|THE NATIONALITIES PROBLEM IN TRANSYLVANIA 1867-1940|
The Use of Hungarian in the Romanian State
In addition to this precedent, the decisions of the Romanian national assembly at Alba Iulia also offered favorable prospects to the Hungarian population. The Romanian national assembly declared, in point three of these decisions, that "every nation is entitled to its own education and administration, by means of individuals chosen from its own ranks.'' 1 The first sentence of this point also contained a most welcome prospect regarding "national freedom" based on the use of the mother tongue.
Indeed, early events seemed to justify these expectations. Decree number I of the Governing Council of Sibiu, issued on January 24, 1919, declared Romanian to be the official language in the areas under Romanian occupation, but at the same time it added that Act XLIV of 1868 was in effect for the other ethnic groups. Of course, because of the changed circumstances, Romanian became the official language; accordingly, Hungarians were granted the same rights as those formerly enjoyed by the Romanians within the Hungarian state.
Indeed, the Hungarian population under Romanian rule could consider itself satisfied by such a measure; the law on nationalities authorized the use of the mother tongue in front of the authorities and in private life. Accordingly, at the beginning, the Romanian authorities
of Transylvania did accept applications in Hungarian, and the population could freely resort to its mother tongue in the communities as well. Generally speaking this situation prevailed throughout the year, except that in many places the military authorities carried out the directives regarding the immediate renaming of streets and place names with Romanian names. This did not cause overmuch anxiety among the Hungarians, because the attitude of the authorities as regards to the use of the Hungarian language was not yet ill-intentioned.
The following year the situation changed. The Governing Council of Sibiu was dissolved in 1920, and the occupied areas which had formerly belonged to Hungary were integrated into the newly formed Greater Romania. The situation of these areas was also clarified from the point of view of international law, when the Treaty of Trianon was signed on June 4, 1920. The peace treaty contained provisions regarding the use of languages, as did the so-called Minorities Protection Treaty signed in Paris on December 19, 1919. On account of the censorship introduced by Romanian authorities the minorities treaty became known to the Hungarians of Transylvania only long after it had been signed, but then it caused them great pleasure, inasmuch as they had been brought up to respect the laws and were prone to think in legalistic terms. By this treaty Romania had assumed the obligation of recognizing the rights of the minorities to their own language. Through Article 8 of the treaty, the Romanian state expressly committed itself to the effect that "no Romanian citizen may be restricted in the use of any language in private or business life, in religious practice, in publications through the press or by any other medium, or in public assemblies." The Romanian state also committed itself "that those citizens whose mother tongue is not Romanian would be granted significant facilities in using their own language in front of the courts, orally or in writing." In addition to the provisions of this article, the right to obtain an education in the mother tongue, and of the establishment of schools for minorities, was granted in other articles. 2
These provisions of the minorities treaty remained far behind the prescriptions of the former Hungarian law on nationalities from the point of view of clear formulation and of the area embraced by the rights. For the time being the Romanian authorities abided by the decree of the former Governing Council, and the Hungarian population could use its language in accordance with the rights granted in the law on nationalities. But as soon as the Romanian authorities began to neglect the spirit of the decree, the rights of the Hungarian population to use its own language vis-à-vis the authorities and in private life
became increasingly restricted and finally almost completely eliminated in most places.
Restrictions regarding the use of the language in front of various authorities were first introduced in 1921 and 1922. On January 11, 1921, the Cluj main branch of the Romanian Ministry of Justice, by its directive 29.819, required all courts to use only Romanian, orally or in writing. This directive was complemented by directive 19.654 of September 1, 1922, by which the same agency prohibited the registries of deeds functioning alongside the courts from accepting applications in a minority language. 3
At the same time the Hungarian language was gradually excluded from all government agencies, from the assemblies of municipal councils, and from administration in general. Everywhere in the municipal, county, railroad, and other government offices one found the notice posted in Romanian: "Speak nothing but Romanian!" The use of Hungarian in government offices became more problematic from year to year and, by 1938, had become a serious offense.
stipulated "that the official language of the Romanian state is Romanian.', Henceforth no prescription of the Hungarian law on nationalities remained on the books, let alone in practice.
