Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Ukraine's Other Border Problem

Russia's annexation of Crimea and occupation of eastern Ukraine have been in the news lately with tensions between the countries escalating again. However, Ukraine is also facing agitation on their western border from Hungary. Zakarpattia Oblast, Ukraine's westernmost province has a large ethnically Hungarian population. The map below, via Euromaidan Press,  shows villages that have a Hungarian speaking majority (in orange) on their councils.
The Hungarian government, while publicly not seeking to control these areas, has been sending development money and encouraging autonomy for these regions. They have also been issuing Hungarian passports to people living in these areas and some residents have been pledging allegiance to Hungary. Russia has also been actively promoting Hungarian claims to the region. In return the Hungarian government is campaigning to lift EU sanctions against Russia for military aggression in eastern Ukraine. For Russia this is also part of a divide and conquer strategy for the region as a whole.

Prior to World War II, Hungary expanded its borders to include minority areas of all of neighboring states and many Hungarian politicians openly dream of reconstructing this "Greater Hungary"
Ukraine has helped this instability by passing a language education law that is unpopular with the Hungarians. This spring Ukrainians will vote in presidential and parliamentary elections with the current government hoping to improve ties with the west while Hungary and Russia are hoping to wield their own influence on the country.

More information and maps can be found on Euromaidan Press, and recent commentary can be found on EU Observer.

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