© Created in January 2001, Last revised: January 3, 2004
THE LAW OF NATIONALITIES
(Act XLIV of the year 1868.)
since all citizens of Hungary, according to the principles of the constitution, form from a political point of view one nation — the indivisible unitary Hungarian nation — of which every citizen of the fatherland is a member, no matter to what nationality he belongs: since, moreover, this equality of right can only exist with reference to the official use of the various languages of the country, and only under special provisions, in so far as is rendered necessary by the unity of the country and the practical possibility of government and administration; the following rules will serve as standard regarding the official use of the various languages, while in all other matters the complete equality of the citizens remains untouched.
§ 1. Since by reason of the political unity of the nation the state language of Hungary is the Magyar, the language of deliberation and business in the Hungarian Parliament is in future also the Magyar; the laws will be promulgated in the Magyar language, but are also to be published in an authentic translation in the languages of all other nationalities inhabiting the country; the official language of the Government in all branches of the administration is in future also the Magyar.
§ 2. The minutes of the county assemblies (Jurisdictions) are to be kept in the official language of the State ; but they can also be kept at the same time in that language which at least one-fifth of the members of the body representing the Jurisdiction wishes as the language of the minutes.
If divergences should occur between the different texts, the Magyar (text) is the authoritative one.
§ 3. In the assemblies of the Jurisdictions every one who possesses the right to speak in them, can speak either in Magyar, or in his mother tongue in the event of this not being Magyar.
§ 4. The Jurisdictions, in their communications with the Government, employ the official language of the State ; but they can also employ in a parallel column one of those languages which they use in their minutes. In communicating with each other, however, they can employ either the language of State or one of those languages which has been adopted under § 2 for the conduct of the minutes, by that Jurisdiction to which their communication is directed.
§ 5. In the conduct of internal business the officials of the jurisdictions employ the official language of State ; but in so far as this involves practical difficulties with regard to one or other jurisdiction or official, the officials in question can in exceptional cases employ one of the languages used for the minutes in their Jurisdiction. Whenever, however, considerations of state control or administration demand it, their reports and official documents are to be submitted in the official language of State also.
§ 6. The officials of the Jurisdictions, within the limits of their jurisdiction, in their official intercourse with the communes, assemblies, associations, institutions and private individuals, employ so far as possible the language of the latter.
§ 7. Every inhabitant of the country — in those cases in which without the intervention of an advocate he personally claims or can claim, as plaintiff, defendant or petitioner, the protection of the law and the help of the judge — can employ
(a) before his own communal court — his mother-tongue.
(b) before any other communal court — the language of business or of the minutes in the Commune in question.
(c) before his own District Court — the language of business or of the minutes in his own commune,
(d) before other courts, whether they may belong to his own or to another Jurisdiction — the language of the minutes employed by that Jurisdiction to which the court in question belongs.
§ 8. In cases to which § 7 applies the Judge deals with the charge or the petition in the language of the charge or of the petition; he conducts in the language of the parties at law or of the parties cited, as the case may be, both the hearing of parties and witnesses (in the case), the examination in court and other legal functions of the judge both in litigation and in criminal cases ; but he conducts the reports of the trial in that language which the parties at law choose by mutual understanding from among the languages in which the minutes are conducted in the Jurisdiction. Should an understanding not be reached in this connexion, then the judge can conduct the report of the trial in one of the languages used for the minutes in the jurisdiction, but is bound to declare its contents to the parties, if necessary even by the help of an interpreter.
In the same way the judge is bound to declare or to get interpreted to the parties the most important documents of the trial, if these should be written in a language which one or other of the parties does not understand.
The writ of summons is, in the interests of the party to be summoned, to be drawn up in his mother-tongue if this can at once be established, but otherwise in the language used for the minutes in the commune in which the party to be summoned dwells, or else in the official language of State.
The verdict of the judge is to be pronounced in the language in which the reports of the trial were drawn up ; but the judge is bound to announce or publish it to each individual party in that language which the latter desires, in so far as this language is one of the languages used for the minutes by the county assembly to which the judge belongs.
§ 9. In all those civil and criminal actions which are to be conducted subject to the intervention of an advocate, the hitherto prevailing practice, both as to the language in which the trial is to be conducted and as to the language in which the verdict is to be pronounced, will be everywhere maintained in courts of first instance — so long as the legislature does not come to any decision regarding the final organization of the courts of first instance and the introduction of oral proceedings.
§ l0. The Church courts themselves prescribe their language of business.
§ 11. In the land registration offices the business language of the particular court is to be used for the conduct of their business ; but if the parties demand it, both the decision and the extract are to be given in the official language of State or in one of the languages used for the minutes by the County Assembly in whose territory the registration office is situated.
§ 12. In appealed cases, which were not conducted in the Magyar language, or in which certain of the documents are not Magyar, the Court of Appeal gets the records of the trial and the documents so far as is necessary translated into Magyar by those accredited translators who are to be appointed at state expense at all courts of appeal; and brings up the action for trial in this attested translation.
The Court of Appeal will always draw up its decrees, resolutions and verdicts in the official language of State.
When the case has gone down to the competent court of first instance, the latter will be bound to announce or publish the decree, resolution or verdict to each party in the language in which the latter demands it, provided that this language is the business language of the court or a language of the minutes in the county assemblies.
