Two controversial incidents involving Slovaks and ethnic Hungarians living in Slovakia have deflated statements by Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar and Hungarian Premier Gyula Horn from their meeting in Piešťany on November 5 that no tensions exist between the two countries.
In the Slovak capital of Bratislava, the Ministry of Culture backed a controversial poster drive spreading the message that while the number of ethnic Slovaks in Hungary was declining, the ethnic Hungarian population in Slovakia was rising. The posters' tone inflamed ethnic Hungarians in the country and their political leaders. One of those polticians, Laszslo Nagy, a deputy in Parliament from the Hungarian Civic Party, publicly called on Bratislava Mayor Peter Kresánek and Culture Minister Ivan Hudec to remove the posters.
Though the posters, called "Understanding between the Tatras and the Danube" - geographically referring to Slovakia and Hungary - were taken down on October 31, they were removed because the printing house, Kubko Goral, did not pay the bill to keep them up, according to Kresánek's spokesman, Milan Vajda. "There was no political reason for taking the posters down," Vajda said. "A commercial contract was broken between the publishing house and the company that rented out the space."
Vajda said that Kresánek called the space rental company, Recar, to inquire about the matter after hearing of Nagy's request through the press, but "it was irrevelant, because they [the posters] had already been taken down."
Kubko Goral Director Ján Kubáň confirmed that his publishing house created the posters "supported by the Culture Ministry" and that they were removed because his firm failed to pay the invoice. However, he denied that the intent was to insult the Hungarian minority in Slovakia. "The reason we did this is to remind people about Slovaks' migration," Kubáň said, "and to show them how Hungarians take care of Slovaks and how we care for Hungarians." "The posters were misunderstood," Kubáň continued. "We aren't here to cause problems; we want the situation to calm down."
The situation was anything but calm in Veľké Kapušany, a village of approximately 9,000 near Michalovce in far eastern Slovakia, where the local branch of an ethnic Hungarian association had erected a monument last August as a memorial to the 1,100th anniversary of Hungarians arriving in the region.
However, the Michalovce District Authority ruled last month that the local wing of Csemadok must remove the monument by November 30, saying that the Hungarian association built it without a construction permit. But the Authority also issued this statement, riling up the local Hungarian community: "Building a memorial to mark the 1,100th anniversary of the Hungarians' arrival to the Carpathian basin contradicts the principles of smooth coexistence for Slovakia's inhabitants," according to the Slovak press agency TASR.
This caused the memorial's principal backer, Milkos Kozsar, to shoot back that the ruling "contradicts the [Slovak] Constitution, which guarantees the free development of minority culture and heritage and is against the spirit of the Slovak-Hungarian Basic Treaty," TASR reported. Kozsar added that the group will not take down the monument, and will instead apply for the building permit.
Special reporting by Andrea Lörinczová
20. Nov 1996 at 0:00 | Richard Lewis