|Elemér Illyés : National Minorities in Romania|
The national minorities in Romania are not represented in proportion to their share of the population in public administration, the judiciary, or, least of all, positions of leadership.39 Frequent "administrative reorganizations" and the rapid turnover of laws and decrees have provided good opportunities for disguising the disproportions between the nationalities and the exclusion of non-Romanians from major job opportunities. For example, it often happens that an enterprise is abolished and both Romanian and non-Romanian personnel are dismissed; often, however, the enterprise is reorganized within a short time, this time employing only Romanians. Every such "reorganization" further strengthens the position of the majority nation and weakens that of the national minorities.
While it is true that the "co-inhabiting nationalities" represent 16 percent of the population of Romania, in Transylvania they comprise more than a third of the inhabitants, and in certain counties they represent from 40 to 88 percent of the total. Thus, nationality representation, if it is formulated simply in relation to the entire population of the country, provides a misleading picture: for example, an index of 8-9 percent, which accords with the percentage of Hungarians in the entire country, cannot be applied in areas with a 40-88 percent Hungarian population, such as the Székler region, where the majority of the population is Hungarian. However, even calculating proportions to determine minority representation is a discriminatory means of handling the nationality questions.
In short, the national minorities of Romania do not have any real right of self-determination nor can they, as long as nationalist and statist considerations remain paramount. National oppression is practiced in present-day Romania to an even greater extent than between the two world wars.40 By contrast, under the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the national minorities, including the Romanian, could struggle for their nationality rights by parliamentary means, through their independent institutions and in the press; they were able to influence public opinion abroad and could rely on the support of their mother countries.
The 1970s -- Moves Toward Assimilation
Romanian nationality policy in the 1970s has been shaped by periodic official statements and a series of both open and internal secret directives (dispozitii interne). Its major aim has unquestionably been the assimilation of the national minorities. Official statements have typically expressed two basic concepts: that of rights, etc., "irrespective of nationality" and a reformulated "class consideration" which has, to some extent, taken on a new meaning. Aside from endlessly repeating these two slogans -- which merely provide a hint of what is in fact taking place below the surface -- raising any question about the position of the national minorities appears to be considered a form of tactlessness, since the Party leadership clearly regards the issue as settled. However, behind the slogan "irrespective of nationality" (indiferent de nationalitate) lies a profoundly significant threat to the minorities.
At first sight the formulation appears to have cosmopolitan connotations, as if "irrespective of nationality" reflected a rejection of nationalism and support for a utopian supranational universalism and democratic equality under socialism. In reality, however, this slogan sanctifies a policy of assimilation into a state which insists on the exclusiveness of its national character.
The Romanian national minorities did not react openly to the underlying political challenge of the slogan "irrespective of nationality" as long as the real aims were not expressed publicly and remained a secret known only to the top political leadership. The first open protest was voiced at the March 14, 1978 joint session of the Council of Working People of Hungarian and German Nationality. To quote one speaker:
I do not find the formulation "irrespective of nationality," entirely satisfactory . . . A Communist cannot afford to ignore an individual's nationality. Nationality implies a particular psychology, a certain past, a good many customs and memories and contexts. We gave up the concept of "minority" a good many years ago; nonetheless, the Hungarian nationality. . . has been a national minority for the past sixty years.41
By this time a whole series of disenfranchising measures had been put into practice. These realized the hidden purposes of the nationality policy but did so with careful timing so that by the interposing of various campaigns it would be possible to disguise the real situation and to prevent open rebellion, while continuing and accelerating the policy of assimilation.42 The reformulation of the "class consideration" is also part of the general ideological obfuscation: the }joint struggle" fought in the past under the aegis of classless "socialist fraternity," has now come to mean the merging of the nationalities into one large unit, the "socialist Romanian homeland."43
In the nationality policy of the young Romanian democracy of the first post-war years, the concept of "class consideration" still had some real substance; today, both the formulations "irrespective of nationality" and "class consideration" are little more than ideological building blocks, in a program of assimilation.
