In my paper I would like to focus mainly on the three following aspects of this complex problematic. These three aspects represent a common ground for the study and interpretation of the condition of minorities in the geopolitical area of the V4 countries:
- Firstly, I will briefly introduce the main stages of the observance of minority rights and their development in the short 20th
century and its milestones: WWI, WWII and after the end of the Cold War.
- Secondly I will analyze the problem of emerging nationalism and ethnic conflict in the framework of societal transformation and democratization after 1989 in this geopolitical area.
- Thirdly, my main focus will be on the relationship between minority-majority in the context of their three possible scenarios for the future development.
The most important and comprehensive concept regarding analysis of the observance of minority rights in the 20th
century is still the concept of „citizenship” and its fluctuating connotation in the context of democratization and civic society building after 1918. (Spiro, 2001).
In this context I would like to draw your attention to the paper of my colleague Juraj Marusiak who is analysing more in detail the problem of citizenship, its forms and consequences for bilateral relations within the V4 countries and for its impact on international relations as well.
Each minority-majority conflict in Europe has its own specific features and dynamics. In my presentation I want to look at the issue of ethnic minorities, ethnic friction, and its political implications in Central or East Central Europe.
There are, of course, different kinds of ethnic minority problems in different parts of Europe, which despite its common civilizational basis has for centuries been a heterogeneous collection of different nationalities, cultural and linguistic groups, religious denominations, etc. ‘Classical’ intra-European national minority questions like those of the Hungarians in Slovakia and Romania, or of the Basques and different communities in Northern Ireland, are in many ways different from the new problems that have arisen as a result of the mass immigration of non-European ethnic groups, mainly to Western Europe. Again, both of these categories of ethnic minority issues are different from the problematic of the Roma, which although largely concentrated in Central and Eastern European countries is now increasingly recognized to be a pan-European issue. Where issues of collective identity and ethnopolitical friction are involved, it is possible that traditional liberal democracy will be critically overhauled to fit new demands of ethnic majority control, political stability and national as well as pan-European security.( POLÁČKOVÁ ; VAN DUIN, 2003)
Stages in the Development of the Minority Issues in the 20th Century
The fundamental dilemma regarding the observance of the minority rights – whether after the year 1918, 1945 or 1989 – consists in the continuous controversy between the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the existing state and the principle giving all the nations right to self-determination. In this regard a real milestone in the history of Europe, and eventually of its future ideology and praxis of integration, was the new map of Europe emerging after the First World War. Since the end of WWI, the principle of the right of nations to self-determination constituted a normative basis of the political independence in the system of the modern statehood and nation-building. Therefore the national minorities were potentially dangerous and seen as threat to the peace. The guarantees should discourage their efforts and demands for the territorial changes. The end of the First World War resulted in a new international legal system. A part of it was the League of Nations. The main goal of the LN was the prevention of war by diplomatic negotiations and peace-keeping activities. The diplomatic philosophy behind the League represented a fundamental shift in thought from the preceding hundred years. The fundamental problems of this new legal order became war reparations and the new borders between the new successor states. In this context the minority problem was an important issue. In the peace treaties with the new successor states were included some extra sub-treaties, so-called minority clauses. At this point I would like to mention the remarkable fact that of the one hundred million people who were affected by the geopolitical changes after the First World War, 30 million were members of some national or ethnic minority. The main goal of the LN was to protect the new successor states and – actually! – to support the assimilation of their minorities.
The borders in Central Europe were fixed by two peace treaties: the Peace Treaty of Saint-Germain in September 1919, and the Peace Treaty of Trianon in June 1920. The Trianon Peace Treaty represented and still represents an important element of European history. The historical interpretation of Trianon and its consequences in the individual national historiographies of the relevant successor states had and has often an emotional and subjective character. Events like Trianon, the Vienna Arbitrage, the Munich Treaty, the mass displacement of the population and ethnic cleansing in the 20th century, are all closely linked to the policy of the Great Powers, to the new system of international law and its new institutions like the League of Nations and the UNO. If these events and facts remain interpreted only on the level of national historiographies, which often describe them as grievances, and are not confronted with interpretations from outside, the writing of a common European historiography is indefinitely delayed. At the same time the legitimacy of common European policies is also brought into question. (Davies, 2003). Therefore, international cooperation among historians and political scientists is important as a prerequisite for more objective and less emotional research and writing on European history. At the same time the political instrumentalisation of these historical events for the sake of domestic politics and on international forums could be prevented.
