Budapest clearly intensifies its Ukraine’s policy. The target is Transcarpatia province (Zakarpattia Oblast) of Ukraine, where over 150 thousand Hungarians form the largest ethnic minority (12% of whole population of the province). Over 90% of them consider Hungarian as their native language.
I recall the early 1990s, the childlike gleefulness of Ukrainians over independence. Pretty soon Ukraine found itself alone facing the geopolitical challenges never surfaced before when it had been part of the more powerful state entity – the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Since the declaration of independence the Ukraine’s western neighbors started to pay special interest to the territories of former Ukrainian Soviet Republic: Romania eyed Bukovyna, Hungary – Transcarpatia. While the Ukrainian nationalists countered the «Moskali» (Russians) threat, all territorial losses occurred in the west…
Budapest wants a Transcarpatia with cultural and other ties with the rest of Russian world reduced to the minimum. Partly the task is fulfilled by Kiev which from the start launched a policy of building a weak state vulnerable to outside pressure, where anything Ukrainian is supposed to have nothing in common with Russian culture and the Russian world. Kiev shies away from recalling the fact that back in history Transcarpatia was called Ugric Russia.
Hungary’s activities in Transcarpatia are on the rise, especially talking about the nationalist radical party Yobbik (the movement for the better Hungary). By the end of October it held a political forum in Beregovo (Transcarpatia) with participation of Gabor Vona, the party’s leader, European Member of Parliament Béla Kovács and Hungarian Member of Parliament István Szávay, the leader of Jobbik's national policy cabinet. Promises to increase funding for Transcarpathian schools teaching in Hungarian language were voiced. Béla Kovács (he has an office in Beregovo) emphasized that Ukraine could conclude the association agreement with the European Union only on the condition of adhering to the basic language policy law… and the creation of Pritesnensky administrative district as part of Transcarpatia which would include the Hungarians dominated populated areas. The guests did not forget to include into their itinerary Veretsky pass memorial erected to commemorate the 1000 anniversary of Hungarians crossing the Carpathian Mountains. Meeting the Transcarpathian Hungarians, the guests from Budapest met the representatives of Roman Catholic, Greek-Catholic and Protestant churches, it never crossed their minds to meet Greek Orthodox believers. The selective approach reflects the real goal pursued by Hungary’s presence in the extreme west of Ukraine – to make Transcarpatia more Catholic, more Protestant and less Greek Orthodox.
The Ukrainian party Svoboda is no less nationalist than Yobbik, it strives to exploit the Hungarian issue to its advantage too. Anatoly Vitiv, a Svoboda member of parliament, has condemned the visit by Gabor Vona and his colleagues to Transcarpatia. He made Hungarians remember that in 1939 they liquidated the Carpathian Ukraine with Hitler’s support. Mister A. Vitiv omitted the fact that the Carpathian Ukraine came into existence thanks to Hitler.
Today there are two large Hungarian political parties in Ukraine – the Hungarian Democratic Party and the Hungarian Cultural Federation in Transcarpatia closely associated with the curators from Hungary. Besides, there are some organizations at the regional level that conduct cultural, educational, and social activities. Hungarian schools, theatres, colleges etc. function on the territory of the province. One can feel the pervasive Hungarian influence in the extreme west of Ukraine in all aspects of everyday life – from school to politics, for instance around 40 populated areas of the Carpathian region have returned to old Hungarian names.
To give the devil his due, one should note that the Carpathian Hungarians have reasons to be dissatisfied with Kiev. It started to recklessly «ride a roughshod over» the national minorities forbidding the education in native languages and making them subject to total «Ukrainization». Ukrainian bureaucrats failed to foresee the reaction of the country’s nearest neighbors who passionately waited till the cultural sphere is purged from the Russian influence and then made their voices heard loud enough to reckon with.
Carpathian Hungarians (like Romanians in Bukovina and Crimean Tartars) do not restrict their demands to education in native language only; they want a quota in local power structures. Hungary (as Romania and Turkey) is a NATO member and its policy matches the goal of the alliance’s extension to the East. It incessantly exerts pressure on Kiev to make it meet the demands of Ukrainian Hungarians.
It should be noted here that the ideological, cultural and political division of Ukraine meets the interests of the European Union. For Europe (or European Transatlantic alliance advocates to be more precise) a fragmented Ukraine is much easier to gobble. As the regions grow more independent, it becomes easier to conclude separate agreements with them ignoring the opinion of the center and ultimately get large chunks of Ukrainian territory out of the administrative and legal control of Kiev. Europe pursues the goal of weakening ties between the regions of Ukraine. By raising the wave of pro-European sentiments among Ukrainian nationalists Europe wants to establish control over large parts of the country’s territory to prevent the «Russian Reconquista» – the resurrection of Russian self-consciousness and pro-Russian feelings in the major part of Ukrainian provinces.
Meanwhile at the meeting with Ukrainian opposition leader Oleg Tyagnibok Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Hungary to Ukraine Mihaly Bayer assured the Svoboda Party leader that Budapest fully supports the aspiration of Kiev to join the process of European integration. In his turn, Tyagnibok, a «genuine patriot», emphasized the significance of Ukraine – Hungary cooperation in diversification of gas supplies to Ukraine (Kiev gets 10% of its overall supplies from Hungary). Bayer also assured that Hungarian diplomats are ready to offer consulting to Ukraine after the agreement of association with the European Union is signed.
The ideas of Stefan Bandera and the Uniat Church used as guidelines for Ukraine’s independence are seen by European NATO advocates as an instrument to undermine the geopolitical balance and ability in Eurasia. Budapest needs Ukraine’s independence and its rapprochement with Brussels to implement its plans to divide Ukraine and the rest of Russian world. Ukraine drifting alone and trying to cozy up to Europe is easier to be made bow to the demands of Hungarian nationalists.