On the surface of political life, in official documents, speeches, theoretical works, statistics, and so on, the fundamental issues are avoided by glib phraseology. External threats to the continued operation of the system of assimilation are ideologically circumvented in two ways: by an energetic rejection of any right of intervention by any outside power, because of the "internal" character of the nationality question,44 and by the pursuit of an unquestionably orthodox Marxist-Leninist policy, which serves to forestall possible Soviet intervention in response to Romania's efforts to assert its independence.
As long as conditions favorable for the assimilation of the national minorities were absent and as long as there was a certain insecurity in the position of the Romanian Party leadership, the assimilational aims of Romania's nationality policy remained disguised and no open references were made to them. The thinking behind various institutional measures was not made explicit. Only the deeds were public, not the motivation. The first open statement indicating that assimilation was ultimately the aim of the state was published in an issue of Lupta de Clasa (Class Struggle) in July 1971: "In a social historical sense a nationality becomes an inseparable part of the country since it professes the same ideas and interests as the people as a whole" and its development "proceeds in the direction of increasingly organic integration into a given state."45 The assimilation of the national minorities, as a long-term goal, was given even clearer expression in a speech delivered at the Third National Conference of the RCP, held on July 19-22, 1972:
"In the process of development into a socialist nation, the different ethnic characteristics are maintained and preserved but become . . . closer [less distinctive] during the process of homogenization of society, along the path of creating a unified communist order both in the social and in the national relations, regardless of nationality." 46
A similar statement was made in the Program of the Eleventh RCP Congress on November 24-27, 1974, concerning the question of the nationalities under socialism: "In the treatment of the national question we should not forget, that . . . the working peoples, regardless of their nationality, are in the process of creating a multilaterally developed socialist society and communism, and are increasingly integrated into the unified mass of working people of a communist society."47 Or: "Within the foreseeable future in Romania there will be no nationalities, only a socialist nation."48 With that, practical efforts toward the elimination of the various nationalities of Romania had taken on a definite ideological form. The integration of the national minorities into the Romanian nation is part of the overall process of socioeconomic and cultural unification that is reshaping Romanian society. Within the framework of a nation-centered and Marxist-Leninist conception, the program sees the role and future of the national minorities in Romania in their construction of a "common socialist homeland" and the realization of "socialism progressing towards communism," "irrespective of nationality." This represents a strange and in many ways contradictory application of the concepts of Marxist-Leninist nationality policy to justify Romanian nationalist goals: it foresees the merging of nations and nationalities with the growth of international socialism, while it still seeks to realize the aspirations of Romanian nationalism. This approach differs from the nationalism of the Romanian Kingdom between the two world wars only by its use of orthodox Marxist-Leninist ideology.
The program of nationality policy formulated and proclaimed at the Eleventh RCP Congress held on November 24-27, 1974, was soon followed up by open, directed measures and campaigns of various types, all with the same general aim -- the assimilation of the nationalities. These were complemented by internal measures (dispozitii interne) which were carried out under the cover of the Romanian government's crash programs of forced industrialization and cultural revolution.
The statute issued by the Eleventh RCP Congress further strengthened the control of the Party leadership. In particular Ceausescu's personal power was increased and broadened: already before the Party Congress, on March 28, 1974, he had been elected President of the Republic, adding this position to those of Chairman of the National Council of the Socialist Unity Front and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
Obviously, obtaining and maintaining such a great degree of personal power was possible only through the creation of a supporting network of trusted individuals, including a large number of family members, in the government and party. Thus, at the Third National Conference of the RCP, held on July 19-22, 1972, Ceausescu's wife Elena was elected a member of the Central Committee; since that time, she has been considered to be the most powerful person in the country after her husband. This centralization of state power in the hands of one man and his close supporters has also had important consequences for nationality policy.
The Laws and the Campaign Against the Nationalities
In the Romania of the 1970s there has been a need above all, to make laws to solve the still unsettled nationality question in accordance with the ideas of the Party leadership: that is, to promote assimilation. Along with disenfranchising measures, various propaganda campaigns have been launched to legitimize those measures.
