A total of 2.5 million ethnic Hungarians live in the seven countries surrounding Hungary. The communities range in size from 6,000 in Austria to 1.5 million in Romania. Collectively, they comprise the largest national minority in Central Europe. These are autochthonous communities who have continuously lived in the region, their homelands, for the past 1,100 years. It was due to the 1920 Treaty of Trianon following World War I that approximately 3.3 million ethnic Hungarians became minorities in the newly-formed states.
In the subsequent 100 years, borders between Hungary and the countries where Hungarian minorities live have shifted numerous times; states have been dissolved and new ones created. These communities have been subject to war, varying degrees and tactics to eliminate, disenfranchise, or forcibly assimilate them, speckled with periods of relative calm. The extent of the devastation wrought on ethnic Hungarians can be partially understood by census numbers. Violence inflicted through killing, deportation, emigration, or forceful resettlements (called “ethnic cleansing” today) explain current population numbers less than 100 years ago, which would not be possible had there been normal demographic development.
Under communism (1945-1989) Hungarians and other national, linguistic and religious minorities were second-class citizens subject to the double burdens of communist oppression and ethnic persecution. Official policies in Romania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union aimed at forcibly assimilating them and included inciting anti-Hungarian hostilities; prohibiting the use of the Hungarian language; eliminating Hungarian-language educational, publishing and cultural institutions; forced population transfers; and the murder, imprisonment and exile of leading ethnic Hungarian dissidents.
Through it all Hungarian minority communities have survived, today standing at the forefront of securing Western democratic values and contributing to regional stability. Thirty years after the fall of communism they still face an uphill struggle on several fronts to fully regain the rights so long denied them. Legacies of intolerance against national minorities remain, yet these communities seize every opportunity to rebuild civil society; stand up for tolerance, cooperation and the rule of law; promote economic self-reliance; and nurture their centuries-old traditions of educational and cultural excellence.
The Hungarian Human Rights Foundation – a voice for preserving and promoting cultural identity – continues to partner with these communities, advocating for their human and minority rights, while garnering recognition and support for their novel solutions.
The following table provides some details on this unique European language community:
|Country||EU membership||NATO membership||Approximate number of |
|Hungary||Member since 2004. (Member of the Schengen Area as well.)||Member||10,000,000|
|Romania||Member since 2007. (Not a member of the Schengen Area and Euro-Zone yet)||Member||1,500,000|
|Slovakia||Member since 2004. (Member of the Schengen Area as well as the Euro-Zone.)||Member||550,000|
|Croatia||Member since 2013. (Not a member of the Schengen Area and Euro-Zone yet)||Member||17,000|
|Slovenia||Member since 2004. (Member of the Schengen Area as well as the Euro-Zone.)||Member||9,000|
|Austria||Member since 1995. (Member of the Schengen Area as well as the Euro-Zone.)||6,000|
|In other EU-countries||500,000|
|Total in the EU:||12,565,000|
|Total in the EU, but outside Hungary:||2,565,000|
|Serbia||Applied in 2009; expected to complete negotiations by the end of 2023, allowing it to join by 2025.||290,000|
|Ukraine||Not a member||160,000|
|Other EU neighbors||8,000|
|Total in the EU neighborhood:||475,000|
|Total of Ethnic Hungarians in Europe:||15,605,000|