Early morning: 'Now or never'
I had joined the events in Tirgu Mures at 16:00 and will therefore document what happened earlier by reference to video and sound records. The news of the barbaric treatment of András Sütö and of the siege of the RMDSZ headquarters the night before spread through the town like wildfire. Hungarian workers downed tools as one man, and set out for the main square, for the town hall building and the headquarters of the County Provisional Council of National Unity. An Hungarian demonstration began there, which was to continue during the whole day.
The county leadership of the RMDSZ would have liked to get these Hungarian crowds back into the factories and off the streets so that the Romanian provocation that could be anticipated wouldn't lead to the violent clashes which we knew the Romanians sought. This was how our strike demand was born. It called on the Hungarians of Tirgu Mures to conduct sit-in strikes at their workplaces or to stay at home until our four-point agenda had been fulfilled. This agenda was read out in the Hungarian broadcast of Tirgu Mures Radio at 9:30 by István Káli Király, the vice-chairman of the Maros County branch of the RMDSZ. The text read:
First: The immediate and undistorted presentation of our nationalities position on Romanian Television with the participation of our own experts. We hold Romanian Television and Radio, and also the local daily, Cuvintul Liber, responsible for the grave situation which has come about today because they have regularly misinformed the public - both nationwide and within the county.
Second: Those members of the Council of National Unity who are responsible for organising these criminal events - beginning with the forced resignation of Elõd Kincses - should resign from their civil and public offices. Those people being by name: Engineer Colonel Ioan Judea, Major Vasile Tira, Major-General of the Reserve loan Scrieciu.
Third: For their passive and collaborative behaviour, we hold the police responsible for the moral and material damage caused, as well as for the grave bodily injuries suffered by innocent Hungarians.
Fourth: We demand the banning of the Vatra Romaneasca Association which organised these manifestations and the initiation of criminal proceedings against those who instigated the pogrom of Tirgu Mures committed by a mob armed with axes, bludgeons and pitchforks.
We call on the population to refrain from individual initiatives, and to keep away from every violent manifestation and provocation.
Mures County Executive of the RMDSZ.
After the call had been broadcast, the crowd did not move but began to demand that President Iliescu should immediately come to Tirgu Mures. Several prominent personalities of Tirgu Mures then began to address the crowd.
....I am the painter áindor Zolcsák (H)..-I pray to you, my dear brethren and sisters, to be disciplined. Let's not get separated, let's not yield to provocation. My dear friends, the policy declaration of President Ion Illiescu asserts that all our rights are ensured - and that they will actually be ensured in practice too. We shall stay here until this promise is fulfilled."
The crowd.- "Now or never. We are brothers. Justice."
György Szabó (H): "...We have described our nationality programme, our rights which are due to us. All these are universal human rights and European rights without which Romania cannot enter the European House. We shall insist on our nationality rights, on our rights equal to those of Romanians, even at the cost of our lives."
The crowd., "We are not murderers."
Szabó: "We are not murderers, and our Romanian friends will also draw a line between themselves and those who are murderers. I trust that I shall not be disappointed by them. I ask you again that we should present to the world a European bearing, without violence, because any violence will be considered a provocation. We should show them that we are an educated, cultured, humanistic nation (...) we only want human rights."
The crowd: "We want our rights."
Szabó: "We want to have our schools, our University School of Medicine - this is our fundamental night, not a privilege."
The crowd: "Now or never, IIiescu, Király."
Szabó: "Our first condition is that Ion Illescu, Károly Király, and representatives of the political parties should immediately come to Tirgu Mures. We are expecting them,"
The crowd: "We shall wait for them,"
Noémi Abrám (H): "I would like to make the crowd aware of just one thing, make both the Romanians and the Hungarians aware. The three youth organisations formed in Tirgu Mures - all three that are registered, the OTV (R), the ODT (R) and the MADISZ (H) - have stuck together from the beginning. I would wish this unity to remain and to be an example for the entire town, for the entire country. This is what we should all achieve. Let us stick together and build our future in the way of reasonable and civilised people. Thank you."
