|THE NATIONALITIES PROBLEM IN TRANSYLVANIA 1867-1940|
Rights and Freedoms of the Hungarians in Romania
By the provisions of the Treaty on Minorities, Romania agreed to guarantee complete protection of life and freedom for its minority residents. Individual freedoms were defined in identical ways in the Constitution of 1923 and 1938. In paragraph 11 of the Constitution of 1923, and in paragraph 12 of the Royal Constitution of 1938, we read that "individual freedoms are guaranteed.'' 1
The concept of individual freedom usually includes the inviolability of residence and personal freedoms. The constitution provided that it could not be suspended and a state of emergency could be declared only by special act of parliament. In spite of this, a state of emergency and prior censorship were in fact applied in the areas inhabited by the Hungarian population for fifteen out of the twenty-two years of the regime. The state of emergency was lifted only during the years 1928 to 1933.
The special measures accompanying the state of emergency limited individual rights thoroughly or eliminated them altogether. The state of emergency was declared immediately after the beginning of the occupation, and the Romanian state, legitimized by the peace treaties,
severely restricted both the inviolability of residence and individual freedoms. House searches and requisitions of lodging became the order of the day. The minorities, particularly the Hungarians, were regarded with suspicion anyway, and Romanian security groups tried to check Hungarians under suspicion by means of arbitrary house searches. "Individual freedom, what a travesty it has become,,' noted the first Romanian governor of the county of Somes, George Sorban, in his already-quoted leaflet. "The state security police, the gendarmes, or the office in charge of quartering troops wake us from our deepest slumber, insisting that we identify ourselves, contribute food, or move out of our house within 24 hours." This statement faithfully reflected the prevailing situation. As we have seen in Chapter I, in the Hungarian towns of Transylvania, the Romanian authorities did everything in their power to evict Hungarian civil servants, harassing them with particular relish, with the help of various measures for the requisition of lodgings. The apartments of Hungarians were requisitioned by civil servants relocated from the old kingdom of Romania; the rents offered were minimal, and even these often were not paid. The officials would have been able to find lodging without resort to force, by a modicum of goodwill, because Hungarians who lost their jobs and were deprived of other economic opportunities would have been more than happy to rent homes if they could realize a decent rent for them. However, this never occurred to the Romanian authorities, even though as high-ranking officials, they earned good salaries.
The requisition of lodgings was usually carried out by a Romanian plenipotentiary, who committed all kinds of abuses. His decisions brooked no appeal. More than once, the more decent Romanians themselves objected to the heartless measures. For instance, the daily Dacia of Bucharest received an interesting communication from its correspondent in Cluj, in the spring of 1920. The correspondent noted that while the attempts on the part of the political leaders to Romanianize the towns of Transylvania was praiseworthy, it was legal only within certain bounds.
I have been in this city for a few months, and have witnessed some deplorable incidents. I have seen furniture and bundles hurled onto the street in the rain, on the order of the housing office. On Friday, April 27, I witnessed an incident such as I had never seen before. S. Abraham, the owner of one of the shops on Main Square, received an order to vacate his premises within 24 hours and hand over his keys to the Romanian merchant Ion Pop, who, not satisfied with his own premises, was able to obtain
the requisition by means of a bribe. Upon receiving the order, Abraham lost his mind and had to be taken to a mental asylum. His shop, however, was vacated and handed over to Ioan pop. 2
These requisitions, lasting for years, terror and uncertainty everywhere. In his leaflet already cited, Sorban demanded goodwill on the part of the Romanian authorities and the re-establishment of civil rights.
Without individual freedom there in no labor, no trust, no gaiety, no spirit of enterprise, no progress, and no healing. Let them abolish therefore everything that curtails this freedom; let them abolish the state security agency and forbid the army to interfere in matters that do not concern it.... The issue of quartering of troops must be justly resolved. If this issue remains unresolved two cardinal rights of the citizens are affected their right to own property as well as their right to individual freedom. These measures also contributed, to a large extent, to a lack of enterprise on the part of our businessmen. 3
Unfortunately the warning by the Romanian governor went unheeded, as were warnings issued in subsequent years. Hungarians and Romanians both pointed out the grave consequences of the state of emergency and of the special measures taken by military and gendarme authorities, as well as of the reckless abuse of citizens' and human rights. But the state emergency was not lifted. The French-language leaflet of protest issued by the opposition parties in 1923 is filled with expressions of indignation over the repression of civil rights:
Individual liberties have been suspended. The state of emergency has been officially declared even in the Romanian areas of Transylvania where the aggressive attitude of the Hungarians were used as an excuse to suspend all the liberties of the population, which in turn is no longer able to contain its resentment and rebellion.... The population is bitterly resentful everywhere of the abuses committed by the administration abuses which increase by the day. The authorities even resort to the power of the army to repress the most basic rights of the citizenry. 4
The state of emergency and the concomitant special measures remained in effect in Transylvania until 1928; and the requisitions of
apartments did not cease even after that. On February 17, 1929, landlords and owners of homes held a national congress in Cluj, at which they protested against the requisitions which had been going on for eleven years. 5 By then, the situation had improved somewhat; as a result of the lifting of the state of emergency, the dreaded requisitions now took place within certain guidelines, and if these guidelines were disregarded, it was possible to appeal to the courts. On several occasions, the courts did restore citizens rights, and the owners of illegally expropriated apartments could recover their homes? For instance, the home of the greatest Hungarian poet of Romania, Sandor Remenyik, was finally relinquished in 1934, after fifteen years of forced quartering. In his case, the solution was delayed by the fact that the person lodged in his house and paying minimal rent was a Romanian court martial judge.
