Unnecessary Provocation against the Transcarpathian Hungarian Minority
On October 13, the Turul statue was removed suddenly from the obelisk of Mukachevo (Munkács) Castle by the Executive Committee of the Mukachevo City Council.¹ By October 25, the three-pronged harpoon serving as the Ukrainian national coat of arms was in its place.² Mukachevo is a historically significant cultural center for the 150,000-strong Hungarian minority in Ukraine. The Turul, a mythical bird, is a universal Hungarian symbol.
The legality of the removal of the statue is being investigated by the prosecutor’s office, following a complaint filed by the Cultural Alliance of Hungarians in Transcarpathia.³
The statue was removed surreptitiously within hours of the decision. Its current condition and location are not known to the Hungarian community.
The circumstances surrounding the decision by the Executive Committee of the City Council are shrouded in mystery.
Hungarian Minority Members of Council Evaded
In their October 18 protest statement, 18 representatives of the City Council emphasized that the decision was made not by elected members, but by the city’s Executive Committee. “Socially significant issues must be resolved in the meeting room by the representatives who have been entrusted with these powers, not by the executive committee, which has no representative function and assumes no responsibility for its decisions,”⁴ holds the statement. Moreover, according to Imre Pákh, the Hungarian-American businessman from Mukachevo who financed the cost of the monument erected in 2008, the ethnic Hungarian members of the Executive Committee were not notified of any proposal to remove the statue.⁵
The legal and historic preservation status of the monument is unclear. According to the sources in the October 22 Telex article, many historically and culturally significant Hungarian monuments in Transcarpathia are in a similar limbo. What is clear, according to Viktor Baloha, the region’s representative in the Rada is that “a political decision was made” to use monuments as pawns in local and regional power struggles, and in bilateral relations with Hungary, all at the expense of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine.⁶
Hungarian Transcarpathian Organizations Protest
The Cultural Alliance of Hungarians in Transcarpathia (KMKSZ) and the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Ukraine (UDMSZ) have vigorously protested the removal of the Turul Statue, which was returned to its original place “in the spirit of the common historical past and the peaceful coexistence of nationalities,” in 2008, after an 84-year absence. The leadership of the Democratic Union points out in its October 13 statement⁷ that for the first time in the history of independent Ukraine, “does a Transcarpathian municipality deny permission for erecting or restoring a monument significant to the culture and history of Hungarians, rather orders its destruction.” The organization has called on the members of the Executive Committee of the Mukachevo City Council to rescind their decision effective immediately.⁸
Governor of Transcarpathia Non-Committal
Viktor Mikita, the governor of Transcarpathia Oblast (Region) addressed the incident in his press conference⁹ on October 18 stating the need for “meaningful dialogue” as regards the monument, in which regional representatives will also participate. According to the governor, after the decision, the case was examined from several points of view, concluding that the monument should not have been removed in such a hasty manner. He emphasized that decisions of this kind must be discussed with the local community.¹⁰
State Secretary János Árpád Potápi expresses Hungary’s exasperation
“It is unfortunate that in the middle of a war, the most important thing for the leadership of the city of Mukachevo is to dismantle the monument, which is considered one of the prominent symbols of the local and Transcarpathian Hungarians, while Hungary is carrying out the largest humanitarian aid operation in the history of Hungary to help the war refugees in Ukraine. This step is extremely ill-considered and untimely when armed aggression is raging in Ukraine, which may work against the stability of the multi-ethnic Transcarpathia,”¹¹ State Secretary János Árpád Potápi wrote on social media.
HHRF Position Statement
The Hungarian Human Rights Foundation (HHRF) strongly condemns the removal of the Turul statue in Mukachevo, Ukraine on October 13. This decision is an affront to the historical and cultural patrimony of Ukraine’s Hungarian minority, and undermines the peaceful co-existence of nationalities in the Transcarpathian region. As one of the community’s leaders, Andrea Bocskor has stated “It is part of European principles and values that we mutually respect historical monuments and symbols.”¹² Accordingly, HHRF calls upon the appropriate Ukrainian officials to immediately rescind their decision, reveal the statue’s location and condition; and forthwith return it to its original location in the spirit of mutual respect and respect for the rule of law.
⁹ Youtube Video – TV21 Ungvár Híradó Esti Hírek Október 18