Minority Policies in Central and Eastern Europe in Comparative Perspective

Minority Policies in Central and Eastern Europe in Comparative Perspective
Autor:POLÁČKOVÁ Zuzana et al.
Miesto vydania:Bratislava
Vydavateľstvo:VEDA, vydavateľstvo Slovenskej akadémie vied
Rok vydania:2017
Počet strán:192

ISBN 978-80-224-1573-6

Concluding Thoughts

When we look back at the nine chapters presented in this volume, we observe that there are notable differences between various minority issues and between the different countries discussed. But there are also aspects which these countries and their problems share in common. Central and Eastern Europe are known for their long-standing national-minority problems and the historical antagonisms between different nations oř national groups. These antagonisms and political conflicts already existed long before the outbreak of the First World War. One example is the question of Dualist Hungary (1867-1918) and the attempts to assimilate the non-Magyar nationalities in order to create a large and uniform Magyar nation in the territory of Histori­cal Hungary. This policy provoked a fierce reaction on the part of the Slovaks, the Romanians, and others. The European constellation after 1918 reflected a new pattern of interethnic power relations and state-political geography, which emerged as a result of the defeat of the Central Powers in the First World War, the national revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe, and the foundation of new national oř quasi-national states. This also created a new pattern of minority issues in the region, although the old antagonisms were essentially reproduced with only the roles of dominant and non-dominant national groups being reversed as a result of the creation of Czechoslovakia, resurrected Poland, Yugoslavia, Greater Romania, etc. The events during and after the Second World War brought further changes but also in part continuities in the patterns of statehood and the national-minority problem. The issue of the Hungarian minorities notably remains on the agenda, as does the issue of Polish minorities, but also the status of smaller minority groups in Hungary and Poland themselves and in Austria, Slovakia, Belarus, Ukraine, and other countries. The hope is that the framework of the European Union will prove to be a sufficient platform for resolving some of these problems oř at least for containing them and preventing the outbreak of active conflicts. The Yugoslav crisis of the 1990s should forever be a warning to all Europeans of what must be prevented at any price. The status of minorities in the region is still viewed mainly in terms of the building of nation as a political community, oř rather in terms of building and consolidating a nation statě, less so as a human rights issue. The example of Hungary and its policies towards minorities also points to the efforts to expand the boundaries of the nation as a political community outside the territory defined by the national borders of Hungary.

The chapters in this volume have highlighted both old and new aspects of the minority problem. The ways in which these problems are evaluated are constantly in flux. With regard to a question like the Hungarian minorities in Slovakia oř Ukraine it is difficult but necessary for political analysts to keep a critical distance to political emotions. It may be argued that the Hungarians have sufficient opportunities for political expression of their demands and grievances; it may also be claimed that nonetheless they have good reasons for their complaints in some cases. In this context, a detailed and comparative analysis of the position of the Hungarian minorities in the different countries in which they live might be an interesting project for the near future. This could also help further to reduce the barriers between political and social scientists in the relevant countries of the region. But the minority problem in Central and Eastern Europe comprises more than just the well-known oř less well-known national-minority and local oř regional political questions. It also includes at least two other issues: those of the Jews and the Roma.

That anti-Semitism is part and parcel of the modern history of Central and Eastern Europe is known to everyone with even a minimal knowledge of the region, although the complexity of its background is sometimes underestimated. That this anti-Semitism is still alive today is shocking, although in Western Europe there is evidence of it, too. The images and prejudices associated with the Jews in Central and Eastern Europe are obviously very persistent, but in some places the problem seems worse than in others. Indeed, in some places in the region the Jews - even if their numbers are declining - are still seen prejudicially as disproportionately influential and capable of manipulative action and the like. The role and position of the Roma is perhaps the exact opposite of this. They are without any remarkable power and influence in society oř politics, but this does not mean that in the eyes of a section of the European population they are less of a danger. Their perceived role as outcasts and "parasites" is sometimes seen as a threat to the order and stability of society, even if it is true that questionable bankers, characterless politicians, and other irresponsible power-brokers cause far more damage to society and to the general trust in the political system.

Populist movements in both Western, Central, and Eastern Europe exploit all these subjective notions and real problems. Negative perceptions of various minority groups are part of this. One of the objectives of political and social science work such as ours is to put a problem like that oť the role of ethnic, social, oř cultural minorities in the right perspective. Let us hope that in some small way this will contribute to eventually decreasing the claims for European populism.