|Elemér Illyés : National Minorities in Romania|
ROMANIAN POLITICS AND NATIONALITY
POLICY SINCE 1956
Two events in 1956 exerted a fundamental influence on the further development of Romanian nationality policy: the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party (February 1956) and the revolutionary ferment in the East European countries, manifested primarily in the Hungarian Revolution (October-November 1956). It was at this time that a deviation from the policies and models of the Soviet Union assumed concrete form in many Soviet-bloc countries. Similar phenomena could be observed in Romania's internal and external politics, with the difference that the Romanian Party leadership, aware of the consequences of the Hungarian Revolution, further consolidated internal security on one hand and turned its attention to Transylvania and its nationalities, particularly the Hungarians, on the other. Both the de-Stalinization, which could be observed throughout the Eastern bloc, and the Hungarian Revolution were in line with the goals of Romanian policy: to cautiously participate in the process of de-Stalinization while continuing to demonstrate, ultimately, loyalty toward the Soviet Union and, in the sphere of nationality policy, to strengthen nationalistic tendencies. These policy aims were expressed concretely in internal politics by the repression first of Hungarians and Jews and then, gradually, of the other minorities and in external politics by an anti-Soviet attitude.
It. was inevitable that the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 would have significant reverberations among the Hungarians of Romania. It is well known that on October 27, there were anti-Soviet and anti-Romanian student demonstrations in various cities of Transylvania and even in certain urban areas of the Regat. After the defeat of the revolution and with the crystallization of Romanian nationalist policy these demonstrations served as a good pretext for launching a new anti-Hungarian campaign. On this occasion, it was announced officially and at the highest level: in January 1957 Gheorghiu-Dej found the entire Hungarian nationality in Transylvania guilty of the sins of "revisionism" and "counter-revolutionary attitudes" in a speech given in Tirgu Mures. This was followed by a new wave of terror. Immediately, during the first few days after the defeat of the revolution, more than 1,200 individuals, including some Romanians, were arrested,1 all of whom had sympathized with the revolutionaries, or had expressed in some way their solidarity with the Hungarians.2 Most of those arrested were deported to the forced labor camp or to the penal camps of the Danube delta. The first waves of arrests affected approximately 10,000 persons -- mainly Hungarians -- but the number later grew to 40,000.3 The prison sentences handed down ranged between ten and twenty-five years.4 In the atmosphere of a defeated anti-Soviet uprising Romania showed the greatest rigor in punishing "reactionaries," on the pretext of "loyalty" to the Soviet Union and the defense of internal "stability"; it was impossible to determine the extent to which these reprisals were excessive. It was too easy to organize show trials and to sentence people to death or unspecified periods of forced labor on charges of conspiracy or anti-state agitation. The persons singled out for punishment were sufficiently well known for their sentences to act as a deterrent, without being so widely-respected as to give rise to general protests.
By 1959, a strong Romanian nationalist spirit became both general and official, particularly where this served the immediate aims of the government.5
Attempts at Emancipation from Soviet Influence -- The Romanian Socialist Republic
Romanian foreign policy from 1955 to 1964 was characterized, as is well known, by the development of relative political and economic independence from the Soviet Union. This was a time of rapid growth in Romanian national consciousness, inspired by the ideals of independence, self-reliance, and rapid economic development.
These goals, reflecting a desire for national glory, mobilized the majority nation, and it was under their banner that originally muted anti-Soviet feeling came to be openly and officially proclaimed. From time to time, this feeling was given new impetus by some spectacular statement, but, at the same time, it fell short of transgressing against the fundamental interests of the Soviet Union, remaining essentially within the framework of journalistic debates. By the mid-1960s, the potential of the Transylvanian question as a tool with which the Soviet Union could counter and thereby mute open Romanian claims to Bessarabia began to become clearer.
