[Table of Contents] [Previous] [Next] [HMK Home] THE NATIONALITIES PROBLEM IN TRANSYLVANIA 1867-1940

The Use of the Language in County Assemblies and Municipal Offices.

The use of Romanian in county assemblies and municipal offices evolved even more interestingly. We have seen above that in the decades following the Compromise, the use of the mother tongue continued undisturbed, guaranteed by the Law on Nationalities. The leaders of the Romanians of Transylvania, however, extended the principle of passive resistance to the county assemblies at times. Consequently, they were often conspicuous by their absence, and people gradually became accustomed to this absence and to the fact that the issues were discussed only in Hungarian and German. When Romanians nevertheless made an appearance at the assemblies and attempted to use their mother tongue, they were often interrupted. Where the Romanians stalwartly defended their rights, they succeeded in having those rights respected most of the time. Many examples of this are mentioned in the newspapers.

An interesting scene took place at Lugos in the spring of 1884, at the meeting of county officials, where Hungarian members were in a majority. The filling of two vacant posts was on the agenda. When the matter of commissioning an appointment committee came up, the Romanians, in a minority, demanded that their candidate, C. Brediceanu, be included on the committee. The Hungarian majority objected. Then the Romanians made deafening noises. The county high sheriff, who was chairing the meeting, shouted, rang the bell, lost his temper, but was unable to restore order. Someone loudly scolded in Hungarian, the Romanian members who were shouting at the top of their lungs. In response, Popovici, a Romanian member of the assem-


bly, said to the county high sheriff in Romanian: "Speak in Romanian, for we don't understand Hungarian." The county high sheriff answered that it was not he, but notary Schonfeld, who had scolded the Romanians. Popovici then said, "to our knowledge, you are the county high sheriff and the chair of the assembly as well. Since Romanian is the language of registry, speak Romanian." The county high sheriff remained silent. Popovici continued: "Speak Romanian! If you can't, you are not qualified to fill a position which includes presiding at this assembly, the language of the assembly being Romanian as well." In the course of the heated discussion one of the Romanian members declared in Hungarian that the Romanians will never give in. The Romanian article which reported the incident observed with consider- able satisfaction that as a result of "the determined and manly statements, as well as because of the obstreperous shouting" the county high sheriff had to give in and accept Brediceanu as a member of the selection committee. 39

According to the contemporary Romanian account, the Romanian members of the county assembly at Lugos not only spoke in their mother tongue, but adopted an aggressive tone vis-à-vis the county high sheriff, referring to the law. No one prevented them from using their mother tongue at the meeting. The situation was the same at the county assembly of Torda in 1890. Here contributions to the EMKE society was on the agenda of the meeting. Prior to the meeting the Romanian members had agreed on the principles of their intervention. Thus, at the meeting of January 28, Ioan Ratiu, in the name of the Romanians, protested against the discussion of contributions to the association in "our melodious Romanian language," to quote the words of the newspaper. 40 The protest bore fruit, the item was taken off the agenda. A similar Romanian stand prevailed on this issue at several county assemblies.

According to Romanian sources, at the turn of the century, the situation was as follows, county by county:

"In the county of Beszterce-Naszod," wrote Dr. Valeriu Moldovan "it is taken for granted that everyone should speak their mother tongue at the county assembly.'' 41 The same conditions prevailed in those counties where three nationalities lived side by side, i.e. in Brasso, Nagy-Kukullo, and Szeben. All members used their mother tongue at meetings of the assembly. A second group was made up of those counties where the Hungarian majority faced a strong minority: in Hunyad, Krasso-Szoreny, Arad, Also-Feher (to avoid confusion, not the majority of the general population, but a majority among members of


the administration is meant). In these counties the Romanians "have already partly secured" the use of their language.

There was a third group of counties where the Romanians formed but a small minority. Here the right to use the language was an issue of secondary importance; the main objective was control over the administration and exposing official abuses.

The situation as regards the use of Romanian at the county level is clearly revealed by this overview. After the turn of the century the Romanian members of the administrative machinery spoke Romanian in Brasso, Beszterce-Naszod, Nagy-Kukullo, Arad, Krasso-Szoreny, and Hunyad, in accordance with the provisions of the Law on Nationalities. There were struggles, moreover, in Also-Feher and Szolnok-Doboka. Whenever the usage of spoken Romanian was granted, it also became a language of the minutes: that is, the minutes were kept in Romanian in addition to Hungarian and German.

At the administrative centers of Deva and Des, the county seats of Hunyad and Szolnok-Doboka, the law on nationalities was applied as follows: After the Compromise the Romanian members continued to speak in Romanian for many years; later, as a result of the policy of passive resistance, there was no one left to make use of this right, since the Romanian members stayed away from the meetings. Thus the right to intervene in the mother tongue fell in to disuse.

Around the turn of the century, militants and activists wanted to avail themselves of the right to intervene in the mother tongue at the county assemblies. From 1901, they intervened more and more frequently in their mother tongue. Deva and Des soon became the scene of interesting debates. Some of the Hungarian members at the assemblies objected to the use of another language in a place where, for a long time, only Hungarian had been spoken. But because of the praiseworthy perseverance of the Romanians and of respect for the law, the county leadership soon allowed the provisions of the Act to prevail. Within three years, the use of Romanian was once again taken for granted at Deva.