The Saxon representatives intervened during the debates on the constitution in the House of Delegates, only to be told that a special law will take care of the matter of language. No special law, however, ever came to the House of Delegates, even in the form of proposal. On the other hand, in the spring of 1925 a law was proposed regarding uniformization in administration. Section 398 of this proposal contained the following prescription regarding the use of language: "a legislative council will decide in those instances where it appears that the use of a minority language need be authorized in communications between the population and the local administrative agencies." This implied an almost total rejection of the right of the minorities to use their language. There were many protests against such a solution of the issue of the use of language on the part of Romanians as well as Saxons. One of the Saxons representatives declared that "if in 1868 Ferenc Deak, at a time when universal suffrage and defense of minority rights were hardly even mentioned in European politics, was able to create a law, with providential foresight, for the benefit of minorities in Hungary, we must expect more, not less, from the successor states." 4 Iuliu Maniu also criticized the solution of the language issue as outlined in the act on administration. "Your proposal," he told the government party to which his own party was in opposition, "does not resolve the issue. For the benefit of the minorities I demand that those who do not understand the official language be able to use their mother tongue in their dealings with the administration and the judicial system.,, Maniu brought up the same arguments he was to use in his famous conference of 1924 at the Institutul Social Roman. 5 His intervention, however, was no more effective than that of the minority representatives. Nor did the intervention of other Romanian delegates who agreed with Maniu change the situation. The later expert on minority issues of the National Peasant Party, Ghita Pop criticized in harsh terms the act on administration in one of his articles. Regarding section 398 he noted that:
as far as hot air and deliberate vagueness are concerned, this section is unique among all legal measures affecting minorities in the world. It represents the codification of nothing, the denial of rights. It is a shame and an affront to the patience of our people, although we boast left and right. 6
Indeed, this section in no ways ensured the use of the Hungarian language. Although the language remained in oral use in those villages where there was still a notary, on the walls of most notarial offices one could read the Romanian sign: "Speak nothing but Romanian!" Hungarian could not be spoken at the councils or county assemblies, as a matter of course.
When the Romanian National Peasant Party took over the government, in 1928, under the leadership of Iuliu Maniu, the Hungarians of Transylvania expected for a long time new legislation to protect their use of the language. Unfortunately, the new Act on Administration promoted by the regime did not guarantee the right to use the mother tongue in official dealings. This Act, approved in 1929, attempted to bring about decentralization, yet it did not guarantee in any way the right to use minority languages in the community councils. Consequently the executive powers decided entirely arbitrarily regarding this right, on a case to case basis. Thus, on April 7, 1930, the president of the Romanian province of Cluj, Dr. Aurelian Dobrescu issued a directive forbidding the use of any language but Romanian. He noted in his directive that:
since to this day there is no legislation that would allow the use of minority languages at the meetings of the county councils, county delegations and community councils, it follows that from now on the discussions at the meetings of these bodies will be held only in Romanian. Consequently, under no circumstance can it be allowed that declarations be voiced, that committee members request information or provide it, or take minutes of their meetings in anything but the official language of the state. In case some members were to disregard the rules to this effect, their declarations would be considered null and void and will not be included in the minutes. 7
But the Act on administration sponsored by the National Peasant Party did not remain in effect in most places; for the Minister of the Interior very often dissolved the elected administrative bodies and replaced them by so-called provisional committees. Of course, in most places these provisional committees were composed exclusively of Romanians and thus the issue of resorting to the use of Hungarian became moot. It did occasionally happen that the Romanian prefect of one county or another adopted a more understanding attitude and included Hungarians among those to be appointed to the provisional committees. So it happened in the case of the appointment of the
Provisional Council of Bihor in 1931. The prefect of the county, Gheorghe Ghica, a distinguished member of the Romanian aristocracy, meaning to adopt a courteous attitude towards the county's Hungarian leaders, proposed in addition to the Romanian members recommended for appointment that Count Kalman Tisza and Dr. Mans Markovics, the former governor, be appointed as well. Indeed, the two Hungarian members were appointed. The prefect administered them the oath and made it possible for the two members to use their mother tongue at the meetings. Ghica's attitude, however, found few followers, and was far from general. 8
On March 27, 1936, the Romanian National Liberal Party in power once again introduced a new Act on Administration. This Act not only prohibited the use of minority languages, but prescribed severe penalties if they were used. According to its provisions the language of conducting business at community council meetings was Romanian. If the members should resort to any other language during their debates the Ministry was to dissolve the elected council and appoint a provisional committee in its place. 9 The community judge was expected to know Romanian and should someone speak up in his or her mother tongue he was to translate the contents of the intervention into Romanian immediately.