Among the discriminatory laws enacted in the 1970s, the decrees reforming the educational system must be mentioned first.49 Similar measures, with serious consequences for the nationalities in Romania, were Act No. 63/1974 on the Protection of the National Cultural Heritage50 and Decree No. 206/1974, issued by the State Council,51 which modified Decree No. 472/1971 concerning the National Archives of the Socialist Republic of Romania.52 These laws struck at the very foundations of the centuries-old cultures of the Germans and Hungarians, particularly their ecclesiastical aspects, and earned a great deal of criticism from abroad.53 These measures were accompanied, both before and after, by an intensive campaign of internal propaganda in both the nationality and the Romanian-language press: a great deal of attention was focused on the "need to preserve the national cultural heritage."54
The decree dealing with the Protection of the National Cultural Heritage declared that "those historic art treasures produced over the course of thousands of years on Romanian soil as a result of literary and artistic creativity and scientific and technological research" were to be part of the Romanian national heritage and thereby state property. Paragraphs a, b, and c of Article 2, Section I of the law divided cultural treasures into three main categories: those of special artistic value, those of historic-documentary significance and those of scientific value.
The first and second categories included art and architecture, historical and ancient monuments, historical documents and material sources, manuscripts, rare books, ecclesiastical objects (chalices, crucifixes, vestments, icons, etc.), rare coins, stamps, antique furniture, paintings, and other rare objects of historical value, as well as articles made of precious metals or containing precious metals and stones. However, the categories of valuables to be handed in could be expanded ad infinitum. According to the decree, all national cultural treasures belong to the entire people, and thus society has the right and duty to ensure their protection and safe-keeping. Article 6 of Section I ordered "the centralized state registration of all wealth comprising the national cultural treasure, as well as the securing of the conditions for their safe-keeping and for facilitating their scholarly evaluation." Article 7 of Section I prescribed that the owners of the materials listed in Articles 1 and 2 of the law, whether organizations, churches, or private individuals, were obliged to register such materials with the relevant authorities within sixty days of the law coming into force or within fifteen days of acquiring such materials. The state authorities, in turn, were to submit these lists to the county museums within the above time limit, that is, by December 31.
The intention of the law was perhaps best expressed in Article 20 of Section II, dealing with scholarly research. According to the law, if a scientific researcher received permission to carry out a project, he was to inform the Central State Committee of the National Cultural Treasury about the results of his research. This posed serious obstacles to free research, resulting in immeasurably harmful consequences for scholarship. According to Articles 19 and 20 of Section II, for example, special permission is required for photography or study of the national treasures which have been turned over to the government for safe-keeping. In general, the authorities have provided permission for research by national-minority scholars only after lengthy delays or not at all. The law has had equally harsh consequences for foreign researchers interested in the study of the Danube basin. Decree No. 472 of 1971 concerning the National Archives had already stipulated that all historical documents, archives, manuscript collections, and libraries in the possession of private individuals, religious communities, and other institutions were the property of the state, that is, of the National Archives. Although the decree permitted the continued public functioning of scientific institutions, research institutes, and Church archives under the supervision of the Central State Archives, national minority material was increasingly consigned to the closed sections of archives.
The new law, by placing the material in archives and libraries under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior, that is, the police, restricted the possibilities for research even further. It is well known that the greater part of Romania's cultural and historical heritage comes from Transylvanian Saxons and Hungarians. The documents of the Transylvanian German Evangelical Church and the Hungarian Roman Catholic, Reformed, and Unitarian Churches come to mind immediately. The archives, manuscript collections, and libraries of the Transylvanian Saxon and Hungarian towns also contain German, Hungarian, Latin, Old Slavonic, and Greek documents of immeasurable value; Transylvanian historical scholarship would be impossible without access to them. The aim of the law, therefore, amounts to little more than robbing the national minorities of the documents of their own past, which could still act as a source of national consciousness.
No sooner had the law concerning the protection of national cultural treasures begun to be implemented than treasures of irreplaceable value for European culture began to be destroyed: national-minority libraries and archives were demolished, and their materials were reused in new buildings.55 Neither the administration in charge of this program, nor the so-called "conservation and preservation" organs have experts in ecclesiastical history or staffs speaking the languages of the national minorities; the selection and confiscation of articles is done largely at the whim of the local authorities. Between 1971 and 1975, the State Archives forced some parishes to hand over their ecclesiastical and secular historical documents, as well as their liturgical, theological, and catechistic material, along with registers of births, marriages, and deaths, some of which date from the 16th and 17th centuries. A refusal to comply was punishable by law.
