Who separates whom in Transcarpathia?

Recently, Transcarpathia and Transcarpathian Hungarians in particular have been under increasing pressure. Hungarians living here and, in some cases, Transcarpathia itself, are accused of isolating themselves from the country, thus exhibiting separatist behavior. Every week, the Ukrainian central TV channels broadcast „investigative” reports that encourage people living in other regions of Ukraine against Transcarpathians, and show no realistic picture of the region and people living here. These are superficial, populist reports that never reflect the causes and effects of the local situation.
Usually the main accusation against Hungarians living in Transcarpathia is that they don’t speak Ukrainian, as if this were the only criterion for a decent citizen. This accusation is not plausible mainly because since 2008 thousands of secondary school graduates managed to pass the Ukrainian language exam, which requires almost a native level of knowledge. Others, who did not achieve this level, i.e. did not pass the exam necessary for the admission into a Ukrainian higher educational institution, still speak the language on a certain level. The problem is that the Ukrainian state expects the Transcarpathian Hungarians to speak the official language on a higher level than some native speakers. Otherwise their knowledge of the language would be accepted by the authorities, as it is accepted in the case of graduates who failed the language exam in other regions of Ukraine and who speak a peculiar mixture of Slavic languages and understand each other well. This is also proved by the fact that some of the Russian-speaking reports on Ukrainian central television speak about Transcarpathian Hungarians who, according to professor Farion, are morons because they don’t speak Ukrainian. One can witness the knowledge of the state language in Kyiv, where a significant part of the population speaks Russian, the majority of the advertisements are in Russian, and the Russian ads that had been removed were replaced with English ones. By the way, according to the 2001 census 41% of the Transcarpathian Hungarians, 49% of Romanians and 69% of Ukrainians admitted that they do not speak any other language but their native one, which means that the most monolinguals and monoculturals are among Ukrainians.

Transcarpathians were accused of separatism also because of the economic and social support from Hungary. This is absurd because a state in such a disastrous economic situation should be happy to receive any support and assistance its population receives to survive. All the financial support from abroad provides income for the state as well. First, the incoming finances are subject to tax. Second, they provide workplaces, directly or indirectly. Third, the new workplaces help the population, the state itself, as well as the development of the economy. If everyone leaves the country, then who will be building the economy? And finally, the new workplaces mean that employers pay taxes for the citizens they employ, which also enriches the state budget. This is significant income for the state in the case of every citizen, since the amount of taxes can be up to 50-60% of the total income. All these taxes are transferred into the central budget and contribute to the bottomless well of the system.

Another argument is that the support received by the social and cultural sectors is spent on tasks that should have been financed and performed by the state itself during the recent decades. By taking the responsibility for the projects that should be fulfilled by the state, the work conditions of the citizens are made more comfortable and, on the long term, the state-owned buildings are being repaired, modernized, thus their maintenance costs are reduced.
Also: the state funds that should have been used for these projects remain available, thus helping to maintain the stability of the budget and can be spent on the development of other branches of the economy.

People living in Transcarpathia would be happier if they did not have to submit grant proposals to provide the survival of their families. Every person, regardless of the place they live in, does their best to provide a more or less predictable future for themselves and their families, to feel safe and have the opportunities to accomplish their goals. This, as well as every economic investment, requires a predictable political and legal environment, in which people are entitled to the produced goods and taxes not on the basis of the principle of equal and more equal individuals, but at least more or less equally. The investigative reports never examine the situation in Transcarpathia from this viewpoint. But the facts and numbers speak for themselves.

The road-financing project titled “An experiment on road infrastructure” has been in force in Transcarpathia for only 2 years, since 2017. The main point of the project is that 50% of the taxes paid above the previously planned amount is spent on the renovation of the road network of the region. But, it does not really work in practice. In 2017, only 362 million hryvnias were transferred from Kyiv, which is 107 million less than the expected amount. Meanwhile, the program has been working in the neighboring Lviv region since 2015. 2,5 billion hryvnias were transferred here for the renovation of the road network between 2015 and 2017.

If we take a closer look at the investments arriving to Transcarpathia, we see that the region receives 1,3% of all the investments in Ukraine, while Lviv region receives 5,4%.

The amount of medical and educational transfers to Transcarpathia is 2.8% of the overall Ukrainian transfers, while for Lviv it is 5.6%.

Similar situation occurs in the case of the subsidies for the two regions: Transcarpathia receives 3,2% of all the Ukrainian subsidies, while Lviv region receives 6,9%.

From the State Regional Development Fund, Transcarpathia received 1.4% of the investments between 2015 and 2017, while Ternopil region received – 47.1% of the transfers paid from the Fund, i.e. 44 times more than Transcarpathia.

These numbers indicate that the central authorities separate Transcarpathia, as if they wanted to remove it from the state. This process is enhanced by the fact that more than two dozens of railway stations, including the one in Berehove, are planned to be terminated. Most of these stations are freight stations, which means that their termination will lead to the further regression of the Transcarpathian economy.

Maintaining contact with the capital has become even harder due to the termination of some train routes. The Uzhgorod airport is still out of service, though it used to be in charge of the internal Ukrainian air traffic. The roads of the region are in a terrible condition; Uzhgorod, the administrative center of the region, as well as Mukachevo, the transport center of the region, are both inaccessible by train from Rakhiv and Yasinya. This is due to the fact that the local railway was built in the times of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy and follows the natural geographic routes. After the former Maramorosh region was split and attached to the Soviet Union, a 30 kilometer-long part of the railroad after Kobylets’ka Polyana remained on the land that is now owned by Romania. A new railroad was not built either in the Soviet era, or in the independent Ukraine. If we really intend to attach Transcarpathia to the blood flow of the Ukrainian state, it is necessary to unite transport routes and to ensure freedom of movement which is rather restricted, as the above stated facts indicate.

Checkpoint in the village Uzhok, at the foot of the pass, 12.10.2018.

During the recent weeks we could read on numerous occasions that military corps are planned to be installed in Berehove to detect disruptive activities and to ensure the safety of the local population. It is questionable whether it will contribute to the achievement of these goals, since Transcarpathia is the most surveyed region in Ukraine, compared to other regions. Transcarpathia is the only region in Ukraine with checkpoints on its borders, which are similar to the state border checkpoints. One cannot find these even between states in the united Europe. These regional checkpoints are 100-150 km from the state borders and serve to filter out disruptive elements and economic crimes.

Checkpoint at the top of the Uzhok pass
Checkpoint at the Tatar pass
Checkpoint in the village Uzhok, at the foot of the pass
Checkpoint at the top of the Uzhokpass
Checkpoint at the Verecke pass

During the recent years, the atrocities against the Hungarian minority, the smuggling and human trafficking on the state borders, which are reported on in the news, disprove the effectiveness of those checkpoints. From the viewpoint of an average Transcarpathian citizen it seems that Kyiv wants to separate the region. Based on the above stated facts, we would like to answer the question on whether there is separatism in Transcarpathia with the words of an old Transylvanian Hungarian man from an old joke: there hasn’t been so far, but there is a great demand for it, especially from the authorities in Kyiv.

Tivadar Lehoczky Social Research Center