I. Settlement area


The ethnic group of the “Burgenland Croats” is today represented in four states: in Austria (Burgenland, Vienna), in Slovakia (several villages near Bratislava), the Czech Republic (South Moravia) and in Hungary (along the Austrian border). The ethnographic term “Burgenland Croats” refers to the descendants of those Croats who were settled by the landlords of the time in the devastated and deserted villages of what was then western Hungary during the 16th and 17th centuries. Historians estimate that between 60,000 and 100,000 people were settled over 450 years.

Members of the Croatian ethnic group live in six of Burgenland’s seven political districts. Only in the southernmost part of the province, in the district of Jennersdorf, are there no Croatian or mixed-language localities. The Croats do not make up the majority in any of these districts; in relative terms there are the most Croats in the district of Oberpullendorf, and in absolute terms in the district of Eisenstadt. There are Croatian “language islands” in all six districts, although these in turn are interspersed with German-speaking localities.

Only in the district of Oberpullendorf and partly in the district of Eisenstadt is there a more or less compact Croatian or increasingly bilingual area. There are no longer 100% Croatian-speaking localities; the largest Croatian-speaking population is found in the smaller localities (500 to 1500 inhabitants, 80% to 95% Croats) in the district of Oberpullendorf.

A considerable part of the ethnic group has settled in Vienna, mainly for economic reasons (lack of labour in Burgenland). This process began after the First World War and continues to this day. Some of these people are weekly commuters, others live permanently in Vienna. The Burgenland Croats in Vienna are well organised both culturally and politically.


II Numerical strength and development


According to official statistics, in 1991 there were 19,460 people in Burgenland who declared Croatian as their mother tongue or used Croatian as their everyday language. In Vienna, this figure was around 6,300 people. According to church surveys, around 35,000 people in Burgenland wish to attend Sunday mass in Croatian, while the Croatian Cultural Association estimates that at least 15,000 Burgenland Croats live in Vienna. This discrepancy illustrates very well the problematic nature of official surveys.


III Social situation of the ethnic group


The members of the ethnic group do not differ at all from the average Burgenlander as far as their social integration is concerned. They participate in social life in the same way as members of the majority population. The Croats are also integrated into the labour market like all other Burgenlanders.

However, it must be mentioned here that many Burgenlanders have to commute to the larger urban centres (Vienna, Graz) due to their jobs; in very few Burgenland towns there are larger companies that offer work to a larger number of people.

However, the members of the ethnic group are more affected by this circumstance in that they can only rarely use their mother tongue at work. This fact is very detrimental to the use of the language and consequently also to language skills. For the most part, Croatian is only spoken in the private sphere, at home with family, among friends, in the village pub, etc. Due to these circumstances, increasing mobility and the growing influence of the mass media, the area in which Croatian can still be spoken is very limited.

Assimilation is thus progressing more and more. The ethnic group is constantly shrinking, and Croatian is being spoken less and less, especially among children and young people. Even among those who still speak Croatian, language skills are generally declining.


IV. Demands


The following measures are urgently needed to improve the situation of the Croatian ethnic group:

  • Elimination of the deficiencies in the education system from kindergarten to university
  • Fulfilment of Article 7 of the State Treaty of Vienna in the spirit of and in cooperation with the ethnic group
  • Elimination of the restrictive, in part even anti-ethnic group law of 1976 and creation of new provisions for the protection of the ethnic groups.
  • Creation of a climate in favour of the ethnic groups in everyday life, beyond Sunday speeches and lip service. Only in an appropriate environment can members of the ethnic group be motivated to profess their ethnic group language, to use it and to pass it on to their descendants.
  • Rapid legal and de facto implementation of the recommendations from the monitoring of the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

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