It was mainly Dr. Aurel Vlad, one of the principal representatives of the activist tendency, who spoke in Romanian at the meeting of the Hunyad county assembly in 1901. On one such occasion a couple of delegates shouted "in Hungarian!" But the county high sheriff who was chairing the meeting "intervened on behalf of Dr. Vlad and requested the Hungarians to allow him to speak in Romanian, because he had the right to do so." 42 The speaker was able to continue his speech in Romanian without further interruptions. The following year, in 1902, many Romanians spoke in their language at the county assembly at


Deva and elsewhere. This movement, which smacked of a concerted demonstration, was justified by the newspaper of Szaszvaros in the following terms:

How many Romanian delegates, lawyers, doctors, priests, etc., at the county assemblies know Hungarian, yet, use only our language at the meetings! Not because they don't know Hungarian well enough, but because the law gives them the right to use their mother tongue and, by taking such a stand, they mean to pay their respects to the language of the people they represent.

The paper charged that those who impeded the exercise of this right were nothing but spokesmen of godless and crude chauvinism. 43 By 1903, the Romanian delegates at the county assembly of Hunyad were confident they had obtained the right to the free usage of their mother tongue. The following is an account of the meeting of October 20 of that year:

The deputy county high sheriff himself, in consideration of the fact that he stands at the head of an almost entirely Romanian county, rejected the attempts of those impatient individuals who objected to interventions in Romanian. The intolerant chauvinist pressures came from the lower rungs, from servile, crawling, sneaky elements who wanted to impress the county leaders with their crazy yells; the tone of moderation, representing respect for the law and the rejection of chauvinism, came from above.

The county high sheriff once made use of the term "Wallachs": "We are Romanians, not Wallachs! Call us by our true and legitimate name! No more provocation! Call him to order!" shouted the Romanians, protesting in unison. The county high sheriff "blushed slightly and became confused because of the protest, which he had not expected from the Romanians; after the protests quieted down, he continued his speech, using only the term 'Romanian'." The county high sheriff concluded the interesting meeting with the following words: "I am truly grateful to representatives of both nations, for the high standard of debate and I reiterate that when the delegates at the assembly make use of their mother tongue, I will tolerate no opposition."

The county high sheriff made this declaration after silencing those who intended to disturb the speech of the Romanian deacon Morariu. The witness immortalized this attempt as follows: Uduring the speech


of Deacon Morariu, the 'mamelukes' once again, 'resorting to their dumb patriotism' interrupted the peaceful speaker with shouts of 'in Hungarian!' and 'we don't understand!' The county high sheriff silenced the noise-makers: 'I want quiet! If he has the right to use his mother tongue, we must listen to him!' The mameluke contingent pulled its tail between its legs and remained silent." 44

Once the right to use Romanian was ensured at Deva and the county assembly of Hunyad, the Romanians of the county of Szolnok-Doboka tried a similar intervention at Des. The first attempt was made by the attorney Dr. Teodor Mihali, who had been the secret liaison between the Romanian national committee in Hungary and government circles in Bucharest for over a decade. Mihali's first speech was drowned in an uproar. The noisy protesters would not allow him to continue his speech. "The beautiful intervention of Dr. Mihali and particularly of the Romanian language," wrote the newspaper of Szaszvaros, "rubbed the ears of the chauvinists the wrong way, and they created pandemonium! The Romanians vividly congratulated Dr. Mihali for his intervention!" And the reporter continued: "If our speech irritates them [i.e. the Hungarians], let us use it and practice it constantly, until their ears get accustomed to it." 45 Reflecting on this first attempt, the newspaper noted the objectivity of one group of Hungarians at Des, blaming Romanian passivity for the scandal. "Apart from the chauvinists, many Hungarians explicitly admitted the right of the Romanians to use their mother tongue." 46 According to the Telegraful Roman the scandal:

was the result of Romanian passivity. Passive resistance was transferred from the parliamentary arena to others where it had no place the counties and the communities. Thus the Hungarians grew accustomed to not having the Romanians around, to see their rights fall into disuse. Now as a result of the new wave of activism, they are understandably shocked. 47

Soon the right to use Romanian was recognized at Des as well. The Libertatea reported on the following meeting of the county delegates: "The Romanian language won its birthright at the so-called winter meeting of Szolnok-Doboka county on January 29." It was no longer Mihali, but the Romanian landowner Dr. Alexandru Vaida-Voevod, a physician and eventually several-times prime minister of Greater Romania, who delivered a speech in Romanian. Once again some began to shout at the start of his speech, but:


quieted down, willy-nilly, at the repeated behest of the county high sheriff, while a few of them left the chamber. The others listened quietly, even with pleasure, to the harmonic tones of our mother tongue, since almost all the delegates at the county assembly speak or understand Romanian.

