Slovak-Hungarian information space: Parallel reality on Facebook

October 25, 2021

According to the most recent Slovak census from 2011, 450,122 people declared their affiliation to the Hungarian nationality, which represents more than 8% of Slovakia's population. This number also means that the group is the second largest Hungarian minority residing outside the borders of Hungary, and it is a strong and well-organized community.

Yet, since 2020, the Hungarian minority in Slovakia has no parliamentary representation, although its political presence at regional and local level is strong and very distinct. Despite this fact, there are only a few surveys and opinion polls that address specifically the topic of the Hungarian community in Slovakia. For example, the election polls cannot in most cases estimate the real support for the Hungarian parties while the small sample of ethnic Hungarians significantly distorts the results.

It is thus hardly surprising that there are no comprehensive studies and research projects focused on the Slovak-Hungarian information space. This can be considered an unexplored area, which is clearly separated from the Slovak information space by the language barrier. Yet, at the same time, due to social and cultural particularities, it cannot be considered part of the Hungarian information space either. It was this unexploredness that had motivated us to conduct this research.

In recent years, we have witnessed several attempts by the Hungarian government, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, at virtual reunification of the Hungarian nation. Not even the issue of the Treaty of Trianon is a closed chapter for these actors, and despite the fact that hundred years have passed in 2020 since the signing of the treaty, the Hungarian Prime Minister still exploits this topic in his speeches and describes it as injustice and injury against the Hungarians.

This is, however, not motivated solely by an emotional connection between the "kin" state and its minority. Every year, the Hungarian government supports Hungarian communities beyond the borders of Hungary with considerable sums of money (financial contributions). More than 140 million euros have been transferred from Budapest to Slovakia since 2011 through the Gabor Bethlen Foundation alone (BGA). The money went to cultural organizations, the church, to renovate schools and kindergartens, to the media, but also to Slovak football club FC DAC 1904 Dunajská Streda and its DAC Football Academy.

Organizations close to Slovak-Hungarian politicians also received a share, not to mention the possibility of acquiring Hungarian citizenship on the basis of an emotional attachment to Hungary, which also gives a person the right to vote in Hungarian parliamentary elections. According to experts, the objective behind this financial assistance and the "generous" approach is to create and strengthen the dependence of Hungarian communities in Slovakia, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Ukraine on Budapest, more precisely on the Hungarian government.

Although the financing of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia is a relatively well-researched area, the question remains as to how such efforts to support this minority are reflected, for instance, in the Slovak-Hungarian information space.

The aim of our research, conducted with the support of the International Republican Institute's The Beacon Project, was to monitor which narratives spread among the Hungarian-speaking minority in Slovakia (more precisely on Facebook), their reach, and success. Similar research on this topic was conducted in Romania and Ukraine (countries with a significant Hungarian community). Our research design was discussed and consulted across these three different countries aiming to make the results comparable. A possible continuation of our research is to compare its results and search for patterns.

We consider this issue to be very important in relation to the relationship between the minority and the majority in the country, as some of the narratives we have examined have the potential to polarize society but also to radicalize members of the minority community.

According to our findings, we can conclude that the narratives which can potentially support nationalist or even irredentist ideas have their place in the Slovak-Hungarian information space. Some have stronger support and are more common than others, and many are supported by various politicians and media outlets. Although our research did not include a representative sample, this should be seen as a red flag.

Karin Kőváry Sólymos, external analyst of
Anna Peniaško, external analyst of
Michaela Ružičková, external analyst of

Matej Spišák, chief editor of

This report has been prepared with support from IRI's Beacon Project. The opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not reflect those of IRI.

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The link to the original publication can be found: here.