What's happening in Vojvodina?

Comrade L Paulsen wrote: OK, now it makes sense that one of the US/NATO spokesliars a few days ago said something along the lines of "When Milosevic gets done with Kosovo, he'll undoubtedly start ethnically cleansing the Vojvodina" [of Hungarians].

I think it was our wonderful Minister of War, George Robertson. As far as I can tell, there have been no indications of any denials of the rights of the Hungarians in Vojvodina -- if there were, we'd have been showered with them on the daily Nato press conferences. Does anyone know what is happening in Vojvodina?

Incidentally, the main pro-war correspondent of the Guardian, Martin Woollacott, is accusing any Nato country that is getting unhappy about the bombing of Yugoslavia of cowardice. On 21 May, this wretched warmonger started his article demanding a ground war with the words:

'The rot began with the Czechs. With Schweikian slyness, and within weeks of achieving their their heartfelt desire to join Nato, they announced they would under no circumstances send troops to fight in Kosovo.'

And it gets worse.

These self-righteous liberal bombers are going to have a nasty shock when Clinton cuts a deal with Milosevic in a couple of months time. No doubt they'll be accusing the USA of betraying their sacred cause. This will leave Blair somewhat high-and-dry, as he has been pushing the 'humanitarian crusade' line much more than any other Nato leader, and really hopes to run his own combination of D-Day and Thatcher's South Atlantic War in the Balkans.

What do commentators (honest ones, that is, not Nato hacks) in the USA think of Blair's antics?

Paul Flewers

Hi, this is me delurking. There have been some minor denials of rights in the area. 300,000 Hungarians are living in the Yugoslav rump, in the Vojvodina section (there are also Hungarians in the other former Yugoslav republics). Immediately after World War II, tensions between Hungarians and Serbians were high because some Hungarians had cooperated with the Germans during the war. Over time tensions eased and a peaceful coexistence developed among the various ethnic groups in the region. Vojvodina gained autonomy and this status was confirmed in the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution. The Hungarian language was recognized by local authorities and Hungarians had some control over local institutions such as the media.

Some of this has changed under Milosevic. In 1988 he forced the government of Vojvodina to resign and was able to exert significant influence over the reconstituted Vojvodina authorities. Ethnic Serbs have supposedly been "relocated" to the reason (though how many people are just moving, or fleeing the hotspots of the conflict of the war with Bosnia and Croatia is unclear, at least in mainstream sources) and there have been problems with the war as well. Many ethnic Hungarians have also angered the government by declaring their opposition to the warfare in Croatia and Bosnia as well as the refusal of many ethnic Hungarians to serve in the Serbian Army. Ethnic Hungarian leaders accuse the Serb military of sending a disproportionate number of ethnic Hungarians to the front resulting in disproportionately high casualties among that population. Legislation passed since 1990 has eroded the minority rights of ethnic Hungarians. Serbian has become the sole official language and the use of Hungarian is prohibited in official business. The number of Hungarian-language classes has been significantly reduced and principles of all schools are appointed by the central government which very rarely appoints ethnic Hungarians, even in regions with significant Hungarian populations. Hungarians have been removed from influential public positions, including those in state-run enterprises, law enforcement and the judicial system. State subsidies for Hungarian-language media have been disproportionatly reduced. Unemployment among ethnic Hungarians is significantly higher than among ethnic Serbs because Hungarians are usually among the first to be laid off.

So, there have been some relatively minor erosion of rights and the Hungarians have frequently been framed as seccessionists. The big Hungarian-rights party, the Democratic Community of Hungarians in Vojvodina (DCHV) was founded in 1990 and has been agitating for, with the support of the Hungarian government, for greater autonomy. The DCHV claims that 90,000 Serbs have thus far been settled in the region. The DCHV also says that government authorities have ordered the compilation of a list of all empty houses in all towns and villages in the region. Of course, the party would say these things even if they did not occur. There have also seem to have been incidents of Serb refugees harassing ethnic Hungarians and, in some cases, evicting them from their homes. However, almost all of this can be seen as reasonable reactions to the war (Hungary started selling arms to the Croats in 1991, and with so many of the ethnic Hungarians explicitly politically aligned with Hungary through the DCHV, they are hardly in a position to claim some moral high ground) and to typical petit-bourgie prejudice acting up on scapegoats. it doesn't seem like there have been any major forced evacuations, "ethnic cleansing" or even any major agitation to separate. Rather, the DCHV is more interested in autonomy, which Hungarian minorities in Slovakia and Romania enjoy to a certain extent (though there are of course pressures to assimilate and ethnic strife in those countries too).

Hope that helps.

Nick Mamatas