Such was the opinion of the militant Romanian weekly which published excerpts from Vaida-Voevod's speech. And what did Vaida-Voevod speak about? He spoke of the loyalty of the Romanians, while denouncing the chauvinistic Hungarian press which had convinced the Hungarians to regard the Romanians as irredentists. He emphasized that not a single instance of irredentism could be adduced from the past, as was quite natural, because, he insisted (most likely with some inward irony) "there was not a single irredentist Romanian born in the fatherland who was in touch with any foreign government, or who would have undertaken anything at all against the interests of Hungary." 48

From then on, the Romanian delegates could use their mother tongue at the assemblies of the counties with a Romanian population to the end of the period. The systematic accounts in the papers provide sufficient evidence of this. There were impatient interruptions every once in a while, but the right to use Romanian was no longer chal- lenged. Sometimes the Romanians presented their views in Hungarian, at other times only in Romanian. In 1910, Dr. Aurel Vlad, having concluded his speech in Romanian at the grand assembly at Deva, expressed his opinions in Hungarian as well. The Hungarian delegates cheered him for it. 49 In most places the Romanian orators were not that considerate. Thus, for instance, at the county meetings in Arad they often used deliberately offensive expressions towards the county high sheriff, knowing that he understood very little Romanian. There were bitter verbal confrontations at the assembly meetings in 1913. Often the Romanian orators spoke in Romanian just for the sake of upsetting the county high sheriff. Our Romanian source in Szaszvaros related one series of Romanian interventions that almost amounted to a demonstration:

As a result of the many Romanian interventions, the county seat of Arad now echoes louder from Romanian speech than on other occasions, thus indicating that here too our language is at home, even if the head of the county has the gall to declare that he does not understand it. 50


On the basis of the above data we may conclude that the Romanians were able to avail themselves of the right to their mother tongue, except for the period of passive resistance, at the meetings of the county assemblies and under the protection of the local governments.

Romanian was used in the municipalities and the municipal offices in much the same way. At the county seats in Beszterce, Brasso, Szeben, Deva, Arad, Lugos, Temesvar, or Des the Romanian residents guarded the use of their mother tongue as jealously as in the county assemblies. In cities with a Romanian majority as in Balazsfalva or Naszod. Romanian was taken for granted as the official language. Even the Hungarians had to speak Romanian in the offices and submit applications to the municipal officials in Romanian. Since the majority of these officials were Romanian in Lugos and Karansebes even in 1914, the use of Romanian was safeguarded there too. Difficulties often arose regarding the language of written applications. The prescriptions of the law on nationalities did not always prevail. At Beszterce, Medgyes, Segesvar, and Szeben, the aggressive Saxon majority often disregarded the Romanians' right to use their language. In Beszterce, for instance, the Saxon character was evident in the street signs which the municipal council posted exclusively in German, 51 as if the Hungarian and Romanian residents did not even exist. In other cities with a Saxon majority the street signs were usually trilingual. In Szaszvaros the Saxons, Hungarians, and Romanians concluded an agreement ensuring the equal status of the three languages. According to the agreement, only a person familiar with all three languages could become a municipal functionary, and all three languages had equal currency in the municipal offices. Everyone asked for and received information in their mother tongue. The offices had to accept applications in any of the three languages, and the applicants received a reply in the same language. At the meetings of the municipal council every member spoke his own language, and the motions and reports had to be recorded in the minutes in the language in which they were stated. 52

Therefore, at the municipal level, the language issue found a solution satisfactory to the Romanians in many places. We encountered no complaints in Romanian newspapers, which kept a close watch on such phenomena, to the effect that anyone was turned away from an office because he or she insisted on speaking Romanian. There was no direct or indirect ban on the language; there were no such warnings, inscriptions, or announcements in the county or other public offices. Still, there may have been officials who either could not speak Romanian with a Romanian client or refused to do so. Yet most assuredly such incidents were rare; after all, as we have seen in 1914,


there were Romanians even in the Budapest ministries, not to mention the Romanian ethnic officials at the county, municipal, and other levels.

The Use of Romanian in the Courts.

The measures of the law on nationalities regarding the use of language in the courts were applied in rather the same manner as at the community level. That is, there were courts where all the prescriptions were honored to the very end, and there were others where the laws were observed only partly or not at all. Unfortunately, details regarding this issue cannot be found in either Romanian or Hungarian sources. The Romanian papers reflect the following situation:

Until the mid-seventies the laws were observed generally and everywhere, as high up as the Royal Tribunals we may note from the Tribuna, other newspapers, and from Slavici's autobiography. In other words, Romanian clients could resort to their mother tongue everywhere, orally or in writing. The language of the documents submitted was Romanian, as were the sentences handed down by the courts.

It would appear from the complaints that towards the end of the seventies the sentences were couched exclusively in Hungarian in some courts of law. From then on the practice of the judges tended more and more in that direction. But since as we have seen from the census of 1914 there remained Romanian judges throughout, it is most likely that at some of the lower courts the judges of the Romanian background issued their sentences in the mother tongue of the clients as late as the years immediately preceding World War I. According to elderly, retired Hungarian judges, such was the case in more than just one instance. In theory, legally, and in practice, sentences could be handed down in Romanian as the law prescribed wherever there were Romanian judges.

Regarding the language of the dockets, we have somewhat more data at our disposal. According to Slavici, in the mid-seventies, one of the district courts in the county of Arad rejected dockets submitted in Romanian on the ground that the judge was not familiar with the language. It seems that this was a rather isolated case In other places, the courts accepted dockets in Romanian well into the eighties, both at the district and at higher levels. 53 In 1902, Ioan Manteanu, the editor-in-chief of the weekly Libertatea, submitted an application in Romanian to the tribunal at Deva which had jurisdiction over press matters, requesting that all charges against him be dropped. The application was accepted. Similar incidents could be gleaned from other Romanian papers. We may conclude that some courts accepted


documents in Romanian during the entire period. Of course, the opposite also happened between 1875 and 1914: The relevant prescriptions of the law on nationalities were often disregarded. 54

On the other hand, the right to resort to spoken Romanian remained. Accounts of suits involving the press as well as other suits provide ample evidence of this. Most of the time Romanian defendants made use of their mother tongue proudly and demonstratively.

