War In The Balkans: Magyars in Serbia - Threat to 300,000 Hungarians

FOR THE 300,000 ethnic Hungarians living in northern Serbia, the future is full of fear. Living in the region known as Vojvodina, they are the biggest ethnic minority so far left untouched in Serbia.

Like the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo they are concentrated in one region, hostages-in- waiting should President Slobodan Milosevic turn his forces on them once Kosovo has been fully "ethnically cleansed".

That in turn could trigger a regional conflict if Hungary went to their defence. The war has already reached their doorsteps. Vojvodina's capital, the city of Novi Sad, has been repeatedly bombed, its Danube bridges now lying broken and destroyed in the water.

"The people here are frightened of war," said Laszlo Jozsa, vice-president of the Alliance of Hungarians in Vojvodina. "They see what is happening in Kosovo, which is a bad sign of our possible future."

Large numbers of ethnic Hungarians have been drafted into the Yugoslav army to fight in Kosovo, as they were in Serbia's earlier wars in Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina.

"The draft is very intense and that is an additional trouble for us," Mr Jozsa said. Many Hungarians in Vojvodina are worried by Hungary's new role as a Nato member and have noticed the way that the state-controlled Serbian media always emphasises Hungarian support for the air strikes.

"The official Serbian media said airplanes were coming from Hungary, and that the fighter planes leaving Yugoslavia headed back towards Hungary. The involvement of Hungary, however minimal, is obvious," said Mr Jozsa. Some Vojvodina Hungarians are angry at Budapest's support.

"We sit at our Easter table eating together with the family, while bombs fall on our head, and destroy our bridges," said one woman in Novi Sad, who asked not to be identified.

"Hungarians on the other side of the border are making a lot of noise about Nato and Budapest's policy does not help the Hungarians here. The least they can do is stop making such a big advertisement for Nato," she said. Hungary, the only Nato member country to border Serbia, is walking a delicate tightrope as it balances its military obligations as a member of the Western alliance with fears for the safety of the minority living in Serbia. Hungary joined the alliance on 12 March with Poland and the Czech Republic.

Yugoslavia has warned its neighbours to stay out of any Nato attacks. But last month the Hungarian parliament voted to let Nato use both its airspace and military airfields for strikes against Yugoslavia. In October the parliament only allowed the use of Hungarian airspace. But Hungary has ruled out letting its armed forces take any active role in military actions against Yugoslavia.

Leaders of the ethnic Hungarian community in Vojvodina, such as Laszlo Jozsa, fear that the longer the war against Serbia continues, the more likely inter-ethnic tension is to rise.

"The souls of the people get tired and there is a risk of rising ethnic intolerance, and that this benevolent attitude will disappear," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works