Basically, these three above mentioned stages of the acknowledgement and implementation of the minority guarantees in the 20th century should define the three fundamental subjects: state, minorities and individual and their mutual interaction.
Who was assigned with the right to decide in the case of conflict? How did these guarantees influence the state, minorities and individuals?
Does the international community favour the rights of the state or those of minorities? These three questions remain still the most important regarding the analytical concept of the observance of minority rights in the 20th and 21st centuries.
After the WWII the scientific discourse about minorities stated, that the issue of the international protection of minorities is not topical any more. Moreover, the emphasis placed in the international legal order on the imperative need to ensure respect for basic human rights secured to imply that it was no longer necessary to protect in any special way the interests of national minority groups. Such national minority provisions did not survive into the Peace settlement in Paris in 1946. After 1945, national minority rights lost their independent status in the framework of international relations and were subsumed into the newly created human rights regime.
The United Nations focused on minority issues to a far lesser extent than its predecessor – the League of Nations. Probably this was due to the fact that the problem of state borders did not have to be solved anymore.
During the WWII there were some proposals to reinstate a national minority system that would once again bind those states associated with the League system. I will mention only one from Max M. Laserson, who introduced in his proposal also an international intervention, which did not exist under the League of Nations system. A similar plan was put forward by the USA in 1944. Other regionally specific proposals advanced the idea of a consequent federalism as a solution to the problem of national minorities.
Finally, after 1945, national minority rights lost their independent standing in international relations and were subsumed within the newly created universal human rights regime. The failure of the LN discredited national minority rights and the minorities themselves tended to be viewed with suspicion owing to the wartime complicity of certain national minority leaders with Nazi aims in Central and Eastern Europe. What kind of consideration did national minority questions receive from international institutions between 1945-1989, and why was so little attention forthcoming? There was an overwhelming post-war conviction that the international order should be constructed so as to prevent atrocities such as the Holocaust from ever occurring again, although the Jewish question in Europe was resolved not through minority rights protection, but through the fulfillment of Jewish national self-determination in the creation of the state Israel in 1948.
The end of the Cold War was largely seen as the triumph of democracy and the end of totalitarian regimes. But soon, in the beginning of the 1990s, we were confronted with the reemergence of national-emancipation and nationalist movements. This development had and has complex consequences for domestic politics in individual states, for bilateral and international relations, for European integration policies, and for global security policy.
However, the political dimension is only one dimension characterising the complex nature of minority rights.
The moral dimension became important especially after 1948, after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which stressed equality, liberty and human dignity, values which are shared by all individuals regardless of race, religion, creed, nationality, social origin, or sex.
These questions became again very topical after 1989 in the so-called transformation countries, the post-socialist states in Central and Eastern Europe. These ideals, since 1948 a part of the global legal order, became an ideological framework for minority demands and requests after 1989. In this context it is necessary to differentiate between Europe and other parts of the World.
Ethnic Conflict and its Containment in the V4 Region
In the second part of my paper I would like to analyze briefly three levels of ethnic conflict in the V4 Region and to introduce my model of its prevention, resp. containment. This model proposal deals mainly with the issue of the Magyar (ethnic-Hungarian) minority in the Slovak Republic and its predecessor states in the twentieth and the early twenty-first centuries, but I think the situation and conditions are very similar in the whole V4 countries area. The central question it addresses is how the existing cultural-linguistic and nationalistic antagonism between (some) Slovaks and Magyars can be “contained”, i.e. kept within “manageable” bounds, even if it is acknowledged to be unavoidable that a certain degree of tension, conflict and ethnic antagonism will continue to emerge from time to time. What I am concerned with, indeed, is containing the deeper levels of tension and antagonism and preventing the outbreak of active and violent conflict. My investigation analyses the antagonism between Slovaks and Magyars during the past hundred years or so and the various Czechoslovak and Slovak attempts to manage and pacify Magyar-minority grievances. The problem of international Slovak-Hungarian and internal Slovak-Magyar tension is deeply rooted in history and it is necessary to pay attention to its evolution during the twentieth century at least, in order to attain a proper understanding of its nature and of the possibilities of containing it. The investigation will also make some policy proposals on improving educational and institutional instruments in Slovakia in order to help overcome mutual suspicion and stereotypes between Slovaks and ethnic Hungarians and promote mutual communication.
