Forget About Catalonia And Brexit, The Next European Black Swan Could Be Transylvania


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.

By derivative work: CoolKoon (talk)
Hungary1910-1920.png: The original uploader was Fz22 at English Wikipedia
(Original text: fz22 (talk)) - Hungary1910-1920.png, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Speaking on the June 4th anniversary of the Treaty of Trianon, Jànos Làzàr, Minister of the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office, called on the beneficiaries of the treaty to apologize, insisting, “Trianon was a diktat, a historic injustice against a nation. The entire western world is indebted to Hungary.”

Lazar was careful to say that Hungary does not advocate for the redrawing of borders, rather they merely mean to ensure that the rights of minority Hungarians are protected everywhere. Romania has not taken it that way. The Romanian authorities used words like “provocative” and “dangerous” to describe the Hungarian government’s treatment of the issue.

Diaspora Politics

This isn’t the first time Lazar has intervened on behalf of Hungarians in Romania. Last spring, Lazar interceded in the case of an ethnic Hungarian brewer, Andras Lenard, in Romania who was being pressed by Heineken. Heineken was suing the upstart brewer claiming that their names, although different languages, were too similar. Hungarian politicians reacted by calling for a boycott of Heineken products as well as proposing legislation to ban the use of the Heineken red star as a communist symbol. Heineken responded by dropping the charges against Lenard.

The intervention of Hungary on behalf Lenard reflects a larger government policy of considering the Hungarian minority in Romania as Hungarians. In 2010, the Orban government expanded Hungary’s citizenship laws, making ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries eligible for citizenship and therefore voting privileges. As the 2018 parliamentary elections appear on the horizon, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been encouraging Hungarians in other Central European countries to register to vote.

By The Independent -;view=1up;seq=427 (Jump to 391)
The Independent, (New York), June 14, vol. 98, 1919, p. 391 (Primary source, if any, not cited), Public Domain, Link

Orban’s critics claim that he is merely trying to leverage the 1 million eligible voters in Romania to attain a coveted 2/3rd majority in parliament for his Fidesz party. Fidesz is just two seats away from a majority that would allow them to make constitutional changes. Considering that in the 2014 elections 95% of the vote from citizens domiciled outside of Hungary went to the Fidesz party, mobilizing the Transylvanian vote is of key importance to the Orban administration. The fact that Orban may be able to mobilize thousands of votes in the diaspora is a sign that minority protection in Central Europe is an issue that should not be overlooked.

Orban doesn’t just encourage the dual-national Hungarian minority in Romania to vote in Hungarian elections, drawing further criticism from Romanian figures. In a trip to Transylvania just before the 2016 Romanian elections, Orban stirred angst against the government, claiming that the government is failing to help the ethnic Hungarians. Orban went as far as to say that the Romanian government lacks respect for the Hungarian minority. He urged them to vote in their own best interest in the elections.

Romanian critics of Orban have accused him of trying to meddle in their politics. Former President Traian Basescu even called for the removal of the Hungarian ambassador from Romania.

ReConnect Transylvania

ReConnect Hungary is a birthright program for Canadian and American young adults of Hungarian heritage. The program aims to help Hungarians in North America forge a sense of Hungarian patriotism through travel in the region and volunteer opportunities. Interestingly, the study trip is not limited to the country of Hungary, rather participants visit Hungary, as well as the Hungarian Diaspora in Serbia, Ukraine, or Slovakia to witness, “how young Hungarians outside Hungary are maintaining their identity and traditions.”

As of 2017 the program offers a three month long ReConnect Transylvania program. Participants in this program will spend 3-6 months working with an NGO in Transylvania to “discover the deepest layers of being Hungarian.” ReConnect Hungary also now offers a week long extension on the original two week long ReConnect Hungary program to explore Hungarian culture in Transylvania. By including the Diaspora in the discussion about Hungarian culture, this private-public partnership builds a concept of a Hungarian nation that traverses accepted borders.

