|THE NATIONALITIES PROBLEM IN TRANSYLVANIA 1867-1940|
The Right to Use the Romanian Language on
The Act on nationalities addressed the use of minority languages in 29 Articles. Having designated Hungarian as the official language of the state, it prescribed the publication of authenticated translations of all laws into the languages of the nationalities (Article 1). In Articles 2 through 5 it regulated the spoken and written use of the languages of the nationalities by the authorities. In Article 6 it stated that "in their official contacts with the communities, assemblies, associations, institutions, and private individuals, representatives of the authorities are to use the language of these entities, as far as possible." Further on, the law guaranteed the nationalities the free usage of their language, spoken or written, in the various courts of law (Article 7 through 16), defined the use of language in schools, communities, and
local assemblies. In Article 20 it declared that the local assemblies were free to choose their language of record and of transactions. According to Article 21 "the officials of the communities were required to use the language of the residents in their contacts with them." Further provisions (Articles 22 through 25) prescribed the use of the mother tongue for individuals and communities in their petitions and applications addressed to various authorities; moreover, the law granted the right to establish schools with a national character, and their equal status with state institutions at the same level. Finally, under Article 27, the law defined a principle of decisive importance for the observation of the above prescriptions:
The most decisive consideration in appointments to offices will continue to be individual competence and ability; national background cannot be an obstacle to assuming any office or title in the country. On the contrary, the central government will, as far as possible, strive to employ in its courts of law and administrative posts, representatives of the various nationalities who are perfectly familiar with the required languages and who are otherwise qualified for the post.
If we examine this Act in the light of the treatment of minorities prevailing throughout Europe at the time, its democratic and profoundly liberal spirit becomes immediately apparent. French, German, and English authors alike praised it. According to the Frenchman Louis Eisenmann, the provisions of the law gave evidence of a "spirit of generosity and a sincere desire for justice," hence the law was "tres liberale." 1
The Frenchmen Vincenty and Ruyasen, the Germans Harold Steinacker and Isbert, and the Scotsman Carlile Aylmer Macartney also commented positively on the liberal nature of the law. Yet foreign scholars were equally unanimous in contrasting the spirit of the law with its neglect after 1868, largely on the basis of statements by members of the nationalities in Hungary. 2 During the Dual Monarchy and with astounding unanimity after 1918, the nationalities in the country insisted that the Hungarians had never observed the provisions of the Act. 3
Indeed, the lawmakers failed to provide for certain key eventualities. First of all, they neglected to specify penalties for disobeying the law. They also failed to formulate certain portions of it clearly and without ambiguity. The first issue not specifying penalties can be accounted for by the liberal spirit of the times. As we know, the
advocates of liberalism attributed a decisive role to reason in the observation of the laws. They were convinced that reasonable individuals would observe reasonable laws even without punitive sanctions, and such sanctions were likewise omitted from other laws of the period. The second mistake was the use of the phrase "as far as possible," where categorical imperatives would have served better. The lawmakers prescribed that the civil servants should speak the language of their constituents "as far as possible," and the government was also required, "as far as possible," to appoint representatives of the nationalities to various leading positions.
Hence the application of the law depended on the respect for the law on the part of Hungarian authorities and civil servants, or, rather, their goodwill towards specific ethnic groups. Whether such goodwill existed or not, was to a large extent a function of the attitude assumed by the nationality in question. In other words, the application of the law on nationalities, its partial or total neglect, also depended on the attitude of a given nationality towards the Hungarians. Thus, to look at the issue objectively, it is obvious that the nationalities had to bear the responsibility, along with the Hungarian state and its agencies, for the disregard of certain provisions of the law, or the failure to apply them.
Eisenmann hit the nail on the head when he referred to the "generous spirit" of the lawmakers; because, indeed, their contribution demonstrated precisely that quality. Let us take another look at the circumstances. In 1848-49 the Hungarians had lost the War of Independence against the Habsburgs basically because a large fraction of the nationalities, especially the Romanians of Transylvania, sided with the Austrian imperial family which had earned the contempt of all liberals in Europe and was rightly regarded as reactionary. As a consequence of their stand, tens of thousands of Hungarians lost their lives. Nagyenyed and other towns in Transylvania were wiped out because the nationalities in certain areas the Serbians in the southern districts and the Romanians in Transylvania massacred the Hungarians. Twenty years of autocratic rule by Austro-Germans and Czechs followed. Again it was the Hungarians who suffered most, whereas the nationalities, primarily the Romanians, grew stronger at the expense of the Hungarians. Then came a turn favorable to the Hungarians, resulting from the rapid deterioration of Austria's international position and the consequent need to conciliate the Hungarians. When preparations for this peace were undertaken, the Emperor revealed to the Romanian bishop Saguna the seriousness of the undertaking and the events likely to take place. The Emperor advised him to adjust to the new situation: The Romanians should enter into
peace negotiations with the Hungarians leaders. 4 If he, the Emperor of Austria, was forced to take such steps, then the Romanians should not feel bad about doing the same. The Romanians, however, were reluctant to take the initiative: They insisted on the autonomy of Transylvania and on Romanian leadership, on the grounds of their numerical superiority. Consequently, instead of conducting negotiations with the Hungarians, mainly with Ferenc Deak and Gyula Andrassy, they attempted to prevent an Austro-Hungarian Compromise. In 1867, when this compromise came about not withstanding, the representatives of the Romanians finally called upon Deak, a few days before the coronation, and asked for his support in protecting the special interests of the Romanians of Transylvania.