Yet another Act on Administration was adopted in 1938. The new Act repeated the stipulations of the former Act regarding the use of minority languages, but expressly authorized the members of the councils to speak in their mother tongue. In the same year, according to the diary of the ministerial council, citizens belonging to minority groups could file applications to the local authorities in their mother tongue; but this measure mentioned in the diary did not have the effect of law and was not carried out in practice.
As regards the use of language before the courts, no legislation was adopted in Romania even though by signing the Minorities Protection Treaty it had assumed the obligation that "Romanian citizens speaking a language other than Romanian should benefit from significant concessions in using their language before the courts orally or in writing." As regards practical application, the Hungarian law on nationalities could have been taken as model. Instead the courts attempted to resort to interpreters, but not everywhere. In most places the role of the interpreter was played by the attorneys themselves, or the parties to the suit. Section 22 of the so-called minorities statute issued in 1938 envisaged the possibility for citizens belonging to minority groups to use their mother tongue in front of the courts if not represented by a lawyer. But this possibility was likewise not carried
out in practice. 10 Regarding formal applications, ever since 1921 the courts of Greater Romania accepted exclusively applications written in Romanian.
Everywhere in the offices, from the twenties, one could read the warning sign: ,'Speak nothing but Romanian!" This prohibition, of course, applied not only to oral communication, but to the language of applications as well. An interesting episode took place in 1926. The Hungarian Party entered the elections on a joint ticket with the Romanian Liberal Party at the community elections held in Transylvania. Therefore it was in the interest of the Liberal Party to attract the vote of the Hungarian majority in the towns. The mayor of Cluj, issued a directive in February 15, 1926, instructing his subordinates to accept applications in Hungarian. The directive remained in effect until the elections were over; then the directive was rescinded, a week after it had been issued. 11
Here and there the general rulings regarding the prohibition of the use of Hungarian were occasionally applied in a more lenient manner. Hungarians often encountered more understanding Romanians in the internal revenue offices, county offices, or elsewhere who, aware of the struggle of their client would allow him or her to use the mother tongue. But this could only happen in petto, almost in fear, in some remote corner of the office, when the chief was absent. The Romanian military authorities considered even this to be a serious offense against the use of the official language. Therefore, on the basis of the order published in the February 11, 1938 issue of the Monitorul Oficial, the military commands - Romania being once again under strict state of siege - forbade the use of any language but Romanian in government offices. Point 11 of Section 1 of the order issued by the command of the n Army Corps of Cluj, on February 23, 1938, stated clearly "that civil servants are forbidden to use any language but the official one in government offices and public institutions." Against all those who disregarded these instructions the order stipulated "jail terms extending from one month to two years" as well as the fines provided under paragraph 25 of the penal code. 12
As noted, in this regard the provisions of the Hungarian Law on Nationalities were applied at the beginning. From 1920 on, however, only applications in Romanian were accepted. As the American Unitarian Committee noted in 1920:
any contact with the authorities has to take place in Romanian and when, last June, the Unitarian bishop requested permission, in beautiful Romanian translation, under official seal, to hold the regular consistorial meeting of the church in August, the Romanian authorities returned the request without heeding it, but with the comment that they will refuse to accept further applications until the Hungarian words "Unitarian Bishop" that appear on the circumference of the seal are replaced by Romanian words. 13
Until 1920 the Hungarian authorities in charge of the denominational schools could use their mother tongue to communicate with the educational department of the Governing Council of Sibiu. From January 1, 1921, they had to communicate in Romanian and Hungarian, and after January 1, 1922, exclusively in Romanian with the Ministry.
