Eastern Europe has one constant: reciprocal hatred EUROPE AT THE CROSSROADS: THE TIMES MIRROR SURVEYBY: Frank Starr

September 16, 1991|By Chief of The Sun's Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- On the threshold of closer integration than they have known for a half-century, Europeans in large numbers are saying that they hate each other.

As the old East Bloc joins the free world and Western Europeans look forward to economic and political integration in 1992, open expression of multiple ethnic hatreds is being heard from the Ural Mountains to the Atlantic coast, according to a poll by the Times Mirror Co.

The most widespread ethnic divisions are in Eastern Europe. From the Baltic to the Black Sea, the lifting of the enforced brotherhood of communism has re-exposed ancient hostilities so numerous and deep as to suggest among the poll's advisers a sense of "impending chaos."

Most troubling, perhaps, were two related findings: In nearly every country -- more than 60 percent in Hungary and Poland -- people believe that some neighboring territory rightly belongs to them. And even young people in significant numbers openly express ethnic hostility.

Eastern Europeans themselves recognize that significant improvement of relations may have to wait for new generations. A Pole in Bialystok half-jokingly calls it "the cemetery problem -- those who suffered grievances will have to be buried before we )) see any improvement."

In every country of Eastern Europe, 40 percent or more of those polled said they had unfavorable opinions of their country's main minority, and almost that percentage of Germans and French spoke ill of Poles and North Africans respectively. By comparison, 13 percent of white Americans hold unfavorable opinions of blacks, the pollsters said.

Czechs are angry at Slovaks, Bulgarians dislike Turks, Czechoslovaks dislike Hungarians, Russians and Ukrainians frown on Azeris, and Hungarians and Poles hate all their neighbors.

"Poles are the only nation in the survey, east or west, in which three out of four persons said they had little in common with people from other ethnic groups or races," the pollsters wrote. Dominated for centuries by Russians and Germans, three out of five Poles believe neighboring lands belong to them.

Poles are the most xenophobic people in the survey. In eastern Poland, the most xenophobic part, people expressed hostility toward Germans (53 percent), Jews (50 percent), Ukrainians (47 percent), Lithuanians (22 percent) and Byelorussians (15 percent).

Like many Eastern European countries, Hungary is a victim of its history, which has left large numbers of Hungarians just outside its borders in regions where the local majority does not like them. A half-million Hungarians live in Vojvodina, a piece of Yugoslavia that Hungary might claim if Yugoslavia breaks up.

Likewise, if Slovakia separates from Czechoslovakia, the former Hungarian uplands that span Slovakia's southern border might not be recognized by Hungary as part of Slovakia because of the hostility of Slovaks toward Hungarians (65 percent in the poll).

But Western Europe is no less free from racial hatreds. The one that unites Western and Eastern Europe is hatred of Gypsies, victims of the World War II Holocaust.

In every country where the question was asked, Europeans in overwhelming numbers expressed contempt for Gypsies -- Germany (59 percent), Czechoslovakia (91 percent), Hungary (81 percent), Bulgaria (71 percent), and Spain, where they are best known, (50 percent). In Andalusia where most Spanish Gypsies live, people looked upon them favorably by a margin of 59 percent to 31 percent.

Attitudes toward Jews in Europe were somewhat more enigmatic, the poll found. Favorable attitudes were expressed in large numbers -- 72 percent in France -- but "no opinion" ran as high as three in 10 in some countries and "unfavorable" ratings reached one in three in Slovakia and Poland, though Poland has only 10,000 Jews, or about three-hundredths of 1 percent of its total population.

But given the history of the treatment of Jews in France and Germany during World War II, the 14 percent unfavorable in France and 52 percent favorable to 24 percent unfavorable in Germany might be considered disturbing.

Do you agree that --


-- Percentage of those agreeing with the question as asked --

Freedom of speech should not be granted to fascists?*

East Germany 79%

Ukraine 73%

Hungary 72%

Lithuania 71%

Bulgaria 68%

Czechoslovakia 67%

Russia 65%

Greece 63%

Poland 62%

West Germany 59%

France 40%

United States 35%

Britain 32%

Spain 25%

Italy 23%

Parts of neighboring countries really belong to us?

Hungary 68%

Poland 60%

Bulgaria 52%

Spain 48%

Lithuania 46%

Greece 39%

Czechoslovakia 39%

West Germany 34%

Italy 29%

East Germany 25%

Ukraine 24%

Russia 22%

Britain 20%

France 12%

* In the United States the question referred not to fascists but to the Communist Party or the Ku Klux Klan. These are the findings of an 18-month study on public opinion in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. It was undertaken to assess the basic beliefs, political values and opinions of the European population as it adapts to the end of the Cold War and the economic integration of Europe.

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