One Hundred Year Later, Hungarians Still Feel World War One Injustice

    05 June 2020

    For Laszlo Petrik, any talk of the Treaty of Trianon stirs up strong feelings.

    Petrik is an ethnic Hungarian who lives on the Slovak side of the Danube River. His home in Hungary became part of what is now Slovakia because of the Treaty of Trianon, which was signed on June 4, 1920. The agreement led to changes in Europe's borders after World War I.

    Some Hungarians look at the treaty as a national trauma because it took away more than 60 percent of the country's territory. It left millions of ethnic Hungarians living in what is now Austria, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Ukraine.

    FILE - Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban adresses the media during a press conference in Budapest, Hungary, Jan. 9, 2020.
    FILE - Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban adresses the media during a press conference in Budapest, Hungary, Jan. 9, 2020.

    "This is the greatest injustice ever," Petrik said. He spoke to the Reuters news agency in Sturovo near a bridge that connects the town with Esztergom in Hungary. The bridge was blown up in 1944 by German troops, but rebuilt years later, in 2001.

    "Half of my relatives are over there (in Hungary), and even though we still have the European Union, there is still this division," Petrik said.

    Today, ethnic Hungarians cross the bridge to visit stores or work in Hungary, and Hungarians like to make visits to Slovakia.

    A nationwide study found that 85 percent of Hungarians believe Trianon was the greatest tragedy in Hungary's history. The Hungarian Academy of Sciences organized the survey.

    In 2010, Prime Minister Viktor Orban established the June 4 anniversary as a "day of national unity" as part of his efforts to bring back a sense of national pride.

    Orban is a nationalist who has been in power for the past 10 years. He has won popularity at home by offering ethnic Hungarians in other countries citizenship and a right to vote in elections.

    Orban has never suggested reuniting Hungary with its lost territories, and the country has friendly relations with its neighbors.

    But problems sometimes arise, such as the recent decision by Ukraine to bar ethnic minorities from an education in their own languages. This greatly angered Ukraine's ethnic minorities.

    On Thursday, Hungarian lawmakers debated a measure that calls on parliaments of Central European states to guarantee the right to national identity as a constitutional right.

    Speaker Laszlo Kover said the struggle of ethnic Hungarians for this right was important because "all European nations will face a similar struggle for identity in the coming period."

    Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic spoke to ethnic Hungarians on Tuesday. He said that while history had changed national borders, it was time to look ahead.

    "On the 100th anniversary of the Trianon Treaty I offer my hand to act together," he told a Hungarian language news website in Slovakia.

    I'm Susan Shand.

    The Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    stir up – v. to disarrange or to recall something

    trauma – n. a bad psychological experience

    pride – n. a feeling of accomplishment