At the same time, it seems necessary to place the Slovak-Hungarian issue (both as an issue of international relations and a minority problem in Slovakia) in the wider perspective of international comparative studies of ethnic and national conflict, comprising different but comparable situations in different parts of the world. New insights derived from this should help me to write an innovative analysis of my specific problem, and to develop a conception of it that is enriched by the application of a comparative framework which also refers to other, comparable cases of ethnic or national antagonism around the world. Slovak-Magyar antagonism is rooted in earlier nineteenth-century (even eighteenth-century) developments associated with Hungarian attempts to linguistically homogenize the pre-1918 multinational Hungarian Kingdom. With the Austrian Habsburg government gradually withdrawing from the domestic Hungarian political scene especially after 1867, when the common state was reconstituted as the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy, the Hungarian social and political elite more and more intensified its efforts to assimilate the non-Magyar linguistic nationalities and turn them into Magyar-speaking citizens. The Slovaks, as well as the Romanians and others, were among the victims of this de-nationalization (“Magyarization”) policy, but their strong linguistic identity and their national ideology of being members of the greater Slav nation with its proud past and cultural achievements prevented this Hungarian policy from becoming a success, as did the outcome of the First World War which put an end to the Habsburg Monarchy and the old multinational Hungary.
In 1907 a group of Slovak villagers were shot dead by Hungarian gendarmes in the village of Cernova when protesting against the refusal of the authorities to allow their Catholic priest, the imprisoned Andrej Hlinka, to consecrate a new church. This so-called “Cernova massacre” is usually regarded by Slovaks as a landmark in their history and could be seen as the first of a series of violent incidents between Slovaks and Hungarians in the twentieth century. Other examples of mutual violence occurred during the First World War, during the national revolution of 1918-1919 when Czechoslovakia came into being, in the late 1930s and during the Second World War, and after 1945 when a process of population exchange took place between Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The communist regimes largely managed to keep the situation under control between 1948 and 1989, though by no means diminishing the salience of national identity or ending the production of national myths, and it is an interesting question how during the communist era nationalism survived underground and how different forms of national antagonism were continued or cultivated in various ways. After 1989 mutual antagonism between Slovaks and Hungarians resurfaced, with conflicts occurring on the level of language policy in southern Slovakia where most Magyars are concentrated, and even in some cases on the level of day-to-day social interaction involving individuals and smaller groups of people in local settings.
It is important to explicate and define some of the crucial terms and concepts. I would argue that the antagonism between majority and minority exists on an ideological-nationalistic, a political-linguistic, and a socio-cultural level. I will explain it using the Slovak-Hungarian case. Arguably, this distinction also makes it possible to distinguish between different forms of ethnic tension, including “non-violent” conflict triggered by stereotyping language or badly received government policies and violent conflict which is usually the result of spontaneous confrontations on the social or local political level. Antagonism on the ideological-nationalistic level often remains hidden from the mainstream public domain and confined to certain newspapers, myth-making “half-intellectuals”, and the activities of smaller and more militant political groups. It is mainly a phenomenon relating to nationalist discourse and an attitude of demagogically invoking the “problematical” historical as well as the current political relationship between Slovaks and Hungarians. From the Slovak perspective mention is always made of the historical wrongs suffered by the Slovak people on the part of the Hungarians, or of the latter continuing to constitute a threat to Slovakia both in the form of the territorially “revisionist” Hungarian State and the Magyar minority as a fifth column in Slovakia. The Magyars in Slovakia on their part have a number of grievances relating to their situation in the cultural and linguistic field, and some Magyar-minority organizations are equally keen to cultivate an ideological language perpetuating national antagonism. Ideological-nationalistic antagonism is not the same thing as active or violent conflict, but it may be an initial or necessary condition to it when acted upon in terms of “seeking redress” of “historical” wrongs. An aspect of the ideological as well as the sociological level is the existence and reproduction of mutual stereotypes, Slovaks being “primitive”, Hungarians being “arrogant”, etc.