In addition to the danger of documents of great significance for the history of the national minorities being lost, the act cited above represented a violation of the freedoms and rights enjoyed by the Transylvanian churches for almost half a century. In the past, the churches had played a major role in Transylvania, acting in close cooperation with the state; the application of the new law severed these ties to an unprecedented degree.
In the same year, 1974, Act 59/1974 regulating land-holding56 was issued, according to which "all land, irrespective of its use and ownership, forms part of the unitary land holding of the national wealth of the Romanian Socialist Republic."
The law prescribed that land of any type was not to be alienated, that it could change hands only by way of legal inheritance. According to the act, the land of Romanian citizens who left the country was to become, automatically and without compensation, the property of the state.
Decree No. 58/1974, issued on December 1, 1974, regulated the size of plots that might be built on. In rural areas a plot utilized for building a dwelling and related structures was not to exceed 200-250 square meters. Larger plots were to be at the disposal of the state. According to Decree-Law 223/1974 of December 3, 1974,57 only those individuals who reside in Romania may own buildings and land there. Foreigners who inherit real estate in Romania are obliged to sell it to the state.
At the beginning of the following year, 1975, a decree was published58 making it compulsory for foreigners visiting Romania to stay in hotels. Romanian citizens could henceforth provide accommodations only for their closest relatives (parents, children, siblings, and spouses). There can be no doubt about the anti-minority and anti-democratic nature of this measure. It is well-known that the overwhelming majority of the national minorities in Romania have co-nationals in states adjacent to Romania; thus, visits by persons from those countries (not always close relatives) are frequent. It can be assumed that this law also aims at bringing about a type of isolation: to protect Romanian citizens from perceiving differences in the standard of living and freedoms arriving from the West (for example, from Hungary) shows a decreasing tendency. A new decree in 1976 modified visiting restrictions, but only in the case of former Romanian citizens.59
In light of further developments in nationality policy, it is impossible to ignore several aspects of Romanian economic and cultural life during the 1970s which had and still have a profoundly transforming impact on the whole of society. These changes have affected the national minorities as particular linguistic, and religious groups, on a number of different levels -- social, economic, cultural, and demographic. In the course of the further integration of the society as a whole, the possibilities of a minority's being absorbed into the majority people are constantly present and are even consciously multiplied.
One type of planned -- though indirect -- assimilation is involved with the process of industrialization and urbanization. This has resulted in a dispersal of the population, and a consequent loosening up and breaking up of the national-minority units.
Economic policy in this instance has aimed primarily at the exclusion of the national minorities from the process of urbanization and the banning of minority settlement in the Transylvanian urban areas.60 Those members of the national minorities who cannot settle in the towns and cities of Transylvania as a result of this ban find themselves obliged to settle in Romanian-inhabited areas; thus, the surplus rural labor force and urban workers in search of new jobs have been forced to migrate to the Romanian areas, and especially to the Old Kingdom.