Between July 4 and 9,1889, the Court of Szatmar heard a press suit brought by Vasile Lucaciu, a Romanian priest. According to the account of the Romanian newspaper of Brasso, Lucaciu spoke Romanian in front of the tribunal. The official witnesses followed his example, and "all with united force, made certain that Romanian speech echoed in front of the tribunal." Romanians, fueled by a sacred enthusiasm, took no heed of the threats uttered by the president of the tribunal, but "with a pride worthy of the name Romanian, resorted exclusively to their mother tongue." The accusations and intrigues were brought to light, the court absolved Lucaciu, "and the Romanian language carried the day." 55

Thus a defense exclusively in Romanian did not hurt the chances of the Romanian defendant; in spite of his demonstrative attitude the court acquitted him. When it came to passing sentence, the decisive factor was not the nationality of the defendant or his language, but the justice of his cause. If justice was not on his side, the sentence would be adverse. This was the case with the defendant in the famous suit of the "Memorandum" in 1894: Much like Lucaciu, he spoke exclusively in Romanian throughout the trial, in the presence of several hundred foreign observers.

In 1902, George Novacovici, a Romanian university student, also presented his defense in Romanian. The charge was that he had attacked the Royal Hungarian prosecutor who had offended the memory of Avram Iancu, the leader of the Romanian rebels in 1848, in a sharply worded article. Novacovici's hearing took place on April 8, 1902. Although he knew Hungarian well, he nevertheless spoke exclusively in Romanian during the entire hearing. His justification was "that I want to avail myself of the right granted to me by law to speak only in my mother tongue, Romanian." His stalwart demeanor did not hurt his cause. The tribunal of Kolozsvar acquitted him of the charge. 56

Dr. Valeriu Braniste, professor and newspaper editor, and the delegate Dr. Nicolae Serban likewise used their mother tongue before the tribunal. The latter stood as a defendant in front of the Royal Tribunal of Brasso in 1911. He began his lengthy pleading with the following words:


I am a lawyer, but as a defendant I have the right to speak in Romanian. This language is dear to me, and I insist on making use of my rights, to such a degree that I would not give up the right, fully aware that this boldness will only render my situation even more serious. 57

The specific examples above illustrate that during the Dual Monarchy, the use of Romanian in front of Hungarian courts was not restricted. Romanians could rely on their language freely in Kolozsvar, Szatmar, or Brasso, if they wished, and its exclusive use entailed no disadvantage for them.

The Use of Romanian in the Churches and the Schools.

In the period of the Dual Monarchy, the Hungarian residents of Romanian background, belonged to either the Uniate (united with Rome) or the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Romanian national character of these two churches was officially recognized by Hungarian legislation in the period following the Compromise. Consequently, Romanian was officially recognized as the language of the two churches.... Uniate and Orthodox priests spoke Romanian within and outside the church, communicated in Romanian with the authorities and the congregations, published and distributed ecclesiastic and religious publications in Romanian, and placed Romanian inscriptions on the walls of churches and other religious buildings, as well as on tomb- stones.

Instruction was also in Romanian at the primary schools, secondary schools, and at the higher institutions maintained by the churches. For a decade following the Compromise, the language of the state did not even have to be taught as a subject. The situation was modified in the second decade. The Hungarian National Assembly passed a law in 1879, which required that Hungarian be taught as a subject in the denominational primary schools. Act XXX of 1883, extended this requirement to the secondary schools. But in the higher theological seminaries of the Romanians, Hungarian never became a required subject during the entire period, even though these institutions received considerable state subsidies. On the other hand, Romanian language and literature were among the required subjects.

Between 1867 and 1918, the majority of the schools in the country were denominational; in the schools sponsored by the Romanian churches teaching in Romanian was preserved to the end. Although the


so-called "Apponyi Laws," adopted in 1907-08, increased the number of hours devoted to the teaching of Hungarian, they did not interfere with the use of Romanian as the language of instruction. The registries, the minutes of faculty meetings, and all documents pertaining to the internal affairs of the schools were exclusively in Romanian. It did not even occur to the Hungarian authorities to require the parallel use of Hungarian in order to facilitate state supervision.

According to Article 15 of the nationalities law, the language of instruction at the state schools would have to be determined by the Minister of Education at all times. But the same Article made it mandatory for the Minister to strive to provide as far as possible, instruction in their mother tongue, "the citizens from ethnic groups living together in significant numbers,' in schools sponsored by the state. This prescription pertained to the schooling provided for the nationalities, obligating the state to set up primary and secondary schools in native languages of residents.

Nowhere were these provisions of the law actually carried out during the Dual Monarchy. Hungarian leaders left instruction in mother tongues in the hands of the churches. The state schools, which formed 25% to 30% of all schools, taught all subjects in Hungarian. The language of instruction in some of the community schools was Romanian in the first years of the Dual Monarchy; but later in many communities, the leaders handed the schools over to the state, and the language of instruction became Hungarian. The Romanian pupils no longer studied in their mother tongue in these schools.