The state of emergency was restored after 1933, and was in affect until 1940. This renewed state of emergency was far more severe than the preceding one in its infringements on civil rights. After 1935, a simple trip taken by Hungarian residents could result in serious harassment by the authorities in some places. The reign of terror of the gendarmes was especially evident in the Hungarian villages of the Szekely areas. Individuals returning to visit their parents from other towns had to report to the gendarmerie within 24 hours; the gendarmes suspected irredentist agents among Hungarians they did not personally know. House searches and routine checking of personal identification were the order of the day. Travelers staying with Hungarian priests were closely watched; in general, contacts between the Hungarian villagers and any outsider was hampered or prevented by the most extreme means.
Individual freedom was restricted not only outside the home, but even within the walls of one's own house. On national holidays, the Romanian police inspected all houses, checking to see whether the national flag was openly displayed. This practice was initiated already in the first years of the Romanian regime and never abandoned, even though some Romanian leaders in Transylvania were offended by it. Alexandru Vaida-Voevod spoke out against it at the Grand Assembly of the Romanian National Party of Transylvania at Timisoara, in 1923: "During the Hungarian regime we were not allowed to display the Romanian flag, but no one was forced to display the Hungarian one." 6 In spite of this warning, however, Hungarians were still forced to display the Romanian flag on their own houses.
The house searches and illegal arrests created insecurity and a complete suspension of individual rights throughout the long period of
the state of emergency. As Nicoale Ghiulea, a professor of sociology at the Romanian university of Cluj noted in 1926:
There is no country in the world where the citizens are beaten and tortured more cruelly than in our own; it's done to the point where the moral pain and humiliation exceeds the physical abuse. There is no country in the world where citizens are deprived of their individual freedoms to the extent they are in our country. Anyone can arrest anyone, under any pretext, in fact, even without one.
Then Ghiulea pointed out that these arrests victimized innocent people more often than they did the guilty. He added:
In civilized countries culprits can be punished only if their guilt has been verified in court, and no one can be caned or tortured if caning and torture are not among the permissible forms of punishment. We are talking about abuses, about beating the innocent, about jailing honorable people, about trampling underfoot the freedom and honor of peaceful citizens, about mistreated citizens who seek only to defend their rights as guaranteed in the constitution and in other statutes. 7
These statements confirm the sad facts listed by Costa Foru, the famous Romanian journalist, in his book on the abuses committed by the state security agency. "The abuses of the law enforcement agencies," he wrote in his introduction,
whose members hail from the most unsavory strata of the population, have no bounds... they arrest persons and keep them in jail for weeks and months without the slightest knowledge of the authorities. They whip and cane them, and the victim has no recourse whatever to medical or legal assistance. In addition to these illegal arrests, the members of the police force and of the gendarmerie commit innumerable acts that are in flagrant violation of the law. 8
These abuses of a cruder type became less frequent with the state of emergency in 1928, and finally occurred only in isolated instances. Until 1930-32, the entire Hungarian press and, more particularly, the public in Ciuc were incensed by the Szakali case. Istvan Szakali, a Szekely farmer from Tomesti [Csikszenttamas] was arrested by the
police in response to a denunciation by a person under investigation on charges of theft. After a four-day interrogation, the chief of the forces at Cirta [Csikkarcfalva] summoned the judge from Tomesti and ordered him to remove the corpse of Szakali from police headquarters at Cirta and to return it surreptitiously to the village. The judge refused to carry out this order. Szakali's corpse was eventually removed to Tomesti by the police. According to the autopsy, death was caused by drowning. The police, on the other hand, claimed that Szakali was the victim of a heart attack, but later modified their account stating that Szakali had hanged himself in an unguarded moment. Jozsef Willer, a deputy in the Romanian House of Deputies, turned to the Ministers of the Interior and of Justice at the December 3, 1931 session, and he requested an investigation. 9 The inquiry dragged on for a long time and was inconclusive.
After 1933, the abuses against personal freedom again multiplied. The so-called "Re-Romanianizing" activity entailed large numbers of arrests, house-searches and tortures among the Hungarians of the Szekely region. As we have seen in our chapter on religious affairs, the investigations of abuses by the authorities were usually fruitless and did not help prevent further abuses. We may note that the notion of "habeas corpus," common since 1789 and since 1673 in England, existed in Greater Romania only to a very limited extent. The complaints about, and protests against, confiscations usually went unheeded.
As we have noted in the chapter on economic conditions, the beginnings of Romanian rule in Hungarian areas newly attached to Romania coincided with all kinds of confiscations of property. Thus, property rights became illusory from the very beginning and, in later years, were severely limited both by the constitution and other laws. Land, fields, meadows, forests, houses, and even churches were subject to expropriation if this was deemed necessary from the Romanian point of view. As long as these expropriation affected only Hungarian properties, the Romanians of Transylvania, being the primary beneficiaries, hardly complained against the limits set on property rights. But when their own property was in jeopardy here and there, especially in the case of mineral rights, they protested loudly against the confiscations. These protests found expression in the already cited French-language leaflet distributed for consumption abroad. In connection with the constitution forced on the country by the Liberal
Party dominated regime in 1923, it noted that this constitution served to eradicate the old guarantees of property rights:
Economically speaking, the adoption of the constitution drafted by the Liberal Party gives the Party priority rights by the blows it metes out to private property. Under the old constitution private property was sacred. In the new version, private property is merely guaranteed.... They have opened the way to every kind of arbitrary confiscation, and all mineral rights, all the treasures of the sub-soil suddenly became the property of the state. 10
The protests, of course, were to no avail; the regime of the Liberal Party, and later the protesters themselves, continued the policy of expropriation, usually targeting properties of non-Romanians. The case of the expropriation of the Reformed Church of Sintimbru became particularly notorious. Erected in the 15th century in commemoration of the battle fought by Janos Hunyadi against the Turks at Marosszentimre [Sintimbru], this church was one of the most beautiful historical monuments in all of Transylvania. Twenty-eight holds of fields and 2 holds of gardens constituted part of the property. Coveting the property, the local Romanian Uniates, turned to the Agrarian committee to obtain the church on the grounds that the Reformed diocese had become depopulated. Two days later, the Committee expropriated the church and the surrounding lands by its directive 48/1923 of March 29, 1923. It turned the church over to the Uniate clergy and ceded the lands to the Romanian peasants, since, as it stated in its decision, "there remained not a single Reformed person at Santimrea, and the Reformed parish no longer exists." The representatives of the Reformed Church pointed out in their appeal that the church had 95 members, hence the decision of the Agrarian committee was unwarranted. The appeals agency, however, confirmed the original decision on different grounds:
Since it is not known whether the church was erected by the religious authorities or by the state, it is the Minister of Religious Affairs and of the Arts who has to decide whether the church is a historical monument and it is for the Minister to say what should become of it, which denomination should be entrusted with its upkeep.