Deak received them kindly and carefully read to them the proposals regarding the future of Transylvania. He added that the Romanians were somewhat late with their requests; had they come up with them a year earlier, their requests could have been met. Since the Romanians referred to the example of Croatia, Deak pointed out the difference. In Croatia there was but one nationality, whereas in Transylvania there were three. One must take into consideration not only the wishes of the Romanians, but of other nations as well. 5 Then came the coronation, and discussion of the proposed legislation so decisive for the future of the Romanians got underway in 1868. Even then the Romanians exhibited an attitude which could only have increased the distrust the Hungarians had felt and reawakened their sad memories of 1848-49. On May 15, 1868, they issued a proclamation at Balazsfalva in which they rejected the basic law sanctioned by the ruler and demanded its repeal and the restoration of the conditions which prevailed before 1865. Thus they set an example for the other nationalities, who reacted similarly. Soon they went even further. They joined hands with the Pan-Slav representatives and, according to Romanian sources, discussed the possibility of overthrowing the Dual Monarchy and dividing Hungary up into cantons on the Swiss model, by nationality. When it came to the proposed law on nationalities, they presented counter-proposals which would have placed the Hungarians under the nationalities under the Romanians in the case of Transylvania except for the Hungarians in the region between the Danube and the Tisza. According to Puscariu:
This seemed unrealistic, given the stage the Hungarians had reached thanks to their successes. Therefore, neither the Saxons of Transylvania, nor the Germans of Hungary, nor even the Slovaks joined the resolution. The Romanians of Transylvania
should have insisted on the language laws of Szeben rather than join the counter proposal of the nationalities which was inappropriate for them.
Hence the attitude of the Romanians, whether before the nationalities' law or during the debates, was not likely to inspire confidence among Hungarians. In spite of this, the nationalities' law defined significant rights regarding the use of the languages of the nationalities, including Romanian. Deak, Eotvos, and the Deak-party hoped that the law, which was indeed generous, would contribute to reconciliation between Hungarians and the nationalities. Unfortunately, this did not happen. The adamant attitude of the Romanians merely elicited further distrust among the Hungarians. At the beginning of 1869, after the Romanians withdrew from the discussion of the proposed law on nationalities; they declared political passivity at their meeting held at Szerdahely, along with the Serbians and the Ruthenians. Thus they openly indicated that they did not recognize the new constitutional setup and had no intention of fitting into it. "We Romanians," the official paper of the Romanian bishopric of Nagyszeben was to state, "lacked sufficient political maturity to unanimously accept the legal basis for our development and thus to draw the attention of the leaders of the state to our power.' 7
In the first years of the Dual Monarchy, Romanians enjoyed well-defined conditions more or less suitable to our national development within the lands of the Hungarian crown, because of the practice that had evolved during the provisional regime and on the basis of the laws brought about by the constitutional parliament in Hungary.
Our school system protected by the shield of the church, was safe from government intervention.
In our villages, the Romanian language became the official language without ado. The taxpayers' right to vote seemed a
sufficient guarantee that eventually we will attain self-rule, at least at the community level.
Everywhere in the courts the Romanian inhabitants could find people who understood their language, knew their needs and customs, and were favorably disposed towards them. They accepted all petitions in Romanian, and issued their decisions in the same language.
In the provinces with a Romanian population, there was a host of Romanian officials to whom we could turn in complete confidence; and nobody questioned our right to use our own language in public affairs.
Even at the highest court (the Royal Curia) and in the departments of the ministries we had representatives who could provide accurate information about our problems and could intervene with complete goodwill on our behalf. 8
The former editor of the Tribuna, Slavici repeated the above statements almost word for word in his autobiography written after World War I.
As a consequence of practices introduced at the time of the provisional regime, and on the basis of the law on nationalities, Romanians had the right to use their language in administration and before the courts of law. In 1872, this right was respected, and the suits brought by Romanian parties could be pursued in Romanian to the highest levels where the decisions or sentences also were handed down in Romanian. The rights of the Romanians were recognized even better in administration. 9
The data provided by the contemporary Romanian press confirm the facts in these two statements. In those years, wherever Romanian leaders so proposed, Romanian was declared the official language of record and of conducting business. Such was the case in the counties of Zarand, Belso-Szolnok, Hunyad, Arad, and elsewhere. In Belso-Szolnok there were Hungarians among the county leaders; even the governor, Karoly Torma, was a Hungarian. But since the Romanians were in the majority, Gabriel Manu proposed the complete application of the law on nationalities at the meeting of September 13-14, 1869. In his proposal, he demanded that all correspondence of the county with the central government take place in Romanian. Civil servants and judges should communicate with the people in Romanian. The administrator was in favor of the motion, which was adopted at the county assembly even
though the Hungarians, in a minority, objected. 10 Similar measures were adopted in the counties of Zarand, Fogaras, and Naszod.