Late morning: "Regrettable events ocurred last night"
While all this was going on in the square in front of the town hall, an extraordinary session of the Mures County Council of the Provisional Council of National Unity met inside. At this session, very unambiguous speaches were made condemning the violent events of March 19. I was restored in my absence to my position as a vice-president, and a proclamation was formulated which was read (in Romanian) to the crowd in front of the building at around 11:00.
The following recordings were made of the session of the Council of Unity from which it can he clearly noted that the punishment of the perpetrators of the events of the 19th was unequivocally envisaged. And also that the Romanian speakers equally condemned the vandalistic acts of the day before.
General Ton Scrieciu, County First-Vice President: "Regrettable events ocurred last night. We have examined them and have so far identified 17 perpetrators. They came from the Lapusna Valley. The authorities wanted to arrest them but they fled to the forest. The village people rebelled and don't want to hand them over. But as you may see, we conducted an investigation during the night, and the investigation continues. "
Aurel Florian, County President of the Social Democratic Party: ...And I may ask the question, where is Mr. Vasile Tira, who directed the hostilities, and where are the others - all the culprits? And why do we turn our backs on each other, why do we not want to soothe the atmosphere and behave in the manner of civilised people? The truth is that what happened (at our meeting) in this hall yesterday - the way it happened - this was vandalism. A group of 20 people invaded - I do not know who they were - well, some of them I know - and they started to threaten us. You all know the rest, there is no use detailing it. But let us not examine the events from the perspective of those simple people who were manipulated and who may continue to be manipulated after this time too."
Engineer Zoltan Kolozsváry (RMDSZ): "You probably all know that groups of workers have set out towards us from the factories. There is no way we can permit this violence and vandalism to continue. So a communique must be issued. We must address the issues which have hurt the peoples ".
So the Mures County Council of the Provisional Council of National Unity (on which there was a Romanian majority) ended its extraordinary session by adopting the following communiqué, which was read to the Hungarian crowd outside the town hall: The Mures County Council of the Provisional Council of National Unity condemn the violent events which happened in the municipality of Tirgu Mures which began on March 16 and which culminated on the afternoon and evening of March 19.
Owing to these undesirable events several persons including the writer András Sütö, President of the RMDSZ - were gravely manhandled, and the headquarters of some political parties - primarily those of the RMDSZ - were ransacked.
We have arrived at a turning point in the political and social life of our county. Let us be patient and show moderation. We ask you to trust in the ability of the Provisional National Unity Council to solve all social, political and cultural questions facing our county. Do not forget that in this region Romanians and Hungarians have lived in understanding, have suffered equally, and have together brought about the civilisation which exists here.
In order to prevent the repetition and widening of the harmful actions of the past days, the Provisional Council has resolved:
First: The immediate calling to account of those persons who are at fault in these barbarous actions and of those who organised these violent actions and initiated the instability.
Second: The immediate convocation of an extraordinary session of the Provisional County Council and the removal of all those who were unable to fulfill their tasks..
(The crowd [in Romanean]: "Down with Judea!")
Third:The activities of the police should be analysed, and an adequate and stable framework for creating the conditions for order and peace throughout the county should beestablished.
Fourth: The Provisional Council of Unity condemns any form of nationalistic or chauvinistic propaganda and calls on the Romanian, Hungarian and German population of the county to maintain the traditional mutual respect which has existed among these peoples. At the same time, it appeals to all not to pay heed to the manipulations of extremist elements.
After the communique had been read out, a police officer addressed the crowd in the square - a fact that helps to disprove the allegation that the Hungarians had occupied the building of the Provisional Council, although anybody could have entered. Nor was anyone maltreated there.
Officer: " ...I am addressing you on behalf of the police",
The crowd (in Romanian): "Where were you yesterday?"
Officers. "Regrettable things happened in our town yesterday. These events have developed since March 16. We dissociate ourselves from these deeds."
The crowd: "Where are the perpetrators?"
Officer:. "We already began the examination last night and we have already apprehended some of the perpetrators."
The crowd: "Where are they?"