As noted, section 14 of the statutes on minorities authorized citizens belonging to a minority group who knew no Romanian to turn to the community authorities with applications written in their mother tongue . This right, however, was negated in practice by the provision that the application must be accompanied by a certified translation. Providing a certified translation was tantamount to asking a person who knew Romanian to prepare the application directly in Romanian. Thus it was possible, in theory, to address applications in the mother tongue to the authorities, but in practice this permission was meaningless. All the less so since, in spite of the constant requests by Hungarian members of parliament to remove them, the signs warning that only Romanian could be spoken in government offices
were never removed.
A particularly painful issue was the constant interference with the use of Hungarian place names. The Romanian authorities exhibited great zeal in this matter from the very beginning, pushing the use of Romanian place names to replace the Hungarian ones. Certain interesting episodes warrant a more detailed examination of this practice.
In its Decree Number 1 of 1919 the Governing Council stated in unmistakable terms "that every ethnic group may resort to place names in its own language." 14 But as soon as Romanian names were given to localities the authorities began to pressure for their use within Hungarian texts. As we have seen, this issue did not even come up as
regards the Romanians under Hungarian rule in the period of the Compromise; Romanians could freely resort to Romanian place names in correspondence, in the press, and in even in regard to contacts with other than Hungarian authorities. The official designation of communities, as mentioned, did not take place until around 1910 in the Romanian regions, and the Romanian names were regarded as the official ones until the end of Hungarian rule in some areas. It occurred to no agency to pressure for the use of Hungarian names in the Romanian dailies or any other Romanian publication. No Romanian complaint was recorded to this effect.
On the other hand, the authorities in charge of censoring the Hungarian papers in Romania began to prescribe the use of Romanian names in the Hungarian press after 1921. Censorship had been instituted from the beginning of the Romanian occupation in various regions of Romania, but particularly in the towns along the western borders of the country. The censors prescribed the use of Romanian place names in Hungarian texts by 1921, and with increasing frequency from then on; but since censorship was not yet universal, in some cities Hungarian reporters could continue to use Hungarian names.
Towards the end of 1933, after the assassination of Prime Minister Duca, a state of siege and prior censorship was declared once again throughout the country. The censorship was exercised by the military authorities, and they required the use of Romanian place names in the Hungarian press and in all kinds of publications that were subjected to censorship as well. By directive 155.662 of August 11, 1934, the Romanian postal services prohibited the practice of including Hungarian place names along with the Romanian names on addresses. Hungarian members of parliament objected strenuously, but to no avail; the soldiers would not listen. Even Nicolae Iorga noted in the Senate, in early 1935, ',that under Hungarian rule the place names were written in Romanian, and nobody tried to prevent the Romanians from doing so." Once again, in vain, the authorities in charge of censorship stuck by their stand. From then on only Romanian place names could be used in the Hungarian press, in books, and in magazines. The science of toponymy became unfeasible. The use of Romanian names was mandated even in poetry. Hungarian writers were seized by despair. The greatest poet of the Hungarians, Sandor Remenyik, expressed this bitterness in the spring of 1935, in an open letter addressed to a Romanian writer who had translated his poetry into Romanian. "I live in Cluj," he wrote to Silviu Bardes,
but all my life I have called this city by a different name, as did my father and grandfather. All my memories, the dreams and loves of my youth, my wanderings among the stones of the city and in the majestic calm of the great nature beyond the city are all tied to that name. But then you came and decided to call it something else. So fate decreed. And finally I said, with so many of my companions, quoting Endre Ady, "all right, Lord,', the regime had changed. The name of the city has changed. All right. We have taken it calmly. Let it be so officially, it cannot be otherwise. This is the way we see it named at the railroad station, on every government building, and in official documents. We did reserve for ourselves calling the city by both names in our private correspondence. Officially and unofficially. Indeed, I tell you Silviu Bardes, not out of irredentism, but because it makes one feel good to recall one's late mother and to occasionally place a flower on her tomb. Now even that is forbidden. But you are a poet, Silviu Bardes. What would you say, how would you feel if you had to write the name of your native city in Hungarian, or Russian, or German in your poems, yes, in your Romanian verse!