The state's arbitrary assignments of places of employment has also contributed to this process of dispersal: a large proportion of national-minority graduates have been given posts in the Old Kingdom (Regat).61 On the other hand, the industrialization of Transylvania has resulted in a mass influx of Romanian white-collar and manual workers. In any case, there is a constant influx of Romanians from the Regat into Transylvania, drawn by the higher standard of living. Moreover, the policy of filling the key state and party positions with Romanians has excluded the leading strata of the national minorities, drawn largely from the older Transylvanian urban middle class.62
Intellectual assimilation, carried out under the banner of the 1971 and 1976 "cultural revolutions" based on the Chinese models, which extended to all aspects of Romanian cultural life, has proceeded alongside other forms of ethnic homogenization. While it is certainly true that the ideological uniformizing, schematizing effects of the new cultural policy have affected all of Romanian intellectual life, radical "homogenization" has tended to completely drain the "national" character from nationality culture. Symptomatic of this policy was the statement of the party chief and head of state Ceausescu at the joint session of the Councils of Working People of Hungarian and German Nationality:
At present we speak the same language of work . . . people understand each other in the language of work irrespective of whether they express themselves in Romanian, German or Hungarian. This statement is valid not only as regards work but also in science and technology. Indeed: machines speak the same language, a universal language. The tendency is to create only those machines whose language is understood by everyone. . . . Without speaking Romanian one cannot expect equal rights.63
Occasional statements condemning "past mistakes" and "discriminatory measures" against the national minorities64 have also been part and parcel of the maneuvers of the general and fundamentally unchanged policy of assimilation. The great importance Bucharest gives to propaganda abroad, can be seen in the formal official statements and statistics published in other countries, as well as in the spectacular reports about the cultural life of the national minorities.65 Likewise, the executive organs have continued to pursue their nationalistic anti-nationality policy. One aspect of this method of dual tactics has been to publicize the concessions -- particularly the spectacular ones -- made in certain areas, while revoking concessions already granted in other areas and introducing new restrictive measures. The duplicity of Romanian nationality policy is clearly reflected in a number of widely publicized articles written by second-rate writers and journalists belonging to the national minorities, hailing the slogan of "friendship and fraternity,"66 thus providing an outward appearance of loyalty.
At the same time, however, along with slogans about the "joint struggle" and "fraternal solidarity against the common exploiting enemy" in the past, an officially inspired campaign of evoking the recent past in a hostile spirit at home and abroad, a campaign whose methods have been more diverse and complex but which have served the same aims, has also been undertaken. Its ultimate objective is to evoke in the national minorities a recognition of their second-class status vis-à -vis the majority nation and to provide, in a sense, a legitimation of an oppressive nationality policy.
A related phenomenon, which has become increasingly widespread in recent years and has signalled the revival of interwar nationalism, has already created a literature of its own. Thus, for example, a collective work by nine Romanian historians was recently published, entitled Anti-Fascist Resistance in Northern Transylvania;67 it depicted Hungarian rule in Northern Transylvania between 1940 and 1944 in a way designed to evoke anti-Hungarian sentiment. Francisc Pacurariu's book Labirintul (The Labyrinth),68 which has also appeared in English69 and was publicized by Radio Bucharest,70 Liviu Bratoloveanu's book Reptilia (The Reptile)71, and the pamphlet entitled Transilvania ultima prigoana maghiara (Transylvania: Last Hungarian Persecution), published in Rome, also dealt with Hungarian rule in Northern Transylvania, presenting an equally falsified picture with the same emotional purpose. Anti-Hungarian sentiment was further whetted by the pamphlet The Long St. Bartholomew's Night72 by the historian Ion Spalatelu, which in its treatment of the "Horthy period" in Northern Transylvania between 1940 and 1944 viewed the activity of the Hungarians as fascist atrocities.73
Thus, not only the press, but political and literary publications as well have played a role in the propaganda campaign against the national minorities. In this context it is worth noting that while Hungary of the 1940s is portrayed in Romanian works as a representative of Fascism, Romanian Fascist leaders and intellectuals have been rehabilitated, and the role of Romania in the 1940s is passed over in silence.74
Parallel to this campaign against the national minorities has been one aiming at popularizing the alleged historical primacy of the rights of the majority nation in Transylvania. Thus, for example, the plenary meeting of the CC of the RCP on October 26-27, 1977, resulted in a resolution concerning the celebration, in 1980, of the 2050th anniversary of the founding of the first independent, centralized Dacian state.75 Another reflection of this type of overblown nationalism is the annual "Song to Romania" festival, a fete of self-glorification, based on a kind of mass psychosis. In mass events of this kind, the "co-inhabiting nationalities" have been made to appear as later immigrants, in contradiction to historical reality.76 It is obvious that a psychological atmosphere dominated by Romanian nationalism must, in time, lead to a sense of second-class racial identity among the national minorities of Romania.
Two other relevant events relating to Romanian nationality policy during the 1970s are worth discussing here. One is the letter of protest written by Károly Király, a Romanian citizen of Hungarian origin, and the other is the statement to the Western press made by Paul Goma, a dissident Romanian writer.
