Border: Hungary-SlovakiaDate(s) of establishment: June 1920
Length of border: 677 km
Regions concerned: Hungary – Győr-Moson-Sopron, Komárom-Esztergom, Nógrád, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén, Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg, Pest and Budapest
Slovakia – Bratislava, Trnava, Nitrava, Banska Bystrica, Kosice.
At at a length of 677 km, the border between Hungary and Slovakia begins in the west at the tripoint formed by the Hungarian, Slovak and Austrian borders. The border is materialised by the river Danube for nearly 150 km. The border continues to the east, alongside the river Tisza and comes to an end at the crossing of the Hungarian, Slovak and Ukrainian borders.
Slovaks and Hungarians have spent practically a millennium living together within the same state (between the 10th and 20th centuries), but cohabitation was compromised at the end of the 19th century. The Kingdom of Hungary (freed from Austrian tutelage by the Austro-Hungarian compromise of 1867), began a policy of assimilation, which mainly impacted its Slovak-speaking population. While the Hungarian Nationalities Law (1868) ensured the use of minority languages at local-level (each municipality choosing its working language, with education being provided in the language chosen, etc.), the Hungarian language was privileged by the state, to the detriment of other languages spoken in the country: minority-language schools were made bilingual, and three Slovak-speaking secondary schools were even shut down in 1874, thus strengthening the Slovak nationalist movement. In general, the political class refused the idea of territorial autonomy that nationalist political organisations were demanding – Slovaks (10% of the country’s population) and Romanians (14%). The only exception was the considerable autonomy accorded to Croatia by the Hungarian-Croatian compromise of 1868.
Following the Second World War, the territory of the Czechs (“Austrian” Bohemia-Moravia) and the “Hungarian” Slovak territory were brought together within the framework of a new state. On the positive side, this change allowed the Czech and Slovak peoples to govern themselves and come together as a nation. On the negative side, this right was not extended to the German- and Hungarian-speaking inhabitants. Indeed, instead of taking into account the linguistic frontier, the border between Hungary and Czechoslovakia (Treaty of Trianon, 1920) was based on geopolitical (the Danube) and economic (railway lines) considerations. The Slovak portion of the new republic included not only 1.7 to 2 million Slovaks, but also between 750,000 and 1 million Magyars, and between 300,000 and 400,000 Ruthenians.1
The difference between census data for Hungary (1910) and Czechoslovakia (1921) shows the presence of a significant bilingual and bicultural population (Hungarian and Slovak).
Allied with Germany, Hungary saw the border modified in its favour in 1938 and ’39, just as Slovakia obtained independence and joined the Axis.
From 1945, after the 1920 border was re-established, Czechoslovakia imposed considerable demographic changes: although the Allies did not accept the pure and simple expulsion of the Magyar population, forced population exchanges took place (81,000 people), and 41,000 Magyars were forcibly displaced towards the Sudetes region in what is now the Czech Republic (a region that was emptied of its German-speaking population between 1945 and 1947). The members of the Magyar community were collectively deprived of Czechoslovak citizenship and a political “re-Slovakisation” was undertaken. On the other side of the border, communist Hungary’s participation in the repression of the Prague Spring (1968) also poisoned bilateral relations.
The 1970s and 1980s were marked by the emergence of significant Hungarian-Czechoslovak cooperation (co-production of films, diffusion of many cultural productions: films, books, cartoons, etc.), and by mass tourism in both directions, and finally, the beginning of sentiments of a “common destiny”.
After the democratic transitions of 1990, the national minorities regained significant rights. However, despite the initiatives of intellectuals on both sides of the border and in spite of their shared history, Slovaks and Hungarians know little about each other.
Today nearly 10% of the Slovak population still consider themselves to be Magyar, and many demands are linked to the significance of this minority. Nearly a century and a half after the Hungarian refusal, today it is Slovakia that does not wish to discuss territorial autonomy for its minorities.
In order to develop projects and cross-border integration, Slovakia and Hungary collaborate within the framework of the Interreg programme. This programme aims to increase the economic and social integration of the region, for the benefit of both the population and businesses.
Therefore, the programme is focused on research in order to develop the competitiveness of businesses and the attractiveness of the region. In order to enable the growth of these sectors, the accessibility of the cross-border region needs to be ensured, necessitating the construction of varied transport infrastructure. However, these functional improvements must be made without harming the environment, and the programme strongly encourages the two countries to implement joint actions for nature conservation.
Today, the two countries are members of the Schengen area and participate in the Visegrád Group with the Czech Republic and Poland. There are also cooperation bodies such as the Pons Danubii and Ister-Granum EGTCs and the Sajo-Rima Euroregion. Similarly, the cross-border conurbations of Esztergom-Štúrovo, and Komárom-Komarno are current examples of cooperation.
- Difference between census data for Czechoslovakia (1921) and Hungary (1910). “Magyar” or “Hungarian”. In English, the term “Magyar” designates the ethnic category in a historical sense (before the creation of the Hungarian state) or, in a sociocultural sense. It refers to populations that speak the Hungarian language, wherever they live: in Hungary or in bordering countries. (Magyars diaspora).
Photo: Esztergom (Hungary) and the Mária Valéria Bridge as seen from Štúrovo (Slovakia).
Territory projects and institutional bodies for cooperation
Cross-border cooperation at the regional levelIster-Granum
Région Centrope (Vienne-Bratislava-Brno-Győr)
Eurorégion des Carpates
Communauté de travail Alpe-Adria
Groupe de Visegrad
Cross-border cooperation at the local levelEsztergom-Štúrovo