Thus it is clear that the language provisions of the law were carried out in this early period, ensuring the official use of Romanian in the prescribed manner. The Romanians spoke Romanian in the villages and at the county assemblies. The Romanian counties communicated with the central government in Romanian, the courts issued their decisions to Romanian parties in Romanian, and the civil servants transacted business with the people in Romanian.
Of course, the application of the law did not always go smoothly. Where the Romanian ethnic group had a decisive majority - as in Fogaras, Hunyad, and Szolnok-Doboka - the use of Romanian derived naturally from the letter and spirit of the law. In the counties with a mixed population, however, the difficulties and obstacles soon became manifest. There were some, among both Hungarians and Saxons, who objected to the liberal provisions of the law and attempted to sabotage it. Such attempts took place in 1872 at some Hungarian and Saxon institutions. Certain Saxon courts settled all cases in German, and the Royal Court at Gyulafehervar decided that it would only accept an oral defense in Hungarian in civil and criminal cases brought through an attorney. 11
Upon hearing this, the president of the Royal Tribunal of Marosvasarhely, Baron Karoly Apor, went on a fact-finding tour to the lower-level courts of Kiralyfold and other areas with a Romanian population. He intended to observe personally how the law was being carried out. Everywhere during his visit he explained the principles of the official interpretation of the law. He emphasized that:
parties may use their own language before the new courts, may present written petitions, and are entitled to have the record of their interrogation kept in their mother tongue. The decisions of the judges are likewise to be handed down in the language of the parties concerned. The compulsory use of Hungarian is limited to official correspondence, and the keeping of records and registries. 12
Not everyone was pleased with Baron Apor's interpretation of the law, and the matter led to further debates. The Minister of Justice ended the controversy in an instruction handed down to the president of a court, in the Kiralyfold. First of all, he pointed out the objective of the law. The official state language being exclusively Hungarian, in
accordance with the unity of the state, the objective of the law on nationalities was:
to prevent difficulties that may arise out of the use of the official language, and to meet the just and warranted demands of the various nationalities.... Consequently, the provisions of the law according to which the parties may use their own language before the courts must be applied in practice as well: the discussions must be conducted in the language of the parties concerned. The courts will send their appeals to the higher courts in Hungarian. The required registries, inventories, and records should be in Hungarian, but the interrogation of the parties, of witnesses or of experts, and the record of the interrogations will be conducted in the language of the parties concerned, as provided by Article 8 of the law.
The courts were obliged to carry out the instructions of the Minister without further argument. This was the case with the Tribunal of Brasso, and the district courts as well. The contemporary Romanian account notes that, as a consequence, "Romanian presentations are accepted even from lawyers, the record is conducted in Romanian, and decisions are handed down in Romanian. At the main hearing the prosecuting attorney presents his charges in Romanian if the accused is Romanian." 13
The year 1872 brought favorable results in other aspects of the use of the Romanian language. A good example of this was the happy outcome of the struggle of the Uniate priest of Kohalom [Rupea] in defense of the Romanian language. Kohalom, originally founded by Saxons, became a large community with a mixed Hungarian-Saxon- Romanian population at the time of the Compromise. The authorities in the community asked the Romanian priest to provide data on Romanian youth liable for military service. A printed form was enclosed, requesting the priest in charge of the registry to fill out the appropriate items. The language of the form, however, was German and Hungarian. The priest rejected the request because the questionnaire was not in Romanian. Then the chairperson of the community sent a message to the priest: Let him bring the questionnaire to the office so that the data may be entered there. Once again the priest sent a negative reply, because the oral invitation was not issued in the official, proper form. He proposed that the chairperson come to the parish where the registry would be made available to him, in the presence of the priest. Nor was this the first time that the priest had confronted the
authorities: in the church he had threatened with excommunication those Romanians who participated in the election of representatives in spite of the proclamation of passive resistance. In fact, he had been denounced to the authorities at the time. Now, once again, the matter was reported to the same Minister. In his reply, the Minister ordered the authorities ,'to take the trouble and translate the questionnaire into Romanian and hand it over to the priest, thus putting an end to all further correspondence in the matter." Thus the Minister took the side of the priest who was defending the rights of the Romanian language. As the journalist reporting the incident observed with satisfaction: "those who had hoped for more, perhaps even the jailing of the priest, had to be satisfied with this much."
The Romanian weekly of Brasso added a rather interesting comment which serves to illustrate well the struggle around the use of that language.
Let all priests follow this example. The priest from Rupea was probably not the only one among the many thousands who received questionnaires in German and Hungarian. Why was he the only one to take up the cudgels? Let us hope it is not because they are weak and give in to every justice of the peace who acts illegally, because of indifference, or fear of the regime.
