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War causing ethnic shifts in Transcarpathia

The Magyar Nemzet is the main daily outlet of Hungary. Founded in 1938, the Magyar Nemzet (Hungarian Nation) is a reference journal for the conservatives of Hungary. The conservative newspaper is close to the current Hungarian government lead by Viktor Orbán.

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This article was published online by the Magyar Nemzet on 1 April 2022.

“We have always been good, reliable neighbors to Ukraine”

“Hungary is putting aside disputes with Ukraine during this war and understands the Ukrainian statements critical of Hungary, because as long as weapons are being fired, all efforts must be poured into achieving peace,” said István Grezsa, Ministerial Commissioner. The politician explained: our nation, and the Hungarians of the Carpathian Basin, are doing everything in their power to help the refugees. He also said that after the war, Transcarpathia will need new minority nationality politics.

“I accept, with deep understanding, the critical statements of Hungary from Ukrainian leadership, as Russia is currently at war with our eastern neighbor. This is an enormous burden in all respects”

– said the Ministerial Commissioner in charge of development between Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County and Transcarpathian cooperation. István Grezsa emphasized that this war has serious human casualties and more; thereby, Ukrainian leadership is trying to involve others in the conflict. Grezsa understands this Ukrainian perspective. He indicated that Hungary would provide all humanitarian assistance possible to those fleeing to Hungary and those who remained in Transcarpathia, Ukraine.

He also expressed, however, that the Hungarian government must represent Hungarian interests:

Hungary wants to stay out of this war. We must preserve our nation’s peace and security.

“Clearly, at this point, style, timing, and the fact that Hungarian elections are coming to a close, is secondary. As long as war is waging, peace is the only alternative – and we are committed to this. Because of this, I was calm even when I saw unsympathetic Ukrainian opinions. The left’s statements are much more worrying; the left wants to plunge our country into war – this is what is at stake this Sunday,” said the Minister.

Superhuman efforts

István Grezsa said that there is no question that Hungary is making superhuman efforts to manage the influx of refugees – and the Ukrainian media is not sufficiently showing this. “There is no better proof than the fact that we have always been good, reliable neighbors to this enormous nation, Ukraine,” emphasized the politician. He pointed out however, that we must prepare for a long-term humanitarian catastrophe and crisis. Hungary must continue to help even when willingness declines and when our own problems become increasingly prominent – because this war will have serious economic consequences. According to him, if it is up to the left, then there will be catastrophic economic consequences. “And just as after the pandemic, the world will not be the same after the Russian-Ukrainian war.”

István Grezsa also discussed minority politics: an ethnic shift has already begun in the region. He believes that the longer the conflict lasts, the fewer people will return to Transcarpathia. “This county, the same size as Szeklerland, will require a new Hungarian minority policy. One that also accounts for the expectations of the majority. This is not an entirely new approach as it has been our longstanding gesture towards Transcarpathia to support all those living there facing difficulties.” he said.

The Commissioner pointed out that perhaps no other country has aided Ukraine as much as we have. In the past 4-5 years, Hungary has provided over one hundred billion HUF funds to support development in Ukraine. “This was all for one purpose: so that Transcarpathia would not fall behind the rest of the nation permanently.”

Peace must be preserved

The Commissioner explained that Transcarpathia was the only county out of the 603-thousand-square-kilometer Ukraine that has not been impacted by military attacks – and this must be preserved. He believes two things are necessary for this. First, that lethal weapons not be transported over the Hungarian-Ukrainian border. Second, that the Ukrainian government not establish a military base in Transcarpathia – for example at the Uzhorod (Ungvár) airport – which would draw Russian attention there.

“Meanwhile, as a consequence of the war, many Ukrainian companies are moving operations to Transcarpathia which could improve the underdeveloped region and help establish infrastructural deficiencies, which is in the interest of both our countries,” said the politician.

In connection with both Hungary and Ukraine, the Ukrainian language law is a neuralgic point for Transcarpathian Hungarians. Based on the statements of Ukrainian politicians lately, there is not much hope for improvement on this front. István Grezsa explained that throughout the years, we have been told that these Ukrainian measures are not targeted at the Hungarians, but at the millions-strong Russian minority. Thus, we are only bystanders and victims of these measures.

“It is important however, to know that in addition to the Crimean Tatars minority, the 150 thousand Hungarians have an organized system of institutions – therefore it is a key issue that the language and educational rights be restored because they mean the preservation of our culture. However, we will not deal with language during war, but any statement from the Ukrainian political leadership that makes language issues a bargaining chip is encouraging,” stated the Commissioner.

Attila Borsodi