The political-linguistic level of national antagonism is essentially a matter of language policy in a situation where one group dominates over the other – before 1918 the Hungarians (the Magyar political elite and the Hungarian government) over the Slovaks in Upper Hungary, and after 1918 the Slovaks in the new Czechoslovakia over the Magyar minority in southern Slovakia. Although the Czechoslovak Republic was a democratic state according extensive minority rights to the Magyars and the Germans, and was therefore quite different from the old oligarchic and repressive Hungary, the Magyars in Slovakia had many grievances with respect to Czechoslovak government policy, and some of them began to echo pre-1918 Slovak complaints about de-nationalization, national discrimination, and political marginalization. The reversal after 1918 of the roles of the Slovaks and the Magyars in Slovakia was obviously a painful process for the Hungarian losers of the First World War, who had been used to rule over the non-Magyar nationalities for centuries. Hungarian endeavors to revise the new borders were partly successful in 1939, triggering a wave of violence and the occupation of parts of Slovakia by the Hungarian army. The violent conflicts between Hungarians and Slovaks during the period 1939-1945 and afterwards aggravated the mutual hostile images which already existed from the pre-1918 and the 1918-1939 periods.
The social or socio-cultural level of ethnic antagonism is the most important one as far as the day-to-day interaction of Slovaks and Magyars in concrete situations is concerned, and may be but does not have to be a source of active conflict. The popular claim that there are few problems between the two groups “in normal social, non-political situations” in multi-ethnic localities is perhaps a bit too simple or optimistic. The question is how much social interaction between Slovaks and Hungarians there actually is in mixed areas, and how much of this interaction is at least partly shaped by mutual stereotypes. A less than ideal pattern of interaction is not the same thing as interethnic conflict, however, and it would seem that active conflict, let alone violent conflict, is certainly not the rule in the day-to-day relations between Slovaks and Magyars. Perhaps there is in fact a high degree of spontaneous social separation, partly caused by the language barrier, partly by a number of negative mutual images, the analysis of which must be a part of our investigation.
The limited knowledge of the Slovak language among many ethnic Hungarians is clearly an obstacle to their “integration” in the wider society and perpetuates their tendency to remain in the minority region of southern Slovakia. At the same time, a more concealed form of tension or potential conflict may exist in some of the ethnically mixed towns, as well as in local situations where cultural, linguistic or “national” issues come to the fore. It is true that even in the 1930s and 1940s it was usually political intervention from outside the minority region itself which caused problems and violent conflict among Slovaks and Magyars. But it cannot always be denied that there is a potential basis for active conflict in some of the ethnically mixed localities. It is a mix of political, ideological, and sociological factors which determines the interethnic situation in multi-ethnic communities.
Ideological antagonism as a matter of discourse, stigmatization, etc. is thus not necessarily “violent” itself, but it may easily facilitate active ethnic conflict if other factors – political factors like discriminatory policy, and social factors like local community tensions– are involved as well. Ethnic conflict of an active or violent nature is often triggered by a sudden and acute political antagonism encouraged by government policy in the cultural and linguistic field and supported by nationalist ideology. It may become violent if the third condition plays a part as well: ethnic tension on a concrete social or local community level. Violent ethnic conflict is thus likely to occur where all variables are operative: ideological propaganda, government policy promoting conflict or failing to prevent it, and at least some social groups or local communities who are involved in a situation of growing conflict. The latter is rather rare as far as the Slovak-Hungarian relationship is concerned. But this does not mean that violent ethnic conflict is impossible, as historical events have shown, or that there is no need for conflict-prevention and containment policies. These policies have to be put in place on all three levels mentioned, and given that a degree of antagonism exists in any case it is probably better to speak of “containment” than “prevention” (except in the case of really violent conflict).
