Identity of the Hungarians of Croatia
(Presented in a sociological survey)
One of the major returns of the political change was that different regions of the Hungarians living outside the borders have become open for sociological researches. So, I have been visiting those regions of the Carpathian Basin that are inhabited by Hungarians in order to organize questionnaire surveys to map the collective identity of the Hungarian ethnic groups outside the border. (These surveys were carried out by colleagues who live there: pedagogues, librarians, journalists, university students.) Until the end of 1995, almost two and a half thousand adults of Hungarian origins have answered our questions, mostly similar everywhere, in about 110 settlements in 7 countries (Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Little-Yugoslavia, Slovenia, Austria and Hungary). Furthermore, 60 deep interviews were made in these countries during the winter of 1995/96 to supplement the information gained from the questionnaires. I have already reported on the results of these surveys in several essays: on the regionally differing varieties of the different segments of national identity (national self-portrait, historical awareness, religiousness, cultural image, etc.) - these are going to be referred to at a later stage.
There was a significant deficiency in the above-mentioned surveys: none of them covered the Croatian Hungarians. Their being interviewed was hindered by the South-Slavic War and the fact that the Hungarians of South-Baranya and East-Slavonia were living under Serbian occupation or (mainly the younger generation) were forced to flee (to other Croatian territories or to abroad, eg.: to Hungary).
In the autumn of 1997, we finally succeeded in realizing the data-recording encouraged by and with the efficient contribution of the "Croatian Hungarian Science and Art Society" and with the financial aid by the "Illyés Public Foundation". During this survey, 357 people of Hungarian nationality over 18 were visited (at home) by the setters (mainly pedagogues) asked by us in words or in writing. We made every effort to get a characteristic image of the different strata of the Hungarians of Croatia on the basis of the questionnaires, even if a proper representative sampling was not possible because of the significant war-time (internal and external) migration since the census of 1991. In the survey, the present, former and hopefully future inhabitants of 38 settlements in Drávaszög (South-Baranya), East Slavonia, Middle Croatia and Tengermellék were asked. This means that in case of Drávaszög and East Slavonia (providing more than 2/3 of the respondents) not only that part of the Hungarians was visited by the inquirers who stayed at home, but also those who had escaped and lived in Eszék and Zagreb (but were preparing to go home) at the time of the survey. The selection of informants happened randomly in the settlements - according to the territorial principle.
It is not our present task to deal with the history of the multitude, the troubled history of the Hungarians living in the territory of the Croatian Republic, the tragic events of the South-Slavic War of 1991, the changes of the demographic characteristics of the ethnic groups (more concretely: the seemingly unstoppable decrease of the Hungarians of Croatia). We do not even know the exact number of people of the community our sample-group is modelling. (The Yugoslavian census from 1991 knows about 22,355 Hungarians in Croatian before the War, but László Sebők estimated their real number to 35,000. Because the process of returning has not been finished yet, the extent of the wartime and emigration losses cannot be known exactly at this point. However, the estimations of the above-mentioned essays make severe losses possible.
Characterizing our sample-group, it can be said that spatial mobility was observable at 42% of them, among whom 28% were forced to escape (mainly from East-Slavonia - 53% of the people from that region were driven away, but the rate of the fugitives was significant - 1/3 - among the people from South-Baranya) because of the War of 1991. Emigration mostly concerned those of intellectual occupation. Despite the significant spatial mobility, most of the respondents (70% - 3 of the intellectuals) said they were living in their own homes. The "upward" social re-stratification - in case of intergenerational mobility - was observable at about half of the sample-group, while intergenerational mobility was revealed at 8% of the respondents.
We already mentioned that only 1/3 of the 357 questionees were intellectuals - certainly over-representing the real situation (27% were workers or entrepreneurs, 10% were physical workers in agriculture). The rate of young adults (under 40) was 32%, while the rate of the elderly - those over 60 - was 17% (certainly under-represented), so more than half of the respondents were middle-aged..
It should also be noted that in 1998, interviews recorded with tape-recorders were also made, as a supplement to the questionnaires.
