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Serbs Squeeze Out Hungarian Culture

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We welcome the timely article ``Serb Ethnic Cleansing of Hungarians Alters Northern Province,'' Jan. 10. Since supporters of President Slobodan Milosevic came to power six years ago in this province of Yugoslavia, Vojvodina, thousands of Hungarians have been fired from professional jobs, the civil service, school boards, and the police.

Thousands of men have left the country since 1991 to avoid forced mobilization in the civil war. Hungarians made up less than 2 percent of the population of the former Yugoslavia, but their share in the Serb-dominated army grew to 8 percent. Tens of thousands of others left the country not because of poverty caused by sanctions, but because of the state of lawlessness, constant intimidation, and the hysteria stirred by the state-controlled Serbian press and TV. Hungarians are daily insulted on the streets for speaking their native tongue.

Other minorities have suffered discrimination as well. Ethnic Croats are in a situation similar to Hungarians, while Romanians, Slovaks, and others are much fewer in number, so their complaints about discrimination are not as easily heard.

We are cofounders of the Coalition for Ethnic Peace and Equality in Vojvodina, which was initiated by ethnic Croats, Hungarians, Romanians, and Slovaks who live in the United States. Hungarians and others do not want new rights; they just want to regain what they were entitled to before Serbian nationalism subjugated Vojvodina and destroyed the former Yugoslavia: hundreds of years of their heritage and their cultural identity in this multiethnic twilight zone between the volatile Balkans on the south and Hungary on the north.

Hungarian minority leaders in Vojvodina emphasize that borders must not be changed by force; Hungarians want to be loyal citizens of a democratic Serbia and Yugoslavia. Tibor Purger, Washington Sandor Szabo, Boston

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