CAN WE LEARN FROM THE MISTAKES OF THE PAST?
Eighty-five years ago, on June 4, 1920, in the Treaty of Trianon, the Western Powers signed a document which dismembered Hungary. They had decided to form the new states of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia and enlarge the existing kingdom of Rumania by taking large sections of territory from Hungary. Two thirds of the territory of this thousand year-old state and three million Hungarians were annexed to the neighboring states. The borders were drawn arbitrarily and as a result, villages were split in two; communities were deprived of their parish churches or their cemeteries; townships were cut off from their railroad stations and their water supplies. 35% of Hungarians were turned into “foreigners” within the towns built by their forefathers. Hungarians became Europe’s largest minority group and Hungary became the only nation in the world surrounded by minorities of its own people. These three million Hungarians in Rumania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Austria were not emigrants who voluntarily left their old country, but people who never moved from their hometowns and became foreigners only because the borders were redrawn around them.
In 1920, President Wilson wanted to redraw the borders on the basis of self-determination though plebiscites. The city of Sopron was allowed to have a plebiscite and the citizens voted to remain with Hungary. After that, the Hungarians were denied any more plebiscites. When the Wends and Slovenes of the Muraköz area protested their separation from Hungary, when the Ruthenians expressed their desire to remain part of the kingdom, when the Swabians of the Bánát protested their annexation to Rumania, their desires were all ignored.
Czechoslovakia was formed from the „brother” nations of Czechs and Slovaks, both Slavic peoples, but unable to coexist in a peaceful manner. As a result, the new state of Czechoslovakia fell apart in 1992. Similarly, in the fabricated state of Yugoslavia, where Croats, Serbs and Muslims were forced to live together, there was never really a true state of peace and this artificial state also disintegrated in 1992. The creation of these new states after World War I. did not solve the minority problems which were said to have existed in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Instead they created more minorities and greater problems. The Successor States, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Rumania, in an effort to suppress the nationalistic tendencies of their minorities, tried to solve their minority problems through denationalization, ethnic cleansing and deportation.
The forced assimilation was intensified after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, when 2,700 Hungarians died in an attempt to throw off the Communist yoke. 300,000 Hungarians escaped from Hungary but things got worse for the Hungarians in the Successor States. Fearful of revolutions in their states, the rulers began to speed up the forced assimilation and ethnic cleansing. The autonomous Hungarian regions of Transylvania in Rumania and Vojvodina in Yugoslavia were abolished. Although autonomy was guaranteed by the Great Powers in 1920, again in 1945, and by the European Parliament in 1993, today the over 3 million Hungarians have no autonomy.
We have seen the results of the ethnic cleansing under Slobodan Milosevic in the former Yugoslavia, in Bosnia and in Kosovo. This ethnic cleansing and forced assimilation is still continuing in Vojvodina, where the Hungarians are the target. The UN and NATO cannot keep their troops in Europe forever to keep the peace there. There must be another solution.
Wise men learn from the mistakes of the past. In 1919, President Wilson was in favor of a Danubian Confederation to replace the Monarchy and was against the dismemberment of Hungary. His views were ignored. What is needed now is a solution to restore the stability of the Balkans and Central Europe. A strong Danubian Federation should be built around the nucleus of Hungary, Slovakia, Vojvodina, Slovenia and Croatia, later expanding to include Rumania, Bosnia, Sub-Carpathia, even Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria.
It would be fitting if, on the 85th anniversary of the dismemberment of the Hungarian kingdom, after the terrible suffering of three generations of ethnic minorities, we would start the process of rebuilding, not a nation state but a Federation of Central Europe. This federation, similar to that of the Benelux states, could take care of its own affairs, could guarantee the human rights of all its minorities and still be an integral part of Europe. This is what we should learn from an 85 year-old tragedy.