Assimilation versus Cultural Autonomy: The Struggle for the Czech and Slovak Minority Rightsin Austria in the 20th Century
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This paper outlines the signiﬁcance of a fundamental dilemma in qualifying minority rights in the 20th century during the three periods separated by the years 1918, 1945,1989, and it argues that there was the continuing contradiction between the principle of state sovereignty and territorial integrity on the one hand, and the recognition of national self-determination on the other hand. From the end of the WWI in 1918, ethnic or national minorities were also seen as a potential danger for keeping the peace. In this context the following questions are still relevant. Austrian national law (Nationalitätenrecht) was ahead of its time, and it has become clear today that concepts such as minority, autonomy and individual versus collective rights were addressed by legislation and discussed in both parts of the monarchy as early as the second half of the 19th century. The development of the status of minorities in Austria in the twentieth century was very interesting and it largely depended on the developments in the international political arena, on the role of Austria in the international community, and not least on the stability of the political system with its institutions and democratic progress. Only in 1976 a law was passed that recognized the rights of six autochthonous minorities. This law epitomizes the wish of the Austrian Government to unify the position of minorities in Austria. The Czech and the Slovak minorities have acquired the status of autochthonous minorities. Minority protection in Austria, however, applies only to those minority groups which are recognized as autochthonous minorities and at the same time possess Austrian citizenship. Migrants of different nationality, who come to Austria but ethnically belong to an autochthonous minority, cannot beneﬁt from this protection.
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