Minority Rights Group International (MRG) Deputy Director, Claire Thomas, writes this opinion piece for the Thomson Reuters News Foundation.+ LEARN MORE
In the 2001 Census 25,884 Austrians stated that they use Hungarian as their everyday language. Of these, 10,686 were in Vienna and 4,704 in Burgenland. The total number of Hungarian-speakers is estimated at around 30,000, with 6,600 in Burgenland. The Burgenland population was 26,600 in 1910. Most of the Burgenland Hungarians live near the two district capitals of Oberwart/Felsoor and Oberpullendorf/Felsopulya. The Hungarian Group Advisory Council is the longest established of the official minority advisory councils. Two-thirds of Hungarians in Burgenland were Roman Catholic in 2004. Other faiths include Lutheran and Calvinist.
Hungarians of Burgenland are the descendants of frontier guards sent during the eleventh century to protect the Magyar kingdom. They had aristocratic status and maintained this until 1848. Burgenland was under Hungarian rule until it became part of Austria in 1920. Hungarian education continued in the interwar period in a number of municipalities. Economic decline in Burgenland after the Second World War led to emigration. The negative image of the Hungarian language by this time led to assimilation.
Hungarians established a community in Vienna from 1541 when they were pushed out of Hungary by the Ottoman Turks. Towards the end of the seventeenth century Vienna became an important intellecutal and cultural centre for Hungarians. They set up their first cultural associations in Vienna in the 1860s, and the community increased to around 100,000. After the First World War I they declined sharply, but refugees from Hungary increased the numbers again in 1945, 1948 and 1956.
The Burgenland Hungarians were recognized as an official minority with the right to their own language in the 1976 Ethnic Groups Act.
The Hungarian community in Vienna was recognized as part of the Hungarian ethnic group in 1992.
The Hungarian community in Austria complained that they have a disproportionately small share of federal funding to the numbers of their group, €330,000 in 2003. Public subsidies have been used to create teaching materials.
The right to Hungarian-language education in Burgenland was granted in 1937 and confirmed in 1994. Primary education has been provided in Hungarian in some schools in Burgenland since 1995, and Hungarian is offered in secondary and higher education throughout Austria. Hungarian-language primary education is provided by community organizations in Vienna. The community is pressing for state funding. Although the community has been successful in increasing Hungarian-language education, especially at secondary level, other rights such as bilingual place names and road signs have been denied. The amount of broadcasting in Hungarian is considered insufficient. The recognition of the Burgenland Hungarians before that of the Viennese community has meant that cultural initiatives are more advanced in Burgenland. There is some segregation between the two parts of the community, with publications and programmes produced in Burgenland not always available in Vienna.
Updated June 2015
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