Officer: "They are to be accused - in an open hearing - for the destruction of the headquarters of the political parties and the RMDSZ. It is on account of these extremists that we have got into such a difficult situation. It is owing to them that there is hatred, that we can't look each other in the eye. Nobody wants such a situation."
The crowd: "We want our rights! Down with Vatra!
Officer: "We have to live and work together. We must not demonstrate against each other. Please go home."
The crowd: "We are not going home!"
Officer: "This is your response. If you don't go, well then you stay here. But the danger exists..." (This remark shows that already, at 11:00, it could be suggested that this police officer was calculating with a new invasion.)
Sándor Zolcsák (H): "...I implore you all to behave in a civilised way, to follow our example and not to do the same as happened yesterday."
The crowd: "We promise." (The crowd begins to sing the Szekler anthem, Who Knows What Way Fate Leads.)
József Mihály (RMDSZ County First Vice-President): " ...Scrieciu says he doesn't want to come out here because he will be shouted down and won't be allowed to speak. I told him that if he comes out and tells us that we have our rights, then every-one will listen to him and acclaim him."
György Szabó: "Mr Scrieciu is currently talking to President Iliescu. He will be here presently. While we wait, I shall read out the new demands of the Mures County Executive Committee of the RMDSZ so that we should all know what rights we are insisting on.
Our demands are:
In every locality where the proportion of the national minority is more than 10%, bilingual - or trilingual - inscriptions should appear by March 29: street names, the names of enterprises and institutions. Everywhere, at every faculty, education in the mother tongue should be provided in accordance with the proportion
existing among the nationalities. By March 29, 1990, the Bolyai University of Cluj and the Hungarian section of the University Medical School of Tirgu Mures should be restored to their autonomous rights, which means they will be able to organise themselves as autonomous nationality institution in time for the autumn start to the new school year.
We resolutely declare that we do not consider the above demand to be bargaining chips either now or in the future. These demands follow on from the international agreements signed by the Romanian government: the Helsinki Conference, the Vienna follow-up conference, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As such, they can not be compromised by the provisional nature of the current Romanian government.
We protest against the manipulation or distortion of these stated and granted rights in the published programmes of any Organisation or party, or in the forthcoming election campaign. We accept only the caveat formally entered by the current Romanian government, which states that these rights should be simultaneously enjoyed by the majority Romanian public as well. (...)
If our demands are not fulfilled, we request that the national leaders of the RMDSZ call a general strike from March 30 until the above formulated demands are indeed fulfilled.
Mures County Executive Committee of the RMDSZ
The crowd: "We shall fight for this."
After the call had been read, Hungarian Roman Catholic Archdeacon Ferenc Lestyán - who had previously suffered persecution for his activities - went to the microphone.
Lestyán: "Peace be with you. Praised be our Lord, Jesus Christ!"
The crowd: "Forever, amen."
Lestyán: "Before 8:00 this morning, I was talking to the county authorities. I presented - also in the name of the Hungarian Reformed Pastor, Dénes Fülöp - a petition in which we declare that in view of the events of the 19th we shall not take part in further meetings of the County Council while this uncertainty lasts. We cannot agree to sit there arguing while nothing is being done to protect human rights.
"Now I call your attention to our individual, personal request in the name of the Churches. It is that we are entitled to demand our human rights, but this must be done in the right form. For the sake of our dignity and our dignity and our Honour, nobody should answer violence with violence. Those who do so call forth new violence and debase themselves. Unjust bloodshed solves nothing. And therefore we now repea our request in the name of the Churches. The [Romanian] Orthodox deacon was also with us and his opinion was the same. Consequently,
we all emphatically ask the assembled that while they can repeat their demands and request their rights, they should avoid violence. And so that this should be so, let us recite the Lord's Prayer."
The crowd prays aloud.
Lestyán:: "Now I shall read our petition:
In connection with the events which occurred in Tirgu Mures, the undersigned respectfully submit the following declaration. Seeing the violence committed on March 19, and having learned that the competent authorities did not intervene in time to maintain order and protect public buildings - despite the appeals for their intervention broadcast on the radio - we regretfully advise that in such circumstances we cannot take part in Meetings of the County Council. We wish to express through this decision our protest at the violence and the passivity of the competent organs. Our Churches reject every form of violence because it impedes peaceful dialogue.