Are they afraid of those in the church hierarchy who should be the very ones to protect them against abuses? "If some do nothing for lack of competence, then it is the deacon in charge who ought to take a stand in the name of all of us and reject all writs that are not in Romanian." Our language and our nation must be defended in a different way:
let us stay away from the authorities, and they will stay away from us. Rights can be secured only by taking a stand and defending that stand courageously. Audaces fortuna javat, timidesque repellit. [Fortune favors the brave and shuns the timid]. As can be seen, determination elicited respect for the just demands of the priest, and the case obtained victory.
From now on this is the way to demand "respect for completely equal rights, until such time as we obtain political rights as well.'' 14
In the same year the equal status of the Romanian language was accepted without a struggle at the provincial assembly of Kolozs county. Ladislau Voida moved that henceforth the invitations to the assembly be issued to the Romanian members in Romanian. His motion passed,
particularly since Romanian was already a language of record, along with Hungarian. From then on the Romanian members of the provincial assembly received their invitation in Romanian. 15
In 1873, a district court in the county of Arad rejected Slavici's Romanian-language application, on the ground that the judge was unfamiliar with the language. Slavici, who was only an aspiring lawyer at the time, did not leave the matter at that. The higher level courts declared themselves incompetent to decide the issue. Then Minister of Justice Teodor Pauler was challenged in parliament. In his reply the Minister expressed regrets for not being able to find enough judges who spoke Romanian. Subsequently, Romanian-language petitions came to be rejected in other places as well. 16
The application of the law on nationalities had as its first, almost physical prerequisite, that qualified Romanian or Romanian-speaking persons be appointed to administrative posts and the courts of the counties with a Romanian population. Since, according to our sources, there were many Romanians in the courts at this time, the rejection of petitions in Romanian occurred presumably because they came before new appointees unfamiliar with the language. In all probability, the Hungarian judge mentioned above who spoke no Romanian replaced some recently-deceased Romanian judge. In this case we are indeed dealing with the fading of spirit of the law on nationalities, even if it was not a case of ill-will or deliberate "Hungarianizing."
Inasmuch as, from the end of the 1870's and especially after the mid- eighties, Romanian writers and newspapers kept complaining that the nationalities law was not being observed and, hence, the use of Romanian was no longer possible, let us examine language usage at various levels and places.
As a consequence of the democratic principle of self-government at the community and county levels, the officials of both communities and counties were elected by the local population. Consequently, where there were enough Romanians with the right qualifications and where
the residents of the community were aware of their rights and made use of these, there was no impediment to the use of their language. Where the community assembly declared Romanian the official language of the community, this settled the issue most of the time. Where the ignorance of the members of the assembly, their negligence, or the ill- will of the leaders (where these were not Romanian), or again in villages with a mixed population where some of the residents objected, the written use of the mother tongue often encountered difficulties in the long run. One thing is certain, however: under the Dual Monarchy the officials of the Romanian communities continued to communicate with the residents in their mother tongue to the end, and the Romanian residents could use their language freely at the townhall. Whether the village was led by a Romanian notary or otherwise, the use of the language was not curtailed in official oral communications. No such complaints can be found in most Romanian newspapers.
By this time, however, the use of the ethnic languages in the administration of communities, the minutes of assembly meetings, and in petitions and correspondence ran into difficulties in many places. In counties with a mixed population, the elected deputy county high sheriff often spoke no Romanian. Sometimes he learned the language, sometimes not. In the latter case he expected to receive documents in Hungarian, even from those communities where the language was Romanian. Thus the struggle over application of the law got underway.