Károly Király, a former high-ranking party functionary, addressed three letters in the second half of 1977 to the RCP leadership, in which he revealed the contradictory character of nationality policy, listing the most recent chauvinistic discriminatory measures against the Hungarian, German, Jewish and Serbian national minorities. The note of protest was supported by former Prime Minister Ion Gheorghe Maurer and other leading party functionaries of the Hungarian minority. Kirá ly's letters were followed by a 7,000 word memorandum by Lajos Taká cs, a former university pro-rector, the prominent writer András Sütö, and Deputy Premier János Fazekas. The world press first learned about the event from the Belgrade office of the Reuter News Agency on January 23, 1978; thereafter, a number of Western press organs published detailed reports on the affair, as well as excerpts from Kirá ly's letter.77
The Király affair was of great significance inasmuch as it broke a thirty-year-old silence: this was the first occasion in the history of the Romanian communist regime in which a high-ranking party functionary, familiar with the internal affairs and regulations of the regime, revealed the contradictory nature of the nationality policy pursued by the party. The long-term policy of assimilation of the national minorities in Romania has been pursued in such a way as to keep pressure at a level which would facilitate resignation without bringing about resistance. Open resistance appeared for the first time with the Király affair.
Subsequently, the Romanian authorities took measures to silence the disquiet which arose among the Hungarian population.78 Among other things, Károly Király was banished together with his family.79
The Party leadership reacted sensitively to the Király affair. It launched a campaign to gain the sympathy of the Hungarian population; for example, Ceausescu visited the regions inhabited by the national minorities;80 second- and third-rate writers and poets belonging to the Hungarian national minority were enlisted to write articles expressing Romanian-Hungarian friendship in the Romanian press;81 and the Hungarian and German Councils of Working People of the Nationalities were convened in joint session on March 14, 1978.82
Even before the Király affair, a dissident Romanian writer, Paul Goma, one of the signatories of Charter 77,83 made serious accusations against the Ceausescu regime, emphasizing the oppression of the national minorities living in Romania and of the Romanian people itself, by a "totalitarian regime." His statements were published in several Western periodicals, and newspapers.84
On 10 February 1980 Károly Király sent a new letter of grievances to the recipient of his letter of 1977, Ilie Verdet, who was then responsible for minority problems and in the meantine had become Prime Minister. In his letter of protest, Király pointed to the constantly deteriorating state of ethnic minorities in Romania. He described "the complete lack of collective rights of the minorities in Romania [as] an extremely acute problem", and condemned "the unification (homogenization) of socialist society, which enforces with every possible means and at all costs the assimilation of the national minorities".
International Conferences in the 1970s
The problem of national minorities today has attracted the attention of world public opinion, and a number of international organizations and meetings have been concerned with it. The most important events in this area were the UN-sponsored seminars on minorities in the Yugoslav towns of Ljubljana in 196585 and Ohrid in 197486; the activities of the United Nations Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, including the so-called Capotorti Reports of June 25, 1973, and July 197787; the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms; the activities of the International Pact on Citizenship and Political Rights; the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe; and the Helsinki follow-up Conference in Belgrade and in Madrid.
The Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, held from July 3 to August 1, 1975, dealt in Principles of Basket I (synonym for daily program) and in Basket III with human rights and basic freedoms, specifically with the fulfillment of international commitments. Finally, recognition of human rights and basic freedoms appeared in two places in the Helsinki Final Act Provisions passed on August 1, 1975, during the summit conference of state and government heads of the participating countries: first, in Principle VII, which postulates recognition of human rights and basic freedoms, including the freedoms of thought, conscience, religion, and conviction; and second, in the adoption of Basket III, which calls for cooperation in humanitarian and other sectors. Principle VII, Section 4, of the Final Act contains the following statement: "The participant states whose territory is inhabited by national minorities respect the right of persons belonging to such minorities to equality before the law and fully provide for them the opportunity of de facto enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms and thereby protect the lawful interests of the national minorities in this sphere."88 This statement corresponds to Article 27 of the International Pact on Citizenship and Political Rights of December 16, 1966.
