Hungarian Abstract/Magyar kivonat: A nyugati média meglehetősen sokat foglalkozott Koszovóval, az albánok által dominált szerbiai tartománnyal, mely ma kijelenti függetlenségét. De a nyugati lapokban alig találhatunk említést arról a tényről, hogy a koszovói szuverenitásnak fontos következményei lehetnek a vajdasági magyarok számára is. Bár kiemelt demográfiai különbségek vannak Vajdaság és Koszovó között és az északi tartomány teljes függetlensége aligha kerülhet szóba, mégis fennáll az a veszély, hogy Koszovó leszakadása a szerbiai politikai diszkurzus radikálizálodásához vezet és, hogy felkerekednek a szélsőjobboldali, nacionalista erők Szerbiában.
As was expected, much of the media attention around Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia has focused on whether or not this might lead to renewed ethnic conflict among Serbs and Kosovar Albanians, as well as if the European Union will be able to speak in unison in its recognition of the continent’s youngest state. Many pundits also tried to determine how Russia–which has traditionally allied itself with the government in Belgrade–would react to the imminent creation of an EU mission in this Balkan country.
Yet Kosovo’s independence also raises crucial questions about the fate of another multi-ethnic region in this former Yugoslav country, namely the northern province of Vojvodina (Vajdaság), which is home to over 290,000 ethnic Hungarians. Some fear that the declaration of independence will likely strengthen Serbia’s already powerful, nationalist extreme-right , represented by the Serbian Radical Party, which currently forms the largest group in parliament and came within two percentage points of defeating Boris Tadic, the country’s relatively liberal incumbent president, in run-off elections held on February 3, 2008.
It is not likely that Vojvodina’s ethnic minorities would call for independence with the same fervour that has characterized Kosovar Albanian demands to sovereignty, even though some will likely agitate for the strengthening of this northern province’s semi-autonomous status. The demographic composition of these two provinces, however, is drastically different. In Kosovo, ethnic Albanians comprise more than 90 percent of the total population, which stands at around two million. Population estimates for the remaining Serb minority can be anywhere from just under six percent to as much as ten percent. Most Serb residents of Kosovo live in a small handful of enclaves in the north (including Zubin Potok, Leposavic and Zvercari), as well the Strpce region in the south.
Vojvodina’s ethnic and linguistic composition, in contrast, is far more complicated and diverse. Many of the region’s 290,000 Hungarians live near the border with Hungary and form the dominant ethnic group in cities like Szabadka (Subotica). Yet according to census data from 2002, even in this city of just over 99,000 residents, only around 35 percent are of Hungarian origins, while 26 percent identify themselves as Serbs, nearly 11 percent as Bunjevci (a south Slavic group), 10 percent as Croat, 7 percent as “Yugoslav,” and nearly 2 percent as Montenegrin.
Province-wide census results present an even more complicated demographic picture of Vojvodina. Although Serbs form an overall majority with 65 percent, Hungarians comprise over 14 percent of the population, with Slovaks and Croats tied at just under 3 percent, “Yugoslavs” at over 2 percent, Montenegrins at 1.75 percent and Romanians at 1.5 percent. Smaller ethnic groups include the Roma, Macedonians, Ukrainians, Rusyns and Germans.
Vojvodina remains one of Eastern Europe’s most multicultural regions, with a total of 25 minorities making their home in this semi-autonomous province of Serbia. The province, in fact, is also officially multilingual, with six languages–including Hungarian–enjoying special status. Vojvodina’s Hungarians, however, are dispersed in several regions, and this would make it exceedingly difficult for them to try to rally for regional autonomy. Although the Hungarian presence is strong in the northern areas of Subotica, Kanjiza (Kanizsa) and Senta, Hungarian-speakers also live in nearly a dozen other regions and municipalities.
Kosovo’s independence will likely have a profound impact on Serbian politics, since all major political parties on both the left and right view the Albanian-dominated province as the “cradle” of Serbian national identity. The radicalization of the political discourse could spell trouble for Vojvodina’s minorities. Additionally, there is a possibility that the discrimination that was prominent during Slobodan Milosevic’s rule–when the late Serbian president suspended Vojvodina’s autonomy and allegedly conscripted a disproportionately large number of Hungarians to fight in Kosovo–may once again haunt this troubled region.
Canadian Hungarian Journal