In the 1947-1955 period no essential differences in the political approaches of the Soviet Union and Romania had as yet emerged. Joint endeavors towards the building of a socialist camp still predominated. The first signs of a move toward greater independence in Romanian politics appeared at the Seventh Congress of the Romanian Worker's Party, held on December 23-28, 1955, but a much more spectacular deviation from the Soviet line was officially formulated, as is well known, in 1964, at the April 15-22 meeting of the Romanian Workers' Party, in the so-called "April Statement," or "Declaration of Independence." According to that statement
``The differences between the peoples and countries will continue for a long time, even after the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.... No party occupies a privileged position or a claim to occupy one, and no party can enforce its own line or approach on another party.''6
Romanian politics entered this phase as a result of the general process of de-satellitization taking place throughout the Soviet bloc, of which the Hungarian uprising, the East Berlin revolt, and the Poznan demonstrations of 1956 had also been a part, and following the decision to withdraw the Soviet troops from Romania on May 24, 1958. Internally, Romanian de-Russification was reflected in a reinterpretation of history, in an elimination of the Slavic-Russian approach and the rebirth of an emphasis on Daco-Roman origins. The rehabilitation of Romanian intellectuals who had been silenced for two decades because of their "patriotic-nationalist" approach was a direct consequence of the process of de-Russification. In foreign policy, Romania's efforts to assert its independence from Soviet tutelage were characterized by the development of closer relations with the Chinese leadership and by a search for political, cultural, and economic links with the West.
Romanian strivings for emancipation could hardly have been successful without the loosening ("de-satellitization") that occurred in the Soviet bloc at the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s. This was the precondition for the achievement of even relative independence. Only then could Romanian fears of total integration into the Soviet economic complex and the gradual Sovietization of Romanian culture and public life give rise to a consistent policy aimed at the assertion of greater national independence. Romania perceived in the restrictions imposed by the Soviet-Romanian economic enterprises (SOVROMS), founded in May 1945, which served exclusively Soviet interests, in the fraternal societies aiming at the establishment of closer Soviet-Romanian cultural ties (ARLUS), in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON), founded in 1949, and last but not least, in the Warsaw Pact Organization formed in 1955,7 the ultimate threat of complete Soviet hegemony.
The so-called Valev plan, according to which "the objective conditions have arisen for the realization of an inter-state industrial complex on the lower reaches of the Danube,"8 occasioned almost as much disquiet among the Romanian political leadership. The Valev plan would have merged the southeastern part of Romania, the northeastern part of Bulgaria, and the southern part of Bessarabia into one vast supranational industrial unit. The Romanian political leadership saw this plan as evidence of secret Soviet intentions to destroy Romanian national unity by political and economic means in the service of the great power interests of the Soviet Union. Consequently, Bucharest reacted sharply.9
In its strivings to emancipate itself from Soviet influence, Romania became the first Eastern-bloc country to re-establish diplomatic relations with Albania, in 1961. Similarly, although it had been one of the founding members of COMECON in 1949, Romania ceased to be an important member after 1959-60. Since then Romania has frequently displayed a passive and even provocative attitude toward the obligations it originally undertook in COMECON and the Warsaw Pact Organization.
