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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Hungarians in Serbia

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Serbia Facts
Area:    88,361 sq. km.
Capital:    Belgrade
Total Population:    10,526,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References



Risk Assessment

Since the ouster of Milosevic in 2000 the state of Serbia has gone through a drastic overhaul. Under Milosevic, Vojvodinaís autonomous status was revoked and protest was prohibited. In 2002, however, this autonomy was largely restored. Hungarians in Serbia live in Vojvodina almost exclusively and constitute a majority of the population in eight continuous municipalities in the north of the country bordering Hungary. While there is some disagreement about the level of autonomy for which they should fight, they are generally well organized and cohesive. There was no record of government repression of Hungarians during recent years.

The regime in Serbia and Montenegro throughout 2004-2006 was democratic, though as a country emerging from socialism and Milosevicís brutal rule, it continued to reform its systems. The government has been in dialog with Hungarian leadership about issues impacting them, especially during the rise in ethnic tensions and low level violence that accompanied it in 2004, but many question the commitment of either the central government or the Serbian government to address the concerns of ethnic Hungarians. Nevertheless, there were no serious armed conflicts in the region during 2004-2006.

Hungarians in Serbia experience no practical political or cultural restrictions. However, Serbia is still a young democracy. While Serbia does not currently represses its Hungarian minority, from 1989-2000, the Hungarian community was repressed by the Milosevic regime. The Hungarian diasporaís relationship with Hungary is somewhat complicated, especially after its accession to the EU in 2004. The Hungarian government has advocated for the protection of the rights of their kin in Serbia; however, it is reluctant to become entangled in Serbiaís domestic affairs.

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Analytic Summary

The vast majority of Hungarians in Serbia are concentrated in the Vojvodina region (GROUPCON = 3), which was a part of Hungary until 1918. During the Tito years, Vojvodina was autonomous, and Hungarian language and civil rights were recognized. This all changed when Milosevic came to power and revoked the regionís autonomy. He also instituted a policy of intimidation and discrimination to drive non-Serbs out of the region and of relocating ethnic Serbs into the region. As a result, by 1991, less than 30 percent of the population in Vojvodina was Hungarian. The Hungarians, while indistinguishable in appearance from the majority Serb population (RACE = 0) are traditionally Roman Catholic as opposed to the traditionally Christian Orthodox Serbs (BELIEF = 1; RELIGS1 = 1), and speak a different language, Hungarian as opposed to Serbian (LANG = 2).

One of the biggest problems facing the Hungarian community in Serbia is the emigration it experienced in the 1990s. While the exodus has not increased and is not necessarily greater than among Serbs, it impacts them more greatly because of their small numbers.

The primary political grievance for Hungarians in Serbia is that they want more meaningful autonomy for Vojvodina (POLGR06 = 3). While much of its historical autonomy was restored in 2002, Hungarians did not think that it went far enough and that the new Serbian constitution of 2006 actually curtailed Vojvodina autonomy further. Vojvodina is rather prosperous economically as compared to the rest of Serbia, and Hungarians complain that their allocation of the state budget is inadequate.

Both cultural organizations and political parties represent the Hungarians in Vojvodina. The main organization is the Democratic Community of Hungarians in Vojvodina (DCHV). Other groups include the Hungarians for the Fatherland, The Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, the political party the Democratic Alliance for Reform of Vojvodina, a new collaboration between ethnic Hungarians and Croatians known simply as the Vojvodina Movement, Hungarian Democratic Party of Vojvodina, and the Democratic Community of Vojvodina Hungarians (GOJPA06 = 2). In the lead up to and eventual accession of Hungary to the EU, its relationship with Hungarians in Serbia has become more complicated. While it is sympathetic to their ethnic kin and have spoken up for their rights, it has been reluctant to become entangled in Serbian domestic politics, seeing as it remained somewhat of a pariah during this period over its lack of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Hungarians have a equal status under the central government. While there has been ethnic tension between Serbs and Hungarians in Vojvodina, it was not government sponsored. Protest has generally been verbal (PROT06 = 1), and there is little to no risk of rebellion.

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References

Oltay, Edith. 12/3/1993. "Hungarians under Political Pressure in Vojvodina." RFE/RL Research Report. 2:48. 43-48.

Lexis/Nexis. Various news reports. 1990-2006.

Minority Rights Group. 2005. "Serbia Overview: Hungarians." World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. http://www.minorityrights.org/?lid=4033, accessed 1/27/2009.

U.S. Department of State. 2008. "Background Note: Serbia." http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5388.htm, accessed 8/13/2008.

U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Serbia and Montenegro. 1999-2006.

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Information current as of December 31, 2006