ReConnect Hungary is part of a larger trend called diaspora tourism. Proponents of the trend argue that it cultivates a sense of cultural heritage abroad and encourages tourism, while critics claim local leaders are using it to manipulate foreign nationals.

Cultivating strong national identity abroad can be a powerful tool, and not just in dual-citizens. Hungary has already seen some success in this regard. In 1987 the Hungarian Human Rights Foundations, comprising of second generation American citizens, successfully lobbied congress for the removal of Romania’s Most Favored Nation status. The lobbying efforts were in response to the human rights violations of Ceau?escu’s communist regime, as well as specific abuses of the Hungarian population in Romania.


Haus-Targaryen xzandrax Mon, 11/27/2017 - 03:54 Permalink

The interesting thing about constantly redrawing borders, and doing so to punish the loser of wars -- eventually there is another war and another set of losers.  While we know and appreciate Germany is back-to-back world war losers -- whenver it isn't a full-blown world war Germany does very well for itself.  The Hungarians and Austrians fall into the same camp.  I was listening to X22 Spotlight this morning on the way to work -- it reminded me that the geopolitical status-quo is not fixed, but rather an evolution. Expect the borders on the European map to get redrawn again in the coming decades. 

In reply to by xzandrax

Pandelis Haus-Targaryen Mon, 11/27/2017 - 05:06 Permalink

"redrawing borders, and doing so to punish the loser of wars"... man for someone who has been on this board for so many years, it is amazing you are still at square one.  Since you live in Germany, have you read any books on real causes of world I and II ?  you seem so eager to write your comment ... just a couple of pennies: try to read on the links you can learn something you dont know.  Man simple amazing ...

In reply to by Haus-Targaryen

Haus-Targaryen Pandelis Mon, 11/27/2017 - 05:34 Permalink

I am fairly solid in my understaninding of the reasons for both WWI and WWII, from multiple perspectives. My point is that the redrawn of borders after a war traditionally sows the seeds for the next conflict.  Its why Stalin removed ethnic Germans from most/all of Eastern Europe ... he wanted to prevent the people from asserting their "right to be German in Germany" again in the future. He did the same thing with the Polish in what is today Ukraine, Belarus and Slovakia. He didn't do it with the Hungarians in Hungry, and hence we have this article. Please tell me where I'm wrong.  

In reply to by Pandelis

Pandelis Haus-Targaryen Mon, 11/27/2017 - 06:05 Permalink

"from multiple perspectives"  ... you are still at square one ... there is right and wrong, day or night, plus or minus ... you dig???  i thought you are not a troll, just my two cents, no worries. btw, listening BBC the other day on the Queen anniversary ... the comment was that during her 70 years of marriage there were created 100 new nations ... now you get lost if you try to get the multiple perspectives there ... the big picture is what matters, everything else is noise and distractions while the magician makes his moves behind the scenes.

In reply to by Haus-Targaryen

Haus-Targaryen Pandelis Mon, 11/27/2017 - 06:14 Permalink

If you view objectivity as to what happened (not a bad idea) as paramount, then you quickly see most Central and Eastern European nations (including Germany) as victims of Anglo foreign policy. But here is where I lose people, and suddenly "Germany wasn't the victim -- they were the aggressors" and this is what I mean "perspectives".  

In reply to by Pandelis

Pandelis Haus-Targaryen Mon, 11/27/2017 - 06:26 Permalink

my two cents ... read a few of the links people sometimes post (is becoming more difficult to find the right ones) ... you got to spend sometime and be open minded to receiving new ideas."the anglo" meme is an old mask getting off with the brexit (and that is only the beggining) ... probably you will see changes in germany as well with all these merkel development but will see (i am sure the plans are already done on what will happen - one thing is for sure it wont be pretty).

