Over the past 100 years, the borders in Central and Eastern Europe have been redrawn time and time again, often leaving groups of people separated from their home country by new borders. Although land often changed hands relatively peacefully, suddenly finding one-selves as an ethnic minority in a new country was bound to lead to tension and resentment.
While these resentments may reveal real disenfranchisement of ethnic minorities in Central Europe, politicians, especially populist figures, have seized on the outsider narratives inherent in the diaspora experience.
As the April 2018 election approaches in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been reaching out to the Hungarian minority in Romania, drawing criticism from Romanian leaders, while his supporters insist he is trying to lend his support Hungarians everywhere.
Rooted in History
Tensions between Romania and Hungary can be traced back to World War I and the Treaty of Trianon.
Although the Treaty of Trianon ended hostilities between the Allied Powers and the Kingdom of Hungary, the peace came at a great price to the Austro-Hungarian successor state. Hungary lost 2/3rd of its population and territory, leaving the former imperial hub landlocked in the heart of Central Europe. Most of its territory was ceded to Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Romania, as well as Austria, Italy, and Poland. Romania was granted the entire region of Transylvania, where an estimated 1.3 million ethnic Hungarians reside, making Hungarians Romania’s largest minority.
The loss of such a large chunk of territory and population would certainly leave its mark on national memory. Recently in Hungary, politicians have been revitalizing this narrative.
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