Economic Change and the National Question in Twentieth-Century Europe

By Alice Teichova; Herbert Matis et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
Economic change and national minorities: Hungary in
the twentieth century
Ágnes Pogány

In a recent article, Heinrich August Winkler pointed out a general characteristic of research on nationalism: 'Until recently the history of nationalism … has mainly been treated as the history of its thinkers, with the focus on ideas and not on interests. The research methods have been those of the intellectual historian and not of the social historian. They tend to be phenomenalist rather than analytical.' 1 This statement could be complemented by another, namely that the aspects of economic history have also hardly been taken into account when studying not only the questions of nationalism but the problems of ethnic minorities and national identity. Although these are complex phenomena and it would be an oversimplification to explain them in purely economic terms, they are strongly intertwined with economic matters.

In the case of Hungary, the connection between economic transformation and national assimilation has been evaluated in very different ways. On the one hand some authors state that modernisation leads to the assimilation of ethnicminorities: 'it is undeniable that a natural assimilation was taking place, especially in the fast developing towns and industrial centres. The natural assimilation went on understandably as a result of modernization and industrialization. Therefore this affected those nations with a more modern social structure, whereas those with a more archaic structure resisted more effectively.' 2 In the opinion of others, however, economic development results in the awakening of the national feelings by the creation of a national middle class: 'As a consequence of capitalist modernization and of unfettered development of bourgeois conditions of labour and life the national efforts of non-Hungarian nations also gathered momentum in the second half of the 19th century.' 3 The main focus of this chapter is how economic factors influenced national minorities in twentieth-century Hungary.

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