In reply to by Haus-Targaryen

Mitra svayambhu108 Mon, 11/27/2017 - 07:29 Permalink

Relax, Orbán is after the votes. He wants to get the Jobbik party's voters to vote f o r his party Fidesz instead. Jobbik used to be far-right, now it's moving to the middle and alienating their voters fast. Fidesz is moving into the void left by them. Hungary has no real military, and young people are not interested in Transylvania (Erdély). at all. They would rather go skiing to Austria, or visit London. Keeping the middle eastern crazies out is the only nationalist thing that unities people here.

In reply to by svayambhu108

Teja Mitra Mon, 11/27/2017 - 08:04 Permalink

Orban may be after the votes, but I do not see why Europeans should relax. Same "passport" tactics as Russia uses in its neighbouring countries. And the less support Orban has at home, the more he must look for abroad.The only thing is that Orban seems to be too pragmatic to bet his fate on a war which actually would be against NATO because Hungary would clearly be the agressor here. Even if such a campaign would be under the false flag of an "Independent Transsylvania", it would not work, see Catalonia.Hungary would be interesting maneuver area for NATO tanks, well suited due to its flat plains.Hungarians may have the illusion they "saved" Europe from the Turkish invasions, but that was long ago... and not that much longer ago, Europe had to be saved from Hungarian invasions by Carolingian Emperors.

In reply to by Mitra

God Emperor Teja Mon, 11/27/2017 - 10:25 Permalink

Orban is a smart guy with lot of balls.You need to give him that.Then again, what a politician won't do to scrape a few more votes?He gave the Transylvanian Hungarians HU citizenship a few years back. Now they are dual citizenship holders. Just like (((them))) EVERYWHERE not just in US. So now, Romania needs to keep a keen eye on those traitorous Hungarians.The first one who blinks loses.RO has the upper hand: plebs have no guns, nation state, no local governments, no emancipation allowed, Hungarians are spread around Transylvania and have low energy (even though they have a Party in Parliament which by the way is not supporting them at all just their ethnic business bosses) while the pocket with a more concentration of hard-core Hungarians is deep in the heart of the region, too far from HU border.There's a saying around there: Only thing worse than a jew... is a Hungarian-Jew. And when you look at Soros, damn if it isn't 100% true.

In reply to by Teja

RedBaron616 BarkingCat Mon, 11/27/2017 - 14:11 Permalink

Stalin took the eastern part of Poland and gave Poland part of east Germany. The wacky present Polish government was crying about German reparations recently. The Germans should tell them: Money for our land back, otherwise shut up. Not to mention how many Germans were thrown out of the smaller countries at the end of WWII. No one talks about that because it was hardly a proud moment for "democracy".

In reply to by BarkingCat

Ecclesia Militans Pandelis Mon, 11/27/2017 - 05:37 Permalink

In 1989 I was in Budapest watching everyone queue up for Janos Kadar's funeral thinking to myself "Hunagrians forget NOTHING how can these people possibly want to stand in line to see this butcher's corpse?" when the young student who worked as a driver for the MSG detachment at the Embassy told me "everyone wants to see if his head was removed to prevent him from coming back" (an eastern tradition to slay vampires, similar to the western proclivity for the use of wooden stakes through the heart,)  The driver, who had completed his PhD in physics, thought this was a good idea.Dad is 100% Hungarian, his mother's family emigrated from Transylvania to the US in 1912 and I grew up attending Mass at St Steven's in New Brunswick, NJ when we weren't assigned overseas.  Hurka at least weekly; my Dad will always ask for kocsonya at every restaurant in Budapest and inevitably he finds someone who smiles and agrees to make this off-the-menu dish the way my great-grandmother made it.

In reply to by Pandelis

A Sentinel HRClinton Mon, 11/27/2017 - 04:10 Permalink

Before the fall of the Soviet system, there really were some very nasty problems in Romania for ethnic Hungarians. They are a good people and very tough. In many ways they are more Hungarian than Hungarians: for example, they speak perfect, proper Hungarian and frankly, they are tremendously well versed in civility.

Hungary does have a keen sense of the injustice in this matter but also understands that any attempt to rectify (or even vocalize) the issue leads to death and war.