The central leadership of the Uniate Church did not approve of the expropriation. The official paper of the diocese of Blaj expresses this negative attitude:
We do not know what our church authorities intend to do
with the church at Sintimbru. But we do know that there is no legal basis for expropriating church buildings. Therefore we are against this expropriation and, if it were up to us, this church could become Uniate only with the agreement of the pertinent Reformed ecclesiastic authorities. In other words, who can assure us that other churches would not be expropriated in the same manner.
This protest by the Uniate press pointed to the dangers inherent in the situation: as soon as this kind of expropriation became possible, no property right of any kind remained safe. Consequently, the Uniate Church did not accept the church building, and it was solely due to its influence that the building did in the end remain in the hands of the Reformed Church. 11 The protests by the Reformed clergyman concerned had no effect whatever. They sent deputations and memoranda, they pleaded and begged, they intervened in parliament, all in vain. But because the Archbishop of Blaj perceived that expropriation was involved, he did not allow the Uniate diocese of Sintimbru to take over the illegally confiscated Reformed Church building.
In the chapter on economic affairs, we have seen the endless series of illegal expropriations or confiscations affecting the Hungarians on Romanian soil. We may note without the slightest exaggeration that neither individuals nor institutions were safe as regards their property rights. We have seen the arguments used to deprive Szekelys of their private property in Ciuc county, we have also seen the subsequent measures leading to limitations on properties owned by Hungarians. Lands, estates, and claims resulting from defaults on bank loans were seized in the name of various laws whenever these were in the interest of Romanian nationalists. After 1933, as mentioned, these measures always were taken on the basis of ethnic discrimination. Romanian ethnic churches and banks were exempted from financial damage resulting from the tax reform, the so-called "conversion law", while Hungarian churches and banks were not.
The properties of Hungarian artisans' associations were entrusted to Romanian organizations, whereas those of the Romanian artisans of Cluj were allowed to remain in their hands. The lands derived from
later expropriations along the borders were distributed exclusively among ethnic Romanians.
For a long time it seemed as if homes were exempt from the possibility of expropriation; but we have seen that the property rights of homeowners was also limited for almost a decade and a half by the practice of quartering troops. After 1932 Hungarian Roman Catholics were forced to admit that even the right to own their homes was not immune to confiscation by Romanians.
Indeed, Onisifor Ghibu, the oft-mentioned and oft-quoted university professor and member of the Romanian Academy, embarked from 1931 on activities directed at the confiscation of the remaining properties of the Roman Catholic Status of Transylvania as well as those of certain orders. After the first wave of expropriations, the 26,538 holds of lands of the Status had been reduced to a mere 3,251 holds. Moreover, it had owned several nice apartment buildings in Cluj, which enabled it to cover the strictly cultural expenses of the church. Ghibu and the Romanian public raised doubts about their right to the remaining property as well; with the help of various official trusts Ghibu embarked on action to take away these properties. As a consequence of the struggle already described, and of certain biased verdicts by the Romanian courts at Sibiu and in Cluj, nearly 300,000,000 lei worth of real estate (houses, lands, etc.) belonging to the Status were transferred to the Romanian state. At the same time the buildings belonging to the Piarist high school at Timisoara, the Minorite high schools at Arad and Simleul Silvaniei, and the Piarist and Reformed high schools at Sighetul Marmatiei were also transferred by Ghibu to the state. In each case, the excuse given was that these institutions had been created at one time by the Hungarian state, hence their properties were actually Hungarian state properties to which the Romanian state was now entitled by right of inheritance. As a consequence of this intervention by Ghibu, the Hungarian Roman Catholic Church was deprived of properties worth almost 600 million lei. 12 The news of his activities spread far and wide, and one of the most prestigious components of the francophone press in Geneva concluded what the Hungarians had known for a long time: "The slyness involved, and the transgressions against the laws in effect demonstrate that in Romania they will stop at nothing in order to impoverish the Hungarian minority.'' 13
Indeed, because of these manifold limitations set on the right private property, the Hungarians who came under Romanian rule suffered enormous financial losses. One of the experts on the issue estimated the losses suffered by the Hungarians by 1930 at 41,660,837,490 lei - that is the equivalent of 40 million English pounds sterling or 200 million
U.S. dollars. 14 The losses resulting from later confiscations and expropriations the expropriations for the military purposes, the financial disadvantages resulting from the economic laws passed in 1937-39 - amounted, according to very rough estimates, to 15 billion additional lei. All in all, therefore, the various social strata among the Hungarian population lost about 56 billion lei worth of properties, which is exactly the amount of reparations that Hungary was forced to pay as a result of the cease-fire of 1945.