We find a pertinent example in Slavici's memoirs. In the mid- seventies, in Arad county, a lawyer by the name of Tabajdi was elected deputy county high sheriff. Speaking no Romanian, he expected the civil servants to submit all documents in Hungarian. He became unpleasant towards those who did not satisfy this demand, and praised those who did. The notary of Opalos (Paulis), a Romanian citizen prior to 1867, shifted allegiance after the Compromise and strove to please the deputy county high sheriff. Thereupon the residents of the community filed a complaint against him to the county authorities. Tabajdi went out to inspect the village personally. There the residents awaited him with Slavici, their legal counselor. The community was well-off: the deputy county high sheriff did not impress them. Confident in the justice of their cause, they were not even afraid of him. When the county leader entered the townhall without removing his hat, one of the village leaders also donned his and bid others to do likewise. The notary scolded them, but the villagers refused to remove their hats. This was the atmosphere in which they proceeded to record the complaints against the notary. The deputy county high sheriff found the complaints unwarranted. Slavici then explained that the complaints
were justified, since the law had not changed and the Romanians had the right to demand documents in their own language. "I insist," shouted one of the peasants, "that the document I sign should not be in a language I don't understand." The debate became heated, the deputy county high sheriff joined in, and in the end the peasants assaulted him. He had to jump out of the window along with his retinue, for fear of his life. He ran home and immediately dispatched soldiery into the village to quell the "rebellion." But the soldiers found peace and quiet when they arrived. A thorough investigation was conducted and Slavici was cited for agitation, but the examining judge exonerated him. "Tabajdi's efforts were in vain," the hero of the story notes, "since even Hungarian circles disapproved of the measures he took regarding the use of Romanian." 17
Thus the Hungarian judiciary and society hardly approved the rolling back of the Romanian language in administration. On the contrary, they found the stand adopted by the Romanian villagers understandable. "Even the most fanatical Hungarian nationalists," continued Slavici, "were forced to recognize that the deputy county high sheriff was wrong; civil servants are required to use the Romanian language.'' 18 Accordingly Tabajdi was "almost forced to declare that he would be satisfied if his subordinates were to translate the most important documents into Hungarian, so that he might check them." For a while the leaders of the village composed their documents in Romanian and Hungarian, because they intended to be on peaceful terms with the deputy county high sheriff. Eventually, however, they grew tired of doing double work, and gradually, on the suggestion of the notary and the judge, the assemblies of the community council resolved, here and there, that Hungarian was the language of record. Slavici wrote:
Thus the Romanian language was gradually removed from administration. One could say that it was not the Hungarian government itself that ordered the use of Hungarian, but the Romanians who voluntarily surrendered their rights to their own language. 19
In counties with a mixed Romanian-Hungarian population similar cases began to occur more frequently towards the end of the seventies, especially if there were compact masses of Hungarian residents. In many villages of the counties of Arad, Bihar, Szatmar, Szilagy, and Kolozs the practice of using Hungarian along with Romanian, and eventually of Hungarian alone evolved. The law was not flagrantly
disregarded, since most of the time the civil servants managed to persuade the villagers to use Hungarian as the language of record. There is no doubt, however, that we are witnessing the fading of the spirit of the law, and eventually its complete disregard.
The question remains: Why was the law gradually disregarded, and why weren't punitive measures adopted? In other words, why was this subtle transgression of the law not prevented? Obviously, there always have been and always will be individuals who do not respect the law; but if the affected party takes prompt action for redress and the society and regime in question ensure that those who disobey the law are punished, then the laws would remain effective everywhere and at all times.
In view of the Romanian-Hungarian relationship, it is not difficult to find an answer to the question above from the materials provided by the Romanian press. The leaders of the Romanian ethnic group marched out of parliament during the debate on the nationalities law. On several occasions, they declared and demonstrated clearly by their attitude that they would not recognize the Hungarian constitution of 1867, the Dual Monarchy. As the protests against the constitution brought no results, they embarked upon passive resistance in 1869. In other words, they stayed away from elections, sent no representatives to parliament, and delivered sharp attacks against the Hungarian state publicly and in the press.
In spite of this, as we have seen, for a good many years, the Hungarian state and its agencies honestly carried out the provisions of the nationalities law as regards to the use of the language. For four or five years after 1868, or until the mid-seventies, the Romanians enjoyed limited self-determination in many respects in administration and justice, and complete self-determination in church and school matters, according to the Tribuna's own admission. Obviously, the Hungarians had embarked upon this generous nationalities policy with certain expectations in mind, certain ulterior motives. As Dezso Szilagyi, later Minister of Justice, noted:
When we gave our compatriots speaking a different language,
everything we recognize as their right; we did it on the assumption that they would also give the Hungarian state what every citizen owes to it. It is painful to note that we have been disappointed. Our nationalities did not appreciate the generosity of the Hungarian nation, and did not meet our expectations. Thereby they absolved us from the obligation of carrying out the commitments we had assumed conditionally. Should they give
up their antagonistic behavior, their separatist strivings, and loyally adjust to the Hungarian state, thereby reassuring us that the weapons we place in their hands will not be used against us, then we will know our responsibility even today.
But no such change occurred in Romanian attitudes either in the early years of the Dual Monarchy or later. Bishop Saguna died in 1872. Upon his death there was no one who would lead the Romanians from the barren soil of passivity onto the path of cooperation. On the contrary, the policy of passive resistance was bolstered that very year. The Romanian congress of Gyulafehervar once again proclaimed its faith in passive resistance, demanding autonomy for Transylvania.
A few years later a decisive turn occurred in Hungarian domestic politics. Upon the death of Eotvos, the government party lost strength. It united with the center-left led by Kalman Tisza in order to undertake a successful struggle against the growing strength of the independence movement. Thus Tisza and the newly-formed Liberal Party assumed the leadership and brought about significant change on the Romanian issue, especially the issue of language.
