Ukraine’s Hungarian Minority Allowed to Teach and Educate in Hungarian Once Again

Ukraine's Hungarian minority has emerged as a focal point in Hungary-Ukraine relations, with approximately 150,000 ethnic Hungarians primarily residing in the Zakarpattia region. The tension between the neighbouring nations stems from Ukraine's language laws enacted in the wake of the 2014 annexation of Crimea, which were designed to diminish Russian influence. Among these laws passed in 2017 was a requirement for Ukrainian to be the language of instruction beyond the fifth grade, leading to discontent among Romanian, Bulgarian, and Hungarian minorities, and conflicting with the EU's membership criteria.

However, in a significant development last December, Ukraine revised its education and language legislation to adhere to the EU's membership standards, thereby restoring various language rights advocated by Budapest. Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó lauded the move, stating, “The law adopted at the end of last year in Ukraine undoubtedly deserves respect. It stopped a negative spiral.”

The Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC), a private Hungarian educational institution operating in Hungary and neighbouring countries including Ukraine, welcomed the revised law, which now permits teaching in the Hungarian language once again within Ukraine.

Milán Constantinovits, MCC’s Deputy Director of Professional Affairs, states that, “Ninety percent of Hungarian students who come [to the MCC in Ukraine] are quite sure that they consider Hungarian as their primary identity.” Yet, “[In Ukraine] very often, the ethnic tensions that enter this multi-ethnic space come from outside. The inhabitants who live side by side, the natives of this area, basically have no problems with each other. Many times this is an artificially generated flaring of tensions.”

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