Tirgu Mures. March 20, 1990.
Ferenc Lestyán for the
Catholic Church and Dénes Fülöp for the Reformed Church
Kálmán Csiha, Hungarian Reformed Deacon and later Bishop of Cluj:
"We again ask that you show discipline, but you can and must continue to demand your rights. I was at the radio station earlier this morning, and we protested in the name of the Reformed Church against the national government. We rejected what has happened here, every tendency leading to pogrom. But I ask you now to listen not only to the human word but also let us listen together to the Word of God."
Csiha ended his sermon, saying: "We have to light the candle of love in this frequently dark world so that we should have life and peace. Let us sing The Lord is Our Strong Fortress."
Árpád Gampe, economist (in Romanian): "...How can it be explained that the policemen - including a major - were standing around in the multitude while the headquarters of the RMDSZ were destroyed and those trapped inside were beaten.? How can it be explained that the army didn not intervene?"
György Szabó: "General Scrieciu is here. Let us first listen to him, and then we shall argue with him if we disagree on something. You have promised that you will listen to him. Let us provide proof of our education."
Loud applause from the crowd.
Ioan Scrieciu (in Romanian): "I ask for your attention. The President of the Country, Mr. Iliescu has asked that we maintain peace and order. He shall visit us within two or three days...
The President would like to talk to the Hungarians and Romanians in the same house, at the same table. It would not do any good to receive the President and to talk to him separately. That would be no good. I ask for your understanding and for calm."
crowd:(in Romanian) "We shall not leave! " (in Hungarian) "Now or never!
Early afternoon: "A beautiful demonstration"
All this happened around noon. At that time, besides the Hungarians demonstrating outside the town hall, the Romanian Vatra demonstrators also began to arrive outside the Grand Hotel. This leader of the county therefore addressed them too.
Scrieciu: "Those people there around the Grand Hotel should disperse immedi- ately"
A voice (in Romanian): "They are Vatra people."
Scrieciu: " Whether they are Vatra or not, they should disperse."
Unfortunately neither this appeal nor later ones were heeded, and the number of Romanians kept growing, Some of them had not even been home since the troubles of the evening before, but had spent the night at the Grand Hotel where people from their villages worked at the reception. After the Vatra demonstrators started to appear, decent Romanians talked to them, seeking to avert further violence.
The crowd (in Romanian): "Down with Vatra."
Traian Marcu (in Romanian): "I speak on behalf of the Democratic Youth Organisation (ODT). I call on every decent Romanian who condemns barbarian actions not to start out on the spiral of violence along which some people wish to proceed. I call on the Vatra - if that is the Vatra over there - and on every Romanian inclined to violence, to go home. There has been a beautiful demonstration here; no damage has been done to anything, you are not needed here. We the young people who made the revolution - some even dying for it - we don't need to be protected by your force. We ask you for the sake of your children too."
(Marcu was referring here to the Romanian fear that some Romanians inside the town hall had been taken hostage by the Hungarian demonstrators.)
Social Democrat leader Aurel Florian (in Romanian): "My brothers! Most of you know me from the time of the revolution. Gentlemen and brothers, we have been born to live on this earth. Think of it that if we set out with the idea of revenge, we wrong ourselves, the country and the whole of Europe. I speak to the Vatra, to every Romanian. You must know that my intention is to provide holy freedom to every Romanian and every Hungarian. You must understand that hatred and hostility have to disappear. God has created us to love one another as we do ourselves. It is wrong that we who until yesterday had lived together and respected each other are now full of hatred,
The Romanian crowd: "
Who started it?"
Florian: "My Romanian and Hungarian brothers! I only want to pass on the command of God. What you don't want to happen to yourselves, don't do it to others....!"
Marcel Bolboaca: (in Romanian): "I speak on behalf of the Organisation of Young Volunteers (OTV). I should like to remind you of just how the three youth organisations
occupying the building of the old Communist Youth Association understand each other. And there are both Romanians and Hungarians there, of course. Such an understanding should continue to live on among us. I would ask the Vatra Romaneasca to come to us and see how the young people work together, and to take an example from us and transplant it into practice.