In reply to by HRClinton

Ghordius Mon, 11/27/2017 - 04:01 Permalink

this article is a good reminder on how european Nations (like Hungarians) aren't exactly the same, and in the same territory as european Nation States (like Hungary)

in the greater scheme of things, the new "19+1" initiative and congress/meeting (the first to be held soon) is way more important

that's 19 european central/eastern countries and... China. to talk about money from China and infrastructure in that part of europe

the underlying issue is the usual one: most european countries are small, vs the "Big Boyz". Russia is influential, but China's influence is rising, while the US's is waning, with or without the UK

the 19 are mostly (but not all) in the EU (but not in the eurozone). Serbia, interestingly, is the most divided in this gravitational pull between China and the EU on the economical sphere, while Hungary's Fidesz party is the most divided on the gravitational pull on the military/defense issues between the anti-Russian stance of Poland and the Balts (translates into pro-US) and the other options

meanwhile, those Chinese railroads make China get nearer and nearer. at a certain point, Russian national interests might shift from "too many US military bases in our neighbourhood" to "too much China around, here" (or both at the same time)

conclusion: sovereignty, Big Boys style, isn't in the cards for small/madium nation states. alliances matter, and continue to matter, and even more so in the future

To Hell In A H… Ghordius Mon, 11/27/2017 - 04:24 Permalink

Alliances matter, but leading a cohesive nation matters more in the short term. What do nations like Serbia and Hungary export? They are service sector economies at best and if not inside the Euro, their currency would be worth shit. Not because it's worth shit, but just how the FOREX market is rigged in favour of the big boys and those inside the club. Honest money would put an end to the FIAT paper rigging. The 1st world prints money Zimbabwe, Argentina and Venezuela style and absolutely NOTHING happens in the international-markets.  Hungary and other Central European nations, believing they can go it alone are in for a big shock. Again, Central Europe has never offered the world anything. They've rid on the coat-tails of Russia and Western Europe. 

In reply to by Ghordius

To Hell In A H… Ghordius Mon, 11/27/2017 - 04:42 Permalink

My point exactly. If not inside the Euro their currency is worth shit. The PIIGS only survive for now, because they are inside the Euro. Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain are zombie economies, living off the Euro. Italy in slightly better shape, but weighed down by unfunded liabilities.If Greece went back to the Drachma, what would it be worth? But here's the joke. In all the fundamentals, the UK has more debt than Greece, yet would the international markets will always value the pound, higher than the Drachma, every single time and by some margin as well. Hence the markets are rigged to favour the big boys first.

In reply to by Ghordius

Ghordius To Hell In A H… Mon, 11/27/2017 - 04:52 Permalink

oh, ok. but on what is the GBP's status of "Big Boy" currency based, currently? Oil? Commodities? Alliances with the US, Saudi and Israel? the City? megabanks?

note that Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain are lookiing better, month by month. and Italy too (see it's "best in class" situation regarding pensions)

we will see. Brexit hasn't been "kind" on the GBP, yet, and... Brexit hasn't even happened, yet

In reply to by To Hell In A H…

Ghordius To Hell In A H… Mon, 11/27/2017 - 05:00 Permalink

from a currency alliance point of view, the question here for both (and all 19 central/eastern european countries) is more:

A) IMF/WorldBank/USD; B) ECB/eurozone/EUR or C) China's AIBB/Yuan

I don't think China will offer credit lines for huge projects in any other currency except it's Yuan

to come back to your Honest Money point: China would imho be willing to offer gold credit. but... would you, if you were the Hungarian or Serbian government head... feel comfortable in accepting such a deal?

or like it if you make Yuan debts for infrastructure projects and China backs the Yuan later with gold?