There were several advocates of centralized power in the Tisza cabinet an issue which had already played a part in 1848 the most prominent among them being Minister of Religious Affairs and Education, Agoston Trefort (1872-1888). They considered the extensive self-government at the county level to be most detrimental to the progress of the country. They had no confidence in the conciliatory intentions of the Romanians, and regarded the law on nationalities as legislation that merely gave the nationalities opportunities for exploitation and misuse. Hence they did not intervene seriously in cases where certain Hungarian officials or individuals circumvented the law. What is more, in some cases the government itself clashed with the letter and spirit of the law, since it was not on friendly terms with the Romanians advocating passive resistance. The Romanian lawyer Nicolae Stravoiu correctly summed up the disadvantages of passivity at the meeting of the representatives of Romanian voters held at Szeben in 1876. He explained, among other things, that passivity forces the government to take action against the Romanian population. "Political abstention denies the right of existence of any government. No one can expect advantages from an adversary, only blows. Action elicits reaction, a punch elicits a counterpunch." 20
During the Russo-Turko-Romanian War of 1877-78, the pro- Romanian demonstrations in the country merely reinforced the distrust already present among some members of the government. Even before
1867, and more than once in the seventies, the Romanian newspapers expressed unequivocally their wishes regarding the union of Transylvania with Romania. The Romanian weekly Albina, published over a period of eleven years in the Hungarian capital, wrote in its last issue of January 12, 1877:
It is not possible that everything our readers found in the columns of this newspaper did not have extended roots in the bosoms of Romanians, pointing the way from Babylonian captivity to the Promised Land, towards the rule of Romania and the race of Trajan. 21
The Hungarian government must have taken note of this and of the pro-Romanian demonstrations of 1877-78 through its Press Office. We have seen in the preceding chapter that the demonstrations attained greater proportions where the leadership of the communities as in Naszod and Balazsfalva was entirely Romanian and could act pretty much as it pleased, thanks to its autonomy. As Puscariu wrote, the officials may not have known about the nationalist demonstrations in Naszod, but surely they received news about the events in Szeben or Brasso, since these took place in full view of the local Saxons and Hungarians. The photographs of the Romanian ruler Carol I, of his spouse, and of Ion C. Bratinau were pasted on the walls of every Romanian house. Romanian women wore caps similar to the one worn by a unit of the Romanian army. The university students at Budapest sent a message of greetings to the Romanian prime minister Bratinau. Two teachers of the high school at Naszod wrote a book about the Eastern campaign in which they described the pro-Turkish feelings of the Hungarians in the following terms:
The Hungarians promote and teach the most explicit feelings of brotherhood towards the Turks, to whom they are related on account of their Asian origins, their barbarism, and their practice of oppressing conquered nations. 22
These facts gave unequivocal indications of the feelings and yearnings of the Romanians. Hungarian society, the local authorities, and the government itself took cognizance of this with growing irritation. After such precedents, the process of limiting the use of nationalities' languages in the villages got underway in some countries with a mixed population. This also explains the Article of the Act of 1879, XIII, regarding the compulsory teaching of the Hungarian
language as a subject at non-Hungarian teachers' colleges and in the primary schools.
The situation did not change, however, in the villages of the Romanian or predominantly Romanian counties. The inhabitants of the Romanian villages of Fogaras, Beszterce-Naszod , Hunyad , Szolnok- Doboka, Brasso, and Szeben used their own language in the offices of the community and at the local assemblies, as prescribed by the nationalities law. Where Romanian was the language of community affairs all announcements, summonses, receipts, notifications, registries, and documents of all sorts that were issued by the town halls of the villages and towns were exclusively in Romanian. We have seen that most notaries in the counties were Romanian, as were the justices of the peace and leaders in general. The use of the mother tongue could suffer no curtailment under the protection of such a self-government. We have seen that in Fogaras, the administrative committee of the county voted down a proposal regarding notaries' salaries, because the Romanian notaries knew hardly a word of Hungarian and the committee would not allow them to fall under the sway of the government because of this.23 And if the Romanian notaries spoke no Hungarian, it is clear that the language of administration at the community level was Romanian. The conditions were similar in other counties with a majority of Romanian-speakers.
If the notary heading the community was not of Romanian back- ground, he nevertheless had to be familiar with the language of the community, in accordance with the regulations regarding examinations administered to notaries. The candidates had to take the examination in front of the county examination committee. The governor, the prosecuting attorney, the president of the orphans administration, the inspector of taxes, and the superintendent of schools were all members of this committee. We have already seen that these officials were often Romanian. The examination was both written and oral. The oral examination was open to the public. We read in the regulations:
In addition to the official language of the state, this examination must extend to the candidate's familiarity with the language prevailing in the district and indicated in his application.... The certificate of capacitation... must specify in which communities of what notarial language he may be employed, given his linguistic background. 24
Therefore, as we have seen from the examples presented in the preceding chapter, if in some village the notary was not Romanian this
merely signified that no Romanian candidate with the required preparation could be found. But every notary spoke the language of the people, and it would have been most difficult to change the notarial language already determined in the community.
The free usage of Romanian in the communities prevailed through- out the period of the Dual Monarchy. Nevertheless, Hungarian was introduced as the notarial language here and there, in the nineties. But there was no more basic change or departure from tradition, as the data below clearly indicate.