According to the law, the state was supposed to set up Romanian- language primary and secondary schools in areas with a Romanian majority; to bypass the Romanian language and introduce Hungarian as the language of instruction in these schools was one of the biggest mistakes of Hungarian educational policy in this period. One reason why the law was disregarded, no doubt, was the nationalist illusion which expected to win over the indifferent or anti-Hungarian nationalities through education. Many Hungarians were aware of the antagonistic attitude of the Romanians, including the Romanian plans for the partition of the country. Several Hungarian dailies and weeklies regularly published articles regarding the Romanians, and these often mentioned Romanian irredentism. When, at the time of the 1872 elections, some candidates of the Independence Party made promises to support the "just demands" of the Romanians, in order to win their votes, lead articles in the Deak-party newspaper of Kolozsvar warned them about the possible consequences. The candidates should not forget, the newspaper wrote, that the demands the Romanians called "just"


included "Daco-Romania all the way to the Tisza River." Whoever supported these demands was playing with fire, "setting fire to his own house." 58

Like other papers, this newspaper also revealed the Romanian connections of the irredentist movement. It revealed in one of its articles, that the Romanian nationalists of Transylvania identified themselves with these strivings in Romania, the ultimate objective of which was the "partition of the Hungarian homeland." 59

Dezso Szilagyi and others believed that actually granting all the rights guaranteed under the law of nationalities would become yet another weapon the Romanians could use against the Hungarian state. This was essentially the reason why the aforementioned prescriptions of the law on nationalities were not observed.

The Use of Romanian Place Names and Family Names.

Generally speaking, the names of towns and villages evolved among nations as a result of a long linguistic and historical development. The same goes for family names. For these reasons place names and family names become an organic part of the vocabulary of individual nations. Their unrestricted usage in private and public life is part and parcel of the freedom to use one's language. Their restriction, or any attempt to modify them, would constitute outright duress against a given nation or ethnic group. Such measures usually elicit strong emotional reactions.

As a general rule of linguistics, individual names come about in accordance with the special nature of a given language. Whether it is a matter of original designations, or of borrowing from a foreign language, the peculiarities of the language come through. In rare cases it may happen that a foreign place's name is adopted into another language without change. Paris, the capital of France, has the same name in German, English, and Romanian, but its pronunciation varies according to the peculiarities of the language. In the case of other capitals the modification may go beyond the pronunciation and extend to spelling: for instance, the capital of England, London, is Londres in French, Londre in Romanian. The Swiss city near the French and German borders is Bale in French, Basel in German. Venice is called Venedig in German, Venise in French, and Venetis in Romanian, although it is Venezia in Italian. All nations should consider it a barbarism if they were forced to change the age-old name of their city for a foreign name.


If family names that evolved over the course of centuries are arbitrarily changed when copied into another language, it is likewise a matter of aggression. The international consensus is to write foreign names according to their original spelling, without modification. Georges B. Clemenceau, Winston Churchill, and Otto von Bismarck have identical names in all languages; they are written in their original form the world over.

In areas where several nations or ethnic groups live side by side, the towns they inhabit jointly are called by different names. Thus a town or village may have as many names as there are ethnic groups. The names usually originate with the first settlers. Residents who arrive later, accept the name given to it by the earlier settlers, or adopt it according to the spirit of their own language and pronounce it differently.

Such was the situation in Hungary. In areas inhabited by different ethnic groups, the place names had several variants. In Transylvania and the neighboring counties where Hungarians, Germans, and Romanians live side by side, most localities had Hungarian, German, and Romanian names. The seat of the county of Kolozs was called Kolozsvar by the Hungarians, Klausenburg [Kolozsvar] by the Germans, and Cluj [Kolozsvar] by the Romanians. Of course, three different names evolved only where three ethnic groups lived together in close proximity. Consequently, groups that arrived later adopted the names used by the indigenous population. This fact becomes clear from etymological analysis and toponymy. 60

Let us provide some specific examples of the aforementioned facts.

1. The following names were taken over by the Romanians from the Hungarians without change: Deva, Apahida, and Arad.

2. Hungarian names modified by the Romanians in their spelling were: Kisfalud = Chisfalud or Chisfalau, Nagylak = Nadlac, Ujlak = Uileac or Uilac, Szeplak = Seplac, Kozeplak = Cazarlac, Szatmar = Satmar, Dicsoszentmarton = Diciosanmartin, Szentandras = Sentandras, Szentkiraly = Sancraiu/Sincrai, Szentimre = Santimreu, etc.

3. Hungarian names transformed in accordance with the nature of the Romanian language were: Bukkos = Bichis, Gambuc = Gambut, Hari = Haris, Herepe = Herepeia, Csesztve = Cisteiu, Mindszent = Mesentea, Igen = Ighiu,


Borband = Barabant, Sospatak = Seusa, Pokafalva = Pauca, etc.

The designation of settlements or the adoption of names often took place in identical manner in different regions of the country. Consequently, similar names evolved in many places, that is, certain places were not differentiated by name. Three, four, six, or even eight communities may bear the same name, although in different counties. In Hungarian areas, for instance, the names Szentmiklos [Sinmiclaus] and Szentkiraly [Sancraiu] occur often. In Romanian counties the place name Saliste [Szelistye] occurs twelve times, the name Sacel [Szekelyandrasfalva] five times. Consequently, postal delivery often experienced Babelian chaos. More than once, private letters and official notifications traveled for months from one locality to the other, or got lost for good. This situation lasted for decades after the Compromise, and became the source of innumerable misunderstandings and unpleasantness.

For a long time the Hungarian state did not intervene in the matter. For thirty years each nation used its own designation in private and official communications. It often happened, therefore, that a single community would have two or three official names. Most villages with a purely Romanian population had only a Romanian name, and Hungarian texts used this name with a Hungarian pronunciation. The use of exclusively Romanian place names was not banned by any authority. Romanians could freely use Romanian place names on letters sent through the mails, in Romanian newspapers, and in scholarly works.

