CRITICS: please send protest

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas TOVESK at
Wed Apr 17 11:48:25 UTC 1996

Dear Colleague,

 We the undersigned are writing to you to ask for your support in
protesting the  violations of the linguistic human rights of the
Hungarian national minority in Slovakia.

This letter contains (1) a short description of the situation in
Slovakia, (2) a model letter, (3) possible addresses to send the
model letter to, and (4) a list of additional information one can
get on email.


      Slovaks and Hungarians have lived together in today's
Southern Slovakia for a millennium. Today about 600,000
indigenous Hungarians live in Slovakia, constituting over 10% of
the country's population. They live in a compact group and in
over 400 towns and villages form a local majority. Since 1920
Hungarians have been a national minority in Slovakia. The rights
of this community have been guaranteed by the great powers at the
Paris Peace Treaty on 10 February 1947.
      Although minority rights before and during communism were
considerably limited, since 1989 Hungarians have been subjected
to increasigly aggressive oppression. Compared to communism, the
1990 law on the official language of Slovakia curbed the
minority's language rights considerably. Then in November 1995 a
new law on the state language of Slovakia (in force since 1
January 1996) was adopted which has further restricted minority
language rights, effectively banning the use of Hungarian from
almost all public domains. For instance, until this year
Hungarian could be used in oral official contact with local
governments where Hungarians constituted over 20% of the
population. The new law, in violation of paragraph 2.b of article
34 of the Slovak constitution, has outlawed the use of Hungarian
in all official contacts, forbidding, among other things, the use
of the mother tongue between a Hungarian physician and patient.
As of 1997, the law can be enforced by extremely severe fines,
which can wipe out existing Hungarian-language publications and
broadcasts. While the state language law drastically limits the
use of minority languages, the Slovak government has broken its
repeated promises to pass a law on minority language use.
      Currently Slovakia is gerrymandering the administrative
units to eliminate Hungarian majorities through redistricting.
The Slovak cabinet approved a draft law on "the protection of the
republic," which could stifle media criticism of the government
and jail citizens for "spreading false information abroad harming
the interests of the republic." A new education law is in
preparation which could easily destroy Hungarian-language
      Hungarians are denied the right of self-determination. The
Slovak government uses intimidation and totalitarian means to
force them to assimilate or become second-class citizens. They
are the victims of language-based national discrimination.


 Enclosed is a model letter which you should modify to your
liking or just extract it from your email if you have little
time. We ask you

      - to print the letter on your university stationery
      - to include all your titles with your signature
      - to say if possible why you are personally concerned
      - to mail/fax the letter to the President and/or Prime
Minister of Slovakia and if possible also to others who might be
able to influence the matter
      - to send a copy of your letter/fax to Tove Skutnabb-Kangas
or Michael Clyne, whoever is closer to you (addresses below).


 Dear Prime Minister/President:

      I write to you to express my concern for the language
rights of the indigenous Hungarian minority in Slovakia. The Law
on the State Language of Slovakia passed on 15 November 1995
withdraws considerable linguistic human rights to minorities,
which they enjoyed before, during, and after communism - until
1996. I believe that the new law, which appears to contravene
various UN declarations, the European Charter for Minority and
Regional Languages and the 1990 CSCE Copenhagen Document, runs
counter to the present international tide of support for
bilingualism and recognition of linguistic human rights of
national and ethnic minorities.
      The historical record and current experience equally seem
to show that restrictive language legislation, rather than create
social harmony, easily leads to disharmony and antagonism between
various national communities in a state. Enjoyment of human
dignity and language rights is best achieved for citizens of a
state by making it possible for them to use the language of their
choice, rather than the language mandated by a law which is
enforced by severe fines. Such countries as Switzerland, Finland,
Australia, Norway or Luxembourg have shown that it is state-wide
promotion of linguistic tolerance that effectively creates social
harmony between various language communities. On the other hand,
the movement towards making English the official language of the
USA, which is cited as an example in justifying the Law on the
State Language of Slovakia, is condemned by the overwhelming
majority of members of the Linguistic Society of America and is
seen by many experts as a possible cause of future social
      I urge you to modify the State Language Law or complement
it with a minority language law restoring and safeguarding the
use of minority languages in Slovakia. I am convinced that the
primacy of Slovak in Slovakia can be maintained and ensured
without weakening the ethnic identity and curbing the linguistic
human rights of minorities in your country.