At the turn of the century, some Romanian leaders launched an aggressive movement to politicize the Romanian population of Transylvania. First, the newspaper Tribuna Popurului of Arad, founded in 1896, then from 1902 on, the weekly Libertatea of Szaszvaros undertook to persuade the masses. The Romanian intellectuals backing these periodicals realized the negative consequences of passive resistance. They rejected it primarily because it penetrated into areas where it entailed considerable sacrifice of rights: e.g. in the counties and the communities. Abstention from parliamentary elections gradually began to have repercussions in the counties and villages as well. Romanian intellectuals no longer attended the assemblies at the county level and neglected the affairs of the community, giving up a chance to arouse consciousness of the value of citizens' rights among the inhabitants of the village. "The most fatal consequence of our withdrawal," observed the newspaper from Szaszvaros, "is that we deprived ourselves of the most appropriate means to provide a political education for our people and to mold them into citizens conscious of their rights as individuals within the nation." 25
The editors of this weekly immediately launched a program for ensuring the use of their national language. In a series of articles, they informed their readers about the rights the law provided to Romanian villages. They pointed out that another language might displace Romanian as the notarial language only where Romanians were ignorant or indifferent, where they brought restrictions on the use of their language themselves. The periodical doggedly continued its work scolding, yet, encouraging the Romanians to insist on their rights. Even after a policy of political activism was adopted in 1905, it continued to scold with ever-greater impetus the indifference of the Romanians towards the use of their own language. "This was the way we Romanians behaved," it wrote in 1907, "and we have voluntarily surrendered almost all those partial rights which the law on nationalities granted to our language at the community and county levels." 26 The line adopted by the Romanian weekly was not without results. In
many places, the leadership of the Romanian communities brought about new resolutions proclaiming Romanian as the language of notaries and of administration. This was the case, for instance, in the community of Siklo [Siclau] in Arad county. Here nine-tenths of the residents were Romanian, the remainder Hungarian. Formerly, Hungarian had been introduced as the notarial language by a tricky notary. In 1910, however, the representatives of the community, who were almost exclusively Romanian, declared that Romanian would be the official language of the community in every respect. The weekly of Szaszvaros took this opportunity to once again scold those Romanian communities where such measures had not been adopted for instance, some ten communities in the county of Hunyad where Hungarian remained the official language of administration. According to one author difficulties arise only where people are weak. "Where they are strong, they can force the community leaders to issue summonses, receipts, and minutes of meetings exclusively in Romanian." 27 In 1912, it repeated almost verbatim the admonition enunciated many years earlier: "It is because of our indifference that we lost most of those rights the law guarantees even today in public life, especially in the communities and the counties." 28
Thanks to this affectionate, scolding, chiding, and encouraging tone of the Romanian weekly of Szaszvaros, we obtain a generally accurate picture of the use of the Romanian language in Transylvania. Scanning the scattered data and short articles we also obtain a picture of the use of Romanian at the village level in the years preceding World War I. This Romanian source, which certainly did not display great love towards the Hungarians, indicates that in the Romanian villages of the county of Szeben, some parts of Brasso, in Beszterce-Naszod, Hunyad, and Fogaras the language of registry and of official business was Romanian. In other words, the villages received every document, summons, bulletin, receipt, etc., in their Romanian mother tongue. The minutes of community meetings were kept exclusively in Romanian. In 1912, the periodical stated this in such a way as to imply that only in these counties were these rights still enjoyed, "since we lost many of our rights due to neglect and to the misguided policy [passive resistance] of our predecessors." It went on to state:
The nationalities law passed in 1868 provided us, after all,
with rather nice rights at the community and county levels. But instead of accepting these as a foundation or a beginning on which we could stand solidly to widen our base and wring out further concessions so that by now we would have twice as many
rights as the law had given us, we allowed even those rights provided by the law to become dormant in our hands." 29
According to the linguistic map compiled by the Libertatea, Romanian was the official language in the villages of the above five counties around 1f l2. According to Hungarian officials and contemporary sources Romanian was the official language in the villages of some other counties as well, for instance in Kolozs, Szolnok-Doboka, Temes- Torontal, Arad, Krasso-Szoreny, and Maramaros. Undoubtedly the law was disregarded in many places, and a significant fraction of the Romanian villages was unable to take advantage of the law either because of its leaders' indifference or as a result of pressure from above. On the other hand, equally reliable Romanian sources indicate that in the Romanian villages of five large counties Romanian remained the only official language to the end, throughout the Dual Monarchy. It is most likely that villages in other counties also enjoyed the official use of Romanian, as we may surmise from the presence of civil servants, judges, and doctors of Romanian background.
with Higher Authorities.
As we have seen, in most communities of the counties with a Romanian majority, the right to submit applications in Romanian remained uncontested. Where Romanian was not the official language, but the notary was familiar with it, petitions and other transactions in Romanian had to be accepted by the notary in accordance with the law.