Despite these facts, it can be said that the current Romanian regime, while displaying external signs of liberalization, is actually in no way different from the Soviet regime in political terms. The policies of Bucharest, which are often interpreted by Western observers as independent foreign policy endeavors, could also perhaps be understood as an organic part of Soviet diplomatic strategy.10 What is more, despite assumptions to the contrary, Romania's relations with the Soviet Union have remained unchanged to this day. There is no doubt that by its efforts to assert its independence in the sphere of foreign policy, Romanian diplomacy gained sympathizers among the Western countries, a development that provided Romania with unexpected economic advantages: its commercial ties with the West increased from 24.6 percent of the total in 1963 to 38.1 percent in 1967; and since 1970 they have increased by 230 percent.11 The main focus of Romania's efforts is on establishing closer ties with the USA even though the actual extent of Romanian-American cooperation is still fairly modest. The representatives of the two countries signed an agreement concerning the development of cultural and economic cooperation on December 13, 1974,12 and this was followed by the signing of a trade agreement on April 2, 1975.13
The attainment of a certain degree of economic independence by Romania has had an internal price however. On the one hand this has been reflected in difficulties in repaying Western loans,14 due to an unfavorable trade balance and, on the other hand, the efforts which the government has made to sell Romanian products, which are of inferior quality as compared with Western goods,15 as well as the process of forced "socialist industrialization" have demanded heavy sacrifices from the population. The Party leadership has endeavored to compensate for domestic tensions and deficiencies resulting from over ambitious plans and the inherent inefficiencies of the regime16 by fanning the flames of national sentiment, by a constant reiteration of Romanian independence, and by frequent coercive measures.17 A 1965 decree on civil procedure, for example, enables the Romanian authorities to order compulsory psychiatric treatment for persons who "disrupt working conditions of other people."18 Party Secretary and head of state N. Ceausescu, has frequently called on the population to accept even greater discipline and responsibility and to make further sacrifices.19
The Socialist National State -- National Communism
The Ninth RCP Congress, held on July 19-24, 1965, ushered in a new period, politically and ideologically speaking. The concepts of "sovereign nation," and "independent state" were given added emphasis, within, however, the complex of international socialism. This tendency was actually nothing but a reformulation of Gheorghiu-Dej's stated policy of the development along "national" lines of a form which remains at the same time unswervingly "socialist," thus avoiding giving offense to Soviet interests or providing an excuse for Soviet intervention. This policy of heavily accentuated Romanian nationalism was the one pursued during the 1960s, and it remains the one pursued to this day.
It was at the Ninth RCP Congress that the name of the Party was changed from Romanian Workers' Party to Romanian Communist Party, the term "class struggle" was replaced by that of "class consciousness," and the formulations "socialist nation" and "socialist national state" were introduced, with the stress unquestionably on the "national."20 Clearly, the concept of "nation" is in no way an outdated one: it continues to flourish under socialist conditions as well.21
Romanian strivings toward independence and sovereignty within the socialist camp were unmistakable in the speech of N. Ceausescu at the Ninth Congress, which was also attended by Brezhnev. However, these aims were expressed in such a form as to ensure that they would not violate the interests of the Soviet Union: care was taken to demonstrate, using the theses of Marxism-Leninism, that the concept of "national independence and sovereignty" is not irreconcilable with international socialism. Or in other terms -- to quote N. Ceausescu -- "socialist ideology precludes all idiosyncrasies or deviations between the fraternal communist parties."22
The basic principles of "national communism" were formulated in the August 21, 1965 Constitution of the Romanian Socialist Republic.23 The new constitution signalled the formal transformation of the Romanian People's Republic into a Socialist Republic (Article l). This did not, however, mean a change in the regime, or any real alteration of the form or content of state power, which continued to be a "dictatorship of the proletariat." On the other hand, the "liberation of Romania by the glorious Soviet Union" was dropped from the preamble to the Constitution. The leading role of the party was given added emphasis (Articles 3, 26, 27); in practice, this meant that the entire structure of state and public administration was subject to party supervision (Article 26, Section 2), and that the sovereign director of the system of government was the Communist Party (Article 3).
The party's appointees filled the key posts in the public administration, the legislative and executive organs, and the judicial system. Articles 42-76 of Section II of the new constitution designate the Grand National Assembly, the State Council, and the President of the Romanian Socialist Republic as the supreme organs of state. As part of the development of the party's monopoly of power, law No. 1/1961 declared the State Council to be the highest organ of state power. There is no doubt that state power was concentrated in the hands of the RCP to an unprecedented extent as a result of these reforms.
Another significant event of 1965, which also had consequences for the national minorities, was the election of Nicolae Ceausescu as General Secretary of the RCP on March 22, an action which was confirmed by the Ninth Party Congress.
The years following the Ninth RCP Congress represented a new phase in internal political consolidation. Ceausescu further developed the national communist tendencies initiated by Gheorghiu-Dej, gradually built up support for himself through the careful appointment of party cadres, and, once he had taken real possession of state power, began the development of his personal rule. The changes of personnel also involved a further concentration of power within the Party.