§ 13. The official language of all Courts which are appointed by the Government, is exclusively the Magyar.
§ 14. The Church congregations can, without infringement of the legal rights of their ecclesiastical superiors, prescribe according to their pleasure the language in which the registers are to be drawn up, and in which their church affairs are to be conducted, and further — within the limits imposed by the Education Act — the language of instruction in their schools.
§ 15. The higher church corporations and authorities themselves determine the language of deliberation, of the minutes, of the conduct of business, and of intercourse with their parishes. If this should not happen to be the official language of State, then for reasons of state control the minutes are to be submitted in an authentic translation in the official language of State also.
When the different churches or higher ecclesiastical authorities communicate with one another, they employ either the official language of State or the language of that Church with whom they are communicating.
§ 16. The upper and supreme Church authorities, in their memorials to the Government, make use either of their business language or their language of minutes, adding in parallel columns the official language of State ; in their memorials to the local assemblies and their organs, they can use the language of State, or where the minutes are in several languages, one of these ; but the church congregations, in their official intercourse with the Government and with their own Jurisdictions, can use the official language of State or their own business language, while in their intercourse with any other Jurisdiction, they can employ one of the languages used by the latter for its minutes.
§ 17. The right of prescribing the language of instruction in those schools which have already been erected by the State or the Government, or in those schools which may in the future be erected according to need, forms — in so far as the law does not prescribe — part of the duties of the Minister of Education. But since from the standpoint of general culture and well-being, the success of public instruction is one of the highest aims of the State also, the State is, therefore, bound to ensure that citizens living together in considerable numbers, of whatever nationality, shall be able to obtain instruction in the neighbourhood in their mother-tongue, up to the point where the higher academic education begins.
§ 18. In those secondary and higher educational institutions belonging to the State, which at present exist or may in the future be erected in districts where more than one language is in general use, chairs of language and literature are to be erected for each of these languages.
§ 19. In the National University the language of the lectures is the Magyar ; at the same time chairs are to be erected for the languages belonging to this country and for their literatures — in so far as such chairs have not already been erected.
§ 20. The communal assemblies themselves choose the language of their minutes and business. The minutes are also to be conducted in that language which one-fifth of the voting members regards as necessary.
§ 21. The communal officials are bound, in their intercourse with persons belonging to the commune, to use the language of the latter.
§ 22. In its memorials to its County assembly and the latter's organs and to the Government, the commune can employ the official language of State or its own business language : in its memorials to other municipalities and their organs, either the official language of State or one of the languages in which the municipality in question conducts its minutes.
§ 23. Every citizen of the country can submit his memorials to his own commune, to his ecclesiastical authorities, to his municipality and its organs, and to the Government, in his mother-tongue.
In his memorials to other communes or municipalities and their organs, he can employ either the official language of State or the language of the minutes, or one of the languages used for its minutes by the commune or municipality in question.
The use of languages in the province of Justice is regulated by §§ 7 to 13.
§ 24. In communal and church assemblies those who have the right to speak, can freely use their mother tongue.
§ 25. When private persons, churches, private societies or educational institutions and communes lacking autonomy do not in their memorials to the Government employ the official language of the State, the Magyar original text of the document dealing with such memorials is to be supplemented by an authentic translation in the language of the memorial.
§ 26. As hitherto, so in the future both individual citizens, communes, churches and congregations of whatever nationality, shall have the right to erect by their own exertions and in the way of association both elementary secondary and higher educational institutions. With this object and for the erection of other institutions which advance the cause of language, art, science, agriculture, industry and commerce, the individual citizens can, subject to the legal control of the State, join together in societies or leagues, can draw up statutes, and after the Government has sanctioned these statutes, can act in accordance with them; they can also collect money funds and can, subject to Governmental control, administer these funds in conformity with their lawful national claims.
Educational and other institutions which have been founded in this manner enjoy equal rights with state institutions of a similar character — but the schools, only in the event of the provisions of the law of Public Instruction being observed.
The language of private institutions and societies is prescribed by the founders.
The societies and the institutions founded by them communicate with one another in their own language ; in their intercourse with others the provisions of § 23 are decisive regarding the use of language.
§ 27. Since in future also personal capacity will be the decisive factor in the filling of offices, a person's nationality cannot be regarded as an obstacle to his appointment to an office or dignity in the country. On the contrary, the Government will take care that in the judicial and administrative offices of the country, especially in the office of High Sheriff, persons of the various nationalities shall so far as possible be employed, who possess the necessary linguistic knowledge to a full degree, and who are also otherwise qualified.
§ 28. The provisions of the older laws, which conflict with the above regulations, are hereby annulled.
§ 29. The provisions of this law do not extend to Croatia Slavonia and Dalmatia, which possess a special territory and form politically a special nation; for these (countries) the decision in matters of language will depend upon that agreement which has been reached between the Hungarian Parliament on the one hand and the Croatian-Slavonian Parliament on the other hand, by right of which the deputies of these countries may in the Joint Hungarian-Croatian Parliament speak in their mother-tongue also.
 By Law IV. 1869 § 3 all Judges are nominated by the King through the Minister of Justice.