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Hungarian and Bulgarian Interwar Revisionism: Part 17
With the fall of communism in 1989, nationalism again re-emerged in an economically unstable Hungary, and the issue of Hungarian minorities in the neighboring countries again brought forward the issue of revisionism. With Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia now in the EU, the access of Hungarian minorities to Hungary proper will increase many times over. It is even conceivable that with the ending of border controls between the new EU members, the minority issue will cease to be a real problem anywhere, except possibly Serbia and to a lesser extent Ukraine. Even though much focus has recently been given to immigrant Arabs and Turks within the European Union, many still contend that the ‘home-grown’ ethnic problems of Europe are a much more serious problem. The legacy of Trianon was acutely felt following the fall of the Berlin Wall, and could easily have ended in a regional conflagration of ethnic wars within and between the former Soviet bloc states. Even in the 1990s the west criticized Hungary over the treatment of it’s very small ethnic minorities, in a sort of backlash against Hungarian complaints over the treatment of Hungarians in Romania, Slovakia and Yugoslavia.
It is close upon one century now that the Treaty of Trianon was signed. The wound on the Hungarian consciousness is still not completely healed, and it is highly likely that it will always remain a scar. Hungary’s relations with Serbia and Romania can still be quite tense at times, although with Slovakia the situation is much improved. The joining of both Slovakia and Hungary into the EU no doubt has eased some disagreements that were evident before this. Trianon is still seen by many Hungarians as a supreme injustice to the country, and much resentment is still perceivable mainly towards Romania, Slovakia, and Serbia for their treatment of their Hungarian ethnic minorities. However, with joining the EU Hungarians can “officially” see themselves as accepted Europeans, and not feel stigmatised for their Asiatic roots and language. Hungarian is now an official European Union language, and can again feel welcome and a part of Europe. Though these arguments may seem trivial to many readers, it is hard to describe the role that a sense a belonging plays for not only individuals, but nations as well. After more or less four decades of official state silence about Trianon the issue has been examined and re-examined since 1989, almost to the point of overdoing it, which doesn’t help Hungary’s wish to not be seen as obsessive and irrational. Endless books have been written about the subject, and endless intellectual, academic and laymen debates have been held concerning Trianon.
It could be argued that the obsession with the Treaty of Trianon is a case of the famous Hungarian navel-gazing, or self-pitying tendency. This may be true to some extent, but it must be remembered what a shock and trauma it was to lose so much land, so many people, and virtually all natural resources in one fell swoop. A bit of self-pity and feelings of victimisation can be allowed the Hungarians, whether one supports or condemns Trianon. However, it must also not be overdone and seen as a total tragedy in every way for Hungary. Most Hungarian governments since and before the Ausgleich feared their minorities. Trianon allowed Hungary to become a virtually homogeneous state. The main problem with Trianon was the unfair drawing of borders which put wholly ethnically Magyar inhabited areas under Successor State control. This is an understandable complaint, and hardly refuted by anyone.
The loss of a 1000 year old Empire was by no means a unique occurance. Many empires have risen and fallen, and there was no reason the Hungarian one shouldn’t either, especially with its minority problem in the age of nationalism. It is this idea that the Magyars are not Europeans and unworthy of having a niche on that continent which is most disturbing to most Hungarians in this author’s view. The self-image of being protector of Europe from Turk, Mongol and to some extent Soviet invasion (as a sacrifice), is wide ranging in Hungarian society, but not at all unique to that society. Poles, Slovaks, Czechs, Romanians, Serbs and Bulgarians can and have all made the same claims as well.
Hungary has now been fully accepted into Europe by virtue of its membership in the EU. This is a major boost to the confidence and self image of Hungarians as Europeans. However, some still cling to the Turanist view of keeping close contact with the Magyars’ ancient relations in Asia and the Far East. Though not to the extent it was in the interwar years (when it was official state policy) now only some societies and clubs still toy with this idea. With borders fading and globalisation rapidly brushing away ignorance of other countries and peoples, the real true effects and legacy of Trianon are largely fading from the minds of the young. Despite this the aforementioned examples of tensions since the fall of the Berlin Wall still attest to the power of Trianon on the national Hungarian psyche as a whole. Time heals all wounds for sure, but time takes time, and Trianon will still be brought up many times in the future concerning the past and future of the Hungarian state and Magyar people.