There was a basic need to create a political atmosphere in which, through a constant emphasis on independence and Romanian national interests, attention could be drawn away from the gradually emerging economic difficulties, including serious inadequacies of supply, as well as from the consequences of the excessive cult of personality centered on Ceausescu. Romanian national interests were accorded absolute priority in all areas of economic and political life.
The Soviet-led Warsaw Pact intervention in Czechoslovakia in August 1968 caused much anxiety in Bucharest and the Romanian army was mobilized. Ceausescu's speech, on August 21, 1968,24 in which he condemned Soviet invasion, was delivered in an atmosphere of panic. The speech attracted a great deal of attention and increased the respect felt for the party leader both at home and abroad; however, the Romanian political leadership was even more than usually careful not to interfere with Soviet interests in any way. To avoid any pretext for Soviet intervention in handling the national minority issue they practiced a policy of liberalization. However, as soon as the danger of Soviet invasion was over, restrictions on the minorities began to increase again. A period of the establishment of internal stability followed.
In the course of an internal political reorganization in 1968, the Central
Committee of the RCP founded the Socialist Unity Front (F.U.S.
-- Frontul Unitatii Socialiste), on October 24, to demonstrate
the "homogenization" of Romanian society. This new mass political
organization, the largest in the country, signalled a new phase in the
further development of socialism toward communism. The concept of a "multilaterally
developed socialist society" was outlined in the resolutions of the
Tenth RCP Congress, held on August 6-12, 1969.25
The changes in personnel made after the Congress further strengthened the
absolute power of Ceausescu.
The Nationality Policy of the Romanian Socialist Republic
Romanian nationality policy in the 1960s was particularly influenced by three events: the Valev debate, which took place after 1964; the election of Ceausescu as party First Secretary in March, 1965; and the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968. The significance of the Ninth RCP Congress of 1965 and of the Constitution of 1965 for nationality policy will be discussed at greater length later.
As already mentioned, the Romanian political leadership saw the Valev plan as directed at the political and economic destruction of Romanian national unity in order to advance Soviet great-power interests; for that reason it focused its attention once again on Transylvania and the national minorities living there. As a result, the nationality policy which had been developed at the beginning of the 1960s and vigorously put into practice, which had been aimed at countering the presumedly centrifugal effects of the Transylvanian nationalities -- particularly the Hungarian minority -- and as promoting exclusive Romanian nationalist interests, was given new motivation and justification. The guiding principles and components of this policy will be outlined later.
The year 1968 brought a further change in the handling of the nationality question, but only in the ways in which the nationalist policy was realized: rigorous, purposeful, repressive measures alternated with apparent, but often illusory concessions. As already mentioned, the previous period had been characterized by a gradual assertion of economic and political independence from the Soviet Union, while the post-1968 period was characterized more by a forceful development of Romanian national consciousness.
In the political climate of the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Romanian leadership recognized the extreme danger of the situation and -- anticipating possible active resistance by the nationalities -- changed its policy, adopting a tactic of far-reaching concessions. It was no accident, therefore, that it began to show greater tolerance toward the national minorities. However, once the fear of Soviet intervention in Romania had passed, the Romanian government demanded even greater loyalty from its minorities. In the long run, therefore, there had been no abandonment of traditional principles of Romanian nationality policy.
In order to relieve tensions, a Council of Working People of the Nationalities was formed on November 15, 1968. The Romanian Party leadership continued to take great care not to overstep the limits of Soviet tolerance. In the area of nationality policy, a pattern of alternating tension and relaxation began to develop: occasional concessions of secondary importance were made only to be withdrawn subsequently and then to be granted once more. This was done in such a way as to maintain and even gradually expand oppression and the denial of minority rights. In addition to the concessions made after the Tenth RCP Congress, held on August 6-12, 1969, and the February and March sessions of the Council of Working People of the Nationalities, a whole series of formal measures were instituted which appeared to represent concern for minority rights without having, in fact, any practical significance whatsoever. Such measures were, however, useful for making propaganda both at home and abroad. In fact, however, such institutions, by creating the appearance of real concessions, provided a cover for the actual denial of minority rights. Such "window-dressing" institutions included the Council of Working People of the Nationalities, the Nationality Directorate in the Ministry of Education, and a Nationality Committee within the Romanian Writers' Association. At the 1971 meeting of the Council of Working People of the Nationalities delegates were permitted to speak publicly about nationality problems. At the March 14 session, the Hungarian Council raised such issues as bilingual signs and notices, the teaching of certain subjects in the mother-tongue, the supply of textbooks in Hungarian, and so on. (Notably, nothing was done about any of these problems.)