From an analysis of the statements of the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, one can conclude that even if they lack the power of binding of international agreements, the basic human rights included in them have validity as a principle and are politically and morally binding through the signatures of the highest representatives of the participating states. From the context of the statements, certain allusions can be recognized that indicate protection of ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities. From the international point of view, however, the Final Act is more concerned with the rights of the individual that with the rights of groups; it gives no recognition of the collective rights of ethnic groups and gives no legal guarantee of the stipulated rights.
Romania, too, participates in international conferences and seminars on human rights and nationality questions and has been a member of UNESCO since 1956. It is also well-known that Romania has signed some of the declarations on these subjects without, however, fulfilling their provisions. Its nationalities policy remains, as before, an internal affair.
National, Linguistic, and Ethnic Affiliation
The historical circumstances which have determined the development of the national minorities living in Romania are well known.
Their relationship with the state which had sovereignty over them was closer or more limited depending on the nationality policy pursued by that state.
The situation of the Hungarian minority in Romania is determined by the current relationship between Romania and Hungary: for a long time it was considered an expression of irredentism for Hungary, the vanquished, to show any interest in its national minorities, even though more than a quarter of all Hungarians found themselves inhabitants of neighboring states. This view has not fundamentally changed to this day. Thus, for example, there are no Hungarian-Romanian treaties concerning the position of the Hungarian nationality in Romania and even so-called "fraternal visits" between the two countries are infrequent. The Transylvanian problem continues to be a heavy burden on both sides and inhibits any sincere moves toward rapprochement.
In November 1956 and January 1957, in an atmosphere colored by the recent defeat of the anti-Soviet revolution in Hungary, a Romanian delegation arrived in Budapest, led by Party Secretary Gheorghiu-Dej and Prime Minister Chivu Stoica, with the task of obtaining a declaration from the First Secretary of the CP of Hungary, János Kádár, renouncing Hungarian claims to Transylvania.
There is little doubt that, in response to the events of 1956 in Hungary, the Soviet Union had prompted the Romanian demands. In a speech delivered at the January 27, 1958 session of the National Assembly, Kádá r declared that "the People's Republic of Hungary has neither territorial nor any other demands on other countries."89 One month later, the Prime Minister of Hungary, Gyula Kállai, on a visit to Romania, reiterated Kádár's statement: "Hungary has no territorial demands on Romania."90
Then, in the middle of the 1960s the Hungarian government began officially criticizing Romanian foreign policy, first in an article by a Hungarian Politburo member, Zoltán Komócsin, published in the September 16, 1966 issue of Moscow Pravda. In an interview with János Kádár, published in the July 2, 1966 issue of the Budapest daily, Né pszabadsá g, he called the Trianon Peace Treaty an "imperialist dictat" which had "robbed Hungary of its territories." A seeming opportunity was offered by the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in the summer of 1968; about that time, the Hungarian government formulated its relations with the Hungarians living beyond its borders in a new way: "No people would sever its ties with its torn away parts, which speak the same language and have an identical history and culture. No people would or could act like this without abandoning itself. We have an inalienable duty to preserve and cultivate these relations."91
Such statements, however, merely reflected the voice of the Soviet Union at a time when the first Romanian attempts to emancipate its foreign policy from that of the Soviet Union had begun, and when N. Ceausescu had severely criticized the Soviet Occupation of Czechoslovakia.
The question of the national minority was first discussed openly by the post-war Hungarian and Romanian regimes in the summer of 1971, when, shortly after Ceausescu's visit to China, Zoltán Komócsin, a member of the Hungarian Politburo, declared that "Hungary is interested in the fate of the Hungarian national minority living in Romania."92 A representative of the Romanian government, Paul Niculescu-Mizil, branded Komócsin's statement as interference in Romanian internal affairs.93
János Kádár's speech at the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe on July 31, 1975, evoked great interest. Kádár, while not touching directly on the Hungarian frontiers established at Trianon, did refer to Hungary's territorial losses in 1919-1920, speaking of a "historic tragedy" and the "injustice of Trianon."94
Whenever the Hungarian side has raised the issue of the Hungarians in Romania, the Romanian government has reacted sharply and referred to the principle of "non-interference in the country's domestic affairs." Usually a member of the Hungarian minority in Romania has been made to answer the charges made in the Hungarian press.95
In the second half of the 1970s, as the Western press began to show a greater interest in the question of national minorities in Romania, tension between Romania and Hungary also increased and debates were begun which, however, remained on the level of journalism for the time being.