 Please fax or mail your letter to the following addresses:

 Kancelaria presidenta SR
 Michal Kovac, President of the Slovak Republic
 Primacialne nam. 1.
 811 01 Bratislava
 Slovakia, Europe

 Fax: 42-7-531 70 67 (42 is the country code, 7 the Bratislava
area code)

 Urad vlady SR
 Vladimir Meciar, Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic
 Nam. Slobody 1
 813 70 Bratislava
 Slovakia, Europe

 Fax: 42-7-315 484

 We suggest that your letter also be sent to any others who you
think may be able to influence the situation. It seems to be a
good idea to send the letter to your own prime minister and
foreign minister, and also some members of the European
Parliament from your own country if your country is a member of
the EU.
      Please share this information with other colleagues. We
have sent this letter to several email-lists and individual
colleagues but the more researchers we reach the better.


      If you would like to have more background information, we
have compiled a package of articles which we consider relevant.
The authors of the articles are in no way involved and in many
cases we have not even been able to inform them or ask for their
permission to circulate their articles (we apologise for that).
The information package contains the following:


 1. The Slovak State Language Law (1995) (translation)

 2. Language Rights in Slovakia (LINGUIST List: Vol-7-167;

 3. Proclamation of the Hungarians in Slovakia (3/15/96)

 4. Analysis: "The new Law on the State Language of Slovakia:
Deliberate Ambiguity" by Istvan Lanstyak

 5. Article: "English Only's Cousin: Slovak Only" by Miklos
Kontra (submitted to the journal Acta Linguistica Hungarica)

 OMRI Daily Digests:

 6. US criticises Slovak human rights record (3/7/96)

 7. Troubled Slovak-EU relations (2/28/96)

 8. Slovak parliament approves administrative reform (3/25/96)

 9. Slovakia approves draft law on "subversion" (3/12/96)

 Translated articles from the Hungarian press in Slovakia:

 10. They humiliate children (1/24/96)

 11. Helplessness in the nationality schools (1/26/96)

 12. A statement of the Hungarian Coalition (2/2/96)

 13. Nobody teaches a dog to meow or a cat to bark (2/15/96)

 14. Physician turns vigilant linguistic policeman (2/9/96)

 15. The language police goes to the churches (3/12/96)

If you would like to have one or several of these, please email
one of the following people and specify the number(s) of the
item(s) you would like to have:

Phil Benson, email pbenson at
Richard Benton, email richard.benton at
Kea Kangas, email keakanga at
Robert Phillipson, email robert at
Mart Rannut, email rannut at

Michael Clyne, email mclyne at; address Monash
University, Language and Society Centre, Menzies Building,
Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, email tovesk at; address
University of Roskilde, 3.2.4, P.O.Box 260, DK-4000 Roskilde,

Wishing that you can find the few minutes it takes to extract and
send the letter, we remain sincerely yours

Ulrich Ammon, Annamalai, John Baugh, Phil Benson, Richard Benton,
Birgit Brock-Utne, Chris Candlin, Kip Cates, J.K.Chambers,
Michael Clyne, David Corson, Teun van Dijk, Joshua Fishman,
Francois Grin, Hartmut Haberland, Rainer Enrique Hamel, Cees
Hamelink, Eduardo Hernandez-Chavez, Deirdre Jordan, Braj Kachru,
Yamuna Kachru,  Miklos Kontra, Cheris Kramarae, Willian Labov,
Leo van Lier, Angeline Martel, Sonia Nieto, Masaki Oda, Harold
Ormsby, Uldis Ozolins, Robert Phillipson, Dennis R.Preston, Mart
Rannut, Ivan A.Sag, Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Peter Trudgill, Joan
Wink, Ruth Wodak.

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Roskilde University, Dept of Languages and
Culture, 3.2.4., PB 260, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark, phone 45-46-75 77
11/2740, fax 45-46-75 44 10, private: Troenninge Mose 3, DK-4420
Regstrup, Denmark, phone 45-53-46 44 12
email: TOVESK at

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