This policy of apparent concessions did not arise out of any sincere desire of the government to deal with these problems, but -- as mentioned --was a response to the foreign political situation and aimed at neutralizing constantly increasing pressure from party activists belonging to the national minorities. The illusory nature of these concessions is proved by the fact that the more important Hungarian party activists were subsequently dismissed.
But, even so, as a result of the concessions which were granted, the intellectual life of the national minorities in Romania did develop more during those two or three years than during the previous quarter of a century.
Having succeeded in neutralizing the demands of the national minorities with partial concessions, the Romanian political leadership now began to work out systematically and in detail a new nationality policy, whose outlines were expressed in a speech by General Secretary Nicolae Ceausescu, at the March 12, 1971 session of the Council of Working People of Hungarian Nationality:
. . . it follows from the fact that the nation still has a long future ahead of it that the existence of the nationalities also has a long future.... The nationalities will possess a clearly and well defined position and role of their own and, just like the nations, will retain their own characteristic identity for a long time to come.26
As indicated by the above discussion, a new motif had appeared in the government's nationality ideology alongside those of the long-term historical destiny of the Romanian nation and the equality of all in Romanian society "irrespective of nationality" (themes which had long provided ideological cover for a policy of assimilation). This new motif was the view that each nationality has a parallel historical existence in relation to the nation both with regard to the time-table of its development and its economic, social, and cultural characteristics. Given the character of political life in Romania, however, where the only recommendations and claims that can be openly expressed are those whose positive practical realization has already been decided on, and given the fact that this statement was made in the presence of the General Secretary of the party, one can conclude that the "tolerant" phase following the events of 1968 was succeeded by an increasingly "intolerant" one. All subsequent measures have demonstrated that the apparent concessions served essentially to disguise a policy of continuing oppression. It was at this time that the authorities began to force various writers writing for the national-minority press to write articles condemning "national prejudice,"27 or demanding the acquisition of Romanian culture as the price of the cultural concessions that had been made to the nationalities.28
The Legal Position of the National Minorities in the Romanian Socialist Republic
The transformation of the Romanian People's Republic into a Socialist Republic and the "homogenization" of Romanian society also opened up greater possibilities for the absorption of the national minorities. "De-Russification" was followed by "Romanianization." In contrast to the constitutions of 1948 and 1952, the new socialist Constitution of 1965 made no mention of territorial autonomy or self-government. Instead there was a great emphasis on the "unified" and "indivisible" Romanian state. The problem of the national minorities continued to be a strictly internal, Romanian affair. All outside voices raised in defense of the nationalities in Romania were seen as "interfer[ing] in the domestic affairs" of Romania and as "infringing national sovereignty."
It was on the basis of these principles that the August 21, 1965 Constitution of the Romanian Socialist Republic was drawn up, whose articles affecting the national minorities are analyzed below.
Article 17 of the new and still-valid constitution guaranteed "equal rights for all citizens of the Socialist Republic of Romania in every sphere of economic, political, juridical, social, and cultural life." The article in question guaranteed these fundamental rights "irrespective of nationality, race, sex, or religion." Further, that article also stipulated that "any attempt to restrict [these rights], to make nationalist-chauvinist propaganda, or to foment racial or national hatred will be punished by law." The constitutional provisions are reiterated by, among others, Act No. 57/1968 concerning the organization and operations of the local people's councils, the educational Laws No. 11/1968 and No. 80/1972, Article 4 of the press law, and Act No. 24/1971 concerning citizenship. Furthermore, a separate decree, No. 468/1971, obligated the people's councils "in those counties where the nationalities live" to publicize the rights and obligations of citizenship "in [minority] languages as well." In addition, Article 30 of the Constitution stipulated that "freedom of conscience is guaranteed for every citizen of the Romanian Socialist Republic; anyone is free to profess, or not to profess, a religion." At the same time the Constitution also stated that "Romania is a national state also inhabited by national minorities." Along with these purely formal provisions, further statements by the political leadership and party documents also stressed the sanctity of national-minority rights.