We may conclude that this most important human right proclaimed during the French Revolution, the right to private property remained nothing but an illusion to the Hungarian population throughout the Romanian regime. The property of Hungarians was restricted on the most varied excuses, as a consequence of which the population lost the equivalent of close to 300 million dollars (1945 equivalent). As we have seen, the large scale impoverishment of the Hungarian population was the consequence of the financial losses it suffered.
Since the French Revolution, every modern nation-state has recognized the immeasurable significance of freedom of the press. The Constitution of 1923, expressly guaranteed this freedom. According to paragraph 25 of the constitution "no censorship can be instituted, nor any measure restricting publications, or the sale and distribution of these."
By the time this provision of the constitution came into effect, prior censorship in the formerly Hungarian areas attached Romania had been in effect for four years, since the beginning of the occupation. As long as this occupation could be considered a temporary measure, the state of emergency and censorship could be justified according to the terms of the Peace Treaty. These measures were understandable in view of the possible disturbances resulting from the change in sovereignty. But with the signing and proclamation of the Peace Treaty in 1920, this period of uncertainty came to an end. The retention of the state of emergency and of censorship was not justified by any actual disturbance. In spite of this both measures remained in effect unchanged, curtailing to a large extent the activities of the Hungarian press.
Prior censorship and a state emergency were declared along the border by directive 2939 of July 1920, and extended to the entire country by directive 4209 of October 1920 and directive 853 of March 1921 to the borders themselves. Directive 32 of January 1922, abolished
censorship in all areas except those under military control and in areas where the state of emergency had been specially declared. Directive 246 issued at the end of January in the same year, abolished prior censorship during elections for the constitutional assembly. But directive 131 published in the Monitorul Oficial of January 23, 1923, proclaimed the state of emergency and prior censorship along the Hungarian border, including a line extending to the towns of Sighetul Marmatiei, Dej, Apahida, Aiud, Lunca Muresului, Teius, Alba Iulia, and Petrosani. Consequently all the larger Hungarian towns, including Cluj, Oradea, Timisoara, and Arad - all centers of Hungarian intellectual life - fell within the purview of the censorship measure. In other, mainly Romanian areas, the Romanian papers were no longer subjected to censorship. 15
The Romanians of Transylvania themselves noted the strangeness of this situation more than once and protested against it with praiseworthy objectivity. Everyone was curious to see whether the government would abolish censorship after the adoption of the constitution. After all, the paragraph of the constitution already cited did not authorize any form of prior censorship. In spite of this, censorship continued in the larger towns inhabited by the minorities, and protests by Hungarians were in vain. Then the expert on minorities of the Romanian National Party of Transylvania, Shita Pop, intervened in the matter at the May 30,1923 session of parliament. He objected to the retention of censorship and pointed to the freedom of the press that had prevailed within the former Hungarian state which made do without censorship. "Suffice to note that from 1867 until the war broke out, there was neither state of emergency nor censorship in Transylvania. During those 42 years no newspaper appeared with columns in blank, not even Romanian papers. We protest against these sins of the government in the name of national diplomacy and of the decisions adopted at Alba Iulia. 16
Pop 's intervention, however, remained without serious repercussions; the situation changed not a bit and Hungarian papers were still subject to censorship. As we shall see, the activities of the censors elicited most peculiar and hair-raising scenes. In their private contacts and on other occasions the Hungarians did not fail to complain to their Romanian acquaintances about this curtailment of the freedom of the press, which applied mainly to Hungarian papers. Towards the end of 1923, the Bucharest daily of the Romanian National Party of Transylvania tried to bring up once again the subject of restrictions on the freedom of the press. The author of the article demanded in harsh words that the
freedom of the press guaranteed in the constitution translated into reality:
Five years after the cease-fire in Transylvania censorship still
stands. The minority papers, the primary victims of censorship, are published with columns in blank even today. What may be printed in the Romanian dailies of Bucharest may not appear in the minority newspapers of Timisoara, Arad, Oradea, Satu Mare, etc. In some cities, the minorities publications are subjected to threefold censorship: by the military, the civilian administration, and the prosecutor's office.
The article condemned censorship in harsh words and demanded freedom of the press. 17
However, neither Romanian nor Hungarian interventions led to any result. Romanians did enjoy freedom of the press, but the Hungarian papers within the areas under state of emergency did not. Prior censorship was retained by the Liberal government and by the Averescu regime which followed it. Finally, in 1928, the National Peasant Party regime presided by Iuliu Maniu satisfied the demands made over the years. Decree 2489 published in number 260 of the official paper on November 21,1928, put a halt to censorship of the press throughout the country. 18
Finally freedom of the press was extended to the Hungarian press as well. From 1928 to 1933, there was no prior censorship. During this five-year period, the Hungarian press was able to progress and write more freely. Soon, however, restriction were set once again on; prior censorship was reinstated by decrees of February 5,1933 and December 30, 1933 throughout the country. From then on, until the end of the regime in 1940, censorship remained in force. Of course, it affected primarily the Hungarian press, since it was much more lenient when it came to newspapers published in Romanian.
In general censorship strangled all criticism in the Hungarian press. Prior controls as practiced by the military authorities were always aimed against description of the reality and manifestations of critical analysis.