You are indeed an artist, an artist of the language. Every true poet is such an artist. What do you think this means, this command that I may not write the names of communities in Hungarian in my poetry, in my short stories? What do you think? Is the name of a place not tied to the spirit of the language, to its innermost soul, to its mysterious rhythms, in a manner that cannot described, with a sound that cannot be pronounced differently? What do you think this means? Is this not a sacrilege? The takeover of the last refuge? What do you think, Silviu Bardes, is this not the assassination of art, of the soul? This is one thing. This is the mother tongue. Undoubtedly sacred. Perhaps the greatest sainthood in art. 15
The heart-gripping words of the poet were of no avail, the Romanian authorities were adamant. Then the representatives of the Hungarian Party attempted one more time to obtain a comforting solution. As a result of the steps taken in the House of Delegates and at the Ministry of the Interior, Aurelian Bentoiu, the under secretary of the Ministry, issued circular 10.476, dated October 9, 1936, allowing the use of Hungarian place names. The office of censorship in the capital promised to communicate the instructions to the censorship offices in the provinces. Unfortunately, the instructions were either not
communicated, or the provincial offices, as they claimed, did not receive them. 16 Then a member of parliament Jozsef Willer of the Hungarian Party, once again visited the Ministry of the Interior. Once again he was promised that the matter would be settled satisfactorily. Indeed, this time the promise was heeded in some provincial towns and, for a short time, the use of Hungarian place names was authorized in the press. But in most places, including Cluj, the censors continued to cross out Hungarian place names from publications; indeed, since the military authorities protested against the instructions of the Minister of the Interior, the under secretary withdrew them. In fact the situation just got worse everywhere; for instance, from the end of 1936 the use of German place names was forbidden to the Saxon newspapers of Brasov. The Kronstadter Zeitung of Brasov, published directive 503/1936 of the prefect in which referring to the instructions from the Ministry of the Interior, he informed the editors of the newspaper that "from December 30 on the paper may print only the official names of communities and counties. Since the instructions are most explicit we request that you do everything in order to comply, so that we may not have to resort to eventual penalties.'' 17
Even Alexandru Vaida-Voevod, one of the protagonists of the anti- minorities struggle since 1933, felt the new instructions were too much. "What is the purpose of this senseless measure," he asked at one of the popular assemblies, "is it that they may call me a bad Romanian, if I should venture to criticize it? The government expects to gain recognition for the Romanianization of names, such as not even Hungarian chauvinism had ever attempted.'' 18
The provincial authorities carried out the instructions of the government even in those areas where the previous instructions issued by the under secretary of the Ministry had not required the exclusive use of the Romanian names. On February 25, 1937 the county office of Arad, prohibited the use of Hungarian geographical names by Decree Number 13:
Throughout the county of Arad all place names, signs, and traffic or directional signals will be in Romanian. We prohibit the use of the former district, community, street, river, mountain names in the Hungarian areas. In the future only the official Romanian names may be used, whether by the authorities or by private individuals, on permanent or temporary signs and designations, as well as in publications, newspapers, periodicals, leaflets, and proclamations.
The county office would punish offenders by a fine of 1,000 lei for the first offense and, in case of repetition, by the most severe penalties. 19 Under the rigid state of siege introduced in February 1938 the military authorities prescribed even more severe penalties for the use of Hungarian place names. These were not even tolerated in the titles of newspapers. A bunch of Hungarian dailies and periodicals had to adopt different names. Thus the Erdelyi (Transylvanian), Helicon, Erdelyi Szemle, Erdelyi Muzeum, Erdelyi Iskola, Erdelyi Gazda, Erdelyi Fiatalok, Erdelyi Lapok, Kolozsvari Friss Ujsag, Nagyvarad and other names were abbreviated or discarded altogether. The daily Nagyvarad changed its name significantly, to Szabadsag (Liberty).