The first and most important test of equal national rights is whether equality is accorded to both languages, whether the free use of one's mother tongue is permitted in public administration, in one's occupation, in education, and before the courts. According to Article 22 of the Constitution, these rights were to be guaranteed so that in those territorial administrative units where, besides the Romanian population, there is also a population belonging to a different nationality, all bodies and institutions shall use the language of that nationality as well, both in speech and in writing, and shall appoint officials from that nationality group or from among other citizens familiar with the language and customs of the local populations.
The article also stated that "in the Romanian Socialist Republic the co-inhabiting nationalities are guaranteed the free use of their own language and the right to have books, newspapers, journals, theatres, and education on all levels in their own languages."
The right of the free use of the vernacular before courts was guaranteed by Articles 22 and 102 of the 1965 Constitution and was further defined by Article 8 of the Act No. 581 1968, dealing with the organization of the courts. According to this act,
in the Romanian Socialist Republic legal proceedings are in Romanian, with provision in the counties inhabited by a non-Romanian population for the use of the vernacular of the inhabitants in question. Those parties who do not speak the language in which the court proceedings take place are given the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the contents of the records, to speak in their mother tongue, and to sum up their plea before the court with the aid of an interpreter.
According to Article 44 of the Constitution, moreover, "the judicial organs of those administrative-territorial units where there is a population belonging to a different nationality than the Romanian must have judges who are familiar with the language of the population in question."
In analyzing the rights outlined in the constitution, one must begin with the observation that they regulate relations between the state and the individual and not between the majority nation and the national minorities. Individual equal rights existed in principle, but as for the legal equality of the national minorities and the majority nation, no provision was made either in the constitution or in any other laws in Romania. The Constitution guaranteed merely the rights of the individual in the abstract and not the collective rights of the national minorities, communities with their own separate character. Collective rights as such did not figure in the Romanian Constitution. Yet oppression has been directed not against the individual but against the community, the national minority as such, in an effort to disintegrate and destroy it. In this situation, individual discrimination takes place only as a part of discrimination against the community as a whole. By referring to the concept of the national state, the authorities could reject everything that would support local autonomy. On this basis, neither bilinguality nor the duality of public administration could be realized as it had been, for example, in Yugoslavia, where there were also sizeable national-minority populations.
The law, the basis of the legal system, has, in any case, been rigid and subjective.29 The legislator has often not been acquainted with the complex characteristics of the national minorities or with the special circumstances of their way of life. Laws which apply to a majority nation are often not appropriate for national minorities.
It is also obvious that the equal rights guaranteed by the Constitution and other laws will remain purely theoretical unless they are applied in everyday practice. Equal rights ought to mean the participation of the national minorities in proportion to their numbers, in every field of cultural, economic, social, legal and political life. But this -- as we shall see presently -- has not been the case.
Let us begin with the problem of bilinguality, a minimum requirement for the ensuring of human rights. In the national-minority regions or ones with a mixed population, the free use of the vernacular, the freedom to express oneself in the language which one speaks best in one's place of work, in dealing with the bureaucracy, before judicial organs and, most importantly, in education, is an indispensable requirement. As for the actual practice of bilinguality -- in contrast to such areas as Switzerland, Belgium or Southern Tyrol in Italy -- in the areas of Romania inhabited by national minorities --with the exception of two counties in the Szé kler region: Harghita, which has an absolute majority of Hungarians, and Covasna -- there are no bilingual signs or announcements,30 even where the national minorities are present in large numbers.