On the level of containing nationalist ideology, mutual stereotypes, and one-sided historical images and interpretations, it is important that educational programs are developed on all school levels presenting a more objective, nuanced, and critical view of history and the evolution of the Slovak-Hungarian relationship. On the level of government policy it is crucial that the political representatives of the Magyar community in Slovakia are involved in designing ethnic-minority policy, and that a system of permanent consultation and discussion of existing problems is put in place or improved where a beginning has already been made. On the social level of interethnic and community relations it is imperative that sociological monitoring is improved and that a better level of knowledge is produced to gain insight in developments on the local level in the Magyar-minority region of southern Slovakia. Generally speaking, these three lines of “scientific policy” should be instrumental in helping to contain ethnic antagonism in Slovakia.
My model of conflict determinants, types of antagonism, and modes of ethnic-conflict containment could be improved by making comparisons with other situations in Central Europe and the whole world as well. I hope that doing additional research in V4 countries and conducting discussions with interested and like-minded scholars and researchers will help me to improve and complete this project.
There are two major factors that will influence political and interethnic conditions in Slovakia and other Central European states in the period in the beginning of the 21st
century. The first is the trend of political, economic, and social developments in Europe as a whole, that is, within the EU framework. The second one is political developments in Slovakia itself and in other 3 V4 countries as well, which are partly independent of European trends. Indeed, although Slovakia is part of the EU since 2004, the country has its own political culture, historical background, and multiethnic conditions, which are rather special and to some extent unique. Also, its foreign policy is not just part of the Regional-Visegrad 4 or EU picture but to some extent pursues its own economic and political interests vis-à-vis Russia, China, and other countries. Also a question like whether or not a South Korean car factory – or any other major foreign investment – is erected in Slovakia is an economic issue that is partly independent of European political developments but that has considerable political relevance for the Slovak domestic scene itself in terms of employment levels and the maturing of social and political conditions. Thus, although ‘Europe’ is important in making political prognoses for Slovakia, other factors – international, Slovak-domestic – are important too. It is true, however, that especially for an issue like ethnic-minority conditions European policy is a major influencing factor in addition to Slovak internal policy. It is not certain, however, that ‘European minority policy’ is going to be very effective in the near future.
Three Possible Scenarios of the Future Development
We may outline 3 possible scenarios with regard to political and ethnic-minority issues in Slovakia in the beginning of the 21st
century. In my opinion it is more or less valid for the whole V4 region. We shall call them the ‘worst-scenario alternative’, the ‘middle-of-the-road alternative’, and the ‘best-scenario alternative’. In the case of the ‘worst-scenario alternative’ we must start from the assumption that the further evolution of the EU project is going to be slow or even stagnating. This is likely to have a negative impact on the ability and willingness of Europe to conduct an active policy on ethnic-conflict and ethnic-minority problems. This, again, may mean that countries like Slovakia will conclude that not much help and assistance is to be expected from the EU, and that they may as well pursue their own agenda – that is, in so far as they have any innovative agenda at all on the Hungarian-minority and Roma issues. The likelihood then is that no active or ‘creative’ Slovak government policy will be carried out at all and that the question of the Hungarian minority will be primarily viewed as one of ensuring Slovak national security and containing the potential threat of Hungarian demands for greater autonomy. It will be equally unlikely that anything like an innovative policy on the difficult issue of the Roma minority would be implemented. Indeed, it may then become apparent that without European backing, monitoring, and active involvement, steps towards ‘resolving’ the Hungarian and Roma problems will not be made. Slovak impotence in this regard is to a large extent the result of European impotence. But of course the situation would also demonstrate that Slovak politics and society itself is rather impotent in the first place; that without outside help and support Slovakia is hardly able to do anything that would change the conditions of the minorities, and of the relations between the Slovak majority and the minorities, in a positive sense.
In the case of the ‘best-scenario alternative’ we may start from the assumption that the evolution of the EU, in both an economic and a political sense, is going to happen in a positive way, bringing considerable economic growth, European-wide political stability and integration, and a growing capacity of EU institutions to help resolve difficult problems like the position and controversial status of ethnic and national minorities. This means that the EU will both be able and motivated to assist Slovakia in addressing its Hungarian and Roma minority issues and at the same time that Slovakia (the Slovak government, other Slovak political actors, minority organizations, etc.) will be encouraged to be as creative as possible in thinking about useful social and administrative policies to deal with the most important minority issues. A well-functioning EU will also strengthen the position of the liberal-democratic political forces in Slovakia and provide them with political arguments against populism, narrow-minded nationalism, and tendencies to regard the ethnic minorities as simply and solely a threat to Slovak national security.