"I ask that the former Securitate officer standing next to the Avram Iancu statue over there, and who incites the Romanians assembled there against the Hungarians , I ask him to disappear from there along with those assembled with him. Let this peaceful demonstration here unfold naturally. The Romanians should take an example from this Hungarian demonstration."
But the Romanian demonstrators did not leave. They shouted evermore aggressive slogans. The Hungarian crowd was still then much bigger, and it was to be feared that the Hungarians might lose their patience.
With this in mind, Sándor Zolcsák said: "We have called the attention of General Scrieciu to various dangers. We further demand that the military should be called out so that those who want to commit further crimes against peaceful Hungarian demonstrators should be stopped. We implore everybody that as long as this meeting lasts today, that as many Hungarian and honest Romanian brothers as possible should show up here. This is because we do not want the two peoples to commit a fateful mistake against each other. We want to live in this country with our rights. We ask our Romanian brothers to side with us because we do not want violence. We only demand our rights, the same rights that Romanians in the last century demanded for themselves with obvious justification."
The Romanians in front of the hotel shouted such slogans as these:
"We are at home - you are sub-tenants!
"You never had a piece of land here!
"We shall die, we shall fight, we shall not yield Transylvania!
'Thieves, thieves! Down with them, down with them!
You still have one option - you can go home [to Hungary]."
The Hungarians shouted back:
"Now or never!
"We are at home here! We demand our rights!
"We shall take up the fight with you!"
It went on like this until 16:00. The Romanians gathering around the Avram Iancu statue did not go home but joined up with the Romanian demonstrators in front of the Grand Hotel. Imperceptably, the Romanian numbers grew and grew, while the number
of Hungarians varied as people went home after their hours of demonstrating outside the town hall. No blows were exchanged between the two opposing crowds. The violence was brought on by the attack of the armed Romanian peasants brought into the town from the localities of Reghin and Iernut.
Interlude: the army that never was
I joined the Hungarian crowd in front of the town hall at 16:00. There were then about 15-16,000, including many women and children, unarmed. There could have been many more Hungarians there to defend each other, but for the following reason:
The day before, at 19:00, 1 had gone to the nearby predominantly Hungarian town of Odorheiul Secuiesc for a court hearing. I felt happy at the time to be able to spend the night in peace. But in the morning, after 7.00, two local workers visited me in my room and told me that horrible things had happened in Tirgu Mures the night before. They said that in protest, the Hungarian workers of the town had gone on strike and wanted to go to Tirgu Mures to defend the Hungarians there.
I at once rang Attila Jakabffy, who gave me a detailed account of the injuries suffered by András Sütö and about the whole vandalistic action. I thought through the situation, and it continued to be my feeling that violent clashes had to be avoided. I talked to indignant crowds in two factories and in the main square of Odorhelul Secuiesc.
In my opinion, I was able to convince up to 12,000 people in this one town not to travel to Tirgu Mures and not to fall victim to provocation. (And now I know that I was probably wrong.)
But my argument at that time was that this is what the forces of regression were waiting for. I said I believed a scenario existed which depended on Hungarians going into the streets in response to a series of humiliations and acts of aggression. Clashes would occur. These clashes would then be used by the Vatra and the political forces behind the Vatra to confirm the charge of Hungarian separatism.
The political maturity of the Odorheiul Secuiesc people was (given my analysis then) one of the great experiences of my life. Usually crowds do not listen to reason.
I was called home to Tirgu Mures with the message that, at the request of the Hungarian demonstrators, President Iliescu and Károly Király would also be traveling to Tirgu Mures and that they would want to talk to me. If I had not been called back to Tirgu Mures at this moment. I would have gone on to Bucharest to attend a hearing of the Supreme Court set for March 21.
I arrived home at 16:00 only to learn the terrible news: Iliescu is not here, Király is not here. And besides our own demonstrators, 3-4,000 very aggressive Vatra people have appeared.