These circumstances led the Hungarian House of Parliament to pass Act IV of 1898 concerning place names. The law spelled out, first of all, that every community could have but one official name, and then referred the matter of determining that name to the Ministry of the Interior. It also specified, however, that the Minister of the Interior "should exercise this right by taking into consideration the wishes of the community and of the local assembly...." The assembly of the community was to determine the new names of settlements, mountains, etc. According to the law, the communities would be required to use their official name on official documents, on seals, on signs, in registries, and in all documents requiring government approval. But, at the conclusion of Article 5, the Act added that "other designations may be indicated in parenthesis."

The "National Community Registration Committee" set up by the Act carried out its task of determining official names slowly and with


extreme circumspection. Mindful of the prescription, it invariably solicited the opinion of the community concerned before reaching a decision. The community assembly sometimes accepted the proposed name, but often rejected it. For instance, this was the case with Cosna [Kosna], a Romanian community in the county of Beszterce-Naszod, the council of which unanimously rejected the name Hatarszog proposed by the committee of the Ministry of the Interior. 61 In Szeben, the county assembly also dealt with the issue before the decision of the Ministry. In 1908, this assembly declared that the historical place names used by the people would be retained. The assembly compiled the list of the communities in the county and proposed that the old Saxons designations become the official names for the Saxon communities, and that Romanian names be retained for the Romanian communities. 62 A decision regarding the proposed names was reached several years later, in 1912. In its final decision the committee of the Ministry usually translated the Romanian and Saxon names and declared these to be the official ones. As regards Romanian, it often used the existing name as a basis, translating it according to the rules of orthography and pronunciation in Hungarian. Rebrisoara became Kisrebra, Ampita became Kisampoly, etc. Where the village had mixed population and the Hungarian residents already used some Hungarian name, the committee designated that name as the official one. The Romanian newspaper that commented on the issue described the process as "barbarian and perverse." It comforted its readers, however, by telling them that the law [Act IV of 1898] was carried out county by county, and had been carried out only in small part until then. It then added, in an aggressive tone:

Our duty towards our Romanian language and our Romanian self is to use exclusively the Romanian names in everyday life. The official name should be used only in those documents and records which are specified in the above-mentioned law.... We will never say ' I am going to Kolozsvar [ca merg la Kolozsvar],' for the simple reason that it would be a distortion of our language, especially where the communities concerned already have beautiful Romanian names." 63

The law was applied very slowly indeed, the procedure slowed down even further during World War I, and never completed. In some communities and regions the old Romanian place names functioned as official names during the entire period of the Dual Monarchy. It never occurred to anyone to force the Romanians to use the Hungarian official


names in their newspapers and other publications. There was no compulsion or restriction on the use of the mother tongue in this regard. Generally speaking, the Romanian place names remained in official usage throughout the country for thirty years after the Compromise whether by the postal services, or in official documents, on seals, on certificates without any limitations and without the requirement of an equivalent in Hungarian.

Similarly, there was no restriction whatever on the use of Romanian family names. Unlike the Russian and Balkan practice, where the family names pertaining to ethnic groups were distorted into sounds more in conformity with the majority language, in Hungary the Romanians could use their Romanian-sounding family names absolutely freely. Before 1895, birth certificates were issued by the churches rather than the state. The priests of Romanian churches registered whatever names the children's parents had chosen. There was no compulsion of any kind on the part of the authorities. Nor did the introduction of state registration alter the picture. From 1895, the registries were kept by the community notaries. As we have seen in the first chapter, a significant fraction of the notaries in the Romanian areas were of Romanian extraction. They were not about to distort the Romanian names when registering them. Where the notary was not Romanian, his activities were nevertheless watched by the wary Romanian nationalist press. Whenever he did something open to criticism, the Romanian papers immediately reported the event. Since we cannot find complaints in the press regarding the distortion of Romanian family names, it is clear that this did not happen. Christian names were usually translated into Hungarian: thus Juliu would be written as Gyula. Frequently-used Romanian names such as Ovidiu or Cassiu, were recorded unchanged.

The Use of Romanian in Everyday Life

It can be determined from the above that the Romanians living on Hungarian territory were able, most of the time, to avail themselves of their right to use their mother tongue in public life, in the communities, in the counties, the cities, and the courts. If the state did not impede the use of the language in these places, it did so even less in everyday life. Every Romanian could speak his or her language within the family, on the street, during trips, at railroad stations, at the post office, on the telephone, in telegrams, at the market, and at gatherings. Traveling, which played such an important role in everyday life, could be done without the anxieties accompanying it among the minorities


after the war. New railroad lines soon linked the Romanian regions to the national network. For a long time, it was possible to purchase tickets for the national railroads in Romanian. When, in the period of the "Memorandum" trial, Romanian agitation reached a fever pitch; the cashiers at the larger stations refused to issue tickets to passengers who requested them in Romanian. But if the passenger was aware of his rights and knew how to seek remedy, he could still use his mother tongue and force the cashier to use it as well. This was done by a Romanian passenger (probably a lawyer) who traveled from Deva to Szaszvaros in 1896. He requested a ticket in Romanian at the Deva station. The young lady in the booth declared that she did not understand the language. Hence the passenger was not issued a ticket. He boarded the train without a ticket, and he had to pay a fare of 80 kreuzers instead of the regular 40. Upon his return he filed a complaint in Romanian at the Arad head office against the cashier at Deva requesting a refund of the excess fare. A month later he received a reply to his complaint from the head office at Arad: the Romanian passenger was informed that the cashier at the Deva station had been reprimanded for her stubborn attitude, and that the money would be refunded. Curious, the passenger returned to the same cashier on the next occasion and once again requested the ticket in Romanian. This time she issued the ticket without a word. ',This was how I taught the young lady Romanian," the passenger summed up the morale of the story. 64