Whatever the censors objected to was crossed out in red pencil in the submitted manuscript. Often even prior censorship did not protect the other papers from further harassment. This should come as no surprise
because, in the realm of ideas, it becomes all the easier to express certain things by means of similes and hidden meaning when the censors are uneducated. They took revenge against issues of the papers after censorship for any manifestations of the critical spirit in even greater rage. Then the papers were banned one after another. There was scarcely a year when some Hungarian paper or other was not banned. The police banned the Temesvari Naplo on June 24, 1920. On December 29 of the same year, the Rendkivuli Ujsag of Timisoara suffered the same fate. The Nagyvaradi Naplo was banned the same day. On January 15, 1921, the Brassoi Lapok lost its right of distribution by mail. On March 5, 1921, Ioan Metes, the mayor of Cluj, banned all Hungarian papers in the city since, in his opinion, they were too critical of the measures adopted by the Romanian authorities. For ten days not a single Hungarian paper appeared on the streets. 19
In February 1922, the Ellenzek of Cluj printed a report on conditions prevailing at the clinics of the city. The article described in satirical tones the varied treatments to which the patients were subjected and certain other manifestations, without blaming the dominant Romanian population in any way. The morning after the article was published, the editors of the Ellenzek were warned by telephone three times that no one should remain on the premises in the evening, because the patriotic Romanian students were preparing a demonstration. The editors immediately called police headquarters and requested protection. The chief of police refused police protection on the grounds that he had no reason to dispatch troops on the basis of mere rumors. On February 6, in accordance with the warning received over the telephone, a huge crowd attacked the paper's editorial office and vandalized the presses. Chairs and tables were smashed, windows shattered, the copies of the papers torn to pieces and the premises ransacked. Nor did they stop at that. On March 1, 1922, the postal services withdrew the right of distribution by mail from the Ellenzek for a period of six months.
On January 22, 1924, the Esti Lap of Oradea was banned. The weekly Szekely Szo published at Gherogheni soon suffered the same fate. On January 12,1925, the Minister of the Interior banned the Friss Ujsag of Oradea for three months. On April 7 of the same year, the weekly Katolikus Elet of Satu Mare suffered the same fate. In 1926, it was the turn of the Magyar Ujsag of Arad and the Szekely Naplo of Tirgu Mures to be banned. All this happened during the period of censorship when the articles printed in these papers had already been subjected to previous press controls. But the closing down of newspapers and aggressive demonstrations occurred even in the period of freedom of the press, when there was no censorship. Thus, on March 19, 1931,
a group of Romanian student protesters broke into the editorial offices of the daily Magyar Szo at Oradea, smashed the furniture and scattered the records. Later they smashed the windows of the offices of the paper Nagyvarad. 20
At the beginning, it was the practice of the censors to cross out the objectionable parts of the text of a given article, while the remaining words could be printed. Thus the papers were printed with parts left in blank or with asterisks in lieu of the deleted words. The January 13, 1921, issue of the Bihari Ujsag reprinted a censored article which appeared in a Transylvanian paper on December 25, 1920:
How can we move when in Transylvania once again ***. How can we move when we are exposed to that terrible misunderstanding ***. Today we may say so outright, as well as the fact that we cannot extend a hand covered with kid-gloves to the one who *** .Today we awakened to the holiday of love, but we are not even asking for love. We are sober enough to know that ***. We are requesting dignified conditions from those in power and guarantees regarding the Hungarian population *** let it begin the renewal of its economic and cultural work. ***. 21
Soon the Romanian authorities realized that this manner of censorship was too obvious, revealing the workings of administrative aggression. The editors of the papers, therefore, received orders to the effect that they may not leave blank spaces in lieu of the deleted parts and that the sentences rendered absurd by deletions should be replaced by short connecting sentences that made sense. Indeed, after this directive was put into practice, the intervention of the censors became less obvious. But the editorial offices continued to worry about the possible consequences of some misunderstood metaphor. The temporary or permanent ban placed upon a given newspaper, could occur without any apparent reason in the period of regular censorship. The permanent ban placed upon the Rendkivuli Ujsag of Arad provides a classic illustration of this procedure.
The Rendkivuli Ujsag was launched as a weekly in 1920. Each of its articles was authorized by previous censorship. Yet, censorship proved no protection and the paper was banned on account of one the censored articles. In consideration of the affection and loyalty of its reading public, the owner of the paper wanted to transform the weekly into a daily, but could not realize his project for a long time because of objections on the part of government officials. The Romanian authorities justified their ban on the grounds that there was no paper.
Then the owner, in order to disprove this explanation, purchased a quantity of paper sufficient to print the newspaper for six months. Thus, the first issue of his converted daily could finally appear on October 1. This limited freedom did not last long though.
