Balázs Dobos, Judit Molnár Sansum: Cultural Autonomy in Hungary: Inward or Outward Looking?

Nationalities Papers (Cambridge University Press), 1-16 (2020).

Abstract. Since the late 1980s, the interpretations of policy toward Hungary’s minorities—most notably the country’s 1993 minority law and the minority self-governments established as part of a system of nonterritorial autonomy (NTA)—have been the subject of debates in politics and academia in at least two critical respects. Aside from the declarative character of the law, foremost has been the question of Hungary’s kin-state activism toward Hungarians abroad and the implications this has carried for domestic minority issues. A second—and related—question has concerned the extent to which cultural autonomy and minority rights are in accordance with the needs of the Roma, by far the country’s largest ethnic minority group. A growing number of scholars have accepted the argument that the minority law was enacted because of concerns regarding Hungarian minorities living in the neighboring countries. In our view, it is more appropriate to ask instead how Hungary’s kin-state policies have influenced the opportunities for domestic groups, and, in particular, how Hungary fits into the broader context of post-Communist state- and nation-building projects. This is the approach we take in this article, which aims to unpack and reconcile the complex and seemingly contradictory findings on the Hungarian case. Our conclusions are drawn from a content analysis of parliamentary debates on the minority law—something that has never previously been undertaken. This is supplemented by semi-structured interviews with former and current politicians and minority activists.