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Volume 2 Issue 3Ethnicity

Sándor Horváth Special Editor of the Thematic Issue

Table of Contents

Articles

László Szarka

Hungarian National Minority Organizations and the Role of Elites between the Two World Wars

Abstract

Abstract

This article examines the history of the Hungarian minorities formed in three multiethnic nation states between the two world wars: the Czechoslovak Republic, the Kingdom of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia and the Kingdom of Romania. The analysis focuses on options for political organization and the role of ethnic parties and political elites, highlighting the example of János Esterházy and his work as chairman of the Czechoslovakian Hungarian ethnic party. It specifically discusses Hungary’s “kin-state” relations with the minorities and its revisionist foreign policy. It also shows the key role of assimilation policy in the ethno-political model of the three nation states. In these twenty short years, the separate interests of the three Hungarian minority groups, as distinct from the kin state and the domicile states, emerged only at the conceptual level. The minority Hungarian ideologies which forged a program out of micro-community and multiethnic ideas—Romanian Transylvanism, “Upper Hungarian autochthonism” and “couleur locale” in (former) Southern Hungary—found no support from either Budapest or the governments of the three nation states.
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Gábor Egry    

Navigating the Straits. Changing Borders, Changing Rules and Practices of Ethnicity and Loyalty in Romania after 1918

Abstract

Abstract

This study investigates the emergence of Greater Romania from below, paying attention to certain aspects of ethnicity and nationalizing. The establishment of the new state, with its rules and practices, was a slow process that left considerable room for local groups and individuals to negotiate their positions vis-à-vis the nationalizing efforts. The analysis of how citizenship options were used to individual advantage, the conflicts that arose regarding the nationalizing of border zones and their inhabitants, and the local differences of symbolic conquests reveal the importance of local contexts and their social elements. From the perspective of these events the realities of Greater Romania are best described as an overarching legal fiction that disguised a series of local settlements and compromises regarding the nationalizing attempts. Encounters usually interpreted as expressions of national indifference were also driven by ethnicity, only the meaning and content of ethnicity remained permanently contested. One can detect two types of “nationally indifferent” behavior. One was prevalent primarily among the middle class, a claim for the right to define one’s ethnicity, and another was characteristic of the lower urban social strata and the peasantry, where it could have meant real indifference not only to the norms of proper behavior, but also to the categories used by the state, but not negligence of differences.
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Stefano Bottoni

National Projects, Regional Identities, Everyday Compromises. Szeklerland in Greater Romania (1919–1940)

Abstract

Abstract

This article analyzes the social and cultural impact of the dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy on the overwhelmingly Hungarian-inhabited Szekler region. Although the half-million strong Szekler community found itself in the geographical center of Greater Romania, most people considered the Versailles peace settlement temporary. This created a paradoxical situation, for as the Szekler minority began to develop separately from the culture of post-Trianon Hungary, Hungarian intellectuals and former civil servants living within the borders of post-1918 Romania started to promote a cult of a supposedly “pure” and untouched Szeklerness. The first part of the article places the question of Szekler identity-building in a general theoretical framework and briefly sketches the political, social and demographic background of the community. The second part will analyze specific strategies of identity building that were pursued from outside the Szeklerland (e.g. the Szekler renaissance under the Horthy regime in Hungary) and from above (e.g. the constructions of “Szeklerness” by the intelligentsias in both Hungary and the Szeklerland). Finally, I will assess the influence of early Transylvanism on the building of Szekler identities in the interwar period.
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Klaus-Jürgen Hermanik

Arts and Artists as Intermediaries in Identity Management and Ethnomanagement in Transylvania

Abstract

Abstract

My research on arts and artists in connection with minority issues centers around the fact that both serve as crucial instruments in the creation of the collective identity of a particular ethnic group. Moreover, my results should demonstrate that arts and artists passively are used and actively act as intermediaries in the identity management and ethnomanagement of minorities. Further issues of this broad heading will be: the visible effects, if an artist belongs to a minority, if an artist feels he or she belongs to a minority, and the influence of this on his or her work. What are the reasons for an organizational commitment to the identity management and ethnomanagement of his/her ‘own ethnic group’ and vice versa? Answers to these questions are based on research on the German minority in Hungary (Ungarndeutsche) and the Hungarians (erdélyi magyarok) and Germans (Siebenbürger Sachsen, Banater Schwaben) in Transylvania. The examples will be divided on the basis of the different genres of literature and the fine arts: concerning minority literature the focus will be on the interaction of literature and the intentional use of the minority language as an ethnic marker. Furthermore, the reciprocity of minority literature and ethno-political careers will be reflected in some biographical examples. Fine arts have the advantage, unlike literature, that they are a priori a universally understandable medium, and the paper will elaborate on the following topics: the question of which artistic works (e.g. statues, emblems on buildings, monuments) are directly linked to the culture of remembrance of the abovementioned ethnic groups and to what extent is fine arts important as a means of representing the German and Hungarian minorities in public space as a form of the “visual materialization” of ethnic identity and ethnic politics?
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Leslie M. Waters

Learning and Unlearning Nationality: Hungarian National Education in Reannexed Felvidék, 1938–1944

