FRESCOS TO UKRAINE, BOMBERS TO RUSSIA. Russia will return sections of frescos and mosaics taken from Kyiv's 12th century St. Michael Zolotoverkhyy Cathedral, dpa reported on 31 August. Meanwhile, Ukraine plans to turn over bombers to Moscow as part of its payment on debts for natural gas, ITARTASS reported the same day. PG

UKRAINE SAYS MOODY'S DEFAULT PREDICTION 'PREMATURE.' Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko on 31 August said Moody's prediction that Ukraine will probably default on its foreign debt is "premature," the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported. Tyhypko was commenting on Moody's statement earlier this month that of the countries with transition economies, Ukraine, Ecuador, and Moldova are closest to defaulting on their external debt. According to Tyhypko, the 2000 draft budget provides for all necessary funds with which to pay off Ukraine's debt, including interest payments. Next year, Ukraine has to repay $3.3 billion in foreign debt, according to UNIAN. JM

CHORNOBYL NOT TO BE CLOSED IN 2000? Ukraine is likely to miss the 2000 deadline to close the Chornobyl nuclear power plant because the country needs electricity for the coming winter, Reuters reported on 31 August, quoting officials from the Enerhoatom state agency. Ukraine pledged in 1995 to close Chornobyl by 2000 in exchange for Western aid to finish building two replacement reactors in Rivne and Khmelnytskyy. However, Western countries seem to be reluctant to provide such aid. "Irrespective of whether we get the assistance or not, these reactors will be built," an Enerhoatom official told AP, adding that construction may take more than two years. JM

When Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said at the 19 August inauguration of the Office for Hungarians Beyond Borders that "all citizens of Hungary and Hungarians beyond its borders are members of a single and indivisible nation," many must have recalled the late Joszef Antall's 1991 statement that he was not merely the premier of Hungary but of "15 million Hungarians." Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi commented the next day that the government "does not want to change borders, but the nature of borders."

Changing the nature of borders, as envisaged by the Hungarian government, has to do with the link between Magyars beyond borders and "territorial Hungary" or, in other words, ethnic Hungarians' relationship to their "kin-state." As Orban told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" on 26 August, this kinship must extend beyond the envisaged European integration. The Hungarians, he said, are "a small nation, culturally unrelated to any other in Europe." Their language makes them "conscious on a daily basis" that "despite their European allies, they are nonetheless alone."

Without naming it by name, Orban was, in fact, speaking about "ethnicity." But how can ethnicity survive in a context of renouncing territorial claims and of an integrated Europe in which the dominant nations will likely be the larger and economically stronger entities?

The Hungarian solution, as it has evolved over the last several years, could be said to be a "Bundist" one. Unlike Zionism, which offered a political solution to the Jewish national identity problem, Bundism sought at the turn of the century to provide a cultural solution. Preserving a separate identity (based on the Yiddish language) in a multinational environment of shared socialist values was how the Jewish socialist Bundists envisaged their future in Russia, Poland, and other places. The Jewish-Hungarian parallel can be drawn further. The extreme nationalist Justice and Life Party and some irredentist Hungarian emigres could be viewed as the Hungarian version of "revisionist" Zionism, for which only a Jewish state established within its biblical borders can redress "historical injustice."

Why a "Zionist" solution is unacceptable to the Budapest leadership is not difficult to understand. Not only would the mass immigration of ethnic Hungarians from Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, and Ukraine plunge Hungary's economy into havoc; nothing would be more welcome to the nationalists in those countries than this elegant form of "ethnic cleansing." "Let my people stay," rather than "Let my people go," is the plea in the Orban-conducted Hungarian choir.

Safeguarding ethnicity while foregoing irredentism requires, however, political and social instruments. The participation of parties representing ethnic Hungarians in ruling coalitions (as in the case of Romania since 1996 and of Slovakia since 1998) and the envisaged participation of such parties in an autonomous Vojvodina government could be viewed as a device for representing specific ethnic interests while sharing the burden of responsibility for the general (Romanian, Slovak, Vojvodinian) interest. Yet ethnicity in a multicultural environment lives, agonizes or dies on the "periphery", not at the center.

To be able to use a minority language in arguing with a policeman writing a traffic ticket and to post local council decisions in such a language ("local autonomy"); to selfmanage funds for cultural preservation in areas with a large minority population ("territorial autonomy"); and to participate in electing minority representatives regardless of place of residence ("personal autonomy")--all are as important for the survival of ethnicity as is access to higher education in minority languages.

This three-pronged autonomy concept developed by the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania comes close to offering a "Bundist" solution. Budapest embraced it as a possible solution for Vojvodina Hungarians, and it is likely to "spill over" into Slovakia soon.

Can "Hungarian Bundism" work? There is one possible precedent--interwar Estonia, where Germans, Jews, and Russians, though territorially scattered, were allowed to establish self-governing bodies with powers over culture and education, as well as some limited taxation capacity. Like the Jewish Bundists, the Estonians were influenced by the ideas of Karl Renner and Otto Bauer. But for "Hungarian Bundism" to work in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe, numerous problems would have to be overcome.

First, the envisaged solution is unacceptable not only to the Romanian, Slovak, or Serbian partisans of "exclusive nationalism"--for whom ethnic minorities are "historical intruders" without entitlement to any rights--but also to the more moderate "inclusive nationalists." The latter accept equality of rights but reject any form of "positive discrimination," without which ethnicity islands cannot survive.

Second, the "Bundist" solution might well suit the economically and culturally more developed ethnic Hungarians, but they are not the only minority around. And unlike in interwar Estonia, levels of national minorities' social development are strikingly unequal.

Can "Bundism" be applied unilaterally? What about the Roma, for instance? Would the solution not exacerbate, rather than alleviate, divisions among the already overly partitioned Romany political representation? And does it not carry the risk of offering the Roma that "Birobidjan-like" solution that racialists advocate when wanting to send them off to enclaves?

Zionism continues to pay a heavy price for ignoring the realities of "the others." It would be tragic if the revived "Bundism" made the same mistake.