Ethnic composition of families
The question of nationality was first treated in statistical approaches. We asked every respondent what nationality they had been declared themselves in the census of 1991 and we also asked what nationality they declared themselves then, at the time of the interview (Autumn, 1997). 96% of the respondents declared themselves Hungarian in both cases. (The others - only 14 persons - either in 1991 or at the time of the interview "backed off" from Hungarian nationality.) The question was also asked in relation to the members of each respondent's family: 54% of the families visited all members of the family declared themselves Hungarian (in 1997). (This phenomenon mostly occurred in families where the head of the family was a manual worker or was inactive; or in those families that belonged to settlements with Hungarian majority - ie. mainly settlements in Baranya and Slavonia.) In 17% of the families the nationality of the members was varied in a way that the parents declared themselves Hungarian, while their children all declared themselves Croatian. (This phenomenon was more frequent in families of intellectual workers than in others; mainly in diasporas /in Zagreb and in the Tengermellék/.) The rather considerable ethnic and identity- heterogeneity of the Hungarian families of Croatia can certainly be related to the fact that 36% of the interviewed people, that is 40% of the married respondents have non-Hungarian spouses, in other words they live in mixed marriages. Mixed marriages occurred more frequently among the intellectuals (almost half of the interviewed intellectuals lived in mixed marriages!) and in such social environment where Hungarians live in minority. (Eg.: In those settlements where the proportion of Hungarians is under 10%, 53% of our respondents lived in mixed marriages.) The intellectual state and the diasporic situation are not only accompanied by the higher proportion of mixed marriages but also increases the chance that the spouse of another (generally Croatian) mother-tongue do not or just poorly speaks Hungarian.
Taking single or multiple identity
The problems of the awareness of national affiliation was further investigated - now beyond the sphere of statistical classification and on the other hand giving ground to double and multiple identity - by the following question: "Which nationality do you declare yourself to belong to?" And in case the respondent mentions several points of connection, we continue: "In about what proportion are you connected to which nationality?" The answers given to the two questions were judged by all of us together. 81% of the respondents declared themselves Hungarian - without other points of connection. 6% declared a multiple identity, but felt his Hungarian identity dominant. 5% felt themselves equally Hungarian and Croatian. The inferior Hungarian identity got an insignificant number (1%) of votes, while 7% confessed they had not got any national affiliation. This latter point of view (together with the inferior Hungarian identity) occurred mostly in diasporas, and least among the inactive (pensioners, house-wives). Double, but dominantly Hungarian identity was to be found mostly among the other (non-professional) intellectuals and in settlements where the rate of the Hungarians was mediocre (30-70%). The expressed Hungarian identity mostly characterized the settlements with Hungarian predominance (over 70%). And - as a reverse of the tendency prevailing up to this point - the intellectuals, who took a leading role in heterogeneity and in mixed marriages, now close up to the social strata with strong Hungarian identity: to the pensioners and the agricultural manual workers. So this stratum gives a sharp proof of being open towards other identities and of taking Hungarian identity. On the other hand, the diasporic situation - as a constantly recurring lesson - proves to be a considerably serious danger to minority identity.
"What does it mean for you to be a Hungarian?"
We attempted to collect the main components of the Hungarian identity taken by the vast majority of the respondents with the question of the chapter-title similarly to the way we had done it during other investigations carried out in other countries in the first half of the 90s.
Before starting to analyse the answers, we ought to see some parts of the tape-recorded interviews. "Please elaborate what it means to you to be a Hungarian!" was the question there too. Here come some of the answers in forms of exact citations:
"To be a Hungarian means that I continue to speak the language of my parents and grandparents. I continue their culture and I also pass it to my children." (37-year old bank assistant woman /East-Slavonia/ Interview ?2.)
"It means that I know, I love Hungarian culture and tradition. My parents have taught me about Hungarian-ness, and they also fostered this Hungarian culture, tradition and the Hungarian history." (43-year-old man, medicine /Baranya/, Interview ?11.)
"To be a Hungarian is a privilege. I am from Hungarian parents and my mother-tongue is ... Hungarian. I think there is no greater pride when somebody is proud of his nationality. And I am." (42-year-old man, interpreter /Baranya/, Interview ?12.)
"Well, we always talked in Hungarian with my parents, I finished my schools in Hungarian, and it was my fate to become a mother-tongue-fosterer and to foster the Hungarian language and culture in a Croatian environment. I believe that this means something very important. And we also educated our children to be good Hungarians." (40-year-old woman, teacher /Baranya/, Interview ?13.)