The language of shop signs, museum exhibits, the signposts indicating towns and street names, maps, and guidebooks, is Romanian everywhere in the country, including the compact nationality areas. In the professions and other occupations and institutions Romanian is the language used generally and primarily; what is more, the use of the minority vernaculars is forbidden for government employees, even ones belonging to the nationalities. Naturally, meetings and conferences of all types are conducted in Romanian as well. This has resulted in the rise of terminological uncertainty, mixed speech, and the obscuring of concepts in the minority languages.
The use of place names is regulated by a directive issued in 1971 (which has never been published), according to which the only place names which may appear in the language of the national minorities are those which accord etymologically with the Romanian names.31
The Constitution of 1965 has been modified several times since its ratification. The first major modification, which significantly affected the legal position of the national minorities was a result of the territorial-administrative reorganization of the country into counties -- such as existed before 1944 -- passed by the Grand National Assembly on February 15-16, 1968.32 This law had a detrimental effect on the rights of the national minorities33 inasmuch as the boundaries of new network of counties were drawn up to the advantage of the majority people. As already mentioned, the Hungarian Autonomous Region fell victim to this law. At the same time, place names almost a thousand years old were altered, such as that of Háromszé k (Trei Scaune) County, changed to Covasna, or that of Udvarhely (Odorhei) in the Székler region, changed to Harghita. It was at this time, too, that the use of German place names was banned.34/SUP>It should be noted, in this connection, that in Romania the term "areas inhabited by national minorities" is not in official usage: instead, the expression "areas with a mixed population" is used. Nor are the terms "regions or areas inhabited by Hungarians or Germans" or "Hungarian- or German-language areas" used, but rather "areas also inhabited by Hungarians or Germans" or, more frequently, "areas where other nationalities as well as Romanians live." Such terms would be justifiable, however, only as designation for areas with fewer minority inhabitants that Romanians.
The establishment of Councils of Working People of the Nationalities for the Hungarians, Germans, Serbians, and Ukrainians on November 15, 1968, was part of the nationality policy pursued in the 1960s. These organizations, which belong to the Socialist Unity Front, supposedly represent the interests of the national minorities in Romania; in reality, however, they are organs for implementing the objectives of the regime.
Their organizational charter reveals their real purpose and goal: to provide help for party, state and social organs at the central and county level in mobilizing the national minorities, active participation in carrying out the current tasks of the "building of socialism" and realizing the party's policy. Their role is merely consultative; they do not represent the nationalities in a democratic sense; authority within them moves from the top downwards. The selection of their leading members is made in accordance with these considerations, and is designed chiefly to reassure the national minorities that they are not unrepresented, as well as to serve the purposes of Romanian propaganda abroad.
In examining the illusory concessions made during the 1960s, mention must be made of the absolute cooperation expected by the Romanian party leadership from the national minorities in return for those concessions. "National sovereignty" and "socialist patriotism" (on which present-day Romanian nationality policy is based)35 demand, particularly of the national minorities, the repression of everything "liberal" or "particular" and total "loyalty" to Romanian national interests,36 in short, the self-abnegation of the national minorities. The desire for democratization expressed among Romanian intellectuals has also been rapidly silenced.37
As the nationalistic policies pursued in the 1960s intensified, the Romanian national idea came to dominate Romanian public life accordingly, exceeding even the ideological engagement.38 It is obvious that when the "national interest" assumes a preponderant position in a multinational state like Romania, this inevitably leads to a restricting or ignoring of the rights of the national minorities, to a conflict between majority and minority national interests. Further, it is obvious that an excessive emphasis on the interests of the state is a disguised form of nationalism, unmistakably aimed at the assimilation of minorities, a goal made easier by the use of proven integrational methods. In Romania this aim is also reflected in the efforts of the majority nation to achieve exclusive control of economic and cultural life and to monopolize the key positions in the party, in a conscious neglect of occupational training for the national minorities, in employment discrimination, in restrictions on the settlement of minority population in the urban areas of Transylvania, and in other measures excluding the minorities in favor of the majority nation.
|Elemér Illyés : National Minorities in Romania|