On Christmas Eve, as the special issue was already coming off the presses, Romanian soldiers and detectives entered the editorial offices carrying an order issued by the military command banning the paper for a period of three months, without explanation. The Hungarian delegation that visited the police prefect to inquire about the ban received no explanation or justification regarding the procedure of the military. An investigation, was launched, beginning with the arrest of the editor-in-chief of the paper on Christmas night. He was released a few days later, but the reasons for his arrest or his release were not communicated to him. Later, the case was adjourned indefinitely without further discussion, and the paper could appear once again, but only after the three-month period had expired. The owner and editor-in- chief never found out what caused the ban or the arrest of the editor. Before Easter of 1921, the police appeared in the printing shop once again, confiscated the articles passed by the censor, and arrested the editor-in-chief along with the responsible director. Two days later, the editor-in-chief was released without interrogation, and the responsible editor released upon signing a deposition. The charge of irredentism mentioned in the deposition by way of justification for the arrest, proved so ridiculous, that no further investigation or discussion was undertaken in the matter. On June 30, the military commander at Arad summoned the responsible editor to inform him that were no objection to the continued publication of the paper, and the officials of the paper got ready for the publication of further issues. They formulated an appeal to subscribers. When the text of the appeal was submitted to the censorship office in accordance with the laws, the chief censor refused to read the text. He referred to the order of the prefect according to which any new periodical could appear only with the consent of the prefect. The prefect, however, was not at home. When he returned, he responded to the inquiry as follows: "In consideration of the tendency of the paper, I feel that it is not needed." The advocates of the paper then turned to Petru Groza, the Minister of Transylvania, whose good intentions and democratic attitude were well known. Groza wrote the prefect a letter, as a consequence of which the prefect authorized the paper in October 1921. But now it was the chief of police who intervened, banning the paper for good on January 3, 1922. When the journalist Endre Andor inquired regarding the reasons for the ban, the chief of police, Ovidius Gritta made the following declaration: "I have
banned it, period. If I do something, I don't have to provide a justification. And if the Minister himself authorizes it a hundred times, I will ban it a hundred times." 22
As becomes clear from this history of the banning of the Rendkivuli Ujsag of Arad, censorship did not protect the papers and the journalists from further consequences. Nor did it protect them from press trials. These press trials were common practice during the period of censorship, as well as during the period of freedom of the press in 1928-33. The slightest hint, the mildest criticism were sufficient grounds to launch a press trial. Perusing the records of these press trials and the volumes of the Magyar Kisebbseg [Hungarian Minority] which published the sentences brought in these trials, we do not find a single case even approaching in severity the expressions or intentions contained in the articles published in the Tribuna and other Romanian papers in the period of the Dual Monarchy, under Hungarian rule. The Hungarian papers, aware of Romanian censorship and the severity of Romanian authorities, wrote far more mildly and in a more subdued way than had the Romanian papers in former times. The editor-in-chief carried out internal censorship before sending any article to the censors and rewrote or blunted any portion that might be subject to censorship. Nevertheless, in most cases the censors still found objectionable parts.
The attitude of the Romanian courts during these press trials was quite interesting. Their procedures were designed to exhaust the journalists by means of repeated harassment, innumerable summonses and fines. They usually refrained from sentencing anyone to extensive jail terms, hardly warranted by the mild expressions used by the authors. Nevertheless, many Hungarian journalists spent time in jail, and practically no journalist of any significance had been spared a couple of dozen press trials. Endre Szasz, the editor-in-chief of the Keleti Ujsag, underwent 75 press trials. Domokos Olajos had nearly 50, Miklos Krenner (Spectator) had 25, whereas Jeno Szentimrei, Jozsef Vegh, Janos Botos, Gyula Walter, Jozsef Nyiro, Janos Matrai, and Istvan Zagoni had to defend themselves in court against press trial in from ten to fifteen instances. The following Hungarian journalists received jail sentences as a result of press trials held in Cluj: Istvan Vanyolos (three months), Janos Zomora (three months), Tibor Rajnai (a month and a half), Aladar Bakos (one month), Domokos Olajos (a month and a half). At Tirgu Mures the following spent time in jail: Zoltan Finta (two months), Zsigmond Gyulai (three months), Laszlo Sebestyen (three months). At Oradea: Laszlo Beltelki (six months), Arpad Arvay (two months). Albert Figus sat for one month at Satu Mare. Later, Bela Hekszner sat for three months, and Janos Pap, a Uniate of
Romanian descent, sat for one month at Cluj. Many other journalists had been sentenced, but benefited from an amnesty. Among these we find: Miklos Krenner, Jeno Szentimrei, Gyorgy Peredi, Lajos Pap, Sandor Hegedus, Sandor Denes, Laszlo Baradlay, etc. Many a journalist was severely fined for some courageous piece of writing, among them Bela Demeter, Janos Botos, and Jozsef Nyiro. The Romanian authorities were aware of the touchy situation created by the numerous press trials and therefore extended the occasional amnesties to press trials as well. 1,200 press trials benefited from an amnesty during the Greater Romanian regime. A rough estimate of the amounts involved in fines levied against Hungarian journalists, in the area of Cluj alone, would be a half a million lei. 23
In the first days of December 1932, a Romanian crowd returning from an ',anti-revisionist" rally entered Cornesti [Sinfalva], a community of Turda-Aries county, destroyed the homes of the Hungarian population, and seriously battered several Hungarians. When the Hungarian papers gave a faithful description of these events, it was not the Romanians who were punished for the demonstration, the destruction of property or for the assault on human beings, but the Hungarian journalist who reported it. The Romanian courts did not consider the anti-Hungarian agitation by Romanians a punishable offense, even though the Hungarian criminal code remained in effect until 1936. Its Article V of 1878, protected the national sentiments of the nationalities by declaring agitation against nationalities a punishable offense. As mentioned, before 1918, in a specific instance, a Hungarian court had found Jozsef Imre, an official from Hunyad [Hunedoara] county, guilty of disturbing peaceful relations between the nationalities by an article he had written about the Romanian intelligentsia. Not a single Romanian journalist was sentenced for agitation against Hungarians during the Romanian regime. In 1936, the editor Octavian Dobrota published an article in the November 12 issue of the weekly Glas Romanesc in Regianea Secuizata that surpassed all previous incitements at hatred. In this article the editor threatened the Hungarians with the organization of a Saint Bartholomew night among them, referred to the Hungarians as vipers, and demanded that they be sent to the stake. The leaders of the Hungarians of the county of Odorheiu, denounced Oktavian Dobrota on the basis of Article 172 of Law V of 1878 still in effect, but the prosecutor's office of Odorheiu Secuiesc responded with the argument that it could not proceed, for want of a crime committed. 24
In the chapter on language, we have seen the struggle of the Hungarian publishers and the parliamentary representatives of the
Hungarians to preserve the use of Hungarian place names. One of the greatest regrets of the Hungarian papers was that after 1933, they could not print place names in Hungarian for the benefit of the Hungarian readers in their papers.