According to contemporary data, the right to submit petitions in Romanian was actually observed in Hunyad, Szeben, Brasso, Fogaras, Beszterce-Naszod, Krasso-Szoreny, and even Arad county . We have seen that in 1914, and even during World War I, there were officials, even justices of the peace, of Romanian background among the civil servants of the Romanian counties. Where the Hungarian officials could not speak Romanian, the petitions were handed over to officials familiar with the language. In fact, in 1906, the deputy county high sheriff of the county of Temes inaugurated a course in Romanian for the benefit of county officials. The course lasted five months, and 40 officials signed up to learn Romanian, in order to understand the people. It was taught by Alexandru Mihuta, a professor with the Hungarian State Teachers' College in Temesvar. 30
In the counties enumerated above, documents submitted by the denominational schools in Romanian were also accepted, as were
applications emanating from private individuals. In 1910, the administration of Hunyad county requested the superintendents of the individual dioceses to furnish data regarding the salaries of teachers at their schools. The weekly from Szaszvaros published guidelines on how to respond to this request. ,'The county leaders wrote in that letter that if the school committee should provide documentation in some language other than Hungarian, a translation must be included." Some priests, misinterpreting the instructions, sent in all the documents in Hungarian. The paper (whose editor, Deacon Ion Mota, was a member of the county assembly) explained that the county officials had requested Hungarian translations because the documents were intended for the pension fund in Budapest, where they had to be understood.
When, however, I, as president [i.e. of the parish] reply to the county at its request, and I write in order to meet the request of the county, then I will write only in Romanian 31 because the county will accept the Romanian language 32 and has no right to demand that I write in Hungarian.
There should have been officials who spoke Romanian in every ministry in Budapest as well. Yet, because of what the paper referred to as intolerable politics, this was not the case at that time.
Still, the committees in the parishes should refrain from writing in any language but Romanian in their communications with the county and the school superintendents, as otherwise they are running roughshod over their church's right to use Romanian as its official language.
The paper advised that where the superintendent of schools will not accept documents in Romanian, they should be sent directly to the joint ministry. 33
The same year the Romanian weekly analyzed another interesting issue: the language of the census questionnaire sent out by the justices of the peace. One justice of the peace requested a report on the state of the libraries at denominational schools. A Romanian priest responded in the official language of the church, i.e. in Romanian, and placed his response in an envelope, addressed it in both Romanian and Hungarian, and mailed it. Since other Romanian priests sent in their responses mostly in Hungarian, the justice of the peace scolded the priest who wrote in Romanian, and even commented on the fact that the Hungarian address on the envelope was written in smaller characters. The
Libertatea self-righteously condemned this attitude on the part of the justice of the peace. "Thus one may see to what extremities the unbearable hatred of the Hungarians towards the Romanian language has gone," the newspaper argued.
The Hungarian version on the envelope was included not as
the actual address, but merely as a translation for the benefit of those postal workers who could not understand Romanian. There was no mistake made in using small characters, or setting it between parentheses. It is a manifestation of ignorance and repulsive chauvinism on the part of the official to bring this matter to the attention of the priest.
The paper published this article under the heading: ',The audacity of a justice of the peace who attacks our right to our Romanian language." 34
Until the turn of the century, it was even possible to send applications to the ministries in Budapest, in Romanian. In 1885, the direction of the Romanian commercial high school of Brasso, submitted the written questions proposed for the final examination for the high school diploma to the Ministry of Education only in Romanian. The document went through official channels by way of the consistory of the Romanian archdiocese of Szeben. Although the consistory forwarded the Romanian questions as asked, it sent instructions to the director of the school requesting a Hungarian translation thereof It probably feared that the Ministry would reject an examination in Romanian. This was not what happened, however. While the consistory and the school in Brasso were exchanging communications, the Ministry of Religion and Education returned the exclusively Romanian text with its seal of approval. "Which means," added the Romanian paper, chiding the archdiocese on account of the incident, "that it was not the government that insisted on the use of Hungarian, but the consistory that went overboard in its excess of zeal." 35
Another incident is mentioned in a newspaper of Szaszvaros. In 1895, Ion Mota, a collaborator of the Foaia Poporului, appealed a decision he felt was illegal; the appeal to the Hungarian Ministry of Interior was in Romanian, without a Hungarian translation. The Ministry had the Romanian appeal translated into Hungarian, and handed down a favorable decision. 36
If we consider that this event took place in the midst of the tension provoked by the "memorandum affair," we must regard the measure taken by the Hungarian Minister of the Interior as noteworthy.
Regarding the issue of the language of communication with the authorities, the decision taken by the Hungarian Minister of Education, Albert Apponyi, was also interesting. The board of directors of the Romanian secondary school for girls of Nagyszeben, which was supported by the Greater Romanian foundation Astra, corresponded with the Superintendent of Schools in Romanian. The Superintendent objected, upon which Astra turned to the Minister of Education. The Minister authorized the school to correspond with the Superintendent and other authorities in Romanian and Hungarian, in a parallel manner. 37 It was still possible to submit applications in Romanian and obtain a favorable response in 1914, after all, as we have seen from the data provided in the Romanian calendars, there were ethnic Romanian officials in every Hungarian ministry. 38
|THE NATIONALITIES PROBLEM IN TRANSYLVANIA 1867-1940|