"I'm proud to be a Hungarian. Since Hungary's history and culture and its traditions are known around the world. As an example I'm thinking about the Nobel-prize winner scientists, the medicines and of course the artists, ballet-dancers and a lot of people who did a lot for their country and are famous everywhere." (51-year-old woman, engineer, Fiume /Riyeka/ Interview ?27.)
And now, let's return to the treatment of the answers in tables. The answers given to the open questions were categorized afterwards again and are presented in Table 1. broken down to four regions.
First, (on the basis of the data of the publications referred to in note 7.) one should attempt to compare the structure of identity of the Croatian Hungarians with the identity-structure of the Hungarians of the seven other Central European countries. One may regard the specific feature of the Hungarians of Croatia to be the very low rate of negative or indifferent identity; the second highest rates of belonging somewhere - after Hungary; and of the undertaking, accepting, defending type - after Transylvania. So, the national-minority identity of the Croatian Hungarians is very positive even in the context of all the Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin, and bears witness to a desire stronger than the average towards references, points of connections (eg.: the notion of a culture-nation extending over borders). (The low population of the people, its adverse history and the hardships of the recent past are all expressed in the latter phenomenon.) It is interesting, that - according to Table 1 - this desire of belonging somewhere is especially strong in Middle-Croatia (Zagreb and its environs), while the awareness of being Hungarian as a natural feeling ("I was born to be..."-type) mainly characterizes Baranya. The attitude of undertaking and struggling is frequent in East Slavonia, the identity filled with positive emotions can mostly be found in the cities of Tengermellék.
It should be added that gender affiliation did not really play any role in choosing between identity-types. However, age did to some extent: the mentioning of the motif "belonging somewhere" increased with the decreasing of the age (so it was the strongest at young people); positive emotions proved to be dominant at an older age (and among those with a lower qualification). While the significance of the identity-element of undertaking, struggling for survival was increasing with qualification and was strongly connected to the intellectuals. The emotional identity-type was favoured by agricultural manual workers and pensioners. The latter ("emotional") type occurred in the smaller villages, while the undertaking-type in the bigger cities. So the structural elements of identity possess well detachable stratum-specific features. The emotional identity-type (that proved to be the most popular of all) more characterizes the lower qualified, older villagers; the "undertaking-defending-conserving" attitude of identity (one can say: the most conscious type of identity) proved to be very demanding in terms of strata: it is closer to those younger and middle-aged city-dwellers having a higher qualification.
|East-Slavonia||Middle Croatia (Zagreb and its environs)||Tenger-mellék||In total|
|No answer, or negative feeling, or indifference||4.7||4.3||5.3||7.0||5.0|
|It is a natural, evident thing; it is something we born into; it is a question of origin||16.7||8.6||12.3||1.8||11.5|
|The feeling of belonging somewhere (to a nation, to a country, to a more exclusive environment, to a linguistic-cultural community)||18.7||22.6||33.2||10.5||20.7|
(it has to be fostered, defended, conserved despite sacrifices, minority existence)
|Positive feelings (pride, joy, honour; good, nice, glorious thing, etc.)||37.2||36.5||24.6||54.4||37.8|
"What does it mean for you to be Hungarian?"
(The proportional division of Hungarian respondents of Croatia - 1997)
The answers given to the question "What does it mean for you to be Hungarian?" were not only rendered into categories (see Table 1), but were also subject to a content-analysis. The points of consideration of the content-analysis were not provided by our preconceptions, but by the profound analysis of the answers and the motifs in them (see Table 2). When the data - representing the Hungarians of seven countries - of the publications referred to in note 7 are compared with the data of the Croatian "In total" column, it is observable that in terms of the eight countries the mother-tongue and the cultural tradition were mentioned far the most often by the Hungarians of Croatia. Furthermore, the motif of "belonging to a more exclusive community got the most votes in Croatia (in a tie with Hungary). The question is: why is Croatia, where Hungarian and the culture built on it is such an up-valued element of identity, while in the question of the usage of mother-tongue and of the education in the mother-tongue they are so behind, compared to the Hungarians of other Central European countries? The answer is probably in the question: because of its lack. The motif of regarding the national identity as a natural gift, the question of being born into it seems to be the special feature of the South Slavic region - covering even the Hungarians of the Mura-region and Vojvodina. And what concerns the regional differences inside Croatia, the 2nd Table confirms our belief that it - at least the mother-tongue - was valued up as a lack. Getting further away from the possibility of using the Hungarian language means the increase of the mother-tongue's significance in the structure of identity; and it is mentioned the most often at the Tengermellék. The occurrence of the term "cultural tradition" was significant in East-Slavonia together with the "holding on" despite the hardships (which also appeared in the other troubled area: Baranya). The strong emotionality in the identity of those living at the Tengermellék should also be noted.
