and other Hungarian organizations. This letter warned that if the Hungarian
minority would like to continue living in peace on Ukrainian soil, they must end their pursuit of a national enclave.
„You’ve managed to corrupt the Ukrainian government, but we Ukrainian patriots see it clearly. We will start sabotaging and attacking your towns, villages, and schools until the ideology of creating a Hungarian district ceases.
—threatened the letter—Your safety is in your own hands. If you want to minimize the number of local Hungarian victims, urgent measures must be taken as soon as possible to put an end to anti-Ukrainian initiatives in Transcarpathia!”
— the “Ukrainian patriot” concluded his threats. As far as we know, the organizations involved will press charges together; the police website states that an investigation has been launched.
„They can send us to the motherland or our historical homeland. Thank you very much, this is our home. We’ve been home for a thousand years”—Marianna Pallagi, editor-in-chief of Kárpátalja.ma, responded in an opinion piece.
But this isn’t the end of the atrocities against the Hungarians in Transcarpathia. On St Stephen’s Day, three bomb threats distressed the community; a caller claimed to have placed bombs in the Catholic church in Berehove (Beregszász), as well as in Tyachiv (Técső) and Solotvyno (Aknaszlatina). The areas had to be evacuated, but the bomb squad did not find any explosive devices. Further disturbances were caused by the Security Service of Ukraine (SZBU) on August 19 and 20 when they performed largescale counter-terrorism exercises in the Mukachevo (Munkács) and Berehove (Beregszász) districts; in these areas that are otherwise usually surrounded by Ukrainian soldiers, it was not clear whether the surplus armed men were really part of the drill or not. Later, Oleksiy Petrov, governor of Zakarpattia Oblast, stated that he believed the bomb threats were intended to destabilize the local Hungarian community and an attempt to provoke the minority group. He suspects that the scandal was organized from abroad; according to him, the current false alarm was planned by the same group that in February,
set fire to the headquarters of the Hungarian Cultural Federation in Transcarpathia (KMKSZ) in Uzhhorod (Ungvár).
These threats may also have something to do with the Ukrainian elections which, if the coronavirus epidemic allows, will be held in October. Already in July, Ukrainian nationalists voiced adamant complaints about an administrative reform which involved the establishment of a new district in Berehove (Beregszász); this may be what the aforementioned letter-writers were alluding to.
Extremists feared that a „Hungarian district” was born, but in reality, the proportion of Hungarians actually decreased. Incidentally, Ukraine celebrated their independence on Monday.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán sent a letter on this occasion to his colleague Denisz Smihal. „Since the beginning, Hungary has stood up for the preservation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and you can count on this in the future”—he wrote. The Prime Minister expressed his satisfaction that the Ukrainian government was willing to discuss outstanding issues in bilateral relations. In conclusion, he reassured his Ukrainian colleague that the Hungarian government would be a partner in cooperation based on mutual respect and good neighborhood relations. Hungarian-Ukrainian relations have been rather frigid since Kiev voted in 2017 for a new education policy which suppressed Hungarians in Transcarpathia. Until this dispute is resolved, Hungary continues to block NATO ministerial meetings with Ukraine. In recent months, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Szijjártó, managed to breathe new life into the two countries’ relations, meeting twice over the summer with his Ukrainian counterpart. Thus far, the Hungarian government has made no secret of the fact that they look forward to the presidency of Volodymyr Zelensky, who was elected over a year ago. Although hopes for a longawaited meeting with Viktor Orbán emerged in July, the coronavirus epidemic, among other things, cancelled these plans. However, the Hungarian PM’s visit to Kiev is still on the agenda.