The so-called Statute on Minorities allowed some concessions in the matter of place name usage. Paragraph 18 of this statute provided that:
in the titles of newspapers, periodicals, etc., the name of those places where these products appear may be indicated in the pertinent minority language as well. Within these serials it is permissible to use the minority language exclusively when indicating place names. 20
In other words, as regards the titles even the statute continued to require the use of the Romanian version of the place name. In any case, the censors soon returned to their previous practice, making it impossible to use place names in the minority language even within the articles. Thus the Statute on Minorities did not bring about a solution satisfactory to the Hungarian population.
Article 8 of the Treaty on Minorities stipulated that "no citizen of Romania may have his rights to use any language in private or business life abridged." In spite of this Romanian legislation soon included various measures prohibiting the use of Hungarian in business. In particular, it strove to force the exclusive use of Romanian on shop signs and in bookkeeping. Moreover, almost from the beginning it tried to prescribe the use of Romanian in the stores. "If only half of the effort," noted the American Unitarian Committee, "to replace Hungarian signs by Romanian ones at locations where not a soul understands Romanian, had been turned to useful administrative measures, the Hungarians would bless Providence for providing them with new rulers.'' 21 In several towns special translators were contracted to find the right wording for the signs. For a while the Hungarian text was allowed to
appear alongside the Romanian. Later even this concession was watered down by various financial restrictions. Hungarian merchants were allowed to use a Hungarian text on their signs at the cost of having to pay manifold tax on it. The majority of shopkeepers opted to pay the higher tax rate and preserve the Hungarian text for the benefit of the Hungarian customers, but at the beginning of 1937 this too became impossible. The instructions in the application of the new Act on Administration then specified that "names and signs, including shop signs, may only be in Romanian." 22 Several shopkeepers challenged this stipulation in the courts. Indeed, the administrative courts concluded, with praiseworthy objectivity, that bilingual shop signs should be allowed. But the Romanian authorities did not take cognizance of the court's decision and, in early 1938, required the exclusive use of Romanian on shop signs all over the country.
Cluj was the scene of interesting episodes. At the beginning of January 1938 police units visited shops and houses in Cluj and made the owners sign the following declaration as mandatory: "I, the undersigned, resolve that from February 1 on my shop sign and commercial sign will be exclusively in the official language." The summons was received by merchants, artisans, doctors, and lawyers, and the Romanian officer delivering it informed them that should they not live up to their resolution, they will be severely punished. The Hungarian vendors at the market also received a verbal command on the exclusive use of Romanian.
As the matter became common knowledge, the Cluj branch of the Hungarian Party attempted to find out who gave the instructions for the above procedure. It was unable to obtain exact information. According to the Romanian papers the initiative had come from the municipal council, but when the Hungarian Party made inquiries from Augustin Laurian, the Romanian mayor, it was told that he had no official knowledge of the matter. He had not given such orders, nor did he authorize anyone else to do so.
Then one of the reporters of the Keleti Ujsag turned to the quaestor of the Cluj police force, since the summons had been distributed around the city by police officers. The Romanian chief of police made the following statement to the reporter:
I am very surprised that journalists belonging to an ethnic
minority should come to me in this matter. I am amazed that in
the capital city of Transylvania there still are shop signs in
Hungarian. We gave them respite until February 1; if by that
time the Hungarian signs do not disappear from the market, the
owners will bear the responsibility for the consequences. 23
Towards the end of the same year the Statute on Minorities permitted the use of a minority language in addition to the compulsory use of Romanian on store signs; but because of the general insecurity no one took the trouble to convert the shop signs into a bilingual sign and thus, in this outward aspect of business life, the exclusive use of Romanian signs became the practice.