After all, as it was proven by earlier investigations carried out in other countries, the Central European Hungarian identity (including the Croatian version too) is based on three elements: cultural values (language, tradition, religion, history, etc.); moral obligations (the "I take it despite the hardships" motif); and - as a dominant element - strong emotional feelings. The cultural and moral elements (including the active forms of identity emphasizing the importance of passing on the tradition, etc.) occur more often in the answers of the more qualified (mainly the intellectuals), while the emotional elements tend to appear in the answers of the less qualified and the elderly (the pensioners and the agricultural physical workers).
We see it not the first time, that the importance of cultural elements is increasing in situations of lack, in diasporic situations, but not of the moral elements and even the emotional factor is seemingly stronger in majority-situations. In co-ordinance with the strong cultural dimension of Hungarian identity the extent of reading activity significantly affects the structure of identity: with the frequency of reading books, the chance of identity experienced as exercise or obligation concerning the passing of tradition increased. On the other hand, the chances of the indifferent, negative types of identity, together with the type regarding it to be the question of origin or with the emotional type of identity decreased a bit with the attraction to books.
|East-Slavonia||Middle Croatia (Zagreb and environs)||Tenger-mellék||In Total|
|No answer at all||1.4||4.5||3.6||5.6||3.2|
|Bad feeling, it does not mean any good (with an attitude of suffering it); indifferent, nothing exceptional ("I don't care what I am", etc.)||4.1||-||3.6||1.9||2.6|
|It is a natural gift.||19.6||9.0||25.5||1.9||15.0|
|To belong to a more exclusive community (to a family, a village, a region, etc.)||13.5||20.2||14.5||5.6||14.2|
|To belong to a wider community (to an ethnic group, a nation, a country, etc.)||8.8||9.0||10.9||3.7||8.4|
|Mother-tongue, linguistic affinity||23.0||27.0||32.7||44.4||28.9|
|Cultural, historical tradition, (religious) customs, a typical way of thinking||14.9||43.8||30.9||29.6||27.2|
|Other positive feelings (joy, happiness, love of the homeland, etc.)||24.3||24.7||12.7||46.3||26.0|
|"You should live and die here" ("I was born here, I have to die here.", etc.)||1.4||1.1||1.8||-||1.2|
|It's a task, a responsible activity, the obligation of passing the tradition||14.9||14.6||12.7||18.6||15.0|
|Hardships, taking a disadvantaged situation, struggling for survival||16.2||20.2||12.7||13.0||16.2|
"What does it mean to you to be Hungarian?"
(The occurrence of answer-motifs revealed through content analysis in the proportional rate of Croatian Hungarian respondents - 1997)
The kind of "we"-awareness, an ethnic group possesses, the way they see themselves, the characteristics they attribute to themselves and to "them", the other ethnic group in majority can be regarded as organic parts of identity. In the questionnaire, we both asked questions about the image of the "we" and the "them": "According to you, are there any characteristics that characterize the Hungarians and the Croats in general?" (We asked about the minority and the majority ethnic groups in separate, open questions.) Table 3 shows the simplified types of Hungarian-image - again in the main regional division of the Hungarians of Croatia. It is evident from the table that 1/5 of the respondents believes there aren't any so-called "Hungarian characteristics" (there are especially many of those who believe it in Middle Croatia (Zagreb and environs)) and that is the place where the fewest respondents describe the "we"-awareness as possessing only good characteristics. Comparing to the Hungarians of other countries, the latter category is very much favoured among the Hungarians of Croatia: half of them had such a positive self-image - not without some self-euphemism. This is a record in terms of the Carpathian Basin. And where they got close to this record: Vojvodina (44%), Transcarpathia (41%), Transylvania (40%), Slovakia (38%) - their composition suggests that minorities tend to reinforce their self-estimation in a self-defensive way where their life (from the perspective of HumanLaw, economy and politics) is especially difficult and dependent. (The theory is supported by the fact that it is rather mixed among the Hungarians of Austria and Slovenia: the answer-type attributing both good and bad characteristics to their own group was the dominant.) This fervent gesture of self-defence of the Hungarians of Croatia was surely motivated by the events of the recent war too. The supposition is supported by another fact that the mixed type of answer (attributing both good and bad characteristics), that evolved on the ground of realism, rather than on that of defensive self-revaluation, reached its highest rate among the Hungarians of Tengermellék that was less affected by the war. However, the fact that the negative type of answer attributing only negative characteristics (that was also record low in Croatia) reached its top in one of the regions (South Baranya) that suffered the most, contradicts the former statement.
