Making up nearly 10% of the territory of modern day Slovakia, Felvidék was formerly part of the Kingdom of Hungary, meaning its history goes back over 1,000 years.
The name Felvidék can be loosely translated into English as “Upper Hungary”, or more literally “Upland”, but today the area sits across the southern part of Slovakia.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Kingdom of Hungary was constantly under threat from the Ottoman Empire, and as a result divided itself into specific regions, called captaincies, for more efficient administrative purposes. Upper Hungary was formed in the middle of the 16th century and located mainly in the northeastern parts of the Kingdom of Hungary, with the town of Košice as its focal point.
It briefly fell under Ottoman rule during the 1680s, and from the 18th century onward the area was regularly referred to as Felvidék, or its full name, Felső-Magyarország. The region’s ethnic Hungarian presence distinguished it from the area inhabited by Slovaks to the west, in what would eventually become Slovakia.
When the First World War ended, and Czechoslovakia was formed, it included Felvidék because the region had a small Slovak minority living there. Following the Second World War, thousands were forced to leave their homes during the Slovak-Hungarian resettlement campaign between 1946 and 1948, with Hungarians forced to settle in Slovakia.
While the general area is known, Felvidék’s lack of borders make it difficult to define as a specific region. In 2010 the Hungarian Parliament voted to give ethnic Hungarians outside of Hungary the right to claim citizenship, despite not living in the country itself. Slovakia reacted by announcing that anyone doing so would lose their Slovak citizenship as a result to discourage people from doing so. Felvidék remains a part of Slovakia, although relations between the country and Hungary are strained. When Slovakia passed a law, mandating preferential use of Slovak as the official language, and enforcing financial penalties on those using other languages, it brought with it widespread criticism from abroad.
The Party of the Hungarian Community was founded in 1998 and represents the vast majority of ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia. It has one elected MEP but has no current members in the country’s National Council.
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Felvidék makes up roughly a tenth of the territory of modern Slovakia, essentially referring to southern Slovakia’s Hungarian speaking ethnic minority. At 8.5%, Hungarians make up Slovakia’s largest ethnic minority according to the country’s 2011 census.
Slovakia’s Hungarian population has gradually fallen over the last forty years, as the general population has risen, meaning the percentage of Hungarians in Slovakia, and the population of Felvidék is on the decline.