The more basic aspects of commercial life were not immune from the prescriptions requiring the use of Romanian. The Act on Cooperatives which appeared in Number 71 of the Monitorul Oficial, dated March 28, 1929, enjoined the cooperatives to keep their books exclusively in Romanian. The modifications to the direct tax system were published in April 1935: they prescribed that artisans and shopkeepers would have to pay a surtax if they did not keep their books exclusively in Romanian. The surtax was specified as 12%. The Act of July 16, 1934, published in issue 161 of the Monitorul Oficial, regarding the employment of Romanian personnel, required all firms to keep their books in Romanian. The King Carol II Commercial Code published in Number 262 of the Monitorul Oficial, dated November 10, 1938, specified that commercial companies could keep their books only in Romanian. 24
Moreover, shopkeepers received constant warnings and orders to the effect that they must speak Romanian to customers visiting their store. More specifically, they were to greet everyone entering in Romanian and continue the conversation in Romanian as well, or incur severe penalties. Of course, such regulations could not be applied vis-à-vis Hungarian customers who spoke no Romanian. Yet similar measures were taken to ban the use of Hungarian from the market place. In early 1938 police agents visited the Hungarian vendors at the markets and ordered them to speak Romanian and offer their wares only in Romanian. A large delegation in Cluj attempted to obtain a more benign attitude from the chief of police on this issue, but their request was rejected. The headquarters of the Cluj Army Corps also issued an order according to which "vendors and barkers must use the Romanian language in public places; similarly, posters and advertisements may only be printed in Romanian." 25
In the first half of 1938 all written activity in Greater Romania had to be in Romanian. Only Romanian could be spoken on railroads, at the market, on the street, or in the movies. Conductors on the trains were forbidden, by strict and reiterated orders, to provide information in
anything but Romanian. Already in his order 46,481 on August 31, 1921, General Mihai Ionescu had threatened the employees of railroads with severe reprisals for disregarding the above order. "From now on we will accept no excuse from a civil servant for giving information in Hungarian." Later, in 1927, under secretary for transportation, Ionescu repeated his earlier ban on the use of Hungarian. 26 Of course, once again there were well-intentioned Romanians who were offended by such rules and did not carry them out; but the majority abided by the regulation according to which Hungarian travelers could not obtain information in their mother tongue. Later, immediately before the Second Vienna Arbitration Treaty (Award), Romanian travelers would insult Hungarian travelers who spoke Hungarian amongst themselves on the train.
Long before then the use of Hungarian had been banned from the movie-theaters. The April 30, 1936, issue of the Monitorul Oficial, published the regulations of the Minister of Culture regarding the control and censorship of films. According to section 48 of these regulations "all written texts must be in Romanian." The committee on films would allow the original title of the film to be shown only as a subtitle, next to the Romanian version and even this only when, in the opinion of the committee, the film was especially valuable. According to the regulations "it is forbidden to use any foreign language in the texts printed on the films.'' Section 49 prescribed that "the language of sound pictures that are to be shown all over Romania may only be universal cultural languages." 27
On the basis of this regulation Hungarian was completely excluded from movie theaters. From then on the subtitles of foreign pictures could only be printed in Romanian and, furthermore, Hungarian films could no longer be projected. The regulation was carried out in spite of the indignant protests of the Hungarian speaking public and of Hungarian political leaders. Thereupon the Hungarian population organized boycotts in many towns, declaring it would no longer attend movies.
Furthermore, the Romanian postal authorities forbade the speaking of Hungarian at the post office. Those making long distance telephone calls would have their calls processed by the telephone central only if the request was made in Romanian. Fortunately problems were averted when the system of automatic connections was introduced.
The restrictions on the use of Hungarian in the schools and in church will be discussed in the chapters devoted to the situation in those institutions. Suffice to mention that the Romanian authorities did
everything in their power to restrict the use of Hungarian in those areas as well.
Thus the Romanian state attempted to restrict, year after year, the use of the mother tongue by its Hungarian-speaking citizens, in spite of all its legal and valid international obligations. It succeeded in this attempt since, by the twentieth year of Romanian rule, public life had become completely Romanianized. By 1938 Hungarian could no longer be used in public without incurring the most severe penalties. Later, because of certain unfavorable developments in foreign affairs, the so-called minorities statutes included several prescriptions ensuring the use of minority languages; but, as we have seen, these prescriptions, in most cases, clashed with other measures of prohibition still in effect, hence they were not carried out in practice.
|THE NATIONALITIES PROBLEM IN TRANSYLVANIA 1867-1940|