The situation did not deteriorate significantly even later. In 1903, in the restaurant at the Deva railroad station they played, among other records, the "Song of Avram Iancu" to the delight of the Romanian passengers who were well aware of the anti-Hungarian implications of the song. 65 Romanian national demonstrations were to become customary at Hungarian railroad stations. On such occasions the stations echoed with the sound of Romanian, which no one sought to ban or silence. In 1911, writers from Romania paid a visit to Transylvania. Everywhere at the larger stations masses of Romanians assembled to greet them. At Szaszvaros, Deva, and smaller stations as well, ceremonial receptions were organized. At the station called Sevirsin, the Romanian choral group led by the priest and the teacher sang the irredentist song "Union is Inscribed on our Flag." No one was harmed. When the train reached Arad, once again a huge mass of Romanians was waiting: "Romanian speech resounded clearly, and it seemed as if we were not even in Hungary," observed the reported. 66

Indeed, the use of Romanian was so widespread in Hungary, that the average Romanian certainly could not feel like an oppressed citizen


under foreign rule. The true implications of this situation become clear if we compare the use of Romanian in Hungary to its use in other countries.

The Use of Romanian in Other Countries

While the Romanians of Hungary could make free use of their language in public and private life, in most neighboring countries the nationalities could not do this at all, or only with considerable restrictions. As a memorandum published in Bucharest makes clear, 67 the close to one million Romanians living in Serbia were not allowed to speak Romanian in public places. Young Romanians were compelled to attend evening courses organized by the Serbian authorities to learn to speak and sing in Serbian. The authorities resorted to every possible means to wipe out the use of Romanian. The churches could hold services only in Serbian. Romanian family and Christian names were Serbianized, as prescribed by an episcopal circular to Serbian priests. Romanian family names were altered in Serbian schools and offices: Sandul became Sandulovic, Iaincovic, Iorga - Iorgovic, etc.

The one million Romanians in Bessarabia suffered a similarly miserable fate. Services could not be held in Romanian; only at funerals was it permissible to recite a few words in Romanian, for the benefit of the deceased. 68 The newspaper of Brasso noted:

The entire Romanian nation gazes beyond the Prut River in mourning, because brothers waste their lives in a small land taken away from us by force and guile.... Bessarabia, a piece of the holy land we call fatherland, is groaning under the arbitrary rule of a tyrannical tsar, and we do not have the power to change the sigh of pain frozen on the cold lips of the Bessarabian peasant into a revolutionary song. 69

The readers of Romanian papers in Hungary read not only about the sad fate of the Romanians in the Balkans and in Bessarabia; occasionally the Romanian press carried news about the French or the Poles living with in the German Empire. While in many hundreds of Romanian villages in the Transylvanian counties public affairs were conducted in Romanian and the language could be freely used in county and popular assemblies, or in the municipal offices; the following lines appeared in the Romanian weekly of Szaszvaros regarding the use of language by Frenchmen living under German rule: "In Alsace-Lorraine the Prussian government decreed that when there are at least two individuals on the


communal committee able to speak German reasonably well, the official language becomes German, and all documents are to be issued in German." 70 A few months later, the same paper reported about another Prussian law which ordered that in areas of Poland belonging to the German Reich, speakers at popular assemblies might speak only German.71

The nationalities policy of the independent kingdom of Romania deserves special attention, if only because the Romanian press and the leaders of the government which gained its independence under the rule of Carol I often condemned the Hungarian policies on nationality in harsh words. They almost constantly accused the Hungarian governments of oppressing Romanian language and culture. Let us, therefore, take a closer look at the opportunities this Romanian regime, which demanded complete national freedom for the Romanians of Hungary, offered to its own minorities.

The scholar dealing with the issue meets his first surprise when he picks up the official report of the census of 1900. This census contains no data regarding nationalities. 72 According to the Director of the Statistical Office, pertinent data were not included; because nothing was to be gained from examining the use of languages spoken within the country. Therefore, there was no minority issue in Romania. The population, numbering 5,956,690, was classified into two groups: Romanians and stateless. The first group, Romanian citizens with full rights, numbered 5,489,296. The second group, the stateless who did not enjoy full rights and were not granted citizenship, numbered 278,560, of whom 256,488 were Jews.

If we compare these statistics to data obtained from other sources, it becomes immediately evident that they do not hold water scientifically, that they are deliberately biased. This is clear even from the census itself. Regarding the population of Dobrudja, annexed by Romania in 1878, we read that it "consists of foreign settlers," who became Romanian as a result of the annexation. We also find out how the population was misrepresented; they were Turkish in the majority, but there were a goodly number of Bulgarians, Russians, and Greeks among them. Without any doubt the 129,217 inhabitants of Dobrudja belonged to non Romanian ethnic groups at the turn of the century.