The Hungarians of Croatia could really be in great need of assertive positive experiences, because their overtly positive self-image is further supported by the more critical intellectuals and the young. (This positive image type became two-faced in a sociological sense: the intellectuals, the agricultural physical workers, people under 40 and over 60 all prefer it.) Anyway, the diaspora is rather self-critical (more realistic?, more self-abandoning?): the mixed national self-image was dominating where the rate of Hungarians was under 10%.
Hungarian national characteristics?
|East-Slavonia||Middle Croatia (Zagreb and environs)||Tenger-mellék||In Total|
|Only positive characteristics were mentioned||49.3||57.0||35.1||52.6||49.6|
|Positive and negative characteristics were both mentioned||14.0||18.2||10.5||26.3||16.5|
|Only negative characteristics||15.3||5.4||5.3||5.3||9.5|
The composition of the national self-image among the Hungarian respondents of Croatia
(Proportional division - 1997)
When the positive and negative tones of "we"-awareness are put into cultural frames, the lack of reading widely meets the deficiencies of self-image (the denial of collective characteristics); the overtly positive self-image - deviating from the former experiences concerning the Hungarians of the Carpathian Basin - is rather attracted to those committed to traditional and modern literary value - although, it is true, that they are in tie with the devotees of entertaining (lecture and best-seller) literature. (But the most peculiar variety of self-image of these latter types of literary taste is the one that is composed of only negative characteristics.) In other countries the "mixed" (having both good and bad qualities, more balanced) type of self-image had the best cultural value-environment, but in Croatia - both in a sociological and in a cultural sense - the homogeneous positive self-image - because of good reasons (partly unfamiliar for us) - was strongly appreciated.
Finally, let's see the list of popularity of the characteristics, putting the self-characterization of the minority and the (rather critical) features attributed to the majority side by side. (See Table 4)
The first self-stereotype of the Hungarians, the diligent, hard-working Hungarian is the most important self-image element of the Hungarians of the eight Central European countries withal. Similarly, the most frequent negative attribute - factiousness - is a Central European "migrant-motif". The intellectual and moral positive features return. Kindness, hospitality and country-loving patriotism are all emphasized. It has already been mentioned that the Hungarians of Croatia have a self-image more positive than the average. So much so that one can hardly find any negative features among the first 10-15. (Later on there are some: pessimistic /6/, stubborn /4/, compromising, cursing /2-2/, etc.)
According to the ancient recipe, there are more negative attributes concerning "them", the Croats. Most of these are "sins" typically characterizing people in majority (haughtiness, nationalism, selfishness, violence, etc.). But even the good characteristics differ to some extent from the minority virtues: while the Hungarians primarily regard themselves diligent, hard-working, civilized people, they regard the Croats rather patriotic, benevolent and friendly people and proud. However, it is not only the rate and quality of positive and negative characteristics that makes the difference between the Croat- and the Hungarian image, but also the rate of those who claimed that there aren't any characteristics characterizing peoples in general. It was 25% who made similar statements concerning the Hungarians and 34% concerning the Croats. The (rhetoric) question rises: to what extent can this refrainment be regarded as further (withheld) criticism?...