In reply to by To Hell In A H…

Haus-Targaryen Ghordius Mon, 11/27/2017 - 04:40 Permalink

Correct Ghordo. As the world becomes more interconnected and the movement of goods and services and perhaps most importantly, information, becomes faster than ever -- the days of the "Micro" state as we have known them for the past millennia under the Westphalian system are coming to an end. I don't think anyone debates or attempts to dispute this.  The question is how should you group different peoples together?  Do you group them based on similar (although not identical) or compatible cultures cultures, do you group them together based exclusively on geography, or do you group them by some other barometer "All nations beginning with the letter 'S' are now in an alliance"? Since the end of WWII, we've tossed the similar/compatible culture idea out the window (even going as far as to say culture is irrelevant) in favor of alliances based on geography.  With any luck this system will collapse into itself and allow for a more "common sense" approach to trans-national integration. On an aside -- you're completely correct about Americans and Germans culturally being more distant than one sees at first glance.  Wife and I are finally leaving FFM, and me being the Ami in my early 30s is ready for a house, yard and garage.  My wife isn't "ready" for a house in a Vorstadt somewhere -- and wants an apartment "in the city". She's obviously getting her way, but amazing the differences. 

In reply to by Ghordius

Ghordius Mon, 11/27/2017 - 04:22 Permalink

"Tensions between Romania and Hungary can be traced back to World War I and the Treaty of Trianon."

as a reminder, before WWI all those countries were part of the AustroHungarian Empire

which, in modern terms, was economically quite... libertarian, while politically at least in theory authoritarian or autocratic. and hated by Nationalists worldwide as a multinational... well, the term used most was Prison of Nations

meanwhile, those tensions are minor. both Romania and Hungary seem to have appetite in staying in the same blocs or alliances. be them the stances versus the US or Russia or China. or the EU, at the moment

spdrdr Mon, 11/27/2017 - 04:22 Permalink

Look, the solution for peace in the Baltic states is simply to round up and execute every person whose surname ends with "IC".  Simples.

WTFUD Mon, 11/27/2017 - 04:59 Permalink

Lived and resided in both Hungary & Romania and the Hungarians are definitely a few building blocks above Romanians, quite a few. Despite their fallback quality Soviet Gymnasium Education System, (and inexpensive University Admission; 6 years ago this was about 300 Euros per year; imagine it's 3 times this today, with a lot of foreign students enrolling in the country ) Romania remains almost a feudal system with Bucharest ruling over the countrywide peasants with an iron-fist; massive corruption, where the good ol' boys from the EU dish out the Agricultural Subsidies to the Romanian Government, which are then disappeared, with local farmers seeing little or none of this stipend. Small-holder farmers have been swallowed up by their larger foreign Concerns and despite the abundance of rich Agricultural Land in Romania the French Supermarket, Carrefour, is serving up a plethora of GMO Gook. Even Bonnie Prince Charlie has a huge Organic Dairy Farm in Romania ( as if he didn't own enough vast swathes of land in the UK ).
Yes i found the Hungarians very sophisticated ( every other one with good English Language Skills ). Mind you i'm travelling, living, 5 star on my way to the F1 Grand Prix in the country, although have stayed outside the main cities on a number of occasions.
Romanian females are only more recently demanding Equality and 1 in 3 get a divorce today, unthinkable only a few decades ago.
The biggest problem Romania has is it's youths flight. A textbook well educated country in general with NO possibility of a well paid engineering job at the end of it. Romania during their Soviet era diktat, manufactured stuff, even selling heavy machinery to Germany. Since it threw off the seeming shackles and are now fully autonomous their inability to produce or market products themselves has left them open to German, Austrian, other vultures with few exceptions, to name One, 'Electroputere' which manufactures top spec Transformers & related Accessories for Power Plants. A good example of Romania's vulnerability is that the large French Power Companies who win say Saudi contracts to build Power Facilities will use Electroputere's Transformers in the contract, and despite this the EU have not deemed them Code Worthy. Yes the Romanian's are being shit on by the EU/US and are too blindsided by Western TV/Propaganda to notice.

Lastly as i don't wish to bore you, young Romanian girls, some with a Master's Degree work in Hotel Receptions for 250 euros a month, are subsidising their incomes working nights in newly opened Strip Clubs; the luckier one's finding their way to Ireland to ply this Trade there.