Censorship extended not merely to newspapers and periodicals, but to all publications. Scientific, literary and artistic productions had to be submitted to the censors just like the drafts of articles meant for the papers. Thus, freedom of thought suffered the same limitations as freedom of the press. Any book that was not to the censors' liking could not be published. Books that had passed censorship and had been printed were often subjected to confiscation. In 1922, Elemer Jakabffy, one of the best prepared intellectual and political leaders of the Hungarian minority of Transylvania, published extensive statistics under the title The Statistics of Transylvania. In the introduction to his work he responded to the distortions contained in the official publication, Dictionarul Transilvaniei, published in 1921 by the heads of the provincial office of the Bureau of Statistics in Cluj, G. Martinovici and N. Istrati. In this work, the Romanian authors simply exchanged the Hungarian population of many a community with Romanians, and in many places they purported to count several hundred Romanians, where in 1910 there had been not even a dozen. Instead of responding with scientific arguments to Jakabffy's challenge, the Romanian authors turned to the court-martial authorities, which proceeded to confiscate all the copies of Jakabffy's publication and launched court-martial against the author for his publication.
The censorship of books and other publications followed the same line as the censorship of newspapers. The objectionable parts had to be omitted. The fate of the reading primer published by the Minerva publishing house of Cluj in 1935, created a great stir. The primer was written by Domokos Gyallay, the editor of the weekly Magyar Nep, which was most popular and had a wide circulation. It was designed for those Hungarians who could not learn to read and write in their mother tongue on account of the cultural and educational policies promoted by the government. The material of the book had been examined and approved beforehand by the censorship bureau of Cluj. Then the book was printed and distributed. Hungarian priests who learned about the publication through advertisements in the papers brought it to the attention of their flock, and the primer soon became very popular among the population eager to receive an education. It sold close to 40,000 copies within a matter of a few years. It was appreciated by the people because it taught the illiterate adults and youngsters who remained illiterate through no fault of their own, to read easily with the help of
the most modern educational devices. But the Romanian teachers of the "cultural zone" soon realized the danger this book represented to their effort to Romanianize, and sent their denunciations or their requests to have the book banned one after the other to the Ministry of Education. The Minister of Education, Anghelescu, well-known for his anti- Hungarian sentiments, discussed the matter with his colleague the Minister of the Interior, who banned the primer through a directive published in the bulletin of the gendarmerie. The directive ordered the gendarmes to confiscate the primer wherever it was found, since the Minister of the Interior had banned its distribution. The Hungarian press and population, however, was not familiar with the official bulletin of the gendarmes, hence could not have known about the ban. It could not have imagined that the Romanian authorities would consider this primer, the contents of which were entirely innocuous and which had already been approved by the censors, as a threat. Great was their consternation when official court proceedings were launched against almost 50 priests, accused of disseminating the forbidden publication. All the priests were found guilty and had to pay a heavy fine because of the struggle against illiteracy among the Hungarian population.
The author of the primer, Domokos Gyallay, was also summoned to appear at the court of Tirgu Mures. He was charged with spreading what according to the Romanian interpretation constituted an "irredentist spirit in the primer." The specifics of the accusation were interesting. Objections were raised to a poem by Karoly Kisfaludy written at least eighty years before the advent of Romanian rule and titled "Szulofoldem szep hatara" [The Beautiful Horizons of my Village]. The Romanian prosecutor was convinced this poem contained veiled irredentism. Objection was raised against the few sentences of the primer in which the author discussed the numerical ranking of the countries of Europe and pointed out that the Hungarians were in twelfth place. The conclusion was that the Hungarian nation was not among the smallest. The prosecutor perceived this as an attempt to arouse Hungarian racial pride. A third objection purported to detect irredentist intentions in the sentence the author used to illustrate the pronunciation of the letter "sz:" "szep varos Szeged" [Szeged is a beautiful city]. The last and most serious objection was that the author included in his primer an illustration representing the poet Petofi clad in ceremonial Hungarian dress. On the basis of all this, the Romanian attorneys came to the conclusion that the author of the primer was an incorrigible irredentist, whose intention was to incite peace loving peasants otherwise, satisfied with the Romanian regime against the
Romanian state, by publishing such a primer. The court had better sense and refrained from sentencing the author. We may summarize the principles guiding the Romanian censors on the basis of examples culled from Hungarian papers and publications:
1. The censors consistently intervened to prevent the promotion of ethnic solidarity among the various strata of the Hungarian population through the Hungarian press. No article aimed at enhancing ethnic solidarity or organizing boycotts could appear in print. As can be seen from the censored issue of the Bihari Ujsag, where the article mentioned that one could not extend a kid glove when it came to social conflicts, the censor erased the remainder of the sentence. Obviously, he intended to prevent the spread of the principle of a Hungarian boycott against those who abandoned the Hungarians to their fate. As we have seen, the Romanian press of Hungary in the period of the Dual Monarchy enjoyed the broadest possible freedom in the matter of proclaiming and organizing ethnic boycotts, and Hungarian prosecutors never initiated proceedings for articles advocating such action. The Romanian censorship offices received instructions to that effect precisely because the Romanians of Transylvania were well aware of the tremendous impact of boycotts and expressions of solidarity, popularized in wide circles by the Romanian press. The Romanian censors never allowed articles attacking renegade Hungarians for fraternizing with the Romanians to appear in the Hungarian press. Nor would they allow articles designed to organize social resistance against measures oppressing the Hungarian population. Hungarian papers did not even attempt to do what constituted one of the points of the program presented by the Libertatea of Orastie, namely to train the Romanian people to perform acts of terrorism against the authorities.