|The characteristics of the Hungarians||Number of references||The characteristics of the Croats||Number of references|
|Diligent, hard-working, loves to work||78||Conceited, despises the Hungarians, haughty||30|
|Civilized||71||Patriotism, national pride||29|
|Kind, friendly, gentle||38||Nationalistic||26|
|Cheerful, good-humoured||32||Benevolent, friendly||22|
|Loves to eat well and drink well||19||Selfish, pushing||20|
|National pride, patriotism||17||Proud||11|
|Appreciation of traditions, of historical past||15||Cheerful||9|
Characteristics told by Hungarians of Croatia to characterize the Hungarians and the Croats (1997) N=357
The concept of the nation's future
It is important to consider the conceptions about the future in the temporal dimension of identity. These indicate the aims and perspectives the individual or a social group is thinking in: and these are important influences on the quality of his or her present life, his or her "feeling satisfied". In our survey we dealt with that part of the concept of future that was related to the national community, more exactly two sub-groups of that: with the future of the Hungarians of Croatia and with the future of the Hungarians in general. Table 5 presents the structural differences of these two future-concepts:
|Answer-categories||Considering the further future of|
|the Hungarians of Croatia||the Hungarians in general|
|Absolute failure (extremely pessimistic, hopeless)||14.9||2.5|
|Possibly failure (moderately pessimistic, has no hopes)||40.1||18.2|
|Uncertain, does not know||10.4||7.6|
|Chance to uprise (moderately optimistic, absolutely hoping)||27.7||42.3|
|Absolute success, optimism||3.0||7.6|
"How do you see the further future of the Hungarians?"
(The proportional division of the Croatian Hungarian respondents - 1997)
In our earlier surveys we did not separate the two types of the collective future-conception, we only asked about the future of the Hungarians in general. However, the spontaneous answers made the distinction themselves between these two dimensions (the Hungarians of the local region and the Hungarians of Hungary - since this latter group became the representative of the general "Hungarian future"). Table 5 shows how justified the separation of the two types was, because there are great differences in considering the chances for the future between the two columns of the Table. Unfortunately, the Hungarians of Croatia have almost completely written off themselves, the pessimistic and uncertain answers concerning their future characterize 7/10(!) of the respondents. The same types of answers appear only at half of the sample-group in terms of the Hungarians "in general", so the Hungarians of Croatia are more optimistic about the future of the Hungarians in general (mostly that of the Hungarians in Hungary) than their own future.
We can only have opportunities of comparisons concerning more countries in terms of considering chances in general: here, the record of uncertainty in the lack of answers shows as a special feature of the Hungarians of Croatia. Despite it, they appear much more optimistic than the average Hungarians (mostly those of Vojvodina and Hungary) and the rate of pessimists is the lowest there too. In general, an optimism mixed with uncertainty characterizes their collective future-concept (concerning the Hungarians), but this does not apply to the judgement of the chances of their own group.
If we are looking for the stratum-specific marks of the tone of their future-concept, then we can state that the men and the elderly tend to be more pessimistic. Higher qualification means more optimistic attitude.
The intellectuals tend to be the most optimistic and the agricultural workers the most pessimistic among the social strata. It is interesting that the Hungarians in diasporas are more optimistic than those living in blocks. The future-concept of the inhabitants of the battle-ground areas (South Baranya, East Slavonia) can be described as having a peculiar dualism: among them the pessimists and the overtly optimists are both over-represented, while the moderate optimism characterizes those of Tengermellék and Middle Croatia.
And finally I would like to present the results of two cross-tables that compared the types of identity and self-image with the concepts of future. It is observable that the type of identity that experiences its Hungarian-ness as something natural, something one born into (in a rather unreflected way) has to struggle with great uncertainties in considering the chances. The representatives of the positive emotions, the emotional type of identity can seemingly be connected to such stereotypes of Hungarian mentality-culture, as the "flash in the pan"-effect, or the revelling and crying: since they proved to be more pessimistic than any other type of identity. The seemingly most conscious type of identity, the "active, undertaking" (together with the type of intensely experiencing the sense of belonging) proved to be explicitly optimistic, more optimistic than the other types of identity. It can be added that the least emotional, the most balanced "mixed" type, which is the soberest among the national self-image types, was the most optimistic about the future. So, the different segments of identity (national status, self-image and future-concept) are related, their positive and negative elements mutually support and reinforce each other.