In addition to the nationalities in the Dobrudja, there were more than 50,000 Csangok living in Romania. A nationalist Romanian writer discovered their presence with astonishment in 1906. "It was my misfortune to find in the villages of Moldavia, Romanians who could speak no Romanian," he wrote among other things:


In fact, I found entire villages where there was only this kind of Romanians. In this part of Romania you might believe you are in a Hungarian village: the language is Hungarian, the customs are Hungarian.... Our beloved Moldavia i8 an anthill of foreigners where the lard of the Hungarians and the garlic of the Jews play their part. 73

According to these data Romania did have a minorities problem although official circles refused to recognize it. The state was declared a "nation state," and the foreign nationalities, constituting about 16% of the population, were to be Romanianized by every possible means. 74 The chauvinist measures adopted with regard to the Hungarian Csangok were particularly obvious.

As we have seen, Romanians under Hungarian rule could use their language freely in the churches, in the schools, and in public life; the Romanian government, however, forbade the Csangok from using their mother tongue in every area of public life. Religious services were held entirely in Romanian; the priests delivered their sermons and recited all prayers in Romanian. Most did not even know Hungarian. There were one or two who understood the mother tongue of the congregation, but the Romanian bishop of Iasi would not allow them to use the language in their sermons. Thus the priests who understood Hungarian could not even use that language to communicate with the faithful. Eventually, the bishop relented and the priests were allowed to take confession from the dying in their mother tongue. Hungarian was banned from the schools as well: the children could study only in Romanian. At the seminaries the language was also Romanian.

The Csangok were not allowed prayer books in Hungarian. When a Roman Catholic priest obtained Hungarian prayer books, they were confiscated by the authorities. The Csangok were not even allowed to use their mother tongue on tombstones: all inscriptions had to be in Romanian.

The same procedure applied regarding place and family names. Instead of the place names used by the Hungarian people, names with a Romanian sound were mandated officially. The village of Barodbeznye became Bezneaca , Dormanfalva be came Dormanesti, Baratos [Brates] became Bratesti. If anyone added the local name in parenthesis after the official name, the item was not delivered by the Romanian postal services.

The Romanian authorities meant to eradicate all traces of Hungarian descent by writing Hungarian family names with a Romanian spelling in official documents. Thus the internationally known family


name Bartok became Bartoc, Kadar became Cadar, Baka became Boaca, Bode became Bodea, Barkoczi became Barcacian. 75 Names with a Hungarian sound disappeared and the Romanian authorities could then consider their bearer even more Romanian.

Romanian chauvinism did not stop at forbidding the use of the native language to nationalities living of Romanian soil; at times it even intervened against foreign visitors using a foreign language. In 1906, an ethnographic fair of all Romanians was organized Bucharest, and the Saxon chorus "Transylvania" was invited to participate. At the ceremonial concert the chorus sang in German. After its performance the Romanian historian and university professor Nicolae Iorga, first secretary of the famous Romanian Cultural League, stood up in his box and shouted to the members of the Saxon chorus "It was beautiful! Why don't you sing in Turkish next time!" Upon this the Romanian audience whistled and booed, shouting "Down with them [i.e. with the German- speaking performers]!" Dozens of university students ran to Iorga's box and, lifting him onto their shoulders, carried him triumphantly around the arena serving as stage. Iorga, who had provoked the demonstration, shouted to the cheering masses from the shoulders of the youths: "I objected to those who pretended to be French, but now we must not allow the German language to become the new fashion." 76

The infamous chauvinistic policies of Romania - the complete ban on the use of the mother tongue by Csangok, Turks, and other nationalities met with the approval of the Romanian press of Hungary. What is more, this press occasionally demanded even harsher policies against the Jews and other nationalities. While it constantly attacked the Hungarian authorities, resorting to the extremist slogan "all or nothing!", in Romania itself it favored complete Romanianization. This fundamental inconsistency did not go unnoticed in either country. In 1911, the author of an article in a Romanian periodical expressed his astonishment. "It seems," wrote Radu Ciomag in a Bucharest periodical, "that our brothers [the Romanians of Transylvania] have double standards. One for the world at large, and another for their own use. They condemn chauvinism in their country, but they accept it in Romania." It is understandable that the Romanian paper Romanul, published at Arad, rejected the argument of the Bucharest essayist, even though right on target, with the fury of someone caught in the act. 77

To summarize the use of the language by Romanians living under Hungarian rule we may note that, at the time of the Compromise, the leaders of the Hungarian state adopted a nationalities law that was more liberal and democratic than any known in Europe at the time. In the years following the Compromise, with the exception of a few of its


articles, this law was observed and carried out with respect to the Romanian population. But a few years later, by way of reaction to the anti-constitutional and anti-Hungarian attitude of the Romanians, a process got under way which led to the exploitation of the law and a mockery of its spirit in many locations. Some of the measures, including Article 17 regarding the establishment of state schools in the languages of the minorities, and Article 27 regarding the appointment of administrators from the ranks of the minorities, were never applied at all. Yet, as regards the Romanians, over three-quarters of the provisions of the law were observed in practice throughout, from 1867 to 1918. Where the law was circumvented, the passive resistance mounted by Romanians was at least as much to blame as the impatience and distrust of Hungarians, in the opinion of the Romanians themselves. As regards the use of the mother tongue, the Romanians of Hungary enjoyed far more extensive rights than the Csangok of Romania, Romanians living in third countries, or the French and Poles living under German rule. According to Romanian sources, the Hungarian state adopted policies that were more understanding and more democratic than the ones adopted by the Serbian, Romanian, Russian, or German governments vis-à-vis their own nationalities.

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