Hungarians in Slovenia

The Hungarian community in Slovenia – Prekmurje

Prekmurje [Muravidék] covers a 910 square km area in the north-eastern corner of Slovenia, bordered by Austria, Hungary and Croatia. Famous for its wines, this hilly region at the foot of the Alps is also zig-zagged by the Hungarian-Slovenian linguistic boundary. The number of Hungarians, including people in some way attached to Hungarians, is estimated to be 8, 10, or 12 thousand. Most Hungarians are found in the south and southeast corner of the region in the vicinity of Lendava [Alsólendva] and Dobrovnik [Dobronak]. While in the early 20th century, a quarter of the area’s population was Hungarian, the figure has dropped to 6-8 per cent by now. The assimilation of geographically marginalized minorities continues to this day, with the added impact of emigration and negative demographic trends.

Slovenia’s independence (1991) consolidated the legal status of the two autochthonous communities (Hungarian and Italian), which were then defined as constitutional categories. Already in the Yugoslav era, minorities had independent cultural institutions and guaranteed representation in local government and parliament. In five municipalities, the Hungarian community has minority self-governments, and is represented by a regional organization, the Prekmurje Hungarian Self-Governing National Community. The two languages, Hungarian and Slovenian, are considered to be equal in theory in areas stipulated by law; mother-tongue instruction can be implemented based on independent curricula; minority self-governments have the power of veto on issues affecting the community, including the question of financing.

The minority rights system established in Slovenia is widely accepted: it may well be considered as exemplary. There are, however, serious deficiencies in the implementation of an institutional system which should serve the preservation of linguistic and cultural identity and the survival of communities. The bilingual education model will not curb assimilation: the rate of mixed marriages is around 50%, and most of the children born identify with the majority nation. Members of a small and declining community, lagging behind on the periphery of a more advanced economic entity, are faced with serious challenges regarding the preservation of their national identity. The implementation of bilingual administration is often hampered in practice. Unsettled issues of financing put a strain on the relationship between minority self-governments on the one hand and the central government and local governments on the other. Due to domestic political tensions, proposed legislation on minorities has been stalled since 2008.

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