The impetus for one sharp exchange between Romania and Hungary came from two articles by the prominent Hungarian writer Gyula Illyé s, one entitled "Vá lasz Herdernek é s Adynak" (Reply to Herder and Ady), which in a somewhat disguised form accused Romania (not by name) of pursuing a policy of apartheid towards its minorities.96 This was answered on the Romanian side, not without prejudice, by Mihnea Gheorghiu, President of the Academy of Social and Political Sciences, in "Hunok Pá rizsban"(Huns in Paris), an article whose title was the same as one of Gyula Illyés's novels.97 Gheorghiu's article inspired a rejoinder from the Hungarian academician Zsigmond Pál Pach, in an article entitled "A Duná ná l. Itt é lned kell" (By the Danube. You Must Live Here).98
In the meantime, the age-old controversy between Hungarian and Romanian historians over the so-called question of "Daco-Roman" continuity99 was also renewed. For the first time, Constantin C. Giurescu, a Romanian historian, sharply criticized the views of Hungarian historians,100 one of whom, the Hungarian historian LászlóMakkai, joined in a debate with him.101
The study "A dá koromá n kontinuitá s problémái" (The Problems of Daco-Roman Continuity) by the Hungarian historian Antal Bartha evoked a great deal of interest. In effect, it amounted to a breaking of the post-1945 taboo on discussion of this question.102 This was followed by "Östö rté neti té vutak" (An Erroneous Approach to Ancient History), also by Antal Bartha.103 The Romanian historians D. Berciu and C. Preda wrote rejoinders to these works.104
The June 15-16, 1977 Romanian-Hungarian negotiations failed to bring about any substantial change in Hungarian-Romanian relations. The revision of the agreement, originally signed on June 17, 1969, expanded the border area, the so-called "little frontier zones," from 15 kilometers to 20; however, the agreement expressly forbade Hungarian citizens to visit three Transylvanian cities, Arad, Oradea/Nagyvárad and Satu Mare/Szatmá r, largely inhabited by Hungarians, although these cities are situated within the agreed area. The establishment of the "little frontier zones" has served to facilitate the mutual entry and exit of the populations living in the border zone; it came into effect on November 29, 1977. However, the setting up of consulates on a bilateral basis, envisaged at the time of the negotiations, was carried out only in the spring of 1980.
Following the public debates, the position of the Hungarian minority in Romania also became a part (even if only unofficially) of Hungarian politics. It must not be forgotten, however, that the Soviet Union is not only the political and ideological mentor of the states in the Eastern bloc but also supervises and criticizes them.
The historical development of the German minority in Romania has been briefly outlined in both the historical overview and the sections on territory and population. After the historical turning-point of 1944 and the mass exodus, its relations with Germany (especially the Federal Republic) became even closer. The elimination of its economic and cultural bases and the assimilationist character of nationality policy have forced it to give up any real hope of continued existence in Romania. Today, 80 percent of the ethnic Germans living in Romania favor emigration. In fact, the RCP leadership perceives emigration as a good business: permission for the population belonging to the German minority to leave Romania has been made dependent on economic and financial support from the Federal Republic of Germany. On January 7, 1978 Helmut Schmidt, the West German Chancellor, reached an agreement with Ceausescu in which Romania gave permission for 10,000 ethnic Germans to leave Romania each year in return for a loan of 700 million dollars.105 At the same time, the Romanian Party leadership looks with disfavor on emigration106 which can cause serious economic problems by depleting the numbers of skilled industrial workers belonging to the German minority.
In conclusion, it can be stated that the question of national minorities in East Central Europe has not been solved to this day. On the contrary, it remains a factor of insecurity. All attempts to find an arbitrary solution by means of forced measures, discrimination or assimilation have proven unsuccessful in the long run. The ethnic and political aspects of the national-minority problem cannot be regarded as an "internal affair," nor can it be treated as an isolated phenomenon occurring in certain countries, since it is organically tied to European and world affairs.
|Elemér Illyés : National Minorities in Romania|