Abstract

Abstract

Educational policy was a fundamental component of the integration of reannexed Felvidék (present-day southern Slovakia) into the Hungarian state between 1938 and 1944. In fact, the army of teachers and administrators deployed in Felvidék played a larger role in the reintegration process than Hungary’s occupying military force. The Hungarian administration’s aims were twofold: on the one hand, to instill loyalty and service to the Hungarian nation and participation in the further success of Hungary’s revisionist project, and on the other hand, to delegitimize the previous regime and encourage students to reject Czechoslovak identity. This process revolved heavily around language, making Hungarian the primary language of instruction in most of the region’s schools, devaluing knowledge of Slovak, and restricting Slovak-language educational institutions. For students in the region, the change in territorial administration resulted in a transformation in their language use. With these linguistic advantages, the Hungarian administration made tangible strides toward reintegrating Felvidék’s Hungarian students into the national body, but struggled to do so with minority students.
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Péter Apor

The Lost Deportations and the Lost People of Kunmadaras: A Pogrom in Hungary, 1946

Abstract

Abstract

The subject of this article is one of the scandals of postwar Hungarian politics and society: the anti-Semitic pogrom that took place on May 21, 1946 in the village of Kunmadaras. The Kunmadaras riot was part of a series of anti-Jewish atrocities that broke out in the summer of 1946 in the Hungarian countryside. These events, however, were comparable with similar violence against surviving and returning Jewish communities in East Central Europe, particularly in Poland and Slovakia. The scholarly literature so far has typically understood these events as the outcome of social discontent raised by economic hardships and mismanaged or openly abused and even generated by political ideologies, particularly Nazism and Communism. These descriptions rarely problematize the Jews as an obvious ethnic category and seldom ask questions concerning the ways peasant or local communities actually distanced their neighbors as “Jews” to be beaten. This article focuses on the everyday interaction through which ethnicity and ethnic identities were constructed in a village that, as the outcome of the events, was split between “Hungarians” and “Jews” in the summer of 1946. While taking the political implications into consideration, I argue that the pogrom was a consequence of the frames of traditional peasant culture, which were mobilized under the particular postwar social and political circumstances, and particularly of the culture of collective violence that was also present in the village of Kunmadaras. The second section of the article, however, concentrates on how politics abused the events during a subsequent trial and constructed a particular Hungarian version of the anti-Fascist myth without the Jewish victims themselves. As was the case all over Soviet-dominated East Central Europe, this myth built a certain level of legitimacy for Communist parties.
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Ferenc Laczó

“I could hardly wait to get out of this camp, even though I knew it would only get worse until liberation came.” On Hungarian Jewish Accounts of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp from 1945–46

Abstract

Abstract

Contrary to influential assertions on the early postwar silence surrounding the extermination of European Jewry, in Hungary, as in a number of other countries, extensive documentation of the Holocaust had already begun in the 1940s. In addition to postwar trials, published memoirs and early historical works, thousands of Hungarian Jewish survivors articulated their experiences in the offices of the National Relief Committee for Deportees (DEGOB) in 1945–46. However, these sources have not yet been systematically analyzed and early witness accounts in particular remain heavily underrepresented in historiography. This study is an effort to begin to redress this imbalance by examining 349 DEGOB accounts that discuss Buchenwald, a major Nazi concentration camp and a contested lieu de mémoire. It reveals that returnees defined, represented and assessed Buchenwald in varying ways, their perspectives depending not only on factors such as when and where they stayed in the camp and what they had to endure while there, but also on which other camp they arrived from and the conditions under which they traveled. My analysis of early Hungarian Jewish accounts of Buchenwald also reveals that while a number of interviewees understood their escape from the group of Jewish prisoners within the camp as the key to their eventual survival, others tended to use ethnic labels to identify the perpetrators of violence against them. Moreover, two major narratives were circulating regarding the liberation of the camp: the accidental Nazi failure to complete their program of extermination and another involving a successful uprising of the inmates against their tormentors. Last but not least, the paper argues that some of those who survived Buchenwald and subsequently entered the DEGOB offices showed clear awareness of the Nazi extermination program, but they preferred to discuss it in indirect ways.
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Book Reviews

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The Unfinished Revolution. Making Sense of the Communist Past in Central-Eastern Europe.
By James Mark. Reviewed by Máté Zombory

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The Politics of “National Character”: A Study in Interwar East European Thought (Routledge Studies in Comparative Political Thought).
By Balázs Trencsényi. Reviewed by Simon Halink

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Horvátország a 7. századtól napjainkig [Croatia from the Seventh Century up to the Present Day].
By Dénes Sokcsevits. Reviewed by Krisztián Csaplár-Degovics

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A szlovák nemzet születése: Ľudovít Štúr és a szlovák társadalom a 19. századi Magyarországon [The Birth of the Slovak Nation: Ľudovít Štúr and Slovak Society in Hungary in the Nineteenth Century].
By József Demmel. Reviewed by Bálint Varga

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Maps of Remembrance. Space, Belonging and Politics of Memory in Eastern Europe.
By Máté Zombory. Reviewed by Ildikó Bajcsi

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What Made the Kádár Era? Two Books on Hungary’s Recent Past. Népuralom ötvenhatban [People’s Rule in ’56]. By Éva Standeisky. Bevezetés a kádárizmusba [Introduction to Kádárism].
By János Rainer M. Reviewed by György Majtényi

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Iron Curtain. The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–1956.
By Anne Applebaum. Reviewed by Ekaterina Makhotina

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The Workers’ State: Industrial Labor and the Making of Socialist Hungary, 1944–1958.
By Mark Pittaway. Reviewed by Sándor Horváth

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