Thursday, February 21, 2013

Emigration (brief reprise)

There's a weird new thing connected to emigration.    Let's call it voluntary superficial auto-Magyarisation.  It works like this:

Under the new Hungarian constitution, people who can prove Hungarian ancestry can obtain citizenship and a passport.  I suspect I've mentioned this before. In the 2011 census, there were 1,237,746 people who identified themselves as Hungarian in Romania, and the law is basically aimed at them, should they want to claim "their" Hungarianness. Now there are some people who were very enthusiastic about this, and went ahead and did it pretty fast.  There were others who were entirely unenthusiastic about it, and think the whole thing is ridiculous (most people I know fall here, to be honest).  And of course there were those (lets face it, almost certainly the majority) who sort of couldn't really be bothered to form an opinion and certainly couldn't be bothered to go through the process of doing it.  I'd honestly be surprised if as many as 10% of Romanian Hungarians were in the first category there.

But, aside from some form of desire to have a document validating your own imagined national identity, there is, it turns out another reason to get a Hungarian passport.  And that is that it is a great aid in emigration.  Firstly it circumvents certain country's restrictions - the UK for example, allows Hungarians to come and look for work, but does not allow Romanians the same rights.  The UK is not alone in this.  Secondly, and increasingly importantly, as borders are opening to Romanians at the same time as anti-Romanian sentiment is building, it confers a certain neutral identity.  Meaning that it's easier to get by in a Western European country if you have a Hungarian passport than a Romanian one. Romanian looking for a job/place to stay/etc? Tough.  There may not actually be signs saying "No Romanians" but they are there inside the Daily Mail addled brain of some.

So, pretty much everyone from these parts who wants to go abroad (or has to - see previous post) will first go through the motions of getting their Hungarian passport. It's relatively easy to do and it makes life easier once they leave. It's not right, but it's a fact.

But now the odd bit. There are increasing numbers of Romanians who are doing the same thing.  By Romanians in this context I mean people who would identify themselves as Romanian, who have Romanian names, and who speak Romanian as a first language.  They would not have featured in that 1,237,746 mentioned before.  But they come from Transylvania, and pretty much everyone from Transylvania has both Hungarian and Romanian ancestry. So, they look back through their family tree, find a Hungarian ancestor, go to the consulate (which is here in Csikszereda, hence how I find all this out), and Bob's your uncle.  Or Laszlo's your uncle.  This trend seems to be on the rise, as news reaches us here of all the Daily Mail headlines and horror stories about how Romanians are treated filter through.  So there we are: voluntary superficial auto-Magyarisation. I sort of quite like it.  It somehow serves to subvert both (a) the racist attitudes of some in the West; and (b) the motives of FIDESZ in Hungary in making this constitutional change in the first place.  I mean I wish people didn't need to do this, but as a way around the fact that the world is ultimately a bit of a shit place filled with some shit people, it works in quite an amusing way.  


Bogdan said...

Don't they have a requirement about knowing the Hungarian language? There are plenty of people here in Bucharest who have Hungarian ancestors and it sounds really strange about all of them being able to get Hungarian citizenship.

My girlfriend's grandmother was a Hungarian native speaker and a few of her ancestors were born in Hungary.

Andy Hockley said...

Yes, you do need to show some knowledge of Hungarian - I'm not sure how much or what the test is. But as far as I can tell anyone who can prove that they had ancestors who were Hungarian citizens can get the nationality (with the language part thrown in).

This presumably means that anyone whose ancestors were from Transylvania, regardless of their ethnicity, can get it.