2. Another principle of the censors was to intervene at all times to prevent the publication of positive statements describing the Hungarian ethnic group, in other words, any article that might serve to foster Hungarian national consciousness. As mentioned, they even objected to such manifestations in a primer, and called the author an irredentist for merely mentioning statistics on the population of Hungary. They were afraid that the readers of the primer would feel their pride enhanced once they found out that the Hungarian nation was not so small or so negligible an entity 639
as the Romanians made them out to be. The bureaus of censorship consistently attempted to prevent the publication of any communication that might serve to enhance Hungarian national consciousness of anything along those lines.
3. The Romanian bureaus of censorship consistently and deliberately prevented the Hungarian press from criticizing the Romanian state, Romanian national sentiment, or Romanian historical figures. Criticism directed against the state or the leading nation in the state of the type and tone practiced by the Romanian papers under Hungarian rule remained impossible throughout the Romanian regime. Expressions resorted to by the Romanian press without any risk, such as those in connection with the millennial celebrations (the ceremony was "a great steal," the occupation of the fatherland "an act of turpitude"), could not be used by the Hungarian papers. Hungarian journalists, irritated by the extensive harassment against them, overcame this prohibition by simply reprinting articles published in Romanian opposition papers. Of course, Romanian journalists could resort to the sharpest critical tones and when censorship prevented Hungarian papers from resorting to criticism, the Hungarian papers simply repeated the descriptions and criticisms printed in the Romanian press. This method became particularly common after 1934, when every Hungarian paper sported a column title "What do we read in the Romanian press?" The censors did not delete these clippings or quotes, hence the Hungarian public was able to become aware of conditions in the country .
4. It was a basic principle of the Romanian censors not to allow the printing of any news that might reflect favorably on Hungary in the eyes of the Hungarian readers. The most innocuous message from Budapest was ruthlessly deleted. In 1937, the censors deleted an article from the periodical Kialto Szo published in Cluj, which presented doctrines taught by the Reformed Church in connection with the Eucharistic Congress taking place in Budapest. All the censor noted was that the article mentioned a congress in Budapest, and this was enough for him to intervene. Calendars and books could not print any photographs relating to Hungary. In vain do we search the Hungarian calendars for communications such as used to fill the Romanian calendars of yore printed in Hungary. All the copies
of the Kalotaszegi Naptar printed at Huedin in 1936 were confiscated because the calendar included a portrait of the Hungarian prime minister, allowed by the censor. It also happened that the censor was not sufficiently conversant in intellectual matters, and raised the most absurd objections. Even high-ranking Romanian officials made such mistakes occasionally. In connection with an eviction trial, in Cluj, a lawyer named Horvath described an apartment, which "rather resembled Gorki's The Lower Depths than the apartment of a respectable person." The judge then summoned Maxim Gorki to make a statement regarding his shelter. At Christmas in 1921, the Hungarian women of Satu Mare organized a collection for underprivileged children. The donation of a Catholic priest, Jozsef Csaki, was registered under the name "Saint Anthony" on the roster of donors. The police, however, suspected irredentist motives behind the collection and ordered an immediate investigation. All the donors, including "Saint Anthony," were summoned for the investigation.
In 193B, the material for the Reformed calendar to be published in Cluj was submitted to the censor. Included was a report on a book, titled Kosziklan epult haz ostroma [The Siege of a House Built on Rock] by Balint Kocsi-Csergo, a Reformed clergyman from the 17th century. This report presented the ecclesiastic and political conditions of the time, as described in the book, without any hint of the present. Nevertheless, the censorship office deleted the entire report and banned its publication.
5. The censors did not merely ban items from appearing in the Hungarian press, but also prescribed what was to be published. Such cases occurred even before 1937, but these were not so general, and constituted abuses of authority more than anything else. Such was the case of the weekly Szekely Nep of Sfintu Gheorghe in 1936. In October of that year Bidu, the prefect of the county of Trei-Scaune, delivered a speech in which he made inappropriate statements with regard to the Hungarians. He sent the text of his speech to the editors of the weekly, enjoining them to publish it in its entirety. The editors did not comply with this illegal order. The censor, who wished to abide by the laws as well, censored the paper as usual and gave permission for printing. Bidu, however, banned the publication of the Szekely Nep for failure to comply with his orders. The editors
then turned to the attorney general's office, which lifted the ban and authorized publication. The issues of the paper were distributed to the subscribers. Then the prefect, disregarding the authorization of the attorney general, issued orders to have the paper confiscated. His agents went all around town and removed all unsold copies of the paper from the newsstands. 25
From 1938, the censors regularly prescribed the material to be published in the Hungarian papers . The articles prepared in the censorship bureau were sent over to the editorial offices of Hungarian papers with an order to publish at such and such a place within the paper. Soon all Hungarian newspapers were printing articles written in the censorship office and serving Romanian ends. Some of these articles attacked the internal enemies of the government, while others served the ends of defense. For a year and a half all the papers of Cluj were required to print on the front page an appeal by the colonel serving as prefect of Cluj county for donations on behalf of the Romanian army. Soon they were required to publish articles in which the readers of these Hungarian papers could find insults directed against Hungary and sharp condemnations of actions taken by the Hungarian Government. Thus, in this last period of the regime, the censors were no longer content to prevent the publication of items that might prove harmful to Romanians, but obliged the Hungarian papers to print articles prepared in advance and serving Romanian purposes at a specific location in the paper. Thus not even the faintest shadow of freedom remained to the Hungarian press.
|THE NATIONALITIES PROBLEM IN TRANSYLVANIA 1867-1940|