A Foreign Labor Force in Early Republican Turkey: The Case of Hungarian Migrant Workers1
Atatürk Institute, Hacettepe University, Ankara
Beginning in the 1920s, Hungarian workers began to migrate to foreign countries for economic and political reasons. Among them, a group of Hungarians including workers, engineers, and trained experts arrived in Turkey. The laborers from Hungary entered the Turkish market before the Residence Convention signed in 1926, which mutually allowed the citizens of both signatories to reside and work in the two countries. As neither government initially implemented the necessary measures, there had been an uncontrolled flow of workers to Turkey. Enduring poor living conditions and facing several problems, including low wages and lack of social insurance, they were employed in jobs such as house building and railroad construction, and they made a serious contribution to the development of the country in the 1920s and 1930s. This essay presents the situation of the Hungarian migrant workers in Turkey in the interwar period on the basis of official documents held in Hungarian, Turkish, and British archives. I examine the socio-economic situation of Hungarians in Anatolia, the obstacles they faced, the stance of and measures adopted by the Turkish government, and the attempts that were made by the Hungarian diplomatic mission on behalf of the Hungarian citizens living in Turkey.
Keywords: Foreign labor force, Hungarians in Turkey, workers, Turkish–Hungarian relations in the interwar period