Hit in face for language?

Vice-chairman of the Hungarian Christian Democratic Alliance party in Slovakia Miklos Krivansky on the situation of national minorities in the homeland and in Russia.

Photo: Valery Chernitsyn

Political party Hungarian Christian Democratic Alliance (HCDA) in size and influence can not be compared with two leading Hungarian parties in Slovakia – Most – Híd (represented in the National Parliament) and the Party of the Hungarian Community. HCDA includes as a collective member in the party European Free Alliance and the ideological platform of the latter is fundamental to protect interests of national minorities in Europe.

That is why, quite casually acquainted in Brussels with Vice President of HCDA Miklos Krivansky, we asked him about situation of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia - in which it is, by the way, close to 10% of the total population. It is the largest share of Hungarians in non-Hungarian countries.

First, a few words about Miklos. He was born in 1950 in Kosice, and a tendency to social sciences and journalism allowed him after graduate of the school to get appropriate university education. However, he interrupted its in protest against the introduction of Warsaw Pact troops in Czechoslovakia in August 1968 and left the country. He settled in Belgium, where he still lives, he finishe his studies at Université Libre de Bruxelles in assyriology. But since the early 1990s, with the rapid warming of political climate in Europe, Krivansky had opportunity to engage in public activities, human rights issues, politics and political journalism. As a journalist, he is accredited to the European Commission and Parliament.

- Miklos, how really a new political party is necessary for the Hungarian minority in Slovakia? After all, even two main ones are competing with each other and objectively blur votes.

- You're absolutely right, but the problem of votes erosion is not only in existence of these parties and their rivalry. The problem is that even these two parties are purely Slovak oriented parties, by the past it happened and we can expect it in the future too, they cooperate with the Slovak establishment. They may hate each other (and hate), one of them can support from Budapest, and second one can not, and after change of government in Hungary it would be on the contrary. But regardless of these circumstances they both operate in a single Slovak political field.

- But doesn't your party will to act in it too?

- Of course, our party is in Slovakia. But we are in favor of construction and development of a pluralistic society. One of basic principles of such society is self-determination. We are convinced that while in Slovakia there is not solved the problem of autonomy of national minorities, it can not speak about any real protection of the interests of Hungarians.

- What Slovak Hungarians can not do that Slovaks can do?

- First and foremost - they can not use their mother language as an official one. Are you from Republic of Komi?

- Yes, I am.

- Is Komi the official state language?

- Within the  republic - yes.

- Do state and municipal documents publish on it?

- Of course.

- This is « of course» for you. Can a deputy of the regional parliament use Komi language for their speeches?

- Of course. But a few people venture on this: the majority of MPs do not know Komi language. But if someone still wish to use it, he can easily do, because Office of the State Council of the republic is obliged to provide immediate interpretation in Russian language. As I understand in Slovakia there are no similar standards in regions of the most compact residence of Hungarians?

- In Slovakia, the system works very tricky. Some municipalities in which, for example, Hungarians are even most, have the right to conduct meetings of local councils in Hungarian language. But if in a hall there will be at least one person who does not understand it, all participants are required to follow to Slovak. As you well guess, it used to be almost always.

Now please you answer me. If I, Komi, come to reception of any of your regional minister or at least to post office, have I right to speak only on Komi?

- In theory, yes. But in reality almost no one ethnic Komi will not do it. Because, firstly, nobody, most likely, can not find close a man who would understand him or help to translate his words, and secondly, he naturally knows Russian language.

- But formally such a rule is spelled out?

- For public institutions - yes.

- So you see. You can, of course, call me a demagogue, but believe me, for us, the Slovak Hungarians (and not only Slovak, and not only Hungarians), this is a very fundamental question: whether the government protects our right to national existence? I am convinced that developments in the field of legislation, available in subjects of Russian Federation may be of interest to study and possible application in areas densely populated by national minorities in countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, the situation at least in Slovakia and Romania in this sense, is very far from perfect. In them there are no national autonomous regions, nor legislation allowing possibility of their occurrence, as well as the use of a minority language as an official. Not only that: in these countries it is very easy, I'm sorry, just to hit in face of the very fact that you are Hungarian. Or, for example, Roma.

- Miklos, but I repeat once again: it is nothing more than possibilities written by the law.

- But in Slovakia these possibilities don't exist! I understand that in reality all these laws can be not executed. But the very fact that they exist, can command respect.

That is why our party constantly refers to his colleagues on the political space in Slovakia: it's time to start a debate on the most fundamental issue - autonomy. Without its solution our victories in elections of any level will be worthless.

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