Spelling out a ‘middle-of-the-road alternative’ must especially include referring again to the peculiar Slovak domestic political and social scene, . If the evolution of the EU project is going to happen along, so to speak, ‘relatively stable and predictable’ but ‘not especially creative and innovative’ lines, this may be insufficient to encourage Slovakia to move forward in designing ethnic-minority policies of a really useful kind. If Europe is just muddling on, the chances are that Slovak provincialism and the country’s rather strong tendencies to support populist leaders may remain dominant features of Slovak politics and society. An uninspiring (though basically functioning) EU may also mean that, more generally, Slovakia is encouraged to look for its own ways in conducting foreign and international trade/economic policies. This rather unpredictable situation would worsen if foreign investors were to withdraw from the country because of EU skepticism, with unemployment rising again and nationalist agitation against the minorities probably increasing as well. The apparent inability of Slovakia to solve some of its own problems can only lead to one conclusion: a successful and creatively functioning EU is a condition sine qua non for a positive development of Slovakia and its ethnic minorities. The successful addressing of Slovakia’s ethnic-minority issues is dependent to a large extent on the evolution of the EU; but also on Slovakia’s internal political regime and its democratic maturing; and on other international factors. As the situation appears to be right now, the European factor is at least as important as the Slovak domestic political factor. It is not certain however that ‘European minority policy’ is going to be very effective in the near future, as was already observed before. Therefore Slovak experts and political scientists must work actively to help develop active European policies on minority issues. Perhaps the best way to help their own country is to play an active European role. The problematic of ethnic minorities and inter-ethnic conflict is increasingly becoming an all-European affair and needs to be analyzed on a comprehensive and comparative all-European level
. The scholarly as well as political tendency to increasingly focus on a more all-encompassing analytical level when addressing ethnic minority issues does not mean that the specific nature of different individual problems, or indeed their unique ‘European’ character, is essentially changed. Despite the process of European integration Europe remains a rather unique multinational and multi-ethnic world, and this special historical character of Europe as such is reflected in the nature of its ethnic minority problems and the ways in which Europeans address and conceptualize them. Nevertheless, a new way of tackling Europe’s minority issues as a more or less integrated whole may result in the emergence of new approaches, new ideas and new modes of understanding. At present, ethnic minority issues are as yet largely matters of national state policy - if they are consistently addressed at all - in different European countries.
I consider the attempt to create a status of double citizenship in the Central European countries marked by many changes both in a territorial and a socio-political sense, fully justified and legitimate. In this geopolitical area the question of double citizenship is above all a consequence of the necessity to deal with the past. When we speak of the past, we understand by this first of all the need to address the injustices against individuals or groups, which were committed by the past regimes. After 1989 these questions became part of moral redressing. The problem however lies in another direction, or level. This is the problem of the ideologising and manipulation of historical facts, which then serve the interests of individual political groups and their representatives. One of the problems in this field is that of double citizenship.
In the era of growing nationalism and identity problems after the fall of communist regimes in the region of V4 countries, it would be helpful, in order to analyse dual citizenship and its connotations in this region, to focus on this issue in the broader framework of the concept of multiple citizenship. Regarding multiple/dual citizenship as a subject of analysis, and its role in domestic policy and in bilateral relations between the V4, we can say that there are three main questions or areas we can analyze in a comparative way:
-What is the role of global actors influencing the perception of multiple citizenship in V4 countries?
-What role is played by phenomena like immigration and multicultural policy in the debates in the V4 countries?
-What level of tolerance can we perceive against immigrants in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia?
-How close is the reality, and the debate underlying the concepts of “nationhood and citizenship”, to a rather narrow ethnocultural point of view?
- What role is played in the whole problematic by the necessity to include the issue of dealing with the communist and post-communist past